Stillwater group brings childhood sex abuse out of the shadows
by Mary Divine
Elizabeth Sullivan's nightmare started at a friend's slumber party in Afton.
After staying up late to watch a movie and talk, the other girls eventually drifted off. Sullivan, then 13, couldn't sleep.
The host's brother, who was 19, invited her into his bedroom.
"I was kind of uneasy about staying overnight," she said. "It started out with him saying, 'Can't you sleep? I know you're having trouble sleeping. Are you scared? Why don't you come on in to my room? We can talk, and we won't wake up the other girls that way.' "
What followed, Sullivan says, was a year of sexual abuse -- and decades of pain.
Sullivan, 44, who lives in Stillwater, is telling her story now to help other adult victims of childhood sexual abuse. She recently launched a support group -- EmpowerSurvivors -- that meets every Wednesday night at the Stillwater Public Library.
"Most survivors have never told their stories," said Sullivan, a stay-at-home mother of three. "Most people want to keep it in the shadows, keep it in the past."
Sullivan kept her experiences a secret until a few years ago. The truth came out during marital counseling with her husband, Patrick.
"I was having a really hard time with the therapist's questions -- he wanted to know all of this stuff about our childhoods," she said. "The closer he got to all of that stuff, the more angry and sad I became. I was terrified that he was going to find out, and then everybody else was going to find out."
She nearly collapsed during Mass at St. Michael's Catholic Church in Stillwater one morning, convinced she was having a heart attack.
What followed was two days in intensive care at Lakeview Hospital in Stillwater. "After that, the flashbacks started in, and then the nightmares started, and that pretty much got this whole thing rolling," she said. "It sounds really nuts, but I thought I was going crazy. I literally did. I was afraid they were going to haul me off in a white jacket."
An ICU nurse at Lakeview helped save her life, as did the priests at St. Michael's and St. Mary's Catholic Church, also in Stillwater.
The nurse said exactly what she needed to hear at exactly the right time, Sullivan said. "I don't know whether it was divine intervention or what, but for whatever reason, he came in, shut the door and said, 'Everything has led you up to this moment, and whatever you have going on, you need to deal with it.' "
Sullivan spent hours at church praying and crying; the priests let her stay as long as she needed as long as she remembered to shut the door and turn off the lights.
"They sat with me, talked to me and told me that God wept with me," she said. "They told me that this evil done was not that of Christ -- that He never intended for these things to happen."
The Rev. Brian Lynch drove Sullivan to St. Paul for her first support group for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
"He knew how scared I was, and he came with me and stood by me," she said. "If it hadn't been for Father Brian, I would have probably killed myself. I couldn't even sit through the first two groups; I had to get up and leave. "
After talking about it for the first time in therapy, Sullivan said she went out to her car and threw up on the floor. "But at a certain point, there was something in me that thought: How the hell can this happen and people don't care?"
Two other factors helped persuade her to share her story publicly: One was that her own children, now ages 18, 13 and 11, were reaching the age she was when she was violated; the other was the clergy sexual-abuse scandal.
"I would hear people at church saying things like, 'Why are all of these people coming out of the woodwork now? They just want attention,' " she said. "It's like, no, all of a sudden, their guts are out on their laps, basically, and they're just trying to make it through the day. Most of us have been suicidal all our lives."
'HE TOLD ME I WAS SPECIAL'
Sullivan says she understands now that she was a victim.
"He told me people wouldn't understand the kind of relationship we had. He told me I was special," she said. "He took all of us to the gas station one time, and he let me sit in the front seat, and that was, like, a big deal. I mean, it sounds stupid, but it was a really big deal. ... I felt like I was the chosen one."
Sullivan, the youngest of four children, said her parents separated when she was 3 and divorced when she was 4.
"I was looking for love and looking for someone to care about me, so when I saw somebody who cared, I was easy prey," she said.
Like many victims of childhood sexual abuse, Sullivan said, she was naive and thought she was somehow to blame.
"There was something inside of me that felt, 'Well, first of all, how could it happen so many times? It had to have been my fault,' " she said. "You end up feeling like you're a dirty whore and a piece of crap, basically, and that becomes the core of who you are, and it affects you into adulthood."
Sullivan said her teenage years were a haze. She skipped school. She was promiscuous. She drank. She did drugs. She became pregnant at 16 and lost the baby.
"I started doing things I had never done before," she said. "I was angry, sad. I had all of these things inside of me that I couldn't even name. Your thinking kind of gets warped."
One night, she was raped by another friend's brother at a house in Wisconsin. "I never told anybody. Well, I did mention something to my friend, but she told me I was crazy, no way would her brother ever do something to me, and that I had problems. We never spoke of it again."
Survivors of childhood sexual abuse, said Sullivan, often become perfectionists "who go on to accomplish great things, or they go the other route."
"I went the other route for a long time because I never thought that I was worth anything or that I would ever accomplish anything," she said. "I figured: Once a loser, always a loser."
Sullivan, a 1988 graduate of Stillwater High School, changed course in her 20s.
"All of a sudden, something clicked, and I said, 'I'm not that person anymore. I don't want to be that person, and I don't want anything to do with that person,' " she said.
She met Patrick Sullivan in 1993, had her first child in 1996 and got married in 1998.
"I wanted to be the best mother that I could be," she said. "I knew that of all the things I screwed up in my life, this was one thing that I could do right. I can protect them. I can teach them. I can empower them. I never thought about any of this stuff because I put it so far back. I didn't want to think about it."
But after intensive care and the flashbacks and nightmares, Sullivan knew she couldn't keep silent anymore.
Reading about the clergy sexual-abuse scandal, especially a case involving a priest she knew, pushed her over the edge.
"It got to the point where I couldn't stand the silence of it. I couldn't stand people putting the blame on the victims. People see a 40-, 50-, 60-year-old, and they don't see the little kid who is wounded in there," she said.
Childhood sexual abuse, she believes, alters who a person is.
"I could either let it eat me alive or put a bullet through my head, or I can start talking about this stuff and dealing with it and not caring what everybody else thinks about it," she said.
Sullivan, who administers two Facebook pages dedicated to adult survivors of sexual abuse, is hoping her experiences will empower other victims to get the help they need and begin healing.
"So many are out there, and they need stories to come out, so they see that they are not alone -- that there are others out there like them," she said. "Most of them are going through periods when they want to kill themselves. There were times when I didn't think I would make it through the day, let alone the week. I want them to know that there is hope. Things can, and do, get better."
Mary Divine can be reached at 651-228-5443. Follow her at twitter.com/MaryEDivine.
TO LEARN MORE
EmpowerSurvivors, a peer-led group of adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, meets from 6 to 7:30 p.m. every Wednesday at the Stillwater Public Library. For more information, go to empowersurvivors.net or contact Elizabeth Sullivan at 651-300-9180 or EmpowerSurvivors@gmail.com.
Iowa lawmakers could open window for child sex abuse lawsuits
by William Petroski
Victims in decades-old cases of alleged sexual abuse could bring new lawsuits under proposed legislation that church and school officials say could leave their organizations vulnerable to huge legal liabilities.
The bill would undoubtedly have its biggest effect on clergy abuse lawsuits involving the Catholic Church, which has paid out more than $2.5 billion in damages nationwide because of past incidents involving more than 16,500 victims allegedly abused by religious members.
The Iowa proposal, Senate File 107, is strongly supported by victim advocates, including the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, which says the crimes are often psychologically repressed for decades.
"This really becomes kind of a no-brainer when you look at it. It is putting first the children of Iowa and the children who have been victimized," said an adult man only identified as "John," who spoke before the Senate panel about his experience as a victim of child sexual abuse.
The legislation is opposed by the Iowa Catholic Conference and the Iowa Association of School Boards. Lobbyists for both groups contend it could have a huge negative financial effect on Iowa churches and school districts, which would find it nearly impossible to mount a legal defense against such lawsuits long after witnesses have died and records have been destroyed.
The Iowa Catholic Conference, the official policy voice for the Catholic bishops of Iowa, pointed out that the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul was forced to file for bankruptcy in January after the Minnesota Legislature approved the Minnesota Child Victim's Act. The Minnesota law, passed in 2013, opened a three-year window for filing new lawsuits alleging sexual abuse that otherwise would have been barred by the statute of limitations. About 20 alleged victims of clergy abuse have filed civil suits against the Minnesota archdiocese because of the law, and church officials have reportedly received more than 100 notices of potential claims.
"As everybody knows, the Catholic Church has had some painful lessons to learn over the past 20 years," said Tom Chapman, lobbyist for the Iowa Catholic Conference. He noted initiatives within Iowa's Catholic churches to advocate for victims and to provide widespread training to prevent future incidents.
The Iowa bill as drafted "would pose a great danger to Catholic ministries. It will end up hurting people who help other people," Chapman said. The Davenport Catholic Diocese has already gone through bankruptcy as a result of sexual abuse cases involving its priests.
No vote was taken on the proposed legislation in last week's subcommittee meeting. But Sen. Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, who is chairing the panel studying the bill, said she plans to discuss the proposal with other senators and will likely schedule another subcommittee meeting. The subcommittee also includes Sens. Julian Garrett, R-Indianola, and Kevin Kinney, D-Oxford.
John, the sexual abuse victim who testified before the panel, described child sexual abuse as a "perfect crime for predators" because children often try to repress the horrors of what they have experienced. It's common for victims to be unable to talk about their abuse until their early 40s, which justifies the 25-year window for filing civil lawsuits, he said.
Amy Campbell, a lobbyist for the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said her organization is very supportive of the bill. Once one victim comes forward, it can spur other victims to speak up, she said.
Several other lobbyists said while they have sympathy for victims of child sexual abuse, they questioned the fairness of opening a window for lawsuits they believe will be very difficult to defend.
Emily Piper, lobbyist for the Iowa Association of School Boards, said her organization is concerned that an entirely new school board and school administration could have to deal with allegations that occurred long ago. It's not fair to impose the legislation upon a future elected school board when it had no input on a how a situation was handled 25 years ago, she said.
Scott Sundstrom, a lobbyist for the Iowa Defense Counsel Association, expressed similar concerns.
The justice system is an adversarial system, which allows both sides to present evidence, Sundstrom said. But under the proposed legislation, an allegation could be made about an incident that occurred decades ago and there would be no evidence available to defend against the claims, he said. That's because employees and witnesses would be gone, and documents that detailed policies and procedures at the time would have been destroyed, he said.
Lisa Davis-Cook, a lobbyist for the Iowa Association of Justice, said her organization has lawyers on both sides of the issue. She said it's important to recognize that even if the bill is approved to extend the window for civil lawsuits, plaintiffs would still need to prove their cases in court.
What's in the bill
The proposed Iowa legislation to expand the statue of limitations on child sex abuse cases has four key provisions:
• It specifies that victims of alleged child sexual abuse who would be barred from filing civil lawsuits under Iowa's current statute of limitations be given a three-year window to commence lawsuits.
• The time for filing a civil lawsuit relating to sexual abuse of a minor would be extended from the current one year after a person turns 18 to a period of 25 years after a person reaches age 18.
• It provides that a lawsuit for damages for alleged sexual abuse when the victim was under age 14 must be brought within 25 years from the time of the discovery of both the injury and the relationship between the injury and the sexual abuse.
• Criminal charges for sexual abuse in the first, second or third degree involving a person under age 18 must be filed within 25 years after the victim reaches adulthood. The charges must now be filed within 10 years.
Jim Clemente looks inside the criminal mind
by Lyn Riddie
Jim Clemente writes now. Books, screenplays.
The former FBI agent worked on all sorts of high-profile cases, mostly involving sex crimes against children. His latest project is writing the season finale for the television show "Criminal Minds."
He welcomes the change after 22 years with the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit — the folks most colloquially known as profilers, the investigators who get inside the minds of criminals.
He worked the JonBenet Ramsey case, was a first responder to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, and was asked to offer counsel on interrogation practices at Guantanamo.
He's no stranger to controversy. He called what was happening to detainees at Guantanamo torture. He studied Penn State coach Joe Paterno's role in the Jerry Sandusky sex crimes case and determined Paterno didn't cover up the crimes. Clemente's seen it again and again. The nice-guy offender, the one so beloved no one would suspect.
Thursday, Clemente will bring the message to Greenville that an offender often can be the nice guy. He speaks at the Julie Valentine Center luncheon, which begins at 11:30 a.m. at the TD Convention Center.
"The vast majority are victimized by people they know and people they love," Clemente said in a telephone interview.
Vast majority meaning 99.99 percent, he said. Monster predators and stranger danger have worked their way into the lexicon. But they are words that took those who work with children way down the wrong road.
"People expect to know when a child sex offender walks in the room," Clemente said.
That high-profile community leader, that professional, that volunteer. No way, people say.
Clemente says most certainly. Like the man who abused him when he was a child — the director of a Catholic camp. The man who praised him and made him feel special. The man who asked him to stay over for a week to help close the camp.
It turned into a week of abuse and decades of self-doubt and shame. When he told his priest what had happened, the priest said, "I forgive you. Ten our fathers. Ten Hail Mary's. Now don't tell anyone."
In his case, Clemente had a position of power. He was a prosecutor in the mid-1980s in New York when his brother told him some photos of young boys had been found in the office of the man who abused Clemente. Steeling himself against the fear of his family, co-workers and friends finding out what had happened, he was able to get an investigation launched.
He wore a wire and collected enough evidence to see that the man was charged and convicted in two cases other than his own. The investigation showed the man had abused almost 100 children over 30 years. He had worked in 13 Catholic schools, moving each time an allegation surfaced.
The investigation led to Clemente being recruited by the FBI, where he focused on child sex crimes. He has spoken to dozens and dozens of abusers to try to understand the way they think, why they do what they do. He has taught new agents how the offenders got away with it.
"They're criminals," Clemente said. "They're not evil. They're just bad people who do bad things."
What happens is what is known as compliant victimization. The child looks up to the abuser and the child is being recognized by a beloved adult. The victim puts up with the bad to keep the good.
Then the abuser will get the child to do something wrong — cutting school, drinking alcohol — so he has something on the child, something the child wants kept from the parents.
Clemente advises parents that the best way to protect their children is to have open and age-appropriate conversations about sex.
"As soon as they can hear your voice," Clemente said.
Abusers prey on children who feel they can't talk to their parents about sex, he said.
"Kids grow up in a land of giants. Everybody has more power. They shut up," Clemente said.
Clemente has written a fictionalized account of the abuse he suffered, which he described as a cathartic experience. It took him another 10 years before he could talk about the abuse publicly.
"The first time was difficult. Now it's matter of fact," he said.
Clemente was one of three people hired by the Paterno family to investigate whether the coach knew what Sandusky was doing. It stemmed from an internal Penn State report in 2012 by former FBI director Louis Freeh — Clemente's former boss — that found that the university president, a vice president, athletic director and Paterno covered up Sandusky's actions.
Sandusky was found guilty of 45 counts of assaulting 10 boys over the 15-year period. He was sentenced to 30 to 60 years and is housed in a state prison south of Pittsburgh.
"This report threw back all that we know about child sex abuse 30 years," Clemente said.
There was no mention of research through the years — nice-guy offender and compliant victimization.
Clemente's been criticized for his findings and that he was paid to conduct the investigation. But Clemente said he has never met any member of the Paterno family, that each investigator worked independently and that he refused to sign a non-disclosure form.
He said he would have spoken as openly about finding Paterno in the wrong as he has the other.
Clemente has faced physical battles as well. He was diagnosed with lymphoma, caused by his exposure to the scene at the World Trade Center. After six bone marrow transplants, he's in remission. But now he's dealing with the aftermath of a heart attack.
"Flatline three times," he said.
Chemotherapy scarred his heart, his doctor said.
His doctor also told him he needed to do something creative. When Clemente retired in 2009, he moved to Los Angeles.
"I've never really left since," he said
He had been the technical advisor for "Criminal Minds" since 2005. It's based on the Behavioral Analysis Unit and many of the shows come straight from Clemente's work. He's written six episodes. The finale, which he's writing with executive producer Janine Sherman Barrois, airs on CBS at 9 p.m. May 6.
As an FBI supervisor he taught perhaps 60,000 people over the course of his career. The television show reaches 18 million in an episode, he said.
"I love it," he said.
One case has remained with him for years. It was actually one of those extremely rare instances of a child being abducted by a stranger. A 6-year-old outside his family's apartment.
Local law enforcement called in the FBI after 23 hours of getting nowhere.
Clemente's first action was to change the message. Instead of putting out information about a monster predator, he asked the public for information about a man who was quite likely the last person to see the child. Clemente called the man a hero and described him and his white truck.
People will call in about a hero. And they did. Two men were identified.
Clemente asked the local officers whether either of them did not answer the door during neighborhood canvassing. One did not.
"Kick down the door," Clemente ordered.
They paused. They had no probable cause. No search warrant.
Clemente took the advice up the chain of command. Do it, the order came down.
They kicked in the door.
Inside was the man and the boy. Alive.
Clemente keeps the boy's picture in his wallet.
WHO IS JULIE VALENTINE?
The Julie Valentine Center is a non-profit organization that works with survivors of sexual assault and child abuse. It is named for a baby who was left in a field to die in Greenville in 1990. She was never identified. Law enforcement officers named her Julie Valentine because her body was found a few days before Valentine's Day by a man looking for wildflowers for his wife.
For luncheon ticket information, go to julievalentinecenter.org/jvc-luncheon-2015/.
Pope says it's okay to spank kids, if their dignity is kept
by Nicole Winfield
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis says it's okay to spank your children to discipline them — as long as their dignity is maintained.
Francis made the remarks this week during his weekly general audience, which was devoted to the role of fathers in the family.
Francis outlined the traits of a good father: one who forgives, but is able to “correct with firmness” while not discouraging the child.
“One time, I heard a father in a meeting with married couples say, ‘I sometimes have to smack my children a bit, but never in the face so as to not humiliate them,' ” Francis said.
“How beautiful!” Francis remarked. “He knows the sense of dignity! He has to punish them, but does it justly and moves on.”
The Rev. Thomas Rosica, who collaborates with the Vatican press office, said the pope was obviously not speaking about committing violence or cruelty against a child, but rather about “helping someone to grow and mature.”
“Who has not disciplined their child or been disciplined by parents when we are growing up?” Rosica said in an e-mail. “Simply watch Pope Francis when he is with children and let the images and gestures speak for themselves! To infer or distort anything else … reveals a greater problem for those who don't seem to understand a pope who has ushered in a revolution of normalcy of simple speech and plain gesture.”
The Catholic Church's position on corporal punishment came under sharp criticism last year during a grilling by members of a United Nations human rights committee monitoring implementation of the UN treaty on the rights of the child.
In its final report, the committee members reminded the Holy See that the treaty explicitly requires signatories to take all measures, including legislative and educational, to protect children from all forms of physical or mental violence — including while in the care of parents.
It recommended that the Holy See amend its own laws to specifically prohibit corporal punishment of children, including within the family, and to create ways to enforce that ban in Catholic schools and institutions around the globe.
The recommendations were prompted by reports to the committee of widespread physical abuse and use of corporal punishment in Catholic-run schools and institutions, particularly in Ireland, that committee members said had reached “endemic levels.”
The Vatican had argued that it in no way promoted corporal punishment, but that it also had no way to enforce any kind of ban on its use in Catholic schools, over which it has no jurisdiction. It noted that it was only responsible for implementing the child rights treaty inside the Vatican City State.
That said, it stressed that the term “punishment” isn't even used in the section of Church teaching that refers to parents' duties to “educate, guide, correct, instruct, and discipline” their children.
In its written response to the committee, the Vatican said that according to Church teaching, parents “should be able to rectify their child's inappropriate action by imposing certain reasonable consequences for such behavior, taking into consideration the child's ability to understand the same as corrective.”
The head of the Vatican delegation told the committee that he would take the UN proposal to ban corporal punishment in all settings back to Rome for consideration.
The Holy See isn't the only signatory to the convention that has been singled out on the issue. Britain received a similar recommendation to repeal its law allowing parents to spank their kids when it came before the UN committee in 2002.
Some 39 countries prohibit corporal punishment in all settings, including at home, where most abuse occurs. Those nations range from Sweden and Germany to South Sudan and Turkmenistan.
In the United States, parents can legally hit their child as long as the force is “reasonable.” In 19 US states, it's still legal for personnel in schools to practice “paddling.”
Pope Francis' Spanking Remarks Didn't Go Over Well With The Vatican Sex Abuse Commission
by Lauren Barba
Pope Frances ruffled some vestments at the Vatican this week when he proposed that parents — specifically, fathers — could physically punish their children with “dignity.” The pontiff's words riled up a few Catholics and non-Catholics alike, but now it looks like he's receiving some dissent from inside the Vatican halls: The Vatican sex abuse commission condemned Francis' corporeal punishment statements on Saturday, publicly criticizing the much-beloved pope at a press conference.
The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Adults, led by Boston Archbishop Cardinal Sean O'Malley, held a press conference to discuss its progress in protecting minors from predatory priests. But Commission member Peter Saunders, a survivor of priest sex abuse, also urged Francis to reevaluate his endorsement as hitting children as punishment, saying:
It might start off as a light tap, but actually the whole idea about hitting children is about inflicting pain. That's what it's about and there is no place in this day and age for having physical punishment, for inflicting pain, in terms of how you discipline your children.
Saunders added that Francis' recent comments were out-of-touch, considering that “millions of children around the world are physically beaten every day.”
According to the Associated Press, commission member Dr. Krysten Winter-Green publicly agreed with Saunders. “There has to be positive parenting, in a different way,” Winter-Green said.
Francis shockingly came out in support of corporeal punishment for children on Thursday during his weekly general audience address at the Vatican. This week's address focused on the role of father's, and Francis provided this little anecdote:
One time, I heard a father in a meeting with married couples say ‘I sometimes have to smack my children a bit, but never in the face so as to not humiliate them.'
“How beautiful,” the pontiff added. “He knows the sense of dignity! He has to punish them but does it justly and moves on.”
The Vatican said that while Francis certainly doesn't condone violence, parents punishing their children with smacking is an issue of helping someone mature. Rev. Thomas Rosica of the Vatican press office told The Guardian in an email:
Who has not disciplined their child or been disciplined by parents when we are growing up? Simply watch Pope Francis when he is with children and let the images and gestures speak for themselves. To infer or distort anything else … reveals a greater problem for those who don't seem to understand a pope who has ushered in a revolution of normalcy of simple speech and plain gesture.
In the meantime, the Vatican's sex abuse commission, which was instated by Francis as a way to crack down on abusers and their enablers within the Catholic Church, announced new programs and guidelines that will help improve child protection services worldwide. These initiatives include creating a line of contact between bishop conferences, religious superiors and sex abuse survivors. The commission, as well as Francis, has also called on bishop conferences worldwide to create guidelines or handling cases of sexual abuse of minors, which will then be vetted.
“There is a determination that what happened to me and others will not happen again,” Saunders told reporters.
'Porn in playground' fuels rise in 'child-on-child' sex assaults
Shocking rise in number of child rape and sexual attack cases reported to helpline
by Claire McCormack
MORE than 600 children were the victims or perpetrators of rape and sexual assault last year - with some "increasingly violent teen-on-teen" incidents linked to pornography, the Sunday Independent has learned.
Disturbing new figures reveal 618 parents, professionals and schools contacted the Children at Risk in Ireland (CARI) helpline in 2014 to report the rape and sexual assault of children - an increase of almost 500 calls since 2011, when 132 calls were placed.
The cases include 'adult-on-child' assaults and 'child-on-child' assaults - both with and without a history of sexual abuse.
In an interview with the Sunday Independent, CARI CEO and former Fine Gael TD for Dublin North West Mary Flaherty said a growing number of child-on-child assaults are occurring on the playground.
"Schools can be very good at watching for signs of change, but it's very important for supervision and for management to be aware that this is a real issue," she said.
Speaking about a primary school referral, she said: "There was a big age difference and it's by no means the first we have come across in the school setting," she said, adding that sexualised bullying may be "necessarily secret" as it's "particularly shameful" and hard to admit.
"Children have fallen off the search light because all the focus has been on historic and adult abuse," said Ms Flaherty, adding that a broad and open societal debate is seriously needed as "we're not just going to close down pornography".
She admits the increasingly sexualised nature of society makes it an extremely difficult problem for parents and teachers today to monitor.
"Frankly it's not easy to protect from," Ms Flaherty added. Quoting the parent of a young victim of child-on-child sex abuse, she added: "We teach our kids about stranger dangers but never think about warning them about other kids."
The charity boss said the modern "obsession" with porn is having a huge impact on our children. "Particularly with boys we would certainly think that porn is linked, it is a completely changed world, in terms of exposure, so it's a very big challenge," she said.
Ms Flaherty also argued the country's child sex abuse victims - now up to 3,000 new allegations every year - are being "failed on many fronts" due to service cuts.
She told the Sunday Independent: "It's in the communities, it's in the schools and it's sometimes in families themselves where victims aren't heard. They are not being believed step one and there is a level of proof required that's almost impossible to achieve," she said, adding CARI has experienced huge service cuts in recent years.
"We have alerted the HSE to this growth in a problem that needs a solution and at the minute we have waiting lists," she said. At least 50 children - from all over the country - are awaiting access to CARI services in Dublin and Limerick.
The new CARI data also reveals that 129 people - mostly mothers - contacted the therapy and counselling service about their young child's inappropriate or harmful "sexualised behaviour".
These include: pornographic interest; sexually explicit conversations; pulling another child's skirt up or pants down; petting and French kissing; preoccupation with masturbation; simulating foreplay with dolls or peers with clothes on. More serious examples include sexually explicit conversations with significant age difference; touching genitals of others; forcing exposure; simulating intercourse; and genital injury not explained by accidental cause.
In response to the worrying growth in young cases with no history of sexual abuse, CARI developed a policy to work with children up to the age of 12 who are exhibiting sexually harmful behaviour. Children aged 13-17 are referred to other specialised units for adolescents. But this does not go far enough, according to the foundation, which is calling on schools, parents and the Government to "seriously increase" efforts.
Ms Flaherty said: "If you look at all the pop videos, they are practically simulating intercourse, children are learning to gyrate in a very sexual way from very young. Clothing and everything is so hyper-sexed, film in general is very open and then you get to accessing porn and that is extensive, there is no doubt."
Although 97pc of primary schools and 98pc of post-primary schools in Ireland have Relationships and Sexuality Education programmes in place - dealing with a range of issues including pornography - exposure is "just a step away".
According to the Department of Education, 96pc of primary schools and 100pc of post-primary schools have centrally provided content filtering - through which access to pornography is blocked. "All schools that accept a broadband service from the Department are required to confirm that they have an acceptable use policy in place," a spokesperson said.
However, it is up to each school to determine how and when students access the internet and how they are supervised. Last May, an advisory group on Internet Content Governance made a series of recommendations on internet governance issues, including encouraging internet service providers to provide parental control products as part of their service.
However, the Department of Communications admits it "has never actively considered" introducing a requirement for providers to block legal content, "due to legal and operational reasons".
Child protection symposium will address sexual abuse in the church and other institutions
The Child Protection Program, in partnership with Jeff Anderson '75, will present an all-day symposium that will examine the complicated history and current situation surrounding sexual abuse in the church and other institutions. The symposium will be held on Friday, Apr. 17, in the William Mitchell Auditorium.
“Looking Back and Moving Forward: A Critical Look at Sexual Abuse and Institutional Failure,” will feature Jeff Dion, director of The National Crime Victim Bar Association as the keynote speaker. He will be joined by the Very Rev. Charles Lachowitzer, Minnesota vicar general, and a remarkable group of local and national experts who will share messages of hope, help, and healing as they discuss policies and strategies to help institutions and survivors move forward after abuse has occurred.
Dion, who has worked for the National Center for Victims of Crime since 1998, lectures across the U.S. to foster greater understanding among crime victims and trial attorneys. He has trained advocates and attorneys in 37 states and serves on the board of directors for the Sexual Assault Victim Advocacy Service of Prince William County. He is an advisory council member for the National Association to Prevent Sexual Abuse of Children and is the recipient of the Ronald Wilson Reagan Public Policy Award, an award honoring an individual whose leadership has led to significant changes in public policy and practice to benefit crime victims.
The symposium is made possible, in part, by the generosity of Jeff Anderson, trial attorney at Jeff Anderson & Associates. A dedicated sexual abuse litigator, Anderson has represented thousands of victims and their families, trying more than 250 jury trials to verdict across the country. He was also instrumental in exposing the large scale cover-up of sexual abuse by priests in the 1980s. He frequently lectures on litigation techniques and publishes on the topic of sexual misconduct in the clergy.
Looking Back and Moving Forward: A Critical Look at Sexual Abuse and Institutional Failure
Jeff Dion, director of The National Crime Victim Bar Association
Chris Anderson, executive director, MaleSurvivor
Jeff Anderson '75, Jeff Anderson & Associates, attorney for victims of sexual abuse
Alison Fiegh, program manager, Jacob Wetterling Resource Center
The Very Reverend Charles Lachowitzer, Minnesota vicar general
Professor Charles Reid, University of St. Thomas School of Law
Charles Rogers, Briggs and Morgan, attorney
Retired Major General Robert Shadley, author of The Game: Unraveling a Military Sex Scandal
The cost to attend the symposium, which runs from 9 am–4 pm, is $75 for general admission and $25 for public interest admission. Student admission is free. Application will be made for seven hours of CLE credit.
Learn more or register by Monday, Apr. 13.
Sex Trafficking Victims Speak Out About How Police, Advocates Keep Failing
by Eleanor Goldberg
After a grueling three-day trip from San Diego to Detroit, Laurin Crosson was struck by the lights, glitter and banners, which festooned the city for Super Bowl XL in 2006. But those fleeting images from the window of her pimp's Escalade was the only glimpse she'd get of the mega sporting event.
"The whole town was lit up," Crosson, now 48, told The Huffington Post. "But I never left that hotel room from the day we got there."
At that point, Crosson had already been trafficked for more than two decades, so she was used to pleasing a revolving door of clients every day. But this week wasn't like anything she had experienced before.
Her first buyer would show up at 8 a.m. and the last would leave somewhere between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. Crosson estimates she went through about 20 to 30 men a day who paid $300 for oral sex and $800 for intercourse.
By the end of the week, Crosson had earned enough dough for her trafficker to drive home in a new Mercedes 450SL.
Crosson was allowed to sit by his side in the two-door convertible, bearing the only parting gift she'd keep from the lucrative event -- black and blue marks all over her neck, thighs and breasts. She wouldn't see a penny of the money she earned.
"I remember looking in the mirror and thinking, 'I look like I was run over by a truck,'" she said.
Keith Hamilton, Crosson's attorney in Utah, confirmed to HuffPost that she was convicted of prostitution-related charges in Provo, but he was able to reduce it to a disorderly conduct charge.
Debating whether or not cases like Crosson's actually surge during the Super Bowl has become something of an annual game-day tradition among advocates and politicians.
Some come forward in droves to warn of the inevitable increase in sex trafficking in the Super Bowl host city. Others vehemently refute those claims, saying they are unfounded and actually put sex trafficking victims at risk because police arrest them and discredit their need for help.
The fact remains that the figures pointing to an increase of sex trafficking during the Super Bowl are tenuous at best. In 2011, the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women published a study "What's the Cost of a Rumor?" stating that reports about trafficking and the sporting event are a myth.
The stats surrounding trafficking are murky due to a lack of funding and also because victims are afraid to report the crimes.
Consensual sex workers find fault in the sensationalism of it all because they say the sudden flurry to arrest anyone involved in the sex trade also inhibits their efforts to de-criminalize prostitution.
"There's a tidal wave of moral panic ... People are conflating the legitimate problem of sexual exploitation with those in the consensual adult sex industry," Savannah Sly, a retired sex worker in Seattle, told Humanosphere.
But when it comes down to it, though, many sex trafficking survivors aren't all that interested in whether or not the data adds up on one day out of the year.
What they want law enforcement officials, advocates and everyday people to understand is that an estimated 293,000 children alone are at risk of being sexually exploited in the U.S.
And, whenever hordes of men convene in a city during a major event, the demands and violence against trafficking victims increase, experts say.
"Anytime you have a partying atmosphere with the 'boys will be boys' mentality, combined with plenty of money, that scenario will be an opportunity for sex traffickers," Nita Belles, an anti-sex trafficking activist who worked at the last six Super Bowls, told HuffPost.
Rebecca Bender, 33, a trafficking survivor who was victimized for nearly six years in Las Vegas, said she would have to prepare for an onslaught of business anytime a major event was taking place somewhere in the country.
“In Vegas, I can remember there were three big events: the Consumer Electronics Show, March Madness and the Super Bowl,” Bender, told HuffPost. “Every hotel room is booked. A lot of men are there on business without wives or girlfriends.”
The FBI confirmed to The Huffington Post that Bender's pimp had been imprisoned for tax-related charges, but couldn't be put away for trafficking crimes because his victims were too fearful to testify against him.
Bender, who now runs an eponymous nonprofit that supports survivors, said her safety was in greater jeopardy when events like the Super Bowl came around because of the “macho” nature of the environment and the surplus of cash that was involved.
“They're winning $5,000 to $10,000, can easily part with $2,000 and their wives will still be happy,” Bender, said.
The pimps expected higher wages than usual on those busy nights. But some of the buyers weren't always too quick to part with that much money and didn't want to “look stupid” in front of their friends if the girls they hired insisted on getting more cash.
Both the clients and the traffickers would quickly get violent if their demands weren't met, Bender, who had her face broken five times, told HuffPost.
Such was the case about 10 years ago when Bender entered a decent-size suite at Caesar's Palace for Super Bowl viewing party. When she saw three women huddled in the bathroom on the phone, she got that familiar pit in her stomach she dreaded on high-volume nights.
“Why are you here hiding?” asked Bender, who was in her early 20s at the time.
“They think they're getting sex and they're already acting hostile,” one of the women told the escort service operator who had sent them out that evening.
The company had cut the five men a deal: five girls for $500, a $250 discount.
The service Bender's trafficker worked with technically operated as a legal entity because it dispensed girls just to dance. What they did afterwards was their “own” choice.
What the operator neglected to mention to the men though, was that the price only covered up to an hour and that entire “drop fee” belonged to the service.
The girls had to haggle for tips to pay their traffickers who expected big bucks.
“Right away, I knew this wasn't going to end well,” Bender said. “How do I convince them to tip beyond $500? I end up having sex for a cup of coffee or I have to fight to get out of here.”
She darted from the hotel room and ducked behind a partition while the buyers scoured the hallway to find her. Bender eventually walked down 37 flights of stairs to escape and doesn't know what happened to the other girls she was with that night.
It's been about eight years since she escaped the life and Bender appreciates, to some degree, the added attention given to the issue of sex trafficking during the Super Bowl.
The FBI in Phoenix boosted its resources to crack down on pimps in the area and nonprofits ramped up their advocacy efforts to protect victims. One such organization, for example, dispensed nearly 30,000 bars of soap in hotels with information on how victims can get help.
After a two-week sting operation, which concluded on Sunday night, a national coalition of local law enforcement agencies arrested 23 men on charges of pimping, trafficking or promoting prostitution, according to Cook County Sheriff's Department. The operation rescued 54 women and 14 juveniles who were sexually exploited.
But Bender and Crosson see gaping holes in authorities' and advocates' work that leave victims trapped in the underworld of forced sex trade.
While zeroing in on the Super Bowl host city is commendable, Bender wants to see more law enforcement officials and nonprofit leaders in cities like Reno, Las Vegas and Atlantic City where there are large gatherings of people partying and traffickers are just as eager to manipulate their victims.
“More people fly to Vegas than to Phoenix during the Super Bowl, but no one ever looks there,” Bender said. “No one ever thinks to do preparation.”
They want law enforcement officials to do a better job of identifying the trafficking red flags and communicating with trafficking victims. Both Bender and Crosson say they were arrested numerous times on prostitution charges and never could seek help from cops because they were made to believe that they were criminals who deserved to be punished.
They want the public to understand that victims aren't just the duct-taped images of girls they see in the movies. While most victims come from abusive and at-risk backgrounds, that isn't always the case. Crosson grew up in California with physician parents and Bender was raised in a stable home in middle America. She was accepted to the University of Oregon before she was trafficked at 18 by a man whom she believed loved her.
To help victims, like them, get a chance to escape, Bender and Crosson have taken matters into their own hands.
Bender now trains FBI directors in the Violent Crimes Against Children unit on issues related to sex trafficking. Her nonprofit, Rebecca Bender Ministries , helps organizations more effectively address the needs of trafficking survivors. She lives in Oregon now with her husband and four kids.
Crosson can't get a job because of her record and lives in a friend's basement in Utah, she said. But through her group, RockStarr Ministries, she runs a 24/7 trafficking hotline and was able to rescue 15 victims in the last year.
"My goal was to get one person out," Crosson said. "If I die today, my job is done."
To help trafficking survivors worldwide, learn more at the Polaris Project and Shared Hope International.
Stopping sex trafficking in the trucking industry
The Virginia Trucking Association is partnering with Truckers Against Trafficking
by Lelissa Gaona
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. -- Sex trafficking in the trucking industry has been an issue for years. Now Virginia is stepping up to do something about it. According to many truckers, this effort is long overdue.
The Virginia Trucking Association (VTA) is partnering with Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT). Thirty-three state trucking associations currently work with TAT to combat this crime.
Vice President of Safety and Risk Management at Howell's Motor Freight in Cloverdale says his drivers will start to see changes by the end of February.
"Our drivers will be trained on how to identify trafficking if it's going on and what to do," he said.
To gather this story, WDBJ7 stopped at a busy truck stop in Montgomery County at the Ironto exit.
We found Andrea Lewis, a female trucker who has been in the industry for a long time. Lewis experienced sex trafficking first-hand five years ago.
“I was at a truck stop in New Mexico and there was this girl running towards the rest area. She appeared to be on drugs. I put her in my truck and took her to the Love's and got her help. She was about 13 years old and being sex trafficking after being abducted from her school,” explained Lewis.
Lewis says women, like her, who work in the trucking industry can also easily become victims of sex crimes.
"This one lady who is also a trucker was hit in the head with a gun until she passed out after a man raped her,” she said.
Sex traffickers often force their victims to work at rest areas, truck stops, and gas stations near major highways.
As a TAT partner, VTA pledges to:
1). Communicate with all member companies to raise awareness about human trafficking and ask them to train their employees with TAT materials and register their trained employees on the TAT website to measure effectiveness of implementation and determine which companies still need to be reached to join the program.
2). Continually work with member companies to keep this issue at the forefront.
3). Share TAT's Iowa DOT model with the Virginia State Police, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles and the Virginia Department of Transportation. This model, developed by the Motor Vehicle Enforcement division of the Iowa Department of Transportation, includes, among other things, training law enforcement working with trucking with TAT materials; having TAT training/educational materials placed in every weigh station, truck stop and rest area in the state; and handing TAT materials out to every truck driver with whom they come in contact.
4). Work with TAT to assist law enforcement in their investigations within their state.
For more information on TAT, click here.
There are two bills that are before the Virginia legislature now that deal with penalties for human trafficking. One in the senate and one in the house.
HB 1964 and SB 1188 carry the same sex trafficking penalties. The bills read as follows:
Creates new felonies for trafficking of persons for commercial sexual activity. The bill provides that any person who recruits, transports, harbors, receives, provides, obtains, isolates, maintains, patronizes, solicits, or entices a minor to engage in commercial sexual activity is guilty of a Class 2 felony, the punishment for which includes a mandatory minimum sentence that is based on the age of the minor. The bill also provides that any person who engages in the same conduct with any other person knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that coercion or fraud will be used to cause such person to engage in commercial sexual activity is guilty of a Class 2 felony. Finally, the bill provides than any person who receives money or its equivalent that he knows or has reason to know was derived from the trafficking of persons for commercial sexual activity is guilty of a Class 3 felony.
The latest weapon in sex trafficking: a rose
by Kaitlyn S Ross and Julie Wolfe
ATLANTA -- How much is a person worth? According to the FBI, sex trafficking is the most profitable illicit business in Atlanta, more than double the profits from drug trafficking.
With the stakes so high, one group is taking a stand that every woman and man in this city is priceless. The Out of Darkness program is trying to rescue victims of sex trafficking, one at a time.
While you're sleeping, these are the conversations happening on our streets:
"Y'all come anytime?"
"Come and rescue me sometime, I'll ride with you."
"Yeah, it's OK. Anybody, if you need a place to go."
"Even if the person doesn't have their ID on them?"
Every Friday night, volunteers with Out of Darkness drive the streets. They offer roses to the women for sale in our city. It's free of charge. It's a way out.
"I need to take care of my business and get myself together," one woman told them.
"Don't feel like you need to get everything together, because none of us have it all together," a volunteer responded.
The rose comes with a hotline number -- (404) 941-6024 -- and a promise: if they call, someone will pick them up any time, day or night.
The program has rescued more than 500 women from forced prostitution in the past nine years. While some of them go back, 60% of the women move on to a meaningful life outside of sex trafficking. That's double the national average for programs that do the same thing around the country.
"So many of these women are used to being rejected for one reason or another. So if they're pregnant, they have mental health issues, none of that matters. We take everybody who has been through exploitation," Director Jeff Shaw told 11Alive's Kaitlyn Ross, "What really broke my heart is that if I was driving home today and I got a flat tire, I could call about 20 different people who would come to help me. But the reality for these ladies in exploitation is that in their darkest times, there is nobody to call."
He says their success comes from taking the women as they are and understanding the scope of the problem in Atlanta.
"A lot of people think about Cambodia when they think about sex trafficking. But really, Atlanta is a hub when it comes to sex trafficking and sexual exploitation," Shaw said.
The FBI reports the average age of girls forced into prostitution in the U.S. is between 11 and 14 years old.
"So when the rest of us are in middle school worrying about our grades and our first crush, there are girls being raped 10 to 30 times per night in this city," Shaw said.
The group sees the same women most Friday nights. Some are too scared to talk to them at first. Others save a pile of cards to the hotline, week after week, building up the courage to escape. The volunteers, most from the Atlanta Dream Center that founded the program, are trained to talk to the women, and the pray for them. But they never force them to leave.
"It is hard to walk away, because I want to beg them to come," volunteer Tiffany Rogers said. She helps lead one of the groups and has talked to hundreds of women on the streets. Through the pain and the heartache, she sees hope.
"When we started talking to her, she started tearing up. And that just shows me that she's open and vulnerable," Rogers said about one girl she approached on the night we rode along.
Whether the women leave with her in the van, or never accept a rose, she just wants them to know that they're loved.
"If a day comes, and you need something, you need some help, call that number," she said.
To find out more about Out of Darkness, check out their website.
Law enforcement officers, legislators aim to crack down on human trafficking
by Aldo Amato
MURFREESBORO – Local legislators and law-enforcement officials have one, unified message for human traffickers wanting to do business in Rutherford County.
"You do not belong here," Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold said.
The message comes after state Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, recently co-sponsored a bill that would enhance funding for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation in order to crack down on human trafficking in the State of Tennessee.
The bill, co-sponsored by State Rep. Charles Sargent, R-Franklin, calls on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to implement courses, which will also include information to help first responders and caseworkers find services to assist victims of the crime.
"We have seen far too many cases of human trafficking in Tennessee," Ketron said in a January press release. "Our state has made great gains in combating human trafficking, but we still have a lot of work to do. Training is essential to help us identify and prosecute this crime, as well as assist the victims."
Senate Bill 16 calls for the training courses to be implemented by Jan. 2016 and includes the hiring of four additional TBI special agents. The legislation is co-sponsored by State Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, the release stated.
Local, state and federal agencies are constantly finding ways to track human traffickers, Ketron said in an interview with The Daily News Journal in early January.
While some traffickers and their victims publicize themselves on internet sites such as Craigslist.com and Backpage.com, there is another part of the internet the public does not see.
"They are using the dark part of the internet you cannot search with Google," said Carter F. Smith, program administrator for Middle Tennessee State University's Department of Criminal Justice.
Smith said traffickers use hidden URLs and special sequences of numbers that makes it more difficult for law enforcement agencies to find them.
Arnold said agencies like the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office need more resources to help scour the internet and other mediums to catch traffickers.
"Right now, we just don't have the resources," Arnold said. "I absolutely support what Sen. Ketron is doing with this bill. We know that this is a problem in Tennessee. I will continue to help him in any way I can."
"My department is also looking into what we can do in order to get the resources we need to combat trafficking."
Arnold said while the department has not had to deal with human trafficking in the unincorporated areas of the county, it has investigated prostitution rings.
The prostitution factor
So far in 2015, there have been more than three prostitution arrests in Murfreesboro.
In a majority of those arrests, Murfreesboro Police found either the prostitute, the pimp or both on the website Backpage.com.
Two out-of-state residents were arrested at the Baymont Inn and Suites on Armory Drive in late January after police discovered postings on websites that were "sexual in nature."
Jessica Scarberry was charged with possession of a Schedule II drug and promotion of prostitution. Frank Pace, who was identified as Scarberry's pimp, was charged with aiding and abetting, attempted criminal conspiracy, criminal facilitation of a felony, false report to an officer and promotion of prostitution.
Approximately 10 grams of methamphetamine, a pipe used to smoke the drug and $1,436 were found in Scarberry's room, according to an MPD incident report.
"With prostitution, 9 times out of 10, drugs follow," Sheriff Arnold said. "You see these people using social media these days. If you have the resources or the manpower to focus in that area, then it is very easy to combat it."
"But sometimes other things are taking priority, so you just can't focus on prostitution."
Arnold said the department has not had an additional deputy assigned to the narcotics division since 1994. He added human trafficking, prostitution and drugs go hand in hand.
While Smith said the drug trade and human trafficking often intertwine, there are cases where both are mutually exclusive.
"They are related in essence," Smith said. "Not all prostitutes are on drugs."
According to TBI statistics, Rutherford County reported between 51 to 100 incidents of minor sex trafficking. According to arrest and incident reports, the number of promoting and purchasing of prostitution is on the rise.
TBI statistics show 205 arrests in 2013, or 139 more than there were in 2011.
When asked how the Murfreesboro Police Department combats human trafficking, MPD spokesman Kyle Evans declined to comment.
When asked what methods the department uses to track pimps and prostitutes and if evolving technology plays a factor, Evans also declined to comment.
Murfreesboro Police recently have taken the approach of trying to place women involved in prostitution in programs that can assist them with social and economic problems rather than putting them into the legal system.
That approach is something Smith said is crucial to cracking down on prostitution and human trafficking. He said keeping the human trafficking topic fresh is the only way progress can be made.
"Just like everything else, you have to have consistent public awareness," he said. "You have to have enough people in the community who are upset that human trafficking is going on. You also have to have a safe alternative for women and men involved in trafficking or else they won't want to leave. You have to combine the enforcement."
"It's not just getting them out of the clutches. It's showing them alternatives to that lifestyle."
Men abused as boys find help in desert
by Robert J. Teitelbaum
There are many children in this world who grow up in ideal settings. They live in beautiful homes with all the trappings, and they are the envy of everyone they know. They might also have successful, extremely popular parents. But if these children know anything, it is this: what looks healthy and good on the outside is often the sickest on the inside. The worst part is that no one usually finds out, because the children will not tell.
I was one of those children growing up. In 1928, my mother and father were pressured to serve as attorneys for Al Capone. They bonded completely with this dangerous lifestyle, and as a result, abandoned their duties to protect me and my brothers and sisters. They left us in the long term care of a sadistic and abusive bodyguard who systematically terrorized and sexually abused us for more than a decade. I was just 4 years old when it started.
Survivors of sexual, emotional, and physical abuse often start out as healthy children who are full of energy and playfulness. They are good students who look clean and presentable, but they eventually cannot tolerate painful feelings, and frequently turn to alcohol and drugs to numb the pain. They change hygiene habits, and become withdrawn or the class clown. As adults, they either sexually shut down or become promiscuous.
From an early age, boys are consistently given messages to be strong, to buck up and be a man. They are warned not to cry or act like a sissy, and certainly not to act like a girl. As a result, many boys learn to repress their feelings and emotional pain, which often resurface as rage in adulthood.
After carrying all that heavy emotional baggage for years, some men choose to direct it outwardly rather than deal with their feelings. Rage, domestic violence, physical, and emotional abuse are cycled and recycled in a destructive fashion that never lets up. Sometimes the pain, shame, and self-hate become so overwhelming that suicide appears the only way out.
The good news is that we are building a better healing community here in the desert.
In 1993, my wife Carol and I joined Riverside County's Prevent Child Abuse Council, hoping to make a difference in the lives of our valley's children. In 2006, Carol was asked to assist in research concerning the underreporting of male child abuse. The numbers are astounding. Statistics show that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by the age of 18, and this is only the reported cases.
This inspired Carol to found the “It Happens to Boys” project, which introduced me to other male survivors and experts in the field of trauma abuse and recovery. I became acquainted with courageous men of all ages who accepted and supported me via group therapy, which Carol offers twice each month at no charge.
This recovery effort has morphed into the annual “It Happens to Boys Conference,” which will take place on March 6-7 at the Annenberg Center for Health Sciences in Rancho Mirage. We offer survivors a safe, nonjudgmental environment in which to explore their authentic selves. Through the years, our authors and speakers have worked with therapists, recovery counselors, attorneys, nurses, school counselors, and law enforcement to provide much needed information about this most overlooked epidemic.
Recovery from child abuse is much like recovering from drugs and alcohol; it must be done one day at a time. The path is not always easy. I still find myself triggered by demonic memories periodically, but now I have the proper tools to deal with those demons.
I know many survivors will relate to my story, and my hope is that they come to our conference and get help now. You don't have to wait 60 years to tell someone what happened. My message to survivors is: it was never your fault.
Robert J. Teitelbaum is co-chair of the non-profit Creative Change Conferences and author of Frogs and Snails and Mobster Tales: Growing Up in Al Capone's Shadow. He is an active member of the Screen Actors Guild and is the Director of Palm Springs TheatreSports. For more information about “The 7thAnnual It Happens to Boys Conference,” visit: www.creativechangeconferences.com
Lawmaker: Repeal of statute of limitations for sex abuse
by The Associated Press
BUFFALO, N.Y. - A State Senator is speaking out on behalf of adults who say they were victims of sexual assault years or even decades ago.
Marc Panepinto (D-Buffalo) says New York is one of the worst states in the country to help survivors of childhood sexual assault. He stood side by side with two victims on Friday morning, calling for a repeal of the statute of limitations for sexual abuse against minors.
Under current law, adults in New York that have been sexually abused must make a claim by the age of 23.
Victims say that in some cases, that is not enough time. Advocates say there may be too much trauma, fear and repressed memories for the victim to feel he or she can come forward.
Vanessa DeRosa says she was sexually abused by a teacher at a Catholic school at the age of 13. She came forward with her abuse story at the age of 25.
"I was dealing with issues going on as a result of what happened previously," DeRosa said. "It's not fair to tell people that you only have a certain amount of time to come forward for something like this.
Tino Flores also spoke out, saying he repressed many of the sexual abuse memories for years. Flores says a priest abused him.
Both DeRosa and Flores have asked the Pope to investigate sexual abuse within the Buffalo Diocese.
A Cardozo Law School study lists New York as one of the worst states in its treatment of adults who survived sexual assault as children.
Panepinto says 45 states have longer statutes of limitations than New York for childhood sexual assault victims to come forward.
The idea of eliminating the statute of limitations or giving victims a longer window to file a claim has passed in the Assembly several years in a row. However, it has never reached the floor of the Senate.
Bill would let police in Washington seize property from johns seeking sex
by LaVendrick Smith
State lawmakers are looking to crack down on people who patronize prostitutes in Washington by establishing a way to seize their property.
House Bill 1558 would make vehicles and other property subject to seizure and forfeiture by law enforcement when they are used or intended to be used in soliciting a prostitute.
Rep. Dick Muri, R-Steilacoom, said he wants the state to shift the focus from punishing prostitutes to targeting the johns who frequent them, in addition to protecting victims of sex trafficking.
“It is the buyers of sex that are keeping this cancer alive,” Muri said. “If the demand for prostitution decreases, so will the profitability of the trade.”
Muri's bill was given a hearing Friday in the House Public Safety Committee.
State law already authorizes the seizure of property used in cases of commercial sexual abuse of a minor, promoting the sexual abuse of a minor and promoting prostitution in the first degree.
By adding patronizing a prostitute to the list, law enforcement can seize any means of transportation used by the individual paying for sex, along with all money and other tangible property involved in the transaction.
Advocates of the bill say the legislation would help reduce sex trafficking in the state and protect victims of the industry.
Tim Heffer from the Justice and Mercy Foundation said seizing the property would add fear to johns by upping the consequences they'd face for buying sex.
“This bill says to survivors, ‘We're on your side, we stand by you, and those who control you are now out of their control and stripped of their ability to harm you,' ” he said.
However, opponents of the bill testified it would do more harm than good for workers in the sex industry and victims of sex trafficking.
Ronan Kelly from the Seattle Clinic Defense said the legislation would push prostitute-customer relations deeper into the shadows and force women in the sex industry to make riskier decisions to avoid getting caught.
“It's not ethical to pass a law that puts people at risk of illness and injury,” she said.
Advocates for workers in the sex industry said they'd prefer legislation that decriminalizes prostitution and promotes amnesty and free speech.
Savannah Sly from the Sex Workers Outreach Project in Seattle said that while she's aware of exploitation in the industry, some women work as prostitutes as a preferred source of income. She said policymakers should focus on stopping the trafficking of unwilling children and adults, not on sexual activities between consenting adults.
“It's sort of painting an entire demographic of people all as predators and monsters,” she said. “And we want to highlight that there's a huge difference between consenting adults getting together and having their private affairs, and a predator who would prey upon a 13-year-old child.”
‘Rape dungeon' allegations emerge in abuse report on Florida's notorious Dozier School for Boys
by Richard Luscombe
Two more boys identified as three-year dig and investigaton of the abuse inflicted on mostly black students at the now-closed Florida school nears final stages
Forensic researchers sifting the grounds of a notorious Florida reform school at the centre of a decades-long abuse scandal have identified the remains of two more bodies from 51 recovered so far from unmarked graves.
The investigative team has also revealed horrific new allegations about the extent of physical and sexual abuse inflicted on the mostly African American students at the now-closed Arthur G Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, including details of a secret “rape dungeon” where victims younger than 12 were taken to be molested.
Last August, Ovell Krell, the sister of the first victim to be identified, George Owen Smith, who disappeared from the school in 1940 at the age of 14, told the Guardian of her relief at the solving of a 74-year mystery.
“It's been an emotional journey and now I can finally get some closure, some peace of mind,” she said.
State lawmakers approved grants of almost half a million dollars to fund the USF investigation shortly after the school was closed, for financial reasons, in 2011. A year earlier a report by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which recorded only 32 graves, concluded there was insufficient evidence to prove or refute the allegations of physical or sexual abuse.
Kimmerle said that the researchers were working with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office to find surviving family members of boys who attended the school who could provide DNA samples to match with unidentified remains.
“There is a lot of work left to do, in the field, in the lab and filling in the gaps in the records and archives we have,” she said.
Harvard enforcing total ban on professors having sex with undergrads
BOSTON - Harvard University is now enforcing a total ban on professors having sex with undergraduate students.
The university says this change is part of a review of its policy on Title Nine, the federal civil rights law prohibiting sex discrimination.
The university's policy previously only prohibited professors from having sex with students under their direct supervision.
A Harvard committee determined that policy did not meet expectations on appropriate relationships between faculty and students.
Sheriff: Boy 'kidnapped' to teach him a lesson
Four people have been charged in a "kidnapping" in Troy, Mo., that authorities say was staged to teach a 6-year-old boy a lesson about stranger danger.
According to the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office, Nathan Wynn Firoved, 23, of Troy was asked by the boy's aunt, Denise Kroutil, 38, of Troy, with whom he worked, to kidnap the boy and "scare" him because he was "too nice" to people.
Firoved lured the boy into a pickup truck while he was walking home from school Monday, the Sheriff's Office said in a statement. Once in the truck, Firoved told the boy he would never "see his mommy again," and he would be "nailed to the wall of a shed."
When the child started to cry, Firoved showed him a gun and threatened to hurt him if he did not stop, the statement said. Firoved bound the boy's hands and feet, covered his face with a jacket and drove him around for a while.
While the boy's face was still covered, he was unknowingly taken to the basement of his home, where a family member removed his pants and told him he could be sold into "sex slavery," the Sheriff's Office said.
"The victim remained in the basement for some time before he was unbound and told to go upstairs, where the victim's family lectured him about Stranger Danger," the statement said.
During the entire event, family members and Firoved remained in contact via cellphone as they terrorized the victim.
The boy later told school officials about the incident, and they reported it to the Division of Family Services. The child has been placed into protective custody.
Firoved, Kroutil and Rose Brewer, 58, the boy's grandmother, were charged with felony kidnapping, felonious restraint, and felony abuse and neglect of a child, the Sheriff's Office said. The victim's mother, Elizabeth Hupp, 25, of Troy was charged with felony kidnapping and felony abuse and neglect of a child. The four are being held at the Lincoln County Jail on $250,000 bond.
Family told investigators they were trying to teach the boy a lesson and felt they did nothing wrong.
Female Genital Mutilation: why do so many cases go unpunished in Europe?
by Chris Harris
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is estimated to affect up to 680,000 women and girls in Europe but yet just a handful of people have been prosecuted, Euronews can reveal.
The failure of authorities to respond has “likely resulted in the preventable mutilation of thousands of girls”, according to a UK parliament report.
Here, to mark International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation, we take a look at why FGM is carried out, its impact in Europe and the reasons behind why there's been so few prosecutions.
WHAT IS FGM?
FGM includes procedures that “intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”, according to the World Health Organisation.
WHO says the practice can include: the removal of the clitoris or labia; the narrowing of the vaginal opening; or piercing, scraping and burning of the genital area.
FGM is mostly carried out on girls between infancy and 15 years. Sometimes adult women are subjected to the procedure after childbirth or marriage.
The procedures are often carried out without anaesthetics, using knives, scissors, razor blades and, in some instances, shards of glass.
It is generally done by traditional practitioners, but, according to WHO, there is a trend towards the “medicalisation” of FGM. It says 18 per cent of all FGM is performed by “healthcare providers”.
“Often the girl is pinned down by a number of adults,” according to a report by Equality Now. “In other instances, girls are expected to bear the pain stoically by not moving or crying during the procedure.”
WHY IS FGM CARRIED OUT?
There is a mix of cultural, religious and social factors behind why FGM is inflicted upon girls, according to WHO.
FGM can simply be a social convention, with people following the practice of others believing it is part of bringing up a girl properly.
Practitioners often believe FGM has religious support, despite it not being mentioned in religious scripts, including the Koran. “In communities where FGM is a social norm, it is practised by Muslims, Christians and followers of indigenous religions,” says Equality Now.
Others believe FGM will reduce a woman's libido, thereby helping to reduce the chances of her taking part in illegal sexual acts.
FGM survivor Leyla Hussein told the Independent: "I was pinned onto the table by four women. They said ‘it's not going to be painful, silly girl'. Apparently they gave me an injection to numb it, but I felt everything, I felt my flesh being cut off.
“After you're cut you're given presents, chocolates, sweets – me and my sister actually got gold watches. You're abused, but you're rewarded for it. It leaves you with a massive sense of confusion about people you trust.”
IS FGM JUST A PROBLEM FOR AFRICA?
UNICEF estimates that more than 125 million girls and women worldwide have undergone FGM. It adds that 3 million girls in Africa are at risk each year.
It is thought to have affected 500,000 women in Europe, while 180,000 emigrants to the continent undergo, or are at risk of undergoing, FGM.
However one of the challenges of tackling FGM is getting reliable figures of how many people it affects. This is well illustrated by the chart below, which shows the number of women estimated to be affected by FGM in Europe. The UK's figures are from a 2014 report, but data for other countries are less recent: the Netherlands (2013); Hungary (2012); Belgium, Ireland (2011); Italy (2009); Germany, France (2007); Greece (2006); Austria (2000).
“IT'S NO LONGER AN AFRICAN ISSUE, IT'S A EUROPEAN ISSUE”
Leyla Hussein, co-Founder of Daughters of Eve, a FGM awareness-raising group, said: “What we are trying to highlight to the British people – especially to the government and policy makers – is that FGM affects British girls.
“People have the idea that FGM happens out there to these people out there in Africa.
“But it's happening out there right now as we speak.
“With the support groups that we run we have seen many young women who have had it done here in the UK, in London.
“It's no longer an African issue, it's now a European issue.”
HOW MANY HAVE BEEN PROSECUTED FOR FGM?
British doctor Dhanuson Dharmasena was this week acquitted of carrying out FGM on a new mother in London.
It was the UK's first FGM trial.
Elsewhere in Europe, the picture is little better. France is the leader in terms of FGM criminal cases with 40. European Commission figures to January 2012 show Spain had six; Italy and Sweden two; the Netherlands and Denmark one each.
Campaigners said the trial in the UK, despite the acquittal, sent a strong message that FGM was against the law.
Dharmasena, reported Reuters, said FGM was an “abhorrent practice”. His family, weeping with relief, said he had been made a scapegoat.
It came after a doctor in Egypt was convicted of manslaughter after a 13-year-old girl died in a botched FGM procedure.
Equality Now called the verdict a “monumental victory”. It was the first FGM trial in Egypt, a country with one of the world's highest prevalence rates of FGM.
Over 90 percent of women and girls between 15 and 49 in Egypt have undergone FGM, according to UN estimates.
WHY SO FEW PROSECUTIONS?
A report by the UK parliament's home affairs committee says the reason for so few prosecutions is down to the police not investigating FGM.
It added: “The police and others told us two factors contributed to the small number of investigations — a reliance on victims or witnesses to report to the police, which they are unlikely to do, and the failure of health, education and social care professionals to refer cases to the police where they suspect FGM to have taken place.”
The report draws a comparison with France, which it says has secured 40 prosecutions.
It reads: “A key feature of the French system is the use of regular medical check-ups on children up to the age of six, which includes examination of the genitals. The system is not mandatory, though receipt of social security is dependent on participation. Furthermore, girls identified as being at risk of FGM are required to have medical examinations every year, and whenever they return from abroad.”
WHAT IS BEING DONE TO TACKLE FGM?
FGM is recognised internationally as a violation of girls' and women's human rights, while the UN has adopted a resolution to eradicate the practice. The European Commission has also made similar commitments.
Some individual countries are also making progress.
Tanya Sukhija, programme officer at Equality Now, told Euronews: “Kenya is a really good example. They have a law against FGM and they have been taking a lot of steps to implement the law, such as having a specialist prosecution unit.
“The UK has had a law on the book against FGM for many years. They had their first trial last week. This is a key sign that they are going to implement the law.”
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE?
Ms Sukhija said: “FGM has been identified as a human rights violation but there's more of a need for that to be implemented at a national level and the European Union can help with that.”
She added that the court case in the UK – in which a doctor was acquitted of FGM (see above) – illustrates the need for better education of FGM among healthcare staff. She also called for more awareness raising among frontline staff – including social workers and teachers – to help prevent the practice and identify victims.
The UK parliament's home affairs committee has echoed Ms Sukhija's words on awareness raising among healthcare professionals. It also recommended stronger laws, more prosecutions and more work with communities.
9 Investigates: Law to prevent child abuse not working
by Stephanie Coueignoux
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In 2013, a state law made it a crime to fail to report child abuse to authorities, but Channel 9 learned in Mecklenburg County, nobody has even been prosecuted under the law.
Channel 9 reporter Stephanie Coueignoux asked why, and exactly what the system is doing to protect some of the most vulnerable children.
Now an adult, it took years for Helen Goldsby to accept she had been sexually abused as a child. She says she never told and no one ever asked.
"It changes everything. It changes you forever and you can never get it back. You can never get that part of you back," she said.
To encourage adults to report child abuse of any kind, state legislators passed a law in 2013 making it a class 1 misdemeanor to fail to report child abuse or neglect.
When asked what message that penalty sends to survivors, Goldsby said, "I think it sends the message that our children aren't important enough to protect and report these types of activities."
Channel 9 looked at the numbers for Mecklenburg County and found nobody has ever been prosecuted under the charge. Statewide, just two people faced the charge last year, and neither were convicted.
Experts say proving someone has failed to report child abuse is challenging. Victims don't always speak out, and sometimes there are no witnesses -- and even if there are, details of who knew what and when may not be clear.
Goldsby said what is clear is the law isn't working.
"Heartbreaking, it's heartbreaking. We have a lot of work to do," she said. "It goes back to the law. It goes back to really dealing with our lawmakers."
Channel 9 found Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services currently has a backlog of 223 child abuse cases that date back to August of last year. While that's down from 640 nine months ago, DSS officials said budget cuts and employee turnover have slowed their efforts.
But Mecklenburg County has now hired three additional social workers and the state also plans to audit the department to review social work practices.
Kelly Stetzer, a Mecklenburg County assistant district attorney, said since child abuse is so under-reported, the county is also focusing on programs to prevent it.
"Education, combined with the mandatory reporting law, will really go a long way in having these cases reported in a timely fashion and then investigated,” Stetzer said.
The county is now part of what's called the "Positive Parenting Program" -- or PPP. The program trains doctors, members of the faith community and others to work with parents and help them identify child abuse and create a safe environment.
Goldsby said, in the meantime, it's everyone's responsibility to look for signs and speak up.
"It is our duty as human beings and it is responsible for us as adults to report instances of abuse – period,” she said.
Officials say PPP will end next year but anticipate a statewide rollout shortly after that. Channel 9 asked whether cases of reported child abuse have dropped since the program began but officials said it could take up to five years for results.
False reports of child abuse could become a crime in Mississippi
State senate passes bill to approve penalties
JACKSON, Miss. —Making a false report of child abuse could become a crime in Mississippi.
The state Senate on Thursday passed a bill that would set a penalty of up to $5,000 and a year in jail for anyone convicted of intentionally and maliciously reporting to authorities that a child had been abused or neglected.
Republican Sen. Joey Fillingane of Sumrall said that during custody disputes, people sometimes falsely accuse a former spouse or former boyfriend or girlfriend of child abuse.
Fillingane, who's an attorney, said social workers are already overworked and underpaid, and they shouldn't have to spend time investigating bogus claims. He said he doesn't think setting penalties will discourage legitimate reporting of abuse.
Senate Bill 2047 will move to the House for more debate.
Training 50,000 to prevent child sexual abuse
by Ken Amaro
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The victims are young, they are innocent and part of a hidden epidemic.
"One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday," said Stacy Pendarvis.
Pendarvis is with the Monique Burr Foundation and a trainer.
"It is everyday, people that you and I know, " she said. "But it is a hidden epidemic because it is not likely to be reported."
Pendarvis is part of the Northeast Florida Coalition that plans to train 50,000 adults by 2019 on how to prevent child sexual abuse.
"Everyone can play a role in protecting children," she said.
It is the Darkness to Light's Stewards of Children program. The YMCA facility will be one of the training centers.
"If you can reach five percent of the adult population with this training you can start to make a difference," said Tammy Miller.
Miller is with the YMCA.
"We need more people to help us and to take this training," she said.
The training is free. The Organization Children's Safe Passage is covering the cost.
"We're paying for the participants to be trained," said Mike Williams, "and we're paying for the facilitators to be trained."
Williams joined the fight to prevent child sexual abuse after the tragic death of Somer Thompson. He would like to see every adult could take the five step training.
"Everyone needs to be aware," he said.
The two hour training develops that awareness and it is free.
Feb 9: Ponte Vedra YMCA
Feb 10: YFFC Metro YMCA
Feb 10: George Washington Carver Elementary
Feb 10: DuPont YMCA
Feb 18: Yates YMCA
Feb 26: Jacksonville Children's Commission
March 11: Flagler Center YMCA
March 12: St. Augustine YMCA
March 14: Yates YMCA
Or you can take the training online HERE.
UK police hunt for child sex abuse gangs who could have assaulted over one million children
UK -- There could be up to a million victims of child sexual exploitation in the UK, it is feared.
Rotherham's Labour MP Sarah Champion describes it as a “national disaster” and is demanding a taskforce to fight the “horror.”
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Mirror the shaken MP has told how she ‘nearly lost her mind' after victims turned to her for help - unable to trust the police or local council.
She is currently getting an average of 10 victims a week coming to her for help.
Fighting back tears she told how she feared having a nervous breakdown worried about failing the “amazing women” and her horror after finding out a manual for grooming existed for paedophiles.
The MP was speaking after the Government announced they were taking over Rotherham Council for a “fresh start” and sending five commissioners to run the troubled authority.
Inspectors were called in after the Jay Report last August revealed the borough had let down 1,400 victims of child sexual exploitation.
“The day after the first report broke the victims started coming to me. They couldn't go to the police, they couldn't go to the council. So who do you go to?
“For the first three weeks I generally thought I was losing my mind. I nearly lost my mind because of the level of depravity and horror.
“Listening to what these, now women, had gone through and how they were just left discarded, to flounder on their own.
“It was utterly mind-blowing and then the problem I had was that I was getting new cases coming to me, ones that hadn't been reported which they wanted me to report. But I didn't know who I could trust in the police to report it.
“There was this parallel universe going on and it is mind-blowing.
“I generally thought I was getting close to having a nervous breakdown because I couldn't process these two worlds going on and that anybody in a professional capacity would not have acted about what was going on. It's obscene.”
Talking about her concerns of corruption within the police force she pointed out the IPCC started their investigation within a month they had suspended 14 police officers.
And she said one senior police officer told her they didn't know why she was so surprised, telling Sarah: ‘Paedophiles become teachers and people that prey on the vulnerable go into the police.”
Talking of the cases she has encountered, she told of one horrific case when a girl from Rotherham was traced to a terraced street in Blackpool by youth worker Jane Senior who she employs.
“She knew where the girl was because of the queue of men down the street and up the stairs,” The MP said.
She said she turned to the Government five months ago to ask for emergency funding for her town's victims to help the rebuild their lives.
“I went to see David Cameron this week and he said he would look into it.
"It feels like the Government is leaving Rotherham to die. It feels like we're not on their doorstep so it doesn't matter.”
She welcomed experts coming into Rotherham to help them but said the Government should have stepped in after the Jay Report, six months ago.
“We would have been able to move forward as a town much quicker,” she said.
“There are hundreds of thousands and I think there could be up to a million victims of exploitation nationwide, including right now. Girls in the process of being groomed,” she said.
“I have met people from all over the country.
“If you just think we know at least four big cases each with a couple of thousand each in smallest towns. It's extraordinary.
“I was talking to sixth formers on Monday and all of the girls there had either personal or direct experience of people trying to manipulate them through sexting. You have online grooming.
“It's seriously a nationwide issue.
This week she met David Cameron to ask for funds to help support Rotherham's victims and plead for a taskforce.
“I want a national taskforce because unless we get that, what's happened in Rochdale, what's happened here, will just go on. The nightmare will go on.
Sarah Champion became Rotherham MP in 2012 after facing a protest walkout by members furious an Asian councillor had not been selected.
She says that attitude was indicative of the problems in the town.
Sending a message to the victims of abuse, she is trying to help, she said: “I'm here for you and you are amazing for what you have done to help save this town.
“I think we need to remember there are victims across all the different communities.
"It is the most hideous form of abuse because victims generally believe the person loves them - then it's like a double abuse.”
“Crime of silence” leads to few children coming forward about abuse
by Elizabeth Espinosa
In 2014, about 40,000 cases of child abuse were reported across the state, according to the Children's Advocacy Centers of Texas.
Almost 2,000 of those victims received help from Estrella's House in Edinburg.
The large numbers of physical, sexual and emotional abuse cases are being reported not only across the nation but also in Texas.
There could still be thousands of cases that won't see the light of day, according to the advocacy center.
Workers at the child advocacy center said those numbers may be even higher since abuse often goes unreported.
Victoria Medina, Executive Director for Children's Advocacy Center of Hidalgo County, said Estrella's House helps children recover from physical and emotional abuse daily.
She recalls when a 5-year-old boy covered himself up with sand during a session.
He told the center he wanted to know what it felt like to be buried shortly after witnessing his mother's shooting death.
It's one of many children's stories being told at the center.
“This is really what we call a crime of silence. Only one in 10 children tell. That's staggering what potentially could be the numbers of children that have not made an outcry," Medina said.
In fact, one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18-years-old, according to the child advocacy center.
Medina told Action 4 News when abuse goes unreported it can lead to a chain cycle of abuse, drug use, and health issues.
That's why it is important for people to look out for signs of abuse and report it.
“You , me, any of us have the duty, the obligation to report,” Medina said. “I always tell groups not only do we have the legal obligation, but we have the moral obligation to report."
Ninety percent of the time, victims of sexual abuse know the perpetrator, the advocacy center explained.
Medina said that's why it's important to talk to your kids about good touches and bad touches and urge them to speak up if something is not right.
"We need to protect our most vulnerable citizens," she said.
There are signs of abuse you can look out for:
- Unexplained injuries
- Changes in behavior
- Returning to earlier behavior
- Fear of going home
- Changes in eating, sleeping and school performance
- Lack of personal hygiene
- Risk taking behavior
- Inappropriate sexual behavior
Estrella's House opened its doors in 2000 after Estrella Rojas was kidnapped and murdered by her mother's boyfriend.
Estrella's mother and boyfriend got into an altercation that July 2000.
The toddler's mother called police claiming her boyfriend harmed her daughter, according to the advocacy center.
If you have any questions or concerns, you can call the center at (956) 287-9754.
You can also visit the center's website at: http://cachidalgo.org
Columbia County girls, arrested in shooting death of brother, released from juvenile detention
by Eileen Kelley
LAKE CITY | Two Columbia County sisters arrested for the shooting death of their 16-year-old brother last month were released from juvenile detention.
State Attorney Jeff Siegmeister said no charges will be filed against the 11-year-old.
The girl along with her sister, Misty “Ariel” Kornegay, 15, were arrested on premeditated murder charges, even though the 11-year-old hid in a closet with her 3-year-old sister when Ariel allegedly told police she killed Damien Kornegay while he slept.
“(The 11-year-old) is more a victim in this tragic event than she is a perpetrator of it,” said Cliff Wilson, the court-appointed public defender from the Regional Conflict Office in a prepared statement following Thursday's court hearing.
Neither of the Kornegay girls were in court.
“The American Justice System is not a “one-size-fits-all” system,” said Wilson. “We give our prosecutors wide discretion to interpret the specific details of each individual case. The decision not to charge (the 11-year-old) shows the State Attorney's Office exercised their prosecutorial discretion with thoughtfulness and compassion. Today, justice was served.”
Typically, juveniles cannot be detained for more than 21 days without charges being filed. In this case, Siegmeister asked for another week to determine what ,if any, charges would be filed against the sisters.
That deadline is now up.
“…No formal charges of any nature will be filed in this case as to this child,” Siegmeister said of the 11-year-old. “In reaching this decision, I considered the facts of the case, the mental and emotional status of the child and the overall familial history and dynamics in reaching this decision.”
While he made his intentions on the younger girl clear both in court and in a prepared statement Thursday, Siegmesiter left open the possibility of charging the older girl.
He set a tentative court date of March 12, should charges be filed.
Siegmeister's struggle over charges and the overall case has been apparent over the past month.
From the time she was 9, authorities said Ariel Kornegay suffered years of sexual abuse by her uncle and was routinely locked away in a sparse room with just a blanket and a bucket for her toilet needs. Police reports indicate that she had been locked away for as many as 21 days at time. He uncle is now serving a life prison sentence.
In her parents' absence, Ariel's brother typically carried out the banishment and confinement to her room.
The girls' parents, Keith, 37, and Misty Kornegay, 36, also have been arrested on child neglect charges. They were released from jail Tuesday after posting $20,000 bonds. Other charges could be pending against the parents.
On the day of the Jan. 5 shooting, Ariel talked her sister into unlocking the door when she heard her brother snoring. She then broke into her parents' bedroom, grabbed a gun, loaded it, and shot her brother, police said.
Until Thursday, the girls were held in detention facilities in Ocala and Gainesville.
The 11- and 15- year-olds are not going to released to their parents nor their maternal grandparents – at least not now – said Paul Pittman, the girls' grandfather.
Pittman said he and his wife, Jo Pittman, have asked the Florida Department of Children and Families to be allowed to care for the 11-year-old and the youngest child, who is 3.
That hasn't happened.
“The tragedy is the aftermath,” Paul Pittman said. “This is a tragedy.”
Pittman said his step-daughter and her husband are quite distraught.
“They are hurting real bad, not only for the loss of their son – their only son – but the loss of every one of them. Can you imagine what that 3-year-old is thinking right now?”
A dependency hearing regarding the emergency placement of the 3-year-old is scheduled Friday, Pittman said.
Pitmann said Ariel and her 11-year-old sister are in foster care.
Police reports say that when they arrived at the house after the shooting, the 3-year-old girl had been left alone with a deceased Damien Kornegay for several hours.
The child repeatedly said, “He's dead. He's dead.”
Children's Hunger Born From Mothers' Trauma
by Rachel Ewing
The roots of children's hunger today may stretch back, in part, to the past childhood trauma of their caregivers. Evidence amassed over the past two decades has demonstrated that stress and deprivation during childhood have lifelong consequences on health, as well as school and job performance.
A new small-scale study from Drexel University now suggests a strong relationship between exposure to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and household food insecurity among mothers of young children.
“This is brutal stuff,” said Mariana Chilton, PhD, an associate professor and director of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities in the Drexel University School of Public Health, who was lead author of the study now published in the journal Public Health Nutrition. “The causes and realities of hunger and poverty are complicated and difficult to unravel. We are seeing one component of them is that, for many people, experiences of hunger have trauma and adversity at their core."
This Childhood Stress study, led by Chilton with several Drexel graduates in the School of Public Health, used both quantitative and qualitative methods to gather information about 31 Philadelphia mothers' experience with deprivation, abuse, violence and neglect, as well as their experiences with hunger, education and employment and more.
The findings, Chilton and colleagues say, show that trauma and chronic stress are a largely overlooked part of the picture of why one in five American households with young children live with food insecurity. They say it indicates a greater need for public assistance programs to provide support for families' emotional needs in addition to their material needs.
While the team's quantitative surveys were small in number, the results still point clearly to a value in considering adverse childhood experiences as a contributor to food insecurity. Higher scores on the adverse childhood experiences survey, for instance, were significantly associated with the severity of participants' household food insecurity.
In interviews, the study participants relayed their perceptions of how emotional and physical abuse in childhood affected their lives, including physical health, school performance and ability to maintain employment—all factors directly linked to household income and ability to afford enough healthy food for their own children.
“If a person always says you're nothing; you're nothing. Then for a while I used to think I'm not anything,” said 22-year-old Tamira (a pseudonym), a study participant who experienced abandonment by her mother at age five, then abuse and rape by members of her caregiver family at age six, and was emotionally and physically abused by her grandmother who took her in at the age of seven. Tamira experienced homelessness in her teens after her grandmother kicked her out, but eventually still graduated from high school. In her interview she described a connection between her childhood struggles with physical and emotional abuse and her ability to provide for her young daughter today: “So maybe that's how I don't have a job, because I'm thinking I'm nothing. I'm not ever going to have a job. I'm not going to be [anything], like my grandma said. [...] Because I can't find a job I cannot feed my daughter. How am I supposed to? I cannot buy her what she needs.”
Other study participants described experiences of physical neglect, household drug abuse, exposure to violence at home and in their communities and other adverse experiences in childhood. Many said they felt these experiences affected their lifelong abilities to succeed—although many simultaneously expressed strong feelings of resilience and hope to change the story for their own young children.
“This study has been difficult for us, because examining the relationship between food insecurity and adverse experiences in childhood may simply add more stigma to families already stigmatized and blamed for the hardships that they face,” said Molly Knowles, a Drexel MPH graduate, research coordinator at the center, and a co-author of the study. “It's important to be clear that childhood adversity is one factor interrelated with many others, including low wages, insufficiently and inequitably funded education systems, racism and discrimination, lack of safe and affordable housing and an inadequate safety net.”
The researchers recommend that those working to address poverty and hunger in children should include emotional health of parents and caregivers in a more comprehensive approach to policy and services. Such an approach should include ensuring parents and caregivers have safe places to live, access to behavioral health support and opportunities to develop positive social relationships. They also recommend providing public assistance programs that recognize widespread exposure to trauma and violence, offering additional support to participants with behavioral health barriers to employment, and implementing programs in ways that avoid re-traumatization.
Child-abuse calls go unanswered as new regulations cause personnel problems for Pa. agency
by Jan Murphy
Calls to the state's ChildLine to report suspected child abuse are going unanswered by state employees. Others working for another ChildLine unit are deluged with applications for child abuse clearances.
State employees assigned to these tasks are forced to work overtime, as much as five extra hours a day for weeks on end, in an effort to catch up.
And even with the mandatory overtime, clearances are taking longer to get done than the 14 days the state promises.
Evidence is piling up that while Pennsylvania might want to be a national leader in child protection in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal, its systems are not equipped to handle the workload required to put 21 new child protection measures into effect.
Particularly burdensome is a new law that took effect on Dec. 31 that expands the categories of people who must obtain child abuse clearances and state and federal criminal background checks to almost anyone who comes in contact with children at work or in a volunteer capacity.
The number of applications for clearances, which prove that a person is not a known perpetrator of child abuse, have tripled since the law took effect, some ChildLine employees said.
One child protection advocacy group says it is fielding several hundred phone calls and emails a day from people who are encountering problems related to reporting child abuse or getting clearances for workers and volunteers.
"This is obviously a very, very large transition," said Angela Liddle, executive director of the Harrisburg area-based Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance, which focuses on educating people about recognizing and reporting signs of child abuse.
"But we're very concerned because as we are educating mandated reporters and we are encouraging people to make reports [of suspected child abuse], it's not acceptable when they can't get the reports through. We have a lot of concern around that."
On Tuesday afternoon, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services admitted some changes need to be made and said DHS is in the process of making them. That department is charged with operating ChildLine - the state's hotline for reporting suspected abuse - and with processing child abuse clearance applications and requests for federal criminal history checks.
Gov. Tom Wolf's press secretary Jeff Sheridan made it clear that the problems with ChildLine were inherited from former Gov. Tom Corbett's administration. He said on Tuesday Secretary-designate Ted Dallas is "working to provide greater staffing resources in order to keep up with the demand so it is a priority."
Just hours after those interviews, ChildLine employees said they received a notice from Deputy Secretary Cathy Utz indicating help was on the way.
It indicated that 30 new permanent positions were being added along with bringing in as many as 19 temporary staffers, plus retired state employees on a short-term basis, to help with clearing the backlog and answering the calls coming in on ChildLine.
That was far more than the nine people, plus some temporary employees, that department spokeswoman Kait Gillis told PennLive earlier on Tuesday that the department was going to hire.
To get an idea of the magnitude of the workload created by this new background check law, the department received 63,000 clearance requests in January. A new computer system that allows people without any history of suspected child abuse to obtain their clearance over the Internet handled 29,000 of those requests. That left the remaining 34,000 for the fewer than 24 employees in the ChildLine unit that process the clearances to do the rest.
Gillis suggested that the backlog of clearance requests will be reduced once more people become accustomed to using the automated system.
The same goes with educating people about the appropriate number to call when they are looking for technical support or answers to questions about the clearances. Those calls should be placed to 1-877-343-0494, not to ChildLine (1-800-932-0313), which is supposed to be dedicated to receiving reports of suspected child abuse.
Employees who process the clearance requests interviewed last week and earlier this week said they are feeling like hostages to their workplace as they are forced to work overtime to whittle down the mounting backlog.
Week after week since August, employees in the ChildlLine Verification Unit said they have received notices telling them that they are required to work mandatory overtime, often as much as five hours a day during the week and 7.5 hours on weekends.
Three employees of this unit and one former employee who now works for another state agency interviewed by PennLive said their family life has suffered along with their health.
They talk of co-workers who work a full 7.5 hour shift, go to a second job, and then return to the office to fulfill their mandatory overtime hours. They mentioned that one employee who lives an hour and a half away decided to sleep in the restroom instead of driving home in the snow one night so the employee could be sure to be at work for the next day's shift. They also spoke of the predicament this creates for single parents who work there.
"At what point do people's health and mindset become an important issue to other people. Even the supervisor is exhausted," said one employee, who like the others asked to remain anonymous out of job security concerns. "Outside citizens who I tell this to are saying this is crazy. This is their tax dollars. Trust me, I don't want it. I want to feel sane again."
They also said they worried about mistakes on these important background checks that might be made by weary employees.
When told of employees' concern, Gillis said, "The quality of work is always on the radar of management but the increase in staffing levels will hopefully address these concerns."
The notice from Utz on Tuesday acknowledged that their concerns were being heard and thanked the employees for their "continued hard work" through this transition.
Along with making their concerns known to the media, employees reached out to their union for help. An official from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 13 said the union was looking into the matter.
The union's executive director, David Fillman, said the issues this unit is dealing with is the price that is paid when a government agency gets too lean.
"We're in a position in state government where as you recall, Governor Corbett said he reduced the complement to the least amount of state employees in 50 years," Fillman said. "That gets us into these situations where mandatory overtime becomes the rule as opposed to the exception and it puts a hardship on people and their families."
Jason Kutulakis, a Carlisle attorney who was a member of the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection, said perhaps reallocating money already in the system to create a secure automated way for employers or organizations to obtain child abuse clearances on employees or volunteers might be a better answer to hiring more state employees.
Still, he finds it perplexing that the department wasn't better prepared to handle the increased volumes it is now experiencing. He said it had 18 months, if not longer, from when the task force completed its work to prepare for the legislative changes.
"I'm not sure why we are having this discussion now," he said.
Local police chiefs call for funding to reduce child abuse and neglect, prevent crime
by Michelle Richards
MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn and Janesville Police Chief David Moore joined the national group Fight Crime: Invest in Kids on Wednesday to release a report that calls for the renewal of a federal-state program that would allow young moms and dads to get in-home help to become better parents. Funding for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program is set to run out March 31.
Betsi Smith with the Nurse-Family Partnership Program in Kenosha County explained the education and support programs parents recieve.
"Each home visitors goal is to provide education and support to the mothers begginning early in pregnancy and continuing on until the baby's turn," Smith explained. "In addition to education and support, we screen for depession, mental health concerns, abuse conerns, and help to connect them to community resources.
The report, "Orange is Not Your Color," documents the role of home visiting in reducing convictions of women and their daughters and cost savings to society.
"We'd rather see young women in caps and gowns than in orange jumpsuits," said Janesville Police Chief David Moore.
Research shows that investing in kids early on helps prevent crime in the future.
"If we help young children and help young mothers, it avoids the path to abuse and neglect," explained Chief Moore. "We know that there is a connection between those children who are abused and neglected. [They] go on to abuse themselves."
Milwaukee police Chief Ed Flynn said investing in strong families is the single most important thing that can be done to prevent crime.
"Strong and healthy families are the bedrock of crime prevention."
The report says there are more than 200,000 women incarcerated in the U.S., and because nearly two-thirds of the women in state prisons are mothers. Over 1,300 Wisconsin women are currently incarcerated and over 12,200 are on probation or parole.
If funding for the MIECHV program were to continue, Moore believes it would reduce crime and free up police officers so they can focus on other cases.
"Policing in America has really come upon some tough times. I can tell you that my police officer staffing here in Janesville is back to our 1998 levels."
Moore and Flynn have met with U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Janesville). Flynn commented on the role that Ryan can have in advancing the program.
Bill Introduced That Would Create Task Force Addressing Child Sexual Abuse
by Leslie A. Rubin
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Several questions are being asked on the heels of a rape investigation at Capital High School and charges being filed against the school's principal for allegedly not reporting the incident soon enough.
Many parents are wondering what's being done to ensure their child's safety at school, and what more can be done to educate teachers and other school leaders about the proper way to handle sexual abuse and assault situations.
At the state capitol, House Bill 2527 and Senate Bill 387, or "Erin's Law," has been introduced. It was introduced last session, but did not pass.
Those spearheading the bill hope two recent incidents in the state will shine a line on how much they say it is needed.
In the last three weeks, two West Virginia educators have been charged with crimes and accused of failing to report alleged sexual assaults to police.
Braxton County High School band director Allen Heath and Capital High School principal Clinton Giles both face 30 days in jail, if convicted.
"There is confusion out there, so I think clarification and education is really where it's at," says Emily Chittenden-Laird, the executive director of the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network.
She is one of the supporters of Erin's Law, that is named after sexual abuse survivor Erin Merryn.
The law, which has been passed in 19 other states, would create a State Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children. The task force would make recommendations to adopt and implement policies addressing sexual abuse of children that may include age appropriate curriculum for students and training for school personnel on child sexual abuse.
It would be made up of teachers, prosecutors, lawmakers, social workers, and victims, just to name a few.
"Letting the community know, letting the teachers know that if this happens, here's a place you can to get some education on how to work with that child. It doesn't hurt whatsoever. The last thing we want to do is if a child is saying there's an issue, blow them off, make them not feel important and make their voice not able to be heard," says Senator Chris Walters, who is one of the bill's sponsors.
In 2012, the sexual abuse scandal involving former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky played a role in the state's passage of a bill that toughened child abuse reporting laws.
Kanawha County school officials have said in previous interviews, that the law gave them 48 hours to report, but Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Chuck Miller says that in sexual assault cases, the report must be immediate.
"I absolutely feel that education on appropriateness of when to report and how important it is to report immediately would have made a difference," says Chittenden-Laird.
Local organizations are helping child sexual abuse victims heal
by Makenzie O'Keefe
MESA COUNTY, Colo. -- A Clifton man was arrested and charged with 100 felony child sexual assault charges. According to an arrest affidavit, the 24-year-old admits he was a victim of sexual assault. In Mesa County, more than 300 children are subjected to sexual or physical abuse each year, and child abuse advocates say it's important to get those children the help they need as soon as possible.
The Western Slope Center for Children says that in 2014 they saw an increase in abuse cases by 8 percent, as they had 358 children come through their center. Out of that number, they said that 88 to 90 percent of those cases were child sexual abuse cases.
"We're really trying to beef up our outreach efforts in the community, and making sure people know one how to recognize the signs and symptoms of child abuse, and most importantly how to report that," said Melissa Lytle, the director of the Western Slope Center For Children.
The program's director says the impacts of abuse long term on children is substantial, and can affect a child's future relationships. According the center, 91 percent of their victims served in 2014 were abused by someone they knew. This is something the Court Appointed Special Advocates says parents should be teaching their children.
"What is most important to know is that the children being sexually abused, most often time by people they know,” Janet Rowland with CASA explained. “It's not stranger danger with some of the things we are hearing about."
Both organizations provide mental health services, like support groups to give those children a voice. The Western Slope Center for children also provides a neutral child and family friendly facility where kids can come to be interviewed, as well as receive medical exams if needed.
The director of the Western Slope Center for Children says the reason they've seen an increase in more cases over the past year, could be due to the fact that more people are reporting abuse. To report suspicious behavior you can contact local authorities, law enforcement or the Mesa County Department of Human Services.
Mom didn't report sex abuse by son to keep monthly check
by Jake Wasikowski
Omaha, NE -- Prosecutors say a mother didn't tell authorities her son was sexually assaulting her other 3 children, and continued to put them in danger.
A 31-year-old mother is accused of knowing one of her children sexually assaulted his siblings, and doing nothing about it. KMTV Action 3 News is not identifying the woman to protect her children, but she is charged with two counts of felony child abuse.
Police say the woman's 12-year-old son sexually assaulted his younger sisters and 4-year-old brother. The abuse is alleged to have happened from October 2014 – January 2015.
She never reported the abuse but former friend Latasha Collier, who spent a lot of time with the kids, did call CPS.
The mother apparently told collier that she wouldn't call child protective services because she didn't want to lose a monthly disability check she received for the 12-year-old that was allegedly committing the acts.
"I would never say no woman deserves her child but when you let your son do this to your youngest children and you blame it on not having a check, you deserve to never ever be close to a kid again," Collier explained.
The children were taken to Project Harmony and interviewed. They told investigators the mother knew about the touching but she would say "whatever goes on in my house stays in my house."
Court documents reveal the 12-year-old previously abused his sisters, and was taken away from the home but was returned to his mother in September 2014. The children are now in DHS custody.
The mother was released from jail on her own recognizance. She was not home for comment Wednesday. KMTV contacted her attorney who didn't want to comment.
If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison.
Project Harmony says that a national study revealed about 70% of sexual abuse witnessed by someone goes unreported.
If you would like to report child abuse please call the Abuse/Neglect Hotline at 1-800-652-1999. Project Harmony wants people to know that it's not your responsibility to investigate the all the facts of any potential abuse situation. The call center receives about 7,000 calls a month and it's up to them to decide wither additional investigation is needed.
Police resolve on sex abuse crimes welcome
by The Canberra Times
ACT Policing has launched, with some fanfare, an operation to investigate allegations of sexual abuse at institutions in Canberra as long ago as 1951.
As part of the launch, an open letter was published online this week inviting individuals to report incidents of historical sexual abuse, whether as victims or witnesses to such crimes. The letter reassures potential complainants that their matters will be overseen by a "small team of highly trained members who have extensive experience in investigating historical sexual abuse matters".
Operation Attest, as it has been called, is the outcome of amendments passed in the ACT Legislative Assembly in October 2013 repealing two statutory limitation periods relating to certain historic sexual offences committed between 1951-85. Those amendments, in turn, are an outcome of revelations at the long-running Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that victims of abuse have frequently been prevented from pursuing criminal charges against their abusers by statutes of limitations in the states and territories.
In the ACT's case, criminal proceedings for some sexual offences, including indecent assault of a male, had to be started within 12 months of the alleged offence.
There are sound legal and moral reasons for having statutes of limitation on sex crimes, the main one being that where there is delay, "the whole quality of justice deteriorates". That is, memories fade, witnesses die or disappear, and documents are lost, meaning the prospects of a fair trial are considerably reduced. But as the proceedings of the royal commission have frequently demonstrated, many victims of institutional sexual abuse were rendered mute by the trauma of their abuse. Feelings of confusion, shame or embarrassment are common enough reactions in sexual abuse victims, but these can be crippling if the victims were juveniles, as so many were. Susceptibility to family pressure or threats of reprisal also tend to be more common among younger victims.
Because the royal commission was intended to highlight the injustices done to tens of thousands of people abused in institutional settings and to ensure, as far as possible, that such crimes are never repeated, it is appropriate that statutes of limitations have been lifted to enable adult survivors to seek justice if they want it. The Commonwealth has encouraged it, although the states and territories have needed little encouragement.
Police forces have been reasonably quick to fall into line with community expectations regarding legal redress, and this is particularly welcome. Many of the institutions of state were conspicuously absent when the worst excesses of institutional abuse were being committed. The police, as the instigators of the removal of children from their families, contributed to the potential for abuse in various state or church-run institutions. Indeed, in some circumstances, they concluded informal arrangements with the authorities running those institutions that were in direct conflict with legal requirements to report child abuse. Small wonder, then, that ACT Policing should opt to name its official investigation of sexual abuse complaints here in Canberra Operation Attest.
Society's attitudes to institutional care have changed markedly since the darkest days of abuse. Victims are now accorded sensitivity and respect, and many of the institutions under whose authority and auspices they were abused have made apologies and implemented new regimens for responding to allegations of abuse. That said, some victims maintain that certain institutions, the Catholic church among them, have yet to claim thorough ownership of their past crimes and misdemeanours. These have included keeping abuse cases in-house, downplaying their significance, and moving the perpetrators elsewhere when their positions became untenable. The attitude of some of Melbourne's orthodox Jewish community to abuse at Yeshivah College – the current focus of the royal commission – suggest that people continue to have difficulty confronting the wickedness of sexual abuse.
Whether all of those people who contact the team at Operation Attest obtain the justice they feel they are owed is to be doubted. The passage of time will make successful prosecutions difficult. But the fact that it is now open for victims to pursue justice and to not be blocked by institutional indifference and inappropriate laws, and to have their stories heard in the process, will give some recognition and comfort.
Shame of grooming cover-up: Cynical councillors could be going to jail after report says they systematically hid truth
by Martin Robinson and Steph Cockroft and James Tozer and Jaya Narain and Daniel Martin
A criminal investigation has been launched today after a damning new report found Rotherham Council is 'not fit for purpose' and still 'in denial' about the 1,400 young girls who were abused in the town over 16 years.
Investigators concluded girls as young as 11 were left to be abused by mainly Asian men between 1997 and 2013 because the council's staff and politicians feared being labelled racist.
The council also had a 'deep-rooted' culture of sexism and bullying where it would 'shoot the messenger' and sought to force whistleblowers into silence or pay them off, it was said.
Inspectors also found the council 'goes to some lengths to cover up information' and said that children in the town were still at risk of abuse.
The report said South Yorkshire Police also failed in its role to protect victims, turning a blind eye to their plight and in many cases holding them responsible.
Police were said to be aware that a victim was 'raped with a broken bottle' and some girls were 'ordered to kiss perpetrators' feet at gun point' but never took any action.
In one case an officer told a victim: 'Don't worry- you aren't the first girl to be raped by XX and you won't be the last'.
The council cabinet was forced to resign today after the shocking report laid bare their failings.
Now its disgraced former Labour leadership face the threat of serious criminal charges over claims in the report that evidence of abuse was deliberately obscured over a number of years.
Possible charges are understood to include misconduct in a public office and perverting the course of justice, both of which carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
The National Crime Agency has said it will examine a number of potentially criminal matters identified in the report.
Today Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announced new elections in 2016 to replace the council's 'wholly dysfunctional' political leadership and so the town can have a 'fresh start'.
The devastating 160-page report by Louise Casey today revealed that:
Reports of abuse were ignored by the council because it was 'in denial' about the crimes
Staff and politicians failed to tackle abuse by Asian gangs 'for fear of being seen as racist'
Senior councillors bullied and suppressed staff who highlighted that the abusers were ‘predominantly' Pakistani
Whistleblowers were silenced with pay-offs or 'bullied out of the organisation' if they refused to stay silent
Officers ignored warnings from a youth project in town about habitual abuse of children in the town and then shut it down
There was a 'a pervading culture of sexism, bullying and silencing debate' at the council
The council failed children and is still failing them and has 'taken more care of its reputation than it has its of its most needy'
Victims were denied support and justice as social services and police blamed each other for lack of action
Even after the grooming scandal was exposed, a serving councillor told the new inquiry he believed the Asian men accused of grooming girls for sex had in reality been ‘fooled' by girls aged 14 and 15 whose clothing and make-up made them ‘look more adult'
One whistleblower branded the council a ‘machine' which ‘simply exists to cover up and destroy'
Louise Casey, who is director-general for troubled families at the government's Communities Department, was asked to investigate the council by Mr Pickles.
The minister told MPs this afternoon he will impose early elections in 2016 on Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council and proposes to send in commissioners to take over the responsibilities of the council's cabinet in the wake of her report.
In the hard-hitting report, she highlighted how serving councillors were still querying the mathematics behind the figure of abuse victims, with officials complaining the authority shouldn't ‘roll over and accept the report'.
Branding its culture one of ‘bullying, sexism, suppression and misplaced political correctness', she said the authority – which in the past eight years has never had fewer than 50 Labour members – had a ‘deep-rooted' culture of ‘suppressing bad news' and ‘goes to some length to cover up information and to silence whistleblowers'.
Whistleblowers who tried to raise concerns lost their jobs, and the report also said police officers often did not seem to believe the girls, their families or those who reported problems, and did not treat them as victims.
One former police officer said: ‘They were running scared of the race issue… there is no doubt that in Rotherham, this has been a problem with Pakistani men for years and years. People were scared of being called racist.'
But it was Mrs Casey's finding that Rotherham Council remained ‘in denial' over the scandal – and the description of the 1,400 figure as a ‘conservative' estimate – which spread political shockwaves yesterday and prompted a dramatic Commons statement in which Mr Pickles said ministers were effectively taking over the troubled authority.
Mr Pickles will send in five commissioners to ‘provide new leadership', taking over the role of the ‘current wholly dysfunctional cabinet'. The commissioners will appoint the council's chief executive and other senior officials.
Mr Pickles said: ‘It is because the council is so seriously failing the people of Rotherham, and particularly some of the most vulnerable in that borough, that I am proposing to take this truly exceptional step. My aim will be to return these responsibilities to local democratic control as rapidly as possible.'
A source close to the Communities Secretary said: ‘In terms of scope and scale, this is unprecedented.' It is expected Mr Pickles will call local elections in the town early next year.
Rotherham Council has 14 days to respond, after which the commissioners will be appointed.
During the Commons debate, Ukip MP Mark Reckless suggested that Labour's single-party rule in Rotherham had contributed to the abuse – and said it was only since last year's election of ten Ukip councillors that there had been any opposition at all.
‘Even if single-party Labour control may not have caused what happened, it did allow it,' he said.
It came as it emerged a corrupt police officer and two local politicians - including one serving councillor - have today been accused of having sex with abuse victims.
The abuse scandal in Rotherham is considered the worst in Britain's history with experts estimating that 1,400 girls fell into the clutches of paedophiles.
Many of the victims, often from children's homes or troubled backgrounds, were plied with alcohol and drugs before being used for sex or pimped to others.
'Almost all' of the perpetrators are believed to be part of predatory Pakistani gangs, with victims claiming they were at times 'raped once a day' for many years, an inquiry by Professor Alexis Jay found last year.
The controversy that followed the publication of the Jay Report led to Rotherham council leader Roger Stone leaving his post.
The most high profile resignation was that of South Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright, who was the Rotherham councillor overseeing children's services between 2005 and 2010.
Both men refused to be interviewed by Louise Casey.
Today, in her inspection report, Ms Casey said: 'Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council (RMBC) is not fit for purpose.
'The council's culture is unhealthy: bullying, sexism, suppression and misplaced "political correctness" have cemented its failures. The council is currently incapable of tackling its weaknesses, without a sustained intervention.'
Ms Casey fully endorsed the findings of Professor Alexis Jay's report which caused huge controversy when it was published in August last year.
She said the council 'demonstrates a resolute denial of what has happened in the borough'.
Ms Casey said her inspection team found 'a council in denial about serious and on-going safeguarding failures' and 'an archaic culture of sexism, bullying and discomfort around race'.
She said it had failed to address past weaknesses in children's care and had 'ineffective leadership and management, including political leadership'.
The report highlighted 'a culture of covering up uncomfortable truths, silencing whistleblowers and paying off staff rather than dealing with difficult issues.'
It said: 'RMBC goes to some length to cover up information and to silence whistleblowers.'
Ms Casey said in her report: 'Terrible things happened in Rotherham and on a significant scale.
'Children were sexually exploited by men who came largely from the Pakistani heritage community.
'Not enough was done to acknowledge this, to stop it happening, to protect children, to support victims and to apprehend perpetrators.'
She said: 'Upon arriving in Rotherham, these I thought were the uncontested facts. My job was to conduct an inspection and decide whether the council was now fit for purpose. However this was not the situation I encountered when I reached Rotherham.
'Instead, I found a council in denial. They denied that there had been a problem, or if there had been, that it was as big as was said. If there was a problem they certainly were not told - it was someone else's job. They were no worse than anyone else. They had won awards. The media were out to get them.'
After the report was published, campaign groups said it was a 'welcome stop' towards recognising the council's current and historic failures.
Anne Longfield, chief executive of 4Children, said: 'Louise Casey's report into the abject failure of Rotherham council to protect their most vulnerable children only serves to highlight why we need immediate action - she has concluded the council is not fit for purpose.
'This shocking report is a welcome step towards recognising the myriad of past and present failures and ensuring this sort of abuse can never happen again.
'While bringing those responsible for such a dereliction of duty to justice, we cannot forget the reality that exploitation is ongoing in other areas of the country.'
She also called for an inquiry, saying: 'In light of this, 4Children today reaffirms its previous call for a time limited inquiry, led by the Prime Minister, into child sexual exploitation across the UK, recognising the scale and importance of the issue, so that ongoing child sexual exploitation can be addressed without delay.
'Justice Lowell Goddard's inquiry is vital, but must not detract from the urgency of preventing further abuse of vulnerable children.'
Karen Froggatt, locality director for the charity Victim Support, added: 'Six months ago, when the horrific extent of the child abuse in Rotherham was revealed, we said "never again".
'As a charity that is supporting the survivors of that abuse, I am shocked this new report says children in Rotherham are still at risk because the council is not "fit for purpose".
'We are independent of the police, the council and the other agencies found to be wanting by these inquiries.
'We will continue to work with survivors of child exploitation and abuse, and we are here to listen to anyone concerned about a child or young person they suspect is being groomed.'
In the report, Ms Casey also devoted a whole section to the council's 'denial' of the problem - even highlighting its scepticism about the findings of the Jay Report itself.
She said: 'When inspectors commenced work in Rotherham, we were struck by the overwhelming denial of what Professor Jay set out in her report. This attitude was so prevalent that we had to go back through many of the aspects of her work in order to satisfy ourselves that the council had no grounds upon which further action could be delayed.'
And she said: 'When asked, 70 per cent of the current Rotherham councillors we spoke to (including those in the Cabinet) disputed Professor Jay's findings.'
Ms Casey also criticised many of those interviewed for doubting the 1,400 figure highlighted in the Jay Report as at least the number of children involved.
She said: 'We have concluded that the 1,400 figure is a conservative one and that RMBC and South Yorkshire Police (where some also dispute the figures) would do better to concentrate on taking effective action rather than seeking to continue a debate about the numbers.'
Ms Casey said the council 'could not deal sensibly' with the issue of race.
'Indeed, some councillors held racist or wholly outdated or inappropriate views,' she added.
'Many of these views were known about but not challenged.'
Ms Casey added: 'Frontline staff were clearly anxious about being branded racist.
'Whether there was an element of self-censorship or otherwise, the impact of this was clear. The council was not dealing with a serious problem right before its eyes.
'Certainly, this was not limited to frontline officers. There was also a clear perception among senior officers that the ethnic dimension of CSE in Rotherham was taboo.'
She said: 'Rotherham's suppression of these uncomfortable issues and its fear of being branded racist has done a disservice to the Pakistani heritage community as well as the wider community. It has prevented discussion and effective action to tackle the problem.
'This has allowed perpetrators to remain at large, has let victims down and, perversely, has allowed the far right to try and exploit the situation.
'These may have been unintended consequences but the impact remains the same and reaches into the present day.'
Commenting on the published report, Birmingham City Council chief executive Mark Rogers, who also represents 1,300 chief executives and senior strategic managers as part of Solace, said: 'Today's report makes upsetting and troubling reading.
'For too long, key agencies in Rotherham did not properly safeguard vulnerable children in the borough. Abuse was not tackled and concerns were ignored or even suppressed.
'The Society is committed to playing its part in tackling the scourge of Child Sexual Exploitation.
'To do this, we must always listen to children, take their concerns seriously and act upon them.
'We must also be clear that children can never consent to their own abuse. Anyone who does not understand these principles has no place holding a position of responsibility and authority.'
He added: 'In these exceptional circumstances, it is right that the Government takes the intervention steps it has set out.'
Rotherham MP Sarah Champion said the report was ‘disgusting', adding that every page had a ‘new horror on it'.
And John Mann, the Labour MP for Bassetlaw who called for Rotherham to be taken over last year, said: ‘This is without any question the tip of the iceberg.
‘There are more Rotherhams and more will come to light. The same problem has been going on across the country, with people ignoring children at risk.'
Shocking attitude of current Rotherham councillor who blamed teenage abuse victims for wearing 'modern dress and make-up' and 'fooling' Asian men
A serving Rotherham councillor suggested teenage victims were to blame for their own exploitation because their 'modern dress' and make-up 'fooled' Asian men.
According to the report, the unnamed councillor - who still sits on Rotherham Council - said the girls tricked their abusers into thinking they were adults by 'the way they make up'.
The shocking comments were highlighted in the report as an example of a 'wholly outdated' attitude which meant councillors could not deal 'sensibly' with the issue.
The councillor had also added that British Asians felt they had been 'hit' by Jay and suggested the lack of arrests could mean they had been wrongly targetted.
The unnamed councillor said: 'The girls, the way they dress, they don't look 14-15 years old, the way they make up – they look more adult.
'They go into clubs, get served in bars, It's very difficult for me, very modern dress…..They have been fooled definitely [men in Asian Community]'.
They added: 'The British Asians. If you have identified so many perpetrators, why have there been so little arrests? They feel British Asians have been hit by Jay.'
In a section entitled The 'Race Issue', Ms Casey described how inspectors heard a 'range of views' from interviewees 'that caused concern' in regards to race and culture.
She said the 'racist, wholly outdated or inappropriate views' expressed by councillors in the report reinforced the conclusion that they 'could not deal sensibly with the issue.'
Political correctness and fear of appearing racist stopped council speaking out against Pakistani community
The sexual abuse of about 1,400 children at the hands of Asian men went largely unreported for 16 years because staff feared they would be seen as racist, the report said today.
Children as young as 11 were trafficked, beaten, and raped by large numbers of men between 1997 and 2013 but victims were denied justice because of misplaced 'political correctness', it was said.
One current council officer said politicians 'wanted to use any other word than Asian males. They were terrified of [the impact on] community cohesion'.
Another public servant told investigators: 'My experience of council as it was and is – Asian men very powerful, and the white British are very mindful of racism and frightened of racism allegations so there is no robust challenge. They had massive influence in the town'.
The report said: 'Frontline staff were clearly anxious about being branded racist.
'Whether there was an element of self-censorship or otherwise, the impact of this was clear. The council was not dealing with a serious problem right before its eyes.
'Certainly, this was not limited to frontline officers. There was also a clear perception among senior officers that the ethnic dimension of CSE in Rotherham was taboo.'
She said: 'Rotherham's suppression of these uncomfortable issues and its fear of being branded racist has done a disservice to the Pakistani heritage community as well as the wider community. It has prevented discussion and effective action to tackle the problem.
'This has allowed perpetrators to remain at large, has let victims down and, perversely, has allowed the far right to try and exploit the situation.
'These may have been unintended consequences but the impact remains the same and reaches into the present day.'
Failures of South Yorkshire Police who did not believe victims and even referred to them as 'little slags'
Police in Rotherham refused to believe victims and sometimes even blamed them for the abuse calling them 'little slags', the report said.
Investigators also found that South Yorkshire Police were guilty of having a 'phenomenally low conviction rate' which allowed perpetrators to freely abuse up to 1,400 girls in 16 years.
Between 1997 and 2013 – the period covered by Professor Jay – there were five convictions of men sexually exploiting girls and young women.
South Yorkshire's chief constable David Crompton, right, has been under huge pressure to explain his force's attitude towards child sex exploitation over the last 15 years.
One officer told investigators: 'The girls were blamed for a lot of what happened. It's unbelievable and key to why it wasn't taken seriously as an issue.
Another witness said: 'There was no awareness. The view was that they were little slags.
They didn't understand the situation, and thought that the girls were happy, or complicit in it. The sense was that if there had been any offence it had been by the girls, for luring the men in.'
On at least one occasion children as young as 13 or 14 were accused by officers of consenting to sex, even though the age of consent in the UK is 16.
Today's report said: 'There were numerous occasions in which girls were not believed.
'They were threatened with wasting police time, they were told they had consented to sex and, on occasion, they were arrested at the scene of a crime, rather than the perpetrators.
'Police did not understand the terror which many victims lived in and their consequent fear of testifying and their anxiety over whether police could protect them. Some of the crimes we were made aware of included rape with a broken bottle and girls being ordered to kiss perpetrators' feet at gun point.'
The report said that police were inactive in many cases put extreme pressure on vulnerable children to testify against the men who abused them and threatened their lives.
One witness said: 'They believed that they could not be protected. Some of the police actions suggested they were right'.
Two councillors and corrupt police officer accused of having sex with victims of Rotherham abuse scandal
A corrupt police officer and two local politicians - including one serving councillor - have been accused of having sex with abuse victims in Rotherham, it was revealed today.
The PC also allegedly passed on information to gangs who are believed to have abused 1,400 children and vulnerable young girls over a 16 year period.
It came as a long-awaited independent inspection report into Rotherham Borough Council's is due to be published today, which could recommend the local authority is stripped of its powers.
The two Rotherham councillors accused of having sex with abuse victims have been passed on the National Crime Agency, which is investigating the years of abuse in the town.
The police officer has been referred to Independent Police Complaints Commission by his force, South Yorkshire Police, according to The Times.
Another colleague has also been reported to the IPCC for allegedly failing to pass on information about the officer's conduct.
Some were told they and their families would be killed if they spoke out while police and council workers were found to have turned a blind eye.
Victims also say that the majority of their abusers are still walking the streets of the town.
Last week the town's MP said victims of the Rotherham child abuse scandal may number as many as 2,000 - hundreds more than were identified in damning report - the town's MP said today.
The report by Professor Alexis Jay revealed how some 1,400 vulnerable girls had been subjected to rape, violence and trafficking by gangs of mainly Asian men in the town between 1997 and 2013.
Labour MP Sarah Champion said new victims were coming to her on a 'weekly basis'.
'I would say it's closer to a couple of thousand people who have been groomed or have been sexually exploited in this little town,' she said.
Her claim was supported by the Risky Business community project in Rotherham, the investigation claimed, which said it identified 1,700 victims between 1999 and 2011.
Risky Business was one of the few organisations praised by the report, but it was largely ignored and even harassed. It was later shut down.
The Jay report provoked shock and controversy when it was published last summer.
It revealed the sexual exploitation of young girls and said police and council officials had betrayed the victims by not tackling the problem.
The National Crime Agency has taken over the investigation into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham and is in the preliminary stage of its inquiry.
Whistleblowers bullied out of their jobs
Whistleblowers who flagged up a lack of action by council bosses were bullied, harassed and driven out of their jobs, the report revealed.
Instead of acting on the confidential information given to them to help protect children at risk of abuse, the bosses turned on the informants.
Inspectors found the council went to ‘some lengths' to cover up information handed to it and then silence the people who provided it. In three cases, people who blew the whistle felt they had been marginalised by bosses, bullied, harassed and victimised as a result.
Similarly, a youth service, whose job it was to highlight the horrendous level of child sex abuse in the community, was closed down.
In two cases, whistleblowers claimed they were deliberately ‘restructured' out. In a third case, they felt they had been marginalised and were forced to leave their job.
One said: ‘I stepped forward on behalf of young people. I am proud to have done so despite the cost to my health and financial situation. The machine at Rotherham Council doesn't care, won't listen and simply exists to cover up and destroy.'
Another staff member said: ‘We've all been made aware of the [whistleblowing] procedure, but no one dares ever use it, because if they did, eventually it would come back to bite them in the backside and they would be bullied out of the organisation.'
In the report, Louise Casey said: ‘It has created an unhealthy climate where people fear to speak out because they have seen the consequences of doing so for others.
‘Staff have spoken to inspectors of being afraid to speak out, told to keep quiet, instructed to cover up, and of a culture where “if you want to keep your job, you keep your head down and your mouth shut”.
‘Inspectors received evidence to show that the council did not always do the right thing. Sometimes this was because officers were worried about the impact on the council's reputation.'
The youth centre, Risky Business, which worked directly with victims of child sex abuse, flagged up ‘uncomfortable truths' and was shut down.
Mrs Casey said: ‘Child abuse and exploitation happens all over the country, but Rotherham is different in that it was repeatedly told by its own youth service what was happening and it chose, not only to not act, but to close that service down.'
She added: ‘This is important because it points to how it has dealt with uncomfortable truths put before it.'
Is the 'old man' haircut the solution for misbehaving kids?
by Ed Payne
(Picture on site)
Atlanta, GA -- Never has a single haircut caused such a fuss.
Some call it the "Benjamin Button Special;" others the "old man" cut.
In either case, it's supposed to be the cure for a misbehaving boy. A little bit of shame to get him back on track.
"So you wana act grown...well now you can look grown too," Russell Fredrick posted on the Facebook page for his A-1 Kutz barbershop in Snellville, Georgia, near Atlanta.
The mother of a 10-year-old took Fredrick up on his offer. The 'after' photos show a boy who looks like a little old man with a pronounced bald spot.
Fredrick's post has gone viral on Facebook and Instagram, generating worldwide media coverage -- both cheers and jeers.
"If my kid's grades fell, I'd do this to him, too," said a Facebook post by Marla-Eyvette Massie.
But Samuel Thomas Duncan was not amused. "I'd rather punish a child at home and keep it a private matter than let someone else humiliate that child publicly," said.
Fredrick said he's not surprised by all the attention the new coif is getting.
"Because a lot of people are at a loss of how to discipline kids, you can't whup 'em anymore, like we used to, as children," the barber said. "It works."
Childhood as source
The inspiration came from Fredrick's own life, when he was having trouble last year with his 12-year-old son, CNN affiliate WXIA reports.
The frustrated dad told him to quit acting up in school "like an old foolish man."
Fredrick shaved his son's head bald and then showed him a picture of an old bald man, like the character in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."
"I showed him and I told him, this is your next one if you keep it up," Fredrick told him. "He didn't want it, so he got his act together."
Learning a lesson?
Not familiar with the plot of "Benjamin Button?" Benjamin begins life as an old man and ages in reverse.
A-1 Kutz offers the "Benjamin Button Special" for free, but usually it doesn't come to that. One look at the picture of the first recipient of the "old man" cut is enough to do the trick.
As for the young man who got "the special," he says he's learned his lesson, according to Fredrick, and has a nice new cut to go with his new attitude.
Child Sexual Abuse Survivor and Educator Lauren Book To Introduce Prevention Curriculum in South Africa
Educator to speak at Crime Stoppers International Conference and teach Safer, Smarter Kids abuse prevention curriculum in Cape Town
by Ethan Ryder
Internationally respected and renowned child advocate and educator Lauren Book, M.S. Ed., founder and CEO of the South Florida-based Lauren's Kids foundation, travels to Cape Town, South Africa to raise awareness for child abuse prevention.
She will speak at the Crime Stoppers International Conference and teach lessons to schoolchildren from the Safer, Smarter Kids personal safety curriculum developed by Lauren's Kids.
This will be the first time the curriculum will be introduced in Africa, initiating a critical step toward educating children and adults around the world about recognizing, reporting and ultimately preventing childhood sexual abuse.
Ms. Book will meet with South African officials, including policy experts, child welfare and education administrators and law enforcement officers.
About Lauren's Kids:
Lauren Book, M.S. Ed., is an internationally respected and renowned child advocate, author and survivor of child sexual abuse. Because of her experience, Ms. Book founded Lauren's Kids in 2007 to prevent child sexual abuse and help survivors heal. For more information on the Lauren's Kids foundation, visit LaurensKids.org today. "Safer, Smarter Kids" is an abuse prevention education curriculum designed for Pre-K and elementary-aged children, created by the Lauren's Kids foundation. The curriculum focuses on teaching children in age-appropriate ways that they have the ability to protect themselves from abuse.
Attorney in neglect case seeks measles shots for kids
DETROIT — A judge will decide within days whether to order four small children to be immunized for measles, against the wishes of their parents, who are fighting to retain rights to the children.
Child protective service workers were seeking to terminate the parental rights of Brian and Amy Kenny of Highland Township, who have a long history of drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence and child neglect, when they learned the four children, ages 10 and under, had not been inoculated against the measles.
Clarkston attorney H. Elliot Parnes, appointed by the court to represent the three girls and one boy, said he planned to file a motion Wednesday asking a family court judge to order that the children be immunized against the virus. The children, temporary wards of the court, are living with grandparents. The motion will be heard before Oakland County Circuit Court judge Lisa Langton on Feb. 11.
The case comes as health officials are sounding the alarm over measles outbreaks. As of Jan. 30 there were 102 cases of confirmed measles in 14 states, prompting a contentious national debate on whether parents should be required to immunize their kids.
Parnes declined to discuss the Kenny family or the children, except to say, "I feel strongly about the health and welfare of my clients."
Court records show a deeply troubled family. Their first child, now 10, was born with drugs in her system. The pair was arrested in 2007, with the children in the car, along with marijuana, a crack pipe and drug paraphernalia. Authorities have removed the children from the home on several occasions because of ongoing drug use and domestic violence in front of the children, and both parents have spent time in jail.
Attorney Daniel Bagdade, representing Brian Kenny in the termination hearing, said Kenny was adamantly opposed to inoculations after researching the matter and talking to parents of autistic children, who blame the immunizations for the condition.
"He feels he has done his due diligence and is adamant about his position and feels that the court making him do this is a violation of his rights," Bagdade said, noting that parents nationwide were making the same decision against the vaccine, yet faced no court action. "No court, to my knowledge has ever ruled that it is illegal or neglectful to not get your kids immunized. We're moving into some new territory here."
Bagdade said that while he personally believes strongly that parents should immunize their children, "I am comfortable in representing my client in his position."
Court-appointed guardians sometimes seek medical care for their wards, even if parents object. Guardians often file motions in seeking emergency medical treatment, like blood transfusions, when parents object over religious views. Experts say orders seeking immunizations are rare.
"I've never seen one," said attorney Lee Somerville, who has practiced in probate court since the 1990s. "It's not like this is a lifesaving situation." And since the parents have not had their final rights terminated, "it should be the parents decision to make," she said.
If the parents and guardian can't decide, the the final decision lies with the judge.
Somerville said she has seen judges order things like dental care or asthma treatment. "But here, is this going to have an impact on their health in the next six months? Perhaps they will be adopted and then those parents could decide."
The national debate continues. Sen. Rand Paul called the matter of immunization an "issue of freedom," and insisted that vaccinations can lead to mental disabilities. And New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, in recent days, said "Parents need to have some measure of choice."
But Hillary Clinton, in a recent tweet, said, "The science is clear: the earth is round, the sky is blue and #vaccineswork. Let's protect all our kids#GrandmothersKnowBest."
$9.1bn spent on survivors of childhood abuse 'could be better targeted'
Adult Survivors of Child Abuse group says if federal government invested in support services it would save money ‘across the board'
by Shalailah Medhora
Australian governments spend an average of $9.1bn a year treating the unresolved issues of adult survivors of childhood abuse and trauma, a study from an advocacy group has shown.
The group Adult Survivors of Child Abuse (Asca) has produced modelling suggesting that addressing the residual effects of childhood abuse, trauma and neglect costs billions of dollars.
Asca suggests money might be saved by investing in better targeted services.
The estimated cost for each person in four key areas of concern is:
Nearly $7,700 in treating mental illness
Just over $6,000 in treating obesity
Nearly $5,300 in dealing with suicide or attempted suicide
Just under $5,000 to treat alcohol abuse
“It's an enormous number, but when you look at the prevalence of child abuse and trauma...it's not so startling," the president of Asca, Cathy Kezelman, said.
She estimates there are 5m Australian adults who are survivors of childhood abuse, trauma and neglect.
"The government needs to invest in the needs of survivors," Kezelman said. "The right support for survivors has been few and far between.
"There's been a dearth of appropriate services for a long time."
Asca has submitted a paper to the federal government on the cost of child abuse, saying that implementing support services for survivors will save money actoss the board.
"This report is very informative about an important subject and will be considered carefully, but...we have no additional comments to make at this stage," a spokeswoman for the Department of Health tol Guardian Australia.
Asca wants more money put into specialist services such as telephone help lines and abuse counsellors. Kezelman said training frontline workers to indentify the effects of childhood abuse was similarly lacking.
A child protection expert and former head of Child Wise, Bernadette McMenamin, wants more resources put into identifying abuse when children are young.
The roual commission into child sexual abuse found it took a survivor of abuse 22 years before they acknowledged what they had gone through, and McMenamin said that needed to change.
She wanted the voices and concerns of children to be heard.
"If you speak to survivors, what you'll hear is that they never tell, and the reason that they don't tell is because they don't think they'll be believed," McMenamin said.
"The discourse on child abuse needs to happen in the home in th community and in schools."
Both Kezelman and McMenamin welcomed the fact that the royal commission into child abuse had brought the issue out into the open.
Can you stop a paedophile before they even start?
by Dominic Hurst
Between 1-2% of men are thought to be paedophiles. Some become dangerous criminals preying on children, while others never act on their feelings. However views are divided on how and when to intervene in order to protect children.
In a terraced house in Barrow-in Furness, Cumbria, two mothers are looking intently at a computer screen.
They are studying pictures of convicted paedophiles. The two women scan local newspapers and the internet for information about court cases, then update their website. Their mission is to name and shame men convicted of abusing children.
"I think it is really important that children are protected from predatory paedophiles," says Keilly Devlin, a mother of three.
"An innocent child's life is more important to be kept sacred and safe than a paedophile. I think that paedophiles do need to be named and shamed and people do need to know where they are living locally so we can keep our children away."
Their group Communities Against Paedophiles South Lakes claims to have 5,000 members. However, their activities are discouraged by the police.
"Whilst we appreciate that members of the public may have concerns regarding convicted sexual offenders in the community, we would discourage naming and shaming groups," a spokesperson for Cumbria Constabulary says.
"The reason for this is that this presents a risk of misinformation, which can deter the work police and partner agencies conduct on a daily basis. It can also be counter-productive as these type of groups can inadvertently send offenders further underground."
So who are the people who abuse children? And how can children best be protected?
Between 1% and 2% of men are thought to be paedophiles. There are many female paedophiles but the vast majority are men.
By its very nature the true picture of child abuse is unclear. But with women perpetrators it's even more so. Convictions are thin on the ground and some believe the issue is an unhelpful distraction from the bigger problem.
Experts agree that women commit only a fraction of child sexual abuse but so much is hidden that it's difficult to be accurate. An influential study in the US in the 1980s suggested 20% of all offences against boys and 5% against girls were by women.
In 2005, the NSPCC raised concerns about how disbelief of female paedophiles was hindering detection. Its report said child protection professionals too often met allegations of abuse by females with incredulity, dismissing them as fabrication and allowing women to continue to offend.
One study, by Professor Tamara Turner-Moore at Leeds Beckett University, suggests up to 10% of men have sexual thoughts about children at some stage in their lives.
Researchers also say paedophiles are most likely to offend when their self-esteem is low and their stress levels are high.
In a room above a café in Cumbria sits Eddie. This is not his real name, but he agreed to meet on condition of anonymity. He is a convicted paedophile. He was jailed for nine years for serious sexual offences against a child. Now he says he is on a path to rehabilitation.
"I feel really guilty yes. It's unacceptable what I did," he says.
"At the time I thought it was OK. Of course it's not. You can't go out and do something like that to someone who is basically harmless and think it's OK you can get away with it."
Eddie says the abuse took place when his drinking was spiralling out of control.
"I don't know why it happened. I can't just blame the drink. There must have been something there, a feeling for children. I can't understand it now because I can't understand why I did it."
On release from prison, Eddie was helped by Circles UK. Working with probation officers, volunteers form a "circle of accountability and support" around a newly released sex offender, who is known as the "core member" of the circle.
The aim is to help him resettle in the community. It says it has a high rate of success in preventing reoffending. It has received government funding to form 74 more circles working with offenders across England.
Zak, a Circles volunteer in Cumbria, explains how it works:
"Because they are feeling totally isolated from the community and very lonely, they have a high risk of reoffending. What a circle does is supporting the role of watchdog.
"If the offender indicates some kind of risk to the community we inform the co-ordinator and address them to the appropriate agencies. By helping them by challenging their behaviour and risky thoughts we can prevent them reoffend and prevent another victim being recreated."
Circles UK is one of the few organisations that tries to protect children by working directly with paedophiles.
Another is a confidential helpline - Stop It Now! - which aims to encourage adult abusers to seek therapy and help. It also advises families where someone is showing worrying sexual behaviour.
"We need to intervene earlier in order to better protect children," says Donald Findlater, Director of Research and Development at Lucy Faithfull Foundation, which runs the helpline.
Largely funded by the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office it was founded 12 years ago and now receives some 700 calls per month.
Of the callers, 48% have already committed an offence and 8% were men troubled by their sexual thoughts who had not yet offended, according to an evaluation last year by the National Centre for Social Research.
"There is so much more we can do to prevent child sexual abuse," says Findlater. "Education for parents is grossly inadequate - there is much, much more they can do to keep their children safe.
"However one of the problems is that some of the help is not available until someone has broken the law - surely it is better to make help available before a child has been harmed?"
Findlater advised Dutch campaigners in setting up their own helpline. However in the Netherlands they have gone much further in encouraging men to call and seek help.
An advertisement on national television shows a man wrapped in a towel, shaving, with a voiceover saying: "I'm Frank. I'm a paedophile."
As he cycles to work clutching a brown leather bag, the voiceover continues: "My paedophilia is treatable. I do not have contact with children." The advert ends with the helpline phone number. There are also billboards posted in some cities.
On the day we visited the helpline, anyone calling the number would have got through to a small modern office in an old building in the centre of the historic university city of Leiden.
A psychology student sat at a neat desk by a computer screen and a pot plant, waiting for the phone to ring.
Jules Mulder, the director the Dutch helpline, says he wants to encourage men to seek help before they have contact with children.
"What we try to do is be more permissive to being paedophilic. These people are in society - they are among us. It is much better for them and us if you just accept this fact - you can help them to live a normal life. It makes society safer if you acknowledge the problem.
"By helping the men who do this before they do, it is the best thing to do. If you can really understand that, we can help society get safer. That's what we try to get across to people. Everybody wants to have less child abuse."
In a drab industrial estate in the city of Utrecht is a squat modern building. From the outside it looks like an office or small workshop. But it is a clinic for sex offenders. It is to here that the callers to the helpline are referred.
Inside, by a leafy courtyard, we meet one of the therapists, Annemarie Determan. Her job is to help sex offenders change their behaviour. Does therapy work?
"Yes all the time," she says. "Treatment can take a long time. Sometimes it is five conversations but mostly it is over a year or two years. I have seen people motivated not to download child porn, or groom children, or to change their lives, not going to places where children are. Most of them are capable of changing.
"There are some who have feelings but are not paedophilic. They have problems with emotions or with coping styles so they feel frustrating and they end up downloading child porn. Then I teach them something else about how to cope with their emotions or frustrations or another way not downloading child porn."
If you have been affected, the following organisations can help: NSPCC charity specialises in child protection. National Association for People Abused in Childhood offers support, advice and guidance to adult survivors of any form of childhood abuse. Childline is a private and confidential service for children and young people up to the age of 19. The Children's Society works to support vulnerable children in England and Wales.
Other help: Stop it Now is a is a child sexual abuse prevention campaign in the UK and Ireland. Circles UK aims to reduce sexual reoffending by working directly with paedophiles through networks of community volunteers
Are there women paedophiles?
Paedophiles are invariably thought of as men and they mostly are. But do women commit sexual abuse against children, and if so, why is it rarely discussed?
by Tom Geoghegan
Colin never knew innocence as a child. His earliest memories are of his mother sexually abusing him. In the bath, in his bed and in the night. Until he was 13.
Twenty years later, after a young life derailed by truancy, drugs and violence, he is still deeply affected by what he says happened.
"It's only now that I realise the impact it has had on me. From the age of 14, as soon as it got dark I would have panic attacks and that fuelled my drug-taking because doing it, I felt safe again.
"I couldn't sleep at night and I'd get flashbacks of my mum on top of me. I couldn't hold down a job and I was scared of girls."
The fact the perpetrator was the person who gave birth to him made it harder for him to identify and accept it as abuse, he believes.
"I found it hard to even say it was sexual abuse because of the way society views mothers, and quite rightly - 99% are loving but I was just unlucky to get one that wasn't.
"That's what stopped me from getting help for a long time. I couldn't even acknowledge it myself and there was a worry about being believed and speaking out against my mother. I felt like I was doing something wrong."
It's a comment on how society views paedophilia today that the most shocking aspect of Colin's story is not the sexual abuse itself, but the fact the perpetrator was female.
Yet Colin is not alone in experiencing this particular kind of trauma, says Steve Bevan, who for nearly two decades has run a support group for male victims of all forms of sexual abuse. Out of 18 men currently getting individual and group support, five say they were abused by women, three of them exclusively so.
"Over the years we've had lots of men abused by mothers, sisters, aunties and baby sitters," says Mr Bevan.
"It's hard enough for adult men to admit abuse but to admit to abuse by a woman is even harder because it challenges their masculinity, it challenges their sexuality."
Women can commit a wide range of sexual offences, he says, including rape. And their victims commonly experience sexual confusion and a fear of intimacy. Anger can manifest itself as violence towards a wife or girlfriend in later life.
By its very nature the true picture of child abuse is unclear. But with women perpetrators it's even more so. Convictions are thin on the ground and some believe the issue is an unhelpful distraction from the bigger problem.
Experts agree that women commit only a fraction of child sexual abuse but so much is hidden that it's difficult to be accurate. An influential study in the US in the 1980s suggested 20% of all offences against boys and 5% against girls were by women.
Professor Kevin Browne, who has been researching the maltreatment of children for 30 years, says between 5% and 10% of abuse against pre-pubescent children in the UK is committed by females, but only about 5% is thought to involve a woman acting alone.
"Stranger attacks by women hardly exist, so most female paedophiles are winning the trust of children first and either have a position of care working with children like a babysitter or they are a relative."
Female offences against teenagers (hebophiles rather than paedophiles) are more of a mystery, he says, because victims don't come forward, partly because in a patriarchal society boys are even expected to enjoy that kind of abuse, and not admit how scared they are by it.
Some believe that society's different attitude to women offenders is reflected in the language of the media reporting it. They point out that teachers "seduce" pupils if they are female but "sexually assault" if male.
In 2005, the NSPCC raised concerns about how disbelief of female paedophiles was hindering detection. Its report said child protection professionals too often met allegations of abuse by females with incredulity, dismissing them as fabrication and allowing women to continue to offend.
It also said that victims suffered a peculiar sense of isolation and stigma because this form of abuse was not so widely recognised.
Eight-hundred victims of female sexual abuse have contacted Michele Elliott, founder of children's charity Kidscape, since she wrote her controversial book, Female Sexual Abuse of Children, in 1992. Three-quarters of the cases feature women acting alone.
"One of the issues of controversy is the thinking that if women do this, it's because men made them do it," says Ms Elliot.
"I disagree with that. I think there's no difference in the motivation between men and women, which is sexual gratification and power over a child. It's very selfish."
Like male paedophiles, many female offenders convince themselves they are not harming children, says psychologist Sharon Lambert who this month presented her research on the subject to the British Psychological Society's annual conference.
She contacted a number of people through a website specifically aimed at women. There were no indecent images posted but there were stories and poems about their sexual fantasies with children and a forum for women to discuss their feelings and how they could avoid detection.
"They would say they're not as bad as men because they're more loving with their impulses, and a male involved with a child is more abusive."
'Under the radar'
She began correspondence with six people who claimed to be women aged from 21 to 48. They all described themselves as heterosexual and five claimed to be married. They all said they fantasised about young girls but said they had not actually abused any.
"We can't be certain about the connection between sexual fantasies and actual offending. Some adults who fantasise about children may never offend but we can't be sure they won't act out their fantasies."
They all admitted their first sexual experiences came very early in life, aged about seven or eight, with other children their own age. They said they had never been abused themselves.
"There are things you can do as a woman that you can't do as a man," says Ms Lambert. "If I was still bathing my 11-year-old son, people would think that was weird but if a man was doing that then people are more likely to think it was sexual abuse. Women go under the radar."
Unlike Ms Lambert's studies, some perpetrators seem also to be victims. Colin's mother told him she was a victim of sexual abuse from her father, sometimes describing it to him in detail moments before indecently assaulting him.
"Maybe I reminded her of her dad and she felt like she was getting back at him, taking back some control that way, by taking it out on me," says Colin.
(A selection of comments is posted on the site.)
How many men are paedophiles?
by Wesley Stephenson
The Pope was recently reported to have said that about 2% of Catholic clergy are paedophiles. But how does this compare with society as a whole - is it more or less than average?
As soon as you give this question a moment's thought, you realise that it's not going to be an easy one to answer. Paedophiles are not easy to identify.
"Because paedophilia is so secretive and so few people are willing to admit it, there is no meaningful way to get a reliable estimate," says Dr James Cantor, a psychologist and sexual behaviour scientist at the University of Toronto.
"There's no meaningfully ethical way of taking 200 men, hooking them up to detectors, showing them pictures of adults and children and seeing how many respond most to children."
One person who has attempted an estimate is Dr Michael Seto, a clinical and forensic psychologist at the Royal Ottawa Healthcare group.
In 2008 he wrote a book in which he put the prevalence of paedophilia in the general population at 5%.
The figure was based on surveys conducted in Germany, Norway and Finland in which men were asked whether they had ever had sexual thoughts or fantasies about children or engaged in sexual activity with children.
But Seto stresses that 5% was an upper estimate, and that the studies were limited in what they revealed.
"What those surveys don't include are questions on the intensity of those thoughts and fantasies, whether they were repeated or not. Someone might say 'Yes' because they once had a fantasy but our understanding of paedophilia would be that that person recurringly had sexual thoughts and fantasies about children."
Now, with more data and better methodology, he has revised his figure down to about 1% of the population, though he makes clear this is still only an educated guess.
One problem is that the term "paedophile" means different things to different people.
"It's very common for regular men to be attracted to 18-year-olds or 20-year-olds. It's not unusual for a typical 16-year-old to be attractive to many men and the younger we go the fewer and fewer men are attracted to that age group," says Cantor.
He thinks that if we say that a paedophile is someone attracted to children aged 14 or less, then he estimates that you could reach the 2% figure.
"If we use a very strict definition and say paedophilia refers only to the attraction to pre-pubescent children [then it] is probably much lower than 1%," he says.
The term is often applied to a person who sexually abuses someone below the age of 16, but given that in some countries - and even some US states - you can marry below the age of 16 this definition would clearly not be universally accepted.
There is consensus on the clinical definition. Michael Seto and his colleagues agree that a paedophile is someone who has a sexual interest in pre-pubescent children, so typically those under the ages of 11 or 12.
But whether the prevalence using this definition is 0.5%, as James Cantor says or 1%, as Michael Seto says, you can be assured than in any large group of people - whether they be politicians, entertainers, or Catholic clergy - you are likely to find some paedophiles.
Paedophilia is not restricted to men - some women also sexually abuse children, although research suggests this is much less common.
But back to the Pope. How would he define "paedophile"? We don't know, but there is a clue.
There is one well-known study of child abuse among Catholic clergy, carried out by John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. Its researchers went to each diocese in the US and found all the plausible accounts of abuse involving clergy who served between 1950 and 2002 - and they found that 4.2% of had been plausibly accused of abuse.
That included allegations of abuse of adolescents as well as pre-pubescent children.
But if you consider just pre-pubescent children, the figure drops to between 1-2% according to Prof Philip Jenkins from the Institute of Studies of Religion at Baylor University in Texas. This corresponds, more or less, with the figure attributed to the Pope.
"If he was using a different word like 'abusive clergy' then I think he would be going for a higher figure," says Jenkins.
The John Jay College study is not perfect, though. For some reason, 40% of the allegations referred to abuse said to have been carried out in a six-year period between 1975-1980.
It seems unlikely that cases of child abuse in the clergy would have been so heavily concentrated in one period. Furthermore, even if there was a peak in the 1970s, a lot of the perpetrators are probably no longer active in the church.
All we can confidently say is that the figures are imperfect - both for the number of active paedophiles among the Catholic clergy and the number of paedophiles in the general population and they are very difficult to compare.
ACT sexual abuse crimes dating back to 1951 investigated under new police operation
Allegations of sexual abuse at ACT institutions covering a period of more than 60 years are to be investigated under a new police operation.
In 2013, laws passed by the ACT Legislative Assembly recently removed the statute of limitations on historic abuse crimes.
Previously, victims had to report the offence within 12 months or it could not be prosecuted.
Operation Attest has now been set up to allow police to prosecute certain sexual offences allegedly committed between 1951 and 1985.
Former Marist Brother John 'Kostka' Chute was convicted of multiple counts of acts of indecency on children under the age of 16.
Last year the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse hearings in Canberra heard from some of Brother Kostka's victims while examining the response of the Marist Brothers to allegations of child sexual abuse in schools across the ACT, New South Wales and Queensland.
But Chief Police Officer Rudi Lammers said seven charges had to be dropped because legislation at the time did not allow the prosecution of historical crimes.
He said the Operation Attest team had been in consultation with criminal law firm Porter Lawyers, which has had ongoing contact with some victims of institutional abuse.
"Sexual assaults are within that rare category of crime where police don't prosecute in our own right," Assistant Commissioner Lammers told 666 ABC Canberra.
"In most other crimes we can mount a prosecution, but with sexual abuse and sexual crimes we rely on the victim to come forward."
He said victims could come forward privately to specialist detectives.
"Although adults now, they were very young and very vulnerable children," Assistant Commissioner Lammers said.
"I'm asking people now to come forward to talk to us about that abuse.
"But the last thing police want to do is re-traumatise people, so people can come forward very discreetly.
"We've selected some of our most experienced sexual abuse investigators, that have dealt with a range of sexual crimes... they are the most skilled detectives we have in this field."
Assistant Commissioner Lammers said though time may have passed, it could still be difficult for victims to come forward.
"It's very difficult for a person who was abused 30 years ago, who is now married with children, who has a family who've been completely sheltered from this abuse, to suddenly come forward," he said.
"It doesn't mean that person hasn't been living with that grief for all those years."
Government welcomes police operation after 'unjust law' repealed
ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell said the Government welcomed police investigations after the Government repealed "the unjust law" in 2013.
"I'm very pleased that the police are now commencing this operation asking people to come forward who may have been a victim of a sexual offence that was previously barred from prosecution," he said.
"This legacy matter which dates back from the mid-1950s, barred young people in particular from coming forward and reporting sexual offences against them because of their age."
Mr Corbell said while sexual offence cases from more than 60 years ago were sometimes difficult to prosecute, the important thing was that victims could have their voices heard.
"People can go to the police and the police are able to properly investigate based on the evidence at hand," he said.
"Previously people have been denied even that opportunity.
"People now have the opportunity to have their story heard, told and investigated by specially trained investigators.
"As a community we are listening and responding to the terrible things that were done to them, that harm that has been caused to them and the injustice they have suffered, by people over a timeframe of many decades."
Heather Ross from Porters Lawyers, the law firm consulted in Operation Attest, said that their lawyers had acted for more than 100 victims who suffered sexual abuse at Marist College in Canberra.
"Porters has found that not only did the order know that there was abuse happening within its schools, but it also moved the perpetrators around within the schools that it operated," she said.
More information about the operation is available through an open letter on the ACT Policing website.
Zimbabwe: Hidden in Plain Sight - Child Sexual Abuse in Zimbabwe
by Richard Nyamanhindi
Child sexual abuse is on the rise in Zimbabwe. With law enforcement authorities reporting that more than 100 girls are sexually abused every day --more than at any other time in the history of the country -- it is likely that everyone will encounter children who have been sexually abused in their day-to-day activities.
What should you do if you see or hear of a child who has been sexually abused?
How can ordinary Zimbabweans play a part in bringing child sexual abuse to an end?
It is important for every Zimbabwean to recognise and confront child sexual abuse. There are both moral and practical reasons to take a stand.
Child sexual abuse is internationally recognised as a crime against children and laws against child sexual abuse vary by country, based on the local definition of who is a child and what constitutes child sexual abuse.
Despite concerted effort by key stakeholders such as the Ministry of Women's Affairs, Gender and Community Development, Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, the Department of Social Services and non-governmental organizations, cases of child sexual abuse are on the increase.
Helping children escape sexual abuse is part of what we owe our children.
It is unthinkable that a teacher or a neighbour would observe the symptoms of a pupil being abused and do nothing about it. Child sexual abuse involves the same imperative to act.
Communities should learn the warning signs of child sexual abuse and the actions they can take when they see it, because homes are among the most likely spots for child sexual abuse.
Among the poorest communities, the vulnerability to child sexual abuse, and its prevalence, are usually much higher. Government especially through the Department of Social Services often has very little presence or are sometimes thinly represented as to offer real value to local people in these areas.
Communities may be the only mechanism to help affected children and households to take action against child sexual abuse.
Child sexual abuse is typically hidden in plain sight. Sexually abused children are often too afraid to talk and their abusers are often close by. But there are red flags to watch for: any signs of fear, or people saying that things are going fine when it is obvious that children especially girls do not play as other children and are always withdrawn for daily normal activities.
Another red flag is increased dropout rates for girls in schools. Children who are sexually abused usually do not perform well in school.
Other signs include distraction or distance at odd times; writes, draws, plays or dreams of sexual or frightening images; develops new or unusual fear of certain people or places; refuses to talk about a secret shared with an adult or older child; talks about a new older friend; suddenly has money, toys or other gifts without reason and exhibits adult-like sexual behaviours, language and knowledge.
So what steps can communities take when they discover child sexual abuse?
First, one needs to watch out for the safety of the child or children they encounter. Children can be beaten into submission or threatened with death if the abuser discovers they are interacting with outsiders. Second, do not try to deal with child sexual abuse single-handed.
People are tempted to just "get the child out."
That is a very human, natural response. But child sexual abuse survivors need somewhere to go that is safe, where they will receive basic services, where they will have space to recover and where they can be reintegrated into society. Find out who is doing what about child sexual abuse in the country and in your local area. Last but not least, communities need to find out about the country's laws and what assistance is supposed to be available for a child who has been sexually abused.
Beyond helping individuals, communities can help by getting the issue into the open. Short-term awareness raising and one-time meetings may not make much of a difference. But sometimes with a little re-engineering, communities can provide a real pathway to liberation for those affected by child sexual abuse -- as well as some long-term protection to reduce the risk that child sexual abuse will reoccur.
The author is a Communications Officer at UNICEF Zimbabwe, For comments and contributions, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Searching for Turkey's missing children
by the World Bulletin / News Desk
Where is Yakup? It's been 10 minutes since dinner has started at grandpa's home in a remote village of eastern Turkey. And Yakup has disappeared. No one is that concerned. It is not unusual for a three-year-old to wander off…
But, 25 years later, his father is still looking for him.
Sakip Ergun, 57, was not present when his son first went missing .
"I had sent my wife with my three children to grandpa's, who lives in our village,” he says.
He has "done everything" to find his son, but nothing has brought him back.
There have been no clues on his whereabouts since he disappeared in a village of almost 500 people in the Turkish province, Erzurum. "I have no foes, thank God," the father says.
"We went on many TV broadcasts," said Sakip. He even met then-president Suleyman Demirel.
But back then, Turkey had not have a police force department for missing people until the relentless cries and demands of distraught families bore fruit.
As the question -- Where is Yakup ? -- lingers, Sakip has no choice but to find comfort in the fact that his numerous efforts to find his son have served to help others track down their loved ones.
Police forces look for nearly 4,000 missing children on average every month in Turkey.
The Turkish national police launched a special team in 2013 of 5,000 experts and police to ramp up searches for missing persons, and found more than 2,600 people in four months, including a few who were missing for more than 20 years.
For a long time, Sakip searched for his son, who would now be 29, with a childhood photo. However, this has changed as Turkish police teams use photo-aging techniques to create an illustration of missing children's potential adult faces.
But despite the improvements in search techniques for missing children in Turkey, still thousands -- some of which are not children anymore -- remain missing, according to reports.
More than 445,000 missing people have been found between 1995 and 2014, according to the Department of Smuggling, Intelligence, Operations and Information Gathering.
Some 7,070 children, though, are still missing according to a November 2014 department report.
While the Ergun family does not know what happened to Yakup, most cases involving missing children are the result of problems within families or related to drug abuse.
The head of the Association of Families Whose Relatives Went Missing, Zafer Ozbilici, said that socioeconomic issues were the main reason behind missing children cases.
"In general, those children are repressed and from families in financial difficulties or with domestic issues," said Ozbilici, who created the association, after his brother went missing in 1992.
The association has launched various campaigns such as a bus touring Turkey, or grocery bags showcasing pictures of missing children .
It must be noted that almost all children who go missing are brought back to their families within 30 days.
According to the police department report, only one in 1,000 of the missing childrencould not be found within the six months following the disappearance.
Still, Ozbilici warns, it is very dangerous for a child to spend more than 24 hours outside of his home, as it is possible for him to be either a victim or perpetrator of a crime.
He urges for more cooperation among institutions, such as security forces or the family ministry, to accelerate searches.
"An officer is stalled with official paperwork in the time that he could spend on finding a missing child," he complains, citing as an efficient solution the alarm system for missing people in the U.S. called AMBER.
AMBER alert is an emergency code interconnecting the police force with media outlets and other broadcasting means to warn the public to be on the lookout for a certain missing person.
Many families have spent all they have to search for their missing child, says Ozbilici.
"They lose their wealth and savings," says Ozbilici.
Sakip Ergun has spent loads of money during these 25 long years. He once had 10,000 posters and fliers with the picture of his son printed on them.
"We are still waiting as we are believers. You cannot abandon hope from God's mercy," he says.
"People can accept death and live with it. This is much harder than death as you do not know what to accept and you get exhausted after continuous waiting and you keep thinking about your child's whereabouts," says Ozbilici.
That's what Sakip has been living through for a quarter of a century.
And the question remains: Where's Yakup?
Opp police shed light on recent child sex abuse cases
by Lindsey Rogers
Opp, AL (WSFA) - Multiple women stand accused of sex crimes involving teenage boys in Opp. Three local women have been arrested in the small town in a matter of days. Now, officials are shedding new light on the arrests and the number of victims involved in what the police chief describes as an in-depth investigation by his department.
Mandi Brianna Harrison, 25, of Opp, was arrested Friday and charged with rape second degree and sodomy second degree.
Kristina L. Burroughs, 30, of Opp, was arrested Jan. 26 and charged with rape second degree and sodomy second degree. Tiffany Ann Blair, 35, of Opp, was arrested Jan. 24 and charged with four counts of chemical endangerment of a child, rape second degree and sodomy second degree.
Because the victims are underage, Opp Police Chief Mike McDonald can't talk in depth about what his investigators have uncovered, but he did reveal that less than two weeks ago, the department received a report of a woman having sexual contact with a child. Things expanded from there.
“As we began the initial case, the second case was developed during interviews with the victim and so they began to pursue the second case which again led to a third case. As a result of the investigation, we have made three arrests. We have a total of two victims,” the chief said.
Police say the two victims are under the age of 16, which is the age of consent in Alabama. All of the suspects and victims know each other. Chief McDonald said two of the women are accused of having sex with one of the victims and the third woman is connected to the other victim. He declined to elaborate further due to the nature of the investigation.
Opp resident Steven Hodges says he was surprised when he heard about the arrests.
“Especially in Opp. I mean this is Opp, small town. You wouldn't think adults would be messing around with the youth like that,” he said. “Parents should know who their kids are talking to.”
Chief McDonald hopes the investigation sparks dialogue between parents and their children.
“Most crimes are preventable, particularly when they involve a child, whether the child is the victim or the perpetrator. We need to know where our children are. We need to know who our children are with. We need to sit down with our kids and figure out what's going on,” he said.
According to Alabama law, a person commits rape in the second degree if:
1) Being 16 years old or older, he or she engages in sexual intercourse with a member of the opposite sex less than 16 or more than 12 years old; provided, however, the actor is at least two years older than the member of the opposite sex.
2) He or she engages in sexual intercourse with a member of the opposite sex who is incapable of consent by reason of being mentally defective.
The law also indicates that a person commits the crime of sodomy in the second degree if:
1) He, being 16 years or older, engages in deviate sexual intercourse with another person less than 16 and more than 12 years old.
2) He engages in deviate sexual intercourse with a person who is incapable of consent by reason of being mentally defective.
Both are Class B felonies.
“We are following the law as it has been established in the state of Alabama. We have conducted the investigation and it will be turned over to the Covington County District Attorney's Office. It will be decided in court,” Chief McDonald told WSFA 12 News. “I hope it will generate with parents and caregivers the motive for talking to their kids and making sure their kids understand that things can happen in our world and if something happens to them, they need to come directly to them immediately and tell them what has happened.”
All three women have posted bond and are out of jail as they wait for their cases to go to court.
Tiffany Blair's bond was set at more than $1 million. She is also charged with four counts of chemical endangerment of a child. Bond for Burroughs and Harrison was $400,000.
Julie Patz testifies about son Etan's disappearance 35 years ago
by John Riley
It is a slaying without a body, a crime without physical evidence, and an abduction without eyewitnesses, even though it occurred in broad daylight in Manhattan.
But it was a different city and a different world in 1979, when six-year-old Etan Patz disappeared. It was a world that Etan's mother, Julie Patz, described in vivid detail as she testified in the murder trial of Pedro Hernandez, whose confession is the best bet prosecutors have as they try to close a case that sparked a national movement to improve tracking of missing children.
In today's world, where true-crime TV shows prove that decades-old crimes can be cracked with a drop of blood, a speck of saliva or a single hair, Etan's case remains an anomaly. He said goodbye to his mother about 7.50am on May 25, 1979, walked up the street toward the bus stop in their SoHo neighbourhood and was never seen again.
"There was nothing there. Almost nothing there in terms of residential facilities," Julie Patz said as she described SoHo in the late 1970s as a largely industrial zone whose residents rented vast warehouse lofts on the cheap.
Some people had no electricity. Neighbours would have "flushing parties" to celebrate when a resident got modern plumbing. There were no streetlights and so little traffic that you could barbecue in the middle of the street.
"It was definitely pioneer," Patz said nostalgically of the former artists' colony that today is one of the city's most expensive and crowded tourist destinations and shopping areas.
The prosecutor, Joan Illuzzi-Orbon, asked Patz several questions about an incident the day before Etan was abducted, when he rode off on a Big Wheel and was missing for several minutes. Patz recalled running downstairs, her heart pounding, and searching frantically for him before he reappeared.
"I screamed at him and chastised him severely for giving me a heart attack," she remembered.
During cross-examination, Harvey Fishbein, one of Hernandez's lawyers, focused many of his questions on that incident. He suggested Patz had told the police she had sent Etan to the bodega to retrieve his lunchbox, and had also mentioned to detectives that Etan had met a grown-up stranger while riding his tricycle around the block.
"Sir, it's all a very long time ago," she said. "I don't recall these details."
Patz, a tiny woman with a gray ponytail, was upbeat and made occasional jokes as she recalled Etan's friendly demeanor and yearning to be treated like a grown-up. But she wept while describing how a few minutes one particularly hectic morning had changed things forever.
On that day, the Friday before the long Memorial Day weekend, Patz was juggling more than usual at home, where she ran a daycare centre for neighbourhood kids.
Etan's eight-year-old sister was dawdling, and the two-year-old child of a family friend had spent the night, adding to the morning ruckus. So when Etan pressed his mother to let him walk alone to the school bus stop, she relented.
"I capitulated and said OK, you can walk to the school bus," she testified, describing how she accompanied Etan downstairs to the sidewalk and watched him head up the street. He clutched a one-dollar bill in one hand and planned to stop at a corner bodega to buy a treat before getting on the bus.
Shortly after 3.30pm, when Etan had not returned home, Patz called the home of Chelsea Christina Altman, who lived across the street and was Etan's closest friend. Chelsea had saved a seat on the bus for Etan, but he never boarded and he was not in school, she told Patz.
Prosecutors say Hernandez, then an 18-year-old bodega employee, lured Etan down the 14 steps into the basement with promises of a soda and strangled him. They say Hernandez then put the 101-centimetre-tall, 22-kilogram boy into a box and left it in an alley in the desolate neighbourhood for trash collectors.
Police were led to Hernandez in spring 2012 after relatives and friends of the defendant came forward to say they recalled him confessing decades earlier to having killed a boy in New York City. Hernandez, who left his job at the grocery shortly after Etan disappeared, confessed to killing him and disposing of his body, but Fishbein said the confession was coerced during several hours of interrogation.
Fishbein has also said Hernandez suffers from a mental disorder that makes it difficult for him to distinguish reality from fiction, and is not intelligent enough to have committed a crime and kept it secret so many years.
"He's inconsistent and he's unreliable, yet he's the only witness against himself," Fishbein said of Hernandez during opening statements last week.
Hernandez, who wore a button-down shirt, tie and trousers in court, sat silently and stared straight ahead throughout Monday's testimony. He did not appear to be moved by testimony of the witnesses or by the photographs of Etan displayed on a large screen for jurors.
Neither Patz nor Chelsea Altman, now 42, remembered Hernandez from the grocery store, a tiny, cramped shop with a "No Dogs" sign on the glass door and goods piled high against the windows. Both said that because of the store's proximity to the school bus stop, it was a regular stopover for neighbourhood kids looking to buy candy or soda.
It also was considered a safe place for them to wait out bad weather or to run to if they needed help.
"I loved the bodega," Altman said. "Everyone was friendly there."
After Etan's disappearance, though, Patz said she noticed a change in the man prosecutors said owned the bodega. The man, Juan, was Hernandez's brother-in-law. Patz said he no longer greeted her on the street and seemed to avert his eyes.
But she said that many people's attitudes had changed.
"Our friends and neighbours didn't know how to respond to us," said Patz, who with her husband, Stanley, became active in efforts to improve the national response to finding missing children. The effort led to the placing of missing children's pictures, including Etan's, on milk cartons and to the designation of May 25 as National Missing Children's Day in the US.
Etan's disappearance ended the daycare centre that Patz had operated out of her home, and for weeks she said the loft that was usually filled with children playing and doing crafts turned into "police headquarters."
Altman testified that she visited the Patz family in the days after Etan disappeared and found a different place than the fun-filled haven of toys and games she had known.
"The house was in a state of grief," Altman said.
The scale of abuse
by Fergal Keane & Dominic Hurst
Child sexual abuse has dominated the news agenda since the Jimmy Savile revelations. But the focus on abuse by celebrities and grooming gangs masks the fact that more than 80% of abuse takes place within the home, according to campaigners.
Abuse in the home is rarely reported to police and survivors rarely get justice.
It is a secret history of horrific stories, of children abused by those they loved and trusted or targeted because their home circumstances made them vulnerable to manipulative outsiders.
On a bench in a deserted park in Kent, Chris Tuck is warming up for her exercise routine. Despite the cold wind she stretches her body then jogs on the spot, preparing for her morning workout.
She is a health coach with a successful business and a happy family life.
But Chris Tuck has had to face a traumatic past. She is survivor of abuse. She says her childhood was scarred by neglect, beatings, emotional cruelty and sexual abuse.
"It makes you feel violated," she says. "It makes you feel dirty. It makes you feel angry. It just doesn't feel right. It's hard to explain. You also don't want to talk about it. It's not something you would go up and say: 'My Daddy has been touching me here, my Daddy has been doing that.' It's not something you speak about and unless someone asks you that question, why would you speak about it?"
It was when she had her own child that she felt compelled to speak out.
"That's when I had my breakdown. And I knew I had to get strong to bring my own children up. I have had to learn to love and to nurture. I have had to learn to bring my children up in the best way I can as I never had that as a child. And that is where abuse in the home can be so destructive."
Tuck is not alone. The NSPCC estimates one in 20 children are victims of sexual abuse. It says in 90% cases the victim is known to the perpetrator. And one in three children never tell anyone about the abuse.
For decades many survivors never spoke about their experiences. Many perpetrators went unpunished. But now more and more survivors are coming forward.
In a small office in south London, Dr Jon Bird is on the telephone, listening intently. The caller is a survivor of child abuse who wants to talk.
Bird is working at the helpline for one of the support groups for survivors, the National Association for People Abused in Childhood. Since the revelations about Jimmy Savile, there's been a surge in people coming forward reporting abuse.
Between 2012 and 2013 the volume of calls to the NAPAC free helpline doubled to between 1,500 and 2,000 per month. At its peak in the autumn of 2012, the helpline was taking 3,500 calls a month. In the last three years it has also received more than 12,000 emails. Many of the survivors contacting the charity have never spoken before about their abuse.
Bird is a good listener. He is a survivor himself. Raped in a park at the age of four and then abused at school, his life spiralled out of control until he was homeless, living on the streets and addicted to heroin.
Through study and perseverance he has now turned his life around and helps others through the painful journey towards recovery that he himself made. Many of those he helps were abused by a relative or somebody they knew.
"Child sexual abuse and all abuse of children rips families apart. I get calls saying I was abused by person x. Then later they tell mum and she cant believe it. She married him. Or trusted him as a brother," he says.
"It rips families apart. It is much more complicated than a perpetrator and a victim. It is much wider than that and very difficult to talk about in the family, especially in cultures where it is not done to speak ill of your elders."
He says that with the current focus on celebrity and institutional abuse, the crisis in the home is in danger of being ignored.
"Just 0.06% of abuse was by somebody famous. The vast majority of the problem is in the home."
In the tranquil Devon seaside town of Torquay, palm trees blow in the sea breeze along the seafront. But here - like so many communities across the UK - there is a hidden problem of abuse.
Not far from the seafront, the Children's Society runs an outreach project called Checkpoint. Each month it deals with dozens of cases of abuse, child sexual exploitation and missing children.
One of the children its project workers have been helping is "Lisa", though this is not her real name. From the age of 14 she began going online and soon began meeting men who groomed her.
"Yes I met a lot of people alone. I used to not care. I used to go and meet people at stupid times at night and put myself in danger. It was in exchange for sexual favours and sexual advantage. They were normally aged 19 to 25."
She explained how she would fall under the spell of internet groomers.
"At first they are so nice. They compliment you. They make you feel like the person you want to be. Then you find out it is all lies they want something out of you. All they do is make you feel worthless."
Her project workers at the Children's Society have helped her make changes in her life and she has now found work. But she still struggles with low self-esteem.
"I just feel worthless," she says. "There are people who die of serious causes. I would prefer to give them my life as I don't really want mine."
But there has been a significant cultural change. The shamed silence which surrounded abuse is being challenged. Children are being given explicit warnings about potential dangers - not just those posed by strangers but from those closer to home.
At a school in Fulham in West London children aged 10 and 11 sit attentively waiting for the lesson to begin. They are about to learn about the dangers of abuse.
Instead of teachers, this lesson is conducted by a group of volunteers from Childline, in association with the NSPCC, and all wearing bright green T-shirts bearing the charity's logo.
The content is remarkably frank and honest. But the tone is calm. There is no sense here that children are being frightened or being taught a general mistrust of adults. They are shown animated videos and told about different forms of abuse - neglect, emotional cruelty, violence and sexual abuse.
Together they chant the ChildLine phone number - 0800 1111 - and its website address.
The children are given tasks to discuss in small groups the different risks a child may face. The discussions are lively and open.
The NSPCC is increasing its work in schools so that by next year it aims to visit every primary school in the UK twice a year, although to do this it needs more volunteers to help.
Last year 18,600 children and young people contacted Childline to discuss child sex abuse. But the culture of shame, the desire to protect parents even if they are abusers, a child's lack of awareness of their rights - all can act as powerful barriers to breaking the silence.
The NSPCC Area Co-ordinator, Kelly Thorndick, believes it is important that children understand the danger of abuse as early as possible.
"It's about educating children so they know how to get help at a much earlier stage. But it's also about giving them the confidence to take action for themselves, as often children don't understand what is happening to them is abuse," she says.
If you have been affected, the following organisations can help: The police if you have evidence of having suffered sexual abuse so an investigation can be made. NSPCC charity specialises in child protection. National Association for People Abused in Childhood offers support, advice and guidance to adult survivors of any form of childhood abuse. Childline is a private and confidential service for children and young people up to the age of 19. The Children's Society works to support vulnerable children in England and Wales. Stop it Now is a is a child sexual abuse prevention campaign in the UK and Ireland.
An NSPCC study found that around 11% of young adults said that they had experienced sexual abuse in which an abuser makes physical contact with a child during their childhood
Girls are at a greater risk than boys of being abused by a family member
Boys are at a higher risk than girls of being abused by a stranger
The majority of reported abuse is carried out by male abusers but there is some discussion as to whether abuse by female abusers is underreported
Child sex abuse victims ask lawmakers for more time to sue their abusers
by Sandra Parrish
Atlanta — State House members hear testimony from adult victims of child sexual abuse who are calling for more time to be able to go after their abusers in court.
House Bill 17, which is called the Hidden Predator Act, would extend the statute of limitations for victims to file a lawsuit from five to 35 years once the victim reaches age 18.
Angela Williams, founder of Voice Today which advocates for such victims, was sexually abused by her now deceased stepfather from the age of 3 to 17. She tells WSB's Sandra Parrish the median age for a victim to disclose the abuse is 40.
“We really need time for an adult to be able to process the trauma, to be able to heal, and to have the courage to face the perpetrator,” she says.
Often times the abuser is a family member, pastor, coach or other trusted figure of authority that the victim doesn't feel they can report.
“They are threatened and they are very scared about alienating the entire family when they come out and tell the truth,” says Marci Hamilton, a professor at Cardoza School of Law at Yeshiva University in New York.
As a nationwide advocate for change, she says Georgia is one of the five worst states in the country for access to justice for child sex abuse victims.
Lori Kennedy was a high school student when she was raped daily by the attorney for whom she was interning. It wasn't until years later she realized she, in fact, was a victim of child sexual abuse.
“I had so just tried to put it behind me that I had not recognized the word abuse applied to me,” she says.
Kennedy, who now tells her story to others as part of a ministry, says she simply wants to make sure her abuser, who is now a judge, doesn't harm anyone else.
Part of the bill would also allow victims or their legal guardian access to police and other investigation records which are currently off limits.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine), was introduced during last year's session but time ran out before it could be considered by either the House or the Senate.
Volunteers working with kids must get clearances
by Peg Quann
New state regulations require security clearance for volunteers who have direct involvement with children — whether for a school, religious group, scout troop or other organization.
In addition, volunteers now have a mandate to report any reasonable signs of child abuse they encounter directly to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, formerly the Department of Public Welfare.
Teachers and others who work with children on a regular basis have long been required to get security clearances to be hired, but now they must have clearances updated every three years, as do volunteers.
Like the volunteers, employees also must report any suspected child abuse to the state DHS hotline or website.
Central Bucks School District Superintendent David Weitzel brought up the changes in state law at the school board meeting last week where a revised child abuse policy was proposed.
It was one day after he notified Cold Spring Elementary School's parents about a volunteer who was arrested last month in Montgomery County. Kurt Krumpholz, of Buckingham, allegedly agreed to meet teenage boys for a sexual encounter. Instead, detectives were there to arrest him.
His arrest highlights the need for the new requirements, Weitzel pointed out at the meeting.
Under the regulations, persons who work with children will be required to get security clearances when they are hired or volunteer and then every three years thereafter. The clearances are:
A Criminal History Record obtained from Pennsylvania State Police (for a $10 fee).
A Child Abuse Clearance from the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (for a $10 fee).
A federal Criminal History Record obtained by submitting a full set of fingerprints to Pennsylvania State Police or its authorized agent for the FBI (for a $28.75 fee).
Volunteers will be required to get the first two background checks but not the FBI clearance if they have lived in Pennsylvania for 10 years and affirm they do not have a criminal record or have been involved in a child abuse case in another state.
The Central Bucks child abuse policy has been rewritten to reflect the new laws, following state Department of Education guidelines. It has been posted on the school district's website and will be discussed by the district's Curriculum Committee before the board will adopt the policy, most likely later this month, said district solicitor Jeffrey Garton.
“It's all brand new to reflect these new requirements,” Garton said.
Weitzel said the policy for volunteers would apply to anyone who comes to the schools on a regular basis, such as tutors or aides.
Cathleen Palm, a founder of The Center for Children's Justice, an advocacy group for children, said the new mandatory reporting requirement means that if an employee or volunteer has “a reasonable cause to suspect that a child is a victim of child abuse,” the person must report that to the state Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-932-0313, or to the Child Welfare Portal website at https://www.compass.state.pa.us/cwis/public/home.
“They no longer can tell up the chain of command. They have to report outside the institution,” Palm said.
The identity of the person making the report is protected, and as long as it is not a false report, he or she has immunity from any kind of legal repercussions when the report is investigated by police and/or a representative of a child welfare agency, Palm said.
While the background checks for newly hired employees and employees facing the three-year renewal requirement went into effect Jan. 1, the checks on volunteers don't have to be made until July 1 to avoid a “mad rush,” at the clearance agencies, Palm said.
The new regulations apply to any adult dealing with children up to age 18, including the staffs of parochial, private and charter schools, Sunday schools, day care centers, sports teams and foster and adoptive parents.
In the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, about 6,000 new volunteers and employees a year are affected, said Leslie Davila, director of the archdiocesan Office for Children and Youth Protection.
She said a Safe Environment Summit in November educated teachers and volunteers about the regulations and reporting requirements.
Since 2003, the archdiocese has required background checks on volunteers. The checks have to be performed every five years. The archdiocese also required an FBI clearance for any volunteer living in the state less than two years. That policy will now change to meet the state's 10-year or longer residency requirement to avoid the FBI clearance, as will the requirement that any suspected abuse be reported directly to the state hotline or website, not up the chain of supervision.
Since the clearance requirements could cost almost $50, Davila said they are paid by the volunteer and, in some cases, the parish school or other church organization.
Palm said the intent of the new laws is to protect children, but she is concerned that they could have “a chilling effect on involvement, especially for parents.”
The mother who comes for a class party for her child's birthday would not have to get the security clearances, but one who volunteers in the school on a regular basis or who goes on field trips in a position of authority would, she said.
Palm pointed out that many teachers also volunteer as scout leaders or with other organizations. They would not have to get two sets of clearances. Neither would someone who is a volunteer both at a school and for a non-school-related program for children. One set of clearances will suffice.
The state also is working to clarify what offenses would be red flags to obtaining the clearances, so that someone with a minor problem in his or her background wouldn't be barred from volunteering.
Palm also said that Pennsylvania should look at ways to help volunteers, especially parents, who might not be able to afford the up fees to obtain the clearances needed.
“We as a state should consider waiving the costs,” Palm said.
Crisis Center, high school basketball teams combat teen dating violence
by Devan Chavez
CEDAR CITY — Two high school basketball teams are joining forces with the Canyon Creek Women's Crisis Center Wednesday to help raise awareness of dating violence as part of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.
At 7 p.m., the basketball teams for both Cedar High School and Canyon View High School will face off against their opponents while showing their support for the cause by wearing purple socks, Darrah Jones, youth coordinator for the Canyon Creek Women's Crisis Center, said. This will be the third time the two schools have teamed up with the Crisis Center as part of the awareness month.
Unlike other months designated to promote awareness of sexual assault and domestic violence, Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month is significant because it concentrates on a specific age group, Jones said. This is important because, unlike some adults, teenagers may not yet be ingrained with certain violent behaviors.
“It's unique because it's very preventative,” Jones said. “It engages a lot of the community while they are still young and before they are really set in their ways.”
As teenagers, they are starting to experience relationships for the first time, Jones said. Taking a stand now really helps them to take care of the problem before it even comes up.
On Monday, as they have done on previous years, students at both high schools signed their names on banners; pledging to take a stand against dating violence and showing their commitment to the cause, Jones said. These banners will be hung at the schools and will remain there for the month.
“It really gets the students engaged and excited,” Jones said.
One in three young people will experience some form of abuse in their dating relationships, according to the awareness month's website. This violence can come in different forms that resemble those found in violent adult relationships.
This abuse, according to the website, can typically come in four different forms: physical, verbal and emotional, sexual and digital. While people may be familiar with the first three forms, digital abuse uses technology or social media as a way to intimidate, harass or threaten. This can include demanding passwords, checking cell phones, sexting or sending threatening text messages.
At each of the basketball game halftimes, Jones said, a student representative of the Crisis Center will give a speech to the crowd. These speeches explain the different signs of dating violence and why raising awareness is important.
There will also be Crisis Center representatives at both basketball games, Jones said. People can visit these tables to ask questions and learn more about dating violence; both the dangers and how to take preventative measures.
“We will have pamphlets and other promotional items there,” Jones said.
Parents who may want their children to learn more about dating violence can contact the Crisis Center, Jones said. Options for these teens include volunteer time and even monthly group meetings where they can learn more about the dangers, signs and ways to combat violence.
The student athletes at both Canyon View High School and Cedar High School will be wearing purple socks to show their support, Jones said. The Crisis Center also provided each coach with a purple tie. Those planning to attend are also encouraged to wear purple to show their support.
Those who feel they may be a victim of domestic or dating violence are encouraged to seek help. Resources can be found on the Crisis Center website.
What: Basketball Games Promoting Healthy Relationships
When: Wednesday, Feb. 4, at 7 p.m.
Where: Canyon View High School | 166 W. 1925 North, Cedar City, UT 84721
Cedar High School | 703 W. 600 South, Cedar City, UT 84720
Contact: Darrah Jones | Telephone: 1-435-867-9411 | Email: email@example.com
Billboards encourage reporting child abuse
by Eric Pointer
DAYTON, Ohio – A new billboard has some drivers hitting the brakes so they can read more about it.
Prosecutor Matt Heck said the billboards are to increase awareness of child abuse and the importance of reporting it.
Drivers all over the Miami Valley can see these billboards urging people to report abuse. They list the number for the Montgomery County child abuse hotline (937) 224-5437.
Representatives from the hotline say anyone can call in anonymously and share as much information as they can about the child in danger.
Kevin Lavoie, Montgomery County Children Services said, ” If people even just have a suspension of neglect of a child they owe it to that child to give us a call, and people did so nearly 5,000 times last year.”
“I think it's important that people are aware of the existence of child abuse, and also the responsibility that we all have being good citizens, neighbors and reporting child abuse,” said Heck.
The child abuse and neglect hotline also has an overnight staff so that anyone can call any time.
Key Ads partnered with the prosecuting attorney and donated the billboards.
MCPS Officials Recommend Changes to Policy Governing Child Abuse and Neglect
The existing policy hadn't been updated for 25 years; overhaul calls for greater coordination with police in handling abuse and neglect allegations
by Julie Rasicot
Montgomery County Public Schools officials are recommending a comprehensive overhaul of the district's policy and regulations concerning the prevention and reporting of child abuse and neglect.
The new policy and regulations would, among other steps, update existing policies to reflect best practices, improve scrutiny of prospective employees and others who have access to students and improve coordination between MCPS, police and county agencies when handling abuse and neglect allegations, according to MCPS officials.
Officials are also recommending annual training for the district's 23,000 employees that focuses on policies and procedures, creation of a comprehensive parent-awareness program and lessons for students about personal safety and abuse prevention. The recommendations call for ongoing updates to employees' background information and screening of prospective volunteers and contractors who would have access to students not under direct supervision of MCPS staff.
Representatives from MCPS, the county police and the county's State's Attorney Office on Monday briefed the County Council's Education Committee on 28 recommendations developed in coordination with an MCPS working group. The working group, which included parents and staff from county agencies, was established in summer 2014 to examine the school system's practices with an eye toward enhancing and improving procedures.
The creation of the work group came in the wake of several cases charging inappropriate conduct by MCPS employees or contractors, leading to concerns about the district's hiring practices, how it deals with tracking allegations of such behavior and its system for notifying parents when abuse allegations arise.
MCPS Chief of Staff Andrew Zuckerman described the efforts of the work group as “evolving” and said the district must be focused on “continuously updating” its policies and procedures to reflect best practices for handling child abuse and neglect. Existing MCPS policy hadn't been updated in 25 years, he said, adding that the work group and MCPS reviewed policies in neighboring school districts when developing the recommendations.
He expected that MCPS staff would deliver a draft of the new policy and regulations to the school board by late February or early March with the goal of finalizing a policy and regulations by the end of the school year. MCPS Superintendent Joshua Starr had presented the set of recommendations to the board in January.
Included among the district's recommendations are providing annual training on policy and procedures to its 23,000 employees, creating a comprehensive parent-awareness program for identifying abuse and providing opportunities to teach students about personal safety and abuse prevention. Another recommendation suggested that school officials consult county agencies about notifying parents concerning incidents of child abuse.
“There's no option for failure in any of this. Every one of these is critical,” Assistant Police Chief Russ Hamill told committee chairman Craig Rice and member Marc Elrich. Council member Nancy Navarro, who also sits on the committee, could not attend due to illness.
Hamill said he expected that the district's new policy is “going to serve as a model policy across the country very shortly.”
Debbie Feinstein, chief of the Family Violence Division of the State's Attorney's Office, said that participating in the work group provided the agency's first opportunity to collaborate with MCPS on child abuse and neglect issues. The proposed recommendations are designed to “make our community a community where predators don't want to come, they don't want to waste their time.”
She said participants agreed with the priority of her office: that police and child welfare officials, not school officials, investigate allegations of abuse and neglect.
Rice said that, in addition to the proposed recommendations, parents and other community members want to make sure that school officials always involve police when allegations surface and that a suspected offender is removed from the school system. Also, parents must be notified and students who may have been victims should be protected and receive services, he said.
“My promise to the kids: We will get this right and make sure we have one of the best policies in the nation,” he said.
Family claims CPS is ignoring child abuse
(Video on site)
by Maria Corrales
Child Protective Services
(CPS) told Fox 26 News they started receiving many concerned calls about this video over the weekend, but because the case is so delicate they cannot reveal much information about an investigation.
In the video you can see and hear, the 3 year old tell her family that her mommy and boyfriend allegedly tied her up and hung her from a closet. You can hear the family get very upset and gasp in disbelief, as the child explains the apparent bruises. One family member decides to record the child's confession where she repeatedly says her arms are hurting and it's all because she was hung from a closet.
"When i was sitting down in the ambulance, while the paramedics were taking care of her. I was picturing her, what can she do if she was there, they were watching her, did they leave her there and shut the door and left her and I don't know for how long. I still felt that when I turned her into her mother, I felt that something else was going to happen. So we just went ahead and went to social media to try and get some help," says a concerned father.
When the family member stopped recording they immediately called 911 and the child was taken to a hospital for medical evaluation. A CPS worker as well as police showed up at the hospital and made a report but the little girl was eventually returned to her mother that same night.
We spoke with the mother, who was just leaving a CPS meeting. She told me, we'd have to consult with her lawyer for specifics on the case, but she did mention the child is not being abused and that the little girl simply had an incident with some rubber bands, which she placed on her arms and legs.
Woman's claims about Prince Andrew, others reignite sex case
by CURT ANDERSON
MIAMI — First came the allegations late last year that Britain's Prince Andrew and a prominent American lawyer took part in a wealthy sex offender's abuse of teenage girls aboard private jets, in luxury homes and on the financier's Caribbean island.
The story, part of a long-running U.S. legal fight focused on the rights of the women, gained steam when Buckingham Palace took the unusual step of issuing a carefully worded denial of the kind of salacious claims that royal officials rarely acknowledge. Defense attorney Alan Dershowitz, who represented the highly connected Jeffrey Epstein and was himself named in the latest court filings, then called the most outspoken of the four women a serial liar and practically dared her to prove her accounts.
Instead of letting the case play out from there, the woman known as Jane Doe No. 3 hit back with a 23-page affidavit detailing dates, locations and more about the powerful men she says Epstein forced her and the others to satisfy.
More than six years after Epstein pleaded guilty to Florida charges involving sex with underage girls, the case has erupted anew. Even Bill Clinton's name has resurfaced as a guest of Epstein's, although no one has accused the former president of impropriety. A Clinton spokesman declined to comment Friday.
Dershowitz has accused Jane Doe No. 3 of making up most or all of her claims, including a story about seeing Clinton on Epstein's island years ago.
Jane Doe No. 3 and three others who say Epstein victimized them want a federal judge to make public and throw out the part of Epstein's plea deal that guaranteed that neither he nor any co-conspirators would face federal charges. Federal prosecutors oppose the request, contending they did their best to confer with the victims but that the women aren't entitled to details of the plea negotiations.
Even if the judge rules for the women, the U.S. Justice Department wouldn't necessarily have to bring a case against Epstein. But opening the "non-prosecution agreement" could bring further embarrassment for Epstein and his high-profile friends, and provide the women with leverage as they seek damages from the U.S. government. They contend their rights as victims were trampled by the then-secret agreement.
Epstein, 62, served 13 months of an 18-month jail sentence in the state case and was required to register as a sex offender. He also reached undisclosed financial settlements with dozens of women who made similar allegations against him, according to court documents.
Before he was prosecuted, Epstein was a well-known member of the super-wealthy enclave of Palm Beach, Florida, where he frequented Donald Trump's exclusive seaside Mar-a-Lago club.
"He was certainly a man about town and because of the fact that it is a small island, he got to know a lot of people," Trump, who has not been implicated in any wrongdoing, told The Associated Press recently. "When I started reading about the different things and then things were proven, that's a different planet, that's a different world."
Although Epstein's connections with the rich and powerful have been well chronicled over the years, Jane Doe No. 3 is the first to provide specific details, in a public court filing under oath, about her purported sexual encounters with some of them.
Epstein's celebrity lawyer, Roy Black, accuses Jane Doe No. 3's attorneys of trying to inflame the case and wants the judge to keep the plea documents private.
Although Jane Doe No. 3's true name has been published elsewhere, The Associated Press does not identify victims of sex crimes without their consent. One of her attorneys, Brad Edwards, said in an email she does not wish to be named.
Now a 31-year-old wife and mother, Jane Doe No. 3 insists her motives are to hold the elite accountable.
"These powerful people seem to think that they don't have to follow the same rules as everyone else. That is wrong," she said in the affidavit. "I hope that by coming forward, I can help expose the problem of sex trafficking and prevent the same sort of abuse and degradation that happened to me from happening to other girls."
Jane Doe No. 3 says she first met Epstein in 1999 through one of his associates at age 15. What followed was a three-year whirlwind of paid sex abuse, international travel and encounters with many of Epstein's powerful friends, according to Jane Doe No. 3.
"I was trained to be everything a man wanted me to be," she said in her affidavit. "They said they loved that I was very compliant and knew how to keep my mouth shut."
Although she was paid for her services and was given luxurious accommodations by Epstein, Jane Doe No. 3 said, it was also clear she could get into "big trouble" if she tried to leave or refuse his sexual advances and requirements to provide sex to others.
"He let me know that he knew many people in high places," she said. "Speaking about himself, he said, 'I can get away' with things. I was very scared, particularly since I was a teenager."
It was in London in early 2001, when she was 17, Jane Doe No. 3 said, that she said she first met Prince Andrew, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II also known as the Duke of York. Epstein wanted her to "exceed everything I had been taught" and make sure the prince got anything he wanted, according to her.
That night, she said, they went to dinner and a nightspot called "Club Tramp" in London, then had sex in the townhome of an Epstein associate. She said Epstein paid her $15,000.
The court documents include a photo of a smiling Prince Andrew with his arm around the waist of Jane Doe No. 3 at the townhome.
She claims she had sex with Andrew later in spring 2001 at Epstein's New York mansion and a third time at an orgy involving other girls, most of whom sounded like they were from Eastern Europe and who all looked under 18, at Epstein's island in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Andrew and Buckingham Palace have emphatically denied that the prince had sex illegally with any underage girl. If Jane Doe No. 3's story is true, the differing age of consent laws in Britain and the U.S. could make it a close call whether any crime was committed.
Jane Doe No. 3 contends she also had sex with Dershowitz at least six times beginning when she was age 16 at various properties owned by Epstein.
Not true, says Dershowitz, a TV commentator and former Harvard Law School professor best known for defending O.J. Simpson in the football Hall of Famer's murder case.
"Never under any circumstances have I ever had sexual contact of any kind, which includes massages or any physical contact whatsoever, with Jane Doe No. 3," Dershowitz said in a sworn statement.
It's far from clear when or how the legal fight between the Jane Does and the U.S. Justice Department over Epstein's plea deal will end. Last year, a federal appeals court sided with the women in ruling that victims are entitled to be informed about how a plea agreement is reached.
Those details remain under wraps for now.
Images of child abuse found in Vatican City
'Holy See's prosecutor general says two cases involving indecent material came to light last year, along with other crimes
by Rosie Scammell
Two cases of child pornography possession were uncovered within the walls of the Vatican last year, along with numerous other crimes in the city state, the Holy See's prosecutor general has announced.
Following worldwide allegations of sex abuse by priests, Gian Piero Milano, the Holy See's Promoter of Justice, said the Vatican was now taking action against paedophilia in the heart of the Catholic church.
Unveiling the Vatican's justice report, Milano stopped short of naming those accused of possessing child pornography. Holy See spokesman Federico Lombardi however identified Josef Wesolowski, a disgraced former ambassador, as one of the people facing charges.
Wesolowski was stripped of his diplomatic immunity last year following accusations that he abused young boys during his time as envoy to the Dominican Republic. The Polish former archbishop is currently awaiting trial at the Vatican, in what will be the first sex abuse trial ever held at the Holy See.
Beyond the child pornography cases, Vatican authorities are battling an array of crimes including drug trafficking and money laundering. Three drug deliveries addressed to the Vatican were intercepted last year, including a packet containing cocaine-filled condoms. The drugs were discovered at Germany's Leipzig airport and handed to the Vatican in the hope of ensnaring the buyer, but no one came forward to claim the package.
Despite the array of criminal activity, only six people ended up in the Vatican's prison last year. They include Marcello di Finizio, an Italian protester who climbed atop St Peter's Basilica, and Iana Azhdanova, a Femen activist who bared her breasts and grabbed a baby Jesus statue from the Vatican's nativity scene.
Proposed UNM center would aim to reduce child abuse in NM
by Sayyed Shah
The New Mexico Legislature is considering a proposal to fund the establishment of a new center at UNM specializing in child maltreatment.
Funding will allow the Child Abuse Response Team at the UNM Health Sciences Center to bring in staff dedicated to supporting the center and expand clinical services to better reach areas outlying the metro area, said Dr. Leslie Strickler, medical director for the Child Abuse Response Team and associate professor of pediatrics at UNM Children's Hospital.
“Our goal is to improve clinical care, education, advocacy and collaboration between all stakeholders and incorporate primary, secondary and tertiary prevention initiatives,” Strickler said.
Funding will allow CART to better recognize risk for abuse, occurrence of abuse and ultimately decrease the prevalence of abuse in New Mexico, she said.
As compared to other states in the United States, New Mexico sees higher rates of abuse per capita and a greater number of deaths due to child abuse, Strickler said.
While New Mexico's ranking rose slightly from 50th in 2013 to 49th in 2014 in the national KIDS COUNT rankings of child wellbeing, state policymakers have not managed to make much progress toward improving how the state cares for its kids, according to a press release by New Mexico Voices for Children, a nonpartisan, statewide advocacy organization founded in 1987 by a group of pediatricians.
The KIDS COUNT program measures 16 indicators of child wellbeing, and New Mexico saw improvement in just five of those, the statement said.
“Worse, child poverty — a main factor in poor outcomes — actually increased (from 28 percent to 31 percent) even as it decreased in most of the rest of the nation,” the press release stated.
The annual state KIDS COUNT report stressed that state lawmakers should make a priority of addressing the needs of all children by supporting a holistic, coordinated and two-generation approach that serves both children and their families.
“We recognize that the data change over one year does not provide a trend, but it is still concerning that some of our worst child wellbeing outcomes continue to decline,” said Veronica C. García, executive director of NM Voices.
CART typically evaluates only 20 to 30 children a month, about half of whom ultimately are determined to be victims of abuse, Strickler said.
“Although we see fewer patients than many other doctors, we spend a great deal of time with our patients — a minimum of 1 hour, and sometimes much more — and generate lengthy consultative reports and care coordination,” Strickler said.
The scarcity of pediatricians who are board-certified in child abuse pediatrics worsens the issue.
New Mexico has four child abuse specialists, and CART would like to add a fifth in the next one to two years, she said.
“This level of staffing is barely sufficient to mange the workload in the Albuquerque metropolitan area,” Strickler said. “Specialized resources are much scarcer in the rural and frontier areas of the state.”
Strickler said she and her team face many challenges in dealing with the child abuse cases and in their efforts to eradicate this tragedy from society.
“From a clinical perspective, it's lack of adequate education for health care providers in recognizing abuse, and too few providers with specialized experience in the field,” she said. “Form a community perspective, lack of education and awareness of abuse, and lack of public outcry and intervention for children at risk are major challenges.”
Citizens and state government need to be more concerned about what is happening to their kids, and better support families in nurturing healthy children, she said.
“We need to address the other public health crises that increase risk for child maltreatment. These include poverty, domestic violence, mental health problems and substance abuse,” Strickler said.
She considers “denialism” another major barricade in the way of eradicating child abuse from the society, she said.
“We can't fix things that we don't properly acknowledge,” she said.
Child sex abuse in Jewish community to be examined by royal commission
Hearings will focus on Orthodox Jewish Yeshiva centres and colleges in Sydney and Melbourne and evidence will include statements from four victims
by Melissa Davey
Child sex abuse in the Jewish community is under scrutiny for the first time by the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse, as the hearings continue in Melbourne on Monday.
Over the next fortnight, the hearings at Victoria's county court will focus on Orthodox Jewish Yeshiva centres and colleges in Sydney and Melbourne, and evidence will include statements from four victims and their families.
In her opening address, counsel assisting, Maria Gerace, told the commission that all the victims were students at schools run by the institutions at the time of their abuse.
“The victims came into contact with the perpetrators as a result of the perpetrators' involvement in or association with activities run by the institutions, such as after school martial arts classes, religious programs and overnight youth camps,” she said.
Reporting of and responses to allegations of child sexual abuse by the Yeshivah Centre Melbourne, Yeshivah-Beth Rivkah Colleges, the Yeshiva Centre Chabad NSW and Yeshiva College Bondi would all come under scrutiny, Gerace said.
Gerace outlined allegations of child sexual abuse made against the former director of Yeshiva College Bondi, Daniel “Gug” Hayman, and former staff of the Yeshivah College Melbourne, including security guard and youth leader David Cyprys and “rabbi” David Kramer. All have been convicted.
“David Cyprys was a serial abuser of children,” Gerace told the commission. “The youngest of his victims was seven years old at the time he was abused.”
Cyprys is in jail after pleading guilty to a number of child sex abuse offences. Two of his victims were due to give evidence to the commission over the coming days, Gerace said.
Kramer was a former teacher at Yeshivah Centre primary school run by Yeshivah Melbourne, and although never ordained as a rabbi, students called him Rabbi Kramer, Gerace said.
In 2013, he pleaded guilty to five charges of indecent assault and one charge of an indecent act with a child under 16, offences committed between January 1990 and December 1991 while he was a primary school teacher, the commission heard.
His victims were all students and were 10 or 11 at the time they were abused, Gerace said. Two of the victims were brothers of Manny Waks, a victim who was due to give evidence to the commission on Monday afternoon.
The third convicted perpetrator to be examined, Hayman, was charged with indecent assault of a child who was a student of Yeshiva Bondi, Gerace said. His victim was 14.
“Daniel Hayman perpetrated the abuse whilst attending a youth camp, known as Camp Gan Israel, in Stanwell Tops, south of Sydney,” Gerace said.
“His victim, AVB, who will give evidence in this inquiry, attended the camp as a student.
“Daniel Hayman attended that camp in the role of chaperone or house parent. The conduct was substantial, actively non-consensual and involved skin-to-skin contact notwithstanding the victim demonstrated his lack of consent.”
A further alleged perpetrator, substitute teacher Aaron Kestecher, who took his own life last year, will also be examined by the commission.
Yeshivah Melbourne and Yeshiva Bondi are both part of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, the commission heard. Gerace said the inquiry would need to examine aspects of that movement in order to understand the role that religious leaders played.
The commission would hear evidence from spiritual leaders, rabbis and other staff at the organisations about the way they handled sex abuse allegations, she said.
The role of Jewish law in the way staff handled abuse cases would need to be examined, she said.
The hearings continue.
Training is key to preventing child sexual abuse
by The News Journal
News that the Boy Scouts of America settled a sexual abuse lawsuit in California this week is a reminder that parents, guardians and, most especially, institutions that deal with children must take every possible precaution to safeguard those in their care.
The Boy Scout case was of national note because a judge had allowed the victim's lawyers to use the so-called “perversion files” the organization kept on adults who were considered dangerous to children. The settlement will keep the files secret from the public, although prosecutors have had access to them.
The organizational scandal was that it kept those files for years, but had never given the information to prosecutors until scandals broke. The Scout organization says it has learned its lesson. More than a decade ago, the organization had introduced mandatory training and set rules of conduct for the Scouts and adult leaders. Other organizations hit by sexual abuse scandals, such as the Catholic Church, also have put similar rules and training programs into effect.
It is hard to believe that it took national scandals to make the country aware of the abuse. However, the nation is still being hit by allegations of improper contact between teachers and students. Several of these scandals have hit Delaware recently.
Earlier this week the Delaware State News quoted a former U.S. Department of Education official as saying there are more of these school scandals than most people think. Terry Abbott told the State News, “I knew there was a problem, but was stunned by the extent of the problem.” Mr. Abbott's survey was admittedly unscientific. It mostly relied on compiling press accounts of the scandals.
Headlines, especially when they make national TV news, can give a false impression of a problem's extent. It is the isolated cases that we should be on the lookout for. Still, it is important that school officials and parents step up monitoring. That should include training for educators, students and parents.
The key is preventing it by getting students and school employees to report and question certain behaviors.
Above all, parents should learn to listen, especially when they hear a note of concern in their children's voices. Sometimes those feelings are not clear or are mistaken. However, it is the listening and understanding that are important.
All organizations that deal with youth also should do a better job of screening the employees who will be directly working with children. That ethic is often woven into classes in schools of education. Federal requirements demand annual reviews of proper procedures on the teachers in the schools. However, the discussion should be part of the normal talk in the workplace and not just relegating to “training hours.”
It is unfortunate that such training and discussions have to take place. However, it is far better to be uncomfortable broaching such a subject than to have to regret not doing it.
'History Of Loneliness' Explores The Complexity Of Priest Sex Abuse
"History of Loneliness" addresses the difficult subject of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests. NPR's Rachel Martin speaks with author John Boyne about his novel.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. It used to be that being a Catholic priest was just about the highest social standing a man could achieve in Ireland. It was a call that always reflected well upon a young man and his family. The Irish writer John Boyne says that is not always the case now. The sex abuse crisis in the church destroyed a lot of lives, and the focus has rightly been on the victims who suffered the abuse. But in his new novel, Boyne introduces us to a central, yet overlooked, character in this crisis - the priest who did not abuse but who did turn a blind eye. The book is called "A History Of Loneliness," and the priest at the center of the story is named Father Odran Yates.
JOHN BOYNE: He is essentially a good man. He tries to be a good man. But over the years, he can see what's going on. And he becomes a slightly ambiguous character in some ways, a slightly unreliable narrator because we never really know how much criminality he has witnessed and not talked about.
MARTIN: So much of this tale is about what compels young men to join the priesthood in the first place. What is that part of his story? How did he end up there?
BOYNE: There's a phrase we use in Ireland called the mother's vocation. And it's - I think it's happened a lot over the years where a boy from a family has been effectively forced into a seminary because through all those decades to have a priest in the family was considered, you know, the greatest social ambition that you could have. And Odran is pretty much pushed into a seminary at a young age in his teenage years. But as it turns out, it's exactly the right place for him to be. He is a contemplative sort of character. He's not particularly interested in the physical side of life. I wanted very much at the start of this novel to present a man who's actually suited for the priesthood.
MARTIN: And of course, he stands in such sharp contrast to another character, a central character in this story. His roommate in seminary is a man named - is a boy named Tom Cardle who is not suited for the priesthood.
BOYNE: Yeah. That would be right. He's probably the other side of the coin to Odran and also pushed into a seminary by his family but definitely not supposed to be there. And he is the character who, in many ways, represents the abusers in the church. I started out thinking he was going to be the villain of the piece. And he is in many ways. But I think at some point in the novel it changes slightly where you feel this is a guy who, you know, when he was a teenager, before he was fully sexually developed, was thrust into a place where all of that was cut off for him. And, you know, his psychology is corrupted somewhat and in the literal sense, perverted. And I think, you know, there's a case to be made that a lot of people who ended up being abusers were never, themselves, given a chance in life. Now that doesn't excuse their criminal acts, but it's an interesting - it's just a different way of looking at it.
MARTIN: Odran, on the other hand, as you say, becomes an unreliable narrator because we're never quite sure, as the reader, how much he understands of what's going on which is compelling and confusing at the same time.
BOYNE: Yeah. I think because I move the novel around the time. I use a lot of time shifts wherein, you know, we start out in the early 2000s, then we're back to the '60s, forward to 2014, back to the '70s. He seems to me a character who is unable to confront reality, really. He prefers to hide away from the world. I think there are moments in the book where we see Odran and Tom in different decades. And the reader might be a little bit more aware of what's going on here than our narrator is. We see Tom moving from parish to parish to parish because of course one of the great criminal acts in the church in Ireland was the fact that those priests who had been brought to the attention of the bishops, of the Cardinal, of the Pope as committing these terrible acts were not reported to the police. They were simply moved to different parishes. And of course, an intelligent reader looking at the book would recognize what is happening with Tom, what's going on there. But Odran, our narrator, doesn't recognize it.
MARTIN: So much has been written about this tragedy within the church. So many real-life survivors have had to tell their story on the witness stand and have done so willingly in the press. What did you want or need to say in fiction that hadn't yet been said or explored?
BOYNE: Well, I think what was important to me was that I wanted to write a book which was not just a diatribe against the church. What I wanted was to write a book where those people who constantly defend the church against all comers who will not hear a word said against them might read the book and actually realize what they have done and what they have been responsible for. And those who just condemn the Church constantly might read the book and see that there are good people - good men, good women who have devoted their lives to religion, to God. And what they have done in their lives needs to be recognized as well. I wanted to express both sides of the story and recognize the loneliness of the good priest as well as the loneliness and the tragedy of the bad priest.
MARTIN: The focus throughout this crisis, rightly, has been and continues to be on the victims. But you are shining a light on how the tragedy has devastated the lives of the priests who never committed abuse, perhaps turned a blind eye. And you can argue that, you know, was that as bad?
BOYNE: Well, I interviewed a lot of priests when I was writing this book, and I interviewed victims. And the one thing I got from the priests was that the tragedy of their lives now - the priests who have done nothing wrong - the way that they won't go into town wearing their habit because, you know, people will look at them, are suspicious of them. You know, a priest said to me that if, you know, if a child knocked on his door and was beaten up and bleeding and in a terrible state, the first thing he would do is close the door in that child's face because he couldn't risk the child coming into the house. And that's a tragedy in itself. And it's a tragedy that the church brought upon itself. It's something very sad, I think.
Now, of course, it doesn't even equate with the tragedy of the victims, and the way they were treated over the years - the fear that was put into them, the terrible abuses that were committed to them and even the manner in which the church tried to silence them when these stories first came out. But I do think we have to also look at those people who did nothing wrong, who committed no crimes and look at their lives. And that's one place where fiction can come in, particularly first person fiction, because we can just have a little insight perhaps into the life of somebody like that.
MARTIN: The novel is called "A History Of Loneliness." It was written by John Boyne. Thank you so much for talking with us, John.
BOYNE: Thank you.
Legal system makes major moves forward in its handling of sexual assault, especially in Illinois
by Kristy Kennedy
In December, a Chicago area man was convicted of raping a woman in a hotel room following their date in 2009.
If the crime had happened 20 or even 15 years ago, Jennifer Gonzalez, chief of the Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Division for the Cook County State's Attorney's office, doubts it would have ended in a conviction. The two met online, had drinks and ended up in a hotel room. Cases of “she said, he said” are among the most difficult to prove.
“These are tough cases,” Gonzalez says. “I'm trying to hold offenders accountable, but usually there are no witnesses. This is a crime that happens behind closed doors.” That case, which later involved a second victim, is just one example of how times have changed and continue to change. Over the last 30 years in Illinois and across the United States, sexual assault laws have been made stronger, the application of those laws has been better and there has been a shifting view of victims and perpetrators by law enforcement and the general public. For example, victims' sexual histories or manners of dress aren't allowed at trial as often as they once were thanks to victim shield laws.
Military and university policies against sexual assault have been strengthened. Influential people with the power to change policies and laws have weighed in. President Barack Obama last year launched the “It's On Us” initiative to raise awareness about sexual assault on college campuses. Also last year, Pope Francis met with individual victims of clerical sexual abuse. Those things shift public thinking, says Polly Poskin, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “It creates seismic reverberations,” she says. “It gives survivors the feeling they are believed. We have to have that kind of change.”
The media also is paying attention. Take the allegations against Bill Cosby that he drugged and sexually assaulted several women over the course of his long career. Poskin says it is powerful not only that women are coming forward, but that they are getting attention from the media and the public. “We realize that some will still deny that Dr. Huxtable, the Jello-Pudding pitchman, could ever commit such heinous acts. It is difficult to accept that someone you think you know, someone whom you think shares your values and ideals, could commit such a monstrous crime again and again. Yet your collective stories are powerful and will break through the denial of many,” Poskin said in an open letter to alleged victims on the organization's website. Cosby denies all allegations.
While progress clearly has been made, measuring it is a messy, complicated task. Sexual assault laws are different in every legal jurisdiction in the United States. The definition of criminal sexual assault varies. Before 1983 in Illinois, rape was defined as vaginal penetration by force by a male at least 14 years of age. By definition a man couldn't be raped. Sodomy couldn't be rape. In fact, the FBI Uniform Crime Report, which is often cited for national crime trends, until this year defined sexual assault as the forcible rape of a woman against her will. Chicago statistics were left out of the report because the city recorded sexual assaults based on the current Illinois definition: “an act of sexual penetration when the accused uses force or threat of force, or knew that the victim was unable to give knowing consent.” The FBI's new definition doesn't require force to count cases of sexual assault and has expanded the definition to include men and women as possible victims.
Trying to make sense of it all isn't simple. According to the FBI Crime Report, 79,770 rapes were reported in 2013, or one every 6.6 minutes. But there's another caveat — statutory rape and incest are not included in the report, which used the old reporting method for those national figures so they would be easier to compare to previous years. Further, participation in the report is voluntary and depends on how well reporting agencies follow the FBI's definition. The 2013 FBI Crime Report shows 4,263 sexual assaults were reported in Illinois using the revised definition and 3,276 using the old definition.
A look at sexual assault laws across the country is equally confusing. Laws for the most part have changed to include both genders and define different levels of sexual assault and abuse, says Jennifer Gentile Long, director of Æquitas, an organization offering resources to prosecutors who work on cases involving violence against women. But they vary on how to define consent and force. The age of consent in one state might be 18, but 16 in another. And yet, in another state, that 16-year-old might not be prosecuted if the other person was within four years of his or her age. California is the only state to require “yes means yes” affirmative consent, a statewide law for colleges and universities that receive state money. States differ on force as well. Is it physical? Can it be psychological? Does a threat count? Intimidation? The age of consent in Illinois varies from 17 to 18; someone impaired can't give consent and the use of force is broadly defined.
Prosecutors and advocates in Illinois say sexual assault laws are pretty good. Gonzalez says prosecutors in other states are particularly jealous of her ability to bring in other victims to testify to show a perpetrator has a propensity to commit sexual assault. “When I tell them some of the laws here, I get gasps,” she says. “Our laws in Illinois are some of the best in the country.” Her office used the propensity law to convict that Chicago area man involved in the date rape case. The victim initially decided not to prosecute because her memory was hazy and she had no recollection of how she got to the hotel room. Then in 2011, another woman reported being sexually assaulted by Ignacio Carrillo after meeting him on the same dating website. She reported feeling strange after consuming two drinks on their date and says Carrillo raped her against the passenger door of his Porsche. Carrillo claimed the women regretted their one-night stands. But prosecutors believe he slipped drugs into both women's drinks. The jury took about 90 minutes to convict after the woman in the 2011 case testified, showing Carrillo had a propensity to rape. Carrillo is still facing charges in the 2011 sexual assault.
Victim advocates and prosecutors also like Illinois' laws that allow sex crimes involving children to be prosecuted until the victim turns 38, that those convicted of a wide variety of sex crimes must become registered sex offenders and that they don't have to prove a victim said no to prove consent wasn't given.
At the local, state and national levels, those who advocate for sexual assault victims and those who prosecute perpetrators say their toughest obstacle remains a societal one — the public's judgment of the victim. How was a victim dressed? Did the person drink or get into a car and go to a hotel with the defendant? Judgments about those actions can influence a jury and can be a deciding factor on whether a police officer investigates a sexual assault case. Less than 20 years ago, when she was a young prosecutor, Gonzalez says her first step in any sexual assault case was to look at whether the victim had a history of prostitution. “None of us is surprised when we hear a victim got robbed, so it shouldn't surprise us that prostitutes, runaways and college students are sexually assaulted,” she says. “Most crime is a crime of opportunity.” Gonzalez, who has seen her department grow from three to 15 prosecutors, is proud of the sexual assault training provided in her office. Not just in how to build cases, but also about how the crime of sexual assault impacts victims.
Beyond the “he said, she said” nature of many sexual assault crimes, they are frustrating to investigate. Sarah Layden, director of advocacy services for Rape Victim Advocates in Chicago, explains sexual trauma can cause a victim to be a poor witness. The story may change or be unclear. Details might not be forthcoming. But that doesn't mean the victim isn't telling the truth, Layden says. In her experience, the most successful cases happen when they are investigated well from the beginning. If a victim's memory is foggy, an officer might learn from a bartender that she needed help walking or from a cab driver that she was passed out. It's a change of thought, from why did she put herself in that position to what did the defendant do. “It's unlike any other kind of crime except perhaps domestic violence where so much rests on the victim's ability to articulate in a believable way what happened and to refute the suspect's defense that it was consensual or didn't happen,” says Cassia Spohn, professor and director of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University. The easiest cases to convict are those involving strangers or where the victim is not engaged in risky behavior. “We have this image of rape, that a stranger is jumping out of the bushes with a gun or a knife, but the reality is that in most of these cases, people involved know one another and sometimes intimately. That makes it difficult to successfully prosecute these cases,” Spohn says.
Kate Kurtz is an assistant state's attorney in Macon County who also prosecuted sex crimes in Winnebago County. In 2012, she successfully prosecuted Nathan Bell of Rockford, who sexually assaulted prostitutes and drug addicts. Kurtz says he preyed on the vulnerable and that the women were brutalized, making conviction easier. “It was horrific what he did to them,” she says. “I'm lucky the women in that case let me into their lives.” Kurtz says victims who speak up, especially those with checkered pasts, are brave. “Who subjects themselves to this?” she asks. “It's not fun. It's scary.” Gentile Long of Æquitas agrees. “It's not complicated to defend one of these cases because you are just feeding into what people believe. But people are questioning why, and it has become more publically accepted to talk about sexual assault and to critically think about it,” she says.
Kurtz and Kelly Griffith, a former sex crimes prosecutor in Lake County, polled jurors after cases and both found they tended to judge sexual assault victims. Women were especially judgmental of other women's actions, particularly if they had been drinking or using drugs. Griffith, who now serves as general counsel for ICASA, wanted no more than half of her juries to be made up of women. “Women live with the fear we may be raped,” Poskin says. “If a juror can put distance between herself and that rape, she can believe it won't happen to her.” It is particularly difficult to prosecute a sexual assault against a child that doesn't make it to court until the victim is a teen or adult. “I may have a girl at 15 testifying to what happened to her at eight years old, when she didn't even have the words for what was happening to her,” Kurtz says. Her job is to make the jury see the victim as that 8-year-old even as they are hearing from a teen. “The biggest hurdle is to get the jury to stop judging the victim and to judge the defendant,” she says.
Several victim advocates in Illinois say they are frustrated by sexual assault cases pleaded down to lesser charges. Mary Harrington, executive director of the Sexual Assault and Family Emergencies crisis centers, serving Bond, Clay, Clinton, Effingham, Fayette, Marion and Washington counties, says they most often become batteries. “Prosecutors are concerned about winning,” she says. “I understand that. They feel like it is better to send the individual away for three years than to lose altogether and put them out on the street.” But Griffith of ICASA says there is harm done when there is no record of a sex offense because some perpetrators are “notoriously recidivist.” “Our work is geared towards reducing sex offenses,” she says. “Will they rape again?”
Experts like those at the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) believe sexual assaults are grossly underreported, investigated and prosecuted. RAINN uses the U.S. Department of Justice's National Crime Victimization Survey's results to report there are an average of 293,000 victims of sexual assault in the United States each year and that 68 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to police. That is three times the number reported by the FBI and still underreported according to another study done by the National Research Council. The NRC questions the accuracy of the survey which gathers data by questioning 90,000 households about a variety of different crimes. Critics say the interview doesn't grant victims of sexual abuse enough privacy to facilitate honest answers. Figures in Illinois as reported by law enforcement and victim-advocacy groups vary greatly as well. ICASA, which runs about 30 community-based sexual assault crisis centers throughout the state, takes about 18,000 calls and in-person requests for services each year. Of that total, ICASA, served about 9,000 victims in the last fiscal year. While some people might be counted twice because calls are anonymous, that is four times the number of cases reported by police in Illinois to the FBI in 2013. And ICASA isn't the only organization to serve sexual assault victims in Illinois.
However, great strides continue to be made in victim services. ICASA is working to increase response to sexual assaults on the disabled. Harrington says a Christian college in southern Illinois is asking her for training and programs rather than the other way around. She spent the last 20 years trying to offer programming there. But best of all are the services available to children and young people. “Their abuse is being validated. They aren't going to have to carry this all the rest of their lives,” Harrington says. “The people who struggle the most are those who had to remain silent because no one would believe them.”
For Poskin, the work won't be done until sexual assault is no more. “We've made great gains on behalf of survivors, but we haven't changed the culture, and that is the ultimate goal,” she says. “That is the work still to be done.”
Local legislators, Millersville mom want state to keep unproven child abuse allegations longer
by Chase Cook
Two bills that would lengthen the time Maryland holds on to the records of unproven cases of child abuse and neglect are getting broad support from state officials and children's advocacy groups.
That support could be vital to a Millersville woman who has advocated this change for seven years, arguing that Maryland needs to catch up to other states like Virginia and New York.
Maryland destroys the records of "ruled-out" child abuse cases 120 days after the date of filing, as long as no other reports on the same children are filed in that period.
A ruled-out case is one in which investigators didn't find evidence of abuse. Supporters of the bills want the records kept longer to help investigators spot possible patterns of abuse; the state wants to keep them longer so it will have more robust investigative histories.
Opponents think the records should be destroyed so that accumulations of unproven allegations won't be used in court cases.
Both sides say they are arguing for the rights of the innocent — one side for children who speak up about abuse, the other for people who should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Senate Bill 12, filed by Sen. Ed DeGrange Sr., D-Glen Burnie, would extend the time ruled-out reports are kept from 120 days to five years.
The bill would also extend the time unsubstantiated records are kept from five to 10 years. An unsubstantiated record is one in which there was not enough evidence to support allegations of child abuse or neglect.
Del. Ted Sophocleus, D-Linthicum, has filed the same measure in the House of Delegates as House Bill 7.
DeGrange filed a similar bill last year. It passed the Senate unanimously but ran out of time in the House.
Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday, Mickey Dunn, 46, of Millersville, said that when reports reach state agencies, children "did what they are supposed to do, they spoke up. But they feel as if no one cares, as if no one listens to them, because their report was destroyed within 120 days."
This, she said, gives "predators and abusers a clean slate."
Dunn said that in February 2008 she filed a report because she believed her child had been sexually abused by the father. She requested the child's gender not be reported.
That report was "ruled out" the following month and was set to be destroyed 120 days from the date of filing. Dunn sent a letter requesting the record be preserved.
She said she filed a second report in July 2008 about an incident in Rochester, New York.
After a court fight in which she requested protection orders, Dunn received full custody of her child in October 2008. She began fighting to get Maryland's law changed after learning that the records in the case were set to be destroyed in four months.
Dunn said she now feels safe from the father of the child, whom she said has left the country. Phone calls to the father's last-known residence weren't returned.
When Dunn testified in support of DeGrange's bill last year, she learned the records in the case had been expunged, in spite of her efforts.
Both the House and Senate bills had committee hearings last week, in which representatives of child advocacy groups and the state Department of Human Resources, or DHR, testified for them.
DeGrange and Sophocleus said the measure is getting broad support in committee and they believe it will pass. DeGrange wants to get the bill to the floor earlier this year.
Keeping the records on hand longer, DeGrange said, means "there is a more extensive record, and there is a history in case of another incident. This bill helps build a case against an individual."
Steve Berry, the in-home services manager for the DHR, said in an interview that records are destroyed so early that investigators sometimes find themselves retracing the steps of other investigators, who talked to the family about the same incidents five or six months earlier.
Maryland has one of the shortest hold times in the country, he said in his testimony to the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday.
The change would also help the department protect itself from lawsuits claiming negligence or deliberate indifference, Berry said.
The DHR asked the bill be amended so that unsubstantiated findings are retained for only five years, saying that is plenty of time. It also asked for the removal of language stating that records would be retained for the purpose of "determining a pattern."
"Each ruled-out finding signifies a finding that no maltreatment occurred," Berry told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Tuesday. "Multiple findings that maltreatment did not occur may not necessarily add up to a pattern of maltreatment."
New York keeps unfounded child abuse reports until the youngest named child turns 28, unless the accuser is found to have given a false report or clear evidence is presented to refute the claim, according to that state's Office of Children and Family Services.
Virginia keeps reports of abuse for a year after they are filed, whether those reports are found valid or invalid, according to the Virginia Department of Social Services.
Maryland Child Protective Services investigates about 25,000 to 27,000 child maltreatment reports a year, Berry said in an interview. About 40 percent to 45 percent of the cases are ruled out, and the records are soon destroyed.
Not everyone supports the legislation. The American Federation of Teachers submitted testimony on this year's bills raising concerns that teachers could be deterred from working in Baltimore because of false reports lingering in the state's files.
Defense attorney Peter O'Neill said in an interview that if the records are retained, judges could order ruled-out, unproven allegations used in divorce and custody cases, harming people who were never found to have done anything wrong.
"It is patently unfair to have records accessible that are ruled out," O'Neill said. "As far as I'm concerned, if the matter is ruled out, there should be immediate expungement of the record."
A similar bill in 2011, requested by the DHR, died in the House Judiciary Committee.
But Dunn said she is confident that this year the bills will get floor votes in the House and Senate. It won't help her directly, she said, but it could help many other Maryland families.
Her child, Dunn said, "is safe now. This is about every other kid in this state who is being abused and whose voice isn't being heard."
New Mexico toddler shoots pregnant mother, father, police say
by Fox News
A three-year-old New Mexico boy shot both of his parents after reaching into his mother's purse for her iPod, authorities said Saturday.
Albuquerque police say the toddler fired one shot hitting his father in the right buttock. The bullet went out of his hip and hit the woman, who is eight-months pregnant, in the arm.
The shooting occurred in a room of America's Best Value Inn, police said. The man and the woman confirmed the story, but the boy and another 2-year-old girl were not interviewed. The handgun was found inside the room.
Police said the state Children, Youth and Families Department took custody of the children for 48 hours.
Albuquerque police spokesman Simon Drobik said it was the negligence of the parents that allowed the shooting to occur. “If you are going to be a gun owner, you need to lock it up and keep it safe, especially around children.”