Police: Toddler puts handgun in mouth in shocking videos
(Video on site)
An Evansville, Indiana, couple is facing charges after police say they found videos showing the woman's 1-year-old daughter putting a handgun in her mouth, The Associated Press reports.
According to the Evansville Courier & Press, the child's mother, Toni Wilson, 22, and Michael L. Barnes, 19, face charges of child neglect and recklessness with a deadly weapon.
Police said they found the videos after Barnes, who is not the child's father, was arrested for allegedly attempting to sell a gun to an undercover officer.
In the videos, the girl holds a gun as a man and woman encourage her to say "pow," "bang" and "shoot," police said. Wilson said the gun was a pellet gun, but police said it was a .40-caliber handgun.
Domestic Violence: Careful, the Kids Are Watching
by Lynn Armitage
(This is part 6 of related articles on domestic violence. The other article links can be found on the site.)
In domestic violence situations, our empathy and concern is usually for the adult victim. However, if children are part of that tangled, distorted relationship, we may forget that they are victims, too.
Or, as I liked to call them in my household, “witnesses.”
No matter how hard you may try to hide the abuse from your children, there comes a point when it is impossible to do so.
“People think that their kids don't know what's going on because they don't see the abuse happening. But children are aware of the trauma—they can feel it,” said Vivian Clecak, co-founder and chief executive officer of Human Options in Orange County, an emergency shelter for battered women and children. “It's rare that a child does not have a sense of what's going on in the family.”
I never sat my daughters down and explained to them that mommy and daddy didn't belong together, as they were only 6 and 2 when our marriage finally exploded. But they're smart, sensitive girls. They knew something bad was going on. I could see it in their faces. Cameras don't lie. To this day, it's still hard for me to look at birthday photos from those early years.
Victims of domestic violence are so caught up in their own pain, their own drama, their own fears about the future, that they sometimes forget about what the exposure to all the violence is doing to the children, who no longer feel safe or secure at home anymore because their foundation is crumbling. Statistics tell us that the children are not only watching, but also are being torn apart. Domestic violence affects them now and long into their futures. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:
· Witnessing violence between one's parents or caretakers is the strongest risk factor of transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next.
· Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults.
Domestic violence is an equal opportunity destroyer among both boys and girls, who don't escape unharmed, either.
“Without help, girls who witness domestic violence are more vulnerable to abuse as teens and adults,” states Safe Horizon, the nation's leading victim assistance organization, on its website.
Safe Horizon also reports that health problems are common among children who witness domestic violence, too. They are sick more often, suffer frequent headaches or stomachaches, and are more tired and lethargic.
I don't know about you, but as a mother whose children were exposed briefly to domestic violence, these statistics scare the hell out of me. I'd like to think that I got out in time and saved my daughters from becoming victims themselves. By all accounts, it looks as though I did. My oldest daughter is getting straight As in nursing school, and we are waiting to hear which of the five film schools that my creative youngest daughter applied to will be lucky enough to welcome her as a freshman.
But taking that first step to getting out of my violent situation was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in my life. When he crossed the line from verbal to physical abuse and caused an injury, I had my husband of almost 10 years, my lover and the father of my children, arrested—something authorities say only one out of 100 abused women have the courage to do.
Ever mindful of shielding my children from the truth, I had arranged for my oldest to be safely tucked away at a friend's house, and I made sure that my youngest was napping peacefully, completely oblivious to the chaos happening downstairs in the garage, when six policemen descended on my home.
I felt like Judas when they cuffed him and took him away in front of the neighbors. I cried my eyes out. But then I realized it was really he who had betrayed me so long ago with his uncontrolled anger and verbal abuse. In retrospect, every fight we had ever had was leading up to this final, clumsy waltz, a fitting crescendo to a relationship so out of step from the start.
The best way to shield your children from the damaging effects of domestic violence is to get out of the situation completely. If you don't have the strength to save yourself, then muster the courage to do it for your children. Remember, they are watching, listening and learning. And just as those long-ago birthday photos now reveal to me, they are just as frightened as you are.
Let's keep the conversation going about domestic violence. We invite you to share your story of abuse with us on Twitter at #WhyThisNativeStayed and #WhyThisNativeLeft.
Lynn Armitage is a contributing writer and an enrolled member of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin.
No Easy Answers for Abusers or Their Victims
by Memory Dawn Long Chase
In Response to Lynn Armitage's ICTMN article, “Domestic Violence: Careful, the Kids Are Watching”:
I read Ms. Armitage's article this morning regarding children exposed to domestic violence, and I felt compelled to respond. While I agree with some of her points, such as the focus seems to be on the adult victim primarily, and that children who witness violence are indeed victims in their own right. Her statistics appear to be accurate, and I respect her position as a survivor. I am, however, going to challenge a few of her statements.
1. Victims of domestic violence are so caught up in their own pain, their own drama, their own fears about the future, that they sometimes forget about what the exposure to all the violence is doing to the children …
While it may appear to people who are otherwise unaware of the dynamics of domestic violence, they are not caught up in their own drama and/or fear. They are surviving, and depending on the individual situation – staying alive is paramount in an abusive environment, and it just may be that parent being the best parent they are capable of being in that time frame. Secondly, the glaringly obvious unmentioned individual who IS truly caught up in their own drama and victimizing both partner and children with their violence. Nowhere, in any sentence, is the abuser mentioned, let alone held accountable for said victimization. This whole article, while having a well-intentioned and potentially powerful message reads like any of the victim-blaming, shaming judgements that survivors of violence regularly face in our culture. It's dismissive to word it as though the person experiencing the abuse is somehow forgetting about their children while fighting for their lives.
2. When he crossed the line from verbal to physical abuse and caused an injury, I had my husband of almost 10 years, my lover and the father of my children, arrested—something authorities say only one out of 100 abused women have the courage to do.
The writers experience as a survivor of domestic violence is unique to her and her alone. Nobody deserves to be abused, and Thank Goodness she and her girls made it out alive and on the other side. But hers isn't the only experience, and the article reads like her experience has framed her understanding of this issue. She had the privilege, if you will, of having a neighbor to take her girls while law enforcement arrested her husband. She did an amazing job of shielding her children from witnessing what she could. Good for her. While our people experience domestic and sexual violence roughly at a rate of 50 percent more than that of other communities, her article reads like a blanket answer to the dreaded question “Why Didn't You Just Leave?” With that kind of attitude coming at you when you do reach out for help, is it any wonder that victims don't report the abuse their partner is inflicting upon them? Courage or lack thereof has nothing to do with reporting a crime. Victims of Crime did not ask for the experience, and how they choose to proceed with the violence they suffered is their right. That is such an offensive statement, I can't expand on it anymore. It's counterproductive, dismissive, judgemental and cruel, and from a survivor of domestic violence at that.
3. The best way to shield your children from the damaging effects of domestic violence is to get out of the situation completely. If you don't have the strength to save yourself, then muster the courage to do it for your children. Remember, they are watching, listening and learning.
This is perhaps the most dangerous sentence in the whole article. While it is true, leaving is not always the most viable or the safest option. Again, each experience is unique, and getting to safety, safely would be an ideal approach. But it is not the only one. What if, for example, it isn't lack of strength that keeps an abused person with the abuser and the children witnesses to the abuse, what if it's lack of resources in a rural community. Or the situation where the abuser is the resource a victim would naturally reach out to. Or the victim is disabled, has a male teenaged child, does not speak English, or will be killed the second they try to get out of the situation? What if, staying in the abusive situation is actually the best and safest option? Again, each experience is unique and a survivor does not need to muster any strength, they have it in spades already. It takes courage, strength, intelligence and hyper-vigilance to survive domestic violence. Those that make it out safely aren't any better or worse parents than those that don't make it out at all. To phrase it as such is equally abusive and revictimization, period. Maybe it's the abusers who don't have the strength to stop abusing their families for themselves, but maybe they can muster the courage to take responsibility and stop abusing their families for their children's sake because their children are watching, listening and learning.
Memory Dawn Long Chase is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and works for the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence.
National Guard: Domestic abuse and the halls of justice
The Pentagon is hunting into a second complaint filed by a lady alleging the Indiana National Guard has been dismissive of issues about domestic abuse or harassment.
Shannon Dickerson filed a complaint alleging Indiana Guard officials failed to take appropriate action immediately after she told them that her then-husband, Guard lawyer Brian Dickerson, had beaten her.
The complaint — filed with the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va. — also alleges Guard leaders were "derelict" in making sure that her ex-husband offered required financial help for herself and her young children.
Brian Dickerson has denied the abuse allegation, but a judge in the couple's divorce case located him responsible for breaking her foot.
The Guard confirmed to The Indianapolis Star that the Division of Army Inspector General is investigating. The Inspector General's office declined to comment.
Previously, The Star reported the Pentagon also is reviewing the actions of yet another Indiana Guard lawyer who inadvertently sent an e-mail to a distinctive woman suggesting she take her harassment claim to Dr. Phil.
For some regional advocates for domestic abuse victims, the two complaints suggest a disconcerting behavior in the Guard's legal office and raise bigger questions about no matter if there is a culture issue within the Indiana Guard that would hamper taking seriously domestic abuse allegations. The Indiana Guard says that is definitely not the case.
The Dickerson complaint revolves about the couple's contentious and protracted divorce. Contained within the far more than 3,000 pages of the divorce records are a series of accusations and counter-accusations.
But if the divorce was difficult and messy, the issue prior to the Pentagon — and the main question for victim advocates — is a lot more simple: When did Indiana Guard authorities turn into conscious of the abuse allegation and what did they do about it?
These inquiries are significant mainly because at the time of the alleged abuse Brian Dickerson was the senior full-time legal adviser to the Guard's leading commander, Adjutant General Martin Umbarger.
Such military attorneys, also known as judge advocates common, play an integral role in domestic abuse cases "guaranteeing that victims are protected from further harm and advising commanders," according to Division of Defense guidelines posted on the Guard's web page.
In a 3-web page response to The Indianapolis Star, Umbarger said his agency "requires each allegation of misconduct seriously."
However a Star examination of the cases — based on court records, emails offered by the alleged victim, and info supplied by the Guard — discovered numerous difficulties that concerned victim advocates:
• Shannon Dickerson says she informed Umbarger about the abuse a lot more than two years before he says he discovered of the allegation.
• After Umbarger acknowledges he became aware of the accusation, he did not launch a formal investigation until 18 months later.
• As element of its investigation, the Guard checked no matter whether there had been any pending criminal charges against Brian Dickerson. But it failed to turn up a criminal invasion of privacy case pending against him. That case was dismissed, but not until months later.
"There is a clear culture of a lack of response," said Laura Berry, executive director of the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Col. Marilyn Moores, the Guard's top JAG officer and a Marion County juvenile judge, mentioned, "There is totally not a cultural issue at the Guard."
"I've never heard anyone in the Guard say anything other than, 'Do the suitable factor.'"
A contentious divorce
The Dickerson complaint stems from a domestic dispute in 2008.
Lt. Col. Brian Dickerson slammed his then-wife, Shannon Dickerson, to the bathroom floor of the couple's Brownsburg home, according to her testimony in their divorce case.
He beat her, choked her, and put his knees on her chest, she testified. As she tried to get away, her husband grabbed her foot and twisted a number of occasions until it snapped like "when you break a turkey leg off at Thanksgiving," she testified.
Two of the couple's minor kids — then ages ten and 12 — and her adult daughter from a previous connection also testified that they witnessed the violence.
The Star reached out to Brian Dickerson, who referred to as the reporter's phone get in touch with an "try to get a story that does not exist based solely on an allegation that she created."
He mentioned his ex-wife broke her foot when she kicked in a bathroom door.
The contentious divorce dragged on for nearly four years. In the end, Hendricks County Judge David Coleman ruled that Dickerson had brought on his wife's injury.
"The court finds from the evidence that the respondent broke the petitioner's foot for the duration of a physical altercation in December 2008," he ruled in 2012. He also located that the injury set off a chronic pain situation that prevented her from working and ordered Dickerson to spend her funds in addition to youngster support.
Guard learns of alleged abuse
But beyond the contentious back-and-forth allegations, what could interest the Pentagon is Shannon Dickerson's assertion that in the fall of 2009 — long ahead of the divorce case was resolved — she alerted Umbarger to the alleged abuse.
She had requested the meeting with Umbarger since she wanted the Guard to deduct court-ordered assistance payments from her husband's military paycheck. That court order long preceded the final divorce. She said Umbarger noticed she was wearing a healthcare boot and asked if Dickerson had brought on the injury.
"He said, 'Did Brian do this?'" she recalled. "I said, 'Yes.'"
Umbarger disputes that account. He said he knew of no allegations of physical violence until July 2012. That is when she emailed the Guard to complain that Dickerson was not complying with a court order to pay her medical bills "immediately after permanently disabling me for the rest of my life."
The measures Umbarger took — or failed to take — at that point are a concern for victim advocates.
Department of Defense instructions posted on the Guard's web page assign clear responsibilities to commanders who find out of a domestic abuse allegation against a soldier. Alleged victims should be offered health-related remedy, legal assistance, and a victim advocate. Secure housing should be secured and a victim safety plan established. Counseling should really be offered to the alleged victim and perpetrator. The case need to be referred to military law enforcement personnel. And if essential, a military protective order should be issued against the alleged perpetrator.
Dickerson's ex-wife says the Guard by no means provided her any of that.
The Star identified:
• After Umbarger learned of the allegation in July 2012, he declined to launch a formal investigation just after Brian Dickerson denied it. He stated Moores told him it was "conjecture" and to let the divorce proceeding continue. "It was a he-mentioned, she-mentioned situation," Moores told The Star. "At that point, I just mentioned, 'Let the civilian courts address it.'"
• Dickerson reported to the Guard in 2011 that a criminal invasion of privacy case was pending against him for allegedly violating his then-wife's protective order. In July 2012, Umbarger asked Moores to appear for any pending criminal charges and "no such records had been found." Even so, The Star located that an invasion of privacy case was nonetheless pending at that time. It wasn't dropped until March 2013. "I am human," Moores said. "I may have missed it."
• Umbarger did ultimately launch a formal investigation into the domestic abuse accusation — but not for yet another 18 months and only immediately after Dickerson's wife took her story to the media and filed a complaint against the Guard's chain of command with the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va.
The results of the formal investigation Umbarger ordered stay unclear.
He stated his counsel "concluded that either the evidence of assault and battery was not compelling or there was a deliberate effort to keep away from criminal charges which would endanger LTC Dickerson's continued employment and consequently Ms. Dickerson's help payments."
Guard officials would not say whether the investigation found Dickerson culpable, nor would they say what sort of consequences he faced, if any. The Star has filed a freedom of data request to obtain that data.
"To say this person did not face some sort of consequence would be wholly inaccurate," Moores said, but she declined to elaborate.
Dickerson has considering that been re-assigned to the Warrior Transition Unit in Fort Knox, Ky., for undisclosed medical causes, but a Guard spokeswoman stated he was not transferred since of the domestic abuse investigation.
His ex-wife told The Star the Guard's conclusions are all incorrect. There was a lot of evidence to substantiate her allegation, she stated. And whilst she acknowledges she did not initially seek criminal charges after the December 2008 incident for the reason that her husband stated he would drop his job, she stated she did approach the Hendricks County prosecutor's office a couple of months later, only to be told too significantly time had passed to make a case.
'They really should get involved'
Victim advocates say the Guard's response was inadequate.
"It sounds like that initial investigation wasn't done thoroughly," mentioned Lisa Wilken, an Indiana veteran advocate and military sexual abuse survivor. "This speaks to the culture of the military. They say, 'This is a he-stated, she-said predicament so we should not get involved.' And these are the circumstances in which they must get involved."
Umbarger emphasized in his letter to The Star that Shannon Dickerson under no circumstances asked the Guard to investigate any allegations of domestic violence and by no means requested protection or an advocate or representative of any sort.
"Throughout the protracted divorce proceeding, Ms. Dickerson contacted my agency on 17 occasions," he said. "Her consistent focus has often been about the money."
(Umbarger announced in October that he will retire in May perhaps. Gov. Mike Pence will appoint his replacement.)
Emails Shannon Dickerson provided to The Star show she typically accused her husband of failing to make his court-ordered payments. The emails, however, also contain requests for legal help and for counseling for anger management for Dickerson. Quite a few mention Dickerson's alleged protective order violations or the domestic violence incident.
In a March 2011 e mail, she asked for a JAG attorney to advise her about military law, and she later told The Star she never was offered a single. She particularly asked for an lawyer who hadn't been involved in her then-husband's legal proceedings.
In that email exchange, Col. Mark Coers, vice chief of employees for the Guard's 81st Troop Command, appeared to dismiss the have to have for a JAG officer. "To suggest that this command is tainted in this civil issue is unwarranted," he said. "I am the officer conducting the inquiry and I am taking no sides in this matter."
Beneath his e mail signature is a Mark Twain quote: "Eating and sleeping are the only activities that must be allowed to interrupt a man's enjoyment of his cigar."
She deemed the quote "appalling" provided the context.
A single of the attorneys who represented Brian Dickerson in the divorce case was Robert Bush, who has worked as a temporary attorney for the Indiana Guard.
The Star discovered that Bush was later suspended by the Indiana Supreme Court in February 2014 right after he was found guilty of a felony for stalking a female Guard contractor.
The lady, who had ended a connection with Bush, obtained a protective order in 2012 right after police caught him in her backyard wearing rubber gloves and seeking by way of her patio door, which was slightly opened, according to a probable cause affidavit. Ahead of that, Bush had also pushed her and taken products from her residence, according to the woman's protective order petition.
Police say Bush continued to violate the protective order by communicating with the lady, displaying up at her Guard office, and leaving items on her porch. One particular typewritten letter she received incorporated an Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem that ends with the line, "if God opt for, I shall like thee improved soon after death," according to the probable cause affidavit.
Bush did not return messages from The Star.
When the Star questioned Dickerson about Bush, he initially denied realizing him, even though they worked together in the Guard's legal office.
"I do not know this guy," Dickerson stated. "I know of him. I do not know him."
He also denied that Bush represented him in the divorce case, even though court records listed Bush as 1 of Dickerson's divorce attorneys for additional than a year from 2010 to 2011. Bush also referred to Dickerson as his client in emails with opposing counsel.
It is unclear irrespective of whether Bush was working for the Guard at the time he represented Dickerson.
Lt. Col. Cathy Van Bree, a Guard spokeswoman, mentioned Bush worked as an lawyer adviser basic — primarily a short-term lawyer — from "around 2008 to 2010," but she was awaiting extra precise facts. Based on that time frame, the stalking occurred right after Bush left the Guard. Van Bree stated the Guard was not aware that he had represented Dickerson in the divorce case.
'She can contact Dr. Phil'
The Dickerson case is not the only one to reach the Pentagon.
More lately, a Florida woman complained about an email inadvertently sent to her from one more best Guard lawyer. She mentioned it belittled her harassment complaint against Col. Richard Shatto, commander of the Guard's Camp Atterbury.
Tamara Tofferi, 51, said she suffered months of harassment following a three-year "romantic friendship" with Shatto. The harassment, she mentioned, came not from Shatto but from the loved ones of a woman she presumed to be one particular of Shatto's other lovers (he is not married). It included hateful postal mail, emails and social network messages, she said. She felt Shatto had the capacity to make the harassment cease, but would not.
In response to her complaint, she received an email from Col. Daniel Kozlowski, a JAG officer, apparently intended for a superior. It suggested the Guard refer her complaint to other agencies, such as the "FCC" or the Indiana lawyer general's customer protection division.
"In so doing, we have completed all we can do," Kozlowski wrote on Sept. 26, according to emails obtained by The Star. "Then she can get in touch with Dr. Phil, the National Inquirer, NUVO... and we will have a strong answer."
Regardless of the validity of her complaint — the Guard later dismissed it as a personal, non-military issue — Tofferi says she didn't deserve to be treated with such disrespect.
The Army Judge Advocate General's Office of Specialist Duty has opened a case based on Tofferi's complaint about Kozlowski's e-mail.
Taken with each other, victim advocates say the cases point to a broader dilemma at the Guard.
"It's a culture that continues to help the notion that this kind of behavior is okay," said Berry.
Moores, the Guard's top JAG officer, stated that is merely not accurate.
"The Guard is by and large created up of honorable males and women striving just about every day to serve their nation and their fellow soldiers," she stated. "We're a massive organization and as a outcome we're going to have the same troubles that folks in any other walk of life have."
Be aware of realities, mobilize to end it
by Alicia A.G. Limtiaco
Human trafficking is a heinous crime that involves the exploitation of a person for the purpose of compelled labor or sex. Human trafficking includes the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor or other services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion, for the purpose of subjecting that person to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.
Human trafficking includes sex trafficking, in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion, or in which the victim is under 18 years of age. Any person under the age of 18 years old who is engaged in commercial sex acts, regardless of the use of force, fraud or coercion, is a victim of human trafficking.
A victim of human trafficking can be anyone, regardless of national origin, citizenship, race, color, age, socioeconomic status, education, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or religion. Traffickers can be foreign nationals or U.S. citizens, family members, partners, acquaintances and strangers. Traffickers can be male or female.
Traffickers frequently prey on those who are vulnerable, poor, living in an unsafe situation or are in search of a better life. Traffickers deceive victims by making false promises of love, a good job or a stable life, and force or lure victims into situations where they are made to work under terrible conditions with little or no pay.
Human trafficking deprives and violates victims of their fundamental human dignity. Human trafficking is modern-day slavery and is a global international problem. In 2013, more than 44,000 trafficking victims were identified; it is estimated that more than 20 million children and adults are victims of human trafficking at any given time.
On Dec. 31, 2014, President Barack Obama proclaimed January 2015 as "National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month," calling on all of us to "stand with the survivors, advocates and organizations dedicated to building a world where our people and our children are not for sale. Together, let us recommit to a society where our sense of justice tells us that we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers, where every person can forge a life equal to their talents and worthy of their dreams."
To combat human trafficking in our island, the Pacific region, the nation and globally, we must all be aware of the harsh realities of trafficking and mobilize collaborative efforts to end it. All federal and local law enforcement, social services, victim advocacy groups, medical, mental and public health professionals, educational institutions, faith-based organizations, the private sector, civic organizations and community stakeholders must work together to effectively prevent human trafficking, protect and be responsive to the needs of victims, and hold offenders accountable.
We must also come together as one community to dialogue and take action against all forms of oppression of the human spirit -- to combat against human trafficking; violence against women; and child abuse and sexual exploitation. We must understand that there is a relationship and common issues of power and control that exist in human trafficking, violence against women, child abuse and sexual exploitation cases, and so we must address all of these victimizations.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Districts of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands continues to work collaboratively with federal and local partners and our Guam Human Trafficking Task Force and NMI Human Trafficking Intervention Coalition on our regional response to Combat Human Trafficking initiative. This response is a critical component of the office's human trafficking strategic plan, given increased concerns in the Pacific region regarding sex and labor trafficking, violence against women and child abuse and sexual exploitation. The initiative employs a multidisciplinary model, including participation, coordination and collaboration among law enforcement; prosecution; victim service providers; social services; medical, mental and public health professionals; faith-based organizations; educational institutions; consulates; and other community stakeholders. The response calls for the establishment and provision of victim services, investigation and prosecution of human trafficking, training opportunities, community outreach/public awareness and prevention programs, and creation of human trafficking task forces and coalitions in the region's communities.
Providing fundamental training in human trafficking, including victimization, investigation and prosecution, prevention efforts, and other related topics ... is critical to effective prevention and enforcement efforts in the region.
These opportunities provide a forum for governmental and non-governmental organizations to engage in dialogue and discuss issues, concerns, problems, plans, strategies and solutions relating to human trafficking in their respective Pacific island communities, in the Pacific region and globally. They allow for participants to establish professional relationships and partnerships, and to engage in cooperative and collaborative domestic and international efforts to prevent and fight against human trafficking, establish victim services and prosecute and hold traffickers accountable for these heinous crimes.
The U.S. Attorney's Office and the Department of Justice are committed to doing our part to work collaboratively with our community as a whole to prevent human trafficking, violence against women and child abuse and sexual exploitation in our island communities, to protect victims and survivors, and hold offenders accountable.
Public education and outreach are critical to sensitizing our community and ourselves about the importance of and the role and responsibility each and every one of us has as individuals and in our professional and official capacities in prevention and enforcement efforts. And it is the hard work, dedication and support from community stakeholders that make such a positive difference and bring hope and build confidence in the lives of so many.
Alicia A.G. Limtiaco is the U.S. Attorney for the districts of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.
Texas didn't report hundreds of child abuse, neglect deaths
by The Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas has not publicly reported hundreds of abuse- and neglect-related child deaths since 2010, raising questions about the accuracy of the state's official fatality count, an Austin American-Statesman investigation into the state's child protection system has found.
Between 2010 and 2014, the Department of Family and Protective Services did not publicly report 655 child abuse-related fatalities, even though the department confirmed that those children had been mistreated prior to their deaths. Because Child Protective Services caseworkers decided that mistreatment or abuse did not directly cause those fatalities, state law does not require the agency to publicly reveal those numbers.
Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, who authored that law, said he was shocked that legislators were not being provided information on all of the abuse-related cases in the state. "I'm speechless," he said. "I want to know who these kids are. Every one of these kids has a name and has a story and would have had a life ahead of them."
Family and Protective Services spokesman Patrick Crimmins say the agency has followed state and federal laws. And aggregate non-identifying information -- such as the ages, genders and types of abuse and neglect -- has always been available to anyone who wanted it. But until now, no one has.
Because of the newspaper's inquiry, the agency plans to publicly report those numbers in the future, Crimmins said.
The finding came as part of a six-month investigation in which the newspaper reviewed nearly 800 child fatality reports from September 2009 through March 2014 that the agency did publicly report.
In 2009, the Legislature ordered CPS to publicly record such deaths in hopes of identifying patterns and discovering ways to prevent abuse deaths. But the Statesman found that CPS has not systematically analyzed those reports, meaning that in important ways, Texas' child protection workers effectively have been operating with blinders, missing deadly patterns and key pieces of information that could help protect kids.
The newspaper's analysis found:
-- The agency has not comprehensively tracked how often it saw children before they died of abuse or neglect -- a key predictor of potential problems. Of the 779 deaths reviewed by the newspaper, the families of 374 of those children -- nearly half -- were visited by CPS at least once before the death. In 144 fatalities, or nearly 20 percent of the total, the agency had seen the family at least three times. In 12 instances, CPS had seen the family 10 or more times. CPS had contact with one family more than 20 times before the child died.
-- In 166 cases -- a little more than 1 of every 5 reviewed by the paper -- a child had been separated from a caretaker because of safety concerns prior to the fatality. In 41 of those instances, it was the same child who later died.
-- In 137 of the cases, about 1 in every 5 such fatalities, a boyfriend or girlfriend of a parent was at least partially responsible for the death. In abuse homicide cases, the number is closer to a third.
-- The paper also found that in 20 percent of child abuse beating or strangulation deaths -- the way most children are killed -- has been left unsolved, leaving relatives, law enforcement and local communities bereft of closure or justice.
-- Unlike some other states, Texas has not undertaken a detailed analysis of the child deaths to identify families that are at the greatest risk of hurting a child, and the state is not using that information to prevent tragedies.
CPS Commissioner John Specia said the newspaper's analysis should prove valuable. "I want to see what the patterns are there," he said. "I'm sure my safety folks will look at it."
Among the most disturbing cases uncovered by the newspaper was that of 15-year-old Brandon White, who died of asphyxiation after being tied up at his Denison home.
In the years before his death, CPS was warned about Brandon's family 23 times before he was killed by his mother's boyfriend.
Caseworkers received complaints as early as 1999 that the Grayson County boy was being restrained, gagged, hit and neglected. His mother admitted whipping him with a belt so hard it left bruises. Still, he remained in his home.
CPS officials say they are making efforts to use death data. A State Child Fatality Review Team meets twice a year to review child deaths in an effort to understand risks faced by the state's children.
Yet its work has been limited and, in crucial ways, is incomplete. Its information comes from local fatality review teams, charged with analyzing local child deaths and passing on the information for statewide review. The local teams are voluntary, however, and chunks of the state are unrepresented. The cases they review in a given year also typically are two years old.
Even in areas with active local death review teams, reporting rigor varies widely. Last year, 14 of the local teams did not enter any data from their child death reviews. Only 92 of the state's 254 counties passed along data on 100 percent of their child deaths.
And while CPS is supposed to identify patterns that might help the agency anticipate its future interactions with families, that hasn't always been done; a 2013 audit of the process found the agency "does not focus on trend analysis." It wasn't until December that Family and Protective Services began tracking CPS' ongoing contacts with families on a statewide level.
"We need to do more," said DFPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins.
Last year, Specia also created a new Office of Child Safety, designed to analyze in detail CPS' response to previous child abuse and neglect cases. The results will help direct money and prevention programs to the highest risk families. "Now we have staff looking at those patterns," he said.
The program has been slow to lift off. Workers are just now being hired, and the office hopes to start its work soon.
What Montana can learn from worst child-abuse cases
by The Billings Gazette
No child should suffer abuse or neglect, no child should die because they were injured or abandoned by adults.
Yet such tragedies happen even in Montana. While recent news reports of violence against children have seized our attention, it's time for lawmakers to muster the determination stop children from hurting.
Among the bills that the Legislature will see to improve child protection, there is one simple proposal that should draw bipartisan support: A child fatality review commission. It would give the same level of scrutiny to cases of child homicide as now is given to homicides involving adults. A commission would increase awareness of child abuse and bring together a diverse group of Montanans to recommend child protection system improvements.
Rep. Kathy Kelker, D-Billings, has agreed to carry the bill, which didn't yet have a number as of early this week. Kelker, who taught special education at Montana State University Billings, founded Parents, Let's Unite for Kids, served many years as a Billings school trustee and retired last year as director of Billings Head Start, has long been an advocate for children.
Adult deaths reviewed
The review commission would be similar to the Domestic Violence Fatality Review Commission that has for the past decade examined homicides committed by intimate partners.
Child abuse and neglect may occur in the child's home or elsewhere, with the abuse inflicted by a parent or someone else. The aim of the review commission would be to look at all child deaths attributed to abuse/neglect regardless of who may have been involved or where it occurred.
In her career, Kelker said, she didn't see a lot of severe abuse cases, but there were some horrific ones in recent years.
“Most people in Billings don't know what types of horrible things some children have experienced,” she said.
The community doesn't know till it's too late and the child is dead or seriously injured.
In those cases, the review commission would work to find out what can be done to improve the child protection system. How could the system intervene sooner and more effectively?
“It's a very tricky business,” Kelker said. “It's about figuring out systemically how to help families so they don't get into the mire of abuse.”
The review commission is “desperately needed,” said Sarah Corbally, administrator of the Child and Family Services Division in Helena.
Corbally serves on the state Domestic Violence Fatality Review Commission, along with more than a dozen other Montanans representing public and private agencies, courts, prosecutors, law enforcement, medical professionals and victim advocates.
The envisioned child fatality review commission also would be a multi-disciplinary team drawn from across the state. Rules for the commission would protect privacy rights, but also increase transparency with annual reporting on the numbers and circumstances of child abuse deaths.
Importantly, a competent, active commission could generate data needed for making decisions to improve prevention of child abuse and neglect.
Costs of the commission would be covered by a federal grant from the same U.S. agency that funds a major share of Montana foster care.
A dozen years ago, the Montana Legislature acted to raise awareness of the toll of domestic violence in our state by establishing a review commission. That Department of Justice Panel has advocated successfully for domestic violence prevention measures.
The 2015 Legislature should elevate concern for child abuse to the same level by establishing a commission to examine child deaths. Abuse and neglect must be stopped before additional tragedies become front-page news.
Lebanon County Children & Youth Services prepares for child abuse reporting changes
by John Latimer
Sweeping changes to Pennsylvania's Child Protective Services Law have organizations that deal with children — from little leagues and day care centers to schools and social service agencies — scrambling to comply with new rules regulating the reporting of child abuse.
Many of the 23 amendments to the Child Protective Services Law went into effect Dec. 31 and are a result of the recommendations made by a bipartisan Task Force on Child Abuse created by the state Legislature in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal, in which the former Penn State football assistant coach was convicted of more than 40 counts of molesting boys.
The changes are likely to increase the number of child abuse cases reported, because they broaden the definition of child abuse and expand the category of mandatory reporters required to report instances of suspected child abuse, said Jim Holtry, executive director of Lebanon County Children & Youth Services.
"These are the most significant changes in the Child Protective Services Law in the past 25 years," Holtry said. "There are changes in the definition of child abuse; expanded definitions of a perpetrator; expanded definitions of mandated reporters — people who are required to report; increased penalties for not reporting; and a significant increase in those who are required to have child abuse, criminal and FBI clearances."
While schools and youth advocate agencies are familiar with child abuse reporting regulations, Holtry said he wants to get the word out about the changes to other organizations whose staff and volunteers (for whom the law takes effect July 1) did not previously qualify as mandated reporters of suspected child abuse but who do now.
"A mandated reporter virtually covers anyone who comes into contact with children," he said. "And that has been expanded to include volunteers, to a certain degree; folks in child-care centers; and coaches. Think about all the coaches in community sports in this town. Whether it's baseball, football, basketball, whatever the case may be, you are looking at a tremendous number of people who are now considered mandated reporters."
Anyone classified as a mandated reporter will also be required to meet a number of standards before he or she can work with children. They include providing a state police criminal background check, a child abuse history clearance from the state Department of Human Services, and, with the exception of volunteers who have lived in the state 10 years, a Federal Bureau of Investigations criminal background check. The two state clearances cost $10 each, while the FBI clearance, which requires being fingerprinted, runs about $30, bringing the total bill to almost $50. In addition, all of the clearances must be updated every three years.
Mandated reporters must also be certified, which can be done by taking a free online course provided by the Pennsylvania Child Resource Center at reportabusepa.pitt.edu. The course can be split into parts and takes about three hours, although it should take less time for those with child abuse reporting experience, Holtry said.
"It's good training," he said. "If you have any knowledge of child abuse, it's probably not going to take you three hours to go through it. Because you can skip through it based on your responses to certain questions."
Once certified, mandated reporters will be responsible for reporting any form of child abuse they witness, whether it is associated with a child under their guidance or not, which is another change to the old rules, Holtry said.
"Now, if you are identified as a mandated reporter, you are a mandated reporter 24/7," he explained. "If you are at the grocery store and you see something happen and you've been defined as a mandated reporter, you are required to report that."
How reports are filed has also changed under the new law. In the past, a teacher or someone in a child-related organization who suspected child abuse was only required to report it to a superior or designated employee. That is no longer the case. Now that individual must also report it to the state by contacting ChildLine, a 24/7 telephone hotline that can be reached at 800-932-0313. Each call will be answered by a trained specialist who will interview the caller to determine if the case should be reported to law enforcement, a county agency or social service.
The new law also makes failing to report a case of child abuse — essentially covering one up — have consequences that can include felony criminal charges. Charges will also be filed against individuals who intentionally report a false case of child abuse.
Like many of the other changes, the ChildLine reporting requirement is a direct result of the Sandusky case, in which allegations of suspected abuse were not reported by Penn State officials, Holtry said.
"I think that was one of the weaknesses in the Child Protective Services Law previously," he said. "And again, it was because of the Sandusky situation. Before, they weren't really required to report it. Well, this changes that now. And that is one of the changes they wanted to make, that you are required to report, so we don't have another situation like that again."
The definition of child abuse has also been clarified to include acts or failures to act that were committed intentionally, knowingly or recklessly. That's a change from the previous definition of abuse as being "non-accidental" acts that cause serious physical or mental injuries.
What constitutes child abuse has also been redefined, and includes actions which put a child at imminent risk, such as shaking a toddler, even if they don't result in serious injury, Holtry added.
"In the past when we reported physical abuse, we had to document severe pain. Now it is no longer required that we have to document severe pain. It is significant pain, and what could reasonably be assumed is significant pain," he said.
The specificity in the definitions is welcomed, although there is a lot to learn in the 200-plus page training manual, Holtry acknowledged.
"I think that was one of the things that made it so frustrating in the past," he said. "There were so many things that were gray areas, raising the question of which way do you go here? It's just there is so much you have to read and re-read. It is going to take us some time — and we do this every day — to really educate ourselves and get familiar with this whole process."
In addition to educating the Children & Youth staff, Holtry said he and child abuse supervisor Sharon Gassert have spent the past several months visiting local organizations that must comply with the new standards, including church groups and other county agencies. This week, they conducted training for about two dozen employees at Lebanon Valley Family Health Services. The agency, which is located at 615 Cumberland Street, provides family planning, parental counseling and pre-natal and other medical services.
"We've always been mandated reporters," said LFHS President and CEO Kim Kreider-Umble. "What this training did for us (Thursday) is reaffirm what it means to be a mandatory reporter, and we also learned about a lot of the changes that have occurred. I think one of the most interesting changes that came to light is, as mandatory reporters we are mandated to report not just in the work place but any time we come into contact with suspected child abuse or neglect."
The changes were manageable for LFHS because its staff is relatively small, and they were able to complete the required training and obtain the necessary clearance documents before the law went into effect, Kreider-Umble said.
While she believes that schools and other organizations with hundreds of employees and volunteers will face a greater burden with the record-keeping tasks, Kreider-Umble has faith the changes will bring to light cases of child abuse that went unrecognized in the past.
"One of the things Jim Holtry really emphasized to us is that the law really is designed to protect children," she said. "It will take time for everyone to sift through the rules and regulation changes made. But if we stay focused on the purpose of the law and keep in mind that first and foremost they were made to protect children, I think we'll be fine."
Annville-Cleona School District Superintendent Steven Houser has been preparing for the changes for the past year. Several of them, including the required training and certification of mandatory reporters, were part of changes to the Educator Discipline Act made in early 2014 and have already been completed for the districts 250 employees, he said.
What the district is tackling now is reviewing the status of each employee's and volunteer's criminal and child abuse clearances. The district is slightly ahead of the game, because it already required employees to have the three clearances, but it is still an administrative headache, he said.
"Prior to passage of most recent law, as long as someone maintained employment with us they were not required to do those clearances again," Houser said. "Then about three or four years ago, they passed a law that made current employees sign an affidavit. It was a one-time thing. Any person who had a criminal history check in the past was asked to sign an affidavit that since they were hired, that had not changed."
With only one person in the district's human resource department verifying clearances is a time-consuming challenge, Houser said. He estimated that about 90 man-hours have already been spent in getting the district's clearance records in order and more work will need to be done.
"The record keeping is going to be the major headache, because under the law clearance is only good for three years. Somebody has to maintain that data base every month so they know when each person's clearance expires, and they have to get it done," he said.
It is also another unfunded mandate from the state, Houser noted.
"Sometimes I think laws are passed without much study of their ramifications," he said. "When people say, 'Tell us some of unfunded mandates you want to get rid of,' it is not necessarily that we want to get rid of them. Some are good ideas. But you have to realize there is a cost associated, and if you don't account for the cost, how are we going to do it?"
Holtry said he is not against the changes to the Child Protective Services Law but recognizes potential shortcomings.
"I think the intent is good," he said. "I think they (lawmakers) wanted to expand protections. They wanted to make sure they caught everything. I think implementing some of the items are going to be very difficult. Things like the training of the mandated reporters. Who is going to keep track of that? And who will keep track of who gets clearances and when they are due? And then there's the cost to the folks."
An important benefit of the new law, Holtry said, is that some cases of child abuse that failed to meet legal standards in the past will not fall through the cracks now. Those decisions are made by a Child Abuse Team composed of child advocates, medical professionals and law enforcement officials who meet weekly, he said.
"We make determinations on whether cases should be indicated or are unfounded, as presented. And there have been a lot of times where I think everyone wanted to indicate a case, but we just couldn't do it based on the way the law was written," Holtry said.
The number of child abuse cases investigated by Children & Youth Service have more than doubled in the past decade, and that trend will certainly continue with the changes to the Child Protective Services Law, Holtry predicted.
"In all likelihood, we are looking at a significant increase in child abuse investigations," he said. "We have already been experiencing pretty good increases. In 2004, we had 166, and in calendar year 2013 (the last available) we had 358."
More cases to investigate may require more caseworkers, and Holtry said he is confident the state will authorize hiring them, but he waiting to see the law's impact before making such a request.
"I've been around here long enough to know that we get all excited about something, and then it doesn't materialize. So we are taking a wait-and-see approach," he said. "Is there really going to be this big of an increase? No one really knows. Based on the way things are written, and if folks follow the law, and they are educated, then yes, there will be an increase."
Florida man tells horrifying tales of child sex slavery
by Heather Crawford
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Human sex trafficking is a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States according the Department of Justice, and it's happening right here on the First Coast. Some of the victims are young children forced to have sex dozens of times a day.
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office says in 2013 working with the FBI two individuals were indicted on federal charges for human trafficking, and an additional 40 arrests were made for other charges related to human trafficking. JSO says last year case it worked on resulted in 50 victims of human trafficking being recovered or identified including seven juveniles.
ONE MAN'S STRUGGLE
Jerome Elam was a defenseless child, only 5-years-old, when he says a relative forced him to be a sex slave in Florida.
"It began because I was a child desperate for affection. The relative who was a predator took advantage of that., and basically coerced me into trafficking using drugs and alcohol and threats of violence," recounted Elam.
Sexually abused over and over again Elam says he was also coerced into child pornography. To outsiders though, he says he appeared to be a normal child. He even attended school.
"I would be pulled out of school at times and what they would do is they would set up a list of clients and this would take place in hotels, in campers, in store rooms, whatever location they chose we would be forced to go to.," said Elam. "There was no depth of depravity these people had, so it was a very lucrative business."
The pedophiles buying his services according to Elam were often trusted members of society.
"They looked like the people you would see in church on Sunday. These were doctors and lawyers and people who were well respected but the darker side of them were never exposed until they got into the after hours trafficking part of it," said Elam.
Controlled not by chains but by fear he says he ultimately escaped at the age of 12 after seven excruciating years of hell. He found freedom after a suicide attempt landed him in the emergency room.
He's now sharing his story to raise awareness about what's happening in small towns, larges towns and everywhere in between and to empower other victims.
"You can reclaim your life. Just because somebody tries to make you feel like you are worthless doesn't mean you are. There is a light inside of us that we never lose touch with. You can find that. Just look for it and find a way out," Elam said.
A GROWING PROBLEM
According to the Florida Department of Children and Families children who have endured past sexual abuse, have unaddressed trauma and are runaways are at a heightened risk for becoming a victim of human trafficking. DCF says two-thirds of all children who run away from home are approached within 48 hours to get involved in sex trafficking. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates a pimp can make $150,000 to $200,000 per child a year, and the average pimp has 4 to 6 girls.
In Florida there has been an increased number of reports each year of human trafficking. In 2013 DCF says its Abuse Hotline received 960 calls statewide regarding human trafficking. 105 of those calls came from northeast Florida. 10 of the cases in the Northeast Region were verified including four in Duval County including to John Harrell with DCF.
"The Florida Department of Children and Families has a great working relationship with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and the FBI. DCF notifies the Child Protection Team, law enforcement, and the FBI immediately when we get a report on human trafficking."
If you suspect that a child is being abused or neglected Florida law requires you report it to the Florida Abuse Hotline by calling 1-800-962-2873. To find out more about the signs of child abuse:
Human Trafficking Resources:
Trafficking in America Task Force
Trafficking in America Conference
DCF: Human Trafficking
Human Trafficking Workgroup
Resource for recognizing signs of human trafficking
1-888-373-7888 - National Human Trafficking Resource Center
Call for fresh 'abuse' inquiry
Pressure is mounting on Northern Ireland to launch a public inquiry into decades of alleged abuse at so-called mother and baby homes after the Irish Republic announced a three-year probe into more than 14 institutions.
The State inquiry is being set up after fresh revelations last year about a mass grave at a Catholic run home for unmarried mothers in Tuam, Co Galway, where 796 infants died between 1925 and 1961.
Judge Yvonne Murphy leads a team of three commissioners who will investigate what happened to more than 35,000 women and children - mostly placed in homes after being ostracised by their families - between 1922 to 1998.
The causes of deaths at the homes, burials, vaccine trials carried out on children, how residents ended up there, how they were treated and where they went afterwards will all form part of the mammoth inquiry.
Former residents will be able to give evidence in private.
Others compelled to give evidence face imprisonment or hefty fines if they fail to bear witness or produce requested documents.
While the inquiry itself can not bring criminal charges, findings can be referred to the Garda (Irish police) and prosecutors for investigation.
Ireland's Children's Minister James Reilly said the probe - expected to cost 21.5 million euro (£16.7 million) - will be critical to how the country comes to terms with an uncomfortable truth that it had seen fit to largely ignore.
"Last May, people in Ireland and around the world were shocked at media reports about what was described as a mass grave in the mother and baby home in Tuam in Galway," he said.
"The sense of indignation we all felt about this was palpable.
"While some academics had examined these matters, as a State we had failed to come to terms with a harrowing reality in our past; the manner in which single women and their children were treated in mother and baby homes, how they came to be there in the first place and the circumstances of their departure from the homes."
Campaigners have complained that there is no specific mention in the terms of reference to compensation for survivors, but Mr Reilly said it was open to the inquiry to recommend redress.
Catholic and Protestant-run homes are to be investigated.
They include Ard Mhuire, in Dunboyne, Co Meath; Bessboro House, in Blackrock, Cork; Kilrush, on Cooraclare Road, Co Clare; Manor House, Castlepollard, Co Westmeath; Sean Ross Abbey, Roscrea, Co Tipperary; and The Castle, Newtowncunningham, Co Donegal.
In Dublin, institutions include Bethany Home in Rathgar; the Belmont Flatlets, Denny House and Eglinton House in Donnybrook; Ms Carr's Flatlets in Ranelagh; Regina Coeli Hostel, North Brunswick Street; St Gerard's on Mountjoy Square; and St Patrick's on Navan Road.
A sample of so-called County Homes around the country will also be looked at.
Amnesty International has criticised the absence of other institutions from the scope of the inquiry, including the Magdalene Laundries.
The human rights organisation is demanding a similar probe to be set up in Northern Ireland, where it has identified 12 mother and baby homes or Magdalene Laundry-type institutions which operated over the last century.
"Women in Northern Ireland have told Amnesty they suffered arbitrary detention, forced labour, ill-treatment, and the removal and forced adoption of their babies - criminal acts in both domestic and international law," said Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International.
"Two years after first asking, victims in Northern Ireland still cannot get an answer from (Northern Ireland First and Deputy First Ministers) Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness on whether there will be an inquiry here."
Niall Meehan, a lecturer who researched the scale of infant deaths at Dublin's Bethany Home and helped identify unmarked burials of more than 200 babies, said the Republic's inquiry should investigate more homes.
"There was no specific mention of the Westbank orphanage where Bethany children were sent and where children were systematically denied adoption and where they suffered physical and sexual abuse and also where children were sent back and forth across the border," he said.
"Although the Church of Ireland Magdalene Home - or Denny House - is mentioned, there's no mention of its associated nursery, Rescue Society, that farmed out children from the age of three and more or less controlled the lives of children and young adults into their mid-20s.
"Again there was physical abuse and general neglect of children."
Judge Murphy will be joined on the three-person commission by historian Professor Mary Daly and Dr William Duncan, a child protection legal expert.
The inquiry is expected to seek co-operation from authorities outside the State, including Northern Ireland, Britain and the US about the fate of former residents.
Film sheds light on sex trafficking
by DIANE YARUS
In honor of National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, Soroptimist International of Whitefish will host a free screening on Sunday, Jan. 11, of “In Plain Sight,” an hour-long documentary highlighting the issue of sex trafficking in the United States.
We hope you can join us Sunday, Jan. 11, at 2:30 p.m. at the Whitefish Performing Arts Center (600 East Second Street in Whitefish).
The documentary features six modern-day abolitionists who are fighting against sex trafficking in cities across the US. Their programs provide shelter and services to victims of sex trafficking. The film explores the circumstances that make individuals vulnerable to traffickers. It is important that our society understand the dynamics at play, as human trafficking is a $32-billion-a-year industry and the fastest-growing criminal activity worldwide.
The majority of prostituted people, both children and adults, have a history of child sexual abuse, neglect, or other forms of violence and trauma prior to being recruited “into the life.” However, age is still the greatest vulnerability. Traffickers are expert at exploiting the natural insecurities of adolescents and the Internet and social media are giving them easy access.
The U.S. Department of Justice states the average age of entry into prostitution is just 12 to 13 years old. Many in our society feel that these kids have made a choice and don't see the victimization. This documentary will shatter that myth. “Safe Harbor Laws” recognize that children that have been commercially sexually exploited are victims of crimes and should be provided service instead of criminal convictions.
This legislative session, House Bill 89 revises Montana human trafficking laws to provide this safe harbor and brings the state's human trafficking laws into conformity with the model Human Trafficking Act. HB89 is sponsored by Rep. Kim Dudik, D-Missoula and is a priority of Attorney General Tim Fox.
Soroptimist International of Whitefish also worked in conjunction with clubs in Helena to host a Jan. 9 screening, with the attorney general making the opening remarks and legislators in attendance.
Following the film in Whitefish, a panel discussion regarding sex trafficking in Montana will be held, featuring Sgt. Jeannie Parker of the Flathead County Sheriff's Office; Janiece Hamilton, a Flathead County victim advocate; and Hilary Shaw, executive director of the Violence Free Crisis Hotline/Abbie Shelter. In addition, we have brought in an internationally recognized expert on anti-slavery policy and programs, James Pond. He is the director of Survivor Care for Hope for Justice and the founder of Transitions, an organization that restores the lives of young girls rescued from sex trafficking in Cambodia.
The audience will be encouraged to ask questions. Understanding this crime is the first step in ending it. Ending this crime starts with each of us demanding appropriate laws and advocating their implementation. For more information on this important topic, contact Diane Yarus, SI of Whitefish, Human Trafficking Committee Chair, 751-2175.
Pennsylvania's child-abuse hotline reporting 'unprecedented' number of phone calls
by Sara K. Satullo
Pennsylvania is receiving an unprecedented number of phone calls to ChildLine, its hotline for reporting suspected child abuse.
"People are experiencing extremely high wait times on ChildLine. ... It's higher than the Sandusky time (frame)," said Kait Gillis, spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services. "We are seeing about a thousand calls a day coming in right now. Some of these calls, from what I understand, are technical questions."
In the wake of the arrest and conviction of former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky for sexually abusing several boys over 15 years, Pennsylvania legislators passed and updated a slew of laws aimed at protecting children.
Those changes tweaked mandated reporting requirements of child abuse and overhauled Pennsylvania's background check system for educators.
State officials say while a new website -- the Child Welfare Portal -- and ChildLine are receiving a heavy volume of calls and applications for background checks, they're confident they have enough staffing to handle it.
"We just need to make sure ChildLine stays as the reporting function it's meant to be: to report suspected abuse and neglect," Gillis said.
Anyone experiencing technical issues is urged to call 1-877-343-0494, where they can speak with someone to walk them through their issues, Gillis said.
At the end of December, the state launched the Child Welfare Portal and thus far almost 4,000 security clearances have been issued, Gillis said.
Mandated reporters of suspected abuse also can now file reports online. That has resulted in 197 electronic reports so far, and many more to ChildLine, she said.
State officials are aware of website issues and will be tweaking the site, she said.
"ChildLine is to report suspected abuse," Gillis emphasized.
Bethlehem school district callers face long wait times
Bethlehem Area School District officials are used to a spike in reports of abuse and neglect following the holidays when schools reopen in January.
But since returning from break, some Bethlehem educators have been shocked by the lengthy wait lines when they try to report the suspected abuse to Childline.
One person reported it took five calls before they got a human being on the phone, said Vivian Robledo-Shorey, district supervisor for student and community engagement.
A recording notified callers of the long wait times and asked them to call back initially or call 911 if it was an emergency, she said.
Now, they are being directed to report allegations online, Robledo-Shorey said. Some folks have had success with reporting online while it has taken others an hour, she said.
The Allentown School District has not faced major issues with the system and, overall, for such a monumental change things have gone smoothly, according to a statement.
All employees have been given step-by-step instructions to set up their accounts and, for the majority who've set up accounts, things went well, the district said.
"When there has been a glitch, we have been able to remedy most issues ourselves," according to the statement. "On the few times we could not, we have contacted the state's technical support services and received the assistance needed."
Educators have always been state-mandated reporters of suspected child abuse or neglect. Previously, a teacher would report issues to a guidance counselor or a principal, who then referred the issue to ChildLine, where an intake specialist would determine the next step, Robledo-Shorey said.
"Now: you heard it, you report it," she said, adding guidelines say it must be done immediately. "What does that mean? Does that mean I stop teaching? Can I wait until the end of the day or the end of the period?"
It has left some a bit on edge, fearful of violating the law but also feeling as if they could be over-reporting, Robledo-Shorey said.
"If you are a mandated reporter and you suspect a child could be abused or neglected, we recommend you call ChildLine or go to the website," Gillis said. "The professionals will do the investigation."
Allegations of abuse or neglect are then reviewed by an intake specialist, who determines the next step. It could involve contacting law enforcement, a county agency for investigation or social services.
All school employees, volunteers and contractors now must pass a child-abuse background check as well as state and federal criminal history checks. And folks with clearances older than three years or expiring clearances must update them.
"We are seeing high volume, which is great," Gillis said. "I think that means people are aware of what is going on and the implementation of these laws and they are taking it seriously."
With the new laws, the department is doing heavy training, Gillis said. Thousands of people each day are virtually going through mandated-reporter training, she said.
"I think the awareness has been heightened and people are really taking this seriously," Gillis said.
As the Child Welfare Portal just went live, it will take time for people to get used to it. The department is paying attention to challenges users face and wants to make it as user-friendly as possible, Gillis said.
"Right now, we are focused on the big glitches," she said.
‘Wyatt's Law' child-abuse case could establish abuse registry
by Jameson Cook
A pretrial was adjourned Thursday for a 32-year-old Warren woman accused of child abuse whose case has become a focal point for the potential establishment of a child-abuser registry.
Rachel Edwards is charged with second-degree child abuse, accused of inflicting severe injuries on Wyatt Rewoldt on Nov. 1, 2013, under her care at her home when he was a one-year-old. Wyatt suffered brain injuries, head trauma, a skull fracture, broken ribs and eye injuries, according to a doctor that treated the boy during seven weeks of rehabilitation at Children's Hospital of Michigan.
Edwards appeared in front of Judge Richard Caretti, who granted her attorney, Michael Dennis, a delay to discuss the case further with his client. A pretrial was set for Wednesday in Macomb County Circuit Court in Mount Clemens. She is being held in the Macomb County Jail in lieu of a $250,000 bond.
Macomb prosecutors have indicated they are not offering a plea deal.
If Edwards is convicted of the charge, she faces a sentence of 19 to 47 months at the minimum, based on sentencing guidelines, and 10 years maximum.
Edwards, who was the girlfriend of Wyatt's father, has two prior child abuse convictions, a felony in 2011 and misdemeanor in 2013. Wyatt's mother, Erica Hammel, 26, of St. Clair Shores, has gathered more than 5,000 signatures on a petition to establish a child-abuse registry to let parents know if their child is under the care of a potential abuser. She said if she would have known about Edwards' convictions, she would have tried to prevent her from being with her son.
Three local lawmakers, including former assistant Macomb prosecutor Derek Miller, D-Warren, have indicated they plan to initiate efforts to create a registry. Miller prosecuted Edwards in one of her prior cases.
“I just want to make sure she never can abuse a child again,” Hammel said Thursday after attending Edwards' brief hearing.
During the hearing, Edwards held a folder in front of her face in an attempt to block a camera from a Detroit television station.
“I thought she made herself look even more guilty and like a coward,” Hammel said. “She can't own up to her own actions, and it's disgusting to me she can feel no remorse for what happened to my son.”
Wyatt, 2, nearly died from his injuries. He continues to try and recover from the injuries suffered in the suspected “Shaken Baby Syndrome” incident, Hammel said. He cannot talk or eat solid food, she said. She said doctors said he would never be able to walk but he has begun to do so with the help of leg braces.
“He's a miracle,” she said.
Dad accused of throwing girl from bridge had police run-ins
by Tamara Lush
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- In her short life, 5-year-old Phoebe Jonchuck attended kindergarten, bounced from home to home and often witnessed her parents fighting and arguing.
Still, friends and family said, she loved her daddy and told him that often. And by all accounts, John Jonchuck doted on Phoebe.
Their once-strong bond left police wondering why he dropped her - perhaps while she was still alive - over a bridge and into Tampa Bay. The fall was 62 feet, police said.
Phoebe lived with her father, and in the last day of her life, he made comments that frightened his lawyer so much she called authorities and frantically wondered aloud if she should have kept the girl at her office. He called his attorney "God" and asked her to translate a Bible in Swedish.
A short time later, a deputy questioned Jonchuck and found nothing wrong. Phoebe was smiling and happy.
Fast-forward 12 hours, during an unusually cold and windy night along the Gulf Coast, a police officer spotted Jonchuck speeding by in his car early Thursday, then the officer said he witnessed Jonchuck drop Phoebe.
Jonchuck is in custody at the Pinellas County Jail without bond. Phoebe's body was recovered about a mile from the bridge about two hours later. An autopsy and cause of death was pending.
Before her death, Jonchuck and Phoebe had an odd encounter with his attorney. Genevieve Torres told the 911 dispatcher she had asked Jonchuck if he wanted her to file paperwork in his custody case during a meeting Wednesday in Tampa.
"It's not going to matter anymore," she recalled him saying.
"That really scared me," Torres told the dispatcher, her voice trembling. He was "out of his mind."
A sheriff's deputy investigated and Jonchuck told the officer he was happy, didn't want to hurt himself or his little girl and had "new clarity in his life."
The Florida Department of Children and Families said Thursday evening that the agency received a call to the abuse hotline at 2:45 p.m. Wednesday "regarding the mental health of Phoebe's father."
The caller said Jonchuck was "depressed and delusional."
DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said a team is reviewing the agency's involvement with the family, which included at least three prior investigations into the family.
Phoebe had long, curly hair, a wide smile and loved princesses. She hated baths and water, making her death even more gut-wrenching, said Linda Mattos, the owner of a daycare that looked after Phoebe.
Phoebe's mother, Michelle Kerr, was with Jonchuck for six tumultuous years, and police were called numerous times. Since 2008, Jonchuck has been charged with domestic battery six times, but in every case, the charges were dropped or never pursued.
Kerr had an arrest record consisting of child neglect, petty theft and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, among other charges.
Jonchuck had custody of Phoebe and they lived with Jonchuck's parents in Tampa.
"I always saw him as a good dad," Kerr said. "She would always say, 'I love you daddy.' She loved her dad."
Jonchuck was charged with first-degree murder. At his first court hearing, Pinellas County Judge Michael Andrews asked him if he wanted an attorney.
"I want to leave it in the hands of God," Jonchuck said.
The judge responded: "I'm pretty sure God's not going to be representing you in this case. You're going to be standing trial."
Mattos, the daycare owner, said Jonchuck and Phoebe were homeless in 2013. Jonchuck had a back injury from a fall at a restaurant and didn't work, so Mattos allowed them to stay at her house for about six months, until Jonchuck started to pick fights with her.
When she asked him to leave, he tried to get revenge, Mattos said, by calling child protective services.
"He was very revengeful," she said. "He tried to ruin me."
It was a claim Kerr echoed.
She said she last saw her daughter and Jonchuck on Christmas Eve. They had a nice evening together and then he called child protective services on her and made false abuse allegations, she said.
"He does the Jekyll and Hyde. It's just something that goes on in his head, he just wasn't wired right," she said.
Student sues U. of Oregon after claiming rape by players
by JONATHAN J. COOPER
PORTLAND, Ore. -- A woman who says she was sexually assaulted by three University of Oregon basketball players filed a lawsuit Thursday against the school and head basketball coach Dana Altman.
The suit alleges Altman knew when he recruited Brandon Austin that the player had been suspended from Providence College in Rhode Island due to allegations of sexual misconduct. It also claims that the university put off disciplinary action against the players in order to help the basketball team and that it illegally accessed her campus counseling records.
The woman, who is still a University of Oregon student, alleges the school was negligent, violated her civil rights and privacy, and deprived her of her right to an education.
"UO delayed taking any action on the sexual assaults for over two months while it prioritized winning basketball games over the health, safety, and welfare of its students," the lawsuit alleges.
Interim President Scott Coltrane said the university disagrees with the allegations in the lawsuit and believes it acted lawfully. He said the university is trying to improve its code of conduct and its handling of student discipline.
"It's our primary job to keep our students safe," Coltrane said.
Austin and the two other players told authorities they had consensual sex with the woman, and prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence to file charges. Laura Fine Moro, a lawyer who has represented Austin, could not immediately be reached for comment.
The woman met the players at a party March 8, the same night the Ducks finished the regular season. The woman's father soon called police.
The university was informed of the ensuing investigation but allowed two of the players, Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson, to compete in the NCAA tournament. Austin could not suit up because of NCAA transfer rules.
All three players were later suspended from the university.
Austin was accused of sexual assault and suspended from the Providence team late in 2013. The reason for his suspension was not made public, and he transferred to Oregon.
Altman has said he didn't know why Austin was suspended from Providence when he recruited the player. At a news conference last year, the coach acknowledged that his questioning on the matter "probably didn't go deep enough." Austin was never charged with a crime in Providence.
The woman, who is identified in the lawsuit as Jane Doe, is seeking reimbursement of her tuition and expenses, payment of expenses incurred as a result of the alleged assault, as well as damages for emotional pain and loss of enjoyment of life.
Indiana poet seeks healing from clergy sexual abuse through his works
by Catholic News Service
INDIANAPOLIS — Norbert Krapf, 71, still loves the wooded hills of his southern Indiana boyhood home near Jasper and the Catholic faith that formed his beliefs from infancy.
Such feelings are remarkable not for their longevity, but that they exist despite Krapf being the victim of clergy sexual abuse six decades ago at his small hometown parish tucked away in the Jasper hills.
In recent years, Krapf -- a poet, author and one-time Indiana Poet Laureate now living in Indianapolis -- identified his abuser to the bishop of the Diocese of Evansville in which Jasper is located, leading to the removal of the deceased priest's many accolades and honors.
But Krapf then took a much bigger, public step. Using his gift for poetic expression, he published "Catholic Boy Blues," a book of poems dealing with the abuse through the voices of the suffering boy, the coping adult, the wise Mr. Blues and the abusive priest.
The book, along with Krapf's other works, helped earn him the 2014 Eugene and Marilyn Glick Regional Author Award.
More importantly, it has been instrumental in Krapf's own healing and, he hopes, the healing of other sexual abuse victims.
Of Krapf's 26 published books, 11 are works of poetry. Many of the poems revolve around his southern Indiana roots, his love for the wooded hills he explored as a child and his German heritage.
He and his family were members of Holy Family Parish in Jasper, with Msgr. Othmar Schroeder serving as pastor. The priest, who died in 1988, was a family friend, spiritual director of Krapf's father, trusted role model in the parish -- and a sexual predator of boys.
On weeknights before an early morning Mass, Krapf told The Criterion, newspaper of the Indianapolis Archdiocese, "(Msgr. Schroeder) would have us (altar servers) stay over, and that's when the abuse took place. There probably were as many as 50 victims in my parish."
Krapf learned to keep silent about the abuse. Msgr. Schroeder was respected in the community, a theme repeated in many of the poems in "Catholic Boy Blues." In one poem, "Once Upon a Time a Boy," Krapf describes the beating a friend received when the boy told his father about the abuse.
"It's a survival mechanism," he says of the silence. "If you focused on that (abuse) as a child, you wouldn't be able to function. You would just go to pieces, do some damage to yourself. I did some heavy drinking in the summers when I came home from college and worked across the street from where the abuse took place."
So Krapf remained silent and went on with life. He considered becoming a mechanical engineer until he "fell in love with poetry" during his senior year in high school. He earned a bachelor's degree in English from St. Joseph's College in Rensselear, Indiana, and his master's in English and doctorate in English and American literature from the University of Notre Dame.
At the university, he met his wife, Katherine, who had left the Carmelite order and was completing graduate studies.
It was also at Notre Dame that Krapf developed a love for blues music. That musical expression would later help shape some of the poetry that led to his healing in "Catholic Boy Blues."
Krapf and Katherine moved to New York City in 1970, where he taught at Long Island University and directed the C.W. Post Poetry Center, and Katherine taught middle school English.
Meanwhile, except for confiding in Katherine, his silence continued.
"I just had to be ready for (facing) it, and I wasn't," Krapf says. "Part of it was teaching full time" and raising the two children he and Katherine adopted from Colombia.
It was the children who helped bring Krapf back to the Catholic faith he had distanced himself from as an adult.
"Katherine said she wanted to give them a good religious background and tradition, and it seemed like a good idea," he says. "But it was very difficult for me."
The couple retired from teaching and moved to Indianapolis in 2004. They settled into a townhome a few blocks from St. Mary Parish, where they have been members for 10 years.
In 2006, the incidents of Krapf's past began to haunt him.
"There was a priest ... I read about who had been moved from one parish to another, three different parishes, abusing boys," Krapf recalls.
One parish to where the priest was relocated was not far from where Krapf grew up. He told himself, "I have an obligation to do something about this."
He wrote a letter to Bishop Gerald A. Gettlefinger, then-bishop of Evansville. The bishop called just two days after the letter was mailed.
Krapf met with the bishop and in 2007, Bishop Gettlefinger had made the priest's abuse public. Honorary photos of Msgr. Schroeder were removed from Jasper churches, and a Knights of Columbus council named in his honor was asked to change its name. The diocese offered to pay for counseling for victims of priest abuse.
Krapf was pleased by the moves but was far from healed. The case of the priest who was moved around several Indiana parishes continued to bother him so he turned to Father Michael O'Mara, St. Mary's pastor at the time.
"He said, 'You know, Norbert, I'm a victim of this, too. Whenever we have family gatherings, and parents have their young boys with them, they kind of look at me funny, like they wonder, "Is he ... ? Does he ...?"
"He was enormously sympathetic," Krapf says.
The last poem in "Catholic Boy Blues," "Epilog: Words of a Good Priest," is dedicated to Father O'Mara.
Krapf also discussed the abuse with a spiritual director, who prompted him to address his past through poetry. So Krapf began to write -- and write, and write.
"I wrote 325 poems in just one year," he says. "And then I wrote another 50 after that."
Krapf gave himself several years to edit the poems and develop the book, which he described as "a calling."
Before the publication of "Catholic Boy Blues" in April, Krapf notified Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin.
"I offered to send him a proof of the book in case he wanted to be prepared," Krapf says. "He wrote a very warm, gracious reply."
Archbishop Tobin's support went beyond words. He offered an opening prayer at Krapf's first book signing, and he sent a copy of the book to Pope Francis.
"A reading of 'Catholic Boy Blues' permits one to glimpse the incredible pain of victims of sexual abuse," Archbishop Tobin told The Criterion. "The fact that such abuse occurred during the victim's childhood and was inflicted by a priest, that is, a person whom a child would instinctively trust, makes the pain even more hideous.
"Yet the spirit of Norbert Krapf emerges from this terrible crucible to offer a testimony to the power of God to bring light out of darkness and, finally, life from death.
"I thank God that Norbert and Katherine have found healing and are willing to serve as instruments of healing for others."
That healing can be quantified.
"That night of the book launch ... I don't even remember how many people thanked me because either they were a survivor, or someone in their family or a friend (was a survivor)," Krapf recalls. "There's been a strong outpouring of support."
Krapf is exploring ways to bring the message of hope and healing in "Catholic Boy Blues" to groups through poetry readings and collaborative presentations.
A recurring question Krapf says he receives at book signings and poetry readings is how he can stay in a church that caused him so much pain.
"I tell them that I don't feel that way," he says. "I recognize that a big part of me is Catholic. I have a sense that this is my church, and I'm not going to let it be taken away from me, and I'm going to help improve it.
"That might seem like a delusion of grandeur, but I believe it."
These small injuries are key to catching child abuse
by Anne Saker
Dr. Mary Greiner: A baby not walking doesn't get bruises because someone is carrying the baby around and putting the baby down in soft places. "The rule is, 'If they don't cruise, they don't bruise.'
The clues are easy to miss: A faint bruise, a scratched leg, a small cut that can be explained away.
Pediatricians who study child abuse call them "sentinel injuries," seemingly insignificant injuries that can be early warnings of abusive behavior. If doctors can better recognize those warnings, they say, they might be able to save more young children from serious injury or even death.
"We have to get to the next step, and get kids before the really bad head injury or the really bad fracture," said Dr. Mary Greiner, a child-abuse pediatrician at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
Research money from the state of Ohio could be an important move to that next step, Greiner said. Last month, Attorney General Mike DeWine announced a $1 million grant to Ohio's six major children's hospitals to study the little-understood phenomenon called sentinel injuries.
These bruises and cuts turn up in infants from newborns to six months of age. The few studies that have been done suggest that when an older child appears for medical care for abuse injuries, in about a third of the instances, a previous health care worker had taken note of injuries in the child's infancy.
Sentinel injuries are so minor that a parent or guardian can easily explain them away to a health care provider. And there are instances, Greiner said, that an infant really sustains an accidental injury.
"A baby that isn't walking doesn't really have any way to get bruises because someone is carrying the baby around and putting the baby down in soft places," Greiner said. "The rule is, 'If they don't cruise, they don't bruise.' So when you see bruising on an infant, that would be cause for great concern."
Greiner, who will be the lead researcher on the grant for Cincinnati Children's, said the money from the attorney general's office will generate the biggest body of data ever created on sentinel injuries. More than 30,000 children in Ohio suffer abuse every year. At Cincinnati Children's, the Mayerson Center for Safe and Health Children - where Greiner works - sees six to seven cases a day of suspected abuse.
"It's just as important for us to establish with this study which injuries really are accidents as it is to learn which ones are suggesting that something terrible is going on," Greiner said.
Money for the grant came from the attorney general's lawsuit settlement funds. Greiner said the participating hospitals have not yet decided on a protocol for how the study will be done, but the overall idea is to collect information.
The term "sentinel injury" is relatively new, and it was unfamiliar to Eve Pearl, executive director of the Council on Child Abuse of Southern Ohio Inc. But Pearl said any research that can provide an early warning on abuse is valuable.
"The good news is that they're doing some research that hopefully will give some information that will help those of us who do prevention have a stronger case for the work that we're trying to do," Pearl said. "It might shed some light on some things that we could be offering parents that would be helpful and minimize the injuries."
Greiner said that was the ultimate goal of the study, to intervene with families early enough in a child's life with parenting classes or other kinds of support that can prevent further injuries.
In the first year, the six major hospitals will go through their own records. In addition to Cincinnati Children's, those hospitals are Akron Children's, Dayton Children's, Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, ProMedica Toledo Children's and UH/Rainbow Babies and Children's in Cleveland.
In the second year, data will be collected from regional hospitals that care for children. In the third year, data will come from large primary-care pediatric practices.
At least 2 dead as child abuse rising in Brown Co.
by Adam Rodewald
The young father took several deep breaths during a long pause before telling detectives how his infant daughter died.
Queondrai Farris, 20, said he picked up the 4-month-old baby and pressed her face into his chest to quiet her. She had been crying incessantly instead of laying down to sleep. Stress from his struggling marriage weighed on him, and he couldn't take the noise.
"I was just hoping she would stop, and then she finally stopped," he told the detective, according to court records.
"She finally stopped. She finally stopped," he repeated over and over.
Farris was charged in December with first-degree reckless homicide and physical abuse of a child for the June 25 incident. That case still awaits trial.
His daughter, Alesana Farris, became the second child in Brown County to die by suspected abuse in 2014. The year is one of the harshest on record for the area's youth.
A third child, just a year old, died from suspected abuse in July. That case is still under investigation. If it's substantiated, the county will have had the most child deaths from maltreatment in at least a decade.
The volume of cases overall in Brown County court has been growing for at least six consecutive years even as advocates and social workers push forward with an expansive prevention initiative. Local social services agencies formed a task force almost two years ago to address the issue. They released an action plan in March.
But according to preliminary data released by the county, child protection workers investigated 1,669 cases of abuse and neglect in 2014, a 3 percent increase over 2013. Those involved with the task force said it will take more time to reverse the trend.
"It will take a large-scale effort over a concerted amount of time to see results," said Sarah Inman, vice president for community investment and strategic impact at the Brown County United Way.
Social workers have not been able to pinpoint reasons for the increase, even as some commonalities such as escalating drug cases emerge.
"Each incident is so isolated and dependent on multiple things," said Lana Cheslock, manager of the county's children, youth and families division.
The task force has focused its efforts largely on prevention, noting an estimated 1,300 to 1,500 area families are at risk of abusing or neglecting their kids but never get help.
That estimate is based on the number of referrals social workers dismiss every year because they don't meet the legal standard to be formally investigated.
"We want to prevent any abuse or neglect that might be rising and provide those families with some voluntary assistance so there doesn't ever have to be a formal relationship with (child protective services)," Cheslock said.
The task force has focused its efforts largely on prevention, noting an estimated 1,300 to 1,500 area families are at risk of abusing or neglecting their kids but never get help.
That estimate is based on the number of referrals social workers dismiss every year because they don't meet the legal standard to be formally investigated.
"We want to prevent any abuse or neglect that might be rising and provide those families with some voluntary assistance so there doesn't ever have to be a formal relationship with (child protective services)," Cheslock said.
The task force launched three prevention efforts in 2014:
• A partnership between the county government and nonprofit agencies officially launched in December to identify and offer support services to at-risk families. Much of the past year was spent putting infrastructure in place for the organizations to work together, Inman said.
• More than 300 people were trained in a new model for providing support services to struggling families, Inman said. The model, called trauma-informed care, recognizes that many abusers are victims themselves.
• Parent Cafes, a forum for parents to come together for support and networking, kicked off with three sessions and 38 participants, said Jill Sobieck, coordinator of the Community Partnership for Children.
Each of these efforts will be continued and expanded in 2015, Inman said. More detailed training seminars will be brought into individual agencies, and a peer mentoring program for parents will be launched.
The United Way is also providing funding to the county to hire a new community response social worker. This person will work directly with the newly partnered agencies reaching out to at-risk families.
The county's child protection department is also rolling out an alternative response program, which allows social workers to provide services to families without substantiating abuse or identifying an abuser. The goal of the program is to partner with families in less-severe cases to fix underlying problems that could lead to more serious abuse or neglect.
Child protection supervisor Lauren Krukowski said she anticipates this new program will drive down the number of cases investigated by the the county.
"We have no reason to believe it will be anything but positive, based on what we've seen in other parts of the state," she said.
Interactive map: Compare child abuse rates by county
New statewide database for child abuse info launched
by MARCIE SCHELLHAMMER
Perpetrators of child abuse can't outrun the speed of the Internet.
Last week, a statewide database was launched to share real-time case information with Children and Youth Services throughout Pennsylvania.
Dan Wertz, director of McKean County CYS, explained the system will speed up the access to information on abuse allegations elsewhere in the state, and “has the potential of curtailing someone from escaping the radar.”
Each county administers CYS a little differently. Traditionally, records of abuse investigations have been available to other agencies throughout the state with a phone call and a bit of a delay. Now, with the database, that information is immediately available.
Wertz explained, “If there was a history of child abuse, in the past the only way to see it was to run the background clearance through ChildLine.” After that, the caseworker would have to track down in which county the report was made, and contact that CYS department to find out the story behind the limited data available to all agencies.
“This system is designed to capture any story,” Wertz said, explaining that information will be instantly available. “If someone in McKean County decides they are too tired of being bothered by McKean County CYS and moves to Cameron County” to try to escape the system, Cameron County's agency would be able to “access this database and see what involvement we had and what the issues were.
“That can be significant, to see if they cooperated with a service plan,” Wertz said, explaining how agencies might benefit from immediate access to this information.
“There is still the potential right now a ‘jumper' could go to a different county and if no one makes a phone call (to alert the CYS agency), they might be under the radar,” he added. The new system isn't foolproof, but is a step in the right direction.
“It is another tool available to caseworkers and staff here at the county level for assessing the safety of kids,” Wertz said.
He added another caveat. “It's dependent on how up-to-date every county's information is.”
In McKean County, CYS has modernized, with staff taking tablets into the field and entering information “in real time.”
“I'm hoping other counties are on pace,” Wertz said.
“In the long-term, it does have the potential to better capture the work the entire child welfare system is doing,” he added.
The Child Welfare Information Solution case management system will improve child safety, modernize processes and increase program integrity. By allowing for the exchange of information across counties and with real-time data, DHS can use CWIS to eliminate gaps in information throughout the life of a case, according to the state Department of Human Services.
“I am very proud of the major step forward we are taking today on behalf of children,” said Department of Human Services Secretary Bev Mackereth. “We have critical statewide child welfare information from each county now available at the state level. County caseworkers will have access to data through this system that will arm them with information to assist in efforts to better protect children.”
The creation of a single abuse and neglect database is now permitted by Act 29 of 2014 which amended the Child Protective Services Laws and enables DHS to collect reports from county children and youth agencies on child abuse and children who are in need of general protective services.
Mandated reporters will also benefit from this modernized system; individuals can submit reports of suspected child abuse and neglect electronically to ChildLine, a 24-hour hotline to report suspected child abuse.
In addition to reporting abuse, individuals seeking child abuse clearances will now be able to submit applications and pay electronically. Applicants will receive faster results electronically and will be able to securely print their results by logging into their account. ChildLine processed more than 600,000 child abuse clearances last year.
For more information, visit the website www.keepkidssafe.pa.gov. To apply for a PA Child Abuse History Clearance online, visit www.compass.state.pa.us/cwis. Mandated reporters may also go to www.compass.state.pa.us/cwis to report suspected abuse.
Brownsville man to be resentenced in child abuse case
by The Tribune Review
A 26-year-old Brownsville man serving a four-to-eight-year prison sentence for abusing a 19-month girl in 2010 had his sentence overturned by a state Superior Court panel this week.
Emery W. Gibson will be resentenced in Fayette County Common Pleas Court due to an error during the initial sentencing process, the three-judge panel said.
Gibson was charged by state police in Belle Vernon with abusing a toddler in his care on May 15, 2010. The child was treated at Uniontown Hospital and later transferred to Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh.
In September 2011, Gibson reached a tentative plea bargain, agreeing to plead guilty to indecent assault, endangering the welfare of a child and simple assault.
As part of the agreement, charges of rape and three additional counts of indecent assault were dropped.
However, Senior Judge Conrad Capuzzi, who sentenced Gibson, improperly considered the dropped felony counts when he imposed a sentence on Gibson Dec. 6, the judges said.
The decision was handed down Wednesday.
Gibson is serving his sentence at SCI Retreat in Luzerne County.
Learning from Abusive Relationships
by Elisabeth Corey
Relationships are hard for everyone, but especially for survivors of child abuse. Before I started my recovery work, I spent years in relationships that were obviously abusive and damaging to my emotional wellness, but I was too blinded by my own trauma to see it.
My family had always taught me that survival depended on having a man in my life. In my family, women kept abusive men around because of this belief.
It was critically important for this to be ingrained in each family member as early as possible. There could be no understanding of their individual power. They must believe they could not survive without a partner or the abuse might not be tolerated.
So, I spent many years in codependent relationships that perpetuated my belief systems born from an abusive childhood. I am not worthy of love. I am not meant to be happy. I must do whatever my partner wants so that he will remain happy and not leave me. I cannot say no. I cannot react to his emotionally and verbally abusive comments because that might be dangerous.
It was not until my children were born that I realized something needed to change. As I have written before, it was their birth that gave me the motivation to examine my past.
As I began to shift, the old started to fall away from my life. My marriage imploded. My family started to become angry with me as I set boundaries, eventually culminating in a complete separation. Some of my friends moved on, but some stayed, which was honestly a bit confusing for me. I had never experienced that before.
Over time, I began to add new and beautiful things to my life. I added a new school community that has been incredibly affirming and supportive of my little family. I added new friends who are willing to be vulnerable with me. I started a new career doing what I love.
But there has been one elusive relationship that has not manifested. I call it the Mount Everest of my recovered life. To nobody's surprise, it is the healthy intimate relationship that seems unconquerable. Maybe that's part of my problem. My willful side loves to see this as another goal to meet.
It is obvious I approach my life using my will. I even named my website Beating Trauma. But I use my will for good too. I use it to ask the right questions of my inner thoughts. I use it to keep myself from hiding from the pain. It is both a help and a hindrance. And my understanding of that makes it possible to find some balance.
So as I venture into this world of intimate relationships, I find that I have the same problem I used to have. I no longer attract men who are obviously verbally and emotionally abusive. I now attract much more healthy people. But sometimes, they might not treat me like I am worthy of them. And sometimes, I don't notice it at first.
Sometimes, I will hang up the phone with an eerie feeling that I was just snowed. I will have this sneaking suspicion that I don't feel very good about myself. And then I will realize that there were several suggestions about my lack of worthiness during the discussion.
It is never anything obvious. It isn't a slap in the face. It is subtle to me. It doesn't mean they aren't a good match for me, but it does mean that I need to set some boundaries to knock out some bad habits in our interactions.
So, while the relationships are improving, I have a similar requirement. It is my responsibility to continue my intense work of awareness. I must stay aware of these subtleties as they are released into my space. I have to ask why I still attract these subtle expressions of my unworthiness. I have to ask what the mirror is showing me, the mirror sent to help me grow.
How do I still feel unworthy of love from others? Do I only feel unworthy of love from some people? Who? Where is it coming from in my psyche? What experiences still need to be processed? I have to ask the hard questions. I have to process the tough emotions. I have to work to unbreak my heart a little more with each answer I receive.
And this is hard work. To me, it is worth it, but only because I have seen the results of my earlier questions. I know who I have become through this work, so I know the possibilities are endless.
Eight years ago, I didn't think I stood a chance. I didn't think I could be a good parent. I didn't think I could make it on my own without a partner. I didn't think I would find my passion in career. I didn't think I would ever see myself as worthy of anything. And that has changed. So this can change too. I have no doubt. I have learned that anything is possible through self awareness, through asking the hard questions.
So I will keep asking. The answers are hard, but I would rather know. Because it is that knowledge that grows me. It is that knowledge that manifests the new.
Schools aren't teaching enough about sexism. It's the best way to end dating violence.
There may be a link between conservative gender attitudes and acceptance of violence.
by Vanita Sundaram
Teenagers' opinions about when intimate-partner violence is acceptable or not can be influenced by the way they perceive men and women and the relationships between them. Simply telling young people that violence is wrong won't stop it happening. Schools need to teach children about gender and sexuality first in order to prevent violence becoming seen as acceptable in certain situations.
Throughout their adolescence, young people can be exposed to high levels of dating violence. Physical abuse was reported by a quarter of girls and 18 percent of boys in a 2009 survey of 13 to 21-year olds. In the same survey, sexual abuse was reported by more than a third of girls and 16 percent of boys.
Young teenagers were just as likely to report violence by a partner as older teenagers were.
Many young people tolerate violence in teenage relationships. A landmark 1998 study by the Zero Tolerance Charitable Trust found that nearly half of young people surveyed thought that it was acceptable for a boyfriend to act aggressively towards his partner in certain circumstances. In addition, three quarters of young men and more than half of young women surveyed thought the woman was “often” or “sometimes” to blame for violence enacted against her by her partner. More recent research also suggests that young people can grow accepting of violence in certain circumstances.
Other research has found there may be a link between conservative gender attitudes and acceptance of violence. While the knowledge that young people accept violence is becoming well-established, our understanding of why they do is less developed.
My own research with 14 and 15 year olds in the north of England revealed that young people have nuanced understandings of what behavior constitutes violence and when it is unacceptable. Young people readily and articulately characterize violence as encompassing a range of behavior, including physical, verbal, sexual and emotional abuse. Pushing, shouting, jealousy, name-calling, rape and child abuse were all named by young people as examples of violent behavior.
Most young people in my study also seemed aware that the majority of violence is perpetrated by young men. Some participants offered more detailed descriptions of perpetrators of violence that included class-based or racial characteristics. A small minority of the teenagers said women were perpetrators of violence.
Not always a problem
The young people I interviewed were less consistent in their views on whether violence is a problem. Not all violence is seen as “bad” and some violence is even seen as acceptable or as deserved. Their views varied according to the description of the violence, but most importantly, according to their understandings of how men and women behave in different circumstances.
Violence between men was primarily viewed as natural, innate and driven by a specifically “male” biology. This type of violence was not always viewed positively, but was most often seen as necessary or understandable in its use to resolve a dispute, such as to protect a female loved-one or to display manhood.
Young people drew on fairly traditional ideas about male behavior to justify violence between men. In other words, violence was accepted because it was being used to enact or reinforce expected gender behavior.
Plain wrong, or merely trivial?
Violence by men towards women was seen as “wrong” by the vast majority of young people. Yet when specific scenarios were discussed, young people began to offer justifications. They viewed it as acceptable and even deserved in some cases, particularly in circumstances where women were not seen to be conforming to expected behavior within relationships, such as when they may have lied to their partner or been unfaithful.
In one hypothetical scenario where violence was seen as acceptable by some, Steve is playing around with his girlfriend's phone and sees that she has received many texts from another boy in their grade. When Steve asks his girlfriend about this, she says she should be allowed to have male friends and he should stop getting upset about nothing. Steve pushes his girlfriend and calls her a “slut.”
Violence by women towards men was also seen as unproblematic. It was often seen as an understandable response for a girl, if also undesirable behaviour. The young people I interviewed saw women as being more emotional and fragile than men. They were also viewed as physically weaker and their potential to hurt or cause harm when they used violence was therefore not viewed as significant.
Views on gender are the key
All this suggests that simply telling young people that violence is wrong will not prevent them from accepting it. Young people have more nuanced understandings of violence that are greatly influenced by their views on gender – what is normal, expected and appropriate for men and women to do, both in and outside relationships.
This distinction between different forms of violence makes wholesale prevention difficult. Given that gender appears to be a primary influence on young people's views on violence, schools should prioritise teaching about equality between the genders in order to effectively challenge the acceptance and justification of some forms of violent behavior.
This could include cross-curricular teaching about gender stereotypes, sexism, sexual and gender pressures and gender-based harassment and violence. Recent research evidence suggests that sexualized and physical violence are prevalent in higher education too, indicating a need for preventative work to be done early on in the education cycle.
Girl, 15, who shot brother, 16, suffered abuse
by JASON DEAREN
WHITE SPRINGS, Fla. (AP) - A 15-year-old girl who fatally shot her 16-year-old brother suffered years of abuse, including being locked in a room for weeks at a time with only a blanket and a bucket to use the bathroom, according to police reports and interviews.
The shooting at a small white house off a dirt road in rural north Florida happened Monday while the children's parents were away for work. The father, a truck driver, and his wife, who often goes with him, left the 16-year-old boy to watch over the 15-year-old, her 11-year-old sister and their 3-year-old sister, police said. The parents left Sunday and were due back Tuesday.
Sometime Monday, the 15-year-old girl was locked in her room by her brother, police said. After the boy fell asleep, she talked her 11-year-old sister into unlocking her door.
The older girl knew her parents kept a pistol in their room, but they had locked their door. So the girl went outside and used a knife to remove an air conditioner from her parents' bedroom window. She climbed in while her 11-year-old sister kept watch and grabbed the gun out of a pink bag and loaded it, police said.
The girl went back inside the house, telling her young sisters to get in the closet, she told police. She turned her head and fired at her sleeping brother in the living room, and he screamed "Help! Help!"
She buried her head in a pillow for a while and upon returning to the living room, the girl found her 3-year-old sister trying to wake her dead brother, according to the police report.
She fled with her 11-year-old sister, leaving the 3-year-old behind, police said.
"It's hard for us to get our arms around this act," Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter said. "This is the stuff nightmares are made of."
Police caught up with the girls after a friend of theirs received a "weird phone call" from the 11-year-old girl, saying she had run away and needed someone to pick her up from a Dollar General, according to a police report. When the woman arrived, she found the older sister there, too.
The older girl said something might have been wrong with another sibling at home. As she spoke, she applied makeup and "would not maintain eye contact and appeared emotionless," officers wrote in a police report.
She soon started crying and told the officers that her brother had beaten her and that she had shot him.
When officers arrived at the home, the 3-year-old said: "he's dead." The brother's body was lying near the fireplace, under a blanket with his head on a pillow.
Police have not released a motive for the shooting.
The girls' mother told police that they often locked the 15-year-old girl up when she misbehaved. The longest they kept her locked in her room was 20 consecutive days, the father told police.
In the girl's room, police found only a blanket and a bucket filled with urine in the closet.
"It was learned that (the 15-year-old girl) has made past attempts at ending her life but neither law enforcement nor (emergency management services) was notified," police wrote in their report.
The girls are in being held in juvenile detention on suspicion of murder, and a prosecutor is trying to decide whether they will be charged as adults. Their parents face charges of child neglect and failing to supervise.
The 3-year-old is in the custody of child welfare officials.
Police documents released Wednesday said the girl's uncle was convicted of molesting her in 2010. They also say the children's mother discovered the siblings having sex in 2011. Authorities and child welfare officials investigated, but no one was charged.
Because of the girls' ages and abuse allegations, The Associated Press is not naming the girls, their brother or the parents.
Mom Charged in 3-Year-Old's Death Just Days After Child Abuse Charges Dropped
A mother has been charged in the death of her 3-year-old daughter -- only six months after she was arrested on child abuse charges involving two of her other children. Katlyn Marin, 25, of Nashua, New Hampshire, and her boyfriend, Michael Rivera, were charged in May with abusing two young boys living in their home. There were reportedly five children living in the home, and Rivera was the father of one of them. On November 25, Marin called 911 to say that her 3-year-old daughter, Brielle Gage, was unresponsive. She later died at the hospital.
An autopsy determined Brielle had died from blunt force trauma to the head and authorities charged Marin with second-degree murder.
It was only in May that Marin and Rivera were charged with abusing two children in their care, an 8-year-old boy and 6-year-old boy (it's unclear if Rivera is the biological father of either of these children).
Investigators said that the children were beaten with belts and the 8-year-old was forced to kneel for an hour. They also noted that four of the children in the home, including a 9-month-old, were covered with bruises. The 6-year-old reportedly told police he was only allowed to eat once a day and would hide food he had found.
The children were placed in foster care, and it seems they would have been safe then. Instead, within months, all of them were back home, even though the charges were still pending. Brielle's paternal grandmother, Sharon Boucher, says she tried to get custody of Brielle, but was "ignored" by children's services and the court.
On November 20, charges against Marin were dropped. Five days later, Brielle was dead.
"The court system failed my granddaughter," Boucher wrote on Facebook.
Marin is now jailed awaiting a probable cause hearing.
Sounds tragically like the ball was dropped on these babies. The state should have done more to protect them -- for their parents allegedly did not at all.
Boucher says she hopes to use the circumstances surrounding Brielle's tragic death to make changes within New Hampshire's children's services division. Unfortunately, it often takes the brutal death of a child to make the kinds of changes that can benefit other children down the road.
Child abuse cases seem to be on the rise, experts say
by Sudbey Van Wyk
The tragic deaths of two Cherokee County children led to criminal convictions in 2014, and experts are warning that child abuse cases seem to be growing in number.
While statewide statistics for last year are not yet available, in the fiscal year of 2013, 17 children in Oklahoma died due to abuse or neglect, while 10 faced near death statistics, according to Oklahoma's Department of Human Services.
“It's very clear cases of child abuse and neglect are not diminishing, it's not slowing down,” said Jo Prout, the executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates of Cherokee Country.
Prout's CASA chapter works with courts in Cherokee County, Adair County and Cherokee Nation. Trained volunteers advocate for what they believe is best for the child on behalf of the judge, who may request a CASA volunteer. CASA is only involved in cases of abuse and neglect.
There are 15 active volunteers who each give between 10 and 15 hours to a case, which takes about three months.
Prout said she would like to see the number of volunteers double so more children can be better represented in the courts.
Every year, CASA collects this data from DHS and Indian Children Welfare Services to send into the state and national CASA offices. Liz Rainbolt, a CASA employee who collects data and trains volunteers, said DHS has to separate data on abuse and neglect cases from the many other cases their departments handle.
Rainbolt and Prout said they both wish the data was available faster, but understand the process is tedious and time-consuming. Data from 2015 may not be available until the end of 2015 or even 2016.
“We don't get a clear picture until it's two years past,” said Prout.
She said the three courts the local CASA volunteers work in recorded 362 cases of child abuse and neglect in 2013; CASA represented children in 89 of those cases.
Prout said in the calendar year of 2014, CASA served one Hispanic child, two African American children, 10 Caucasian children and 69 Native American children.
“And that's because we don't just serve Native American children in tribal court,” said Prout.
In Cherokee County, most of these cases are not taken to criminal courts, but through special juvenile courts.
Special District Judge Sandy Crosslin said the first goal in juvenile courts that handle child abuse and neglect is to return children to their homes.
“They do have very specific goals they need to meet,” said Crosslin. “It's tailored to their issues.”
Crosslin said the overwhelming issue faced by parents charged with child abuse or neglect is some sort of substance abuse.
Assistant District Attorney Rachel Dallis said when cases of child abuse or neglect are extreme enough, a criminal case will be filed with the primary goal of getting justice for the child.
“If a case is so bad they get a criminal court case, they have a juvenile case as well,” said Dallis.
Dallis has only seen one such case since she became a prosecutor in Cherokee County in September.
“That was a pretty horrific case,” said Dallis.
Both of the 2014 Cherokee County criminal cases involving the death of a child at the hands of abuse came to a conclusion in September. Both children were under the age of 4. One suspect was found guilty by a jury and sentenced to life in prison, and the second suspect entered a plea agreement.
A recent report from the Associated Press highlights child deaths in the U.S. over a six-year span. According to that report, 25 children in Oklahoma died as a result of abuse or neglect while authorities had an open investigation pertaining to the child.
There was no information from Oklahoma's 2012-'13 fiscal year in the report.
Across the country, the AP found evidence of 786 children who died from abuse during an investigation.
The Associated Press said the information compiled over an eight-month investigation represented “the most comprehensive statistics publicly available,” because there is no complete set data on deaths of children already overseen by child welfare caseworkers.
“The data collection system on child deaths is so flawed that no one can even say with accuracy how many children overall die from abuse or neglect every year,” reported the Associated Press. “The federal government estimates an average of about 1,650 deaths annually in recent years; many believe the actual number is twice as high.”
Most of the deaths the Associated Press reported were children under the age of 4 – similar to the two deaths in Cherokee County that occurred in the latter part of 2013 and were taken to court in 2014.
Neither of the children were being investigated for abuse or neglect when they died, but one of the children killed had had been placed by DHS into the custody of the woman later convicted of killing the little girl.
“Some do slip through the cracks; not often,” said Prout. “Our volunteers deal with things that are ugly and they observe conditions that are unsavory but none of them have had a case where the child's life was in danger, not since I've been here.”
CASA served 42 children below the age of 5 last year. It was their largest age group served, followed by the 25 children between the ages of 6 and 11.
Crosslin said the early years of a child's life are the most important to development, and abuse or neglect can lead to lasting emotional, physical and mental damage.
The size of a child's brain is directly affected by their development during the first years of their life.
“Children are the easiest targets,” said Prout. “You think of what people do to children and you just don't understand it.”
Prout, Crosslin, Dallis and Rainbolt all said neglect can be just as harmful to children as abuse.
“We see a whole lot of neglect,” said Rainbolt. “Severe neglect can kill a child.”
She said neglect is not just ignoring a child, but also failing to care for their basic needs including medical issues, providing food, sheltering a child and making sure the child is clothed properly for the season.
Dallis said the many organizations and legal systems in Cherokee County strive to work together in order to represent the children in the county.
“We have a good system here,” said Dallis. “I think we really advocate for these kids.”
More shelter from the storm: SAFES prepares to expand housing opportunities for women
by Sarah Hansell
It's the middle of December and the temperatures are dwindling dangerously close to freezing. It's about midnight — the time the doors of the Roseland Theater open and the post-concert crowd emerges, wrapping scarves around their necks and shoving hats on their heads. Their excited chatter leaves steam in the air as they filter out of the theater in different directions, toward parked cars or to the corner of the sidewalk to hail a taxi, the promise of a roof and a warm bed awaiting them.
For Kate, huddled across the street in the doorway of St. Andre Bessette Catholic Church, this means she will finally be able to get to sleep. For her, however, there is no warm bed, just her wheelchair and a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call as the police officers make their rounds. Time to gather her things. And wait. The red doors of St. André's will open at 9 a.m. for the church to provide their daily breakfast. From there it's on to the next place to escape the cold, the Salvation Army Female Emergency Shelter (SAFES) where she spends the days. And the same thing the next day, and the next, and the next.
This was Kate's reality for four years — the time she spent sleeping in the doorway of St. André Bessette in her manual wheelchair, a knife tucked away in case someone threatened her, the lack of sleep making it hard to stay alert.
“It makes you more vulnerable because when you're tired you don't pay attention to what's going on around you,” Kate said.
And for a woman sleeping on the streets of Portland, paying attention is key.
“Men feel like they can take advantage of us because we're out here,” Kate said.
According to the Portland Housing Bureau's 2013 Point-in-Time Count, 38 percent of the city's homeless population were women, a 22 percent spike in women who are “literally” homeless — unsheltered or in emergency shelter — since 2011. Only 21 percent of the available beds in shelters, however, were designated for single women at that time.
“You can clearly see that in actuality a homeless person is not necessarily an elderly man sitting on the corner of the street,” SAFES Executive Director Bernadette Basilio said. “The definition of a homeless person completely has changed.”
SAFES is working to provide for these homeless women, who are among the most vulnerable to violence on the streets. Operating out of a new and much larger building as of 2013, SAFES is now able to expand their emergency shelter options to 45 mats, rather than the previous 15. The winter shelter, which opened Nov. 1 and extends through April, is in addition to SAFES' regular night and day shelters.
And now, after nine months without permanent leadership, Basilio is seeing SAFES through the development of 42 new single-room occupancy apartments, which are scheduled to open by the end of the year. This new housing option will protect 42 more women from the cold and the dangers of the street.
And these dangers aren't lost on the women who face them.
“Safety is the biggest (concern), because men have to worry about safety, but we are more vulnerable than them,” said Crystal, a woman who used SAFES' services in the past and is now housed and works at SAFES as a resident assistant.
Crystal was on the streets living with addiction for five years. In those five years she found shelter under the the Vista Bridge, the Burnside Bridge, the Morrison Bridge, next to the I-405 off ramp, at the Park Blocks in front of a church and in the doorway of an old theater. But wherever she found herself laying her head at night, she made sure she wasn't alone. She always kept a companion close for safety.
Not all women, however, have this option. Sandra, who came directly to SAFES after being kicked out of her nephew's home, isn't from Portland and didn't have a network in the city. So unlike Crystal and the many other women who seek safety in numbers, she had no companions for protection. As a survivor of child and sexual abuse, her fears of being forced to sleep outside were amplified. Luckily, she was never unsheltered.
“My constant fear throughout homelessness was, ‘What am I going to do if I get kicked out of a shelter and I have to walk the streets all night?'” she said.
Some women who are alone and do find themselves on the streets at night feel they have no other option than to keep a weapon for protection. Kate kept a knife, and now keeps a taser. Another anonymous woman currently taking shelter at SAFES kept multiple knives and pepper spray when she was sleeping on the streets.
In the city's survey, almost half of homeless women reported being affected in some way by domestic violence. In addition to the emotional toll, it leaves women actively fleeing domestic violence situations vulnerable to their abusers.
“A lot of these women have abusers and not good histories going on, and sometimes those histories kind of show up in the neighborhood,” SAFES Program Manager Anna Cale said. “Community safety is something that we really try to talk to the women about and support them with.”
These histories are one of the reasons SAFES is staffed almost exclusively by women.
“I think it's important for them to have women help them to show them that they can achieve and they can overcome as well,” Basilio said. “Women can be independent, successful and self-sufficient in our community.”
Basilio and the team at SAFES is actively celebrating that image, raising the profile of not only the shelter services, but the lives and potential in the women themselves. In a shift from the hushed environment of years past, today, YouTube videos and social media posts celebrate the poetry and humanity of the women under their roof.
Still, sometimes simply the label of “homeless” creates barriers for women.
When Sandra, who slept at SAFES for two months, sought emergency shelter there and didn't have access to a locker, she had nowhere to store her things.
“I had to sleep with my belongings tied to me,” Sandra said. “There's a lot of theft. You can't leave your suitcase there and expect it to be there 12 hours later. How are you supposed to go to a job interview carrying a backpack and suitcases? ‘Hi, I'm homeless.'”
The stigma associated with homelessness disadvantages these women in myriad ways — from difficulty getting a job to loss of self-esteem. Crystal says she has seen the stigma against homelessness growing since she first experienced it and largely blames the way homelessness is depicted in the media.
“People that aren't on the street treat us like we have a disease or something,” said a woman who currently uses SAFES's services.
Sandra — who said she never thought she'd be homeless “in a million years,” is now grateful for the experience because she can understand it and wants to do something to change it. She believes the misconceptions the general public maintain about homelessness are rampant and deeply damaging to the homeless population.
“I didn't meet anyone who was homeless by choice,” she said. “And as far as being lazy goes, oh my gosh. See how much work it is trying to survive carrying all of your belongings on your back?”
Many of the people on the streets have what is labeled a disabling condition — according to the 2013 Point-in-Time Count, more than half. This could mean anything from a physical disability to a mental health problem to substance abuse. These conditions make finding shelter that much more difficult.
For Kate, who uses a wheelchair, the increased difficulty is physical. Women who possess a disabling condition are exponentially more vulnerable.
“Alone, female, in a wheelchair — it kind of doubles the risk,” Kate said.
Another woman using SAFES's services has HIV/AIDS. A shelter holding 50 women — as the regular dormitory at SAFES does — who could have anything ranging from a cold to a more serious illness, is clearly not a safe place for her.
And SAFES's goal is to include as many women in its efforts as possible and protect the women who are especially vulnerable, including those with addictions. So SAFES is a wet and low-barrier shelter, meaning that women will not be denied services if they are under the influences of substances and that the only qualification required to access SAFES's services is being an adult female.
“Women are already vulnerable on the streets, and if they're obviously under the influence of something they're not going to make the right judgment, so we definitely want to invite them in so they have a safe shelter,” Basilio said.
Since Basilio took the helm of SAFES in April, she's instituted a slew of new programs, including Arts and Crafts, a Narcotics Anonymous group, a Depression and Anxiety group, Rent Well classes, Sewing class and Community Clean Up.
And SAFES's new building has a wealth of untapped potential — many rooms reaching up to the fourth floor and down to the basement are unused, or used only for storage. Basilio hopes that the new single-room occupancies are just the start, and that with more funds and some much-needed renovations, SAFES will be able to greatly expand its services. Basilio hopes, in the future, to have an indoor garden, a computer room, job and financial training, and more respite care.
Sandra hopes that some of this space will be used to expand the emergency shelter to a year-round option. SAFES's emergency shelter was the only thing between her and the streets the day she was thrown out of her nephew's home with no warning, and she knows multiple other women who faced similar situations.
SAFES's 50-bed dormitory currently has a waiting list of 200 — four times its capacity.
“I'm obsessed with this, I really am,” Sandra said. “Because I will never forget the looks on the faces of the people who were getting kicked out. They didn't know where to go.”
You can view more about the SAFES program at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzt4Xt0eIvk
Berks lawmaker to host child abuse prevention seminar
by 69 News
MUHLENBERG TWP., Pa. - A Berks County lawmaker who has shared his story of being sexually abused as a child will host a seminar in hopes of preventing others from becoming victims.
Pa. Rep. Mark Rozzi will host the free event on Jan. 22 from 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. at the Muhlenberg Middle School, 400 Sharp Ave.
The seminar, Rozzi said, will teach parents how to prevent, recognize and react to child sexual abuse.
Offered by Darkness to Light and the Berks County YMCA, the training session will feature a combination of survivor stories, expert advice and practical guidance, Rozzi said.
"I am proud to partner with Darkness to Light to open the conversation on this tragic topic. As difficult as it is to discuss, we have to bring it to the forefront to better protect children from abuse and to help those who have been abused," Rozzi explained. "Prevention education is essential to breaking the cycle of abuse."
Rozzi came forward in 2009 to share his own experience of being sexually abused by a priest when he was 13 years old. Since his election to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 2012, he has fought to help other victims of child sexual abuse.
New open-source program aims to help parents of children in foster care
by Deborah Bach
The first time Alise Hegle saw her daughter again after her birth was 11 months later at a court-ordered, supervised visit.
Newly out of jail and treatment for drug addiction, Hegle was riddled with anxiety. She had no idea how to parent her only child and worried about the visitation supervisor who sat silently observing, taking notes.
“I was terrified,” she recalled. “I felt worthless. When the setting and the environment is intimidating and you don't feel supported, it's hard to leave the visit feeling positive.”
Court-ordered visits are necessary for parents like Hegle to regain custody of their children after they're placed in foster care, but the arrangement is stressful on both sides. Children might be frightened or angry and act out. Parents, often grappling with issues ranging from substance abuse to mental health challenges, may feel defensive and discouraged.
It's hardly a scenario conducive to effective parenting. But a new open-source parenting program developed by Partners for Our Children, a center within the University of Washington's School of Social Work, aims to help those parents become better caregivers and in turn, reunite families and reduce the costs associated with children in foster care.
“If you don't engage these parents in more effective parenting, they and their children become lifelong users of very expensive services,” said Ben de Haan, Partners for Our Children's executive director. “So we're thinking about this from a prevention angle.”
Developed in collaboration with the Washington state Children's Administration, the program, dubbed STRIVE, will be downloadable online at no cost and was created specifically for parents of children in foster care.
The program's initial 15 sessions focus on helping parents understand what to expect during visits, which can be emotional for them and for children. They provide instruction on interacting with children through playing and reading to them, as well as problem-solving, self-care, dealing with trauma and managing setbacks. Additionally, the center is developing a model for group classes, also designed for parents with children in foster care.
The program is based on the group's own research and existing programs. It is intended to be flexible, allowing parents to spend more or less time on each module depending on their needs, or skip modules altogether.
“What we're trying to do is develop something that really takes into consideration the various struggles of the parents involved in child welfare,” said Doug Klinman, a data analyst with the Children's Administration and UW graduate who helped develop the program.
Many parenting programs, Klinman said, focus on teaching parents how to appropriately respond to children with behavioral challenges. Such programs have been found effective for parents who have abused children. But since close to 80 percent of child maltreatment cases involve neglect, the main problem is often not parents responding inappropriately, but struggling with issues such as mental health problems or substance abuse, and consequently failing to meet their children's basic needs.
Existing parenting programs are typically geared toward those who have sought help proactively, Klinman said, while parents involved in the child welfare system are typically not asking for guidance and are often defensive.
“It's a much more coercive thing, where a case worker is telling the parent they have to do this or risk losing custody,” he said. “Part of what we're trying to build into the program is a lot of motivation, helping parents see where they are and understand what steps they can take to be where they want to be.”
STRIVE is funded mostly through private donations, with around $150,000 from the state. By contrast, de Haan said, most parenting programs are developed with federal funding, resulting in narrowly defined initiatives that are not easily modified. Effective programs are often spun off into private enterprises and become prohibitively expensive for providers to access.
“They're mostly held by private companies, they're proprietary and you have to pay a lot to use them,” de Haan said. “Changing them to meet the needs of a specific clientele doesn't pencil out well. We wanted to solve that problem.”
STRIVE is being rolled out this month by a Tacoma nonprofit that will test it with parents it serves. The program will be refined based on feedback from that process, then Partners for Our Children plans to conduct a randomized controlled trial, with the ultimate goal of having the program rated as an evidence-based practice by an independent panel of evaluation experts.
The program is believed to be the first open-source initiative designed for parents in the child welfare system, de Haan said, and feedback so far has been positive, with a few exceptions.
“The only people negative about it are the people who own programs,” he said. “Our price is very hard to beat. But they can use it too.”
Hegle regained custody of her daughter, Rebekah, now 5, and completed a bachelor's degree in behavioral science. She is now the parent engagement coordinator for Children's Home Society of Washington, a Seattle-based nonprofit focused on strengthening families, and was part of a parent focus group that provided feedback on STRIVE.
Hegle thinks the program would have helped her tremendously as she struggled in those early parenting days.
“There's a huge need, because families are in a process of trying to turn around their lives, and it's very emotional and traumatic,” she said. “The more concrete tips, tools and strategies we can use to be better parents and better people, the more likely our children are to thrive.”
Harriet Zaretsky: A voice for disenfranchised kids of L.A.
by Danielle Berrin
For 18 years, Harriet Zaretsky has been devoting her time to helping the abused, abandoned and neglected foster children that the rest of society tends to forget.
Beginning in 1996, she became a court-appointed special advocate with CASA of Los Angeles, serving as a case manager for some of the most troubled children in the foster-care system. Out of an estimated 28,000 children in foster care in L.A., CASA takes on approximately 800 cases each year that are deemed to be the most dire. “This program brings foster kids in, only when they're failing,” Zaretsky said. “We're dealing with the worst 30 percent of foster kids in L.A.” — meaning, the most vulnerable. In her role, Zaretsky acts as both an advocate and overseer, tracking individual cases from start to finish as children make their way out of broken homes and into the tortuous world of foster care.
“One of my first cases involved nine children,” Zaretsky recalled. “Their mother had a fourth-grade education, and they all had various challenges and medical issues — it isn't always a happy ending. It isn't always a happy life.”
Even though she is a licensed attorney, Zaretsky gave up a career practicing law to work full-time as a volunteer. The needs of the children are enormous, she said. As an advocate, she can offer some consolation, as advocates are often the sole consistent adult “anchor” in a foster child's life.
“Children just move me,” she said.
The seed was planted in junior high, when Zaretsky volunteered for a local orphanage and became heartbroken at the living conditions there. “Growing up, I felt lucky, and I felt fortunate, and I saw too many children suffering,” she said. “So there's a certain amount of appreciation you have, and then there's this guilt: Why am I so lucky?”
In a cruel twist of fate, Zaretsky's luck changed in the summer of 2007, when her teenage son, Dillon, was killed in a car accident before his senior year of high school. The tragedy irreparably altered her life, but she was compelled to respond to it: That year, she established the Dillon Henry Foundation, a nonprofit whose work reflects her son's passions and values — surfing, the environment and global social justice. Each year, the foundation grants 10 college scholarships to deserving seniors from Dillon's alma mater, Palisades Charter High School. It also subsidizes paid internships with the Surfrider Foundation and supports the work of Jewish World Watch, for which Zaretsky also serves on the board. Through the partnership with Jewish World Watch, Zaretsky established the Dillon Henry Community Health Clinic in the Central African Republic, which provides medical care to survivors of genocide.
And she shows no signs of slowing up anytime soon. With her 22-year-old daughter off at college in Colorado, Zaretsky decided to foster a 16-year-old boy two days a week. “It just seemed like the right thing to do,” she explained, “and I didn't see any other way to really help him. There are interim periods in people's lives when they could really use someone to be a help and support to them — because there are no homes for these kids.”
From her loss, a child gained — the boy has become “a part-time family member,” as Zaretsky described it, included in family vacations, holidays and other meaningful occasions.
“It was the only way to deal with the blow,” Zaretsky said of her son's death. “If I wasn't helping, if I wasn't doing things that I think [my son] would be proud of, it wouldn't work. At least by doing these things, I'm leaving a mark for him and for me. I want people to remember his name.”
Sex for sale in the Bakken: Trafficking in ND is on the rise
by Amy Dalrymple and Katherine Lymn
EDITOR'S NOTE: Forum News Service takes on the issue of human trafficking and female exploitation in this seven-part, in-depth reporting series. We explore the emerging crisis as it unfolds in the Oil Patch of western North Dakota, as well as in Minnesota and South Dakota. The Daily Republic is owned by Forum News Service.
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."
Annual report finds fewer Wisconsin child abuse deaths in 2013
by Annysa Johnson
Fewer children died in Wisconsin as a result of child abuse and neglect in 2013, 20 compared with 23 in the previous year, according to a new report by the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families.
And while that drop bodes well for the state overall, the findings are troubling for Milwaukee County, where the number of fatalities more than doubled from three in 2012 to eight — all of them children under the age of 7.
Those are among the statistics presented in the annual Wisconsin Child Abuse and Neglect Report published by the agency. It offers a statistical snapshot of cases handled by county child protective services agencies and the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare.
According to the report, the rate of child abuse and neglect in Wisconsin held relatively steady from 2009 to 2013: ranging from 3.3 to 3.7 substantiated cases per 1,000 children.
But in terms of real lives impacted, the state has seen an increase in abuse cases — alleged and substantiated — over the five-year period beginning in 2009, according to an analysis of those years' reports.
Perhaps the most significant jump: a near-doubling in the number of substantiated cases of abusive head trauma, so-called shaken baby syndrome, from 43 in 2009 to 80 in 2013.
Joe Scialfa, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, said data on abuse and fatalities appear have fluctuated or held steady over the five-year span. But he said the agency is monitoring closely the rise in head trauma cases.
Among the report's other findings:
In 2013, county protective services agencies and the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare received a total of 68,943 referrals for the maltreatment of children, up from 56,619 in 2009. As in past years, the most common allegation of abuse involved neglect, followed by physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse.
In 2013, 4,886 children were found to have been abused or neglected, compared with 4,289 in 2009.
In 2013, 2,988 children were removed from their homes to ensure safety during the initial assessment, compared with 2,555 children in 2009.
Minnesota county receives award for child abuse prevention efforts
by DeeDee Stiepan
ROCHESTER, Minn. – A county in our area is receiving special recognition for the efforts they've made to prevent child abuse.
Olmsted county has received the Pinwheel for Prevention Award from the Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota organization.
Part of this award is recognizing Olmsted County's investment in early intervention prevention services.
“It's an honor, it really is an honor. It shows that together as a county we come together to protect children,” says Allison Johnson, with Crisis Nursery.
The Crisis Nursery Program as well as the Father Project and Boys and Girls Club are some of the programs that helped the county achieve this award.
Preventing child abue in 2015 and beyond
by Emily Baucum
SAN ANTONIO - A local nonprofit is making sure the new year brings a renewed focus on preventing child abuse.
If you want to know how big of a problem child abuse is in Bexar County, head to ChildSafe, the group that helps victims. Last year, more than 3,800 clients walked through the doors.
"We have so many great things going for this city and that's such a black eye for our city," ChildSafe director Kim Abernethy says. "What we're hoping is to get the community wrapped around it and start talking about it."
She says her staff is starting the conversation. Starting Monday, public service announcements are airing on News 4 and our sister station Fox San Antonio. The ads feature local leaders who promise to stand strong against people who want to hurt your children.
The ads include new district attorney Nico LaHood, who just joined ChildSafe's board.
The nonprofit is also reaching out to teachers, the people who children often go to, to make an outcry.
"There's a state law that every school employee has to receive training in recognizing and reporting child abuse every year," Abernethy says.
She says ChildSafe just received a large donation to build a training website for school districts. When it's done, the website will reach 60,000 teachers across South Texas.
ChildSafe will also expand the popular cardboard kids campaign. Each one represents an abused child. The cutouts were posted around the city last year with great success.
"We touched over a million people with social media," Abernethy says.
With all these new initiatives, the nonprofit has outgrown its office on the far west side and hopes to move closer to downtown to better serve the community.
Child-molestation victim grows up, has baby with teen brother, now is sex offender
by Aimee Green
A 25-year-old Portland woman who investigators say admitted to having sex 10 times with her developmentally disabled brother -- then giving birth to their baby -- will avoid prison in favor of mental health and sex offender treatment.
The woman's unusually lenient sentence reflects her disturbing past. Court papers say she was molested and raped by her mother's boyfriend from ages 8 to 11. He admitted to some of that abuse and is now serving a 20-year prison sentence.
She acknowledged last week that she molested her younger teenage brother. He was under 18 at the time and has an IQ of 54, according to a probable cause affidavit.
The Oregonian is not naming the woman or using her image because either could reveal the identity of her brother, who was sharing a home with her over the roughly year-long span in 2013 and 2014 that she sexually abused him.
It's unclear who is raising the baby. The prosecutor didn't know, and the woman's defense attorney, Drake Durham, declined to comment.
Both the prosecutor and the defense attorney declined to elaborate about the sexual abuse the woman suffered years ago and what -- if any -- counseling she might have received.
Last Wednesday, as part of a negotiated deal, the woman pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree sexual abuse. She sat with her arms crossed but she spoke clearly as she told Multnomah County Circuit Judge Kenneth Walker that she has had a difficult family life -- peppered with verbal abuse -- and that she is taking medication for depression and anxiety.
The victim, her brother, didn't attend the hearing. He is living with his mother, said Deputy District Attorney Ryan Lufkin.
Lufkin said the goal is to get the woman treatment.
“I think this is an appropriate resolution to this case -- it focuses on the treatment needs for the defendant,” Lufkin said.
The woman had no prior criminal history. At the time of her arrest last August, she told authorities that she was working part time for the Portland Habilitation Center.
The woman told the judge that she's had various jobs, but never held a job for long. Her attorney said she is now unemployed.
The probable cause affidavit stated that she has “some cognitive challenges," but didn't elaborate.
In addition to three years of probation, the judge sentenced the woman to register as a sex offender -- each year within 10 days of her birthday. She raised her right hand in the air and pledged that she would cause no problems.
“I promise I won't forget,” she said.
She then walked out of the courtroom, with orders to report to her probation officer and stay away from her brother and all other minor males.
Judge sets bail, prosecutors add more charges in sex abuse case
by DAVID FERRARA
A judge set bail at $1 million Monday for one of three people charged with videotaping sexual attacks on several children in Las Vegas, while prosecutors added new charges against another woman, saying they've learned of yet another victim in the case.
Christopher Sena along with his wife, Deborah Sena, and ex-wife, Terrie Sena, face sexual assault charges involving at least eight children over the span of 13 years.
Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Melissa Saragosa set bail for Terrie Sena. And while prosecutors added six new charges against Deborah Sena, including sexual assault with a minor, her lawyer asked the Clark County district attorney's office to be removed from the case.
Defense attorney Kristina Wildeveld said Deborah Sena was a victim of “prolonged, controlling manipulation and abuse by her husband.” He has not been charged with any form of domestic violence.
Christopher Sena often told Deborah Sena, 50, and one female teen that if they loved him, they would do what he told them, according to police reports.
Wildeveld said, however, that he forced his wife into the sex acts with the children and threatened her with physical violence.
Some of the victims were the Senas' children, and the abuse took place at multiple locations, according to police.
Wildeveld said Christopher Sena punched and slapped Deborah Sena and hit her in the shins with a hammer.
“No matter what she is guilty of, she is a victim of domestic violence,” Wildeveld said. “They lived like hostages. (Prosecutors) cannot say she's not a victim of domestic violence.”
Terrie Sena, 43, told police she was attracted to young male and female teens, according to one police report.
The three Senas and their children lived in a trailer home on the 6000 block of Yellowstone Avenue, near Lake Mead and Hollywood boulevards.
Christopher Sena “knew where everyone was at any time of day,” Wildeveld said.
With at least six surveillance cameras scattered throughout the home, Deborah Sena snuck out with two others, fleeing to a shelter, Wildeveld said.
“Christopher Sena continued to threaten them by email and phone messages,” Wildeveld wrote in court papers.
Deborah Sena, a woman and another child then told a family law attorney about the abuse. That attorney contacted police.
On Sept. 18, police arrested Christopher Sena and seized recording equipment from the home.
Images and videos depicting the adults engaged in sex acts with children were also found, leading to the arrests of Deborah Sena and Terrie Sena last month, according to police.
Wildeveld wrote that the children were “deterred by prosecutors from acknowledging the domestic violence victimization of Mrs. Deborah Sena and (prosecutors) disclosed facts not otherwise known to the victims in an attempt to manipulate the victims and encourage their absolute cooperation.”
Prosecutor Mary Kay Holthus said Christopher Sena was “for sure” the leader of the three, but she also argued that the women did not feel threatened by him.
“He's got arguably some more charges, but I don't think at the end of the day it's all that different,” she said. “They both engaged in a pattern of sexual abuse and emotional abuse beyond compare. Portraying them as victims on some level is just not borne out.”
Saragosa said she would hear Wildeveld's motion to disqualify prosecutors next week.
Prince Andrew ‘immune' to US trial, Buckingham Palace rejects sex abuse claims
Buckingham Palace has been forced to defend Prince Andrew over sex abuse allegations as news outlets revealed a secret deal allegedly designed to protect the fifth in line to the UK throne from prosecution in the US.
The Duke of York returned to the UK from the Swiss ski resort Verbier on Sunday amid allegations he had had sexual relations with a teenage American girl, named Sunday as 30-year-old Virginia Roberts, when she was under the legal age of consent.
Roberts told a court in Florida she was forced to have sex with Prince Andrew multiple times by disgraced US multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein. Her claims are part of a wider case against Epstein, who is accused of “ loaning out ” the then-teenager to his friends and associates.
Epstein was jailed for 18 months in 2008 for seeking sexual relations with an underage girl.
It was revealed Sunday, however, that the businessman struck a “non-prosecution” deal that saw him confess to relatively minor charges in exchange for dropping more serious charges in Florida.
The agreement also allows any “co-conspirators” of Epstein to avoid future “criminal charges,” which means that even if allegations against the British royal were proven, he and any other of Epstein's acquaintances would be immune from prosecution in the US.
Breaking its usual silence, Buckingham Palace wrote to media editors on Sunday asking them to remember their responsibilities under the Independent Press Standards Organisation's code and the law.
Palace lawyers were also reportedly reviewing the coverage and “assessing the legal position” with respect to the weekend papers.
The Palace also issued a statement from aides, who categorically deny the claims made against Prince Andrew. The prince himself also issued a vehement denial whilst on vacation in Verbier, calling the allegations “ false and without any foundation.”
The statement from Buckingham Palace aides called the allegations “lurid and deeply personal,” saying they had broken the usual “no comment” reaction to “come out and say it's not true.”
“The Duke did not want these claims to go uncontested, " the statement said.
“Commenting on a member of the royal family's private life or commenting an ongoing legal case goes against what the palace would do typically.”
“The default position is no comment but these are extraordinary circumstances and given the allegations filed in court and coming from the Sunday papers, the decision was taken that it was time to issue a denial on the record,” the statement added.
More than 40 of Epstein's alleged victims have spoken out since his initial prosecution, and even the attorney originally responsible for the secret “non-prosecution” deal appears to back the latest case.
In a letter from 2011, attorney R. Alexander Acosta said the new information could have altered the outcome of Epstein's trial.
“Many victims have since spoken out, filing detailed statements in civil cases seeking damages. Physical evidence has since been discovered. Had these additional statements and evidence been known, the outcome may have been different,” he said.
Local news source the Palm Beach Daily News further said the secret agreement “did not serve the best interests of the victims.”
In a further development Monday, the father of Virginia Roberts said she had been flown to London by Epstein, where she had reportedly spent time with Prince Andrew. According to her father, the visit also included a trip to visit the prince's mother, Queen Elizabeth II.
Buckingham Palace said it had no record of any such meeting.
Top U.S. lawyer Dershowitz: can his accusers in sex abuse case be disbarred?
by Brendan Pierson
Well-known U.S. criminal defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz has vowed to seek the disbarment of two lawyers representing a woman who has accused him of sexually abusing her when she was underage. But legal experts said he faces an uphill battle.
In a filing in Florida federal court last week, former federal judge Paul Cassell and Florida plaintiffs attorney Bradley Edwards said that their client was forced as a minor by financier Jeffrey Epstein to have sex with several people, including Dershowitz and Britain's Prince Andrew.
Dershowitz, a Harvard University professor emeritus, represented Epstein against sex crime charges, for which he served a 13-month sentence after pleading guilty in 2008.
The lawyers' client is named in court papers as Jane Doe #3, but has been identified by Buckingham Palace as Virginia Roberts.
Dershowitz, 76, has denied that he ever had sex with Roberts - and said Cassell, a University of Utah law professor, and Edwards knew the charges were false when they filed them. He is currently not a target of the Roberts lawsuit. But Dershowitz is seeking to intervene in order to defend himself. Buckingham Palace officials have also denied the allegations against Prince Andrew.
Dershowitz told Reuters Monday that he would file a defamation lawsuit based on the lawyers' public statements about the case. He also plans to file complaints with their respective states' disciplinary boards asking that they be disbarred.
The boards would then decide whether to open an investigation and whether to bring charges.
Edwards and Cassell said in a joint statement that they had carefully investigated all of the allegations in their pleadings before presenting them.
They also said they had tried to depose Dershowitz and that he had refused, which Dershowitz called a "total lie." He said he received only one deposition request from the two lawyers five years ago, asking about his relationship with Epstein - and that it said nothing about any of the new allegations.
Several law professors specializing in legal ethics said that even if Dershowitz could prove the allegations were false, that was unlikely to get the two attorneys disbarred.
The heart of the issue: attorneys are advocates for their clients, not arbiters of fact, they said, and they are generally entitled to believe their clients.
"The statement by the victim that it happened, without a strong reason to question it, would be sufficient," said Amy Mashburn, a professor at the University of Florida's Levin College of Law.
"Being false alone is not enough," said Stephen Gillers, a professor at NYU School of Law. "What a disciplinary committee would have to show is that they either knew the allegations were false, or they were reckless in making the charge."
Gillers said there was no firm standard for what it meant to be reckless. While attorneys have an obligation to investigate allegations before making them, such an investigation need not be as thorough as the fact-finding that later happens in court, he said.
Cassell and Edwards would be more likely to face punishment if a disciplinary board concluded that they knowingly lied. Mashburn said that would be a very serious fraud that would be a breach of several ethical rules.
Even then, she said, they might only face suspension.
One obstacle for Dershowitz, according to Mashburn, is that lawyers are often disbarred for multiple offenses.
Cassell, who served as a deputy attorney general under President Ronald Reagan, has no record of public discipline since he was admitted to the bar in 1992, according to a spokeswoman for the Utah state bar. Edwards, who was admitted to the Florida bar in 2002, also has no public disciplinary history in the last 10 years. That's as far back as the Florida state bar keeps such records.
In 2008, Edwards filed a petition in the Florida court on behalf of women who say they were sexually abused by Epstein. The women say federal prosecutors violated their rights when they entered into a plea agreement with Epstein that allowed him to serve jail time on state charges, but avoid federal prosecution.
Edwards asked Cassell to join him early in the litigation.
Cassell, who left his post as federal judge in 2007, describes himself as an advocate for crime victims. He has championed the death penalty - and unsuccessfully pushed to overturn the 1966 Supreme Court decision requiring police to read detainees their rights.
The case is Doe v. United States, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, No. 9:08-cv-80736.
2 more women join defamation lawsuit against Bill Cosby
by The Associated Press
BOSTON – Two women accusing Bill Cosby of sexual offenses decades ago have joined a defamation lawsuit, contending he publicly branded them as liars through statements by his representatives.
The amended complaint was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Springfield, in western Massachusetts, where Cosby has a home in Shelburne Falls.
Cosby is the only defendant in the lawsuit, originally filed last month by Tamara Green, who said he drugged and assaulted her in the 1970s. The two new plaintiffs are Therese Serignese, who said he drugged and raped her in 1976, and Linda Traitz, who alleges he tried to drug her and then sexually groped her in 1970.
Attorney Joseph Cammarata, who represents the three women, said the civil action allows them to have their allegations heard since criminal statutes of limitation have expired.
"The lawsuit provides an opportunity for women who claim to have been harmed to have their day in court in a forum where the truth can be tried," he said.
Cosby's publicist David Brokaw and lawyer Martin Singer did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday. Singer has said he expected to prevail in the original lawsuit.
Green first spoke publicly about her allegations in 2005. She said in the lawsuit that after she did media interviews Brokaw and Cosby's lawyer Walter M. Phillips Jr. made statements intended to expose her to public contempt and ridicule. Phillips said last month he represented Cosby in 2005 but no longer does, and he declined to comment further. Brokaw did not return messages then seeking comment on Green's allegations.
Serignese and Traitz, who are from Florida, allege in the amended complaint that when they came forward separately last November, Singer issued responses for Cosby that said they and other accusers were lying.
Since November, at least 15 women have come forward with claims Cosby sexually assaulted them decades ago. Most of the women say he drugged them before he assaulted them.
Cosby, who starred as Dr. Cliff Huxtable on "The Cosby Show" from 1984 to 1992, has never been charged in connection with any of the allegations, and through his representatives he has denied them. A 2005 lawsuit by a Pennsylvania woman was settled before it went to trial.
Cosby's career unraveled after his accusers came forward, with a TV project halted and nearly a dozen standup comedy tour performances canceled or indefinitely postponed. He's scheduled to appear Wednesday in Canada, at a Kitchener, Ontario, theater, his first concert since a Nov. 21 show in Melbourne, Florida.
Over 150 cases of child abuse in the Scouts have now been reported — and it's only likely to get worse
As a lawyer who's been dealing with the victims, I've heard stories that shatter the safe and trustworthy image of the Scouts
by Oliver Jeffcott
December 10 may not have been an important news day for many, but for some a short segment on the BBC news evoked painful memories.
The piece involved a client of my firm talking about the abuse they suffered in the Scout Association. Within minutes of the story breaking, my firm was fielding calls from people who claimed they had also suffered physical and sexual abuse whilst in the Scouts.
Since then, over 150 people have contact us to report their abuse in the Scouts. Some of the cases involved abuse on a single occasion, while others complained of events taking place over a period of several years.
Many callers were in tears and had never before spoken about their abuse. Others described reaching out to the Scouts or to the Police and being ignored. To put the figures in context, the Scout Association has said that only 48 previous abuse claims have been made against them since its formation in 1907.
The accounts of abuse that have been reported are as individual as they are saddening. There are, however, threads of similarity running through the narratives. People often feel that they were the only ones to have suffered abuse at the hands of a Scout leader, and have carried the pain of the abuse around with them for their whole lives.
One caller spoke of his difficulty in finding resolution after the Scout Association failed to apologise even after his abuser was convicted. Another told of how his parents' reports were dealt with by the Scout Association internally and the abuse was never reported to the police. Unfortunately, there appear to have been numerous cases where the Scout Association failed to act appropriately after allegations of abuse were made.
As a result of these recent allegations, the Scout Association has finally made a full apology to “all those who have been abused during their time in Scouting". They have stated that "the safety and support of young people in Scouting is our number one priority. Any abuse of young people is abhorrent and we are deeply sorry for anybody hurt by the actions of abusers”.
They also acknowledged that they were at fault for failing to report allegations of abuse to the police, for which they were again “deeply sorry”.
Part of the reason that the stories of prolific abuse in the Scouts have caused this level of publicity is that the Scout Association was previously perceived as being a wholly trustworthy institution. Similar incidents of abuse had already been uncovered in institutions such as the Catholic Church, as well as children's homes. But the scale of abuse in the Scouts was not publicly known.
Desperate to play down the extent of the allegations, the Scout Association has released a number of press releases about their safeguarding procedures. Scout leaders have also been issued with a template letter to forward to parents who have concerns regarding the revelations.
A difficulty faced by the Scout Association is that, on one hand, they say that they have “operated safeguarding processes designed to keep our youth members safe since the Movement was created and these have often been at the forefront of good practice standards.”
However, this leads to the unattractive conclusion that they have done all they can and are still unable to control their servants or protect the children they are entrusted to look after. The Scout Association do say that their “ capacity to keep young people safe is always evolving and improving,” but this will be of little solace to those who have already suffered abuse.
Many will be wondering why it has taken so long for these people to come forward. Indeed, some of the earliest abuse reported goes back to the 1940s. However, it is hard to appreciate the difficulty of disclosing abuse by those who have suffered it.
On one hand, the abusers are adults, in a position of authority, so the child is automatically at a disadvantage and will fear not being believed. There is often a sense of shame and confusion borne out of a lack of understanding about what they have experienced.
Therefore the child is unlikely to report the abuse at the time, and several years may have passed by the time they are mature enough to process what has happened. By then it seems too late, so people tend to try and bury the abuse. It's for this reason that the civil courts can allow those who have suffered abuse to issue court proceedings after the normal time limit has expired.
For those wanting to gain more insight into this, my firm commissioned a film entitled “All Together We'll be Heard”, in which a number of survivors of abuse explain their own personal journey and the difficulties they faced in disclosing their abuse.
Often when abuse is exposed, more victims gain the courage to come forward, and the number of cases multiply. Sadly, it now seems inevitable that in the coming weeks and months there will be many more reports, as people continue to be affected by the story. Consequently, it may be some time before the full picture of the abuse can be seen.
Oliver Jeffcott is an associate solicitor at Bolt Burdon Kemp where he specialises in getting compensation for the survivors of child abuse.
Police Officer Who Sexually Abused Child Gets Light Sentencing
by Dominic Kelly
Some say a Virginia state trooper who pleaded guilty to sexual molestation received special treatment from a judge due to his job.
According to Fauquier, 30-year-old Christopher Allen Carson pleaded guilty to criminal solicitation, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, loaning pornographic videos to a child, and exposing his penis to a child. As part of a plea deal, Judge Herman A. Whisenant Jr. suggested that Carson be sentenced to 9 years in jail, although he will only have to serve 30 days, and two years of probation. Additionally, Carson will not be forced to register as a sex offender.
Back in 2001, when Carson was 18, he allegedly sexually assaulted a boy who was in seventh grade. The boy, now a grown man, recently came forward with the allegations after everything that happened with former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky, and it brought to light the two other incidents from 2011 in which Carson gave pornographic videos to a minor.
In the case from 13 years ago, Carson allegedly exposed himself to the victim, masturbated in front of him, and even performed oral sex on the boy as he slept.
Carson, who first became a Virginia State Trooper back in 2005, has been placed on administrative leave following his guilty plea and subsequent sentencing recommendation.
Many see the judge's light sentencing as a clear example of special treatment for police officers. The Free Thought Project points out a very similar case that the very same judge, Whisenant, handled. A 35-year-old civilian faced almost identical charges but received 66 years behind bars and had to register as a sex offender.
Do you think this state trooper received special treatment?
Missing 3-week-old California infant found dead in dumpster after parents, uncle shot in her home: police
Eliza Delacruz was taken by the gunman that shot the three adults including the baby's mother at 5:50 p.m. Saturday. She was found in a shopping center dumpster Sunday afternoon.
by Joel Landau, Rachelle Blidner
A missing 3-week-old child was found dead in a dumpster more than 100 miles from where a gunman critically wounded her parents and uncle, police said.
Eliza Delacruz was discovered inside a trash bag at an Imperial Beach shopping center at about 1:25 p.m. Sunday, according to NBC Los Angeles.
The 10-pound child was found about 120 miles away from her Long Beach home, where police found her parents and father's brother shot at 5:50 p.m. Saturday, police said.
The gunman abducted the baby from her W. 51st St house before police arrived, they said.
"This is a horrific crime," Lt. Lloyd Cox said. "The family is devastated."
Delacruz's mother and uncle remain in the hospital and are listed in critical but stable condition after surgery. The father has been released.
Anyone with information is asked to call LBPD Communications Center at (562) 435-6711.
Police: Uniontown man left baby home alone to drink at bar
by The Tribune-Review
A man left his 7-month-old daughter home alone so he could drink at a bar, according to Uniontown Police.
Brandon H. Russman, 21, of Uniontown is charged by Officer Jennifer Field with child endangerment, simple assault and harassment.
In a report, police said Russman was caring for his daughter between 8 p.m. Dec. 29 and 4 a.m. Dec. 30 at a Pershing Court apartment while the baby's mother was at work.
The mother returned home to find the baby alone. When Russman “eventually” returned to the apartment, he was intoxicated and told the woman he was drinking at a nearby relative's house.
The woman learned from others that Russman was at Park's Casino “and had left the baby for longer than she thought,” said police.
When the woman confronted Russman, he “told her that no one would watch the baby and he wanted a break to drink and it was not a big deal,” police said.
As the two argued, Russman shoved the woman, choked her, punched her in the face and knocked her to the floor, police said. The two struggled for control of the baby, and Russman grabbed and pulled on the baby until she cried.
The tussle moved outdoors, where police said Russman struck the woman in the neck and left with the baby.
Police found Russman with the baby at a Coolspring Street residence. The child, who was uninjured, was returned to her mother.
Russman was arraigned before Uniontown District Judge Michael Metros and placed in the Fayette County Prison in lieu of $20,000 bond. He faces a preliminary hearing on Jan. 13 before Metros.