‘Operation Roundtable' ringleader sentenced to 21 years after ICE investigation
Jonathan Johnson operated 27,000-member child exploitation network, largest in ICE history
NEW ORLEANS — An Abita Springs man who pleaded guilty last year to operating a worldwide child pornography network that was the largest ever discovered in the history of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was sentenced Thursday to 21 years in federal prison for operating a child exploitation enterprise. The sentencing follows an investigation by ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and multiple U.S. Attorneys across the country.
According to court documents, Jonathan Johnson, 28, admitted in his guilty plea that he created multiple fake female personas on popular social networks and used them to target children for exploitation by coercing them into producing sexually explicit material. Johnson also coached other child predators in his inner circle how to do the same. Two underground websites administered by Johnson operated as a hidden service board on the Tor network that operated from about June 2012 until Johnson's arrest in June 2013, at which time the site contained more than 2,000 videos and had more than 27,000 members worldwide. Tor is an Internet network that enables online anonymity by directing Internet traffic through thousands of relays to conceal a user's location.
The two websites operated by Johnson shared webcam-captured videos of mostly juvenile boys enticed by the operators of the site to produce sexually explicit material. So far, investigators have identified more than 250 minor victims in 39 states and five foreign countries. All victims have been contacted by law enforcement and U.S. victims have been offered support services from HSI victim assistance specialists.
Dubbed “Operation Roundtable,” the case against Johnson has thus far resulted in ten additional individuals being criminally charged by the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Orleans. To date, all ten defendants have pleaded guilty to crimes involving the sexual exploitation of children.
“As the ringleader of a pack of sadistic child predators, this defendant is responsible for the sexual exploitation of hundreds of young victims, whose documented abuse was subsequently distributed to thousands of perverted criminals,” said Raymond R. Parmer Jr., special agent in charge of HSI New Orleans. “There is simply no room in our society for such monsters, and I applaud the HSI special agents who put him in handcuffs and the federal prosecutors who put him behind bars. In this case, justice has been served.”
In addition to his prison term, U.S. District Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown ordered Johnson to serve an additional ten years of supervised release upon his release from custody and he will be required to register as a sex offender.
“Today's sentencing represents a significant step in our continued efforts to dismantle a criminal enterprise that is responsible for the sexual victimization of our nation's young people,” said United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana Kenneth A. Polite. “Once again, I commend HSI and the Postal Service for being dedicated partners in Operation Roundtable. Together, we are committed to utilizing our collective resources to bring justice to both the victims and the perpetrators of these crimes.”
“Postal Inspectors have fought the scourge of child pornography since the 1900s, and we will never hesitate to pursue those who use the mail to exploit children,” said Acting Inspector in Charge Daniel Brubaker. “We investigate a wide variety of crimes in our mission to protect the integrity of the U.S. Mail, but sexual exploitation of children is particularly heinous. When these predators use a combination of mail and the Internet to exploit our children we will ensure no aspect of their crimes escape justice.”
This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 12,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2014, more than 2,000 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce , an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.
'Burned boy' case leaves scars on victim's family
Conviction in burned boy case won't erase scars
by Cindy Horswell
For more than a decade, Colleen Middleton devoted her life to the care of her son Robbie, nursing him back from hundreds of painful surgeries after he'd been set ablaze with gasoline on his 8th birthday.
But her best efforts could not stop a cancer associated with those burns from eventually claiming his life in 2011, just shy of his 21st birthday. Once her son was gone, she focused every spare moment and ounce of energy that remained on seeing that Don Collins, a convicted sex offender who was 13 at the time of the attack and was identified by her son as his assailant, was brought to justice.
Last week, Colleen Middleton and her husband Bobby watched in disbelief as Collins was finally convicted of capital murder in the attack on Robbie 17 years ago. Speaking in a soft voice, the 49-year-old mother says it still hasn't sunk in that a jury has found Collins guilty and ordered him imprisoned for 40 years for what he did to her son. But her satisfaction is tempered by what she calls her "biggest regret."
Colleen Middleton said she had to push the pause button on her family's life as she devoted herself to Robbie, the youngest of three children. She never realized she would be missing the childhoods of her other two children, Heather and Clinton, now 30 and 27. She says this horrific episode left scars not only on Robbie but on her whole family, and she wishes she could reclaim all of the lost family dinners, school events, summer vacations, birthdays and even Christmases with her two older children.
Now Colleen Middleton vows not to let anything interrupt her family's life again, even as Collins' attorney prepares to appeal the verdict. She only wants to reflect on happy memories of Robbie and find peace in a country home somewhere, "living off the grid" and raising chickens and a vegetable garden.
"So much was stolen from us," the mother sighed in a phone interview, as she sat quietly in her rented Galveston apartment, listening to the surf.
The horrible attack
The attack that forever changed the Middleton family took place near their home in Splendora, a community in eastern Montgomery County, on June 28, 1998.
It was Robbie's eighth birthday and he was looking forward to a sleepover at a friend's house. He walked out of his parents' home and into the woods. A short time later, witnesses saw him running onto the road in a cloud of flames, the flesh dripping from his hands. He had been tied to a tree, doused with gasoline and set ablaze. He suffered burns on virtually his entire body. His mother found him where he had stumbled out of the woods and collapsed in the street.
Doctors didn't expect Robbie to live, but he proved to be a survivor. He underwent so many surgeries that skin grafts covered everything but the soles of his feet. Despite being horribly disfigured, Robbie drew others to him, family members said. He may have lost his All-American, Tom Sawyer good looks, but he was still the same impish boy with the happy-go-lucky nature inside.
"He was quite the ladies' man," recalled his sister Heather, who ticked off the names of four of his girlfriends. Some had been burn patients with him at the Shriners burns hospital in Galveston, others had no health issues.
She described one pretty girl whom he'd met on My Space and adored. She attended a neighboring school and worked at Dairy Queen.
"They would sometimes talk nonstop every single day through texting. She misses him and still leaves messages on his Facebook page," Heather said.
Robbie had to hold his phone close to his face because he'd been legally blinded by the gasoline, but he could text with lightning speed.
"He was the one who kept all of us upbeat," his sister added. "He would tell us, 'The past is the past. You need to let it go.' He had a most amazing optimistic nature and maturity for a young boy."
He also often sat in front of Wal-mart to solicit donations for other needy burn victims and travelled to San Antonio to lobby the Shriners to reopen the Galveston burn hospital after it was flooded by Hurricane Ike in 2008.
"He looked at other burned kids and thought they had it worse than him, especially the ones who'd been purposefully burned by their own parents," his mother said.
He made it through the 11th grade at school, most of it at the hospital, and he dreamed of one day learning to be a wildlife rehabilitator. That and driving a car were two of the few goals he never accomplished, his mother said. But he did learn again how to ride his bicycle and swim. He was also a typical teen-ager in many ways, enjoying video games and rapper Eminem's music and once gelling his hair into a blue-colored Mohawk.
The other children
Back in Splendora, Colleen Middleton's other kids were trying to adjust to a home life turned upside down.
"Heather had to go from being 13 to an adult over night" after the attack, Colleen Middleton said.
Her job was watching over her brother, Clinton, and the household while her father, Bobby, drove a truck during the weekdays and her mother focused on caring for Robbie at the hospital.
Colleen's worst memory is the day that Heather, who'd barely crossed into adolescence, phoned her 17 times. She was in tears, telling her mother how much she missed and needed to be with her.
But Colleen Middleton had to stay in Galveston to help her son through another surgery, a scenario that would play out time and time again. "I told Heather that I would be home soon. But I knew it would be at least a couple of weeks," she said.
These memories haunt Colleen Middleton all the more, because in the beginning she'd had trouble becoming pregnant and viewed motherhood as her most sacred and highest calling.
For a time Clinton, who was 11 at the time of the attack, didn't feel safe and couldn't even sleep alone in his room. Robbie's older brother has been too traumatized to talk publicly about what happened, his mother said. He now works as a host at a seafood restaurant in Galveston, and has ambitions of one day becoming a tattoo artist.
As Robbie worked at getting better and his family struggled to hold it together, Don Collins was in and out of trouble - and jail. He was detained in a juvenile facility for six months after the attack, but prosecutors later dropped the complaint against him, saying they had insufficient evidence and wanted to give the victim time to heal. In 2001, Collins, then 16, was convicted of sexually assaulting another 8-year-old boy with the same first name. He was sentenced to four years at a juvenile facility. Over the years, he would serve time following convictions for theft, resisting arrest and twice failing to register as a sex offender.
With the criminal investigation of the attack on Robbie languishing, Colleen and Bobby Middleton filed a wrongful death suit against Collins in an effort to revive interest in the case.
Robbie's health was fading, but he gave a videotaped deposition in which he not only identified Collins as the attacker but alleged that he had raped him two weeks before the burning.
Watching the taping, Colleen Middleton could only think that her son was dying. She wondered if it was worth putting her son through it all.
Robbie died 17 days later, in June 2011, and his death was ruled a homicide. That fall, a civil court jury awarded Robbie's parents a $150 billion judgment in their son's wrongful death. They never expected to see any money, but the judgment made a statement, holding Collins accountable in a civil court.
'Caught a break'
Friends and even family had advised Colleen Middleton to give up. But she kept her son's face before prosecutors until she "finally caught a break" when cold-case investigators uncovered new witnesses who said Collins had confessed to raping Robbie and setting him on fire to silence him.
Heather had moved to Seattle, where she met and married her husband. But the couple immediately returned to Galveston to support her family as Collins went through the tenuous process of being certified to stand trial as an adult.
The chain of events led to Collins being convicted by a jury last week in Galveston County, where the trial was moved due to extensive coverage of the case in Montgomery County. The jury sentenced Collins to 40 years in prison, the maximum agreed to by prosecutors in order to have him stand trial as an adult.
Reflecting on the verdict last week, Colleen Middleton smiles, thinking how happy Robbie would be to know that nobody else would be harmed like he and the three other abuse victims who testified against Collins were.
"During the trial, Collins' eyes had the deadest expression. He looked cold, even as a teenager. I agonized over his being 13, But then I realized he was not telling the truth. Not remorseful. He needs to be identified as a dangerous person that you should keep your children away from," Colleen Middleton said.
She also wonders if an "adult voice" that her son recalled hearing on the trail when he was being attacked will ever be identified and the potential accomplice prosecuted. She knows he's out there. But she said she won't dwell on it or on whether Collins' conviction could be reversed on appeal.
Defense attorney E. Tay Bond has said he plans to appeal the constitutionality of the guilty verdict, contending that a 1999 law that lowered the age when a juvenile could be tried as an adult from 14 to 10 was applied retroactively to Collins. Bond also plans to challenge medical testimony that the cancer that killed Middleton can be attributed to burns suffered 13 years earlier.
"I can't control all that," Colleen Middleton said of what happens next. She believes Robbie would want her to move on.
"I'm sick and tired of being sad all the time," she added. "This case has taken enough of my life."
Her daughter agreed. "We've been dealing with this for more than half my life," said Heather, who runs a store on eBay and plans to move back to Seattle with her husband. "Now it's finally over and I'm relieved. We saw it through to the end like Robbie wanted, but we want to have our own life now."
Yet nobody in the Middleton family believes they will ever fully recover from losing Robbie. Heather describes him as "my rock, my best friend."
Colleen Middleton said she thanks God daily for making her Robbie's mother, and keeps his ashes in an urn in her living room: "I couldn't put him in the cold ground," she said. "I'll bury him with me when I die."
Iowa Woman Pushing To Change Violent Offender Laws
by Stephanie Moore
DES MOINES, Iowa–An Iowa woman is taking her story of domestic abuse straight to the Iowa Statehouse.
Tiffany Allison is hoping her experience with domestic violence will help change state law.
Allison wants lawmakers to take away the option of early release for habitual violent offenders.
Allison was 29 years old when her boyfriend attacked her and held her hostage in her own home.
He beat me for four and a half hours with his knees, hands and feet, hit me with a wrought iron cross until it broke into two pieces, bit me throughout the assault, knocked me unconscious twice, the first through strangulation, the second by hitting my head on a wooden stair and urinated on me,” says Allison.
Allison's offender was sentenced to two and half years in prison but served just 10 months due to the ‘Good Time Policy' for inmates. The policy allows inmates with good behavior to serve a third of their sentence.
“I knew from going through my own experience him getting out early didn't allow me enough time to put my life back together, feel safe and do the things I needed to do,” says Allison.
Allison was her offender's fifth victim and a year after his release she says he attacked another woman.
That motivated her to take action.
Allison's working with Sen. Matt McCoy and drafted the Violent Habitual Offender Bill.
“It would apply to anyone who is on their third strike felony violent offense. That includes domestic violence, assault, kidnapping, homicide, burglary,” says Allison.
“We want to send a very strong message throughout the state that this is not going to be tolerated and this type of victimization of people regardless of their status is offensive and it needs to stop,” says Allison.
Sen. McCoy says while the Governor's bill is similar it isn't as broad and only includes domestic violence, harassment and stocking.
“It really doesn't matter if it`s a child being abused or another adult being abused or what the relationship is between the two parties,” says Sen. McCoy.
Under the bill, after three strikes an offender must serve 85 percent of their sentence, undergo a risk assessment and be on a one year mandatory parole.
McCoy is hopeful between the Governor's bill and his something will get passed.
“He has good ideas, Tiffany has good ideas. We`d like to blend the two together and end up with a really strong measure,” says Sen. McCoy.
Allison is glad her story started the conversation and could help other women in the future.
“Part of my survivor-ship has been taking control of my story, how it`s used and where it goes and trying to help somebody with it,” says Allison.
The Governor's bill also calls for GPS monitoring for repeat offenders.
Sen. McCoy is hoping to get his bill out of committee by the March 15th deadline and onto the Senate floor for debate.
New study aims to provide answers for 500,000 ‘forgotten Australians'
They are the 500,000 ‘Forgotten Australians' who grew up in institutions or other types of public care and were often left with a litany of trauma, neglect and maltreatment.
by Ben Pike
The first national research study will be launched this week into adult survivors of Australian childhood institutions, or out-of-home care, who were there between 1930 and 1989.
The Long-term Outcomes of Forgotten Australians Study hopes to interview at least 1000 survivors from around the country to help ensure the mistakes of the past are never repeated.
“Concern has grown nationally and internationally about the history of trauma and victimisation experienced by the profoundly disadvantaged and vulnerable groups — Forgotten Australians, the Stolen Generation and Child Migrants — while growing up in institutions and other types of public care, and in their transition into adulthood,” chief LOFA investigator Professor Elizabeth Fernandez said.
“They frequently brought to this transition from care a history of trauma, of maltreatment, instability of living arrangements, educational neglect, alienation from their siblings and families and elevated levels of physical and mental health need.”
Prof Fernadez said the confidential nature of the research means they may uncover more instances of institutionalised child sexual abuse.
However, researchers are just as interested in positive experiences they believe will provide insights into people's courage, strength, resilience and actions that enabled them to survive.
It's hoped their findings, to be handed down towards the end of next year, will improve the lives of 40,000 Australian children currently in out-of-home care.
Speaking directly to those affected, she said: “This research is important in giving you a voice to share the challenges of your journey in care and after leaving care.
“Through sharing your experience you are ensuring the rights and wellbeing of those who are living in care today and into the future are protected.”
The study will be launched on Wednesday at UNSW by Justice Peter McClellan, chair of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
To complete the survey online visit: www.forgottenaustralians.unsw.edu.au or phone 9385 1516.
Survivors Say Education Key To Preventing Child Sexual Abuse
by Tiffany Eckert
Every 90 seconds a child is sexually assaulted in America. That's according to the National Center for Victims of Crime. 90% know the perpetrator in some way. Childhood sexual abuse is an insidious crime, shrouded in secrecy. As KLCC's Tiffany Eckert reports, adult survivors are asking Oregon lawmakers to break the silence with Erin's Law, an education bill bent toward prevention.
When Carolee Horning was 13 she was an altar girl at a Catholic church in Reedsport. She remembers when the new priest, Father Edward Altstock, arrived.
Horning: “We became really good friends, I didn't understand it at the time but he was grooming me. Between the ages of about 14 to my early 20s we had a sexual relationship. He was in his late 60s.”
At the time, Carolee thought the special attention he gave her was love. After intensive therapy and outreach from other sex assault victims, she now knows what happened to her was abuse. Not only was the perpetrator in a position of power over her, she says he used isolation to keep her quiet. And he got really tight with her parents.
Horning: “He groomed them as well. He became friends with them, that's part of what they do. And my parents trusted me with him. I mean he was a priest.”
Carolee wasn't safe.
Horning: “Things weren't right. I was told not to tell my parents. They wouldn't understand. None of my friends knew. Nobody knew."
Erin Merryn would have known. She's behind Erin's Law and she's made it her life's mission to protect children from sexual assault. Born and raised in Chicago, Erin was sexually abused beginning at the tender age of six.
Merryn: “At my best friend's house. It was her uncle that lived in the home. And it went on from 6, 7, 8 and a half years old. There was rape and I was repeatedly told, ‘I know where you live, I'll come get you.”
Merryn says no one taught her how to speak up and tell. Even moving away didn't end the abuse. In a new neighborhood-- down the street from extended family-- an older cousin began molesting Erin. It continued until she found out her younger sister was also being abused. This broke her silence.
Today, Erin Merryn is a social activist and advocate for children. The 30-year old has been in the national spotlight as a guest on Oprah and Katie Curic. Merryn believes education is the key to ending childhood sexual abuse. She's drafted legislation called Erin's Law requiring public schools to teach kids, K-12, on appropriate touch and recognizing and reporting suspected sexual abuse. Merryn says school professionals often handle it the wrong way.
Merryn: “They will call home where the perpetrator lives and confront the mother and say ‘your child is saying her step father is doing this' and often that puts the child back into the situation and sadly those kids recant by the time the police get involved.”
So far, Erin's Law has passed in 20 states and is pending in 21 more. Oregon Senator Tim Knopp of Bend wants Oregon to pass this legislation.
Knopp: “If our schools and our society are not there to protect our children then I'm not sure what they are there for.”
Senator Knopp will introduce Erin's Law during the current legislative session. He says colleagues from both sides of the aisle have expressed support. Knopp says because related curriculum already exists, implementation of the law would cost school districts very little.
Knopp: “I think the biggest push back will be this is gonna take away from instruction time but we take away time to have fire drills, we take away from education time to have tsunami drills and earthquake drills and the like. You know, for a child's safety, I think this falls in that realm.”
Knopp says Erin Merryn plans to travel to Salem to testify before lawmakers.
Knopp: “Erin has been a speaker, an advocate and an author on this issue. And went through something that no kid should ever have to go through. So we're relying on her testimony and her story to create a law that we think will work here in Oregon.”
Adult sexual abuse survivor Carolee Horning says if Erin's Law had been enacted when she was a girl, she and her parents may have learned how to recognize the patterns of a pedophile.
Horning: “If someone could have explained and made it clear to me that we were spending too much time together. It shouldn't have been allowed for us to be alone at all. So somebody should have said that‘s not right. That's not right.”
See links below if you seek more information about Erin's Law, publications or sexual assault support services in Oregon:
Sexual Assault Support Services - SASS
Kids First Center
example of Erin's Law legislation
Erin Merryn's published books
Carolee Horning's published journal
Senator Tim Knopp-Senate District 27
It's never too early to teach children about consent and boundaries
by Anne Theriault
Children need to learn about healthy consent and boundaries.
That might seem like a simple concept, but there are a lot of ideas and practices surrounding this topic that need to be unpacked and examined.
For example, how soon do we start these discussions? There's a misconception that ideas about consent and bodily autonomy should be lumped in with sexual education, but that's actually far too late. Healthy boundaries apply to so much more than just sex or partnership, and we should begin teaching our children as early as possible.
Of course, these discussions need to be age-appropriate, and parents might struggle with figuring out how to communicate a huge topic like consent to someone whose vocabulary and understanding are still developing.
Carol Horton, a Texas psychotherapist who has worked extensively with children who are the survivors of abuse or witnesses of domestic violence, and Joanna Schroeder, editor and co-author of the wildly popular article Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21, have both offered suggestions on how parents can approach these topics with preschool-aged children.
Model consent for your children
Parents can model consent and boundaries for small children “by respecting their personhood,” says Horton. For example, she said, parents can give even small children “the opportunity to make choices and have opinions (within the bounds of what needs to occur, of course). ‘It's time to go to bed now. Would you rather wear your monkey pajamas or your princess nightgown?' Or, ‘Which vitamins do you like better, the chewable dinosaurs or the gummy robots?'”
Be respectful of other adults
Parents who are respectful towards each other and each other's bodies are modeling good boundaries, Horton said. This should be obvious, but it bears saying: When kids see their parents hitting or screaming at each other, they get the message that violence is how you get your way, or how you should communicate.
Remember that your child is watching and learning from your interactions. Of course there will be times when you are rightfully upset or angry with another adult, but if your child is within earshot make sure that you are managing this in a way that communicates respect for the other person's thoughts, feelings and body.
Your child's body belongs to them
“Another important way to empower your child is to teach them that their body belongs to them,” Horton says. They get to decide if they want to share hugs and kisses with someone. If they want someone to stop tickling, it should stop immediately. Parents shouldn't dictate, for example, that they kiss grandpa goodnight. “Let them decide. They could kiss him, hug him, blow him a kiss, give him a high five, or whatever they're most comfortable with.”
Teach your child body safety
“Teaching body safety should be a regular and ongoing part of child rearing, as natural as telling them how to use 9-1-1 in a real emergency or what they should do if they smell smoke,” says Horton. “It can be as simple and direct as: There are parts of your body that are special and need to be kept private so you will stay safe. They are the parts that get covered up by your swimsuit. ” You can explain to your child that sometimes children need help with things related to their bodies, like taking a bath or when they go to the doctor. A parent or a doctor or a babysitter might touch those private body parts to help them. But also explain that “cleaning and checking are real quick, and that kind of touching is never kept a secret.”
Everyone gets to decide about their own bodies
“Curiosity and exploration are natural,” explains Horton. “A good rule of thumb is to let your child know it's okay to ask you any questions.” Then answer those questions matter-of-factly, and try to keep the information limited to the question at hand. It's imperative to teach them that everyone has a right to decide about their own bodies. “That means they shouldn't touch or look at another child's private parts either.”
If your child is curious about how parts work or why theirs is different than someone of another sex, Schroeder says, “look for a medical diagram or a book designed to teach young children about anatomy or sex and show them the drawings. Explain to them that their brother or sister or friend's privates aren't for us to use for our own curiosity, but that wondering about genitals is okay and you'll help them find their answers in a way that doesn't require anyone's body or privacy to be compromised.”
Use the right words for private parts
Using made-up names is confusing and it also conveys the idea that those parts are somehow shameful. But the biggest danger is that not knowing the proper words makes it difficult for a child to get help if they need it. Horton says she once had a client who had been taught that her vagina was her “purse.” The child told her teacher about abuse, but the teacher didn't initially understand because the child was using the wrong word.
Keep dialogue about consent going as your child ages
Don't just end it at one conversation. As your child grows, the conversation also needs to grow and change. “The conversations about bodies and sexuality need to be on-going, extremely open, and ever-evolving,” says Schroeder. “Never shy away from a question or make your kid feel bad for asking, even if to you it seems weird or creepy. The best thing about kids is their ability to ask questions we are too ashamed or embarrassed to ask. Be glad for every single one of them and keep the dialogue open.”
End on a positive note
Topics like consent and inappropriate touching can sometimes be overwhelming or even frightening for a child. Make sure that your discussions include reassurances that touching from people we know and love can be a wonderful thing. We don't want our children growing up to think all touching is bad – the truth is that many types of touching are important for healthy emotional development.
Horton suggests brainstorming with your children about what kinds of touches they do like. For example, maybe they like hugs from Mommy, or having their hair brushed. They might like back rubs, high fives, or sitting on Grandpa's lap while they read a book. Just make sure that you remind them that even if they like a certain type of touching sometimes (or even most of the time), they're allowed to say no thank you, not right now whenever it doesn't feel good. After all, it's their body – they get to decide.
Mom on mission for a public child abuse registry
by Christina Hall
Wyatt Rewoldt is only 2, but he has already been to hell and back.
The St. Clair Shores toddler was shaken by his father's then-girlfriend, authorities say, suffering such severe brain injuries that he was temporarily blinded, is unable to talk and is undergoing therapies four times a week more than a year after the near-fatal assault. Unbeknownst to Wyatt's mother at the time, that girlfriend already had two previous convictions for child abuse.
As the smiling, music-loving toddler slowly improves — a miracle in itself — his mom, Erica Hammel, is working to make sure another child avoids a similar fate by collecting signatures on a petition to create a public online registry that would list people convicted of child abuse in Michigan.
The proposed registry would be searchable by name, similar to the state's sex offender registry. Specific details of the proposed child abuse registry have yet to be determined. But such a registry would give people another way to check whether someone has been convicted of child abuse, be it a new neighbor, a babysitter, someone who is dating an ex-spouse or someone who is marrying into the family.
The Michigan Department of Human Services already keeps a central registry of people investigated for child abuse or neglect, but that registry is not accessible by the public.
If Hammel's proposal comes to fruition, it could be one of the first online public registries in the country to list convicted child abusers.
Hammel said if such a registry existed, it could have helped her find information about the woman accused of abusing her son — Rachel Edwards, who was sentenced to probation twice in child abuse cases, both times involving a boy who was the son of a man she previously dated. Edwards pleaded no contest to third-degree child abuse in 2011 and was found guilty of fourth-degree child abuse by a jury in a subsequent case in 2013.
"I feel like this law is justice for Wyatt. This would be more justice," said the 26-year-old Grosse Pointe North High School graduate of her registry proposal. "This law could save hundreds of kids' lives."
Several state legislators, including Rep. Derek Miller, D-Warren, a former Macomb County prosecutor who prosecuted Edwards on the fourth-degree child abuse case, are backing Hammel's efforts. No legislation on the proposed child abuse registry has yet been introduced.
"We're dealing with the most innocent members of our society," Miller said. "We should be doing (everything) and exhausting every resource to ensure their safety."
Hammel's petition, started in November on www.change.org, has 8,552 supporters with 1,448 more needed to reach the 10,000 mark. The petitions are to be given to the state House of Representatives, the state Senate and the governor's office.
"It just seems like there's a real gap in our system. Parents can't find the information to protect their child from someone convicted of child abuse," said state Rep. Sarah Roberts, D-St. Clair Shores, adding that such information could be brought forward to a court for custody provisions.
In Michigan, DHS substantiated 22,636 cases of child abuse and/or neglect in fiscal year 2013, according to an e-mail from Bob Wheaton, department spokesman.
The figure was slightly higher than in fiscal year 2012, which tallied 22,565 substantiated cases, and fiscal year 2011, which documented 22,069 substantiated cases, Wheaton said.
The DHS's registry lists 270,000 to 275,000 people investigated for reports of child abuse or neglect.
The only people with direct access to DHS's registry are Children's Protective Services workers, who work for DHS. Others, such as law enforcement involved in an active investigation, can have access through a CPS worker. Still others, such as schools or businesses inquiring about prospective employees, must have a signed written request from the prospective employee. DHS will confirm whether the person is not on the list, but will say nothing if the person is on the list, Wheaton said.
There are critics of the DHS registry, including Jackson-based child welfare attorney Elizabeth Warner.
She said problems include under-inclusion, such as not including criminal convictions for child abuse, and over-inclusion, such as including names based on an investigator's opinion, without validation by a neutral party or judge.
Warner said some reforms to the existing registry take effect March 17. One main reform would allow people to be removed from the registry after 10 years in less-serious cases, while maintaining the permanent listing in more-serious cases. Another reform would link the registry to cases filed in civil court so people are removed from the registry if the case is dismissed. They would stay on if they lose their case or plead guilty to the accusations.
Warner said she is opposed to all registries, including the sex offender registry, but "if you're gonna have one, it should be based on criminal convictions ... that's a lot more palatable than what our central registry is in Michigan and elsewhere in the country."
Under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, all states are required to have some kind of tracking system, said Laura Goulding, public affairs specialist with the Administration for Children & Families. They don't have to call it a central registry; for some, she wrote in an e-mail, it is just a database or system of some kind.
Central registry records, Goulding wrote, can be used for screening potential foster and adoptive parents, employees and volunteers and typically will contain only the results of an investigation and only for reports that have been substantiated.
She wrote that her group was not aware of any public online registries for those convicted of child abuse similar to the one Hammel is proposing.
Something wasn't right
Hammel said she had heard rumors about Edwards, who is to be sentenced Thursday after pleading no contest to second-degree child abuse in Wyatt's assault.
Edwards doesn't have custody of her own three children; a fact that was denied, Hammel said, when Wyatt's father was dating Edwards. And, Hammel said, she saw pictures of Edwards with the children.
Still, in the back of her mind something wasn't right. Hammel, who, at the time, was in the process of divorcing Wyatt's father, followed her intuition and did some online searches.
She did an offender search on the state prison website. Nothing. She checked the sex offender list. Nothing.
She didn't find the 2011 no-contest plea Edwards made in Macomb County Circuit Court on third-degree child abuse, for which Edwards was sentenced to 30 days of probation.
In that case, Edwards was accused of spanking her live-in boyfriend's 4-year-old son, leaving bruises on his buttocks, according to court records. The records state the boy was taken to the emergency room by his mother, who found the injuries, and that Children's Protective Services received a complaint regarding allegations of physical abuse of the boy by Edwards.
In October 2013, Edwards was convicted of fourth-degree child abuse involving the same boy in a separate case before a jury in Warren district court. In that case, which former prosecutor Miller said was more circumstantial, Edwards was accused of drugging the boy with her own medication to sedate him. She was sentenced to probation for a year, according to the court.
That conviction came just weeks before Wyatt would be hospitalized with severe head injuries and placed on life support.
Injuries not accidental
On Nov. 1, 2013, Hammel got a call about 6:50 a.m. It was Wyatt's father saying their then-1-year-old son was rushed to Children's Hospital of Michigan in Detroit because he was breathing funny, Hammel said.
She said her brother drove her to the hospital. Frantic, she didn't know what to expect.
Hammel said when she walked into the emergency room, someone from neurosurgery approached her and said Wyatt suffered a fractured skull and had a major brain bleed. The injuries, she was told, were not accidental.
Hammel said her thoughts immediately went to Edwards.
Hammel said she was then approached by a social worker who told her that she had to pull herself together because she was all that Wyatt had right then.
Eventually, Hammel walked into the intensive care unit and saw her only child.
"He looked so lifeless," she recalled last month at her home, filled with toddler toys. "That's an image that will haunt me for the rest of my life."
Hammel said Wyatt wasn't expected to live. She said a nurse told her that his injuries were the equivalent to a drop from a third-story building.
Wyatt spent four days on life support and every other type of machine one could imagine. He spent seven weeks in the hospital and was released about a week before Christmas 2013, Hammel said. She said part of his brain shrank from the injuries.
Everything Wyatt had learned up to that point in his young life was erased. He couldn't sit up on his own, Hammel said. She had to burp him like a baby after he was fed.
Fluid built up on his brain, and a permanent shunt was inserted. The tube, Hammel said, flows into his stomach and will stay with him the rest of his life, expanding as he grows.
Last year, he had eye surgery to restore most of his sight — he was blind after the assault — and another surgery to drain excessive fluid on his brain.
The happy-go-lucky boy — who loves to smile, hug, kiss and dance and is fond of Mickey Mouse, Elmo and Thomas the Tank Engine — goes to physical, occupational and speech therapy weekly.
He recently received braces for his legs and gleefully waddles around like his peers, though transitions getting up and down are difficult, Hammel said.
She is trying to teach Wyatt sign language to help him communicate since he can't talk. But he makes sounds and babbles, which Hammel said is "very encouraging. He's not silent."
Wyatt doesn't like eating solid foods, possibly because of the texture. However, he enjoys crunchy foods such as Cheerios and crackers.
Hammel's goal for Wyatt this spring is for him to play on a playground.
"Wyatt's a miracle. He survived," she said. "He's gone such a long way. I'm so thankful he's done so well. He amazes me in his therapy. He makes me strong."
Hammel's father, Robert Hammel of Grosse Pointe Woods, a retired Internal Revenue Service agent and Wyatt's best friend, agreed.
"There's light at the end of the tunnel for him," Robert Hammel said of his grandson.
Erica Hammel said that Edwards, 32, of Warren, who is being held in the Macomb County Jail, maintains her innocence in the assault on Wyatt, despite the no-contest plea.
Hammel said Edwards was watching Wyatt while his father was at work. Hammel said she didn't know Wyatt was staying alone with her and was under the impression that Wyatt was at his paternal grandmother's, where Wyatt's father said he was living. Nor does Hammel know the motive for the assault on her son.
Edwards could be sentenced from nearly three years to 10 years in prison this week in Macomb County Circuit Court in the case. She is to face the same judge who in 2011 sentenced her to probation in the third-degree child abuse case.
Edwards' attorney, Michael Dennis, declined to comment on the case before Edwards is sentenced.
Hammel said she plans to speak during the sentencing, where she hopes Edwards will get time behind bars.
Miller recalled that Edwards' fourth-degree child abuse case had "very chilling testimony because you could see (Edwards) had no remorse, had the capability of doing this again."
And that's what Hammel hopes to avoid happening again to another child, either by Edwards or anyone else convicted of child abuse with her public registry proposal.
Hammel is getting the word out through the "Wyatt the Warrior" Facebook page, which has 1,249 members. She shared her story at a St. Clair Shores City Council meeting last month.
Hammel and her father would like to see Wyatt's Law become not just a state law, but a national one.
"I truly believe this can save so many lives," Hammel said.
Juvenile justice system treats victims as criminals
by Allison Newcombe and Kate Walker
“I'm angry,” 14-year-old Nikki told the judge. Sitting in a special juvenile court for commercially sexually exploited children, the diminutive teen slouched in her seat looking lost in her oversize county-issued sweat suit.
“You're right, it's not fair,” the judge, Commissioner Catherine Pratt of the Los Angeles Superior Court, said with genuine sympathy.
The frustration Nikki voiced was her way of saying that she is confused by a system that calls her a victim of human trafficking, and then locks her up for committing prostitution.
Nikki was first placed in foster care at age 6 after experiencing repeated sexual abuse. At 12, after many failed foster home placements, Nikki moved into a group home. She began skipping school, experimenting with drugs and running away. Just before her arrest, Nikki was on the streets under the watchful eye of her “boyfriend,” a 33-year-old man who arranged “dates” for her and beat her if she did not fulfill a nightly quota.
Children like Nikki are not criminals or prostitutes, but they are often treated this way because the child protection and juvenile justice systems have not understood the abuse, trauma and violence they have endured. As such, a majority of court services have been created under the juvenile-justice umbrella — meaning a child must be arrested to access such services. A system that cannot adequately assist victims without criminalizing their behavior is a flawed system.
In 2000, a federal law was passed to make this point clear — it states that children who are bought and sold for sex are victims of human trafficking. Unfortunately, this law has not adequately shifted the environment for kids. In many states, prostitution laws still do not distinguish by age. Each day, boys and girls like Nikki are arrested and charged with crimes related to their exploitation.
In California, we have the opportunity to change this injustice. Recently, California amended existing law to clarify that children who are commercially sexually exploited and whose parents or guardians have failed to protect them can be served through the foster-care system as victims of abuse and neglect. Allowing these children to be served by the foster-care system provides them access to housing, education, health care and independent living resources without criminalizing their behavior.
Los Angeles' Succeeding Through Achievement and Resilience (STAR) Court is a model that provides intense and individualized support for commercially sexually exploited children. Developed in 2012, the STAR Court is an innovative program for youth who are on probation for prostitution and related charges. This collaborative, victim-centered court actively engages young survivors in decisions about their future. The presiding commissioner, public defender and probation officers assigned to the court are specially trained. In addition, community-based organizations partner with the court to provide legal advocacy to meet victims' needs.
In three years, the STAR Court has worked with nearly 250 victims and survivors. While all of these youths continue to heal from the trauma associated with their trafficking, many have gone on to graduate high school, attend college, secure meaningful employment and build healthy lives free from their traffickers. The court continues to engage youth by planning outings and celebrating milestones like graduations and birthdays. These lasting connections remind teens that there are supportive adults they can depend on and trust — something few have experienced.
While programs like this one are incredibly valuable, the futures of our most vulnerable children should not be left to the chance of having an innovative court or a sympathetic attorney. We can no longer allow these children to go unnoticed. We need to develop collaborative, interagency programs and protocols led by the child welfare system. Right now, counties across California have the opportunity to receive state funding to do just that. As counties prepare to opt into the program, advocates and service providers should ensure they have a seat at the planning table. Line workers and community providers can offer a rare glimpse into these children's lives. As California Attorney General Kamala Harris recently noted, our foster-care system has become a pipeline to human trafficking. Let's invest now in building a strong, reliable system — one that clogs the pipe. Let's also invest in these children.
Allison Newcombe is a staff attorney and Skadden Fellow at the Alliance for Children's Rights in Los Angeles and provides direct legal services to victims and survivors of child sex trafficking. Kate Walker is a staff attorney at the National Center for Youth Law in Oakland, and serves as the project director for California's Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Action Team. To comment, submit your letter to the editor at www.sfgate.com/submissions/#1
Child Advocacy Center speaks out on sexual abuse at Athens High School
by the Athens County Child Advocacy Center Staff
Recent events and media attention surrounding the prosecution of an area high school teacher for sexually abusing a student have prompted a response from the staff at the Athens County Child Advocacy Center.
First, it is important to recognize that any type of sexual contact between an adult and child or teenager is sexual abuse. This is compounded if the adult is in a position of power. In this situation children cannot consent to sexual contact even if they — as victims — feel that they are consenting to the relationship.
The term “compliant victim” is often an unrecognized term used to describe a person in a relationship with someone who holds some type of power over them. This could be financial, personal or professional but regardless, the victim is considered to be vulnerable in some way, often because of their age and/or the stature of their perpetrator. However, compliant victims consider themselves to be engaged in a consensual relationship and do not consider themselves to be victims. Often times people who find themselves in this type of situation do not want the relationship to end or don't know how to escape, especially if they have been coerced in any way. This does not fit the characteristics of a traditional child sexual abuse case in the minds of many people and is difficult to understand but the reality is that compliant victims need to be supported as survivors of sexual abuse and not be blamed. Some ways we can support victims are by listening, believing, validating their feelings regardless of what they are — sadness, anger, fear, confusion etc. We need to assure the victim they didn't do anything wrong, respect their space and decisions, be trustworthy and responsible with information surrounding the assault, don't share with others unless the victim consents and stop gossip and rumors.
Most importantly, we as a small community need to have a collective responsibility for our children which means not only supporting victims and survivors of sexual abuse but also starting meaningful dialogue about necessary education in this area and expansion of preventative services to ensure the future safety and well being of our children. We are very fortunate to have a plethora of human service organizations in our area that can be accessed by anyone, even just to ask questions or gain perspective from professionals in the field. Specific to sexual assault the Athens County Child Advocacy Center (ACCAC) coordinates services free of charge for child victims of sexual abuse by providing medical care, linkage to mental health services, victim advocacy and long-term support to families to aid in healing and prevention of further incidences of sexual assault. We can also be a source of information for any concerns surrounding sexualized behaviors and reports. Additionally, Athens County Children Services has trained forensic interviewers who can work in collaboration with the ACCAC to minimize trauma for children when allegations or disclosures of sexual abuse occur. If you suspect child abuse of any kind please call Athens County Children Services (740-592-3061). Anyone can make a report anonymously and it is not your responsibility to decide if an allegation holds enough merit to be investigated. Please utilize these services any time, there is never a concern too small when a child is involved.
As we move forward focus should not be on blame but invested in supporting victims and ensuring thoughtful conversations take place to increase knowledge and pursue implementation of educational and prevention services to ensure safety for all of the children in our community.
For more information about our organization or how to get involved please visit us on-line at athenscac.org, email email@example.com or call 740-566-4847.
‘We were lost between 2 worlds,' survivor of Canada aboriginal kids' adoption tells RT
US national swimming champion Wayne Snellgrove, one of the victims of Canada's so-called “Scoop” program, an adoption scheme though which Aboriginal Canadian children were placed with white families, has told RT it stripped survivors of their identities.
“They're lost between two worlds, they're not part of the native culture and they don't assimilate well with the white culture. They've lost their identity and it's a really sad thing,” Snellgrove told RT about the thousands of kids who were taken from their homes from the 1960s to the 1980s, of which he was one.
Snellgrove himself was taken from his Saskatchewan mother at birth in the 1970s, and spent the first few years of his life in the care of the Canadian government. He was eventually adopted by a white family in the United States, and did not meet his birth mother until he was 32.
“I realized I had been in mourning my entire life and didn't even know it,” he told RT of the adoption.
Snellgrove also recounted some the fraught historical context for the misguided and damaging adoption policy.
“They [white European settlers] have a very dark history of the way they treated the Aboriginal population. They tortured, they killed them, they murdered them, they raped them. All these stories are part of my story they're part of my culture.”
The swimming champ recalled feeling out of place and lost with his American family. Though Snellgrove says he was placed into a loving home and that his adoptive parents tried their best to raise him, he was still plagued by depression and could not assimilate into white culture.
“They gave me every opportunity, but the thing is I'm not white. I did not assimilate well into white culture… There were still feelings of loss and abandonment as to why I was with the family I was with,” he said.
Though Snellgrove got the chance to meet his mother after hiring a private investigator and searching for her for seven years, he says that others are not so lucky.
“There were hundreds of kids taken from my reserve, hundreds of kids taken across Canada – thousands of kids. And from my reserve I was the third one to make it back – the third one ever to touch my ancestral lands again,” he told RT
Many of these children are now seeking reparations from the Canadian government. More than 1,800 people have signed onto a class action suit lawsuit. The plaintiffs are being represented by the Merchant Law Group, which served the federal government with the suit in late January.
Tony Merchant, the head legal counsel at Merchant, claims that children suffered physical, psychological and sexual abuse as a result of the program. He criticized it as a misguided paternalistic attempt at assimilating Aboriginal Canadian children.
"It was part of the paternalistic approach, that if we could get children out of the hands of Aboriginal people, we could give them a better life in the future by taking away their culture and turning red children into white adults," he was quoted as saying by CBC.
Human trafficking is a local, not just a global problem
by Teresa Duhl
Human trafficking is a $32 billion per year industry, making people the second largest illegal commodity on the planet, behind drugs. However, labeling human trafficking as a global problem can also inadvertently send the message that it is not happening locally. In truth, human trafficking is happening in cities, suburbs, and rural areas, across the U.S. and in Michigan. As an international border state with major sports venues and global industries, including manufacturing, tourism and agriculture, Michigan is a prime location for human trafficking. In an effort to raise awareness, on Feb. 10, the WSU President's Commission on the Status of Women presented a panel of four legal and social work experts who discussed the topic in detail. Panelists included Kelly Carter, assistant attorney general for the state of Michigan; Blanche Cook, now an assistant professor at Wayne State University Law School and previously an assistant U.S. attorney specializing in human trafficking cases; David Manville, a social work professional and lecturer at Eastern Michigan University; and Deena Policicchio, director of outreach and education services at Alternatives for Girls in Detroit.
Crime of exploitation, not transportation
Often cited as the fastest growing illegal trade on the planet, human trafficking has been called modern day slavery. Carter said human trafficking is a “crime of exploitation, not transportation.” Globally, human trafficking is defined as the exploitation of a person for commercial sexual activity or labor or services through force, fraud, or coercion. Any sexually exploited child is a trafficking victim, whether or not force, fraud, or coercion occurred.
Estimates on the number of victims of human trafficking vary. In its 2012 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime cited the International Labor Organization's estimate that 20.9 million people are victims of forced labor. The report makes a distinction between forced labor and human trafficking (which is a sub-group of forced labor). Cook made no such distinction in her remarks when she cited 21 million to 27 million as the estimate for human trafficking victims. By the time of its 2014 Global Report on trafficking in Persons, the UNODC opted not to provide a total estimate of victims because there is “no methodologically sound estimate.” However, in other documents, the UNODC references conservative estimates of 2.5 million.
Despite the depravity of this crime, in a data driven world, the inability to present hard numbers creates a significant hurdle to generating support and funding to aggressively attack the problem. All of the panelists were upfront about this problem. In fact, when one audience member asked how to help, a panelist suggested she consider pursuing a career in research to help remedy the trafficking data deficit.
While exact statistics are not yet be available, certain truths about human trafficking are clear. Traffickers prefer trafficking humans to trafficking drugs or guns. The venture is less risky because the victims do not come forward or, when they do, are not seen as credible. According to the 2014 UNODC report, “Only four in 10 countries reported having 10 or more yearly convictions, with nearly 15 percent having no convictions at all.” When legal consequences do occur, they can be less severe than for that of drug trafficking. Traffickers can utilize their existing drug networks, so the infrastructure already exists. And, unlike drugs, a single human being can be re-sold many times over. Cook recounted one trafficker who told her that a girl can be re-sold for as long as she can lie down — conscious or not.
During her presentation, Cook addressed several misperceptions about human trafficking:
* It only happens in other countries or to foreign nationals. According to the UNODC's 2014 report, trafficking “affects virtually every country in every region of the world.”
*Only women are trafficked. The 2014 UNODC reports that women and girls comprise 70 percent of victims, but trafficking victims across all gender, ethnicity, age, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
* Victims are chained up. In some cases, this stereotypical image is accurate, but, often, traffickers use verbal abuse, forced drug use, legal threats, shame, and isolation to imprison their victims.
* Human trafficking is on the decline. The 2014 UNODC report makes clear that modern day slavery is actually increasing.
* It has nothing to do with me. Every panelist emphasized that the culture's norms drive demand for the sex trafficking industry. From advertising to movies and fairy tales to the language we use, Cook contends that we are “complicit in a culture that sexualizes the vulnerable.” According to Cook, the average trafficking victim is a 12-year-old girl, and the average “John” is a 42-year-old man. Those averages clearly signal that there is a “premium in this country for sexualized youth,” said Cook.
Panelist Deena Policicchio said, “We help the traffickers” through our language, media, songs, and, especially, the way our culture shames sex industry workers.
Profiler predator seeks vulnerable victim
Traffickers are predators. They profile potential victims according to vulnerability. Rarely do traffickers kidnap. Instead, they target children and adults who harbor a vulnerability, a need for approval, a mental illness, a history of abuse or neglect, a lack of self-worth. They often target people already on the fringes of society, or the poor. However, every panelist stressed that vulnerability is the only common denominator among victims, any vulnerability that can be manipulated will suffice—no matter the individual's demographics.
Manville said traffickers either begin as a family member, trusted adult, boyfriend, or friend, or they position themselves to take on one of those roles by incrementally gaining the trust of their victims. They are, according to Manville, looking for “the cracks” in the victim's support system. Once they find those cracks, they use manipulation to lure in the victim.
A trafficking survivor spoke of her own experience. She was 21 years old when she met her trafficker. She was a single mom with financial struggles and other challenges.
The “guy swept me off my feet,” she said through a voice strained by anxiety and pain. He promised her a better life, fixed credit, a new house. Shortly thereafter he began the beatings that would last the entire six years of her trafficking experience. His coercion tactics included having a child with her. As is typical in a trafficker-victim relationship, B, the victim, interpreted the pregnancy as the result of a loving relationship. Later, she recounted, her trafficker told her that he only had a child with her to keep her from running away.
How could anyone think that such a situation was love? Why would anyone who is not chained-up stay? Manville said, “being under [the] complete control of someone else is hard to imagine.” But such is the relationship that a trafficker imposes on his victim.
The victims are targeted precisely because they are lacking a sense of self-worth. That vulnerability makes the trafficker's job of coercion easier. After gaining trust and isolating the victim from his/her support system, the trafficker can coerce the victim through any number of measures: isolation, physical abuse, verbal abuse, imposed drug use/addiction, flattery, “shaming”, threats of deportation or jail time, threats against family and loved ones. Under these conditions, the victim is “stripped of [his/her] will to get out,” said Carter.
Victims take years to recover. They suffer panic and anxiety disorders; some may suffer from drug addictions and mental disorders as a result of the trafficking trauma. Some return to the sex trade. Policicchio said trafficking can result in a destructive link between money and sex. She talked about a victim who had come far enough in her recovery to acquire and maintain regular employment, but, when she received her paycheck, her impulse was to seek out sex with prior Johns. For the average person, these scenarios are hard to comprehend, but one panelist suggested thinking of it this way: One rape is a traumatic, life-altering experience. Imagine being raped repeatedly for years.
Recovering from trafficking requires years of mental health services, ideally in a residential setting where support can be accessed at any time. Unfortunately, the reality of services does not match the need. According to Policicchio, funding for residential programs is typically limited to 90 days per client. Manville said victims may have limited, if any, access to mental health services. In the Detroit-Metropolitan area, several agencies serve human trafficking victims, including Alternatives for Girls in Detroit, Freedom House-Detroit, Vista Maria in Dearborn Heights, the UM Human Trafficking Clinic in Ann Arbor and Dearborn's own ACCESS. The Michigan Abolitionist Project in Utica is an advocacy group dedicated to raising awareness about human trafficking. At this time, residential programs specifically for boys do not exist, and those for men or victims over 18 are limited. Freedom House does provide residential services to single adult males and females, as well as families, but capacity is limited, and they cannot serve children unaccompanied by a guardian or parent.
Adding to the list of challenges victims and their advocates face is the reality that these cases are hard to prosecute. Unlike drug cases, trafficking cases rest heavily on victim testimony. But, victims often do not want to come forward or speak up because they feel immense shame and trauma. If they do come forward, their testimony often lacks credibility because of the mental and emotional trauma that they have suffered.
Munira Kassim, VOCA Program Supervisor at ACCESS, said one of the challenges the organization faces as a service agency rooted within the community is “giving a sense of safety” to hidden victims in the community, letting people know that their identities and stories will be kept confidential.
On the legislative front, in 2014, several laws were passed in Michigan regarding human trafficking. Carter reported that these bills focused on five areas: making Michigan a safe harbor state, so child victims of human trafficking cannot be prosecuted for crimes they committed while being trafficked; giving prosecutors better “tools” to bring traffickers to justice; improving law enforcement training; improving victims' services and support; and establishing new state commissions on human trafficking.
Just as human trafficking is a local problem, the panelists stressed the need for residents to get engaged. Cook urged the audience to understand human trafficking, not as an issue separate from our lives, but interwoven with them: “Racism, classism, sexism is embedded in everything we do.” Policicchio encouraged the audience to work within their own communities, in their school districts and police departments and neighborhoods, to advocate for better sex education, police training awareness.
In the Dearborn Public Schools, David Mustonen, the district's communications coordinator, said via email that the “human growth and development” curriculum is being updated, but, currently, these classes are optional and offered at the fifth-, seventh-, and ninth-grades in single gender settings. In the latter grades, the topics of violence and power are addressed in the context of sexual harassment and saying no. Both the Dearborn and Dearborn Heights Police Departments were contacted for information on how they are addressing human trafficking, but responses were not received in time for this article.
Those who suspect human trafficking is taking place should call the human trafficking hotline at 888-3737-888. For more resources and information, visit the Domestic Trafficking Hotline website: http://www.state.gov/j/tip/id/domestic/index.htm and the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons website: http://www.state.gov/j/tip/.
Teresa Duhl is a Dearborn-based freelance writer who hails from the world of non-profit grants and data management.
Guest commentary: Teen dating violence awareness month
by Linda Oberhaus
“Authentic love does not devalue another human being. Authentic love does not silence, shame or abuse.”
These powerful words were shared by writer, activist, performance artist and domestic violence survivor Brooke Axtell as she bared her soul before an audience of millions during last week's Grammy Awards. Sharing her platform were President Barack Obama and singing star Katy Perry.
For his part, the president called on all of us to exercise the power of example to “create a culture where violence is intolerable and survivors are supported.” This directive champions The Shelter for Abused Women & Children's mission to prevent, protect and prevail over domestic violence through advocacy, empowerment and social change. It is especially poignant during February, National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.
As the president stated, the statistics are daunting. One in 4 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime and 1 in 5 teenage girls are physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner before they graduate from high school. Such relationships put these young people at higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior, suicide and adult revictimization.
In his message, the president urged the music industry to use its unique power to change minds and attitudes. To that we add the power of print, film and Internet media, which too often publicize and glamorize unhealthy relationships.
From “Jersey Shore” to MTV's “Real World,” our young people are seriously challenged to know what a healthy dating relationship looks like. They don't know the warning signs and there are little or no resources available to understand how potentially dangerous their situation may be. Without intervention, these relationships can result in physical and/or emotional abuse and on occasion, death, such as the tragic loss of Immokalee teens Natalia Trejo and Colby Deleon in December 2012.
So how do we meet the president's challenge to be agents of change? Here at the shelter, we believe the answer starts with prevention. By helping teens recognize unhealthy dating behavior, we can address the problem before it begins. Parents can start a conversation at home. If you're not sure how to do this, shelter staff members can help you. Call us at 239-775-3862.
Schools also have a unique opportunity to evoke change. Unlike domestic violence, which typically takes place in the home, victims of teen dating violence are more at risk in and around their schools, where abusers have easy access to their victims.
Technologies such as cellphones and the Internet have made dating abuse both more pervasive and more hidden.
Fortunately for our community, the Collier County school district has partnered with the shelter to provide a variety of in-school education and prevention programs including “Hands Are For Helping Not for Hitting” at the elementary level, and “Healthy Relationships,” “Expect Respect” and “Raising Gentle'men” at the middle and high school levels.
Through these programs, shelter advocates reached out to more than 16,000 students last year, helping them to recognize different types of abuse, the dynamics of dating violence, characteristics of unhealthy and healthy relationships and how to set boundaries in a relationship. In addition, the shelter's Youth Advisory Council, made up of young people age 12 to 20, works with local teens to inspire social change by providing education, empowerment, advocacy and support to break the cycle of violence.
The impact of these programs should not be underestimated. When youth are empowered, their broadened awareness of domestic violence will ultimately create positive change and a safer community.
It's not always easy to talk to friends and family about dating abuse and healthy relationships. Research demonstrates that 75 percent of parents were unaware that their teen had been physically hurt by a dating partner and only 33 percent of teens suffering such abuse ever talked to anyone about what was happening to them.
So let's start the conversation. If you are a parent, friend or relative of a teenager, you can learn more about the warning signs, prevention and intervention of teen dating violence at loveisrespect.org.
Everyone deserves to be in a safe and healthy relationship. You can help make that happen by raising awareness about the issue, speaking out against abuse when you see it and educating yourself and your family to make a difference. As the president said, “It's on us” to be agents of change.
Learn more about how you can support the shelter at www.naplesshelter.org.
Recognizing child abuse
by Melissa Currie
As a pediatrician who specializes in evaluating children who may have been abused, I see firsthand the physical and emotional impact that abuse and neglect can have on children and their caregivers. I also see the impact that it has on the professionals, neighbors, and family members who interacted with the child, but who overlooked the early warning signs.
Often the signs of abuse may not be glaring. I was recently presenting a training session on recognizing the signs of child abuse for a room full of doctors who are likely to come in to contact with children in their regular workday. As the result of a law passed last year, doctors are now required to receive training on pediatric abusive head trauma and other forms of abuse. After the training, I had more than one physician approach me and confide that they had seen the telltale bruises on patients, but hadn't realized that they were likely from abuse. This wasn't a surprise: if we aren't educated on how to spot the signs, we miss them.
Doctors aren't the only professionals in Kentucky that are required to get training on the recognition of abuse. Law enforcement, front-line social workers, nurses, and child care workers are also professionals who are required to receive training to identify signs of child abuse, which makes sense due to their regular contact with children.
It is so important that professionals who interact with children know what to be aware of if they suspect abuse is occurring. Teachers do a great job of reporting child abuse and neglect in Kentucky. Educators nationally are one of the most frequent sources of reports of cases of child maltreatment. We also know that more than half of Kentucky's confirmed victims of child maltreatment are school-aged, between 5-17 years old in 2012. Though educators are required to report child abuse, we hear from teachers who feel inadequately prepared to recognize subtle early warning signs of abuse so they know when they should report suspected child abuse.
Educators are one of the only groups of professionals who regularly interact with children that are not required to receive any training on the prevention and recognition of abuse and neglect. This is a significant missed opportunity in our efforts to eliminate child abuse and neglect. Even when children are taught ways to keep themselves safe from abuse, there is no substitute for adult responsibility. With most children spending many hours of their days in school, it is imperative that school personnel receive training on how to prevent, recognize, and report child abuse and neglect. Indeed, the educators themselves are asking for it.
That is why Republican Sen. Julie Raque Adams and Democratic Rep. Rita Smart are working together on a bi-partisan piece of legislation to ensure that those dedicated educators, who interact with so many children on a daily basis, are trained to recognize the signs of child abuse. The Kosair Charities Face It Movement to end child abuse and Blueprint for Kentucky's Children are working with key education voices to ensure that the specifics of the legislation make sense to those in our school buildings.
Educational leaders, the medical community, and child advocates are ensuring that every public school educator in the Commonwealth is equipped and empowered to protect the children in his/her care. You can play a key role in protecting our children. As this legislation moves forward, ask your own state representative and state senator to support House Bill 301 and Senate Bill 119. Kentucky's kids will win when the Senator Adams/Representative Smart proposal becomes a reality.
And if you suspect a child is being abused, report it to the state hotline at 1-877-597-2331, by fax at 502/595-0895 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Melissa Currie is a board-certified child abuse pediatrician and medical director and chief of the Kosair Charities Division of Pediatric Forensic Medicine at the University of Louisville. She is a founding member of the Face It Movement to end child abuse and chairs the campaign's policy team.
A slap: child discipline or child abuse?
by Susan Bissell
Virtually every culture and faith teaches children some version of ‘the golden rule' – i.e., that you should treat others the same way you would like to be treated. So what are we teaching children when we use physical discipline against them? That resorting to aggression is a valid way to solve a problem? That if someone does something we don't like, it is OK to hit them?
These questions are too big to be handled thoughtfully in such a brief blog post, but they are questions that many television viewers may be asking themselves, and each other, in light of NBC's new miniseries, “The Slap,” which premiered in the United States on Thursday 12 February.
The dramatic arc of the show, based on a best-selling Australian novel and series, centers on an adult who disciplines an out-of-control child – not his own son – with a slap during a backyard barbecue. The subsequent drama that unfolds over the course of eight episodes finds family and friends choosing sides, with some agreeing that the unruly child needed a firm hand to be brought into line, and others saying it is never right for an adult to use force against a child. The tightly knit group is soon driven apart by what happens next.
Although this is a fictional story depicted on a small screen, we have evidence to show it represents a disturbing worldwide pattern. Last year, UNICEF released the most comprehensive collection of data on violent punishment of children to date. The numbers starkly showed that violent discipline is the most common form of violence in childhood.
On average, the survey data from 62 countries indicated that almost a billion children aged 2-14 had been physically disciplined in the home in the month before the survey was taken.
Physical discipline, also known as corporal punishment, is defined by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child as “any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light.”
About four in five children had been physically punished and/or subjected to psychological aggression while 17 per cent had been severely disciplined (e.g., hit on the head, face or ears or hit hard and repeatedly).
The effects of many types of violence can be lifelong, and can even be passed from generation to generation. Abundant evidence exists to show how violent discipline is associated with – among other negative outcomes – poor mental and physical health later in life, increased violence and aggression, and damage to family relationships.
One interesting revelation in our data analysis was that many children are subjected to physical punishment even when adults in the household don't think it is necessary. This gap may seem illogical but it could be explained by the fact that many parents lack alternative, non-violent methods of discipline.
That is why UNICEF promotes strategies such as helping parents, caregivers and families better understand their child's early development and teaching them about positive parent-child interactions, including non-violent discipline.
One such programme targeted families with children aged 3 to 5-years-old in low-income districts of Istanbul, offering training and discussions on child development and parenting. Two years later, an evaluation found that mothers were communicating better with their children; the children had fewer behavior problems and; incidences of physical punishment had dropped by a staggering 73 per cent. A follow-up study found that, later in life, those children had gone on to do better in school and had more successful careers than children whose families had not benefited from the programme.
On the legislative front, progress is being made towards eliminating all violent punishment of children in homes, in schools and in all other settings. As of the end of 2014, corporal punishment in the home has been prohibited in 44 countries, in alternative care and day care settings in 50 countries, in schools in 122 countries, and in penal institutions in 130 countries.
The pace of law reform is accelerating rapidly, with 10 countries adding their names to the list of those that prohibit corporal punishment of children in the home and all other settings, in 2014 alone. Other governments are also expressing their commitment to reform; at the end of 2014, 45 countries had clearly committed to prohibition.
While this is encouraging news, 91 per cent of the world's children are still unprotected in law from corporal punishment in the home, and 23 countries lack laws that prohibit corporal punishment in any setting.
Violence is not inevitable. It can be prevented and it is critical to act now to create safe environments for children which allow them to grow up free from fear.
For more information on progress to end corporal punishment in your country, visit: www.endcorporalpunishment.org. For more information on UNICEF's global initiative to end violence, visit: http://www.unicef.org/endviolence
Susan Bissell is the Chief of Child Protection at UNICEF Headquarters in New York.
Georgia Senate passes bills aimed at curbing child sex abuse
by Bill Hendrick
ATLANTA | The Georgia Senate passed two measures Thursday aimed at cracking down on what legislators say is a growing problem involving sexual exploitation of children in the state that extends far from inner cities into upscale suburbs.
Republican Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, sponsor of both measures, said Georgia must take action because it has one of the worst records in the nation in terms of sexual trafficking.
“The average age for starting prostitution is 12 to 14,” she said. Atlanta ranks in the worst 20 cities, but “this is not just an inside-the-perimeter” problem. “Sixty-five percent of men who purchase sex with female children live in suburban areas.”
She said Georgians should keep in mind that “someone convicted of this horrendous offense of having sex with a 12-year-old may live nearby.”
“It's not enough to regret or feel bad about it, we have to put our morality into policy changes,” she said.
One measure, a resolution calling for an amendment to the state constitution to fight child sexual exploitation, would set up a special fund to receive taxes and monetary penalties to help abused children. It passed 53-3.
A constitutional amendment requires a higher bar to pass the General Assembly, namely a two-thirds majority in both chambers.
The accompanying bill, approved 53-2, sets out parameters and establishes a commission to administer the fund.
Unterman said child sexual exploitation has become a business that quickly enriches criminals, but causes lifelong trauma for victims.
The state must “change this culture of sex trafficking” that she said has increased in part because of social networking.
Lawmakers have named the legislation the “Safe Harbor/Rachel's Act” in honor of a victim who was 17 when she was befriended by a sex trafficker on social media who deceived her. She is now in college, Unterman said.
“She met a boy on the Internet and he asked her to go on a vacation,” Unterman said. “He took her to Miami and sold her. Rachel made it out, but she is one of the few.”
Sen. Mike Crane said Atlanta is “recognized throughout the nation as the place where a child is most likely to be exploited.”
He asked: “People have asked if this is the proper role of government. Should we be raising taxes or fees on businesses?
“There is a great cost to our society in what they do. We are the number one place in the world to do business, but we are not number one to do this kind of business. Georgia will not stand for the abuse of our children.”
Toomey, Manchin team on bill that targets job-jumping predators
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey and Joe Manchin want to make sure no school district can “pass the trash” again.
The Pennsylvania Republican and West Virginia Democrat will reintroduce in the Senate on Thursday the Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act, a bill intended to keep pedophiles out of schools and from moving undetected from state to state, a practice known as “passing the trash.”
The bill would require elementary and high schools that receive federal funding to conduct background checks on not only teachers but school administrators, coaches, custodians, bus drivers and others with unsupervised access to children.
“Sen. Manchin and I share a determination to get this done. It's long overdue,” said Toomey. He said school officials sometimes know an employee committed sexual abuse and fail to report it, then help the predator to “be quietly reassigned.”
Most states, including Pennsylvania, require criminal background checks on all school employees. Five states exempt some employees, such as bus drivers or sports coaches, and in 12 states such checks are not mandatory for private contractors who may have contact with children, according to the Government Accountability Office.
A similar bill passed the House unanimously last year but stalled in the Senate Health, Labor, Education and Pensions Committee, Toomey and Manchin told the Tribune-Review during a Capitol Hill interview.
A case spanning both states was the catalyst for their involvement, Manchin said.
Jeremy Bell, 12, was raped and murdered in West Virginia in 1997 by Edgar Friedrichs Jr., who is serving a life prison sentence. A Delaware County, Pa., school district had dismissed Friedrichs for molesting several children, Manchin said.
“But instead of (taking) any action to stop the predator, the district recommended and helped him get a new job in my home state,” he said.
That case “is as horrific as it gets,” Toomey said. “... They just wanted (Friedrichs) to become someone else's problem.”
Still, the legislation is not without its critics.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., held the bill in committee during the last session, along with former Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, arguing it would be a mandate that undermines local decision-making in education. Alexander warned against allowing the Senate “to constitute ourselves as a national school board.”
The American Federation of Teachers supports the legislation to protect children from wrongdoing, but wants to protect teachers from false allegations, said its president Randi Weingarten. The union represents more than 1 million educators, paraprofessionals and school-related personnel nationwide.
Toomey acknowledged that some Republicans in the Senate do not think the government should impose standards on school districts.
“My response is, the enforcement mechanism in schools in states that refuse to comply with the legislation would forgo some federal money,” Toomey said. “We can't force them to do this, and we don't attempt to force them to do it. But we do create an incentive to do this, and I think that is completely responsible.”
Manchin said Alexander is “a true champion of education,” but the modern world requires a way to detect pedophiles who move across state lines for school jobs.
“We are hoping the senator would take another look at that,” Manchin said. “Give us the vote — just give us a vote and this will pass.”
Toomey said he believes President Obama would sign the bill if it passes both chambers. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Important legislation on strangulation and join One Billion Rising
by Malinda Williams
New Mexico is one of only six remaining states that do not have specific laws against strangulation.
For the fourth consecutive year, women and men advocating for survivors of domestic and sexual violence are working diligently during our legislative session to make this the year that New Mexico will finally make non-fatal strangulation and suffocation a felony. The New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs hope to specifically outlaw strangulation and suffocation as part of three existing statutes: aggravated battery against a household member, child abuse and neglect, and the Family Violence Protection Act.
Strangulation is one of the most dangerous — and common — forms of interpersonal violence.
Research backs up what we know locally: strangulation is commonly used by abusers. Many who seek help at Community Against Violence or call our hotline report that their abuser strangled them.
At least 23 percent of female domestic violence victims experience strangulation by their abusive male partner. A 2001 study found that 10 percent of violent deaths in the United States were attributable to strangulation and six of 10 strangulation victims were women. Victims of domestic violence who are strangled by their abuser are seven times more likely to be later killed by their abuser. This is a very, very serious red flag.
Strangulation is an extremely effective control tactic used in domestic and sexual violence: victims feel terrified during the incident — because they believe they are going to die. And that fear stays with them. Strangulation sends the message that the abuser holds the power to take the victim's life, with little effort, and in a way that may leave little evidence.
According to the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention, unconsciousness occurs within seconds and death can occur within minutes. Slight pressure applied to both carotid arteries in the neck will deprive the brain of oxygen, causing unconsciousness in 10 seconds. Victims may lose consciousness quickly when an abuser makes breathing impossible by closing off the victim's airway by putting a hand over the nose and mouth. Death will occur after four to five minutes of sustained strangulation. Strangulation victims usually do not have any visible injuries and do not seek medical attention.
Because New Mexico does not have specific laws to penalize strangulation, a prosecutor can generally charge abusers who use that tactic only with a misdemeanor (such as battery or assault against a household member). On rare occasions, an abuser who strangled their victim may be charged with attempted murder, but that charge is difficult to prove.
Adding strangulation to these laws will not only make sure that abusers who strangle are held accountable by tougher punishments but will also help promote awareness of the dangers posed by it. Contact your legislators and encourage them to vote to make New Mexico safer – nmlegis.gov
Announcing Taos' Moving Flash Mob – This Valentine's Day: Taos is excited to join women, men, and youth in 200 countries for the Third Annual One Billion Rising!
Join in and rise with your Community Against Violence this Saturday (Feb. 14), 2 p.m. at Kit Carson Park. The moving flash mob will walk and dance to John Dunn Shops, Twirl, and then to Taos Plaza, ending in a free community dance celebration. You can learn the “Break the Chain” dance online at youtube.com/watch?v=zJQvJNfn0kc.
Malinda Williams is the executive director of Community Against Violence, Inc. (CAV) which offers free confidential support and assistance for adult and child survivors of sexual and domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking; re-education BIP groups for domestic violence offenders; male involvement, community, and school violence prevention programs; and community thrift store. To talk with someone or get information on services available, call CAV's 24-hour crisis line at (575) 758-9888. Visit taoscav.org
State Launches Social Media Campaign to Increase Awareness of Teen Dating Violence
New York State today announced a new social media campaign designed to educate teens, young adults and others about teen dating violence, which national research has shown affects one in four teens, regardless of their gender. The New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence is coordinating the campaign, which encourages young people to start a virtual conversation about the issue by using the hash tag #ICanDoSomethingNY.
“We encourage young people – and all people – to speak up and step in when they see something happening that doesn't feel right, whether they are in school or in the community,” said Gwen Wright, executive director of the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence. “When peers intercede to take a stand against violence and abuse, they can create change. I'd like to thank Lansingburgh High staff members and students for partnering with us to create this campaign, which will help teens navigate the tricky waters of dating and relationships and send a strong message that destructive behaviors won't be tolerated.”
Ms. Wright visited Lansingburgh High School this afternoon to highlight the campaign, which includes a four-minute video that stars student actors from the school. The students describe different dating abuse scenarios, stress the importance of being an “active bystander” by reaching out to a friend in need, and offer ideas about ways to educate peers and others about the issue, via social media and in person. Joining her were Principal Frank Macri, students who starred in the video and more than 200 of their peers.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has proclaimed February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. Read the proclamation about the issue, which can take many forms, including controlling behavior, such as constant texting or preventing a partner from spending time with friends, verbal abuse and physical violence.
According to national research on the topic, 62 percent of “tweens” who were 11 through 14 said they know friends who have been verbally abused – called stupid, worthless, ugly, etc. – by their boyfriends/girlfriends. In addition, approximately one in 10 teens reported they were hit, slapped or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend.
Principal Macri said, “Awareness is prevention. Providing teens with information about what they can do to ensure that they and their friends engage in healthy relationships is an important step in making sure they have real life skills that will empower them to be productive adults.”
To coincide with the video screening, students and others in attendance wore or sported orange, as the color has been designated for Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. In addition to organizing a “Wear Orange” Day and promoting the event with the hash tag #orange4love, the video encourages teens and young adults to do their part by:
Becoming an active bystander, which means speaking up, taking a stand or getting help whenever they see situations – whether they are actual or virtual – in which individuals are being treated in a way that doesn't seem appropriate.
Participating in the “Send a Candy Heart” campaign. The campaign encourages individuals to take a photo of themselves holding oversized, paper versions of candy conversation hearts that feature the words, “I will…” followed by something they will commit to do to raise awareness about teen dating abuse. The photos can be shared via social media using the hash tag #tdvcandyhearts.
Lansingburgh Schools Superintendent Cynthia DeDominick said, “Lansingburgh welcomed the opportunity for our students to create this video to highlight awareness of dating violence. Our students, just like all students in New York State, know that dating violence occurs. The video demonstrates the importance of not looking the other way, and of being concerned enough to talk about it.”
Elizabeth Cronin, director of the state Office of Victim Services, said, “Teen dating violence is a serious issue that crosses gender, sexual orientation and socio-economic lines. All New Yorkers can, and must, do something about it. Congratulations to Lansingburgh High School for taking on this challenge. I encourage teens and young adults across the state to follow their lead by starting a conversation in their own communities.”
Milinda Reed, director of Domestic Violence Services at Unity House of Troy said, “Helping teens learn about and build healthy relationships are keys in the fight against both teen dating violence and adult domestic violence. I strongly encourage all middle and high schools to use this video and incorporate comprehensive teen dating violence and healthy relationship education into their curricula during February and all year long.”
Connie Neal, executive director of the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said, “This thoughtful and engaging campaign promotes responsible bystander behaviors for adolescents and recognizes that everyone has a role to play in creating a community free from violence. The video offers tips by young people for young people for safely intervening whenever they see unhealthy and dangerous relationship behaviors among their peers. This is a vital step towards preventing teen dating violence.”
Anyone who is a victim of domestic violence and sexual assault can seek help 24 hours a day by calling the state's toll-free hotline: 1-800-942-6906
The Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (www.opdv.ny.gov) is charged with improving the response of state and local communities to domestic violence. OPDV provides guidance to Executive staff on policy and legislation; conducts statewide community outreach and public education programs; and trains professionals on addressing domestic violence in a wide array of disciplines, including child welfare, law enforcement and health care.
Have you ever suspected child abuse?
by Bonnie Robertson
Many of us are unsure whether a child is being abused. Abuse is not always apparent. Often we do not know what to do if we suspect abuse and fear the results if we report to the authorities. This article is intended to provide possible warning signs of child abuse, and explain what to do if you suspect abuse.
The earlier abused children get help, the greater chance they have to heal and break the cycle of abuse.
Below are warning signs, provided by: Helpguide.org
Warning signs of emotional abuse in children
• Excessively withdrawn, fearful, or anxious about doing something wrong.
• Shows extremes in behavior (extremely compliant or demanding; extremely passive or aggressive).
• Doesn't seem to be attached to the parent or caregiver.
• Acts either inappropriately adult (taking care of other children) or inappropriately infantile (rocking, thumb-sucking, throwing tantrums).
Warning signs of physical abuse in children
• Frequent injuries or unexplained bruises, welts, or cuts.
• Is always watchful and “on alert,” as if waiting for something bad to happen.
• Injuries appear to have a pattern such as marks from a hand or belt.
• Shies away from touch, flinches at sudden movements, or seems afraid to go home.
• Wears inappropriate clothing to cover up injuries, such as long-sleeved shirts on hot days.
Warning signs of neglect in children
• Clothes are ill-fitting, filthy, or inappropriate for the weather.
• Hygiene is consistently bad (unbathed, matted and unwashed hair, noticeable body odor).
• Untreated illnesses and physical injuries.
• Is frequently unsupervised or left alone or allowed to play in unsafe situations and environments.
• Is frequently late or missing from school.
Warning signs of sexual abuse in children
• Trouble walking or sitting.
• Displays knowledge or interest in sexual acts inappropriate to his or her age, or even seductive behavior.
• Makes strong efforts to avoid a specific person, without an obvious reason.
• Doesn't want to change clothes in front of others or participate in physical activities.
• An STD or pregnancy, especially under the age of 14.
• Runs away from home.
Suspected abuse is enough of a reason to contact the authorities. The safety of our children is the responsibility of all neighbors, friends, and family. In today's world often people are hesitant to become involved. However, it is our responsibility as a society to ensure the safety of all children.
When reporting child abuse remain calm, be as specific as possible, and if there are future incidences continue to call and report them.
If you think a child is in immediate danger, don't hesitate. Call 9-1-1 to ensure the immediate safety of a child and get medical attention if needed. For non-emergencies, call the Department of Social Services, or after business hours call your local law enforcement agency. You can also call the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-844-CO-4-KIDS (1-844-264-5437).
Working together protects vulnerable children and saves lives. Don't hesitate. Report suspected child abuse.
Northwest Rocky Mountain CASA: recruiting, educating and empowering community volunteers to advocate in court for the best interests of abused and neglected children. More info: 970-819-6233, www.rockymountaincasa.org. Bonnie Robertson is Program Coordinator, Northwest Rocky Mountain CASA.
'Because of the Adversity I Faced in Childhood, There's Nothing I Can't Do!'
by Brian F. Martin and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, Ph.D.
A 16-year-old who grew up experiencing adversity in childhood said this to Brian Martin several years ago, and he included her story in his book, Invincible: The 10 Lies You Learn Growing Up With Domestic Violence and the Truths to Set You Free.
Thinking about this statement raises an interesting question. Why do so few who experience adversity in childhood believe the same thing that this young woman believes? It is a question that intrigues us both and has brought us to this conclusion: The primary barrier is that most don't connect the adversity they grew up with, to the challenges they face today.
What does it mean to face adversity in childhood?
For the past 15 years, Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, Ph.D. has been studying the effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on adult health as she described in her book, Treating the Lifetime Health Effects of Childhood Victimization, 2nd Ed. ACEs describe a wide range of adversities faced in childhood including: childhood physical, sexual and emotional abuse; neglect, both physical such as growing up without basic physical needs, such as clean clothes or having enough food to eat, and emotional neglect, such as a lack of love or emotional support; parental mental illness, growing up around alcohol and drug abuse, incarceration of a parent, divorce, and childhood domestic violence. Have you experienced any of these?
Half of us experienced one... and 90 percent of those, experienced more than one.
If any of these experiences sound familiar, there's a reason. In Drs. Vincent Felitti and Robert Anda's Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, which included more than 17,000 HMO patients in San Diego, more than half had experienced at least one type of ACE. And of those who experienced one, 90 of them experienced at least two types. The more we try to find one cause or reason why our life isn't where we want it to be, the more we must look at the overarching question: did you experience adversity in childhood?
The effects can continue well into adulthood, impacting five key areas
As the ACE Study demonstrated, the effects of childhood adversity can continue well into adulthood. From hundreds of recent studies, we know that adverse experiences can affect men and women in five key domains of functioning. They can:
1. negatively impact your beliefs about yourself or others
2. cause health problems
3. lead to harmful behaviors
4. create relationship challenges
5. manifest through emotional difficulties
Of these negative effects, there is one that drives the other four.
Childhood adversity encodes negative beliefs
First and foremost, experiencing adversity in childhood wires a developing brain and encodes negative beliefs, such as shame and self-blame. Self-efficacy is another belief that can be influenced by ACEs and it refers to the belief that you are competent and can do things to improve your life.
Unfortunately, ACEs tend to undermine both self-esteem and self-efficacy. This can often lead to challenges with respect to accomplishing the things in life that you believe are important, such as finishing school, getting the job you want, or achieving financial security.
ACEs can also affect your beliefs about other people. It's common for those who experience ACEs to be hostile and mistrusting towards others. You may expect that others will reject you and will be always on the lookout for signs of rejection, even when something neutral occurs (e.g., someone doesn't greet you when they are across a crowded room. They may not have seen you. But you may think they are ignoring you.)
These negative beliefs, then often lead to...
As we mentioned above, these negative beliefs can influence the four other domains of functioning which can lead to: health problems, harmful behaviors, relationship challenges and emotional difficulties.
One of the reasons why the ACE Study was so important was because it was the first major study that showed a connection between adversity in childhood and serious adult health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. ACEs can interfere with the quality of your sleep , alter your immune system, and even make you more susceptible to memory and attention problems. Adults who experienced ACEs tend to go to the doctor more often, have surgery more often, and have more chronic conditions than people who didn't.
Chronic pain is another commonly reported symptom among those who experienced ACEs. Traumatic events can also lower the pain threshold, making normal sensations seem painful. ACE survivors are more likely to have irritable bowel syndrome, chronic pelvic pain, frequent headaches, and fibromyalgia. They are also more likely to be disabled as adults.
Women with a history of physical or sexual abuse have high rates of type 2 diabetes. In childhood, they often have higher BMIs (Body Mass Index) than their non-abused peers, and they gain weight more easily as adults.
Those who experienced ACEs are also more likely to engage in harmful behaviors ranging from smoking to eating disorders, substance abuse and suicide attempts. In addition, high-risk sexual practices, including unprotected sex, more sexual partners, and having consensual sex at an earlier age, are also more common. ACE survivors might believe that they aren't worth protecting, or they may engage in harmful behaviors, such as abusing substances, as a way to cope with their negative feelings about themselves.
Adult survivors of childhood adversity may also experience difficulties in relationships with others. As children, they may be more aggressive and lower in prosocial skills. People who experience ACEs may be socially isolated and feel less satisfied with their current relationships than adults who did not. They often find that, try as they may, they struggle to be good parents, often second guessing themselves even when their judgment is sound.
On the more extreme end, those who experiences ACEs are at higher risk for partnering with abusive adults. In fact, some of the beliefs about self (e.g., shame and self-blame) are related to increased risk because ACE survivors may feel like they don't deserve any better.
Depression, anxiety disorders, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are common in ACE survivors. They often believe many lies that Brian discusses in his book Invincible -- they believe they are guilty, resentful, sad, alone, angry, hopeless, worthless, fearful, self conscious and unloved. All these conditions can color the way ACE survivors see the world, lead to dysfunctional behaviors as a way to cope, and increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
"Because of the adversity I faced in childhood... there's nothing I can't do"
If after reading this, you realize that you experienced adversity in childhood. You may recognize your own pattern of harmful behaviors, health problems, emotional and relationship difficulties -- and the pattern of negative beliefs that underlie all of them.
These negative beliefs may be holding you back from being the person you were meant to be, from reaching your full potential. You might wonder how you can be like the young woman we described at the beginning of our article. How can you come to believe what she believes, that, "because of what you faced, there's nothing you can't do?"
Change cannot occur until you 1) are aware 2) understand and 3) share
You've already taken the first step. You're aware of how the adversity you faced in childhood may be impacting your life now, and the lives of those you love. Awareness must come before any change. It's the catalyst. Now that you are aware, the next step is to understand. Perhaps read this article again or some of the other articles that came before this one, to research on your own.
Adversity faced in childhood is VERY different than adversity faced as an adult
As you seek to understand more fully, consider this truth: Adversity faced in childhood is very different than adversity faced as an adult. Imagine as an adult having to experience physical, sexual or emotional abuse, extreme poverty, emotional neglect, mental illness, alcohol and drug addiction, incarceration, divorce, or domestic violence. These are extraordinary challenges to deal with as an adult.
Now imagine that same person having to deal with them in childhood! As a child, without the benefit of an adult brain; without a brain that has been fully formed. Having no physical size or strength. No rights or freedoms. No money or capital. Very few life experiences to draw from. Only a partial education. A child who was raised without having their basic needs met: to feel secure, important and loved.
What obstacle can compare now that you are an adult?
But yet, even with all these obstacles, you faced them, and you are here today. It begs the question, "if you faced adversity in childhood, and are here today, what obstacles compare now that you are an adult?"
Getting the job you want? Learning to be in control of your thoughts, feelings, and actions? Having the relationship you deserve? Living a healthy lifestyle? These challenges simply don't compare.
And more precisely you can now take this action. When you are faced with a challenge today in adulthood, you can remind yourself of the truth, "Because of the adversity you faced in childhood, there is no obstacle you can't overcome."
Why? Because you have already overcome FAR greater obstacles in childhood... a time when you were without powerful resources that now as an adult... you have full access to; full control over!
Share with yourself, share with another
If this makes sense to you, there is a next step -- which is most key -- you must share. You must share for a number of reasons, not the least of which is this: conversation with another helps change the meaning because others can often see the truth that you cannot see.
If you don't want to share with another, share with yourself as a first step. Write a note to yourself answering this question: "What negative beliefs hold me back in life? Is that really me, or is it just something I learned long ago?" Or, better yet, share with us by leaving a comment and others will help you see the truth that is in you.
Take one of these first steps, in doing so momentum will be created and this one step will lead to another.
To learn more about the link between ACEs and health, see Kathleen's videos about trauma and health, the impact of trauma on sleep, or the link between emotional state and cardiovascular disease, or you can visit her site www.UppityScienceChick.com.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-656-HOPE for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline .
If you're struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.
Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.
Abuse victims share message of hope, healing
by Donna Isbell Walker
Hope, survival and justice were the themes of Thursday's Julie Valentine Luncheon.
Two victims of sexual abuse shared their stories at the annual fundraiser for Julie Valentine Center's sexual assault- and child abuse-prevention programs, and their prevailing message was that victims should never shoulder the blame for their abusers' actions.
Jim Clemente, a retired FBI profiler, recounted his ordeal of teen sex abuse at a church camp, and his mission to educate parents and children that predators most often are outwardly "nice" people who prey on vulnerable kids.
Jen Bicha told her story of years of rapes by her older brother and the search for healing that ended with her brother's conviction and prison sentence.
Clemente, who spent 22 years with the FBI, encouraged parents to talk to their children about safety and to remember that abuse is never the fault of the child.
"The reasons why laws are written to protect children is because they're developmentally immature," Clemente said. "They don't make the right decisions, so the law protects them against it. It's not their fault when an adult tries to take advantage of them or does take advantage of them."
Clemente, who's now a writer and technical advisor for the "Criminal Minds" TV series, was a gawky 15-year-old when the counselor at his summer camp began showing him special attention. The counselor bought beer for the underage boy, shared pornographic pictures with him and began sexually abusing him.
The abuse filled him with shame, but Clemente told no one what he had been through. A decade later, Clemente was serving as a prosecutor in New York City when his brother called and said bags full of pornographic photos of young boys had been discovered in the office of that camp counselor. His brother urged Clemente to prosecute the man.
Clemente spoke to an FBI task force, trembling as he told his story. The FBI investigated, with Clemente working undercover. The man was prosecuted and sent to prison, Clemente told the audience.
When the case was finished, the FBI offered him a job as a special agent.
"And I actually said to him, 'You'd take me even though I was a victim?' Because that was the mindset I had at the time," Clemente recalled.
But, he added, because he had been a victim of abuse, he proved to be a good fit, especially when it came to investigations related to child sexual abuse. "I had a tremendous amount of empathy and experience in order to help them get through their experience," he said.
Following Clemente's speech, Bicha talked of rapes that began when she was 9 and led to years of nightmares and flashbacks so severe that she had trouble eating and sleeping long after the abuse ended.
The rapes continued for many years, Bicha said, and when her parents found out, they blamed her. At age 15, she told a teacher and a pastor, who chose not to report the abuse.
"I still bear the pain of their actions. I was not believed. Nobody protected me, nobody listened when I cried for help. They chose to believe my rapist instead of me," Bicha said.
In college, she sought help, but "once again, I was blamed and judged."
Five years ago, she happened upon the Greenville Rape Crisis Center, the predecessor to the Julie Valentine Center, and in time, she was able to talk about the abuse and begin the healing process.
"All it took was for one person to listen and to believe, and my life was changed," she said.
Bicha finally reported the rapes to the police, which led to a 3 1 / 2 -year court battle in which her family sided with her brother, who was ultimately sentenced to prison.
Bicha told the audience of about 900 that she has found strength and healing through the process.
"I am thriving," Bicha said. "And I want to say this to any survivor in the audience, that there is hope for healing. Life after trauma is messy, and working through the pain is difficult, but it is absolutely worth the fight."
Child sex abuse survivor wants to shatter the silence with Erin's Law
by Lisa Phu
Alaska raised writer David Holthouse has told his story of being sexually abused as a child before. It's appeared in newspapers, on the radio, on stage in New York City and may even end up on the movie screen.
But when he spoke in the Alaska Capitol building today, it was to support Erin's Law. If passed, the bill would require public schools statewide to provide age-appropriate K-12 sexual abuse education.
David Holthouse has distinct childhood memories of learning how to stop, drop and roll if he ever caught on fire. He remembers McGruff the Crime Dog telling him to stay away from strangers.
“But neither McGruff nor anybody else warned me about the homecoming king,” Holthouse says.
In 1978, Holthouse was 7 years old and his family had recently moved to Anchorage. They befriended another family with a daughter his age and a son in high school. The son was a star athlete, good looking and well spoken. He was nice to Holthouse.
But he changed his demeanor the night he invited Holthouse to his room to play karate.
“He took those ninja throwing stars and he pushed me up against the wall and he started throwing them like a knife thrower at the circus – thunk, thunk – so they landed right next to me saying ‘Don't move' – thunk – ‘Don't move,'” Holthouse says. “And then he took a samurai sword off the wall and he drew it out of the sheath and he put the blade to my neck and he said, ‘If you don't do exactly what I want, I'm going to kill you.'”
Holthouse was raped, and then threatened with death and the death of his family if he ever told anyone. After a state of shock, Holthouse quickly realized what happened, but he didn't know what to call it.
“I didn't have a word for what had happened to me. To go back to McGruff – McGruff had never taught me about ‘safe touch' and ‘unsafe touch,' or ‘good secrets' and ‘bad secrets.' If I had even been able to come forward and say, ‘That thing we talked about in school – that happened to me.' I didn't need any graphic terminology. I just needed a few words and the invitation to speak them,'” Holthouse says.
He says if Erin's Law had been in effect before he was raped, he might have never been assaulted.
“Perpetrators of these crimes, they rely on shame and silence. They rely on our collective conspiracy of denial and silence about this. And if that silence had already been shattered, which educating every kid in a public school statewide will do, he might have thought that he couldn't get away with it,” Holthouse says.
But he says he can't know that for sure. What he does know is that Erin's Law will prevent kids from being sexually assaulted. He says schools need to have curriculum and talk openly about it.
“I'm not just speaking on my own behalf. I'm speaking for tens of thousands of Alaska children and the adults they'll grow up to be. And what I'm saying is, ‘Help us,'” Holthouse says.
Democratic Rep. Geran Tarr introduced the bill last year and it appeared poised to become law. Then-Gov. Sean Parnell supported Erin's Law, the Senate passed it and the House version had 21 co-sponsors. But the bill got stuck in committee.
This year, there are four identical Erin's Law bills – two from Republicans and two from Democrats. And Gov. Bill Walker wants it on his desk. Democratic Sen. Berta Gardner's version was the first to get a hearing in Senate Education.
Tarr hopes the bill will pass this session. She understands some lawmakers are uncomfortable with Erin's Law being a requirement, but she says there are likely community resources and private dollars available.
“We approached the Rasmuson Foundation, Alaska Children's Trust, Mat-Su Health Foundation and just put the idea out there of would they be a resource for helping implement a curriculum and they all responded in a positive way,” Tarr says.
Erin's Law has passed in 20 states and is pending in 21 others, including Alaska.
The scale of child abuse is alarming - we must ensure survivors get the right help
by Tom Watson
One in twenty children under eighteen in the UK is sexually abused. This shocking statistic comes from One Billion Rising, the largest global movement to end violence against women and children.
They're gathering for a day of action on Saturday, February 14th and I support them. With the tagline, ‘Drum, dance and rise', UK politicians, performers, survivors of abuse, and people of all ages who want to end sexual violence towards women and children, will join hundreds of countries around the world on the same day through a combination of music and dance events as well as public meetings and rallies.
This week I've been campaigning supporters of One Billion Rising including Lynne Franks which has left me in no doubt that Britain must do more to protect vulnerable children. As Lynne said “I'm horrified and deeply saddened by the stories of sexual violence emerging daily from survivors. I'm also seriously concerned by the absence of data on the real extent of sexual violence towards the vulnerable in all the places where they are meant to be safest.”
Hundreds of survivors across Britain have contacted me since I began highlighting the issue publicly. It was a social worker who first told me about abuse going back decades- and ever more harrowing cases keep emerging. It's not only families where the abuse takes place. It has also been perpetrated by carers in children's homes, teachers in private schools, grooming gangs like in Rotherham as well as celebrities, politicians and other powerful figures. Sex crimes have scarred the lives of hundreds- and the abusers keep on abusing.
Police recorded crime figures show a 21 per cent increase in sexual offences in the year to June 2014. These stats include crimes against children as well as adults.
The scale of the problem is even more alarming when you look at the experience of vulnerable teens. Only this week Bristol University published a study that showed two fifths of girls between 13 and 17 had been forced into some kind of sexual behaviour.
Other research shows that some adolescents supported by the charity Kids Company are thirteen times more likely to have experienced sexual abuse than young people of a similar age. We're talking about abuse which is severe to extreme. The findings from University College London also show they're more than four times more likely to have experienced severe to extreme levels of physical abuse.
As a society, we're learning more about current and historic cases of child abuse and their impact. Events like One Billion Rising help shine a light on abuse that has taken place in the shadows, and reflect on what we can learn as a nation to ensure it can never happen again.
One thing I've learned while campaigning is there needs to be a fundamental culture shift. Britain needs to better protect, love and care for children. This goes beyond party politics, as almost every party has something to learn, and is about the kind of country we want to be. It's about the kind of values we want the next generation to grow up with. It's about how we ensure that kindness and care for children is prioritised over denial and cover ups.
It's undeniable that there are some settings, or institutions, that have let children down. At times, they have presided over situations that have mentally, spiritually and physically harmed children. Settings that were meant to be nurturing, supportive and secure haven't always been safe places for children. And I've heard from adult survivors of child abuse who are now being let down by institutions once again. People left without access to much needed support as they struggle to take their cases to court.
It's time to put that right. It's time to ensure the victims of child abuse have access to the right help. That may be in the form of social or mental health support or legal aid. It's time to start a bigger conversation about what we can do politically, socially and culturally to face up to child abuse taking place in the shadows.
We need to let kids have a voice, and more closely listen to what they say – whether that's in institutions or in policy making or through mandatory reporting. We need to stand up for survivors' right for justice. We need to put children first. Together, we need to make sure that this can never happen again.
Juveniles accused of running child porn Instagram account
by The Associated Press
PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. — Police are asking parents in South Florida to check the online accounts of their children after three teens were accused of creating an Instagram account to solicit and post explicit photos of other minors.
Pembroke Pines police arrested two boys, ages 12 and 15, and a girl, 13, on Thursday, following a 10-week investigation. They face charges of electronic transmission of child pornography.
“The Pembroke Pines Police Department urges the community to pay close attention to their children's online activity,” Sgt. Angela Goodwin said in a news release Thursday. Parents who think their children may have been exploited can contact Pembroke Pines police or any other law enforcement agency.
Police say the social media account encouraged its 500 followers to post nude and sexually explicit photos of minors to “expose” them. The posts included their names and personal information. Many followers posted cruel comments in response to the images.
Sgt. Drew Jacobs told the South Florida Sun Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1vq0FrT) he didn't know what prompted the investigation, how long the account had been active, or how many young people were exploited.
“All I know is it's multiple,” he said.
Jacobs said detectives were likely to release more information Friday.
Pembroke Pines is a suburb of Fort Lauderdale.
Utah mother pleads guilty to killing six newborns
by LINDSAY WHITEHURST and BRADY McCOMBS
PROVO, Utah (AP) — A Utah mother accused of killing six of her newborn babies and storing their bodies in her garage pleaded guilty to murder Thursday.
Megan Huntsman, 39, faces up to life in prison on the charges. She will be sentenced April 20.
She pleaded guilty to six counts of murder while standing next to her attorney in court. Her voice broke as she said "guilty" in answer to each count.
Prosecutors have called it a unique case in both its heinousness and in the number of victims. Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman said he will recommend the sentences run concurrently, which could reduce her minimum possible sentence to five years, but Buhman said she is likely to spend the rest of her life in prison.
"There's no question that she was ready and willing to take responsibility today," Buhman said. "We'll be shocked if she ever gets out."
He said the plea gives Huntsman fewer options for appeal than a trial, bringing closure to the family more quickly. "It hopefully will mean this case is essentially done," he said.
Defense attorney Anthony Howell declined to comment, as did family members who attended the court hearing Thursday.
The deaths sent shockwaves through the quiet, mostly Mormon community where Huntsman stored the tiny bodies for more than a decade.
Pleasant Grove police detective Dan Beckstrom said she told police why she stored the bodies, but he declined to share her answer. "She didn't have a good answer, one that you would understand or I would understand," he said.
Her estranged husband made the grim discovery in April 2014 while he cleaned out a garage in the home they had shared in Pleasant Grove, Utah, a city of about 35,000 people, south of Salt Lake City. Authorities say a seventh baby found in her garage was stillborn.
Huntsman told police she either strangled or suffocated the babies immediately after they were born. She wrapped their bodies in a towel or a shirt, put them in plastic bags and then packed them inside boxes in the garage.
Police say Huntsman killed the babies over a 10-year period from 1996 to 2006, during a period of her life when she told investigators she was addicted to methamphetamine and didn't want to care for the babies.
Buhman said the case shows the devastating effects of addiction. "They lose touch with the core goodness and controls that we build up," he said.
DNA results have revealed that all seven newborns were full term and that her now-estranged husband, Darren West, was the biological father of the infants. West lived with her during the decade the babies were killed, but he is not considered a suspect in their deaths.
West discovered the bodies shortly after he was released from federal prison where he spent more than eight years after pleading guilty to meth charges.
In her few brief court appearances, Huntsman has said very little.
The day the babies were found, Huntsman told police that were eight or nine dead babies in her home, search warrant affidavit show. But police later concluded Huntsman was confused and was taking a ballpark guess.
Five Ways To Prevent Your Child From Being Sexually Abused
As a parent, what are the five main things to look out for?
by Eirliani Abdul Rahman
What is child sexual abuse (CSA)? CSA can be defined as contact or interactions between a child and an older child or adult where the child is being used as an object of gratification for the older child's or adult's sexual needs.
CSA may have a profound impact on how the child as a victim, and later as an adult survivor, experiences his/her world. When a child's physical and sexual boundaries are violated by somebody he/she trusts, he/she grows up with confused messages about the relationship between sex, love, intimacy and trust. The impact of CSA is far-reaching: survivors' lives are characterised by frequent crises for example, job disappointments, frequent relocations, failed relationships and financial setbacks. The reasons are complex, but for many survivors, ongoing chaos prevents the establishment of regularity, predictability and consistency. They function in ''crisis mode.''
As a parent, what are the five main things to look out for?
First, engage and make time for your child. If you have promised him or her that you would be available when you said you would be, then please keep that promise. And then when you sit down with him/her, listen, really listen, to your child.
Second, talk about "safe touch" frequently, weaving this into bath times and when you need to change their clothes. Children find it hard to talk about a subject like this - the touch can be tingly, it can make them feel good, but teach them that the swimsuit area is one that is off limits except to those who are helping them change or get clean. And even then, they can always choose to say "no" to that person if they feel that something is not right. The questions you ask are also important - keep it general to encourage an open conversation. Instead of asking, "Has Uncle so-and-so ever touched you?", keep it general viz "Has anyone ever touched you?"
Third, it is never too young to teach the correct names of the private parts to your child. There have been cases such as when a child as young as three wanted to say that she had been raped, but instead kept saying that she had a tummy ache. Her puzzled parents brought her to the doctor where her abuse was discovered.
Fourth, what do you do if your child tells you that he or she has been abused sexually? Despite your shock, try to remain calm. Do tell him/her that he/she has done the right thing by disclosing the abuse; do not blame him/her. Emphasise to your child that what had happened was not his/her fault and that you still stand by him/her. Please do not chide your child for not having told you earlier or saying things like "I told you so. You shouldn't have been playing there." Children do not have the power to prevent adults from abusing them. Do reassure your child that you will take appropriate action. I have listened to many stories of CSA from adult survivors. One of the most difficult things for them to accept is when they had initially disclosed their abuse to someone they had trusted, but yet no action was taken. They felt guilty growing up, feeling that they were somehow to blame for what had happened and feeling "dirty", with low self-worth.
Fifth, take action. Try to keep the child safe from further abuse. While the child is learning to re-establish appropriate boundaries for himself/herself, it is important that you, as the parent, continue to set appropriate limits for your child aimed at protecting him/her. Also, be consistent and dependable. Do give your child a clear message that they do not need to protect you from their feelings and that you will get your support from elsewhere.
Sadly, not many children are able to disclose their sexual abuse, either lacking the vocabulary for it, or simply due to fear of the repercussions: that their family might not believe them and/or the fear of splitting up the family. The perpetrators would have spent time "grooming" the child - usually one picked for being quiet and a loner, and would have bribed and/or threatened the child into silence.
But those involved in this work have told me, and research has also shown, that the younger their age when they disclose their abuse, the greater these children's chances are of healing and bouncing back.
We all can do our part to maintain our homes, schools and gyms as safe havens for our children.
Human trafficking in Tennessee subject of documentary
by Jessica Bliss
Human trafficking, like rape and domestic abuse, often sits beyond the edge of true understanding. There is acknowledgment that it occurs, but there's a distance between us and the victims.
It doesn't happen in our community. Not in our neighborhood. Not to our co-worker or friend.
But it does.
Recognizing the reality feels like being punched in the stomach.
Trafficking — illegal coercive adult prostitution and sexual exploitation of children — happens here.
Its prevalence, though, is hard to quantify.
A 2011 Tennessee Bureau of Investigation report shows 76 of our state's 95 counties reported known sex trafficking cases. But the reality is victims can be hard to locate. In the most extreme cases, they may be locked in a basement or bound by chains. Many are transported across state lines.
Meanwhile buyers crave, seek out, solicit the sexual attention and acts of others — often forced interactions that rarely come without coercion.
No one knows just how many people — women and girls, boys and men — are part. But many continue to view those involved — prostitutes and sex slaves — as the scourges of society.
That, Assistant District Attorney Antoinette Welch says, needs to change.
We need to de-demonize the victims, she says, and to do that "you have to believe in their humanity."
Human trafficking is illegal.
Tennessee is second in the nation for most anti-trafficking laws. Multiple new pieces of legislation introduced over the last year now make those who attempt to purchase sex just as accountable as those who sell it. In November, a Nashville district attorney prosecuted a sex-trafficking customer for the first time .
And the spotlight on the issue intensifies.
On Tuesday, You Have the Power — a statewide victim advocacy organization started 22 years ago by former First Lady Andrea Conte — premiered its documentary "No Girl's Dream."
Replete with personal stories from trafficking survivors, interviews with investigators unearthing the crime's pervasiveness and a district attorney compelled to prosecute the promoters and the patronizers, the video gives local context to a global issue.
The documentary is the latest to spotlight it.
Last year, "In Plain Sight" premiered in Franklin and included interviews with three Nashville anti-trafficking agencies, as well as Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Department of Children's Services officials.
In 2011, four Tennessee counties — Coffee, Davidson, Knox and Shelby — reported 100 or more trafficking cases, according to a study by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Sex trafficking is a "really ugly crime," Conte said before the screening of "No Girl's Dream" on Tuesday at Nashville's First Amendment Center. It is a life of "violence and fear and entrapment."
No one person or organization can stop it.
"But," Conte said, "we can all do something."
It begins with awareness.
Steel your stomach and find out what you can do.
What is human trafficking?
Human trafficking is the control and exploitation of humans for profit, often for sex or forced labor. It is considered human trafficking when any person age 18 or older is brought into the commercial sex industry by force, fraud or coercion.
If the victim is a minor, he/she is considered a victim of human trafficking if involved in commercial sex under any circumstance.
Among the most vulnerable are runaway youth, people without homes and victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse.
Source: You Have the Power
'No Girl's Dream' available for showing
If you know of a business or organization that would benefit from knowing more about human trafficking, contact You Have the Power at email@example.com or 615-292-7027.
Resources in Middle Tennessee
End Slavery Tennessee: www.endslaverytn.org
The Hannah Project Nashville: www.facebook.com/TheHannahProject
Magdalene House: www.thistlefarms.org
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation: www.tbi.state.tn.us
If you suspect an instance of human trafficking: Call the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation hotline at 855-558-6484.
Young, Homeless—and Invisible
An upcoming documentary reveals the important role schools and teachers play in keeping some teens off the streets.
by Terrance F. Ross
Caught between two equally undesirable alternatives—remaining in a difficult situation at home or going out into the city on her own—Kasey was forced into a decision no teen should ever have to make.
"It was because of the way that I am that my mother, you know ... got rid of me—because I'm a lesbian," said Kasey, then 19. Kasey's grandmother took her in for some time, but even that was short-lived: The emotional abuse she experienced there became too much. "I can't be here because it's really tearing me apart … I would rather sleep outside than be here with my family."
Roque's story is different but in many ways the same. And if not for his teacher, Maria Rivera, 17-year-old Roque would likely be out on the streets, too—or worse. "He would say, 'Drop me off at this place,' and it wouldn't be the place they were living the day before," said Rivera, who took it upon herself to look after him. "Then I would start to see him circling—so then I started circling, and I was like, 'He's not going home.'"
"When we offered [a] room he took it immediately, and in front of me he called both parents," Rivera continued. "There was no 'No Roque! Come here [from the parents].' That was heart breaking."
Finally, there's Anthony, who was driven to the streets by an abusive stepfather when he was just 14. "When I came home, [my stepfather] would just take the phone and smack me and be like, 'If you don't like how it is in my house then you can get the fuck out. You don't have to be here,'" recalled Anthony, 18. "Then I would just leave."
The stories of and interviews with these three Chicago teenagers are the centerpieces of The Homestretch, a recent documentary created by filmmakers Anne de Mare and Kirsten Kelly that aims to challenge stereotypes about youth homelessness. The documentary demonstrates the complexity of the issue—a problem that's often hidden from the public eye.
"We were searching for subjects that hit us in the heart," Kelly told me, reflecting on how she and de Mare developed the documentary, which debuts on PBS in April but is already being featured in public screenings across the country. "We found this kid was basically kicked out because he had come out as gay in high school … We started researching and learning over time that there were over 15,000 kids registered in the Chicago public school system classified as homeless and no one was really talking about it."
Since embarking on the project, Kelly and de Mare have realized that the problem isn't only prevalent—it's also growing. By the close of the 2013-14 academic year, Chicago Public Schools had identified more than 22,000 homeless students, which are defined by the U.S. Department of Education as those "who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence." These kids account for roughly 5 percent of Chicago's total public-school student population.
And Chicago's young homeless population is by no means an isolated one. The DOE's latest national survey, which was conducted during the 2012-13 school year, showed that there were 1.2 million homeless students across the country. Moreover, the statistic only includes children officially classified as homeless; the number of students living without a fixed residence is likely much higher.
Where The Homestretch most succeeds as a film lies squarely in its authentic, no-frills portrayal of what it means to be young and homeless in America. It doesn't overload the screen with tear-jerking montages of young panhandlers tethered to street corners, begging cup in tow. Instead, it reveals that, in the U.S., youth homelessness is as subtle as it is insidious—and that disagreements over what "homelessness" looks and feels like, and over the role schools should play in conquering it, have perhaps been the greatest obstacle to finding a solution.
Being homeless as an adolescent or young adult entails more than simply lacking a reliable place to resort to after school. It's compounded by the absence of stability, both physical and mental, at a time when a person is most vulnerable. It's not easy to focus on algebra homework when your nights are spent curled up on a friend's couch counting down the days until you wear out your welcome; imagine cramming for a history test in an overcrowded shelter surrounded by strangers.
Kelly and de Mare wanted to portray the reality of the problem without superficially pandering to viewers' sentiments. "We really wanted to try to show what we were seeing in terms of how much these kids have to move in order to survive," Kelly said. "We were not interested in perpetuating this image of the kid on the sidewalk. That's not what we were seeing."
The Homestretch also delves into the basic logistical challenges faced by homeless high school students. In the film, a local shelter for young people known as "The Crib" is shown turning away the hoards of kids waiting outside nightly simply because it lacks adequate beds. The caretakers call out the names on the list—a homeless draft of sorts—as the teens listen attentively, hoping they are lucky enough to hear their names called. At least half of the kids waiting are turned away, forced to spend the night at a friend's or curled up in a cold city corner. The reality is that there just simply isn't enough space to house all of America's homeless youth: On any given night in the U.S., fewer than 5,000 emergency and transitional-living beds are available for young homeless people to crash on.
* * *
Homelessness rarely exists in a vacuum; it's typically just one of the many challenges plaguing an individual, particularly when that individual is still growing up. On top of showcasing the day-to-day experiences of group of homeless teens, The Homestretch explores issues ranging from immigration to growing up lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT)—experiences that serve as clues to why certain children end up on the streets.
It also demonstrates that being homeless makes young people much more vulnerable to additional dangers: A 2014 report by the National Coalition for the Homeless showed that, the longer a kid is homeless, the greater the likelihood that child will be physically assaulted, raped, or trafficked. A widely cited 2002 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Services—one of the only reliable data sources for such information—suggests that as many as four in 10 homeless youth have experienced sexual abuse. "One of the things that no one really talks about is that very often when young people run away from home—they are running away from abuse," de Mare told me.
Still, statistics delineating youth homelessness in the U.S. are either hard to track down or narrow in scope, significantly handicapping efforts to address the problem. And the data is sparse in large part because homeless kids often become very adept at dealing with—and hiding—their situations. "Everyone was so engaged in moving forward because that's all they could do," de Mare said. "A lot of these kids, because they have been through so much, know how to process their experiences. It comes out of being a survivor." In other words, these kids' ability to mask their predicaments unfortunately makes it more difficult to alleviate that suffering.
And, as The Homestretch demonstrates, this is where the public school system plays an important role. Every school district in the country is legally required to designate so-called "homeless liaisons" for their campuses. But, as the film reveals, these liaisons are often overworked, meaning it's up to the teachers who go above and beyond their duties in the classroom, filling in as de facto social workers.
"When we started having these conversations with teachers, they said, 'We're in this crisis situation and nobody is talking about it. We are scrambling to try to figure out what to do, there are no resources to really support us,'" Kelly said. "Schools really became the kind of replacement home in these situations ... because it's a place where you have shelter, food, and a bathroom so you can have that kind of consistency."
"But also it's also a place where you go every day, and the teachers were probably the only ones in your life asking, 'Where are you going?'"
Barbara Duffield, a director for the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, touted the documentary for exhibiting how integral educators are to helping get their students into stable living situations. "I have [the documentary] ingrained in my mind. I say that because you would think having seen it that often that it would lose its impact, but it never has," said Duffield, who's worked with homeless children for 20 years and saw the movie six times. "Teachers like Maria who are savvy. They really have to be the eyes and ears because otherwise this is population that tries to blend in."
Most teachers probably know the warning signs: A kid starts dropping grades, acting out, wearing dingy clothes, or, perhaps most telling, putting his or her head on the desk first thing in the morning. Still, teachers must tread lightly, even when asking the simple question: 'Is everything alright?' "Adolescents don't want to be different for any reason, especially if it's because they didn't have shoes," Duffield said.
Other advocates, however, worry about the country's over-reliance on teachers to address homelessness. One of them is Daniel Cardinali, who runs Communities in Schools, a national program focused on creating formal support systems for students to ensure that they don't drop out. The organization for its part employs a team of coordinators who work within the schools. They are trained to identify and address homelessness, theoretically taking some of the onus off of classroom educators.
"Teachers are with the kids all day, but they are not trained to understand what's going on, and they are dealing with 30 other students. We don't think it should be left to chance," Cardinali said. "When schools are places of holistic support, we have a really good chance of catching kids when they are in distress. You have a much higher probability of getting to a problem before it becomes really disastrous."
The greatest obstacle, however, isn't necessarily that there aren't enough resources and caring adults to dedicate to these children. It could be the ideological disagreements among federal policymakers about what defines homelessness and what method is most effective in eradicating it.
Absent manpower and resources, state and local governments have largely used a triage approach to address homelessness, ranking people based on their needs. The people in immediate danger—essentially those on the streets who are on the verge of death—are typically deemed "most important." While some believe this is the most effective approach, others fear that there isn't enough attention being paid to the root causes of homelessness; this often translates into a political battle between the reactive advocates and proactive ones.
A new bipartisan bill attempts to bring everyone on the same page, but while some advocates believe it could help, others aren't so sure. The Homeless Children and Youth Act of 2015 would "amend the definition of a "homeless person" under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act to include certain homeless children. The McKinney-Vento law was originally passed in 1987 under President Ronald Reagan, and Congress has reauthorized the act a number of times since then, most recently in 2009. The new proposal essentially aims to broaden the Department of Housing and Urban Development's current view of homelessness—one that focuses on the homeless facing particularly imminent risks. Proponents of the bill claim that the department's narrow focus often means that the kids who go from house to house—the floaters and runaways, for example—don't necessarily get the support they need.
But the bill has already garnered a good deal of pushback. Among its critics is Nan Roman, who oversees the National Alliance to End Homelessness and describes the legislation as misguided. Roman and others worry that widening the door could take away resources from the homeless individuals who are most in need of support. "It will include a lot of people who aren't homeless; they would then be competing with people who are homeless for resources," Roman said.
Yet others disagree, and at last week's briefing at the U.S. Capitol, no one was more earnest about the bill's promise than Stephanie Van Housen, a DOE-designated "homeless liaison" in Iowa. In her testimony she told stories of young people in her school district, some of whom are forced to sleep in motels next door to sex offenders."I cannot stress to you enough the importance of [expanding how we identify] who is homeless," she said. "I do not want to have to tell one of my students, 'If you really want help just go sleep under the bridge at the Iowa River.'" In order for many of these struggling teens to qualify for assistance, she emphasized, they would have to be "homeless" in the most literal definition of the word.
The unintended consequence of these debates is that government agencies end up playing a game of hot-potato with homeless teens. Is it a housing-department problem? Or is it a wake-up call for those managing the child-welfare system? Should resources be concentrated among the older homeless people dying on the streets? Or should they instead focus on the younger generations so kids can't get out of the cycle before it's too late?
As Duffield put it: "We need to keep people alive. But I think the bigger issue is that in the last 10 years children and youth haven't been a priority of federal efforts, period."
One Billion Rising: Why The Fight Against Sexual Abuse Needs To Start In The UK
by Lynne Franks
After twenty years or more working with and supporting global activist Eve Ensler in her fight against sexual abuse and rape of women and girls in warzone countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I am horrified to see how just how bad the situation is in the UK itself, writes Lynne Franks.
In the last year there seems to be something in the news on a daily basis about sexual exploitation and abuse of young women and children in different ways and from different parts of society.
From young vulnerable women exploited and groomed as sex workers by cab drivers in towns including Rotherham, Keighley and Oxford; to well-known household names such as Jimmy Saville, Rolf Harris and Gary Glitter abusing children in the most horrifying ways; to establishment figures, politicians, police and men of power being named by survivors of children's homes all over the country, the situation just grows and grows.
According to The Office of the Children's Commission, one in twenty under eighteens in this country have been sexually abused in some way, 90 per cent by someone they know.
Eve Ensler launched One Billion Rising three years ago in more than 200 countries across the planet to draw attention to the fact that 1 in 3 women have been sexually abused at some time or other – one billion in fact.
Now in its third year, OBR brings performers, politicians, grass roots women's networks, dancers, poets, women and men together on 14th February to dance, drum, speak, and rise to say no more to this violence.
As OBR's UK co-ordinator, I felt proud when several thousand got together last year in the pouring rain in Trafalgar Square to protest and draw attention to all forms of sexual abuse against women and girls, from FGM to slavery, domestic workers to political detainees and, of course, the many cases of domestic violence.
But this year it seemed very clear that the area of focus in the UK has to be about the many, many years of suffering by so many of our children, now many of them damaged adults, who have been abused by those in power with nowhere to go with their terrible stories. And to say it has to stop now!
Fortunately we are listening. Whether it's young women abused by drug gangs on council estates or middle-class women and men used as children by paedophile rings in the most surprising circumstances, I believe it is up to all of us to be aware and receptive to what is happening to young people in our communities.
I don't think we can rely on officials and official organisations to look after us. I believe we have to look after ourselves. We need education on healthy relationships and healthy love through our schools – a bill which was turned down by Michael Grove, MP, when Education Minister in this government for some strange reason.
Now all political parties are promising to ensure the bill goes through – and we need to make sure that whoever ends up running the next parliament doesn't back down.
As a grandmother of five beautiful little children myself, I am getting together with a group of other powergrans, including film producer Alison Owen, mother of Lily Allen; fashion designers Orsola de Castro and Edina Ronay; Eve Pollard, journalist and mother of Claudia Winkleman. Alongside other strong wise women, we are setting out to inspire other grandmothers to be there for the children of their communities.
And young women too are feeling passionate about gathering together to say no more. Girl Guides, rappers, actresses, poets, stand-up comedians, dancers, drummers, youth groups from Kids Co, the Frederick Bremer School - where Channel 4 filmed Educating the East End - youth representatives from Brooks and the Global Foundation to End Domestic Violence; the grass roots Incredible Brilliant Youth organization and many others will be coming together next Saturday, 14th February at Marble Arch to Rise in protest at the dreadful record of sexual violence and abuse we have in the UK towards children and young people to discuss and demand how we can change this terrible situation.
If you, like me, feel motivated to be part of a movement that is going to bring together women, men and young people to really make a difference to this situation, join us at Marble Arch; create your own Rising or find one in your area; tweet, instagram and blog why you, like me, say we have to Rise and we have to Rise this Valentine's Day. Sexual abuse against children and young people has to stop.
This country has to change its fundamental culture from abusing power over vulnerable young people to an environment that is based on healthy love and healthy support, nurturing those at most at risk of all. Our children are our future!
Join us at One Billion Rising: Love Revolution at Marble Arch, 11.30 for noon start for an incredible and exciting hour or two that will change sexual abuse to the vulnerable in the UK.
Saturday 14th February and please spread the news. More info can be found on Facebook, Twitter and our website.
Penn State Funds Child Abuse Research Endowment With Sanction Fine
by Mindy Szkardnik
Penn State created an endowment to support child maltreatment research with the $12 million it received from the $60 million fine the NCAA required it to pay as part of its sanctions against the university.
The NCAA's settlement in the Corman lawsuit in January dictated that the $60 million would be divided between the university and child abuse prevention programs throughout the state of Pennsylvania. The settlement decided that Penn State would receive $12 million to help advance its child sexual abuse research programs.
The $12 million investment will “advance the University's academic mission of research, education and service” regarding child maltreatment, according to a press release from the university. Specifically, the endowment will be put toward Penn State's Network on Child Protection and Well-Being that was created in 2012.
According to the press release, the network is directed by Jennie Noll, professor of Human Development and Family Studies and an “internationally renowned expert on child sexual abuse and its long-term health impacts.”
“This endowment sets the stage for Penn State's future interdisciplinary research partnerships, educational initiatives and delivery of evidence-based prevention and treatment programs for at-risk and abused children,” Noll said. “Working together and with community partners across the Commonwealth, we will make a sustained difference in the lives of these children and their families.”
The network has co-sponsored three national conferences about the topic, and its fourth is slated for this September.
Through the network, the $12 million will be allocated to many different areas at the university including promoting research in this area and paying for an annual series of conferences. It will also help fund other events focused on fighting child maltreatment, creating interdisciplinary education programs in the field, and helping the network function as “Penn State's clearinghouse for information, awareness, and communication” for child abuse.
Though the network generally focuses on child maltreatment, the funds will be used specifically to focus on child sexual abuse as well as neglect, emotional, and physical abuse.
Girl reports sexual abuse after watching ‘Law and Order' episode
by Kevin Lewis
CLARKSBURG, Md. – A prominent businessman, athletic coach and former PTA member is under arrest on allegations of child sex abuse.
Montgomery County Police say Robert Shapiro, 53, of Clarksburg, photographed and molested a 12-year-old girl whose mother worked as the family house cleaner and nanny.
According to charging documents filed in Montgomery County District Court, Shapiro planted a tiny camera in the main floor bathroom of his $800,000 home located along the 13000 block of St. Clair Road.
Last March, the family nanny, whom ABC 7 News is not identifying, says she received an email from Shapiro with a photo attachment of her daughter in underwear, changing into a shirt. The nanny reported the troubling correspondence to Shapiro's wife, who confronted her husband in a state of "shock." Police say the 53-year-old admitted to placing the camera in the bathroom and the couple filed for divorce shortly thereafter.
In December, the nanny and her daughter were watching an episode of “Law and Order” that involved sexual abuse. The nanny asked her daughter if anyone had ever inappropriately touched her, to which the girl reportedly replied, "Rob did it." Her mother contacted police to report her daughter's confession.
Detectives with the Special Victims Unit interviewed the girl, who claimed that on at least one occasion, Shapiro took her to a secluded basement bedroom. Shapiro, a part-time personal trainer, reportedly pulled out a nerve stimulator machine and placed sensors on the girl's bare chest, hips and buttocks. Shapiro is also accused of snapping digital photos of the unclothed girl claiming he, "wanted to remember where he kept the [sensor] tabs."
"Everybody kind of thought he was weird, but had no idea that he would be a child predator," Shapiro's neighbor, Lori Roche, remarked. "He was a member of the [Little Bennett] Elementary School PTA, he was a member of the [Greater Clarksburg] Chamber of Commerce. He was getting involved with the Clarksburg Sports Association, so this is a man that put himself out there in positions to be around children."
Now in mid-divorce, Shapiro, a mortgage banker by trade, is temporarily living at his boss' $3.6 million Potomac mansion along the 9900 block of Newhall Road.
A father of two young children himself, Shapiro could not be reached for comment Wednesday. However, his Silver Spring-based defense attorney, James Papirmeister, told ABC 7 News:
"This man is innocent and he vehemently denies the allegation. Under our law, the police are able to arrest and charge someone based solely on the allegation of one person, no matter what that person's age, intelligence or background is, and without regard to the personal events and circumstances that may currently exist in the life of the person who is charged. While that is enough to have a person charged, it is not enough for them to be convicted. The place where this man's reputation will be restored and his name cleared is in court."
In September, a 17-year-old neighbor girl told Montgomery County Police that Shapiro photographed and molested her earlier in the year. However, the Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office later dropped all charges, citing a lack of evidence. The girl's parents are now hopeful investigators will re-examine the case in light of the new allegations.
"It's disgusting. I don't ever want to see him again and I hope he goes to jail," Roche concluded.
‘You're not alone,' sex abuse victims say
by Jacqueline Mitchell
"My presence here, as well as yours, is an acknowledgment that we have a problem in the Jewish community, a problem so uncomfortable and painful that many members of the community want to continue to deny its very existence and brush it under the rug,” Ruth Gordon, mother of a victim of child sexual abuse, told a crowd of more than 200 gathered for Jewish Community Watch's “Every Child is Our Child: We Need to Protect Them.” The Feb. 8 event took place at Cleveland Marriott East in Warrensville Heights.
Gordon, a Columbus resident, is the mother of the late Cpl. David Gordon, who was killed in August 2014 while serving in the Israeli Defense Forces. David was the victim of recurrent sexual abuse by four members of the Jewish community, beginning when he was in the third grade. He suffered silently until age 15 when he finally revealed the horrors he endured.
She read a quote from an article David penned for the Huffington Post in 2013 detailing his abuse – a statement frequently repeated by other speakers who shared their recollections of abuse throughout the night: “Blush for a few moments so others don't have to bleed.”
“This must stop,” read David's article. “If we keep sweeping our problems under the rug we will eventually trip over them. The time has come for us to stand up for ourselves, our children and our communities. It's time to sacrifice the comfort of not tackling serious issues that are awkward and embarrassing and focus on the dignity of human life.”
Speakers provided firsthand accounts of experiencing child sexual abuse within the Jewish community, including Meyer Seewald, CEO of Jewish Community Watch, an organization he founded in 2011 that aims to prevent and educate about child sexual abuse. It offers a range of services to victims of abuse, including finding a therapist, assisting in the cost of therapy, accompanying victims to court dates and helping them reach closure with their abusers. The “wall of shame” on the organization's website features photos of known sex offenders designed to warn the public of dangerous individuals in the community.
“They are the ones that selfishly abused a child,” said Seewald. “Not only abused a child, but took everything away that he or she could potentially be. Instead, his or her entire childhood was ruined. His innocence, her innocence, was stolen.”
Seewald described his struggle with addiction as a result of the abuse and the post-traumatic stress disorder he has endured ever since. The trauma he experienced prompted him to form Jewish Community Watch.
“Day in and day out, victims are contacting JCW for help, for closure, for justice,” said Seewald. “Many communities are not doing anything.”
Seewald said that victims cannot begin the healing process until they share their stories.
“You're not alone,” he said. “When you let it out, you will feel better.”
Rivka Joseph of University Heights, another victim of sexual abuse and organizer of the event, warned parents against the myths surrounding sexual abuse.
“Perpetrators do not discriminate based on gender, race or socioeconomic status,” said Joseph. “It's a myth that it happens more in broken homes, uneducated or lower class families. By believing these myths, we are opening ourselves up more to the possibility of abuse happening to our children. We're making our children more vulnerable.”
Another myth is that sexual abusers are typically strangers.
“Sexual abusers are not the creepy, weird people that we are wary of to begin with,” said Joseph. “Usually, they are the kind, seemingly normal people who are important figures in your child's life.”
Ronni Ducoff, assistant county prosecutor in the child victim section of the major trial unit for Cuyahoga County, said that in more than 20 years of prosecuting sex crimes, she has handled only one case in which the offender was a stranger. She urged audience members to call 216-696-KIDS to report any incidents of abuse.
“Let's get these perpetrators off the streets,” said Ducoff.
Trauma psychologist Norman Goldwasser of Miami Beach, Fla., detailed the lasting effects that abuse has on victims, including illnesses such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety disorders and personality disorders.
Sex abuse victim Eli Nash, who was abused at age 8 by a neighborhood boy several years older than him, described the after-effects and constant pain that he numbed with addiction before seeking help from Goldwasser.
“I was that child – just a little more sensitive, just a little more vulnerable, just a little more trusting – and I paid the price,” said Nash.
Robert “Mendy” Klein, who spearheaded a zero-tolerance policy for child sex abuse in Cleveland, gave a spontaneous speech after being moved by the other speakers' willingness to share their stories. He used the Hebrew word “maggephah” to describe the plague of child sex abuse he has witnessed in the community.
“Going forward, there will be zero tolerance for these kinds of things,” said Klein, who met with every rabbi in the community to discuss the issue. “The cure to any disease is identifying the disease. I think we've recognized that we have a disease. It's time to find a cure.”
Ruth Gordon left victims and parents with the following advice: “To the victims and survivors here tonight: please get help. Share your stories. Be a leader. To the parents here tonight: Watch your children, listen to your children, believe your children, protect your children and love your children.”
Trouble spotters: Pa.'s new child-abuse reporters need training
New laws meant to protect Pennsylvania's children from abuse have had immediate effects, but not the ones intended.
In addition to spurring more calls to the state's child-abuse hotline, they've caused longer days for overwhelmed workers and created a backlog for a group that trains workers charged with reporting abuse. The crunch created by more than 20 new laws is a problem that must be swiftly addressed by the lawmakers who inadvertently caused it.
“To say our resources are stressed is an understatement,” says Angela Liddle, president of the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance, a nonprofit that does much of the state's training of mandated reporters.
Mandated reporters are the front line of child-abuse prevention. Traditionally, they have been doctors, nurses and teachers, but their ranks also include foster parents and massage therapists. Now, not just professionals but also volunteers who work with children must report suspected abuse. They all need training on how to discern abuse, and what transpires after they report it.
The change means that thousands of people who volunteer as church, sports or Scout leaders must have training. But the free seminars the Family Support Alliance provides are booked through the fall, and the group has to charge groups who can't wait until then or offer them online training. That's not good enough, especially for volunteer soccer coaches whose calls might result in children being removed from their homes — and church volunteers who might get subpoenas.
Nor is it acceptable for workers who answer calls on the 24-hour ChildLine (1-800-932-0313) — essentially a 911 for suspected child abuse — to be working 13-hour days. Or worse, for calls to go unanswered, or ring busy.
The Legislature should act quickly to ensure that the Family Support Alliance and the state's Department of Human Services have sufficient resources to meet the demands of Pennsylvania's new laws. The stakes are too high, the work too important.
Santa Rosa Kids' House boosts child abuse prosecution
by AARON LITTLE
Florida Senators Lizbeth Benacquisto and Wilton Simpson sponsored Senate Bill 542 relating to interception of wire, oral, or electronic communication. The addition to Florida statutes to take effect July 1 this year to paraphrase says children under 18 may secretly record someone else committing or threatening to commit violence against them. As the law stands now, Keith Ann Campbell, executive director of Santa Rosa Kids' House (SRKH), said many abuse cases come down to the victim's word against the accused. She spoke on this issue and how SRKH helps the county's youngest abuse victims.
SRKH, Campbell said, handles all the investigation and prosecution of child neglect and abuse cases in Santa Rosa County. The vast majority of child abuse cases are the child telling his or her story Campbell said. When children have to repeat their story several times for different authorities, they sometimes change and so lose credibility according to Campbell.
Another facet of recorded conversations, video depositions, Campbell said would greatly assist in child abuse prosecution. In a recent lost case, a child locked up in court and didn't give her damming statement, Campbell said, an example of when a submitted statement could have changed a case's outcome, and also kept a child from repeating the traumatic story in open court.
While Campbell said Santa Rosa County sees less cyber crime than other areas, she said SRKH is in the middle of working a case involving a confiscated phone. She said SRKH provided the victim another phone in the meantime. If the Benacquisto bill becomes law, Campbell said SRKH would definitely help victims with secret recordings should a case require such. She said SRKH has access to several grants and funding sources related for technological items.
Before the SRKH opened in 2008, children routinely had to tell their stories to the doctor first if brought to the hospital, then to a detective, a Department of Children and Families investigator, and the state attorney. With all of these entities operating out of SRKH now, according to Campbell, victims have a less threatening environment to tell their story and need not do so several times in different places. At the time, Campbell said an abuse case “was really difficult to prove [and] often not taken to trial.” Since SRKH opened, Campbell said the prosecution rate in abuse and neglect cases has doubled holding today at 98 percent.
Now SRKH has nurses and investigators on call and victims are welcome around the clock, Campbell said. The facility also has an inviting medical examination room, and an interview room with a camera for depositions.
Funded originally by Mary and Howard Burris in 2005, with continual support by the Burris family, Campbell said SRKH's case load grew from 12 cases in 2013 to 34 cases last year.
According to Campbell, In 2014, the Department of Children and Families investigated over 1,600 cases of child abuse (physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect). In addition, the Santa Rosa Sheriff's Office investigated 122 sexual offenses against juveniles, 12 internet crimes against juveniles, and 57 child abuse and neglect cases. There were 34 cases open for prosecution at the end of 2014. SRKH conducted 92 forensic interviews and 78 medical exams.
West Valley police look for potential sex abuse victims
by Pat Reavy
WEST VALLEY CITY — Out of caution, West Valley police are asking the public to help them identify any potential victims of a man facing multiple charges of child sex abuse.
In September, Michael Alan Jordan, 34, of West Valley City, was charged in 3rd District Court with four counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, four counts of sodomy of a child and four counts of forcible sodomy, all first-degree felonies. He was also charged with sexual exploitation of a minor and sex abuse of a child, second-degree felonies; and witness tampering and four counts of dealing in harmful materials to a minor, third-degree felonies.
The alleged abuse involved three victims, according to court records. A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for Feb. 18.
While there is no current evidence to suggest there are additional victims, West Valley police spokeswoman Roxanne Vainuku said detectives are concerned because Jordan had close access to children while he was a leader in the Boy Scouts of America from 2010 to 2014 and was active in LDS churches in West Valley City and Taylorsville.
The alleged victims in his current court case did not come in contact with Jordan through his affiliation with those groups. However, Vainuku said because of Jordan's alleged egregious pattern of behavior, detectives wanted to put the word out as a precaution in case there are other victims that have not been identified.
"Jordan has a history of threatening victims with disclosure or publication of graphic details to keep them quiet," she said.
Anyone with information can call West Valley police detective Jaron Averett at 801-963-3415 or the general police number at 801-840-4000.
Free Sex Abuse Therapy for Kids
by Fox 47 News
Statistics show one in three girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18.
Local non-profits are now teaming up to help survivors of sexual abuse by offering free therapy for kids age 3 to 17 in February.
They are calling child sexual abuse an epidemic and say it's essential to help children overcome it.
Many of the victims of sexual trauma are among the 25% in the state living in poverty.
That's why St. Vincent Catholic Charities is pairing up with the Firecracker Foundation to offer free therapy sessions to children who have survived sexual abuse in Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties.
Most of these families don't have health care or access to mental health services.
There are currently seven Firecracker kids who, as therapists say, learn how to trust again and deal with a lot of emotions in these counseling sessions.
"A lot of what we are doing especially with children is letting them explore, is letting them get comfortable," says therapist Megan Spedoske. "A lot of what they have experienced has challenged their trust, has challenged everything they have known about themselves...and that first session is really, really important to not only connect with the child but also to connect with the family."
There is room for more kids in this program.
Therapists tell us 90% of kids know their abuser well. So they say believe your child if they tell you something. Therapists also say less than 1% of cases are falsely reported.
If your child is looking for help, call either organization for these completely free services in February. Contact St. Vincent Catholic Charities at (517) 323-4734 or visit stvcc.org or call the Firecracker Foundation at (517)242-5467 or visit thefirecrackerfoundation.org/.
Child sexual exploitation: implications for adult social care and safeguarding boards
The repercussions from child sexual exploitation reverberate into adulthood, says Angie Heal, so adult social care needs to understand the issue and respond effectively effectively
by Angie Heal
The publication of the Jay report in September 2014 was another watershed moment in child protection. The revelation that over 1,400 children were sexually exploited over a 16-year period in Rotherham shocked the nation and has been the subject of worldwide attention. Rotherham is not an isolated case: Rochdale, Oxford, Derby and Reading have all hit the headlines following prosecutions for child sexual exploitation (CSE). All local safeguarding children boards (LSCBs) should now be conducting enquiries to understand the size and nature of CSE locally.
The focus of political, media and public interest has rightly been on the response of children's social care and LSCBs, in conjunction with their police partners. But now is a time to reflect further about the implications. These children grow up; they reach the age of 18 – or 21 in the case of children who are looked after by local authorities – when they are no longer the responsibility of children's services. Adult social care and safeguarding adult boards (SABs) need to be aware of child and adult sexual exploitation, understand the issue locally and develop a proactive and effective response, at both a strategic and individual level. Adult services and SABs should learn from the CSE research and policy reports (including a report from the Office of the Children's Commissioner, the Jay report, and the Casey report into Rotherham Council); findings are transferable to the adult care milieu.
In essence, there are two groups of adult victims. First, those who continue to be abused by perpetrators once they turn 18 or 21, and who should subsequently become the subject of a safeguarding adult enquiry. Second, survivors who are no longer being abused but disclose previous CSE, to which the statutory adult agencies have a duty to respond. Even when the sexual, physical and psychological abuse has stopped, the majority will require some level of care and support as adults because of issues including mental ill health, self-harm, problematic use of illicit drugs or alcohol, interrupted education resulting in no or low paid jobs and economic insecurity.
Parents and siblings may also be traumatised and have suffered abuse from perpetrators. Victims may have a child fathered by a perpetrator, who may or may not be in their care. Whilst the focus has wholly been on white girls, those who are far less likely to report such crimes should not be ignored: these include girls from black and minority ethnic groups, and boys of all ethnic origins.
As children, victims may already be in receipt of services. This may be as a result of having a child protection plan, learning or physical disabilities, mental health problems, being a looked-after child, reporting to the youth offending service or being in secure accommodation, for example. Transition arrangements should be more effective as a result of the Care Act 2014, which should regulate the move from children's to adults' services for those who are eligible. Each local area should satisfy itself that it is adequately prepared to respond; the Casey Report expressed significant unease about Rotherham services:
“We have serious concerns about the group of young people during their transition to adulthood: that is, over 18. It was unclear to inspectors what happens to victims of CSE at this point. [Rotherham Council] do not view these young people as victims with ongoing support needs, and instead see their role in terms of a statutory children's social care responsibility which ends when the children turn 18.
Some interviewees suggested that services were just turned off. Adult services did not have an effective system in place to ensure a smooth and effective transition for this vulnerable group. Indeed, the criteria for receiving adult services mean that the victims may not meet the need for continued support even though they remain vulnerable, and in some cases continue to be sexually exploited.” (p93)
The human consequences of the failings of statutory services to protect children in Rotherham has been monumental. As well as the trauma to the victims and their families, perpetrators have been allowed to continue unabated; the local Asian community and the people in Rotherham in general have been stigmatised and devastated by what has happened; the reputations of Rotherham Council and South Yorkshire Police have been savaged; workers and officers demoralised. The financial costs of failing to proactively address CSE are also huge, with class action being taken by survivors.
No one should underestimate the ordeal victims have undergone, nor the challenges they face in recovery. The support of all relevant adult services, therefore, is vital in order to promote their well-being and prevent, reduce or delay the onset of further needs.
Angie Heal is a director of Policy Partners Project. As a former employee of South Yorkshire Police, she wrote reports in relation to child sexual exploitation. As a result she was a witness in the Jay and Casey inquiries, gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee, and will also be a witness in the Independent Police Complaints Commission and National Crime Agency investigations into police office misconduct.
Vatican Abuse Commission Discusses Celibacy, Accountability of Bishops (815)
Commission member Peter Saunders, himself an abuse victim, downplayed the connection between priestly celibacy and abuse of minors.
by ELISE HARRIS
VATICAN CITY — One survivor of priestly sexual abuse says that, despite a common perception that clerical celibacy can lead to the sexual abuse of minors, most perpetrators likely had issues before entering the seminary.
“People don't enter the priesthood and become child abusers, I don't think that's the case. I think that they had serious issues before entering holy orders,” Peter Saunders told journalists in a Feb. 7 press briefing.
Although there are “far too many” clerics who have committed sexual abuse of minors, “the vast majority of priests and religious will never hurt a child. I think it's important to acknowledge that,” he added.
Saunders said that the term “pedophile” is overused and that the priests who abused him, rather than having any illness, “were very lonely.”
One of the 17 members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Saunders spoke alongside the commission's head, Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, giving journalists an update on the work they were doing during their Feb. 6-8 meeting in Rome.
Abused by priests in his adolescence, Saunders went on to found the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, which is dedicated to offering support for all abuse survivors and for developing greater resources in abuse prevention.
He was one of eight new members added to the Vatican commission last December.
Announced in December 2013, the commission was officially established by Pope Francis last March in order to explore various proposals and initiatives geared toward the improvement of norms and procedures for protecting children and vulnerable adults.
The February meeting marked the first time the commission has met as a complete entity.
Cardinal O'Malley also addressed the issue of the alleged connection between priestly celibacy and sexual abuse, saying that it is a “big-ticket item” for the commission, along with the psychological screening of young men before entering seminary.
With 30 years as a bishop and a long tenure of handling cases of clerical sexual abuse in his various dioceses, the cardinal said, “I personally don't believe that celibacy is necessarily what causes abuse.”
Although more studies need to be done on the topic, most show that “75%-80% of abuse takes place in homes.” He also noted that, with the current phenomenon of “serial cohabitation,” the problem of one's partner abusing children is an increasing concern.
The John Jay College study commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2003 shows that, since a more intense process of psychological screening has begun for young men who want to enter seminary, the number of clerical-abuse cases “went down considerably,” the cardinal said.
Accountability of Bishops
Another high-priority topic on the commission's discussion list is accountability for bishops who fail to report cases of clerical sexual abuse in their dioceses.
“Bishop's accountability is most definitely something that is of concern and central to some of the work that is going to be carried out by commission,” Saunders said.
Cardinal O'Malley weighed in, saying that the commission is “very, very concerned” about the issue of bishops' accountability and that it has already begun work on new policies that would help the Church to respond “in an expeditious way” if a bishop has not fulfilled his obligations.
The cardinal said that “there has to be consequences” for bishops who fail in their responsibilities.
He also spoke of the need to develop procedures that will allow these cases of clerical abuse “to be dealt with in an expeditious way, rather than just having things open-ended.”
The commission is currently in the process of forming several working groups to discuss specific areas in the protection of minors. So far, a group addressing the needs and care of abuse survivors as well as bishops' accountability has already met.
In partnership with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the commission has requested that each bishops' conference send in a set of guidelines on how to prevent the abuse of minors and how to deal with cases of abuse.
Roughly 96% of bishops' conferences have responded, with the remaining 4% being missionary countries that have limited resources and lack a diocesan structure.
Cardinal O'Malley said that the commission will soon reach out to offer help and support to these countries, so that they will have the means of creating effective guidelines.
“If you don't have a clear path to respond in cases of sexual abuse, people tend to improvise; and when they improvise, they make many mistakes, even though there's all kinds of goodwill, and in those mistakes, many innocent people suffer,” he said.
Letter From Pope Francis
Pope Francis on Feb. 5 sent a letter to all presidents of bishops' conferences and religious superiors, asking for their full cooperation with the Vatican commission.
Cardinal O'Malley said that he, along with the other members of the commission, is “very grateful” that the Pope sent the letter, which was a suggestion the commission had made some time ago.
“It reveals how important child protection is in his pontificate, and he wants the bishops' conferences to cooperate. It also calls on bishops and religious superiors to realize their own responsibility for child protection and care of those who have been harmed,” the cardinal said.
In addition to the current initiatives the Vatican commission is undertaking, it is working to develop educational seminars for Church leadership in the area of child protection.
The seminars, Cardinal O'Malley noted, will be designed for the Roman Curia as well as any newly appointed bishops who come to Rome. The content would also be used in orientation programs sponsored by the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
Also being prepared are materials for an official day of prayer for all those who have been harmed by sexual abuse.
Saunders said that another issue the commission is discussing is how to encourage victims to come forward and speak out about their abuse.
“The first thing these people should do, if they feel able to, is to report them to the police and civil authorities,” he said, noting that there is an “abysmal” past record of “ill-judged responses” on the part of bishops and priests throughout the world.
Having waited 40 years to speak up about his own abuse, Saunders said that “it's very important that survivors are able to come forward and speak the truth.”
Forgiveness and Healing
Both Saunders and Cardinal O'Malley stressed the importance of priests and bishops taking the time to sit down and talk with victims of clerical abuse as a means of forgiveness and healing.
They pointed out how Pope Francis himself met with abuse victims last summer, Saunders being one of them, before his appointment to the commission, and that it had a major impact on the Pope.
Despite the fact that the commission still has a long road ahead, “they're a heck of a team, and I know they're very, very determined, and that they will make a difference,” Saunders said.
“I think all of us are very comforted that Pope Francis is listening and looking forward to hearing our advice. … We're not here for lip service: We're here to protect our children and our children's children.”
Hundreds of children abused in detention: report
by Sarah Whyte
A royal commission should be established to examine the impact on hundreds of children of being detained for long periods in immigration detention centres, a report prepared by the Australian Human Rights Commission inquiry has recommended.
The report, The Forgotten Children, has also called for all children to be released from mainland detention and from the detention centre on Nauru after examining hundreds cases of assault against children, including and more than 30 incidences of sexual assault.
It was tabled late on Wednesday night - the last possible day it could be tabled - after being handed to the Abbott government on November 11.
The report interviewed 1129 children over a 15-month period from January 2013 to March 2014, spanning both the Labor and Coalitiongovernments. It shows there were 233 recorded assaults involving children and 33 incidents of reported sexual assault.
The damning report is the largest survey of children in detention ever conducted anywhere in the world. It calls for 119 children on Nauru to be removed into the Australian community; for Christmas Island to be shut down; and for an independent guardian for unaccompanied children.
It alleges human rights violations and says children being detained indefinitely on Nauru are "suffering from extreme levels of physical, emotional, psychological and developmental distress".
The reports says that the royal commission would examine "the use of force by the Commonwealth against children in detention and allegations of sexual assault against these children".
It would also consider remedies for a "breach of the Commonwealth's duty of care to detain children".
Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said the abuse had to end.
"No longer can we turn a blind eye to the sexual, physical and psychological abuse that these policies of indefinite detention are inflicting on children," she said.
Child protection groups have called for the immediate release of all children in detention centres, saying it is causing long-term harm.
"Australia's state-sanctioned abuse of children must end," said Uniting Church president the Reverend Professor Andrew Dutney.
"The level of mental distress and long-term harm suffered by children as a direct result of their detention is appalling. These children are losing the most important years for their growth and development and some will be scarred for life by their experiences."
According to the latest immigration figures there are 211 children being held in immigration detention centres, including 119 in the offshore processing centre on Nauru.
Professor of paediatrics at the University of Sydney Elizabeth Elliott was horrified by the conditions for children in detention on Christmas Island.
Many had physical illnesses such as skin and respiratory infections as well as serious mental health problems. She described a 12-year-old girl who refused to eat or drink or leave her cabin. "She summed up her experience by saying, 'my life here is really death'," she said.
Professor Elliott reported high rates of depression, anxiety and self-harm among children. "We were haunted by what we had seen, haunted by the level of desperation," she said.
Child and adolescent psychiatrist Nick Kowalenko said growing up in detention would have a lifelong impact on the children who may develop conditions such as post-traumatic stress syndrome in adulthood.
He said the denial of basic freedoms was unacceptable and had a "toxic influence" on children's development.
A spokesman for the Minister for Immigration said: "It's surprising that the Human Rights Commission began its review - in 2014 - when the number of children in detention was down to 1006 with the coalition government working assiduously to place those children in the community."
The Attorney-General Senator George Brandis blamed the former government for the problem of children in detention saying it had been "largely solved" by the current Abbott government.
Many of the recommendations simply reflected government's policies "and therefore offer little in the way of new insights or initiatives", Senator Brandis said.
The number of children in mainland detention centres has fallen from a peak of nearly 2000 in July 2013 to less than 200.
The Australian Human Rights Commission will front the media on Thursday at 10am.
Prison is no place for healthy sexual development
by Ally Fogg
Traversing the emotional and physical minefields of adolescent sexuality is a challenge for every young person. For one group of youngsters in particular, it can be little short of a nightmare. This week, the commission on sex in prisons, an ongoing research project convened by the Howard League, has turned its attention to the experiences of child prisoners. Its briefing shines a light on some of the murkiest corners of our penal system and throws into sharp relief the urgent need for reform of our youth justice system.
About a thousand young people are held in prisons in England and Wales on any given day. Almost all are aged 15-17 and 95% are boys. A third have been in local authority care, one in five have emotional or mental health problems, one in three girls and one in 20 boys are known to have suffered sexual abuse, while more than a third have experienced other abuse or neglect.
While these numbers include a handful of extremely dangerous young people who have committed shocking crimes, most have found themselves incarcerated after a succession of minor offences – the average time served is less than three months. Typically, prison represents not the ultimate deterrent for hardcore young criminals, but one link in a chain of failures in social policy and social care.
Until now, few if any authorities had considered the impact upon healthy sexual development of incarcerating 200-300 children together at a key stage of their adolescence. While a flutter of consenting sexual experimentation is inevitable (though of course forbidden) the commission heard evidence that some boys had been punished by prison staff for masturbating, even though they thought they were masturbating in the privacy of their own cell.
As with adult prisoners, there is a scandalous shortage of information about the extent of sexual abuse in British children's prisons. Neither the National Offender Management Service nor the Youth Justice Board (YJB) are willing or able to reveal the number of official complaints of sexual abuse in custody, or the number of investigations, criminal charges or convictions following an allegation. Research by the prisons inspectorate and the YJB in 2013 found that in the two largest prisons, 3% of inmates had been victimised by another child. Gay, bisexual or trans prisoners are not only at risk of extensive homophobic abuse and bullying, they are also much more likely to be sexually assaulted.
In the US, where some efforts are at least made to quantify the extent of sexual abuse in prisons, one in 10 incarcerated children report being sexually victimised in the past year. Of those, around three-quarters were abused not by fellow inmates, but by adult members of staff. If that statistic seems shocking, recall that more than 900 individuals have now approached police to report that they were sexually abused in just one institution, Medomsley detention centre in County Durham, throughout the 1970s and 1980s. As the commission notes, it would be complacent to imagine that some degree of child sexual abuse does not continue in penal institutions to this day.
There can be few environments less conducive to healthy sexual development than a children's prison. Former inmates have poorer sexual health and are significantly more likely to participate in risky or harmful sexual practices. Most worryingly, the commission raises the possibility that imprisoning adolescents may significantly increase the probability that they will commit violent and abusive sexual offences in future. One study found that children who had been detained in secure custody were significantly more likely to go on to commit sexual and violent offences in later life than those who had served sentences in open institutions, irrespective of whether they had previously committed violent or sexual offences.
When confronted by the gruesome reality of life for some of society's most vulnerable and damaged (not to mention violent and damaging) young people, there is a temptation to wring one's hands and say: “Well, what can you do?”
In this case, the answer is clear and compelling. Where there is no alternative to custody for young people, it has repeatedly been shown that children are better protected, better educated, better rehabilitated and less likely to reoffend if they are housed in small units such as secure children's homes, rather than large prisons.
In the short term it is more expensive, but financially, and on social and humanitarian grounds, there are significant savings in the long term by averting future offending.
Nonetheless, for reasons that defy all evidence and logic, the government seems committed not only to retaining large children's prisons, but to building the biggest one yet – the so-called children's super-prison at Glen Parva, Leicestershire, which will be able to hold 320 children, or nearly a third of the entire juvenile prison population on one site.
Bids are now being prepared to run the institution at the highest profit margin to private corporations and the lowest cost to taxpayers. The real price, however, will be paid in the physical, psychological and sexual health of the young people who will pass through its doors.
Children in Africa subjected to unacceptable abuse-Report
A new report from the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) reveals that Africa's children are still subjected to unacceptably high levels of physical, sexual and emotional violence across all levels of society.The African Report on Violence against Children launched at the United Nations in New York in collaboration with the African Union and the Office of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Violence against Children follows the continental launch of the report on 19 September 2014 at the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
â€œThe burden of creating a continent where children live and grow-up in safety principally lies on the shoulders of Africans themselves. Yet, in an increasingly globalised world where violence is taking transnational dimensions, it indeed takes a global compact to create a world free from violence,â€ noted Mr Theophane Nikyema, Executive Director of ACPF, in a statement issued in Nairobi
Surveys undertaken in countries across Africa highlight alarming levels of violence committed on children in schools, family settings as well as children in residential care institutions.
According to the report, an estimated 92 per cent of pupils interviewed in Togo, 86 percent in Sierra Leone, 73 percent in Egypt, 71 percent in Ghana, 60 percent in Kenya, and 55 percent in Senegal and Benin reported having experienced physical violence in schools from teachers or classmates.
â€œ16 percent of children interviewed in Ethiopia, Mali, Morocco, Uganda and Zambia reported that the physical punishment they experienced left scars on their body. Sixty percent of children in Zambia, Morocco and Uganda, and nearly half of children in Mali and Ethiopia, experienced physical punishment from family members,â€ added the report.
The report argues that violence against children in Africa must be considered within the context of broader social, cultural and economic trends, such as urbanisation, deepening poverty and inequality, family fragmentation, and the persistence of traditional norms that do not always correspond to contemporary legal and human rights codes.
Child abuse has many forms
In late 2011 and early 2012, a pair of child sexual abuse scandals, one involving a former Penn State University football coach and another involving at least two teachers at a California elementary school, sent shockwaves through communities across the country.
But child abuse is not just sexual in nature. Physical and emotional abuse as well as neglect are also recognized forms of child abuse, and it's up to adults to identify the symptoms so they can help protect defenseless youngsters. Prevent Child Abuse America, an organization dedicated to providing awareness and education about child abuse, notes that the first step in helping abused children is learning to recognize the symptoms of abuse. Child abuse is most often found in combination than alone. For instance, a physically abused child is often a victim of emotional abuse as well, while a sexually abused child commonly suffers from neglect.
According to Prevent Child Abuse of America, the following are some of the symptoms both abused children and their parents might exhibit if the relationship is abusive. Though none are necessarily indicative of an abusive relationship, when these signs appear repeatedly or in combination, adults, be it teachers, relatives or anyone who suspects abuse, should examine the situation more closely.
Signs an abused child might exhibit:
sudden changes in behavior or school performance;
show no signs that injuries or medical issues reported to parents have been treated;
learning difficulties that cannot be attributed to specific physical or psychological causes;
overly compliant or responsible;
arrive to school early, stay late and be unwilling to go home;
appear constantly on the lookout, as if something bad is going to happen.
Signs an abusive parent might exhibit:
indifference toward the child, rarely responding to a school's requests for information, conferences or home visits;
denial about a child's problems or blame the child for those problems, whether they exist at school or in the home;
encourage other adults to physically discipline a child if the child misbehaves;
view the child as a burden or someone who is worthless or bad;
demand perfection or a level of academic or physical performance that is impossible for the child to meet;
rely on the child for attention, care and the satisfaction of emotional needs.
What child and parent might do:
rarely touch or look at each other;
state their dislike of one another;
consider their relationship entirely negative.
Each type of child abuse comes with its own unique symptoms, and it's up to adults, whether teachers, relatives or someone in a position to notice recurring symptoms of abuse, to act before an abusive situation escalates.
More information about child abuse prevention, including recognizing symptoms of each type of child abuse, can be found at the Prevent Child Abuse America Web site at www.preventchildabuse.org.
Compassionate support can improve healing for survivors of abuse
by Christopher M. Anderson
Adverse childhood experiences are a public health crisis affecting more Americans than diabetes and heart disease combined.
Many people instinctively understand that compassionate support is important for people who have lived through abuse and trauma, but instinct can make for a poor teacher. Our initial response to a survivor's disclosure can have a profound impact on his chances for recovery.
Compassionate listening is a skill that can be taught and could potentially have just as powerful an impact on our society's health as the promotion of CPR has had.
It is significantly more likely than not that a given person has experienced at least one form of childhood trauma or abuse. For many survivors, disclosures of a painful past are often met with doubt, anger, or apathy. These negative reactions can reinforce feelings of shame and fear that make it harder for survivors to engage in the work of healing -- which almost always requires survivors to acknowledge and talk about what they have experienced and how it has impacted their lives.
There a few simple techniques each of us can learn that may greatly increase a survivor's chances of healing.
While these concepts might seem obvious in the abstract, without training, people often freeze in response to a crisis. Worse, they may take action that can cause serious harm. Without training in CPR, it's unfair to expect someone to know how to help a choking person. Something similar can happen when someone discloses a trauma. Not knowing what to do to help in that moment, a person may back away in fear, or push a person who is hurting away.
Providing empathic support to someone in a moment of crisis can be a critical, life-saving response much like CPR can be.
In hopes of giving a simple way to remember the elements of an empathic response I've reduced the principles to three simple steps: BPT.
B=Believe. In far too many circumstances, people respond to trauma survivors with hatred, disbelief, and scorn.
However, openly disclosing traumatic experiences and associated feelings of fear and pain is one of the hardest things any person can do. The act of saying out loud that he or she has been harmed often puts the person at risk of being shunned and/or re-victimized. This alone warrants giving someone the benefit of the doubt.
Even if the details of a survivor's story seem incredible or impossible, a witness to that disclosure can at the very least believe someone else's pain is genuine and worthy of compassion.
P = Stay Present. Many people feel a powerful need to intervene in a crisis, and immediately turn their focus to trying to “fix” the underlying problem. But even in the cases that cry out for intervention, like child abuse or sexual or domestic violence, it is important to recognize that a person hearing an initial disclosure is rarely in a position to do anything constructive about the underlying issue at that moment.
They may not be trained to properly intervene. They may be too closely connected to the survivor to act in a rational and informed manner; or the disclosure may come years (perhaps decades) after the trauma itself.
A simple acknowledgement that someone is not alone in this moment, combined with an affirmation of the survivor's courage for sharing something painful, is the essence of a grounded, compassionate response. This can help ensure focus remains on the survivor and his or her immediate needs. This is important because it communicates to a survivor that this place in this moment is safe.
T = Say “Thank you.” A person who tells you a painful story is giving you an invaluable gift – trust. Honor that person by saying “Thank you for sharing that with me.” With this response a moment of great fear and vulnerability can be transformed into a moment of healing and empowerment.
There is a natural tendency to turn away from trauma and pain. But the data is clear that trauma and abuse survivors are all around us. Promoting empathic listening is profoundly important, and potentially life changing.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry says, "children who are listened to and understood do much better than those who are not. The response to the disclosure of sexual abuse is critical to the child's ability to resolve and heal the trauma of sexual abuse."
The same is true for most other types of abuse and trauma in my experience, and for adult survivors as well. Sometimes all a survivor needs to take another step forward is to know is that his voice has been heard.
Christopher M. Anderson is the executive director of MaleSurvivor.org, a nonprofit organization that provides critical resources to male survivors of sexual trauma and all their partners in recovery. He resides in New York City.
Father of abuse survivor: 'I have saved my daughter's life'
by Courtney Friedman
SAN ANTONIO - It's a parent's worst nightmare to know his or her child is suffering and not be able to help.
After a domestic abuse survivor decided to tell her story to help others like her, her father decided he would like to share his experience -- in hopes of helping and inspiring other parents of abuse survivors.
It was about three months ago that the man -- who is not being identified -- said he noticed his adult daughter was acting strange.
"She didn't look happy. I would ask her, 'What's wrong? What's wrong?' She wouldn't tell me. She would say, 'I'm fine.' But I could sense it. I could tell something was wrong," he said.
Then, he said, he saw the proof.
"Her burns," he said, describing his daughter's injuries. "(On) her arms and her knees."
She was being abused at home.
"It hurts a lot to see her like that," he said through tears.
The man said he took his daughter straight to the police, where she filed a domestic violence report.
"She's my princess and nobody's going to hurt her," he said.
Then he found community resources that helped her with protective orders, legal questions, and counseling.
He said he knew he saved his daughter's life.
A panel of domestic violence experts who saw both the victim and her father's interviews agreed. All three said the father was smart to notice the isolation that is so common when someone is being abused.
"If they talk to them on the phone a couple times a week and suddenly that stops, they need to be aware," said Cyndi Jahn, with the District Attorney's Crime Victim's Advocacy Group.
Experts say when confronting a possible abuse victim, try to be supportive, not judgmental.
"Don't ask things like, 'Why didn't you tell us sooner? Why didn't you leave? Or what did you do? Did you make him mad?' When we come at a survivor like that with those kinds of statements, that's when they go running right back," said Putting an End to Abuse Through Community Efforts (PEACE) Initiative President Patricia Castillo.
This survivor said she wouldn't have been able to leave her abuser without her family's help.
"I've just been like, pushing them away. My whole family," she cried. "And now I have them all back. So it feels good."
Now that he has his little girl back, this father urges other families to follow suit.
"Don't wait another minute," he said. "Call the police. Take action quickly. I see it on the TV all the time, people getting hurt and killed. Stories just like this."
Last year in Texas alone, 112 people were killed in domestic violence situations. It's a statistic experts say can be lowered, with a little help from the people who love the victims the most.
Vatican says bishops will be held accountable
by Inés San Martín
ROME — Following a meeting of Pope Francis' new anti-sex abuse commission at which members demanded that bishops be held accountable for how they handle allegations, the Vatican has vowed that it's “keenly aware that the issue of accountability is of major importance.”
A statement released Monday said the Vatican's Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which met in Rome Feb. 6-8, is focusing on accountability “for everyone in the Church — clergy, religious, and laity — who work with minors.”
“Part of ensuring accountability is raising awareness and understanding at all levels of the Church regarding the seriousness and urgency in implementing correct safeguarding procedures,” the statement said.
The statement also said that, considering members' keen concern over the issue, the assembly had already agreed on an initial proposal to submit to Pope Francis.
Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, president of the anti-abuse commission, has been outspoken on the need for greater accountability.
During a recent interview with “60 Minutes,” O'Malley addressed the case of fellow Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City. Finn is the only American bishop who's ever been convicted of failing to report child abuse by one of his priests, and critics have called on Francis to remove Finn from his position.
The pope launched an investigation of Finn last year, but to date he remains in office.
“It's a question the Holy See needs to address urgently …” O'Malley said during the interview that aired last November. “There's recognition of that from Pope Francis.”
During the interview, O'Malley also referred to the new commission.
“One of the first things that we came up [with] was the importance of accountability and we're looking at how the Church can have protocols and how to respond when a bishop has not been responsible for protection of children in his diocese,” he said.
The Vatican statement released Monday also addresses the work being done by the commission between its meetings.
Tasks have been assigned to working groups to produce “research and projects in areas that are central to the mission of making the Church ‘a safe home' for children, adolescents, and vulnerable adults.”
Looking ahead to the next plenary meeting, the working groups will focus on issues such as pastoral care for survivors and their families, education, guidelines for best practices, formation to the priesthood and religious life, ecclesial and civil norms governing allegations of abuse, and the accountability of people in positions of responsibility within the Church when dealing with allegations of abuse.
Francis announced the commission in December of 2013; it was officially created in March 2014. It has 17 members: 10 are laypeople (six of them women, and two survivors of sexual abuse), plus five priests and two nuns.
Three of the experts come from the United States: O'Malley, and Bostonians the Rev. Robert Oliver and Krysten Winter-Green. Two are from England, and the rest hail from France, Ireland, Colombia, Philippines, New Zealand, Zambia, Italy, Germany, and South Africa.
During a press conference Saturday in Rome, Peter Saunders, a British member of the commission, was outspoken in his call for bishop accountability, saying there had been “an abysmal record of so many ill-judged responses by priests and dioceses around the world.”
“It is not disputed that there have been far too many cover-ups, there have been far too many clergy protected, moved from place to place. This has got to be consigned to history very quickly,” Saunders said.
Himself a survivor of clerical sex abuse by two priests and others, Saunders said he knows the Vatican and the Church at large “operate in a slightly different time dimension” where the definition of “quick” could be months or years.
“I get that,” Saunders said, “but when it comes to time, children only get one stab at childhood.”
Church watchdog critical of seven of nine orders in completed inspections on
The Catholic Church's child protection watchdog has said seven of the nine orders it has just completed inspections on have a poor record of management, making any assessment of their current practice difficult.
The National Board for the Safeguarding of Children says opportunities to safeguard children were missed and known abusers allowed to remain in ministry in 1990s.
In an Overview of its latest tranche of reviews, the Chief Executive of the National Board for the Safeguarding of Children in the Catholic Church, Teresa Devlin, says she's disappointed that most of the Orders have only been "bedding down" the whole area of safeguarding in the last couple of years.
Her spokesman said the following seven had significant problems: the Augustinians; The Passionists: The Discalced Carmelites; The Franciscan Friars and Brothers; The Servites; and the Marist Fathers.
The Sacred Heart Fathers of Jesus and Mary and the Dominican Sisters complied well with child protection standards and have demonstrated their commitment to responding promptly to allegations of abuse.
Franciscans 'regret' failing to protect children
The Franciscan Friars in Ireland (OFM) have expressed regret for missing opportunities to protect children who were sexually abused by a number of their Friars.
They say a report by the Catholic Church's child protection watchdog describes a "stark reality of abuse perpetrated by members of the Irish Franciscans over a 45 year period" up until 1998.
The report is one of 16 published today following the completion of the latest tranche of audits by National Board for the Safeguarding of Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland.
The report on the Irish Franciscans, says three friars were convicted by the courts during the period, and highlights the order's failure to deal adequately with complaints brought to its attention at the time.
The order says it regrets that there were "significant missed opportunities" to protect children other than those victimised by the convicted friars.
In a statement, the order's provincial apologised unreservedly to each and every survivor, and to their families, for the pain and harm inflicted on those who suffered abuse while under its care.
He also said no apology can ever be sufficient, and acknowledges with deep shame and sadness that the Franciscan Order failed them.
He adds that the order is encouraged that the report noted there was a change in safeguarding practice from 2009 on wards.
33 abuse allegations made against Augustinians
The Review of Safeguarding Practice in the Augustinians by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church found that 33 allegations of abuse had been received by the order since the beginning of 1975.
Allegations were made against 11 priests and brothers from January 1975 to the date of the review.
Seventeen allegations concerning members of the order have been reported to gardaí or the PSNI during this time.
Twelve were reported to agencies including Tusla, the Health Service Executive or health boards which preceded the HSE.
Seven of the priests and brothers against whom allegations were made are still members of the order.
Four of the members of the order against whom an allegation was made are deceased.
One member of the order, against whom an allegation has been made, is still in ministry, while three are out of ministry but are still members of the congregation.
Three of the priests and brothers who were the subject of allegations are retired.
11 allegations against Discalced Carmelite Friars
The review of safeguarding practice in the Discalced Carmelite Friars found that 11 allegations of abuse had been received by the order since the beginning of 1975.
Allegations were made against six friars from January 1975 to the date of the review.
Eight allegations concerning members of the order have been reported to gardaí during this time.
Six have been reported to agencies including Tusla, the HSE or health boards.
Two of the friars against whom allegations were made are still members of the order.
One of these is in restricted/private ministry, while the other remains in public ministry.
Four of the members of the order against whom an allegation was made are deceased.
The review found that the timeframe for reporting all of the allegations against living friars received by the order had been appropriate.
However, it noted that two allegations were made against a deceased priest and not notified to the gardaí for a number of years.
The reviewers were informed of the uncertainty within the order surrounding the notification process of allegations against deceased priests.
They acknowledged the welfare of children was not compromised because of the delayed notification.
The reviewers also said they were satisified that appropriate vetting procedures are in place within the order.
However they noted while practical procedures for vetting are in place, there is no written policy.
Reviewers also found that committment to safeguarding training within the Order is poor.
The reviewers saw no evidence that religious personnel, staff or volunteers received an induction on the order's safeguarding policies and procedures while working there.
In a statement, the order's provincial apologised "unreservedly for the hurt caused to persons by any of our friars for the betrayal of trust placed in them".
He said the order upholds the safety of children as paramount and has revised its safeguarding structure and updated its policies and procedures.
Order failed to implement recommendations
An audit of the Congregation of Passionist Priests has found that it has not implemented all the standards defined by the National Board for Safeguarding Children.
Twelve recommendations have been made in four areas of safeguarding, interim amendments to the safeguarding policy, case management and maintenance of files, role and development of the Safeguarding Committee, and role and function of the Advisory Panel.
Forty-two allegations relating to children or young people were made against members of the congregation.
None were substantiated.
All were passed to civil authorities at the time, and most relate to the 1950s.
Most of the accused are now deceased.
This data also included references to alleged adult and young adult victims which are outside the terms of reference of the report, as well as a number of cases where the alleged perpetrator has not been identified.
The reviewers concluded that 40 of the 42 allegations have been reported to gardaí or to the PSNI or to Scottish police.
In two cases, allegations relating to deceased men (received in 2010 and 2014) have not been reported on the basis that victims did not confirm information.
The 42 allegations relate to a total of 20 men who are, or at one time, were members of the Passionist congregation.
None of the 20 men subject to child sexual abuse allegations or concerns have been convicted or were subject to prosecution.
Sixteen of these men are deceased, and one is no longer a member of the congregation.
One priest has remained in ministry and two priests are out of ministry but are members of the congregation. In addition the student against whom there was an allegation was asked to leave.
In a statement, the congregation said The Passionists sincerely apologise for the pain experienced by those who have been hurt by the abuse perpetrated by their members, and acknowledge the deep suffering of the survivors and their ongoing trauma.
The Passionists say they are determined to ensure that past failings will not be repeated in the future and that children and young people will be safe in all aspects of their engagement with the Passionist Communities and Parishes.
Five allegations against three SSCC priests
The review of safeguarding practice in the male congregations of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (SSCC), has found that since January 1975, there have been five allegations made against three priests.
There have been no convictions.
Just one of the priests against whom an allegation was made is still alive. He is "out of ministry."
The review says that "since his withdrawal from all public ministry in 1995, clear documentary evidence on file indicates that all appropriate actions were taken in respect of support for the complainant and ...to ensure there was no further risk to children."
When it came to their attention that "there may have been a risk to other children apart from the children implicated in the original allegation, the Provincial sought the advice of a child protection specialist...to ascertain the level of risk."
And they "had no hesitation in providing support to those who had been abused...in the form of financial support towards counselling."
The congregation is said to have "especially good guidance on whistleblowing and for the appropriate use of social media...and the internet."
The reviewers were "impressed with the degree of knowledge, enthusiasm, and familiarity of safeguarding policy which key personnel possessed."
The SSCC "have no direct ministry with children."
Gardaí informed the reviewers that they have not concerns or issued held in relation to this congregation.
One recommendation in the review is that the SSCC safeguarding team should produce a written plan and ask parishioners about their views on policies.
There are ten members of the congregation living in Ireland and are in Dublin and in the Cootehill community, in the Cavan/Monaghan border area.
Letter to the Editor
Conversation about domestic abuse finally in the forefront
by Deb Greenwood
To the Editor:
Smack in the middle of the Grammys, President Obama's message calling on artists to remind their fans that domestic and sexual abuse are never OK took many of us by surprise.
This was quickly followed by domestic abuse survivor Brooke Axtell's heart-wrenching words — that authentic love does not devalue another human being — and Katy Perry's soulful rendition of “By the Grace of God.”
And all this happened a week after No More's anti-domestic violence ad during the Super Bowl.
Finally, the conversation about domestic violence and sexual assault is beginning to happen in very public ways, a conversation we at The Center of Family Justice have been having for decades. What happened at the Super Bowl and the Grammys is progress, and we applaud these baby steps that will hopefully cause a tsunami of outrage focused on the abuser and sympathy and help for the victims.
Axtell, who founded SHE (Survivor Healing + Empowerment), was a young victim of trafficking and as an adult became trapped in an abusive relationship. She is like many of the victims we see daily, who come looking to us for help to leave their abuser. Her words spoke volumens but were also words of hope: She got out, and so can our area's victims.
The music biz has had its share of domestic violence cases. In 2009 Chris Brown was arrested for violence against his girlfriend Rihanna. We couldn't help but wonder what impact the Grammys' domestic violence segment had on this couple, both in the audience.
If you think abuse is overblown, consider these statistics:
• Every nine seconds, there is another victim of abuse in the United States.
• On average, 3 women are killed by a current or former intimate partner each day in the United States.
• More than 15 million children witness domestic violence each year in the United States.
• 1 in 4 women and 1 out of 6 men are sexually abused in their lifetime.
• A report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds.
• 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 7 boys will be sexually assaulted by the time they reach 18.
Today, we ask you to visit our new website, CenterForFamilyJustice.org, which is chockfull of useful information for victims, in addition to suggestions on how to get help for someone if you think she or he is a victim of abuse.
Axtell asked all victims to reach out for help from their local domestic and sexual abuse center. It's what she did, and she can now stand before everyone, announcing that there is hope, and there is a way out of an abusive environment.
Call us today at 203-334-6154. Or call our hotlines:
Domestic violence: 203-384-9559
Sexual assault: 203-333-2233
Vedas (Spanish): 888-568-8332
You may also stop into any of our offices. Our headquarters: 753 Fairfield Avenue, Bridgeport, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Fairfield: Fairfield Senior Center, 100 Mona Terrace. Open: Wednesday, Thursday, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. or by appointment, 203-256-3130
Monroe: Town Hall, 7 Fan Hill Road, Room 213; Open Monday, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. or by appointment, 203-452-2800 ext. 1177
Trumbull: Mary J. Sherlach Counseling Center, 935 White Plains Road, Suite 210, by appointment, 203-261-5110
Stratford: Town of Stratford Community Services, Birdseye Municipal Complex, 468 Birdseye St.
By appointment, 203-385-4095
We'll close with Axtell's words: “Your voice will save you. Let it extend into the night, let it part the darkness. Let it set you free to know who you truly are – valuable, beautiful, loved.”
CEO/President, The Center for Family Justice
Report: Florida child-abuse hotline erred in dismissing call about girl who was thrown off bridge near Skyway
by Carol Marbin Miller
On the morning of Jan. 7, John Jonchuck arrived at his lawyer's office in his pajamas, his curly haired daughter in tow. He'd been driving around Tampa clutching a tattered Bible which he insisted was written in Swedish. He'd spent the morning searching for God at one church after another.
His lawyer's office told the state's child-abuse hotline that Jonchuck was "delusional," and that his 5-year-old daughter, Phoebe, was in danger.
"I'm worried he's out of his mind," the caller said. "I wanted to be sure I called somebody. If something happens to that child, I'd called somebody."
But instead of mounting an investigation to determine whether Phoebe was safe, the hotline counselor suggested Jonchuck's lawyer call the Department of Education to ensure she wasn't truant.
Hours later, Phoebe was dead. Her father, police say, flung her from a bridge that approaches the iconic Sunshine Skyway connecting St. Petersburg with Manatee County to the south.
Counselors at Florida's child-abuse hotline erred by dismissing the call, and another one that was received about a week earlier, a Department of Children & Families report released Monday concluded. A year earlier, caseworkers had erred by failing to offer the youngster's father services that may have left her safer.
Still, a team of investigators that reviewed Phoebe's death concluded the agency could not have foreseen the tragedy that unfolded Jan. 8 near the Skyway bridge, nor prevented it.
"Though there was a well-documented history of concerns related to this family, there was nothing in the preceding several years that could have reasonably been interpreted as predictive of such an event," a DCF Critical Incident Rapid Response Team reported. The team had been dispatched to Pinellas County after Phoebe's killing caused a firestorm in Tampa Bay, even as child welfare administrators have been trying to regain the state's confidence.
"That any child's life would end as Phoebe's did -- at the hands of her own parent -- is terrible beyond words," the report said. "And we are reminded yet again that every process within our system should be critically examined at every opportunity to ensure that the role it plays is carried out effectively. Our commitment to the ongoing strengthening of our overall practice model and its individual components will continue as we work to fulfill our mission."
By year's end, Phoebe already had been the subject of six calls to DCF's hotline, records show. The last two calls -- received Dec. 29, 2014, and Jan. 7 of this year -- were "screened out" by workers at the state's hotline, meaning the allegations never were dispatched to investigators for action, the report said.
Only half as many child abuse cases in Los Angeles last year
by Debbie L. Sklar
Far fewer Los Angeles County children died because adults had neglected or abused them in 2014, it was reported Tuesday.
The number killed dropped from 61 in 2013 to 32 last year as county officials continued an overhaul of the safety net for children, including more training for social workers and an increased emphasis on safety, resulting in an increase in the number of children removed from their parents to be placed in foster care, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Officials cautioned that the tally might still inch up slightly as they await additional reports from the coroner, but it appeared likely that last year would have the fewest recorded abuse and neglect fatalities since 2008, when a state law required the county to begin releasing the statistics, according to the newspaper.
“I think it's pretty clear evidence that we're on track,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe told The Times. He said that years of wrenching stories of child abuse fatalities had led the county to transform and strengthen the Department of Children and Family Services and other county departments meant to support vulnerable children.
Since 2008, critics have hammered county supervisors for what they have characterized as a failure to adequately address repeated child fatality cases that followed egregious errors by social workers. In some instances, social workers disregarded clear signs of abuse and wrote in their notes that severely malnourished children appeared healthy, The Times reported.
Among the 32 who died last year, 21 had previously been reported to social workers as suspected abuse cases through the county's child abuse hotline, according to data released in response a Times public records act request.
Defense argues video is protected free speech in video tape case
M OORHEAD — The defense in the case of two hockey players accused of sharing a video of sex with a minor is now arguing that the alleged sex tape is constitutionally protected free speech.
Thomas Carey and Brandon Smith, both 20, each face charges of using a minor in a sexual performance, possession of child pornography and dissemination of pornographic work, all felonies, involving a 15-year-old girl.
The defense has repeatedly painted the girl as the predator, claiming she enticed the two Lincoln Stars hockey players with sexually explicit photographs in order to meet them for sex after they played a game against the Fargo Force last February.
But in documents filed Friday, the defense goes a step farther, arguing that the alleged sex and its recording are protected by constitutional guarantees of privacy and free speech.
The argument, written by Carey's attorney, Jade Rosenfeldt, relates the alleged sex tape and its dissemination to the practice of sexting while distancing it from child pornography, citing sources including a law review article titled "Digital Lovers: Keeping Romeo and Juliet Safe From Sexting and Out of the Courthouse."
Child pornography harms the child, not only when the images are taken, but also throughout time, whenever the images are viewed, Rosenfeldt noted.
She argued that the video Carey is accused of making is another matter entirely. That alleged video is protected speech because the 15-year-old girl "was not the victim of child abuse," Rosenfeldt claimed.
According to the criminal charges against Carey and Smith, the girl had sex with Carey on Feb. 14 and found out later that a sex tape was being sent around when she received messages from people saying, "Nice video." She told Smith to send her any videos or images and then to delete them, the charges say.
If Carey shared the video, it's just an example of sexting, "a growing phenomenon, and epidemic, amongst today's teens," Rosenfeldt wrote.
"Generally, it is agreed that the most effective and efficient means of handling instances of sexting is thorough well-reasoned prosecutorial discretion," Rosenfeldt wrote. But the prosecution in this case, she said, "argues for the categorical exclusion of sexting from protected speech, without the sexts needing to be obscene. ... Based on the United States Supreme Court's treatment of the issue, such blanket prohibition is impermissible."
Rosenfeldt wrote that prosecutors will likely point out that because the alleged victim is a minor, the constitutional right to privacy does not apply. But, she argues, "relevant case law on the issue clearly expresses that the right to privacy in sexual expression should be extended to adults and minors alike."
A hearing in the case is scheduled for Thursday.
11-year old girl booked for murdering 2-month-old
by Andrea Keller
An 11-year-old girl old from Ohio has been charged for murder after allegedly beating to death a two-month-old baby. The baby was in the care of the suspect's mother.
Police Chief Randy Ice of Wickliffe, Ohio, said that the suspect was resting on a sofa on the ground floor with her mother and the infant victim, Zuri Whitehead. The mother fell asleep at around 3 in the morning on Friday and the suspect woke her mother after sometime and was holding the beaten baby.
According to Police, the girl took the baby to the second floor and when she went back downstairs, the infant victim's head was severely bleeding. After learning about the baby's condition, the suspect's mother dialed 911 for help and the injured infant was taken to a trauma hospital for children in Cleveland, where she later died.
As per police, Baby Zuri's mother had known the suspect's mother for at least five years but they are not related. The suspect's mother volunteered to babysit Zuri to help her friend.
The suspect is under 14, so she can't be handed over to an adult court, under Ohio law. However, she can be confined to a Department of Youth Services state facility till the time she turns 21.
As per FBI crime statistics, there were 20 children aged 12 and below in the US who were charged with murder during 2012. It was the most recent year for which statistics were available. As per police, the 11-year-old suspect did not show any regret, saying she possibly could not realize the seriousness of what she did.
Juvenile Judge Karen Lawson has entered a not guilty plea for the girl at a detention hearing on Monday. Lawson ordered that she must undergo a competency hearing.
When Sex Becomes Currency
by Bobbi Parish
On more than one occasion a survivor of childhood abuse will ask me why they have a hard time finding and sustaining healthy romantic relationships. There are many reasons; most of them related to what they experienced in relationships when they were young. As abused children they learn that they are not worthy of being protected, that they deserve to be hurt, and that in being submissive to other's wishes they are most likely to avoid harm. Knowing this, it's not surprising that adults abused as children end up in unhealthy, abusive relationships.
For children, like myself, who were sexually abused as children there is an extra lesson to learn; one about the role of sex in our lives. We miss out on the lesson that sex is a healthy expression of committed love between adults. Instead we learn, very well if our abuse is repeated and sustained over a long period of time, that sex is a currency. And with that currency we proceed into our teenage and adult lives trying to buy all the things our childhood lacked: love, affection, attention, and acceptance.
As a child, I learned this lesson very well. When my abuser was using me for sexual gratification he was always very sweet to me. He told me I was special and beloved to him. He showed me great kindness and affection outside of the episodes of abuse. I learned that being sexually violated was the price I paid for being treated with for what passed as love in my family. And thus I learned that not only was sex the way to “earn” love, but that love often had an element of being treated very badly.
When I turned 11 my abuser became afraid he would impregnate me. The sexual abuse stopped. But so did the kindness. Instead he ignored me. I was no longer special, pretty or beloved. Instead I was confused, lost, and broken hearted. Once again the lesson I learned was that the difference between being “loved” and not being “loved” was sex.
When I was fourteen years old a 20 year old soldier from the local Army base came into the fast food restaurant where I was working. For weeks he flirted with me, showing me the most male attention I had received in the three years since my abuser had turned off his affection like a faucet. I was desperate for kindness, even though my idea of kindness had been extremely perverted. When he offered to drive me home one night but pulled over to the side of the road and asked for sex I didn't hesitate to say yes. I had no understanding of statutory rape. I had no clue what was going on was wrong. What I did know, with great certainty, is that I wanted his affection. Sex was the currency I used to pay for it.
Time and time again I have survivors tell me, with great shame, that they had periods of time in their lives when they were promiscuous. Sometimes they come into therapy still involved in frequently seeking out multiple sex partners. They desperately want love and affection. Sex is the only way they know how to obtain those things. So they attract perpetrators and abusers, because those individuals are the ones who provide kindness in exchange for sex. When those relationships fall apart they blame themselves because they've been taught to always be the holder of blame in any failed interpersonal interaction.
In the meantime, the failed relationships and promiscuity add to the tremendous shame they already feel from the abuse they suffered as a child. That shame feeds their already low self-esteem, which reinforces their belief that they don't deserve to be treated well by a partner. And thus the cycle of tolerating abusive and unhealthy treatment in relationships continues. It repeats itself over and over again, beating the survivor further and further down with each spin through the cycle.
Unfortunately the consequences of childhood abuse don't end with childhood. They don't stop when the abuse stops. Sex, the very thing that was used to harm them, becomes a survivor's currency. But no matter how much of it they spend or how often they spend it they never obtain the love they so desperately seek. For years, even decades, after the original abuse stops the victimization continues. In this way broken people become so broken that they cannot even hold the pieces together long enough to receive the fleeting moment of kindness that the currency of sex buys.
If you are a survivor of sexual abuse know that I understand so much of what you have experienced. I invite you to join our Twitter community on Monday mornings at 10am PST (use the hashtag #CSAQT) or Tuesday evenings at 6pm (use the hashtag #sexabusechat) for our Twitter Chats. Come be amongst those who share your experiences and will not judge you. We want only one thing, a thing that has become the motto for our chat: No More Shame.
Wake hiring 19 more to investigate child abuse and neglect
by Andrew Kenney
RALEIGH — It starts when a government worker hears that a child is suffering. Perhaps it's an accusation of neglect. A neighbor might think the child is going hungry. Sometimes staffers hear that a person is beating or emotionally abusing a child.
That report – the moment when Wake County's government gets involved – begins a process that can forcefully divide families or help keep them together.
The process has taken longer and longer in recent years, while more children are living in foster care, thanks in part to reduced federal funding for child welfare services. Though state rules say investigations of abuse should be completed within 30 days, and neglect inquiries within 45 days, Wake County took longer in more than 25 percent of cases in recent months.
Now county officials say help is on the way. Bolstered by more than $1 million in extra state funding, the county's going on a hiring spree for its child welfare program – and the stakes are high.
“The longer an assessment takes, the more financial burden they may experience – the longer a child has to endure worrying about the fact that, ‘It's my fault that this happened, it's my fault that Mom is sad, it's my fault that Dad had to move out,' ” said Cristin DeRonja, director of the SAFEchild Advocacy Center.
Root of the problem
The problem's relatively simple, according to county staff. There simply aren't enough people working to deal with the number of reports of child abuse and neglect in Wake County. The problem is happening across North Carolina.
It's crucial for staffers to talk face-to-face with parents in order to resolve problems or to call in an intervention, said Lisa Cauley, interim director of child welfare for Wake County.
“For the most part, parents will tell you what's going on,” Cauley said. Sometimes they'll explain that they can't find proper housing or can't afford daycare. “You have to develop a relationship.”
Cauley says that, even with the shortfall, the Wake County crew still has been quick to begin assessments and to remove children from apparent danger.
However, staffers have been taking longer to conduct the investigations and interviews about suspected mistreatment, she said. Currently, the county is resolving only 72 percent of its cases on time, based on state guidelines.
The county in 2013 dropped nine vacant child-welfare worker positions from its staff of about 230, adding them back a year later. Paired with a growing population, the setback slowed staffers' assessment of claims of abuse and neglect, prolonging a painful process for many families.
“Either (cases) need to close, because there are no protective services issues – or they need an intervention,” she said.
To speed the process, Wake County will hire 19 new employees for child welfare and protective problems, a boost of roughly 10 percent. County commissioners unanimously approved the hiring at a meeting last month.
Wake also will be looking to reduce the number of children in foster care. The county legal staff hasn't been able to keep up with the paperwork required to move children from foster care to adoptive homes. Cuts to counseling and other less extreme solutions may have forced governments to remove more children from their homes, according to Wayne Black, director of the state Department of Health and Human Services.
As a result, the number of fostered children has climbed from 545 in June 2010 to 717 at the end of 2014. Statewide, 65 of 100 counties saw an increase in children under foster care from 2013 to 2014.
North Carolina has suffered a number of federal funding cuts to its child welfare services in recent years. In 2011, Congress eliminated a special program that provided Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds to 17 states, including North Carolina. That cut cost $36 million per year for the state; while North Carolina found other federal funds to partially compensate, the change resulted in a $5 million cut annually to child protective services in the counties, according to Black.
In August 2012, North Carolina's counties lost another $14 million per year after a federal review of the state's child welfare funding formulas. County departments had to replace those funds themselves, although the state pitched in $5 million of one-time money in 2013.
The General Assembly in 2014 nearly doubled the budget for child welfare in the state. The new budget included a recurring infusion of roughly $12 million per year for county child protective programs, which will later be ramped up to $13 million, Black said.
“I think our department and the state, and the General Assembly, have been proactive here … in trying to, despite any changes in federal funding, ensure that children are protected,” Black said. The new money will put about $1.1 million per year in Wake County's budget for the protection of children, according to Wake County.
The new funding is recurring, meaning that the General Assembly has promised to pay it out each year. The state DHHS also will hire a staff of nine, at a cost of $750,000, to review and support counties' child-welfare programs. That unit could be working within a month, Black said. The state will put a further $1 million in the current budget year toward other assessments and pilot programs.
“We think we will have attracted some of the best and brightest,” Black said.
Some say Pennsylvania not prepared to handle new child protection laws
by Kate Giammarise
HARRISBURG — In the wake of number of new child protection laws that went into effect this year, advocates and state workers say the system that's now in place to process all the new clearances and potential child abuse complaints is completely overwhelmed.
“The system very clearly is not responding to that volume,” said Angela Liddle, president and CEO of the Family Support Alliance, a group that trains so-called “mandated reporters” how to recognize and report possible child abuse. A number of professions are mandated reporters, such as school personnel, doctors, social workers, and others who might regularly come into contact with children.
Because of changes that were part of an overhaul of the state's child protection laws last year, there are more professions that are now mandated reporters, and additional training is required for all of them.
Additionally, expanded background checks are now required of certain school volunteers. State legislators passed, and former Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law, more than 20 child protection bills in the last legislative session, many of which did not take effect until Dec. 31. The new laws were an effort to improve the state's efforts to track and fight child abuse, and were recommended by a task force put together after the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
The state's Department of Human Services says it is responding quickly with additional personnel and resources to clear the backlog, particularly for calls to ChildLine.
“Swift action was taken to make sure something like this is not a reoccurring issue,” said Kait Gillis, a spokeswoman for DHS.
The state receives reports of suspected child abuse via a 24-hour hotline known as ChildLine, at 1-800-932-0313. Staff there screen calls to determine if a report should be forwarded to a county children and youth agency for a child abuse investigation. If the call does not involve suspected abuse, it still may require response from law enforcement or another agency. Caseworkers also answer calls regarding pending child abuse background clearances, general calls about qualifying for social services, or queries from other states about if someone is included in Pennsylvania's child abuse registry.
In 2014, the hotline answered 158,131 calls, according to data compiled by advocacy group The Center for Children's Justice.
The line has long been plagued by complaints about high turnover and under staffing, which only grew with the increased call volume in the wake of the Sandusky scandal.
“For many years, we have struggled with high turnover and chronic under-staffing,” said a 2012 letter from the Service Employees International Union Local 668, which represents hotline caseworkers. At the time, the union asked for additional staffing from part-time workers to assist in covering weekend shifts.
“We applaud the passage of Senate Bill 449 requiring mandated reporter training,” the union's leaders stated. “Please give us the manpower to answer those calls.”
Tom Herman, the union's president, said Friday there are 29 caseworkers who take calls, but “there should be 50 at least.”
“This has been an ongoing emergency over the last three years,” he said. “What we are looking at is a systems problem.”
Mr. Herman said he believes the state is doing what it can, but also cautioned that caseworkers deal with serious abuse reports and should not be thrown into positions without proper training.
“This is skilled work,” he said.
Ms. Gillis said a number of staff are now working mandatory overtime, the state has expedited the hiring process for new ChildLine workers, added temporary workers and reassigned others from within DHS.
”We're going to do everything we can,” she said. “The safety and welfare of these children is of the utmost concern.”
France enacts law to block terror and child sexual abuse sites
Liberté? A little less than before
by Richard Chirgwin
France has moved to implement the Internet-blocking regime that became law in October 2014 as part of a suite of anti-terrorism legislation.
The 2014 law allowed administrative orders blocking sites hosting child pornography content, or advocating acts of terrorism.
The law has now been gazetted, here, meaning it can now be enforced.
Within 24 hours of receiving a notice from the General Directorate of the National Police's cybercrime unit, ISPs will have to block the offending sites.
If they incur costs from implementing the site blocks, ISPs will be able to request compensation from the government.
Blocked sites will have a redirect, so users trying to access those sites will be “directed to an information page of the Interior Ministry” which will explain why sites are blocked, and offering information about remedies (if a site is incorrectly blocked).
The gazetting note also states that blocked sites will be re-checked quarterly to see if they still contain the offending content.
French civil liberties groups such as La Quadrature du Net aren't entirely happy with the new bill, arguing it circumvents the judiciary and interferes with freedom of speech.
Child sexual abuse ring in Halifax: 25 men charged - police reaction
In what police say is the largest child sexual exploitation (CSE) investigation in the country - bigger than high profile cases in Rochdale and Rotherham - the men face a combined total of 59 charges, including rape, sexual activity with a child under 16 and trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation.
The men, who are mainly from Halifax, are accused of committing the offences between 2006 and 2011.
A year-long investigation eventually saw them arrested in May 2013 and they were all formally charged at Halifax Police Station on Wednesday. They have all been released on bail and are due to appear at Calderdale Magistrates Court next Thursday.
The allegations centre around two girls, who are believed to have been in Calderdale Council's care when the men were arrested, although the majority of them relate to one girl. It is thought the girls were as young as 13 when they were allegedly abused.
The majority of the men charged are from the Asian community and there are fears that the investigation could impact on race relations in Halifax.
However, Temporary Chief Superintendent Owen West, District Commander for Calderdale, said there are no immediate plans to heighten patrols around the town.
“Our issue going forward is around community engagement and how we respond to any issues that come on the back of these charges,” he said.
“For a period of time it's highly likely that Calderdale will be under the spotlight a little bit.
“If we get increased tension or anger we have got plans to meet that. But we're not going to go out in traditional high visibility yellow jackets because there's no need for that at this stage.
“We're very much seeing it as business as usual for now.”
Police officers and police partners were informed about the development in the investigation on Wednesday.
In October 2013 Calderdale District Commander Chief Superintendant Angela Williams promised a big crackdown on CSE and said targeting sex gangs was her top
The men the police have charged
Hedar Ali - 35, of Nantwich, Cheshire. He is charged with rape (x2) and trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation (x2).
Fasil Mahmood - 35, of Halifax. He is charged with sexual activity with a child under 16 and supply of a class B Drug.
Zameer Asif - 24, of Halifax. He is charged with sexual activity with a child.
Mohammed Ramzan - 34, of Bradford. He is charged with conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a child under 16, rape and trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
Khalid Zaman - 37, of Bradford. He is charged with conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a child under 16, rape (x2) and supply of a class B drug.
Ataf Ali - 32, of Bradford. He is charged with conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a child under 16 and voyeurism.
Mohammed Fiaz Askar - 32, of Bradford. He is charged with conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a child under 16.
Aesan Pervez - 26, of Halifax. He is charged with sexual assault (x3).
Mansoor Akhtar - 23, of Huddersfield. He is charged with sexual activity with a child under 16 (x2) and the supply of a class B drug.
Furqaan Ghafar - 30, of Derby. He is charged with sexual activity with a child under 16.
Aftab Hussain - 35, of Halifax. He is charged with sexual grooming, sexual assault and sexual activity with a child under 16 (x2).
Talib Saddiq - 29, of Halifax. He is charged with sexual activity with a child under 16 (x2).
Amaar Ali Ditta - 25, of Halifax. He is charged with sexual activity with a child under 16 (x2).
Silkander Malik - 30, of Halifax. He is charged with sexual activity with a child under 16.
Akbar Aziz Hussain - 29, of Halifax. He is charged with sexual activity with a child under 16 and supply of a class B drug.
Azeem Subhani - 23, of Halifax. He is charged with sexual activity with a child under 16 (x2).
Tahir Mahmood - 42, of Halifax. He is charged with sexual activity with a child under 16 (x3) and sexual assault.
Mohammed Ahmed - 41, of Halifax. He is charged with sexual activity with a child under 16.
Haaris Ahmed - 31, of Halifax. He is charged with sexual activity with a child under 16 (x3) and supply of a class B drug (x3).
Taukeer Butt - 29, of Halifax. He is charged with sexual activity with a child under 16 (x4).
Arshad Majid - 24, of Shipley. He is charged with sexual activity with a child under 16.
Christopher Mulqueen-Bennett - 36, of Newport (Gwent). He is charged with sexual activity with a child under 16.
Muhammed Asim Janjuha - 33, of Bradford. He is charged with rape.
Haider Ali - 39, of Halifax. He is charged with rape, sexual activity with a child under 16 and causing a child under 16 to engage in sexual activity without consent.
Sikander Ishaq - 30, of Halifax. He is charged with sexual activity with a child under 16.
Charity sees huge surge in child-sex abuse
Barnardo's says following scandals the Rotherham revelations, it has seen an “unprecedented demand” for its services.
A record 2,118 child sexual exploitation victims were supported by the charity last year, up 78 per cent compared to 2010/2011.
The news comes as a specialist child abuse lawyer said more damning evidence could emerge in the Rotherham scandal that shows a link between police and perpetrators.
In order to deal with the increasing number of referrals from the police and local authorities, Barnado's is seeking £370,000 in extra donations. Barnardo's says it has worked with children as young as 11.
One girl who suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, named only as Sally, was just 13 when she was targeted and groomed online by men who preyed on her vulnerability. Pretending to be her “boyfriends” they took her to parties and cajoled her into having sex with other men.
After being referred to Barnardo's, a practitioner met with Sally, and spent hours listening to her. Eventually Sally built up her self-esteem, enabling her to escape her abusers.
Barnardo's is appealing for help so that it can appoint more support workers. Last year it began operating in 10 new locations and now provides support in 47 areas across the UK.
The charity's chief executive Javed Khan said: “Barnardo's has been working to tackle the devastating impact of child sexual exploitation for two decades.
“The scale of this abuse is shocking – with more and more incidences of child sexual exploitation coming to light. Every day, more sexually exploited children are referred to us. Girls and boys from all walks of life can become victims of child sexual exploitation and the numbers are growing.”
Meanwhile, David Greenwood, of Switalskis Solicitors, represents 38 of the 1,400 children sexually exploited in the South Yorkshire town. He revealed that two of them asked him to make official complaints about PC Hassan Ali – who died in hospital following a collision with a car – alleging he was unwilling to pursue their claims of exploitation.
Mr Greenwood said the officer's death would not be the end of the matter, and the wider scandal “is not going away”.
He said: “I'm pretty certain it will be bigger than it is even now. I think that evidence will emerge of links between perpetrators and police.”
He added: “I am sorry for his family and friends. Despite that, there is a truth that needs to be uncovered regarding how it was that 1,400 girls came to be exposed to this life-changing harm.”
David Crompton, Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, said: “PC Ali was a well-liked officer whose colleagues are devastated by what has happened.”
The National Crime Agency is leading the investigation.