International effort leads to rescue of 22-month-old Romanian baby being molested
This weekend, special agents and investigators in the United States and European Union scrambled to rescue a 22-month-old Romanian baby after learning that she was being sexually abused. It was 1:13 a.m. on Saturday when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents with the HSI Attaché Liaison Office at Europol in The Hague received disturbing information revealing an active abuse situation.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) sent the information to HSI after discovering images of the abuse on the Internet. HSI special agents immediately coordinated with Europol, the European Union's law enforcement agency, who reached out to Romanian officials. Within 72 hours, Romanian law enforcement executed a search warrant and arrested the suspected predator, a 34-year-old male. Evidence found at the home matched the self-produced child sexual abuse material that the perpetrator uploaded online.
“This case illustrates HSI's unyielding commitment in working with our world-wide law enforcement partners to protect our children,” said Peter T. Edge, HSI executive associate director. “When it comes to protecting the most vulnerable among us, we will leave no stone unturned.”
Europol's Deputy Director Operations, Wil van Gemert said, “This serves as an example of how fast and effective international police cooperation can lead to the arrest of child sex offenders and rescue of the child victims, which continues to be a very high priority for Europol and its partners worldwide. We will continue our efforts to fight this horrific crime and to ensure a safe environment for children all around the world.”
To protect the identity of the victim, no further details are available at this time.
Crisis center challenge: Nonprofit serving victims faces ever-mounting demands
by ALLIE MORRIS
In January, four mothers, each with her children, sought safe shelter at the Crisis Center of Central New Hampshire.
But they, along with a dozen more people, were turned away. The Concord crisis center's four rooms were full – they have been for months – and the shelter could offer the families no safe haven.
The nonprofit is designed to provide emergency relief to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, but it is at capacity. Three years ago, the average stay at the crisis center was four months. Now, it's nine.
As funding for social services across the state has been cut in the wake of the recession, the crisis center has taken on more responsibilities than ever. Once a short-term emergency shelter, the Concord nonprofit now provides transitional housing, legal assistance, education, mental health care and substance abuse treatment.
“Because there are no other services, often times crisis centers are the last stop,” said Paula Kelley-Wall, program director at the center. “People keep telling us do more with less, and we can't anymore.”
The New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, an umbrella organization that assists and advocates for the Concord crisis center and 13 others across the state, says part of the answer is more money. At the State House this session, the coalition is pushing for an increase in funding. But that could prove difficult in a budget year of competing priorities.
The coalition acts as a funnel for federal and state dollars – distributing them to the 14 crisis centers across New Hampshire, holding onto some for administrative costs and using others to manage specific victims' rights projects. The money has shrunk in recent years, and the funding faces further challenges going forward.
In the 2012 fiscal year, the coalition brought in $4.7 million from grants and contributions, according to the nonprofit's most recently available 990 tax form. That total is down from a high of $6 million in 2010, and at the lowest level since 2006. This year the budget is about $4.7 million, officials said.
The money comes from many different funding sources, but 80 percent of it is federal dollars, according to coalition Executive Director Lyn Schollett.
The state portion has been cut in recent years, and the coalition is pushing for restoration of those dollars in the upcoming budget cycle.
The nonprofit gets a steady stream of money from marriage licenses: $38 from each $45 license issued in the state is funneled to the nonprofit. That adds up to about $350,000 annually. Historically, the state has matched that money with general fund dollars. But during the last two budget cycles, the Legislature rolled back the total by about $100,000, according to the coalition.
Now, coalition officials are looking into whether the full portion collected from marriage license fees is getting passed onto the nonprofit. The money is collected from individual towns by the secretary of state's office and is then passed through the Department of Health and Human Services on its way to the coalition. Neither of those departments collects any portion of the money.
Parties involved met last year, but the matter has yet to be fully resolved.
At the State House, lawmakers are considering potential changes to the marriage license funding. The finance committee recommended the House kill a bill that would reroute money from marriage licenses to the general fund. A separate bill, proposed by Democratic Rep. Renny Cushing, would raise the marriage license fee to $50 and increase the portion sent to domestic violence prevention by $5.
Another state source of funding for domestic violence prevention, administered by the state department of justice, is set to soon run dry.
A portion of the penalty assessment – a 24 percent surcharge attached to some traffic and court fines – gets diverted to a state victims assistance fund, which is paid out to victims and also given out in a variety of grants. The coalition last year received a $150,000 grant from the fund, according to Department of Justice documents.
But that pool of money has been steadily decreasing and going forward will no longer fund grants.
“The spigot is turned off,” said Deputy Attorney General Ann Rice. “We're hoping there will be federal grants that will allow us to provide support from other funds.”
Gov. Maggie Hassan appropriated an additional $100,000 for the coalition in her budget plan. The proposal still needs to get through the House and Senate before it comes back to her desk for signature by June 30.
In the meantime, some of the crisis centers are seeking other options.
In Concord, the crisis center recently decided to hire a development director – over adding a full-time AmeriCorps advocate – who will help the nonprofit increase its resources through fundraising initiatives.
Budget constraints forced the center to close its downtown satellite office and set up a small office in a room at the shelter, which had been used for housing, said Kelley-Wall. The center's annual budget is under $350,000 and Kelley-Wall is hoping a fundraising campaign can generate enough money to reopen the satellite office within the next 18 months.
“It's not easy to continue when it seems like every budget cycle we stare down more cuts,” she said.
The budget problems are compounded by the expanded roles for crisis centers and the increase in people seeking services. And those charges are not unique to New Hampshire, said Anne Menard, CEO of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence.
Funding cuts in mental health and other services over the last few years have left domestic violence programs and hotlines as the some of the only remaining crisis response resources, especially in rural areas. It's a scenario common to communities around the country, Menard said.
“We're not short term crisis intervention anymore,” Kelley-Wall said. “We are for a lot of people the only resource they use to navigate the whole system, criminal justice, civil justice, mental health. Sometimes we're everything to everybody.”
And it means that at a time when people are seeking more complex support from shelters, the crisis centers may be responding with fewer available staff and resources.
“The role these programs play in communities is even more essential,” Menard said.
A growing awareness
In recent months, a national spotlight has focused on domestic violence prevention. The Super Bowl featured an anti-domestic violence ad, showing the “out-of-sight” nature of the issue. President Obama delivered a video message at the Grammy Awards highlighting the “It's on Us” campaign to end violence against women.
Those public awareness campaigns and high-profile domestic violence incidents typically lead to an uptick in survivors seeking help at crisis centers or through hotlines. After a video was released depicting football player Ray Rice punching his fiancée in an elevator, calls to the National Domestic Violence Hotline increased by 84 percent.
It's a great thing that more adults are seeking services, said the coalition's community relations director, Maureen McDonald. But, it also means crisis centers face a bigger demand.
“Every time we have a successful policy initiative . . . it's a trickle down,” McDonald said. “But no one has increased staff or funding.”
New Hampshire shelters turned away 1,130 adults due to lack of capacity between Oct. 1, 2013, and Sept. 30, 2014, according to the coalition. That figure does not include children who may have accompanied them. When the Concord crisis center is at capacity and has to turn people away, the staff offers contact information for other shelters and sometimes it looks to other states for space. In that case, the staff then needs to figure out transportation options.
In 2012, the Concord Police Department dedicated officer Christy Spaulding to work the city's domestic violence cases in an effort to bridge the gap with victims who were at times left with little support after officers departed the scene. Spaulding often refers people to the crisis center in Concord, which pairs victims with an advocate. That can help take pressure off the Concord Police Department said Spaulding, who recorded 451 domestic violence calls in 2013, and 368 last year.
“A lot more departments have realized that,” she said. “It saves our officers a lot of time, it saves a lot of money.”
But the center doesn't currently have the space or resources to accommodate everyone. And so last month the nonprofit was forced to turn away 23 women and children seeking shelter, people who are typically in the most dire circumstances and who have, in many cases, called several other shelters before getting to Concord.
“They know leaving their home is the only option that will potentially save their lives,” Kelley-Wall said. “It's devastating for us as a staff to say ‘I'm sorry. . . . We don't have a room for you.' ”
Child abuse needs mandatory reporting to create a high-risk environment for paedophiles
We are lacking the political will to change the current culture in which whistle-blowers are too frightened to speak out
by Tom Perry
We have been here before, but last week's further evidence about Jimmy Savile and his 63 abuse victims at Stoke Mandeville Hospital still had the power to astonish. Few of us can understand how it went unchallenged for so long. In the grand old British tradition, of course, no one is to blame. No one is to be held accountable. Worthy souls agree it is all very shocking, wring their hands and talk of lessons learned, but no one really pays the price for all those life sentences inflicted on children.
Bizarrely, we are told that hospitals are to tighten up on which celebrities are allowed to visit, but essentially the established professional expectation (amateurish, I'd call it) that people “will do the right thing” lives on. So what about all those people who “had their suspicions” but sat on their hands? I have a degree of sympathy with them, as it happens. It is extremely rare for someone to witness abuse as it is happening. To make an allegation about a colleague without chapter and verse requires a lot of courage. You acquire the tag of busybody, telling bad news to someone who doesn't want to hear it. No wonder so many people “play safe” (a preposterous term in the circumstances) and give the benefit of the doubt. And so the abuse continues.
But if they were legally required to report on their concerns, the good guys would all be on the same side. Only one person, the abuser, would have reason to be fearful. Suddenly an institution where abuse exists becomes a high-risk environment for a paedophile. Isn't that what we want?
It certainly is, and contrary to what some fear, it doesn't risk creating witch-hunts. Giving Johnnie a hug in the playground after he has scratched his knee hardly gives rise to “suspicions on reasonable grounds”. That is the term used to require potential reporters of money-laundering to come forward, as spelt out in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. And it has had a remarkable effect, as the police can confirm.
Britain lags behind the world – appallingly so – on abuse. A large majority of European countries – 86 per cent – have some form of mandatory reporting (MR); 77 per cent of African countries do; 72 per cent of Asian countries and 90 per cent of the Americas do. It may sound radical and possibly slightly un-British in going against a “live and let live” ethos. Yet, in this context, isn't that precisely what is needed? It would change the culture of so many areas of regulated activity (we are not talking about families here), and in the long run would go a long way to remedying a situation in which, by one credible estimate, only 5 per cent of sexual abuse is detected.
No decent person would want such a problem unsolved, surely. Yet, if you were a politician, would you be so keen once you have understood what it would take? In an age of short-termist careerism, for many of them it's too much like hard work. So they content themselves with sticking-plaster solutions that give a nod towards addressing the cause but do no such thing. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt warns of “unintended consequences” of introducing MR. It took me nine months to find out what exactly he was talking about, and I'm not impressed by what he claimed. Others say it doesn't work, but that is based almost entirely on research into families, not schools, hospitals, churches, Scout groups and the other target-rich arenas that attract paedophiles. Many of those who oppose it are simply behind the curve and not au courant with recent research.
Australia is often cited by some as showing that MR doesn't work, yet the number of allegations of abuse in institutional settings has now gone down to below where they were before it was introduced, while the number of substantiations from those referrals has risen. So, after a healthy weeding out – or at least scrutinising – of the guilty, the amount of abuse has actually declined. A requirement to report has removed the stigma of blowing the whistle.
The real reason for the foot-dragging is cost, I believe. There has been far more abuse than the authorities have acknowledged, but the truth is now dawning. Recently, Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, asked for an extra £50m to help the Crown Prosecution Service handle all the cases on its desk. The courts can't cope – they simply don't have time to deal with what is heading their way, and there are already eight prisons full of sex offenders. The Government will need to build a great many more if it is serious about taking this on. I have heard experts talk of public bodies being “swamped” with claims if MR is introduced. And what of holding those institutional leaders to account who walk away from known child protection “crash sites” with pay-offs and full pensions – the accountability gap?
There is a potential answer, though: the 1933 Children and Young People's Act. Part 1, Prevention of Cruelty and Exposure to Moral and Physical Danger, seems to contain the levers to enable institutional administrators who fail in their statutory responsibilities to be held to account. In this context at least, it has fallen into misuse. There is no reason that I can see why it shouldn't be used for countless cases I could mention. What is required is political will. And that is the problem. Considering the potential front-loaded cost, you'd be a frightened politician. But given that there aren't many crimes worse than child abuse, that wouldn't be good enough, would it?
Tom Perry is a survivor of abuse and founder of the group Mandate Now
23 new laws in effect to protect kids from abuse
by Mark Gilger
SUNBURY - Northumberland County Children and Youth Services is dealing with many challenges caused by 23 new laws that have gone into effect this year to improve child abuse prevention and detection.
"It's been overwhelming and very time-consuming for our staff, especially the intake department," Children and Youth Administrator Jenifer Willard-Miller said Friday. "In February, referrals for child protective services and general protective services increased from 99 to 151 (52 percent) compared to last February. Everyone in our office has been very busy since the new laws went into effect.
"This has been the most profound change to our system," added Miller, who has worked for Children and Youth since 1992, and has served as administrator for three years.
Northumberland County District Attorney Ann Targonski, whose office also must adjust to the new laws, said the intent is to uncover more cases of child abuse that were previously not being reported or didn't meet the previous definition of abuse.
"Although it will mean more work and time for our office and other agencies, the laws have been expanded with the hope of keeping our children safer," she said.
More must report
Miller said there are six or seven different computer systems throughout the state's 67 counties that feed into one statewide system known as CWIS (Child Welfare Information Solution).
In addition to numerous applications to state agencies by people working with children who are seeking required criminal history and child abuse clearances, Miller said more individuals are now legally required to report cases of suspected child abuse or neglect, and there is a need to train potential reporters about the new laws.
"The majority of our agency staff (approximately 75 workers), which includes myself, 37 caseworkers and multiple directors and supervisors, require these clearances, but now they are only good for 36 months," Miller noted.
She also said teachers, coaches, police and other law enforcement personnel must comply with the stricter regulations.
Miller would like to have more staff to efficiently deal with the new regulations, but she realizes that's not going to happen in the near future. She said she's still waiting to have three vacant positions filled.
She said the number of child abuse cases has risen over the years in Northumberland County, which she attributed primarily to poverty and overall poor economic conditions.
In 2014, Miller said her agency handled 281 child protective services referrals that resulted in 25 indicated cases of abuse, including three for physical abuse, 21 for sexual abuse and one for physical neglect.
Last year, Targonski said her office received 167 child abuse referrals. She said 28 cases were prosecuted for physical abuse. Additional cases involving juvenile offenders and sexual abuse crimes also were prosecuted, but those statistics weren't available.
Among the new laws is a separate statute for false reports involving child abuse that is a misdemeanor of the second degree that carries a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment and $5,000 fine.
Targonski said child abuse cases have increased over the years because more referrals are being made to Children and Youth Services and other agencies.
"People are more willing today to report child abuse," the veteran prosecutor said. "In times past, such situations were handled within the families themselves, but in more recent years, people have come forward to protect the children because they recognize the seriousness and long-lasting effects on the victims."
When a child abuse referral is made to a screener or intake worker at Children and Youth, that person collects all the information about the allegations before forwarding it to a supervisor. Depending on the nature of the referral, the response time on the call can range from immediate to 10 days.
Referrals can be made to the agency at the Human Services complex in Sunbury from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday by calling 570-988-4237. On-call staff is available during non-business hours at 1-855-313-4387. Referrals also can be made through the 24-hour, 7-day per week ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313.
Although the new laws mean a heavier workload for Miller and her staff, she's hoping people will become more educated on reporting child abuse and take advantage of the help that is available to them.
For the first time, requests for clearances and child abuse referrals can be made electronically. To make referrals, mandatory reporters can use www.reportabusepa.pitt.edu. Miller encouraged mandatory reporters - individuals who through their employment or occupation come into contact with children and have reasonable cause to suspect abuse - to include as much information as possible when making referrals.
The new laws were recommended by the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Abuse Prevention following the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal in 2011. Sandusky, a former longtime assistant football coach at Penn State, was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison after being convicted of 45 counts of sex abuse in June 2012.
Among the major changes are the state's definition of child abuse and who are considered mandatory reporters and alleged perpetrators of abuse.
Bodily abuse was previously defined as "severe pain" and "serious impairment." But now, it's legally defined as causing "substantial pain." The lower threshold for abuse has brought more cases to Children and Youth, Miller said.
Anyone who comes into contact with a child or is directly responsible for their care and supervision is considered a mandatory reporter. Those who file a case of suspected child abuse in good faith are now protected by law from employment discrimination.
Previously, teachers and anyone employed in a school setting were not considered perpetrators of abuse. Any allegations had to go through an internal review at the school and then the case would be referred to law enforcement. Criminal charges would then lead to the involvement of Children and Youth.
But that whole protocol has been eliminated, Miller said.
As a mandatory reporter, any suspicions of abuse must be reported to the state within 48 hours. Failure to report suspected child abuse now carries harsher penalties. A first offense is a third-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison.
Child abuse can also be the result of a caretaker's failure to act, and now includes things like preventing a sibling from injuring a child.
The definition was broadened to include "intentionally, knowingly or recklessly" failing to prevent injury.
The definition of an alleged perpetrator also was expanded to include anyone responsible for the welfare of a child. Prior to the new regulations, some people who did not live with the child could be prosecuted for assault, but were not placed on the state's child abuse registry.
All mandatory reporters are required to have three hours of state-approved training and continuing education on detecting child abuse and reporting procedures.
As of earlier this month, the state Department of Human Services (DHS) had received 57,000 requests for child abuse clearances since Dec. 31, of which 30,000 were done electronically. Hitches have been reported with individuals setting up user accounts to access the system, but improvements are expected as the year progresses.
More information about child abuse procedures can be found at KeepKidsSafe.pa.gov.
Informed care picks up the pieces left by trauma
by ERIC ADLER
Never mind the little girl's name. What's important is that she was about 10 years old and all the doctors she had seen month after month had failed to ease her pain.
The girl's stomach wrenched. Her chest tightened. Her skull seared with lightning-bolt headaches.
Then at Children's Mercy Hospital, pediatrician Lisa Spector decided to probe with a different set of questions. Instead of asking what was wrong physically, Spector asked the girl what had happened to her in her young life. Quickly, the crux of her pain became clear:
“It was impacting her physical and mental health,” Spector said.
At school, she was bullied. At home, she witnessed repeated domestic violence. She talked of her dad belittling and abusing her emotionally. She recently had been a victim of an attempted carjacking; the thief fled after seeing her in the back seat.
Day to day, she was living a tense and unsure existence that was translating itself into hobbling pain.
That the child's troubles ultimately eased not with medication but with counseling can be credited to a serious effort by Children's Mercy to focus on “trauma-informed” care.
For a growing number of children across the country, the approach has become the key to their emotional and mental health, “the most important thing we can do for people,” said Marsha Morgan, chief operating officer for behavioral health at Truman Medical Center.
Trauma-informed care focuses on the notion that a traumatic event in childhood, either experienced or witnessed, can alter the biology of the brain. A trauma-informed strategy works on multiple fronts — using counseling and changes to one's personal interactions and environment — to lessen or bypass those negative associations while forming new and more positive associative pathways in the brain.
“I've worked in this field for over 42 years, and this is the most important thing I've ever done,” Morgan said.
Together with Wyandot Inc. of Kansas City, Kan., Truman and others are helping lead a communitywide task force, Trauma Matters KC, to transform Kansas City into a trauma-informed community. Meanwhile, across the region, scores of entities are offering programs of their own: Head Start preschools; Kansas' child welfare system; mental health providers such as Crittenton Children's Center; shelters for battered women; and courts, jails and police departments.
The Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City has funded 18 projects related to trauma since 2008.
“This has become a national conversation,” said Joan Gillece, director of the National Center for Trauma-Informed Care, which in 2005 was launched by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to combat trauma's pernicious effects. “It's really taken off.”
The brain changes
The underlying tenet of trauma-informed care is simple, with roots stretching to Sigmund Freud:
The past matters.
When children experience singular or repeated traumas, those traumas can exert a powerful influence on their behavior and mental health, now and as they become adults. Data from as far back as the 1990s, for example, show that the vast majority of incarcerated females were abused as children — sexually, physically or emotionally.
Mental illness, physical illness, substance abuse, behavior problems, eating disorders, promiscuity, criminality: All have strong links to previous abuse or neglect, to violence, to abandonment, to the traumas exerted by the deprivations of poverty. Other traumas might include anxiety surrounding family illness, or personal illness, or the feared or real loss of loved ones.
Even witnessing such events can create misery.
“We know that witnessing someone else being hurt is often as traumatizing as being hurt yourself,” Gillece said. “What about kids who hear Mom being beaten night after night, or kids who go to bed hearing gunshots?”
Such connections seem intuitive, but they're also being borne out scientifically with mounting neurological research offering evidence on how trauma can change the biology of the brain, flooding it with hormones in ways that keep its victims in easily triggered states of fight, flight or freeze.
In the late 1990s, the broad and long-lasting effects of childhood trauma became especially clear after Kaiser Permanente published its Adverse Childhood Experiences Study. The survey of 17,000 people at its HMOs between 1995 and 1997 showed that the more ACEs one reported, the more likely one was to experience mental, emotional, physical and social problems.
The hope of trauma-informed care, experts said, is that by teaching parents, teachers, social workers, doctors, police and even children to address underlying trauma, children's emotions, behaviors and futures can be changed. The triggers that prompt children, or even adults, to erupt (fight) or mentally escape (flight or freeze) through drugs, alcohol or other means can be averted.
A Johnson County mother with more than 20 years of experience as a foster parent understands.
“All of the children who have been through foster care have been through some kind of trauma. They have trauma similar to war veterans; it is a PTSD,” said Lee, who asked that her full name not be used to protect the privacy of children who have been under her care.
In Johnson County and 29 other counties in eastern Kansas, child welfare services such as foster care, adoption and mental health services are provided under a state contract to a private company, KVC Health Systems Inc. The organization manages about 3,000 of the 6,100 children in Kansas' welfare system.
KVC is now in the fourth year of a five-year study, funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, to measure the effectiveness of the system it uses, Trauma Systems Therapy, to train children's caseworkers and foster parents.
Although many trauma-informed care systems exist (the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare rates at least 25), they generally work in similar ways, starting with inclusion.
“It really works well when all the players in a child's life can come together,” said Kelly McCauley at KVC, director for evidence-based initiatives.
That means bringing together parents or foster parents, grandparents, physicians, case workers, law enforcement, teachers and even the rest of a school's staff, if possible. Then, in classes over a series of weeks, they learn the fundamentals of brain science and how trauma creates metaphorical circuits, strong neurological pathways, in a child's brain that surge with impulses to fight, flee or freeze.
This differs from the traditional method of care, which experts say tends to focus broadly on the symptoms of depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, or other mental or emotional problems. Medications are prescribed for the disorder. Then behavior modification therapy teaches children to try to control their actions, showing that positive behaviors bring positive results and negative actions bring negatives, like scoldings, timeouts and school expulsions.
Medication and behavioral therapy have been shown to be effective mainstays of treatment, but the fact that many children continue to emerge deeply troubled has been a hint that something significant was missing.
“The focus became the depression or the anxiety,” McCauley said, “but the trauma aspect was being overlooked.”
In trauma-informed care, time is spent teaching caregivers and others how to view the world through the eyes of a trauma victim and to look for “triggers” that cause behavior or moods to shift negatively.
In its facts for caregivers, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network explains, for example, how ketchup might suddenly remind a child of blood from a father's beating, or a dropped book could prompt memories of gunshots, or a packed suitcase might trigger thoughts of being removed from home.
Lee, the Johnson County foster mom, recalled one child who went into fits every time Lee's husband returned home from work. They realized that for that foster child, the man's arrival triggered past associations with abuse. Another foster child would break down at the sight of a man's underarm hair at a swimming pool.
“The child would freak out,” Lee recalled. “His face flushed, his body tensed, his breathing became rapid.”
Trauma-informed training helped reveal the triggers. At home, Lee made sure the child felt safe and loved each time the dad arrived home, replacing negative associations with positive. The same happened for the foster child triggered by underarm hair. Knowing the trigger allowed the family to avoid it or to deal with it in a calm, understanding and even therapeutic manner.
McCauley of KVC said that since it began using trauma-informed methods, the use of medications on children in state care has been cut drastically.
Meredith Hengel, 32, of Grain Valley, said she and her husband didn't know the magnitude of the problems that their son Josh, now age 5 and recently adopted, had endured when he came to them as a foster child shortly before Christmas 2012.
But they knew he didn't trust adults. He slept erratically.
“He might fall asleep at 8, but he'd be up at 2 in the morning. He'd be wandering the house,” Hengel said.
Food was a major issue. The boy would scrounge through the refrigerator.
“If he thought he wasn't getting any food, he would be absolutely frantic,” Hengel said.
At Children's Mercy, Hengel and her son worked for some 20 weeks at the hospital's Safe and Healthy Families Trauma Prevention and Treatment Center, using Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, which for Josh was designed to create a trusting parent-child connection.
“Kids who have been in trauma need some sense of control,” Hengel said, “even if it is just playing with a Hot Wheels car. It was that play, coupled with positive praise, that helped. He loved it. I do feel it helped us bond and build a relationship.”
In the courtroom
In some cases, a trigger can be one's physical environment.
Courtrooms, for example, may mete out justice, but they also can trigger fear and foreboding.
Wyandotte County District Judge Kate Lynch for five years has been finding ways to reduce trauma for the adults who appear in front of her for mental health hearings. Lynch said she was forever changed after hearing a woman, who was not from Kansas and who suffered mental health problems, describe the trauma of appearing before judges.
“This woman said she knew that once she was going to the court, she was probably going to end up in a state hospital,” Lynch recalled. “She knew it because that's what had happened all the times before. She talked of how she would perspire and her palms would itch and her heart rate would go up. She talked about the judge sitting up there on the bench in that black robe.”
Since that day, Lynch has put her black robe aside at mental health hearings. To lessen trauma more, she has changed her language, referring to those who appear before her as Mr. or Ms, or by their first names, rather than by the cold and formal “respondent.” She even changed the name of the hearings and their focus.
“I like to refer to it as the wellness docket,” Lynch said. “I like to think of it as people getting well.”
Equally significant, she now requires mental health reviews more frequently than the old schedule of waiting up to six months, a period so long that people can easily fall ill again.
As a result, revocations in her courtroom, returning people to state hospital care, have been cut 50 percent, she said.
Meanwhile, United Community Services of Johnson County has been working since 2011 with more than a dozen organizations to reduce trauma for clients, both children and adults.
“For some organizations, they trained every single one of their staff,” said community planning director Valorie Carson of groups that include Johnson County Court Services, CASA of Wyandotte and Johnson Counties, Sunflower House for abused children, and Safehome for battered women, as well as police departments and jails.
Help at Head Start
One recent Wednesday night, 14 adults, mostly moms and grandmothers, took seats at tables inside a preschool classroom that is part of the Northland Head Start program in the YMCA building at 2701 Burlington St.
“We're talking about attunement today. It's about attachment, building a relationship with your child,” licensed counselor Alisha Persaud, 30, told the group.
She guided the adults through exercises on reading children's faces and body language, noticing their frowns, smiles, the way they cross their arms and tilt their heads, and then openly acknowledging those emotions. I see you're smiling. Are you happy? I see you frowning. Are you sad or mad?
“What does that build?” she asked the group.
“Trust,” several parents responded. “Communication,” said another.
Her class — the third of six sessions based on a trauma system known as ARC, for Attachment, Self-Regulation and Competency — is part of the Trauma Smart program developed by the Crittenton Children's Center in Kansas City. Over the last year, Trauma Smart has received national media attention in The New York Times and on “PBS NewsHour.”
The program, which began about 2008, has expanded tremendously. It started by reaching parents, caregivers, teachers and staff of some 810 children, ages 3 to 5, at Head Start sites in Kansas City, Kan.
Now, backed by more than $4 million in grants from organizations that include the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, it is expected to reach more than 3,250 children a year at 156 Head Start classrooms in communities as far south as Joplin, east to Columbia and north toward the Iowa border.
On its website, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation says that “the program holds promise to become a federally designated best-practice model to benefit the more than 900,000 children in Head Start programs nationwide.”
In Lee's Summit, Mitch Pycior would like to see trauma-informed instruction become part of his school's regular curriculum.
“Every school should have this. Every school,” said Pycior, who is assistant principal at Summit Ridge Academy, an alternative school serving about 120 students, grades seven to 12, with learning, behavioral or other difficulties.
Children with emotional and behavioral disorders are the fastest-growing population he sees. This year, working with Crittenton, 11 students went through a trauma-informed class on topics that included coping skills, peer interactions and triggers. A Crittenton licensed clinical social worker, with parental or guardian permission, also provides in-school, personal therapy two or three times each week to a handful of students.
Improvements are anecdotal at this point, Pycior said, but he already knows that he'd like to see the curriculum expanded to include all students. “Verbal confrontations” dropped from an average of 20 in the first semester last year to 10 this year.
In the classroom, “teachers are seeing the results,” he said. “Much less disruptions. Kids I have known for the last couple of years are focusing more. They're controlling their emotions. They are reaching out for help.”
Beyond helping troubled children, advocates said, trauma-informed methods can help all kids.
Toni Gydesen, 26, from Hamilton, Mo., east of St. Joseph, was skeptical at first.
“I heard about it,” she said, “and I'm like, ‘My child is not in an abusive household. My child is not strung out. My child is not seeing other people get shot. My child has not experienced trauma.'”
What her nearly 4-year-old daughter, Emma, did have was a persistent and severe case of eczema, which left her skin red and itchy. At home, Emma was outgoing and energetic. “Talk your arm off,” her mother said.
But not when it came time to go to school. She'd curl herself into a ball and refuse to leave the car.
“The more frustrated she got, the more she'd scratch her eczema,” her mother said. “It got red, scaly, open.”
Her behavior in school turned so troublesome, Gydesen frequently had to pick up her daughter and take her home. Tension mounted.
“I felt like I was doing everything wrong,” Gydesen said. “I felt like I was the main cause of what was wrong. Was it the soap I was using, or the food I was feeding her, or I wasn't putting on enough medication? You doubt yourself as a parent.”
The Trauma Smart instruction, which also includes personal therapy at home, turned it around, helping Gydesen tune into Emma's feelings and helping Emma express them.
“Now if she has an issue,” Gydesen said, “she knows she can come to me no matter what. She knows she isn't going to get disciplined or reprimanded for opening up and speaking her feelings. And I can see the precursors to her frustration and can stop the situation before she gets frustrated.”
Gydesen said she is convinced that without the instruction, Emma's behavior would have derailed her academics from the beginning.
“I definitely feel this has put Emma on the right track for kindergarten,” she said.
Warren County District Attorney says violence toward children has worsened recently
by Don Lehman
The unexplained death of an injured 13-month-old. A 3-month-old shaken to the point he has been hospitalized at Albany Medical Center for nearly a month. A 15-month-old from the Glens Falls area beaten to death in North Carolina in mid-January.
Local news in recent weeks has been dominated by a wave of serious child abuse investigations and arrests, cases that come on the heels of four child homicides in the region over the past 5 years.
And while some in local law enforcement believe they are seeing more severe violence toward children, state and local statistics seem to show child abuse complaints have generally been dropping in the region, while arrests for child endangerment and assault have also fallen. (See attached chart)
Those statistics don't tell the whole story, however.
Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan said the violence that law enforcement and child protective workers are seeing toward children seems to have worsened in recent years. In addition to recent child homicides, there have been a number of serious injuries to very young children, she pointed out.
Often, the most serious cases occur at the hands of men who have no biological and emotional connection to a child, many times the child's mother's boyfriend, Hogan said. Drugs play a part in irrational decisions.
“There does seem to be patterns we are seeing, where it's frequently someone who is a caregiver who is not a parent and does not have a same emotional connection to the child,” she said. “When the child is crying or needs attention, they become frustrated and inflict a blow or shake, and that can be deadly.”
Hudson Falls Police Chief Randy Diamond said he believes better reporting, through mandated reporters and others who come in contact with child victims, has resulted in more child abuse reports over the years. More people are cognizant of child abuse, and “early intervention has saved children,” he said.
Warren County Social Services Commissioner Maureen Schmidt said she believes child abuse complaints have remained fairly steady in recent years, but the child welfare and criminal justice systems have improved in their ability to uncover abuse.
Mike Guglielmoni, executive director of the Warren-Washington Counties Child Advocacy Resource & Education (CARE) Center, a Glens Falls-based clearinghouse for child abuse investigations in the region, said he hasn't seen any indications violence against children has increased.
Instead, he said he believes the criminal justice and child welfare systems have gotten better at “rooting out” abuse.
The establishment of regional “multi-disciplinary teams” that bring together law enforcement, social services, medical professionals and other stakeholders work together to scrutinize child injuries and allegations of abuse to determine if there were prosecutable crimes.
While many criticize Child Protective Services caseworkers when children are injured or left in situations where care is questioned, Guglielmoni said most don't understand the laws and rules they deal with when investigating complaints.
“People have unrealistic expectations of what they can do,” Guglielmoni said. “New York Family Court Law is about family unification.”
Guglielmoni said the wave of heroin abuse that has plagued the area plays a large part in neglect and abuse cases.
“These alleged parents are taking care of their habits before their children,” he said.
Chief Diamond said, they can't just walk into a home and remove children based on third- or fourth-hand complaints.
“They are here in our station constantly,” Diamond said. “Every day this week we have had at least one caseworker here. They are very active, and they have a very tough job.”
Three child homicides in the Glens Falls area in 18 months in 2012-13 led to the creation of a local Community Child Abuse Prevention Task Force, which has brought together volunteers and numerous organizations to create a parental mentoring program.
Hogan said an application for a state grant has been made to get the program underway.
France failing child sex abuse victims, survey finds
France's social services are failing to protect children from sex abuse, an NGO charged this weekend after a survey showed that only four per cent of victims had received help from the appropriate agency.
One in five women in France and one in 14 men say they have suffered sexual abuse and 81 per cent of them were abused before they were 18, 51 per cent before the age of 11 and 21 per cent before the age of six
The campaign group Mémoire traumatique and victimologie, supported by the UN's children's fund Unicef, spoke to 1,210 victims between the ages of 15 and 72, 95 per cent of them women.
Almost all of them - 95 per cent – reported that their experience had affected their mental and physical health and 42 per cent had attempted suicide, sometimes as many as 10 times.
More than half of the victims had been abused by a member of their family.
The organisation, which has launched a campaign called Stop au Déni (Stop Denial), accuses the authorities of failing to supply appropriate support, protection and recognition of victims, especially the most vulnerable, “while the effects on health, emotional, family and professional life seem to be extremely significant”.
Only four per cent of victims said that the children's support agency Aide sociale had helped them and the majority of those who had complained to police said they were “not protected”.
Stop au Déni , which was to present the survey's findings to a conference on Monday 2 March, called the situation a “public health scandal”.
“The authorities must urgently provide the resources needed to effectively protect, support and care for the victims so as to break the vicious cycle of abuse,” Stop au Déni's president Dr Muriel Salmona said on Sunday.
Second Tulsa Public Safety Summit Looks at Domestic Violence
by Matt Trotter
After 12 murders last year were linked to domestic violence, it was the topic of a Tulsa public safety summit today.
Several law enforcement agencies and victim services groups were represented. Mayor Dewey Bartlett said he was surprised to hear how often domestic violence turns into homicide, especially when drugs or alcohol are involved.
"We can't just walk away from it," Bartlett said. "We have to deal with it very directly and very harshly, but also do it in a way that it doesn't become a recurring problem."
TPD Chief Chuck Jordan said there are myriad reasons why victims stay.
"This person that's the abuser is probably their provider, is probably the father of their children," Jordan said. "Sometimes it's just simple fear. They think that they can survive with minimal injury, and that beats what the options might be if they actually leave."
Jordan said one of the most challenging aspects of domestic violence is it's a behind-closed-doors crime, so police rely on victims to report it.
Bartlett said one issue is multigenerational violence: Kids of abusers become abusers. Retired Nashville Police Lt. Mark Wynn was over the domestic violence division. He's been following a Baylor neurologist's research.
"There's a huge impact on exposure, but now we're realizing that, that exposure at the first year of a child's life is just as critical as a child 8 or 9 years old."
Wynn said Tulsa has the services to help victims leave their abusers, but the community has to help them.
Local schools try to prevent teen dating abuse
by Karla Huit
COON RAPIDS, Minn. – With dating abuse among teenagers on the rise and in social media, those fighting the trend are taking their battle to a new arena: the classroom.
Advocates working with Alexandra House – an organization that helps domestic abuse survivors through support services and shelters – delivers speeches at schools throughout five metro-area districts, including Anoka-Hennepin, Spring Lake Park, Centennial, Fridley and St. Francis. Advocates started delivering lectures to Anoka-Hennepin students back in the early 1990s, and they've tailored their message to address the unique nature of the crime today.
"One in three teens is in a dating violence relationship," said Courtney Gillman, a youth services advocate with Alexandra House, adding, "So it's important to see those are high percentages, and 67 percent of them don't really talk about the abuse with anybody."
The key, Gillman says, is teaching impressionable young adults about healthy relationships before they even start.
"Especially when they're young, they're just starting to date and just starting to figure that stuff out," she said.
On Friday, Gillman talked to several classes at Coon Rapids High School, pointing out possible red flags within a relationship – from demanding that someone not associate with other peers to impersonating them on social media.
"It's totally illegal to send nude or semi-nude photos," she said, adding that the crime constituted child pornography if involving a person under the age of 17.
Those listening to the lecture agreed social media has transformed the manner in which abuse among teenagers can occur.
"People have another avenue to manipulate people and it's always changing," said Benjamin Ford, a Coon Rapids High School senior.
Sophomore Ally McDonald agreed: "Social media really plays into it. Because there's so many more options of other people to talk to."
Among the other red flags, Gillman encouraged students to look out for: verbal abuse, including talking down to a person; physical abuse – from threats to violence; financial abuse – cutting a person off from their money supply or preventing them from holding a job; and emotional abuse – threatening to hurt himself or herself if a person leaves a relationship.
Bottom line, Gillman said you need to be concerned if fighting is frequent, you feel you "have" to do things, you find more "accidents" happening or other people are uncomfortable with the relationship.
Gillman also encouraged the students to seek help if they encounter teen dating abuse, including reporting the problem to a person's parents, the police or teachers. She also urged the teens to develop a "safety plan" if they find themselves a witness to or involved in an abusive relationship.
For more information about the red flags, resources available and how to schedule an Alexandra House speaker at your school, just go to: www.AlexandraHouse.org
Here are ways to stand up against sexual violence
by Sandy Madsen
Rape is not about sex, but about power, control and violence.
The recent high-profile trial of two former Vanderbilt football players has generated more conversations about rape and sexual assault here in Nashville than at any time in recent memory.
During the public trial we were given graphic details of a rape, and most people were horrified by what they heard. This public trial has helped many understand the violence, control and power associated with rape. One must always remember that rape is not about sex, but the power one has over another.
After the conclusion of the trial, there have been several public calls for action to stop sexual violence in our community, including an editorial by The Tennessean. As a survivor of a stranger rape, I am acutely aware of the need to end sexual assault in our community. I want to not only add my call for action but also provide some very specific actions you can take toward ending sexual violence.
The Sexual Assault Center (SAC) has been serving our community since 1978. Years ago, I needed to reach out to SAC after my traumatic rape. Not only does the center provide counseling for those affected by sexual assault, it is also active with prevention and advocacy efforts to bring an end to sexual violence.
Here are several ways you can join me in supporting the Sexual Assault Center and stand up against sexual violence.
• Volunteer : SAC offers a 24-hour crisis and support line (800-879-1999) for our community. You can join the team to ensure this service is always available to those in need. Volunteers are provided 25 hours of direct training so that they have the knowledge and skills to handle the calls.
• Join: The Hospital Accompaniment Program is a critical service offered to rape survivors in a partnership among SAC, Metro Nashville Police Department's Victim Intervention Program and Nashville General Hospital. Volunteers provide support and advocacy to rape survivors as they receive forensic medical exams soon after a rape.
• Contact: As laws are being considered either on a state or national level, SAC asks that you advocate for the well-being of survivors. You can add your voice by communicating with your state and federal legislators on legislation that impacts sexual assault survivors.
• Invite: Stewards of Children is a two-hour training that provides the knowledge and skills adults need to protect children against sexual abuse. The Nashville Child Protection Coalition has a goal for 25,000 adults to complete this program. Invite SAC into your church, school, business or social group to host a training.
• Walk: On Saturday, April 18, SAC will host its annual awareness walk, called Walk in Their Shoes. Please accept my personal invitation and add your voice and your presence to this event. I have walked many times. The love and enthusiasm that is expressed among survivors is beyond words. It is a powerful day, and as a survivor it is very gratifying to see the show of support from walkers who have never experienced rape but understand more needs to be done.
As The Tennessean said, “The entire community needs to rally around stopping violence, including sexual assault against anyone.” I urge you to visit the Sexual Assault Center at sacenter.org or call 615-259-9055 to volunteer or learn more about what you can do to stop sexual violence.
Sandy Madsen is a sexual assault survivor and advocate on behalf of others survivors and against rape.
See something, say something bystander training
Who: High school students, parents, adults who work with youth, community group leaders
What: 90-minute forum and training focused on how bystanders can prevent sexual assault, led by the Sexual Assault Center and Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence. It will answer questions: How do you speak up in an uncomfortable situation? What is the right action to take? If you see something suspicious, what do you say, and to whom? If you speak up, will everyone know?
The free event will also include an overview of sexual assault crimes, investigations and resources in Davidson County, with speakers including:
• Metro Schools Chief Support Services Officer Tony Majors
• District Attorney Glenn Funk
• Metro Police Capt. Preston Brandimore and Lt. Michael Dudley
Where: John Seigenthaler Center, Vanderbilt University, 1207 18th Ave. S. Parking is across 18th Avenue.
When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 4
Victims of sex abuse at elite school say cries for help ignored
by Damien Murphy and Rachel Browne
Knox Grammar School was more worried about its reputation than its pupils' plights when sexual abuse was alleged, a royal commission has been told.
It might be an exclusive school but there is nothing exclusive about how Knox Grammar School dealt with allegations of sexual predatory behaviour by teachers towards its students.
Since public hearings at the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse began 17 months ago Australia has become used to seeing a regular pattern to how it plays out:
A lone victim speaks out against an institution.
A cover-up is put in place to protect the institution's reputation at the expense of the victim.
Frustrated, crushed, shocked, betrayed, the victim seeks to be heard by bashing down a door - either through police, inquiry or media.
Only when another institution draws near is a public apology made.
For more than a year the nation has watched as some pillars of society, including the Catholic and church, the Anglican churches, Jewish centres and schools in Sydney and Melbourne, the Salvation Army, the YMCA, and various state governments, have been exposed as providing opportunity and shelter to paedophiles.
The culture that permeated Knox revealed in the royal commission this week has shocked many out of their faith in the school's tradition and its promise to enable boys to succeed and grow into young men of faith, wisdom, integrity and compassion.
Sexuality is hard country for teenagers but many students at high net worth private schools live with a morbid fascination about it, their discomfort and longing to belong often expressed through showy displays of revulsion towards sexual ambiguity.
A throwaway insult for generations of Sydney private school boys runs:
"Tiddlywinks, young man
Run as fast as you can
If you can't get a girl
Get a Cranbrook man"
The rhyme was readily adapted to Grammar/Riverview/Barker.
For decades, Knox had been the target of gossip, lies and innuendo along the North Shore Line.
And then in 2009, something far more serious erupted from these nudge nudge, wink wink cultural undercurrents when numbers of former students alleged they had been sexually abused by teachers at the school between 1970 and 2009. It was the ultimate breach of the trust they and their families had placed in the school.
Police established Strike Force Arika to investigate the allegations. Five teachers were convicted of child sex offences against students. The royal commission was given evidence of abuse by another three. One, art teacher Bruce Barratt, died in the mid-1980s, and was remembered on a school gate with the droll epitaph, "He touched us all"." The plaque has been removed.
For more than three decades boys were subjected to the teachers' predations, the school failed to notify police of any incident of child sexual abuse.
Tim Hawkes, the headmaster of The King's School, Parramatta, was a former teacher and boarding house master at Knox when one of his young boarders was groped in the dormitory just before dawn in 1988 by a man wearing a balaclava and Knox tracksuit. Hawkes told the commission he did not call the police because he believed it the responsibility of the then headmaster, Ian Paterson. He said he was then unaware of the legislative requirement to report sex abuse to the Department of Family and Community Services.
"I think in those days, authority structures in schools - we're talking about over a quarter of a century [ago] - were very much more hierarchical than they are today. They are very much more horizontal today and, I think, thankfully so," he said.
"And I think today, not only aided and abetted by changes to the law but also by social custom, I think the empowerment of people at all levels and seniority within schools is such that, today, the initiative to notify police would be unquestioned."
Such buck passing outrages Lesley Saddington, whose son, Tony Carden, died of AIDS aged 33. She says he was nine at Knox preparatory school in 1971 when he was "groomed" by teachers. She believes the abuse continued at senior school.
"One can only arrive at the conclusion that over the past several decades Knox, as a school run by the Uniting Church, has lost its moral compass," she says.
There is no doubt that the five convicted Knox paedophiles, Craig Treloar, Damian Vance, Adrian Nisbett, Barrie Stewart, and Roger James, chose their targets with precision.
They picked the weak and vulnerable with boarders the easiest of prey. Day boys with troubled home lives were vulnerable to grooming.
Victims told the royal commission of feeling so ashamed they could not tell anyone, let alone complain to someone in authority.
A 52-year-old former boarder given the pseudonym ARY recalled Stewart's opportunistic groping in the school's hallways. "Often in passing in the hallways he would grab a boy's genitals," he said. "This happened so casually it was like a handshake."
Those who spoke up were shunned by peers. "They became victimised and ostracised in the boarding house," ARY said. "They were seen as weak and they became everybody's bitch."
Former student Scot Ashton could see no point reporting abuse, which included an incident where music teacher Stewart inserted a finger into his anus.
"I felt very isolated because I was the victim of abuse and had this terrible shame and secret which I could not discuss and I was intimidated by the general bullying culture of the school which preyed on the vulnerable and weak and I could not afford to be vulnerable by complaining about the abuse and I felt that it would be pointless," he told the commission.
And then there were constant reminders of how privileged they were to be at such a good school and who would want to bring that into disrepute?
"Everyone was expected to keep up the reputation of Knox," ARY said.
He told the commission he would find it "astounding" if staff weren't aware of the extent of the abuse, a sentiment echoed by many.
Coryn Tambling, who boarded during the 1980s, sheeted the blame home to then headmaster Paterson.
Tambling was 13 and a boarder from the Northern Territory when Treloar showed him hardcore pornography featuring bestiality and paedophila before propositioning him for sex. His behaviour deteriorated and his parents asked what was wrong.
"I said that 'one of the teachers in the boarding house had showed me pornography and asked me to suck his dick'," Tambling said. "My mother didn't believe me. She said, 'you would have told us in one of your letters home if it was true'. My mother had continued to hold a very high opinion of the school."
When his father said there wasn't much to worry about, "I went back to Knox, heartbroken and angry".
Other students, whose behaviour and academic performance plummeted in the wake of abuse, were simply asked to leave school.
A man given the pseudonym ARG, molested by art teacher Barratt and English teacher Nisbett, told of being forced out but being unable to tell his parents why.
"They were beautiful people and churchgoers," he said. "I was scared, embarrassed and didn't know whether anyone would believe me. I had horrible emotions going."
Meanwhile, the behaviour of the paedophile teachers continued largely unchecked.
The commission is yet to hear evidence of Stewart being sanctioned in any way. Treloar kept his job after admitting to watching pornography with boys. Vance was allowed to "resign" to spend time with his sick mother in 1989, despite the commission hearing the school was aware he had indecently assaulted a student underneath the Knox chapel.
Religious education teacher Christopher Fotis was never charged over sexual abuse at Knox but allowed to "resign" after being arrested for masturbating outside a school in North Ryde in 1989. Fotis failed to appear at the commission and an arrest warrant was issued on Wednesday.
Fotis and Vance were provided with glowing references about their professional skills by Paterson.
Treloar was still teaching at the school when arrested over multiple sex offences in 2009.
John Rentoul, a former assistant headmaster of Knox, told the commission that it was "extraordinary and reprehensible that these men continued to teach at Knox and abuse students.".
"I believe the school was more interested in protecting the reputation of Knox than ensuring the safety and welfare of its students," he told the commission.
In heartbreaking testimony, Rentoul told the commission his son, David, was abused by Stewart, something he believes led to David's early death from multiple organ failure.
The 80-year-old, who left Knox in 1981 to teach in New Zealand, told the commission that private school students may be more vulnerable to abuse by teachers.
"In my view, private schools may be more susceptible to instances of sexual abuse because of more opportunities for the development of close relationships between teacher and students."
Speaking outside the commission, Independent Education Union general secretary John Quessy agreed this was an issue for independent schools.
"Where you have situations where students and teachers are interacting extensively outside of a classroom situation it would appear there are more opportunities for impropriety to take place," he said.
Some former students have received six-figure compensation payments from the school and the Uniting Church but say the money will never fix the damage done.
For others, the legal process was unnecessarily gruelling.
"It made me feel like I was being screwed all over again," former student Adrian Steer drily observed of his experience with Knox's lawyers.
Counsel assisting David Lloyd lamented lack of documentary evidence about the abuse which complicated the redress process.
"A difficulty has arisen in investigating these questions because of the paucity of contemporaneous documentary records which record allegations of abuse and the school's response to them," he said.
The commission has been told that Paterson kept all documents regarding allegations of abuse in a black folder in his office.
When new headmaster Peter Crawley took over from Paterson in 1999 he was told the folder contained the sensitive information but was stunned to see just a few snippets of notes and nothing of substance.
"In my view it was a very unprofessional folder," he said. "I remember just being aghast at what I was looking at."
Former head of the Knox Grammar Preparatory School Robert Thomas was similarly surprised when he looked at Treloar's file and saw no mention of his six-month suspension for watching pornography with students.
The commission heard that files of students who made complaints have also gone missing,
Lloyd said the hearing would examine the fate of these missing documents, "whether they were deliberately destroyed in order to eliminate evidence which might adversely affect the school, and who from the school might have been involved in and/or aware of any deliberate destruction of relevant documentary records"."
This culture of cover-up only adds to the trauma of those who have suffered abuse, according to Craig Hughes-Cashmore, co-founder and director of Survivors and Mates Support Network
"Sadly, many feel that they won't be believed and even if they do speak up, there is that constant fear that it will just be swept under the rug," he said.
Adults Surviving Child Abuse: 1300 657 380
Survivors and Mates Support Network: 02 8355 3711
Bravehearts: 1800 272 831
Once a victim, now a victor
by Ron Jackson
It is widely accepted that "hurt people hurt people." It is common to find that perpetrators of abuse also were victims of abuse. And that hurt people tend to hurt people close to them or people they care about. But there are always exceptions. Gabrielle is one of them.
For four years, Gabrielle L. or Gabby, has been helping people who have been hurt. Her history of various forms of domestic abuse would make it understandable if she chose to direct her anger toward others. But she hasn't, and she won't. She knows their pain, their fear and their hopelessness. She also knows there is a way out.
It was from her own pain, fear, and feeling of hopelessness that resulted in her survival. Gabby says she is not a victim anymore. She is a survivor. And that is what drives her to help others. Without hesitation she says, "Being able to help others was worth all the pain I went through."
It began after a close friend lost everything in a house fire. Gabby's first response was to gather some of her own belongings, clothes, toys and toiletries to help her friend through the initial shock of total loss. It felt good to be able to help someone. It also felt right, so right that she would go on to support other efforts to aid victims of fire and other disasters.
She then found herself driven to help victims of domestic abuse, especially children. Her efforts began during a Christmas season to help support the work of a local anti-domestic violence agency. She began collecting teddy bears to give to children and adults in shelters, hospitals and Senior Citizen Centers. That effort was so rewarding, she thought since domestic violence doesn't occur just during the Christmas season, why not do this all year long? That thought process resulted in her own project, "Christmas All Year Long."
Gabby has some advice for anyone living in a domestic violence situation: Stand up. Get help right away from an authority you can trust. Know that there really is light at the end of the tunnel. She and her mother, also a domestic violence survivor, adamantly support the Victims Right To Be Heard law that allows victims to tell the court the impact of their abuse. Both agree that society, especially the judicial system, has greatly improved its understanding of and detriment of domestic violence.
When she is not doing homework or working on her project, she loves to draw and read. She prefers to be outdoors, especially boating or swimming in the river, or climbing trees and running.
Four years and thousands of teddy bears, crayons, coloring books, ornaments and cupcakes later, Gabby is preparing for her inaugural Unveil Masquerade Ball fundraiser Oct. 10 to bring more awareness to the prevalence of domestic violence in our community. Gabby, and hopefully other survivors in attendance, will remove their veil, showing how domestic violence reaches every sector of our society. The event will include dinner, music and raffles, with all proceeds going to a local shelter for victims of domestic violence.
Gabby L. wears many hats. She's a project coordinator, speaker, event planner, advocate, and survivor. Her plans are to do this forever as long as the need is there. This community is fortunate to have her. Especially since she is only 12 years old.
You can learn more about this amazing young lady, the upcoming ball, or to hear her story all year long by going to her website: K3CAYL.webs.com or Facebook/Christmas Allyearlong.
She's a four-year fighter of domestic violence and that time frame covers a third of her life.. Let that sink in for a few moments.
"The reward from helping others is greater than any pain you will ever endure." — Gabby L.
Attack victim moves past her pain to help others
by Deepa Bharath
At age 32, abused and battered, Patricia Wenskunas felt like she was a shell of a person, with no soul.
Sexually abused as a young girl, physically abused by her partner and grappling with a potentially deadly eating disorder, Wenskunas was already a broken woman when she moved to Irvine from Illinois in 1994 with her son Nathaniel, then 12.
Wenskunas decided to get help for her eating disorder and to improve her overall health. So, she approached her neighborhood gym, where staff recommended a personal trainer. The trainer seemed eager to help, and she trusted him.
But, in hindsight, Wenskunas believes that the man, Jeffrey Kelavos, knew the instant he shook her hand that she was an easy target – his prey.
On April 4, 2002, Kelavos told Wenskunas he would drop by her Irvine condo to help sell her treadmill because she shouldn't exercise without him around. Not at home. Nowhere else but at the gym.
That morning, when he arrived, she said, he offered her a pill saying it would help her lose 8 pounds. Wenskunas thought there was “something off” about that statement. But she was intrigued and excited that the pill could help her lose weight. He mixed it for her in a glass of water. She became suspicious when she saw a blue foam gather at the edge of the glass, but he urged her to drink it. She did.
Wenskunas felt shaky at first and then lost consciousness. She recalled waking up on the bed in her son's room, undressed, on her stomach with Kelavos on top of her. When she tried to run away, her head still spinning, she said, he tried to suffocate her with Saran Wrap and threatened to kill her son, who was not home at the time. That threat prompted Wenskunas to leap from a 12-foot balcony, run out the door and cry for help.
“All I could think was I needed to find my son and keep him safe,” she said.
Legally, it was a challenging case because investigators found no evidence of drugs in her body other than allergy medication and no evidence of sexual assault. But, prosecutors did have as crucial evidence two messages Kelavos had left on Wenskunas' answering machine – sounding distraught and tearfully apologizing to her for what he had done.
Kelavos was eventually found guilty of assault with a deadly weapon and making criminal threats. He served 120 days in jail. A judge tossed out attempted-murder charges.
Wenskunas hasn't seen him since. But now, 12 years later, she still walks around with unanswered questions – questions she'd like to ask him some day: Why did he want to kill her and her son? And, what did he do to her sexually?
• • •
A devout Catholic, Wenskunas, now 45, credits her faith and her son for helping her turn her life around after the attack.
“I remember this one day when I was sitting in the living room of my condo, staring at the white walls,” she said. “I heard my son in the other room (ask) his friend if he'll ever get his mom back again to take care of him.”
Those words from a 12-year-old were enough to spur Wenskunas into action. She threw herself back into her event-planning and catering business. She got the counseling and support she desperately needed.
But she felt the need to do something else. In 2003, even as she was healing from her traumatic experience, Wenskunas founded Crime Survivors Inc., an organization that offers support services for victims of crimes – support she wished she'd had as a child and later as an adult to help deal with her physical and emotional wounds.
“I knew nothing about nonprofits then,” she said. “But it was definitely a higher power that was helping and guiding me. Where there is faith, there is hope.”
In 2011, Wenskunas also founded OC Crime Stoppers, a nonprofit tip line that works with all law enforcement agencies in the county to help them get leads from the public.
Collegedale church launches support group for domestic violence survivors
by Susan Pierce
The half-dozen women quietly sitting in a semicircle range in age from 20somethings to senior adults. They include black, white, stay-at-home moms and career women.
Some are hesitant to look up and make eye contact; others wear their newly regained independence with pride -- shoulders back, heads up, decisive handshakes.
Despite the disparity in ages and backgrounds, they share a strong bond: They are all survivors of domestic and/or physical abuse.
As they slowly open up to discussion, they reveal nightmares they've withstood -- lives threatened with guns, controlling and manipulative spouses, even the need to disappear into shelters with closed social services files to prevent being tracked down by their abuser.
Now they are beginning the healing process, attending the inaugural meeting of a new support group for women who have experienced spousal or relational abuse. The group is an outreach of Collegedale Community Church's Safe Haven Ministry.
"We consider ourselves first responders in a way," says Felicia Phillips, founder of the support group and coordinator of the Safe Haven ministry. "We tell them God cares, the church cares, there is a way out, pray with them and direct them to Partnership for Families, Children and Adults for emergency assistance."
Each meeting opens with an introductory exercise to build trust and set the tone of a safe environment. Topics have been designed that range from discussing why leaving was so hard and building trust to learning assertive techniques and how to deal with authority figures. Each session closes with a "takeaway" idea for positive reinforcement, such as a thought or concept to focus on or practice in the coming week.
The participants, in turn, promise that anything said in the meeting remains completely confidential, to refrain from hurtful or inappropriate comments, and to maintain a nonjudgmental and supportive attitude toward other women in the group.
THE BIG QUESTION
The women's ministry was established by Collegedale Community Church Pastor Jerry Arnold, who has spoken on the topic of domestic violence and abuse three times from his pulpit. When he received a threatening phone call after the first sermon, he says: "I knew we'd hit something."
Arnold felt convinced of the need for a spousal abuse group after attending a regional conference of Adventist pastors. Seminar consultant Rene Drumm addressed pastors on the prevalence of domestic violence, recognizing the signs of abuse and ways in which the church could address the subject.
"As a man who was unfamiliar with domestic violence, the question to me was: 'If it's so bad, why don't they leave?' I went into the meeting very prejudiced toward that question," admits Arnold. "Rene made it very clear to us how women get trapped and don't feel they can leave. I left there thinking I would do anything I could to help these women who feel trapped."
Experts say a woman might stay in an abusive situation for several reasons: They don't have the money to leave and live on their own; they stay to protect children still living at home; the batterer promises to change; or they're just too embarrassed to discuss the abuse with an outsider -- especially revealing it to another man such as her family preacher.
"Frequently a pastor's response when a woman finally gets the courage to come to a pastor is disbelief," says Phillips. "Women are not taken seriously."
When LifeWay Research in Nashville conducted a survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors in 2013, results showed that the topic of domestic abuse is seldom addressed from the pulpit. Of the pastors surveyed, 42 percent said they rarely or never spoke to their congregations about domestic or sexual violence, and 29 percent of those said they did not believe domestic violence was a problem in their churches.
Upon returning from the eye-opening conference where Drumm spoke, Arnold gave his first sermon denouncing domestic violence three years ago on the Saturday before Super Bowl Sunday.
"I was told that, statistically, Super Bowl Sunday is a day of high incidences of alcohol-fueled domestic violence," he says.
A 2014 survey published in Journal of Family Psychology reported that, after analyzing 25,000 incidents of "partner maltreatment," the rates of domestic violence were highest on Saturdays and Sundays. Rates of domestic violence reached "highs" on New Year's Eve, New Year's Day, Fourth of July and, yes, Super Bowl Sunday.
When he told his 1,600-member congregation that one out of four women suffered from domestic violence, "that got everyone's attention," Arnold says emphatically.
"Overall, the sermon got a positive reaction. I would say at least three, and as many as six women, came up and offered to be part of a group to help others. In that first sermon, I emphasized, 'You come to us and we are going to listen and believe you.' For women who had been or were in abusive situations, it rang a chord."
But the pastor also received a threatening call, blaming him for "trying to break families up." Rosa Ashley, Collegedale Community Church secretary, says the call was a voice mail left at 3 a.m. following the first sermon.
"When I listened to that guy, it was eerie," she recalls. "If I had any hair on my back, it was standing up. Nothing happened, but I kept a stun gun handy by my desk for days in case someone walked into the office."
Arnold says he has continued to speak out against abuse since that first sermon. This year's Super Bowl sermon addressed verbal abuse.
"Last month, there was a tremendous sense of conviction from God that all of us need to clean up what we say. It's hard to make a presentation on verbal abuse if it doesn't cut across the board. We all are guilty of of it," says the pastor.
SAFE HAVEN MINISTRY FORMS
After the launch of his Super Bowl sermon, Arnold's next step was to enlist Phillips, who coordinates women's ministries for the church.
"He wanted to start a group to be the eyes and ears within the church to perceive where there might be a problem and have a program ready to help women in abusive situations," says Phillips.
Safe Haven was given a budget to finance training for Phillips and a handpicked group of women and also to purchase needed materials and books.
Phillips says the ministry established a crisis hotline -- notifying women in the church of its number by placing notices inside stall doors in the women's restrooms. Each notice had removable slips of paper imprinted with the hotline's phone number that could easily be slipped into a woman's purse.
"We referred a couple of women to the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults. But in three years, we got extremely few calls," says Phillips. "So we continued to look for an effective way to help women in the community."
She hopes the launch of the nondenominational support group accomplishes that.
"It's been said that it takes an average of seven to 10 times being abused before a victim actually leaves. We want people who have gotten out of relationships and are at the point of needing help in healing," says Phillips. "We feel it's a privilege to serve God's girls."
Call for Help
* For the protection of the women involved, neither the location, date nor time of the Safe Haven ministry's support group meetings for abuse victims can be published. Any woman interested in joining or desiring more information should call 596-4276.
* Women in need of emergency assistance should call the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults' Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Crisis Hot Line: 755-2700.
* Partnership also offers a domestic violence support group for women who are not residents of a Partnership shelter. For more information, call 755-2822.
L.A. County plans court to help child prostitutes
by Garrett Therolf
L os Angeles County authorities are planning a specialized court to handle the growing number of young people in foster care who street predators have lured or bullied into prostitution.
The court would be designed to significantly increase the time and attention judges, lawyers, social workers and specially trained advocates spend helping minors, mainly teens, who have been detained for taking money in exchange for sex.
County child welfare authorities already are training law enforcement officers to call the child abuse hotline instead of booking minors on criminal charges. This approach sends the youth into the foster care system rather than the delinquency system, where they would be defined as perpetrators rather than victims. The proposed court would build on that approach.
Los Angeles County's Department of Children and Family Services estimates that as many as 300 young people in foster care are now selling themselves for sex.
Leslie Starr Heimov, who leads the court-appointed law firm for foster youth, said the current system is often unable to effectively pull the young people out of the sex trade because they meet with judges too infrequently — usually every six months — and encounter an ever-changing array of social workers and other professionals who fail to establish a stable connection with them.
"There needs to be much more accountability for the social workers and the youth," Heimov said.
Michael Levanas, who became presiding judge of Juvenile Court last month, said he has identified the creation of such a court as one of his early priorities and is seeking funding.
"If we can find the resources, I would be thrilled to do it tomorrow," Levanas said. The young prostitutes, he said, "are victims and they have no home environment. They are very susceptible to being preyed upon."
Heimov has been developing the proposal for the court with Diane Iglesias, senior deputy director of DCFS, who said the department is "100 percent behind this."
Since summer, DCFS has received 17 youth who were initially detained but not charged with prostitution. Only one has dropped out of treatment and returned to the streets, Iglesias said.
"We have specialized social workers. . . who are extremely dynamic, well-trained and available to the girls 24/7," Iglesias said.
In 2011, advocates for sex trafficking victims helped create a delinquency court that they say moved the issue forward. This court focuses singularly on children charged with prostitution and provides. advocates from at least three charities and survivors of sex trafficking to mentor and counsel the young people. It also offers educational liaisons and lawyers who sit in the jury box of the courtroom to connect with the youths as soon as the need arises.
For the youth under the delinquency court's jurisdiction, the average number of days spent in juvenile detention has dropped from 35 days to 20 days. Seventy-three percent of the young people have not been rearrested and 22% remained in contact with a member of the support team even after the case was closed and they were no longer obligated to stay in touch.
That court, however, still processes these young people as criminals.
Allison Newcombe, who has worked in the delinquency court as an attorney from the Alliance for Children's Rights, said a foster care court "would allow us to take a truly victim-centered approach to this problem."
On a referral basis, Newcombe has already begun working with foster youth who have not entered the delinquency system, including a 14-year-old girl whom an adult pimp had kidnapped and sold online and on the street.
Although the girl's resolve to leave the street life sometimes wavers, Newcombe said, "she has explained her college dreams. I see such a desire in her to fully escape."
More than 60% of Los Angeles County's children arrested on suspicion of prostitution had previously come to the attention of the Department of Children and Family Services, and the foster care system's group homes have become one of most frequent gateways to sexual exploitation because predators know these young people have few if any family members looking after them.
"The opportunity for some of our sex-trafficked girls to get involved in recruitment is real, but we can put safeguards in place," Iglesias said.
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.
Domestic violence deaths on the rise
by Paige Jones
Domestic violence-related deaths climbed for the fourth year in a row in Maryland, ranking Frederick County sixth statewide at three deaths, according to recent statistics.
Between July 2013 and June 2014, 54 people died as a result of domestic violence in the state, including two adults and an infant living in Frederick County, according to statistics released earlier this month by the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence, the state domestic violence coalition that aims to raise awareness and provide resources.
Benyam “Ben” Asefa, 40, shot his wife, Barbara Giomarelli, 40, and their 3-month-old son, Samuel, Asefa, on Nov. 20, 2013, in their Lake Linganore home. Asefa then turned the gun on himself.
The couple's 5-year-old daughter, who was taking a bath upstairs, was the sole survivor.
Frederick County's three domestic violence-related deaths between July 2013 and June 2014 constitute the sixth-highest number in the state as Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties topped the list with 12 and 11 deaths, respectively.
Harford and Montgomery counties also had three domestic violence-related deaths during this period, according to the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence.
The number of domestic violence-related deaths in Maryland has fluctuated since early statistics reported 52 deaths between July 1987 and June 1988. However, the statewide number has steadily increased since 2009 from 38 deaths between July 2009 and June 2010.
“The totals have gone up and down a little bit overall ... but there's generally been a downward trend,” said Michaele Cohen, executive director of the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence.
These numbers not only include victims, but perpetrators as well. Of the 54 people who died as a result of domestic violence in the last reporting period, 37 were victims and 17 were perpetrators. Police killed three of the 17 perpetrators, and the remaining 14 committed murder-suicide, the statistics state.
“We tried to put that in context ... tried to really explain who killed these victims,” Cohen said. “We wanted to make it clear what the dynamic is and what's going on.”
Cohen said 24 of the 37 victims were women, and all were killed by an intimate partner. Of the 12 male victims who died as a result of domestic violence, seven were killed by an intimate partner. The remaining five were killed by a girlfriend's ex-boyfriend, an intimate partner's husband, an ex-wife's boyfriend and a stepfather, respectively, the statistics state.
“It's still much more lethal in terms of women instead of men,” Cohen said.
In Frederick County, the number of domestic-related deaths peaked at six deaths between July 2009 and June 2010 before dropping to zero the following reporting period. The three deaths between July 2013 and June 2014 represent a small increase in the past two years, which had one and zero deaths, respectively.
Michelle Pentony, a crisis services director with Heartly House, a nonprofit that helps those affected by sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, attributed Frederick County's relatively low domestic violence-related deaths to countywide use of the Lethality Assessment Program.
Nicknamed LAP, the program allows first responders, health care providers, advocates and other community professionals to assess a person's risk of being seriously hurt or killed by an intimate partner.
“I think because we aggressively embraced this program is one reason those numbers have been so low in the Frederick community over the past few years,” Pentony said.
Between July 1, 2013, and June 30, 2014, Frederick County law enforcement, health care providers and advocates used LAP to determine that 916 people were in significant danger of being killed, Pentony said. However, she said some people could have been screened two or three times during that time period.
Pentony also noted the “team-oriented” spirit of Frederick County first responders, health care providers and advocates contributed to the county's effort to assess past domestic violence-related deaths and prevent future ones.
The Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence is working to pass legislation that would expand the services available and people covered in a protective order.
One bill under consideration in Annapolis is aimed toward allowing judges to offer further relief beyond those listed for a person pursuing a protective order. Another bill would expand those eligible to pursue a protective order to include people in a dating relationship, according to Cohen.
“We're always trying to strengthen (protective orders) ... because people know about it, they utilize it and it works,” she said.
Child abuse deaths are a public health issue, says federal commission meeting in Portland
by Amy Wang
Members of a federal commission heard state and national-level testimony in Portland Thursday on how to better meet the needs of children at risk for being abused or neglected, with the ultimate goal of providing policy recommendations for the president's fiscal 2016 budget.
The Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities, an agency established in 2012 to develop a national strategy around the issue, is meeting in Oregon in part because the state is working to address the topic within a broad public health frame, rather than as an isolated problem, said Commissioner Susan Dreyfus, president and CEO of the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities and former secretary of Washington's Department of Social and Health Services.
Dreyfus said in an interview that Oregon and Washington are "two bellwether states looked to nationally" for their multi-agency approaches to improving the welfare of children. "Simply thinking that we're going to (reduce deaths) through Child Protective Services alone would be silliness," she said, adding that at least half of the children who die from abuse or neglect are not in the child welfare system.
"It is a larger public health issue," Dreyfus said.
Jennifer Devlin, a media specialist for the commission, said it also chose to meet in Oregon because of its ties to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, the lead Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, which shares oversight of the commission. In a commentary published Thursday on GoLocalPDX, Wyden also touted Oregon's multidisciplinary approach to the problem.
According to the Oregon Department of Human Services, 10 Oregon children died from abuse or neglect in 2013, the most recent year for which data are available. That's the lowest number of child abuse and neglect deaths in Oregon in the past five years. DHS recorded 13 child abuse and neglect deaths in 2009, 22 in 2010, 19 in 2011 and 17 in 2012.
Here are seven takeaways from parts of Thursday's session.
1. Twenty years after the publication of a 300-page federal report titled " A Nation's Shame: Fatal Child Abuse and Neglect in the United States," some of its findings "remain challenges," said JooYuen Chang, associate commissioner of the Children's Bureau within the federal Department of Health and Human Services. Most notably, federal and state agencies still don't have a clear picture of the scope and nature of fatalities caused by child abuse and neglect, she said.
2. The child welfare field is divided on how best to assess and direct workers' productivity and efficiency. That has direct consequences for children who are abused or neglected. "So often when we hear about child deaths we hear about workload," said Cassie Statuto Bevan, a child welfare researcher at the University of Pennsylvania who sits on the federal commission. "Is there more that's needed to get underneath this issue? Because it comes up again and again (after a child's death), that workers have too high a caseload."
3. Oregon has been successfully reducing its child welfare caseloads, according to Ryan Vogt, assistant administrator at DHS. After multiple surveys of child welfare case workers, the department added more positions to address inefficiency and burnout, among other issues. "Turnover has gone down as we have increased our staffing - people are starting to feel this job is more doable," Vogt told the commission.
4. Child welfare workers often aren't sufficiently equipped for their jobs. Joan Levy Zlotnik, director of the Social Work Policy Institute, testified that despite a public perception that child welfare workers receive specialized training, fewer than 40 percent hold bachelor's or master's degrees in social work. She said many workers also lack training to deal with substance abuse, maternal depression and other situations that put children at risk for abuse or neglect. "If we want to keep children safe, we want to make sure we're keeping the child welfare workers supported as well," she said.
5. There isn't enough research or data on child abuse and neglect deaths or on related issues, such as the child welfare profession. This was a common theme among those who testified Thursday. Myles Edwards, an independent consultant, remarked at one point, "What we've got is accidental circumstances where numbers come together."
6. Accountability and collaboration are key to reducing child abuse and neglect deaths. Bevan said that when a child dies, he or she doesn't fall through the cracks of the system but "through someone's fingers." Zlotnik said that investigating individual deaths in detail will shed light on where overall practices need to change. "We have to look at it from the broader system model ... how agencies work together," she said.
7. A child abuse prevention effort in Oregon is among four multi-agency projects under the umbrella of the Quality Improvement Center on Early Childhood, itself a partnership of three national children's organizations. The "Fostering Hope" project in Salem and McMinnville is led by Catholic Community Services in collaboration with nine other agencies. Its goal is to reduce child maltreatment and the number of children living in foster care by 20 percent in three high-poverty neighborhoods.
Children's shelter employees explain how to spot child abuse
by Lauren Bradley
MISSOULA, Mont. -- In light of recent high profile child abuse cases in Western Montana, NBC Montana waned to know how to detect child abuse and how to report it.
Deboruah Madonna has worked with Watson Children's Shelter in Missoula for 27 years. When it come to child abuse she's seen it all.
Madonna said the kids who go to the shelter are severe child abuse case. The shelter provides relief for children who are abandoned or neglected by their caregivers or who suffer from physical emotional or sexual abuse.
"A partnership of raising all of Missoula's Children in that we all need to work together because there are a lot of signs out there for different types of abuse," said Madonna.
Here are are some signs that something isn't right. Physical indicators of abuse include bruising, biting or burn marks. Pay attention to emotional signs or a change in behavior like shying away from adults, disruptive sleeping and eating patterns, frequent bed wetting or night terrors.
For kids under the age of five who don't go to school, their abuse often goes undetected.
"Those young children are often children that don't have a voice and so they rely on people in the community such as their caregivers, their neighbors maybe the mailman," said Madonna.
That's why Madonna touts social responsibility within the community. Madonna said often times the problem with reporting child abuse is the care provider is in denial. She said that's why the community needs to step in.
"If we all work together we could prevent a lot of abuse and maybe even get help before it ever gets to the point that children are begin so severely abused and we have deaths," said Madonna.
So making that phone call and speaking for the voiceless could save a child's life. A life with many years left to be enjoyed rather than endured.
Madonna tells us 14 of the 24 kids at the Watson Children's Shelter in Missoula are there because their parents are drug or substance abusers.
Shelter employees emphasize child abuse reports can be kept confidential. To report abuse call the child abuse hotline at 1-866-820-5437.
When discipline turns into child abuse
SAN ANGELO, TX -- KLST'S Kaitlin Moore covers a special series on "Protecting Your Children." In Texas parents have the legal responsibility to "responsibly discipline" their children. Kaitlin looks at when do parents take discipline too far.
"With moms it's always a million things going on. Your patient level sky rockets."
Mother of two, Tamara Mathis, doesn't believe in yelling or spanking her children, but that many parents can probably relate to moments such as losing their temper.
Tamara Mathis has twins, little girl and boy. She admits it can get crazy at times.
"We do time outs or I take away toys, but its really just redirecting them to something else."
And too often do parents react excessively where discipline turns to abuse.
Belinda Braly is the Director of Family Services at CASA in San Angelo. She describes what constitutes abuse.
"Anything that leaves a mark physically or emotionally. It doesn't necessarily mean that you beat your child to the point of bruising. You could not have left a mark at all but there is still abuse."
Hope House is a program apart of the Children's Advocacy Center that works with abused children in Tom Green County.
Braly says, many parents have their own thoughts and practices of what is appropriate when disciplining their child such as closed hand spanking , verbal, using a belt, time out or even burning their children.
Braly says, "parents do lose control and we talk about that. At what point do you have to take a time out for your self."
Here in the Concho Valley during the fiscal year of 2013, Hope House saw 41 cases of physical abuse.
Braley says there is help for children and parents. The Children's Advocacy Center offers a mentor in home program that works with and gives parents a curriculum to effective discipline their child.
For more information on the services the Children's Advocacy Center offers or if you suspect a child is being abused you are encouraged to call 325-653-4673 or visit their website, www.cactomgreen.org.
After Savile, we must devote our energies to stopping child abuse taking place right now
Ongoing inquiries into decades-past events can only achieve so much
by Mary Deievsky
From the perspective of 2015, the very idea that a prolific sexual predator was ever free to roam pretty much every hospital in the land, but most frequently the very hospital that his money was helping to fund, quite simply beggars belief.
That this individual should also have been one of the most immediately recognisable characters in the country, thanks to his distinctive blond hair-do and his television shows, and had the freedom of the hospital estate for fully two decades, only compounds the incredulity. Rarely has the expression “hiding in plain sight” seemed more apt.
It wasn't that people did not know. It turns out - from the reports published yesterday - that a lot of people knew, and not just those children and young women we now hover between calling “victims” and “survivors”. But two considerations stopped anyone doing anything about it.
The first was the money that Savile shovelled towards his favoured causes, prime among them the spinal injuries unit at Stoke Mandeville hospital, which he pretty much single-handedly put on the map. “Remember, he's a big benefactor,” seemed to be the refrain. No one with the power to do anything wanted to be responsible for sounding an alarm that might lead the source of cash and fame to run dry.
The second consideration, which was at least as significant in militating against action, was the culture of the times. Child abuse, especially sexual abuse, was not talked about. It was routinely denied at every level from the family to public institutions and private corporations. Sexual harassment, let alone abuse, is now a heinous offence.
In part, yes, those children who complained about Savile were simply not believed, presumably because of the mismatch between the “good” Savile and the “bad” Savile. Those who were believed tended to be advised to make themselves scarce or keep quiet. But Savile, like many abusers, targeted those least likely to challenge him; those who, by virtue of their age, their illness or their disability, would offer least resistance.
The latest reports - with more on the horizon - are confidently expected to coax others out of perhaps decades of silence. And with more survivors will come ever more accounts of lives blighted by sexual abuse; ever more phalanxes of lawyers to couch those accusations in official language, and ever more claims against such behemoths as the NHS and the BBC that are deemed both to have shown negligence and to be capable of paying.
Forgive me, but after a good few years of all this, I have lost count of how many inquiries are already in train - or the latest tally of victim/survivors. I do recall, though, that when the Home Secretary named the latest chair of what is now a statutory inquiry into historical child sexual abuse - her third attempt to find someone who was enough of an outsider to carry conviction, while being enough of an insider to possess the necessary credentials - she had had to extend her search halfway round the globe, and the latest estimate suggests the numbers of victims will go into many thousands.
Does this really make sense? Well, I am sorry, but I don't think it does. We know now that beneath his bizarre exterior Jimmy Savile concealed debased intent. We know that he hurt many people, even as he pursued his charitable works. We also know that many more children were harmed by sexual abuse than was imagined, even a decade ago. Social mores in today's Britain are now very different. Sexual predators are still with us, and probably ever will be, but it would be much harder for someone to combine Savile's two identities and get away with it for anything like as long as he did.
There is still room for improvement, of course. As was said yesterday, there are still gaps in hospital security that abusers will know how to squeeze through. A senior doctor was recently convicted of paedophilia at a premier Cambridge hospital over many years. A tutor at the Guildhall School of Music was recently found guilty of raping young women in practice rooms. Where there are opportunities, the perverted will seize them - and create more, as they can.
But is it not time, perhaps, to adopt something akin to a “statute of limitation” on “historical” sexual abuse, admit that some very bad things have happened, encourage as many apologies as are needed, and concentrate instead on the sexual crimes against children that are still going on? How many lawyers will be tied up in the ... inquiry? How many police are employed to comb through statements going back 30, 40 years, and still coming in? How much money is being spent to make us feel bad about ourselves looking back, rather than trying to protect the children who are at risk today and tomorrow?
Of course, some villains will have “got away with it”. But how edifying, and how useful, is it really to see 70 and 80 year-old men go to prison? The number of children in care groomed by gangs in Rochdale, Rotherham and elsewhere illustrates the scale of the problem in the here and now. It is time to recognise that “historical abuse” reflects in large part different times. The money, the police and the lawyers should be directed to the here and now.
Post-Sandusky child protection laws won't work, if state child abuse hotline isn't working well
In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse case, the state Legislature passed 23 new bills aimed at improving protections for children. Some of those laws, including one widening the list of those required to report suspected child abuse, went into effect Dec. 31. Lancaster County Children & Youth Social Service Agency has been deluged with child abuse reports in the past two months.
That Pennsylvania wasn't ready for the new child abuse laws is distressing, because the laws were long overdue.
ChildLine, the state's child abuse registry and hotline, has been swamped by calls since the Sandusky scandal broke.
Caseworkers there had been working overtime even before Jan. 1.
There are too few of them, and the turnover is said to be high, because of the intensity of the work.
Tom Herman, president of Service Employees International Union Local 668, which represents ChildLine caseworkers, fears that “the inadequate addressing of this problem is going to produce a death.”
He says that as of last week, there were 28 caseworkers employed by ChildLine.
There should be at least 50, in his view.
We want people to call in abuse reports to ChildLine; that was the aim of making more people mandatory reporters.
But calls are being dropped and abandoned after lengthy waits. The system is being overwhelmed.
Department of Human Services spokeswoman Kait Gillis told LNP last week that the Wolf administration has “acted swiftly to address the staffing shortfalls.”
And this is promising, but the “time to decide more ChildLine staff was needed was not when they're getting a thousand calls a day,” says Cathleen Palm of The Center for Children's Justice. “It was before they were getting a thousand calls a day.”
These aren't ordinary call center jobs. As Palm says, “You don't just throw someone on ChildLine to start screening reports of abuse or potential abuse of a child.”
And it's not as if we didn't know what was coming. The first of the new child abuse protection laws were passed in December 2013, under the administration of Gov. Tom Corbett.
Lancaster County Children & Youth saw a 77 percent increase in reports of suspected abuse and neglect last month compared to January 2014. Other counties are reporting similarly high numbers.
We understand that these numbers were surprisingly high, but as the saying goes, you plan for the worst, and hope for the best.
The new mandatory reporters include volunteers who regularly accept responsibility for children. Because there hasn't been adequate mandatory reporter training, some of these inexperienced people are calling ChildLine with questions, adding to the call volume.
On Feb. 9, Cathleen Palm and other children's advocates sent a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf and leaders of the General Assembly asking for, among other things, an audit of ChildLine staffing.
Acting DHS Secretary Theodore Dallas outlined the steps the department had taken to address the staffing issues — including redeploying temporary staff — but he sidestepped the issue of an audit.
This audit must happen. The issues plaguing ChildLine need to be explored fully so they can be addressed for the long haul, and not just in a stopgap way.
When the new laws were passed, Palm says, “There should have been a response similar to a natural disaster, with a tactical communications team” delivering a consistent message and keeping everyone accountable.
Instead, she says, “Here we are, implementing 23 new laws, with huge implications for everyone from the Sunday schoolteacher to professionals (in the system) and we're not doing it in a coordinated or accountable way.”
Says Palm: “You feel bad for the counties. You know what's going to happen if they screen a case out too soon, and God forbid, something happens.”
Crystal Natan, executive director of Lancaster County Children & Youth, says her caseworkers now are working eight to 10 hours of weekly overtime.
That's unsustainable, both for the agency's budget and for the morale of Natan's staff. “It takes a toll on caseworkers, this type of work,” she says.
She has gotten permission from the state to hire three additional caseworkers and another supervisor.
The county commissioners approved the county's share of the funding last fall. But the state, which pays for 80 percent of the costs, didn't approve the additional staffing until last month.
And now, it will take at least another month before the positions will be filled.
The Sandusky case was a shameful episode in this commonwealth's history. These new child protection laws are intended to ensure that nothing like it ever happens again.
If the new laws are going to work as intended, we're going to need a fully staffed, well-functioning ChildLine, and enough caseworkers in the counties to investigate child abuse reports.
That's going to require adequate funding in next year's budget, and the same political will it took to pass the new child protection laws in the first place.
For information about the new child protection laws and how to report suspected child abuse: keepkidssafepa.gov
Iowa Senate panel weighs changes in child sex abuse lawsuits
by William Petroski
Victims of child sexual abuse would have more time to file civil lawsuits, and the statute of limitations for child sex crimes would be eliminated, under a bill advanced by an Iowa Senate subcommittee following emotional testimony Thursday.
However, a proposed amendment to Senate File 107 would remove a key provision that says victims of alleged child sexual abuse who are now barred from filing civil lawsuits under Iowa's statute of limitations would be given a three-year window to commence lawsuits.
The bill was sent to the Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee following testimony from three men who spoke of being sexually abused by clergy members as minors.
Bill LaHay, of Des Moines, who participated as an adult in a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles after sexual abuse he experienced as a child, urged lawmakers to open a window for abuse victims to file civil lawsuits. He said it would help restore the balance of justice.
"That window gives daylight," said LaHay, who wiped away tears as he spoke. "Prevention is part of what you want to do with this."
The removal of the window would eliminate some of the most serious concerns about the bill from the Iowa Catholic Conference, which represents the Catholic bishops of Iowa, and the Iowa Association of School Boards. They contend it would be nearly impossible to mount a legal defense against lawsuits involving incidents that occurred perhaps 30 or 40 years ago after witnesses have died and records have been destroyed.
Opening a window for lawsuits in Iowa would likely have its biggest effect on the Catholic Church, which has paid out more than $2.5 billion in damages nationwide because of past incidents involving more than 16,500 victims allegedly abused by religious members.
The Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul filed for bankruptcy in January after the Minnesota Legislature approved the Minnesota Child Victim's Act. The Minnesota law, passed in 2013, opened a three-year window for filing new lawsuits alleging sexual abuse that otherwise would have been barred by the statute of limitations. About 20 alleged victims of clergy abuse have filed civil suits against the Minnesota archdiocese because of the law, and church officials have reportedly received more than 100 notices of potential claims.
Paul Koeniguer, of Des Moines, also urged support for the bill, explaining how he couldn't even acknowledge being sexually abused by a clergy member until he was nearly 50 years old. He said he had been too embarrassed to talk about it with anyone.
Sen. Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, who chaired the subcommittee, thanked the abuse victims and told them not to apologize for their tears. But she said with deadlines for legislative action approaching, she is considering amendments to make progress on a bill that can win approval in the House and Senate and be signed by Gov. Terry Branstad.
"Sometimes we can't get as far as I would like to go," Petersen said. However, she added that she wants to have another conversation with lawmakers about including the open window for lawsuits in the bill.
Sen. Kevin Kinney, D-Oxford, joined Petersen in supporting the bill, but Sen. Julian Garrett, R-Indianola, said afterward he was still struggling to make a decision. He said he greatly sympathizes with abuse victims. But as a lawyer he also recognizes it could be difficult for a church or school to defend itself in a lawsuit alleging wrongdoing that occurred decades ago.
Under current Iowa law, criminal charges must be filed within 10 years after a victim reaches adulthood in cases of first-, second- or third-degree sexual abuse. Under the proposed amendment to the bill, perpetrators of such crimes would never be off the hook.
In addition, the bill says the time for filing a civil lawsuit relating to sexual abuse of a minor would be extended from the current one year after a person turns 18 to a period of 25 years after a person reaches age 18.
Little-Known Laws Help Sex Trafficking Victims Clear Criminal Records
by Carrie Johnson
Advocates for women arrested on prostitution charges want the justice system to adopt a different approach. They say instead of being locked up, many prostitutes should actually be considered victims of human trafficking. And they're starting to offer those women a way to clean up the criminal records left behind.
One of them lives in an apartment not far from Dallas. Inside, a 24-year-old woman pushes up her sleeve to show off a tattoo of a lotus flower. The deep purple ink covers up an older mark.
"If you look closely, you can still see the diamonds," says the woman, whom NPR is not identifying. "So it said M and a P because that's what his name was, and it had a chain of diamonds around it."
M.P. was her pimp. That earlier tattoo: a brand, to show the world she belonged to him. She has another mark on her back, from a different pimp.
"Once they put their name on me, I was their property," she adds.
The woman says she spent her teenage years forced into prostitution. It was brutal.
"My skull has been cracked, all of my ribs, front, have been broken. Black eyes, you know, regular getting beat up," she says.
Those injuries have healed. But she was a convicted prostitute. And that criminal record was harder to get rid of.
"You know, it's not ever going to be forgotten," she says. "I'm not ever going to forget what I've done and what I've gone through. But, at the same time, I don't want it thrown in my face every time I'm trying to seek employment. I don't want to have to explain myself every time."
Recently, with the help of volunteer lawyers and a little-known law, the woman with the flower tattoo convinced a Maryland judge to help, to wipe away her conviction on prostitution charges.
It's a process known as vacatur. And it's now an option in 20 states for people who can persuade a judge that someone forced or coerced them into selling their bodies.
Jessica Emerson is a lawyer who helped the 24-year-old clear her record.
"This is justice," Emerson says. "It's finally giving these individuals their lives back."
Emerson is leading the way in Maryland, where the vacatur law has been on the books for years but, she says, used just twice.
"If you are not addressing their criminal record, you are sending them back out into the world with a bull's-eye on their back," Emerson says. "Because the second they go and try to get a job, the second they try to apply for safe housing, they're going to have a roadblock."
And the pimps use that to their advantage, says Bradley Myles. He leads the Polaris Project, a nonprofit that fights human trafficking.
"Traffickers use the criminalization of a victim as another way to gain power over that victim and remind them of the hopelessness of their road back," Myles says.
Back in Texas, the young woman with the lotus tattoo explains how it all began. She says she was raped by a stranger when she was just 11 years old. For the next two years, she acted out — running away and fighting with her parents. Then one day, she was walking to a friend's house, and a man in a Mercedes waved her over to his car.
"He took me to get my nails done, he took me shopping, I got my hair done and we partied," she recalls. "And he gave me a pill which was Ecstasy. And then he started giving me more pills, then forcing the pills on me, and told me that I wasn't going to be going home."
Eventually, the girl and her pimp were arrested. But police told her mom she might never get back on track.
"I just kept running away and every time I ran away I'd end up in another pimp's arms," the woman with the tattoo says.
Then, four years ago, a police detective arrived at her hotel room near Baltimore, Md., part of a sting operation targeting pimps and prostitutes working near the airport. It wasn't her first arrest. But it was, she says, the first time a police officer treated her like a person.
"He told me that he saw something in my eyes and started asking me about my life," she says, "and I started telling him."
That man is Detective Dan Dickey in Anne Arundel County, Md. He's a member of a federal task force that finds and prosecutes sex trafficking.
"We actually came across this case by just doing surveillance on a local hotel," Dickey says.
After the arrest, he recalls, "I went and visited her, had a conversation with her and then actually called [a person at] one of our nonprofits that we work with and told her, 'This girl's in jail; she's willing to hear what you have to say.' "
Someone from that local group talked with the young woman. They gave her a place to stay after she got out of jail and connected her with the help she needed to get away from her pimp for good.
Eventually she moved back to Texas, to be near her family. She had a baby boy last year. Now she's trying to get back into school.
"I want to provide my son with a good life," she says. "It might not be the most extravagant. I don't want to be rich. I just want to live a better life than I have lived."
Taking prostitution charges off her permanent record was a big step in that direction.
Denver and the West
Jefferson County is battling sex trafficking, one child at a time
by Jesse Paul
GOLDEN — About 60 Jefferson County children — most of them girls — are either being sold for sex or at high risk of becoming sex-trafficking victims, the county district attorney's office says.
Those kids are being exploited not far from the public's view through Internet advertising sites and in motel rooms lining busy thoroughfares. Young girls living on the streets, many of whom are runaways from abusive homes and whose numbers are growing, have become "walking targets."
"That's unconscionable," said District Attorney Peter Weir. "We have an absolute responsibility to do what we can on behalf of those kids."
Weir's office last month created the first-of-its-kind unit for a Colorado district attorney's office aimed at helping at-risk children before they become victims. The office is partnering with police and representatives from the county's department of human services to battle child sex trafficking one case at a time.
Many law enforcement agencies in Colorado and across the country try to battle sex trafficking. What sets Jefferson County's unit apart from others is its progressive identification tool and a "team-based" approach of equal parts prevention and prosecution.
"We recognized that law enforcement, to a large extent, was not aware of the extent of the problem and did not have the resources to dedicate to addressing these issues," Weir said in an interview last week. "It does take some special expertise to investigate and some special expertise to prosecute."
The unit wants to set an example in Colorado at a time when trafficking is becoming more recognized and after new statutes went into effect in July aligning state laws with federal ones. Weir's office played a prominent role in the writing of those new statutes.
Too often, those trying to stop human trafficking struggle with poor interagency communication.
"I think what's great about the entire effort is that it is meant to be comprehensive," said Amanda Finger, executive director of the Denver-based Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking. "Jefferson County is really piloting this to see how it will work, to see how it will support youth and to see if it is something that other counties throughout the state that can model."
Focus on children
Specifically, the initiative means examining the problem from a new angle.
"They are really, really trying to understand vulnerability and what vulnerability looks like from a county and from a perpetrator's side," Finger said.
Human trafficking is broken into two main subsets: sex and labor. Both types have been reported in Colorado, and both encompass what activists call "modern-day slavery." They are broadly defined as anyone kept against their will through force, fraud or coercion, whether physical or emotional.
The Jefferson County initiative is training its focus on sex trafficking — specifically of children — based on the frequency of what law enforcement has been encountering. So far, the unit consists of a deputy district attorney, an investigator and support employees.
"I'm pretty much taking any case that comes my way at this point," said Katie Kurtz, the deputy district attorney heading the unit.
One common misconception about sex trafficking is that it's a problem bred from elsewhere that permeates communities. That's not so, prosecutors say.
"These kids were all born and raised in Jefferson County," Kurtz said. "They can come from a single-parent home or a dual-parent home. They can come from an abusive background."
In one case, county prosecutors learned that a girl in her mid-teens had been pimped by eight men.
"We had an offender recently who we interviewed, and he was talking about how another pimp was grooming him to pimp this girl out," Kurtz said. "It was just so eerie how described it. He said, 'You pick the girls who no one cares about. You pick that 12-year-old girl whose parents aren't around. If they like to drink alcohol, you get them hooked on marijuana. If they are already smoking marijuana, you transition them to methamphetamine.' "
The new unit is trying to identify children who are at-risk before they fall into that life, singling out kids who are, among other risk factors, frequent runaways, sexually explicit online, truant, homeless or from unstable families.
"I can recognize a kid and say, 'I think they are being trafficked,' " Kurtz said. "But unless I'm sharing that information with human services, with schools, with the other professionals involved in this child's life, we aren't doing anyone a service."
Prosecutors believe it's those other adults who ultimately will make the difference, helping kids who fall prey and are on the cusp find the help they need through a church, a rehabilitation program or even just a stable home. Ultimately, after vulnerable children are identified, Weir's office sees public safety nets as the way to save them.
"For a lot of these girls, they know how to sell their bodies — and that's all they know," Lexi Ellis, who works at Denver Street School, said at a county task force meeting last week.
Preventing children from reaching that point is key, officials say.
"In Jefferson County, I think we need to set our standards higher and really look at what we are doing for these kids," said Lynn Johnson, director of the county's human services department.
Heitkamp relentless in passing sex trafficking legislation
by Kevin Wallevand
Washington, DC (WDAY/WDAZ TV) - The movement to shine the spotlight on Sex Trafficking here in North Dakota and elsewhere is gaining traction. Especially in the nation's capital.
That's where WDAY 6 Reporter Kevin Wallevand joined us live Thursday night after spending the day with one of the leaders of this issue in Washingon DC.
Senator Heidi Heitkamp has been working since she came to DC on the issue of trafficking. And she told us today that she is starting to see wheels turning.
We met with Heitkamp on Capitol Hill on Thursday. The same day the Senate Judiciary Committee marked up, and then passed her sex trafficking bill. The full Senate will vote on it soon.
Since the explosion of the problem out in Western North Dakota, Heitkamp has been looking at providing more resources to law enforcement on the federal, state and local level to combat trafficking.
She is also pushing for after care for victims of sex trafficking.
Teaming up with other prominent lawmakers, many of them women, Heitkamp has been relentless in pushing the Senate to approve legislation aimed at preventing and prosecuting, as well as healing.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp/North Dakota, "We're seeing states already move to safe harbor bills. And that's being promoted not only by victim advocates but by law enforcement and prosecutors because as you know, and as you learned, you know, if a woman believes that she's going to get charged at the same time, that the person who has trafficked her gets charged, there isn't much incentive for her to be an available witness or to participate in the prosecution."
No date has yet been set for a vote on that Sex Trafficking bill in the Senate.
Officials arrest men for sexual assault, holding woman captive for months
NORTH COAST, Calif. – Sonoma County authorities have arrested three men they say are responsible for holding a 22-year-old woman hostage for months and brutally sexually and physically assaulting her.
On Wednesday, detectives from the Sonoma County Sheriff's Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Unit arrested Santa Rosans Jose Angel Barajas-Mireles and Guillermo Crestino Avina, both age 34, and Jaime Gomez Cisneros, 52, of Watsonville, according to a report from Sgt. Cecile Focha.
Focha said the agency's detectives, after an exhaustive investigation, developed probable cause to believe that the man who masterminded the criminal acts and committed the sexual assault crimes was Barajas-Mireles, the resident of the main house at 3555 Stony Point Road in Santa Rosa.
They authored a warrant for Barajas-Mireles's arrest. Focha said that, because Barajas-Mireles was a flight risk, the judge increased the bail amount to $6 million.
On Wednesday at about 4 p.m. three men came to the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office to retrieve property seized during the search warrant service last Thursday. They were detained as they approached the building, Focha said.
Detectives subsequently arrested Barajas-Mireles, Avina and Cisneros, according to Focha.
Barajas-Mireles is charged with aggravated sodomy, aggravated oral copulation and aggravated rape. Focha said additional charges may be added as the investigation unfolds.
Focha said Avina and Cisneros were charged with false imprisonment and as an accessory to Barajas-Mireles' criminal actions by aiding and abetting her captivity. Avina also had the charge of violation of probation. The two could also face additional charges as the investigation continues.
Detectives learned that the victim had been held against her will, threatened and brutalized since sometime during the holidays, until her escape several days ago, Focha said.
Out of an overwhelming sense of fear of retaliation, coupled with the traumatic events she endured, she initially stated to law enforcement that she had been kidnapped at gunpoint, according to Focha.
Focha said detectives determined that Barajas-Mireles orchestrated the events that led to the victim being held captive on the property on Stony Point Road.
Based on the investigation, investigators believe Barajas-Mireles is responsible for much of the sexual and physical assaults. Focha said Cisneros and Avina were responsible for guarding the victim and preventing her from leaving the compound.
The three men were booked into Sonoma County Jail. Barajas-Mireles bail was set at $6 million, with bail for Avina and Cisneros set at $11,000 each, Focha said. They are due to be arraigned on Friday afternoon.
The victim is safe at an undisclosed location, Focha said.
Focha said the investigation remains open and active. Additional information will be released when it will not jeopardize the case.
Anyone with information pertaining to this case is encouraged to call the Investigations Tip Line at 707-565-2185. You can leave a message anytime, day or night, and remain anonymous.
How Colton's Law is being created to protect Texas' most vulnerable children
by Elizabeth Saab
Colton Turner's life was cut tragically short in September of 2014. The toddler was a victim of child abuse.
The Child Protective Services report, released after his remains were found, shows during two of their investigations, the agency couldn't find him or his mother, Meagan Work.
But she did have plenty of run-ins with the law. Could one of those have saved the child's life?
We uncovered new video from last February from a Milam County traffic stop. A third CPS case was still open at the time.
Milam County Sheriff David Greene cannot believe they had the child within their reach, “I can't fathom doing this to a child.”
Especially he says, now that he knows drugs were in the car. “It makes you sick at your stomach, it will make you have some sleepless nights.”
Work and others were on their way to her mother's funeral when they were pulled over. Colton was in the car too. The group was held and searched for two hours before arresting one of the passengers.
“There was a lady in the vehicle that claimed the drugs were hers so she was arrested and they were allowed to go on their way,” Greene says.
While this third CPS case was open, Work had fallen off their radar at some point. With no system in place for the agency to flag her, Milam County Sheriff's were in the dark.
“I wish she had been flagged. I mean it wouldn't have been a problem to pick her up and take her or hold her until CPS could get there and talk to them,” says Sheriff Greene.
He says he wished he knew, “We have a good relationship with CPS here. They have some excellent workers. They work very close with us any time we need them and it would have just been a matter of a call to get them to come out.”
CPS would see Colton alive for the last time a few weeks after that Milam County stop. “I'm frustrated that no one let us know there was CPS was going on , that no one let us know that he was un-locatable during times that he was right there in my kitchen,” says Colton's great aunt, Raquel Helfrich.
Her niece Meagan cut all ties with her family after bruised photos of Colton surfaced in May. That's when Helfrich mounted a desperate plea to find the child, including multiple calls to CPS. Those would launch the agency's fourth and final investigation.
Today, Helfrich is still reeling from the tragic loss, “He wasn't within our grasp to protect him once we knew he was being abused.”
According to Texas' “Family Code”, CPS does have to notify law enforcement in cases of abuse and neglect. And vice-versa, local law enforcement agencies that take an abuse or neglect report, must notify CPS. Records show, in Colton's case though when he was seen by CPS and those notices were filed, they fell through the cracks too.
Work's family had gone to several local law enforcement agencies but without a location, they were turned away
Even though she was dodging her family, Meagan took Colton to see his father. His grandmother, Kim Vidure remembers that day vividly, “When we did get to see Colton, which was very little, he was always happy. We didn't see any marks on him.”
Video shows a laughing child enjoying the outdoors. Vidure says when the two were there that afternoon, she had no idea that Work was on the run or that her family had called CPS. The two families didn't even know each other.
"They didn't know how to contact us to let us know,” she explains.
Struggling through her tears, Vidure is still in shock, she would be the last responsible adult to see the child alive.
“I just wish we would have known what was going on."
But it seems no one else knew either, even though the 20-year-old was still on probation for a 2013 assault charge. Was that another missed opportunity to track her down?
“It's vital when CPS takes months to locate a child, it's vital that law enforcement is the one looking because they can locate them so much faster,” says Helfrich.
She tried to get law enforcement involved but without Work's location, she hit a wall at every turn.
Then in August, two weeks before Colton's body was found, Work and her boyfriend Michael Turner were pulled over, where he was arrested for a probation violation. But Leander police had no way of knowing CPS was looking for Work or her son.
Looking back, Helfrich says, she believes if they did, Colton could have been found sooner.
“Putting him in that database would have had them looking for him. Law enforcement looking for him immediately,” she believes.
But they didn't until one of Meagan's friends took the bruised photos of Colton to the Cedar Park Police Department, and then lead them to Work. The child's remains were found within 48 hours.
Publicly her friends claimed they no idea where she was hiding. But in emails given to us by Helfrich, those friends admitted to knowing her whereabouts all along.
“I do not see how anyone could know the things that they knew and not do anything and [then] help her.”
Colton Turner's mother was, like so many others, hiding from CPS. Last year, the agency was forced to close 2,493 cases in Texas as “Unable To Locate” because the families couldn't be found.
The head of that agency, John Specia, says he wants his workers to have eyes on every child under their care, and he will go to great lengths to make that happen.
“We need to use law enforcement, hospitals, whatever resource we can use to find those families and find out if they need help,” he said.
But there could be thousands more “un-locatable” children at risk. Calls made to CPS that don't have important information, like location, are labeled “Priority None” or “PN”. Their handbook says specifically, those types of calls should be passed on for further review. But a breakdown of data from 2014 shows none of the 7,439 "PN" calls were ever forwarded.
Colton's grandmother is trying to put her grief aside to speak up for Texas' most vulnerable children.
“I want something done. I want to be able to save these children, they need help this has got to stop,” she said.
She is joining forces with his great aunt Raquel to fight for legislation in his memory to save those who need it the most, “this common cause is in his honor. It's in his name it's his legacy. It is his justice we stand together in that because that's all we have left to give Colton,” Helfrich said.
CPS has admitted to failing Colton Turner. Since the little boys' death, they have made sweeping changes but the toddler has also inspired legislation that could prevent thousands of other Texas children from suffering the same fate.
Helfrich says, they will see to it, through “Colton's Law” that this never happens again.
“You just don't ever want another family to go through it.”
Vidure agrees, “I want Colton here but he can't be but with this law, we can save other children.”
For the past five months, FOX 7's Elizabeth Saab has highlighted the toddler's family's relentless push for the bill. Cutting through layers of red tape. It would require law enforcement involvement in CPS cases where children can't be found.
“The police and DPS will be able to know immediately that the person perhaps they come in contact with is responsible for a child that is “unlocatable” so this should make a big difference,” says Georgetown State Representative Marsha Farney.
She represents Milam, Burnet, and parts of Williamson County. So much of this happened in her back yard. She says that's why she's sponsoring the bill.
“Colton's life matters and because of Colton we want to make a difference in the lives of other children so it doesn't happen to anyone else.”
She didn't realize there wasn't already a bridge between CPS and Law Enforcement in these kinds of cases.
“I thought that this was already in place so I was surprised to see that there was this gaping hole in essence children are the ones who are falling through.”
Sheriff David Greene says had it been in effect last February, it could have saved Colton's life.
“I have no doubt if that law had been in effect, this law, the boy would probably be alive now.”
It seems the man in charge of CPS would support it too.
“It is not just our responsibility. It is a community responsibility and we will obviously follow any legislation that is passed that helps us find these kids,” said Commissioner Specia.
Finally paving the way to better protect the unprotected.
Child abuse center seeing uptick in victims after molestation arrests
"Right now it seems to be a little bit higher of incidents of new children coming in, so we are a little bit busier right now," says Thoresen.
by Samantha Cortese
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. - The case of a Desert Hot Springs school-aide who is accused of child pornography and molestation is sparking conversation about child abuse among parents and kids.
On average, the Barbara Sinatra Children's Center in Rancho Mirage treats one sexually or physically abused child every single day, or 30 new children a month.
"Right now it seems to be a little bit higher of incidents of new children coming in, so we are a little bit busier right now," says the center's Director and Executive Officer, John Thoresen. "Lately because of the news," he continues, "we are seeing more incidents of boys coming in, also. It's awareness and I think hopefully it's parents talking to their children, "Here's what's going on, please tell us if you've ever experienced anything like this," and that's what's happening."
While Thoresen can't talk about the specifics regarding the case of John Yoder or two others accused in the child pornography ring, he says there is a clear correlation between the timing of the news coverage and the increase in children visiting the center.
Law enforcement officers and detectives often tell Thoresen they are thankful for a resource in the facility called the "Child Observation Room". In the room, investigators can record activity and conversation in the adjoining room -- the therapy room. The therapy room is a welcoming, bright room with couches and artwork on the walls to make children feel comfortable, but it's also outfitted with surveillance cameras and a one-way mirror. The interviews and evidence gathered here is permissible in court.
"The real goal is to make sure, or to help so that child doesn't have to go to court," says Thoresen. "So, if that interview is taped, that can be used as evidence and the child won't have to go back and testify, because that also can be a traumatic experience."
Here are a few red flags of abuse to look for in your child:
Lack of eye contact: The victim feels like they are hiding a secret.
A slumped posture: An effort to hide his or her body because they feel ashamed
Really long or really short showers: It's a result of feeling dirty inside.
Distant or angry: The perpetrator often turns the child against his or her family.
Drug or alcohol use: A way to numb painful memories or shame.
Thoresen also says to be suspicious of any gifts your child is bringing home. Many times, abusers will groom their victims with gifts like toys or sporting equipment to earn their trust and "friendship".
"It is extremely rare for a child to lie about sexual abuse. That just doesn't happen. Once it comes out and they start talking, they tell the truth," Thoresen says adamantly.
The Barbara Sinatra Children's Center is located on the Eisenhower Medical Center Campus in Rancho Mirage.
No family is ever turned away due to inability to pay.
Conference aims to prevent child abuse in metro
Metro residents have until 10 a.m. Thursday to register for a three-day conference next week.
Gene Klein, with Project Harmony, said that culture sexualizes children, which is just one of the topics that'll be addressed at the Speaking of Children conference.
Experts will also discuss ways to stop child pornography, child distribution and child sexual abuse.
Klein said most of the children that Project Harmony works with are victims of sexual abuse.
"We're seeing an increasing number of those kids being younger," Klein said. "About 75 percent of the kids are under the age of 12. More than half of those kids are under the age of 6."
Klein said about 80 percent of children are sexually abused by someone they know.
The conference starts Wednesday, March 4, at the Embassy Suites hotel in La Vista. Anyone can attend, but you need to register.
Bill to create child sexual abuse task force passes House
by Owen Wells
House Bill 2527 also known as Merryn's Law passed with a unanimous vote on Feb. 18.
The bill would create the Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children and is named after a survivor of child sex abuse, Erin Merryn. The task force would consist of, among many others, senators and delegates who serve on their respective Eduaction and Health and Human Resources Committees along with a survivor of child sexual abuse who would be appointed by the governor.
According the bill, the task force would, “…make recommendations for decreasing incidence of sexual abuse of children in West Virginia. In making those recommendations, the task force shall gather information regarding sexual abuse of children throughout the state, receive related reports and testimony from individuals, state and local agencies, community-based organizations, and other public and private organizations, create goals for state education policy (and for areas of policy) that would prevent sexual abuse of children and submit a report with its recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature.”
The task force would also development recommendations to help increase cooperation between state agencies, local governments, schools and communities.
“Our children are our most valuable asset. They are our future. Protecting our children from harm is and will continue to be one of our highest priorities,” stated Del. Amanda Padson (R-Monongalia) Chairperson of the House Education Committee stated and lead sponsor of the bill.
Other sponsors of the bill include Del. Justin Marcum (D-Mingo), Del. Kayla Kessinger (R-Fayette), Del. Rupert Phillips Jr. (D-Logan), Del. Jill Upson (R-Jefferson) and Linda Goode Phillips (D-Wyoming).
Empowering Kids Against Sexual Abuse
by Burt Mummolo
It may look like a simple puppet show, but when children finish watching The Kids on the Block, they're armed with skills to help them confront complex issues.
"Things like physical abuse, or sexual abuse or bullying," said Desiree Doherty, Executive Director of The Parent Child Center of Tulsa.
The Parent Child Center of Tulsa reached 45,000 children with the program last year, and now, a state senator is hoping to empower all of the state's children with something called Erin's Law.
It's legislation named after Erin Merryn, a sexual abuse survivor who's championed prevention curriculum that teaches kids to recognize personal boundaries, skills to avoid abuse, and encourage them to report it. 20 states have already passed it into law. Could Oklahoma be next?
"Today there's no mandate that I'm aware of for the schools to provide prevention education," said Doherty.
The Parent Child Center has been doing their program for 15 years, and often after the show is over...
"A child will say later to a teacher or maybe a nurse or a counselor at the school they will sometimes share, 'You know that thing that the puppet talked about, well that's been happening to me,'" said Doherty.
Education and empowerment, giving kids the tools put a stop to the abuse.
"We at Parent Child Center think that prevention education is critically important," said Doherty.
Savile 'abused 63 people at Stoke Mandeville Hospital'
It's been found Father Savile's reputation as a "sex pest" was an "open secret" among some staff - but allegations probably did not reach managers.
The formal complaint - made in 1977 by a victim's father - should have been reported to police, it added.
A separate report said "elements of the Savile story" could happen again.
The Stoke Mandeville report said the victims, abused from 1968-92, were aged eight to 40.
It also found:
Savile had "virtually unrestricted access" to clinical areas and patients during the 1970s and 80s
several sex abuse claims were made against him from 1972-85, to different staff members, but only one was a "formal complaint"
that complaint by a father "should have led to Savile's suspension from the hospital and a formal police report being made"
there was probably no "hospital-wide intelligence" on Savile
information known to junior staff and middle managers was "probably filtered out" before reaching senior managers
over the past 40 years Stoke Mandeville has employed three doctors who have "subsequently been convicted of sex crimes against patients"
Dr Androulla Johnstone, the report's lead investigator, said the victims were "patients, staff, visitors, volunteers and charity fundraisers" - with almost half aged under 16 and 10 under the age of 12.
"Around one third of his attacks were against patients, just over 90% of the victims were female," she said.
"The sexual abuse ranged from inappropriate touching to rape.
"Savile was an opportunistic predator who could also on occasions show a high degree of pre-meditation when planning attacks on his victims."
Million March Against Child Abuse
by Malorie Maddox
On April 11, during National Child Abuse Prevention month, Americans all across the nation will walk to raise awareness of child abuse, child sex trafficking, crimes against our children and to ask lawmakers for tougher sentencing.
Please join children's organizations, churches, college associations, child advocates and all Americans in the streets for the 3rd annual Million March Against Child Abuse.
More than 75 cities and 24 states are participating.
Million March Facebook page
Kentucky Supreme Court Reviewing Teen Sex Offender Case
by Gary Gately
Should a 15-year-old boy who twice had sex with his 13-year-old girlfriend, then sexted her nude photos of himself be prosecuted, spend 11½ months in juvenile detention and be placed on a juvenile sex offender registry?
That question lies at the heart of a case before the Kentucky Supreme Court.
In 2011, the boy, B.H., then in eighth grade, and his seventh-grade girlfriend, C.W., had been dating 1½ years when they had consensual sex at her house in 2011. He texted her two nude photos of himself, and she texted him one of herself.
The girl's mother discovered the photos on her daughter's phone, then found out she was having sex with B.H. The mother then had a warrant for the boy issued by the county attorney's office in Woodford County near Lexington, Ky. He was charged with possessing matter portraying sexual performance by a minor, a felony, and sexual misconduct, a misdemeanor.
B.H.'s parents did not bring charges against her. Only C.W. was charged in the case.
“If the [sexting] law is interpreted in the fashion that the commonwealth has presented in this particular case, given current statistics, about a third of all youth in America engage in this sort of behavior and could be charged with a felony sex offense,” said assistant public advocate John Wampler, who is representing B.H.
In a legal brief, Wampler argues that because only B.H. and not C.W. was charged, the boy was denied equal protection guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.
"There is no dispute that B.H. and C.W. had sex, and it is clear that the sex was consensual," Wampler wrote. "Yet B.H. is painted as villain, C.W. as victim."
The Kentucky attorney general's office countered in a brief that penalizing only the boy was justifiable because he had initiated the sexual behavior and he had a prior indecent exposure offense.
But the previous offense, in which the boy exposed himself to a neighbor, should have no bearing on the constitutional issues in the current case, Wampler said.
He contends B.H.'s due process and privacy rights were also violated.
In court papers, the attorney general's office maintained that by pleading guilty, B.H. ceded his right to challenge the constitutionality of his conviction — a claim Wampler disputes.
The attorney general's office declined to comment on the case beyond its brief.
In Kentucky, nobody under 16 can legally consent to sex.
Wampler said the legislature did not intend to stipulate that those under 16 are too immature to engage in sex with an adult but at the same time hold them criminally responsible for sex with another juvenile.
The Philadelphia-based, nonprofit Juvenile Law Center and the nonprofit Children's Law Center of Covington, Ky., filed a friend-of-the-court brief in which they argued sexual explorations for teens are normal.
“Criminalizing these sexual explorations among consenting teens conflicts with youths' sexual development,” the brief stated. “Moreover, it is inconsistent with the law.”
The brief cited recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, including the landmark 2012 Miller v. Alabama decision, in which the high court found adolescents' “lack of maturity and underdeveloped sense of responsibility lead to recklessness, impulsivity, and heedless risk-taking.”
In their brief, the youth law centers said: “Sexual experimentation fits into these behaviors. Learning to think of oneself as a sexual being and dealing with sexual feelings is an important part of adolescence.”
Marsha Levick, deputy director and chief counsel of the Juvenile Law Center, said in an interview, “It's consensual conduct so we can as parents be troubled, we can judge, we can lecture our children about engaging in risky behavior. But the notion that this is something that we should be prosecuting in juvenile court as if it were criminal behavior certainly strikes us at the Juvenile Law Center as really silly, frankly.”
Speaking of B.H., she said: “It doesn't make any sense. He is not a criminal. He is exploring his own sexuality, as an adolescent.”
Levick noted required treatment for juvenile sex offenders can often be traumatic and include self-disparaging and psychologically damaging statements. In their brief, the two youth law centers pointed to treatment programs in which youths were required to make statements such as: “I am a pedophile and not fit to live in human society” and “I can never be cured.”
And subjecting teens who engage in consensual sexual behavior to sex offender treatment could lead to psychological damage, increase the likelihood of future criminality and of victimhood by exposing them to more serious adolescent offenders, the brief says.
B.H., who is now 19, originally pleaded guilty in 2011 in Woodford District Court, and the sexting charge was amended from a felony to a misdemeanor attempted sexting charge.
After appeals to the Woodford Circuit Court and the state Court of Appeals failed, B.H. appealed to the state Supreme Court.
State Dept. official allegedly sought sex with minor
A senior State Department official who oversees counter terrorism programs was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of soliciting sex from a minor, reports CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan.
The department's director of counterterrorism was charged with one count of attempting to solicit sex from a juvenile, and spent the night in Washington, D.C. jail.
According to police, Daniel Rosen, 44, was taken into custody at home after exchanging multiple online messages with an undercover detective from their child exploitation unit. The detective was operating a sting operation to bust online predators.
Police say they plan to transfer him to the Fairfax County jail in coming days.
While the case goes through the courts, the State Department put Rosen on administrative leave and revoked his security clearance.
The department isn't releasing any details of the case, but Rosen's job was to run a program to counter terror financing and violent extremism. That role gave him access to U.S. intelligence on issues of national security.
There was no immediate word on whether the suspect attempted to use any government computers to solicit minors.
Domestic violence a leading cause of homelessness for women
by DK McDONALD
BULLHEAD CITY — Are you safe?
The question is one of the first that WestCare Program Director Cheryl DeBatt asks when a victim of domestic violence calls and asks for help.
“They cry out for help and we do our best to help them and place them,” said DeBatt. “Domestic violence is probably one of the most difficult, challenging things there is. Across the country, it is a leading cause of homelessness.”
The link between domestic violence and homelessness is well documented. One study found that 92 percent of homeless women have experienced severe physical or sexual abuse in their lives and 63 percent of those women have been adult victims of violence by their partners.
According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, it is not because homeless women are more likely to be victims of domestic violence but rather that experiencing domestic violence or sexual assault often forces women and children into homelessness.
“Women may have left in the middle of the night with nothing but her kids and the clothes on their backs,” said Stacey Stutsman, WestCare domestic violence systems advocate. “For many, they have already been isolated from their families, have no access to the family income and don't or haven't worked outside the home in a long time.”
“When women leave an abusive relationship, they've often attempted to leave multiple times,” said DeBatt. “I think the average is eight or nine attempts. For many women, they initially go back because they have nowhere else to go. The question is when they go, where do they go?”
For victims of domestic abuse in Mohave County, the answer of where to go is often WestCare Foundation, which offers programs and services across a continuum of health and human services, including the issues of domestic violence and substance abuse.
“Last year I assisted 212 people out of this office,” said DeBatt. “Stacey worked with just over 400 victims of domestic violence. ...
“When it comes to domestic violence, we deal with both the victim and the perpetrator. We offer classes for the perpetrator and all kinds of services for victims, including the safehouse which is a 24-bed shelter for women and children of domestic violence.”
For many women fleeing violence, they need both short- and long-term housing assistance.
“The first thing is to get them into safe housing,” said DeBatt. “We also have transitional housing which is after they get settled and we help them get employment. Once they're on their feet, we have apartments that are completely furnished. They take their clothes and they move in. A lot of them can live there from 18 months to two years, depending on their situation.
“Ours is the only facility in the city for transitional housing, which is really difficult. Even two years is long time when you can only place 10 (women).”
The problems related to domestic violence and homelessness are not limited by age or by economic status.
“I had a 69-year-old woman call and tell me that she'd had her fingers broken for the last time — she needed help,” said DeBatt. “In her case it worked out because she and her husband owned two residences. She's living in one and he's living in the other.”
“For many of our seniors, they never made much money to start with,” said Stutsman. “Some are living on only $735 a month. There is a woman in the safehouse right now who can't move out because there isn't any place she can afford to move to.”
A growing problem for Westcare is the number of women and children who are simply abandoned in the area.
“We see this every single day,” said DeBatt. “A guy, a gal and their kids get in the car somewhere in another state and head this way. They get here, run out of money and get into a huge fight. He pushes her and the kids out of the car in a parking lot, and then turns around and goes home, leaving her with no money, nowhere to go and no way to get there.”
Complicating domestic violence issues in the region is the problem of substance abuse.
“Substance abuse is a huge problem here,” said DeBatt. “I would say substance abuse is a problem for about one out of every three we see. Domestic violence and substance abuse go hand in hand.
“A lot of times women will join in just to get along, to be a part of something. There's still an underlying problem. With women, it's usually emotional — they're trying to cover up something, they don't want to feel. If you don't get to the bottom of what is really going on, how do we expect them to change their behavior?”
“The majority of the people I work with do not go to the safehouse,” said Stutsman. “So many people simply don't have any idea how to take care of themselves — they've never learned. I help them re-build their life and let them know that they can do this. I'm a survivor. I did it with two kids in diapers — if I can do it, anyone can do it.”
“We keep talking and talking and talking, hoping they are taking in what we're saying,” said DeBatt. “I had a lady sitting in the lobby the other day and her eye was huge and blackened and she was sitting there, just shaking. I walked over and asked if she was OK and she said she was fine, she had just fallen on a door. I asked if there was something we could do for her and she said she was there because her husband was at our office to do a court-ordered domestic violence screening.
“I said, ‘OK, honey, I'm here if you need to talk. My office is right there.' She said, ‘No, no, honestly, I fell on a door.'
“All we can do is keep talking and hoping that they hear us. Victims are just beat up to no end, not just physically but mentally and emotionally and they feel horrible about themselves. We try really hard not to re-victimize people. People have a hard time understanding that. Our goal is to help people find solutions and regain their lives.”
Mom charged with child abuse after her daughter's T-shirt raises questions
by Fox 4 Newsroom
TAMPA, Fla. – A Tampa mom's plan to publicly shame her daughter backfired and landed her behind bars. The shirt she allegedly made for punishment ended with 31-year-old Melany Alexander charged with child abuse according to FOX 13.
Part of the shirt reads: “I currently have all F's in all my classes. I am not aloud (sic) to have a boyfriend no time soon. So back OFF before I get another good whoopin like I got last night”.
It was that “good whoopin” part that caught the attention of school administrators at West Hernando Middle School last week. A deputy with Hernando County took a closer look and said he found bruises on the child that lined up with a belt whipping, all over her body.
Deputies say Alexander admitted to beating the child because she was failing school. Court records show that she was released on bond from jail but is ordered not to have contact with her child.
Bill would provide training to help school employees recognize child abuse
by Linda B. Blackford
Many of Kentucky's public-school employees could get training in how to recognize child abuse under a measure that the House Education Committee passed Tuesday.
House Bill 301, which now proceeds to the full House, would allow local school boards to adopt the training requirement, which could be provided with free online resources.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Rita Smart, D-Madison, said the impetus for the bill was a report last year by the state's Child Fatality and Near Fatality External Review Panel, which made a series of recommendations to help prevent deaths from child abuse in Kentucky.
The state's Department of Community Based Services substantiated reports of abuse or neglect in more than 12,000 reports involving 19,407 children in the most recent fiscal year. The report from the review panel said the state provided 116 cases involving deaths or near-deaths for members to review, all but one from the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2013. Of those, 73 involved deaths and in the other 43children nearly died.
"This is our first effort to begin to do some of the recommendations from that review panel," Smart said.
It's not yet clear how much the bill could cost the state.
Rep. Bam Carney, R-Campbellsville, who is an educator, said colleagues have reported suspected abuse only to see the report get held up in a complicated state child-protection system.
"The bureaucracy from the Cabinet (of Health and Family Welfare) to get them investigated and properly checked is ridiculous," he said. "I'm going to support this, ... but I'm afraid we're going to get the same response, and who's going to fix that problem?"
Terry Brooks, director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, said the training will provide needed support for educators, who already are required to report suspected abuse. He said Carney's point is a good one.
"We always have to be looking at the response of the cabinet in neglect and abuse cases," he said.
Other recommendations made by the review panel include more education on safe sleeping practices, programs aimed at stopping abusive head injuries, better access to mental-health assessments, and drug tests for caregivers in certain child-death cases.
Open dialogue, education on child sex abuse is needed
Cloudy with a chance of controversy
by Kenya O'Neill
According to Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance, one in four women and one in six men will experience sexual abuse before the age of eighteen. This is called child sexual abuse. While these rates are alarmingly high, it is possible that the actual number of people who experience child sexual abuse is even higher. Yet, meaningful discussion surrounding the issue is extremely rare. This can result in an inability to heal, which is extremely damaging to survivors and society at large.
Some typical responses to being a victim of child sexual abuse include low self-esteem, shame, depression, lack of trust, re-victimization (experiencing abuse again later on in life), dissociation and various problems involving sexuality and intimacy. There are many effects of child sexual abuse and every survivor responds differently, but it is necessary to mention at least a few of them so that those who have not experienced abuse can understand why a discussion is needed.
In general, health classes in high school as well as sex education programs in college fail to mention child sexual abuse. Of the sex education and violence prevention classes and programs I have attended, not once has there been mention of child sexual abuse, despite the fact that there are, undoubtedly, people who have experienced child sexual abuse and have not fully healed from it, sitting in on some of these programs. Time and time again, programs that advocate for safe and healthy sex and relationships fail to talk about something as traumatic as child sexual abuse, which ultimately deters many victims from having safe and healthy sex and relationships. The fact that many people who experience child sexual abuse also experience abuse later in life makes one thing very clear — when talking about sexual and domestic violence, child sexual violence needs to be included in the discussion, because for many victims, child sexual violence may be the root.
However, these conversations cannot be limited to sex education classes and programs. Another area in which these conversations are seriously lacking is in the doctor's office. While it is important that privacy is respected, it is equally important to know a patient's history. Gynecologists and other doctors do not routinely ask their patients about sexual violence. While it is certainly a touchy subject, knowing if a person has experienced some sort of sexual trauma before can help physicians better understand their patients as a whole, giving insight on how to proceed with care.
Most people who know me know that I am extremely open and honest about my own history of child sexual violence, and I, like many survivors, have experienced many of the responses listed earlier. I distanced myself from the incidents. I did not admit to myself that I had been abused until many years later, and it had a very significant impact on my sexuality and intimacy. For many years, I navigated my abuse by myself because it was not mentioned in programs that were supposed to promote healthy sex, and as I get older, I realize that these programs had failed people like me. If just one program had told me that young children could never consent to being touched inappropriately, I could have admitted to myself that I had been abused much earlier than I did. I could have begun the healing process at a younger age, which might have saved me from the many unhealthy relationships I would experience years later. Silence around child sexual abuse can result in loneliness and isolation. One of the most haunting moments of my life regarding silence around child sexual abuse was when I went to see a gynecologist at sixteen years old, and she laughed at me when I told her that the medical procedure that she was performing on me was hurting me. She had not asked me if I had experienced any sort of sexual trauma. If she had, she (hopefully) would have been more understanding of my reaction.
The healing process of child sexual abuse is different for every survivor. For some survivors, healing comes much more quickly and naturally than others. The most important thing I tell myself and others is that the abuse does not have to define who we are. I refer to myself as a survivor rather than a victim because survivor implies that I have accepted it as a part of my history, and I am moving forward. Although I am healing, my story is not everyone's, and I strongly urge that more professionals hold conversations about child sexual abuse in order to promote the healing of survivors as well as the potential decrease in child sexual abuses. As we all know, no problem ever went away by being ignored.
Child sex offenders in Montgomery County Public Schools
by Andrea A. McCarren
BETHESDA, Md. (WUSA9) -- More than 20 Montgomery County Public Schools employees or contract workers have been investigated for child sex abuse or exploitation since 2011.
Parents are extremely upset, not just by the alleged crimes but the fact that in many cases, complaints and warning signs were either ignored or disregarded by the school system.
WUSA9 counted 21 MCPS employees or contract workers who have been investigated for child sex abuse or exploitation in just the last four years. Many have been prosecuted.
"It's heart-wrenching, it's horrifying, it's appalling. It's absolutely unacceptable. And every parent watching this segment should be filled with outrage," said Jennifer Alvaro, a parent and child sex abuse expert.
Music teacher Lawrence Joynes was arrested in 2013 and charged with sexually abusing 15 children at New Hampshire Estates Elementary School. Records show he repeatedly videotaped little girls sucking on large peppermint sticks. Police say he later photoshopped their faces onto pornographic images. Records reveal that in 2011, because of previous complaints, the school's principal ordered him not to touch or be alone with children, yet the alleged abuse continued. He's also facing rape charges for an alleged assault on a student decades ago. Joynes now faces two trials this spring.
Read an excerpt from the statement of charges for Joynes:
"Lawrence Joynes advised that he has had several students in his class room during lunch time. The students are female students which he invites into his class room. Lawrence Joynes described how he has played games with his students, having the student suck on a peppermint stick. Lawrence Joynes also described how he had a student…suck on his finger. Lawrence Joynes demonstrated how he would move his finger in and out of the student's mouth. Lawrence Joynes further advised that he would video tape himself sticking his finger in the student's mouth. Lawrence Joyned stated that he would watch the videos of himself sticking his finger in the student's mouth then masturbate while visualizing the student performing oral sex on him. Lawrence Joynes advised that [the student] was 7 or 8 years old at the time."
Sexual assault offender numbers in Australia jump by 19% in 2013-14
Australian Bureau of Statistics' report, Recorded Crime – Offenders, shows 93% of offenders were male
by Melissa Davey and Nick Evershed
The number of people charged with sexual assault offences increased nationally by 19% in 2013-14, new data shows.
The figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed people aged 10 and over with a principal charge of “sexual assault and related offences” increased to 7,175 in 2013-14, up from 6,006 the year before. As a rate per 100,000 people, this is an increase from 30.1 to 35.3 year-on-year.
Of those, 93% were male, the figures published as part of the Recorded Crime – Offenders report found.
As well as aggravated and non-aggravated sexual assault, the charge includes offences such as child sexual abuse and possessing child sexual abuse material.
Criminal charges in Australia, rate per 100,000 people
A spokesman for the men's family violence prevention organisation No to Violence, Rodney Vlais, said while it was difficult to say why there has been such a marked increase, he believed more people may be coming forward to report the offences.
“My sense is that the increasing community and public attention to violence against women occurring across much of Australia might be resulting in increased reporting of sexual [violence] against women in general, as well as violence against women in intimate relationships,” he said.
“Of course, reported sexual violence to police is just the tip of the iceberg, as most assaults go unreported, including sexual violence that men use against their intimate partners.”
The data also showed the number of youths with a principal offence of sexual assault and related offences increased from 1,369 in 2012-13 to 1,855 in 2013-14. That represented a jump of 36%.
The director of the National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics, William Milne, said this was driven by an increase in non-assaultive sexual offences of 48%.
“While we did see an increase in the number of youths reported for sexual assault and related offences, overall there was a 4% decline in the number of youth offenders,” he said.
There was also an increase in the rate of people charged with illicit drug offences, which rose from 322 per 100,000 people in 2012-13 to 351.4 in 2013-14. This increase was across all subcategories, including dealing or trafficking illicit drugs, manufacturing or cultivating illicit drugs, and possessing and/or using illicit drugs.
The rate of other categories of offences, such as homicide, property damage, and robbery and extortion have decreased over time.
Child abuse victims will be able to take legal action regardless of time frame
by Samantha Landy
CHILD abuse victims in Victoria will be able to pursue legal action regardless of when the maltreatment occurred, with complex time limits to be abolished.
An advocacy group for child abuse survivors says the new law — to be introduced by the Andrews Government today — is a “good first step” towards providing greater access to justice for victims.
The government's bill will remove the limitation period for child abuse claims both past and future, regardless of the time or context of the alleged abuse.
Adults Surviving Child Abuse president Cathy Kezelman said the limitation had been a major barrier for victims wanting to pursue legal action.
Dr Kezelman said the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse had found that it took victims an average of 22 years to disclose that they had been abused — a time frame that did not fit in with current time limitations.
“Disclosure's one thing — making a decision to take a perpetrator through a court process is another,” she said.
“A lot of survivors have found the process ... completely traumatising.
“This is a good move. There's been far too many impediments for victims to seek justice.”
Dr Kezelman said even more could be done to make abuse victims feel comfortable launching legal claims — notably training lawyers, judges and magistrates to deal with traumatised people sensitively and to clearly communicate what is involved in the legal process.
Attorney-General Martin Pakula said the government introduced the bill because the trauma of abuse often prevented victims from seeking compensation immediately, and time limitations discouraged them down the track.
A limitation period expiring may also be used against victims in negotiations, often to reduce the settlement amount offered, he said.
“Our laws need to account for this, not penalise people for it,” Mr Pakula said.
“This is about giving victims greater access to justice, allowing their suffering to be rightly acknowledged and holding those to blame to account for the harm they've caused.”
The Limitations of Actions Amendment (Criminal Child Abuse) Bill 2014 will also allow dependants of deceased victims impacted by the child abuse, such as family, to seek civil damages.
It will accordingly remove the 12-year “long stop” limitation period that applies to wrongful death claims brought by victims' dependants, where the death was caused by child abuse.
Mr Pakula said the new law delivered on Labor's election commitment to implement the recommendations from the ‘Betrayal of Trust' report, devised from the parliamentary inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other organisations.
Utah lawmaker hopes to eliminate statute of limitations on civil child sex abuse cases
by Carolyn Connolly
SALT LAKE CITY — A proposal that would eliminate the statute of limitations on civil child sexual abuse cases received unanimous support from lawmakers, Monday.
Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, argued his bill would allow victims to seek the justice they deserve in court.
“Every single day, someone who turns 22, loses any opportunity to bring a claim against a perpetrator who abused them sexually as a child,” Rep. Ivory said.
Seated behind him during a meeting before the House Judiciary Committee were three victims of abuse, who can longer pursue cases against their attackers. Ivory's wife, Rebecca Ivory, was one of them.
“I turned my abuser in back in 2003, which was a good 20-some odd years after it happened,” Rebecca Ivory said. “It sends the message that, you know what, if you're a victim, you have the right to seek redress.”
In 2008, Utah eliminated the statute of limitations on criminal child sexual abuse cases. However, under current law, the statute for civil cases runs out four years after a victim turns 18, or at the point of the “discovery” of the abuse.
“That's the gold standard of what we are looking for is to allow the adult survivors in our midst to help us, as the public, understand who are the perpetrators today,” said DeAnn Tilton, who was abused for several years before the age of 10.
Lawmakers expressed some fear Monday that an alleged abuser would have difficulty building a credible defense if the limitation was removed.
“It seems to me that there is a concern, a legitimate concern that would be raised by the defendant in that civil action to say, ‘How am I supposed to defend against this?'” said Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City.
However, Rep. Ivory countered that the burden of proof would be on the plaintiff in the case, not the alleged abuser.
Before lawmakers voted, there was some confusion about a proposed amendment to the legislation. Initially, Rep. Ivory had planned to include language that would address how an employer could be held responsible in a civil case involving an employee who committed the abuse. But Monday's proposal excluded the amendment.
“We didn't want to open that can of worms today,” Rebecca Ivory said. “We're not upset because this is a huge step. People have been trying to get this changed for a long time.”
The committee ultimately voted in favor of the bill, sending it to the House floor for further debate.
“It's our first, necessary, crucial hurdle to helping victims get their day in court,” Tilton said.
Casa Shaw Observes Child Abuse Prevention Month
by Tracey L. Heisler
We all have a role to play in ending child abuse.
By the time you finish reading this article, more than 30 cases of child abuse will have been reported to authorities nationwide. By the end of today, that number will swell past 9,000. And 4 of those children will die at the hands of their abuser. All in a single day.
When we take stock of these sobering statistics during April - National Child Abuse Prevention Month - it is easy to be overwhelmed and to ask yourself, "What can I possibly do to make a difference?"
The answer is that you can do a lot. Everybody can play a role in preventing child abuse and neglect by becoming advocates for children. For some of us, that advocacy comes in a formal role. Teachers, child care workers, health care providers and others who come into daily contact with children can be vigilant for signs of abuse and neglect. Their actions to report suspected abuse or to offer extra time and attention to fragile children can do more than make a difference. It can save lives.
CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocate) volunteers stand up for abused and neglected children, giving them a voice in an overburdened child welfare system that is hard-pressed to meet their individual needs. A CASA volunteer's intense advocacy can break the cycle of abuse and neglect. Children with CASA volunteers find safe, permanent homes more quickly, are half as likely to re-enter the foster care system, and do better in school. That is making a profound difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of abused and neglected children across the country - more than 9000 of them right here in New Jersey. But there are far too many children who are left to fend for themselves.
CASA SHaW serves the Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties (SHaW) counties of New Jersey. We are the voice of children in foster care, and we work to ensure that every child is provided an opportunity to be placed into a safe, loving, and permanent home. We are one of more than 900 CASA programs across the country committed to more than doubling our corps of volunteers by 2020 so that every child who needs a CASA volunteer has one.
CASA volunteers are people just like you - teachers, business people, retirees, parents, grandparents who are:
• Willing to participate in an in-depth training program
• Strong communicators
• Willing to commit to at least 18-months of service
• Able to pass a criminal and Child Protective Services background check
• Over age 21
Not everyone can be a CASA volunteer, but everyone can be an advocate. Here are some steps you can take to make our community safer for our children:
• Keep our state's toll-free child abuse hotline number close at hand, 877-NJABUSE. If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, you can report your suspicions confidentially.
• Donate or volunteer for a social service agency that helps children who are at risk, such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Middle Earth, CASA, or your local school.
• Educate yourself - and others - about the devastating toll that abuse and neglect take on children and our society as a whole. Our staff is happy to come out and share what we know with your business, community group, or house of worship.
Your advocacy for children will not only help end child abuse, it will improve our community for everyone who lives here. Children who are abused and do not get the support they need to heal are more likely than other kids to drop out of school, end up homeless, turn to crime, and rely as adults on social welfare programs. When we work together to protect vulnerable children, it saves lives while also saving tax dollars.
We all have a role to play. What will yours be?
Tracey Heisler is the Executive Director of CASA of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Warren Counties. Find out more at www.casashaw.org
New Partnership and Center to Help Child Abuse Victims
A new way to help local kids feel safe after a traumatic experience.
More children are becoming victims of abuse -- but not many cases actually get prosecuted because of a lack of evidence. Monday, four Northern Michigan counties are trying to change that.
"If we provide kids with a safe environment, something comfortable for them, they're going to be more likely to disclose their abuse to us," says Becky Yuncker, executive director at Northern Michigan Children's Assessment Center in Roscommon.
Several different agencies from Crawford, Oscoda, Ogemaw and Roscommon counties agreed to work as one when it comes to child abuse cases. "With resources stretched thin, something like this can be funded in a central location and everyone can get together to make it work as opposed to having 5 different centers," says Robert Bennett, Roscommon County assistant prosecutor.
The Northern Michigan Children's Assessment Center has been operating since October. Tonight, this dedicated group signed a protocol that will make this center a home base for interviewing children. Bennett says, "Usually the police or department of human services are contacted first, and then an interview has to be done within 24 hours. And that was typically done at the police department where they're not equipped to do it."
And now the kids can come here, in a safe environment where police can watch from a separate room to help them with their investigation. Yuncker says, "So we want to interview kids in a way that's not leading, not suggestive, that we're gathering the most important information from kids."
Many counties across the state have jumped on board this team collaboration and hope to reach out to more kids in need. Bennett says, "There's a lot of that out there and this center will be used a lot, i predict it'll, that they'll actually have to bring in more staff, the need will be that great." Yuncker says, "And knowing that there's an environment now that kids can go to for that interview and it's not traumatic for them. It's a community effort, it's a community approach and it takes the whole community to make this work."
The Roscommon County assistant prosecutor also hopes this will help make for better cases in the end, and put more criminals behind bars but it all starts with support. For more information on the center, contact Becky Yuncker at 989-272-7145, or email email@example.com
Supt Helen Chamberlain: We have to challenge myths around sexual assault
by The Nottingham Post
As the latest crime survey figures reveal public attitudes towards sexual assault, Superintendent Helen Chamberlain from Notts Police says we need to tackle myths around consent.
As the head of Public Protection for Nottinghamshire Police, I see horrendous cases of people who have been subjected to incidents of violence, physical, emotional, mental and sexual abuse.
There has been much discussion recently about who is ‘to blame' for a rape of sexual assault. Recent figures released by the Office for National Statistics and Home Office, based on interviews carried out from the Crime Survey for England and Wales for 2013/14, showed that 26% of people thought victims of rape or sexual assault were "completely, mostly or a little bit" responsible for the attack if they were drunk, and 36% thought this was the case if the victim had been flirting heavily with the attacker beforehand.
There is never any question in my mind that the only person responsible for a rape or a sexual offence is the person committing that offence. Victims should not have to feel they have to justify what happened to them, they should have the confidence to report the crime and be supported throughout the investigation and any subsequent court process.
Challenging assumptions about consent and the associated victim-blaming myths and stereotypes is a vital part of this. Proving that the suspect's behaviour and motives meant they reasonably believed the victim was consenting can prove difficult, particularly when allegations of rape often involve the word of the complainant against that of the suspect.
Given that generally there are only two people present when it happens, consent can be very difficult to prove or disprove. During an investigation, it must be established what steps, if any, the suspect took to obtain the complainant's consent, and the prosecution must prove that the suspect did not have a reasonable belief that the complainant was consenting. A police investigation would focus on what the perpetratpr and the victim have said to try and support or negate those assertions.
So what is consent? The law states that consent is defined by the Sexual Offences Act 2003. This is where someone consents to sexual activity only if they agree by choice for it to happen and they have the freedom and capacity to make that choice.
Consent is a difficult and well-publicised area of discussion. The clothes that someone is wearing, whether they have drunk alcohol, whether they are in a relationship with the suspect, are not an indicator of consent. Consent can be withdrawn at any time and each time activity occurs.
Children under 16 cannot in law consent to sexual activity; however, we are aware that some young people may believe they are consenting because they want to enter into a relationship. But this will still be unlawful if the perpetrator is over 16.
Recently, at the Government Commons Education Committee, it was discussed about introducing age-appropriate relationships and sex education into primary and secondary schools.
Young people have to deal with the issue of negotiating their way through a complex web of influences – from peer pressure to media representation. Most people understand what is meant by giving consent but there is a very limited sense as to what getting consent might involve.
We need to tackle the myths and stereotypes that can make people think it is difficult to know if someone has consented, and which can put victims off from coming forward and reporting what has happened. These include:
• The form of dress a person wears does not mean they should expect to be raped.
• The majority of rape cases are where the offender and complainant know each other.
• Trauma can affect memory and create inconsistency.
• Being drunk makes the complainant vulnerable. It does not mean they were ‘asking for it';
• Most victims do not fight; resistance and self-protection/defence can be through dissociation, freezing or trying to befriend the defendant – in fact any effort to prevent, stop or limit the event. It does not have to succeed to be an ‘effort'.
• Late reporting may be due to inability to cope with the trauma of the incident, fear of repercussions, maturity with age recognising the abuse, control of the complainant, fear of going to court.
• In cases of adult survivors of child abuse the complainant may regress and behave or speak as a child.
There is a lot of support out there for victims, whether they are reporting an offence that has happened recently or that occurred many years before. We will ensure our investigation teams support the victim and can help to put them into contact with the right services that can assist them to deal with the trauma of what happened.
The Crime Survey for England and Wales, released by the Office for National Statistics, includes crimes which do not come to the attention of the police.
It is based on face-to-face surveys in which people in households in England and Wales are asked about whether they have been victims of a selected number of offences. The latest survey covers the 12 months up to September 2014. According to the survey:
*The total number of sexual offences in Notts over this period was 1,347 – up 19% on the previous year.
*The total number of sexual offences in England & Wales over this period was 72,977 - up 22% on the previous year.
As part of the survey the Office for National Statistics also asks people about their attitudes to some crimes. Following analysis of these responses, the ONS and Home Office released information earlier this month on people's attitudes to rape and sexual assault.
It showed that the percentage of people believing the victim is “completely, mostly, or a little bit” responsible for the crime is as follows:
*26% if the victim is drunk;
*31% if the victim is under the influence of drugs;
*36% if the victim has been flirting heavily with the person beforehand.
Let's Overcome Our Blind Spots When It Come to Child Trafficking
by Ariel Zwang
When most people hear the word "trafficked" they think of drug smuggling, or of young women being sexually exploited by a pimp. We may think of victims being moved across international borders and forced into abusive work conditions. What is less recognized is the other face of trafficking as it plays out right here at home. Whether we recognize it or not, children are being exploited in our own communities across the United States.
When international trafficking makes the headlines while domestic exploitation is all but ignored, we develop a blind spot that deprives us of opportunities to address the problem. At Safe Horizon, we know child trafficking is a pervasive problem, because we are seeing survivors not just through our Anti-Trafficking Program, but through our Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) and at Streetwork Project, our homeless youth program.
Trafficked children are deprived of their innocence and often prevented from attending school and socializing with their peers. I can't think of a more poignant example than the story of Brian and Katy.
Eight year-old Brian and his five-year old sister Katy had missed too many days of school, prompting an investigation of parental neglect. They were sent to a foster home where they disclosed a nightmarish story in which their mother forced them to perform sexual acts with adults for money and later "rewarded" them with a dollar to buy candy. Their foster parents quickly reported this information and Brian and Katy came to a Safe Horizon Child Advocacy Center. Police and prosecutors were able to identify many of the adults who sexually abused them and they are now facing long prison terms. Brian and Katy are safe from abuse and a team of experts at the CAC put in place a plan to ensure the children's future safety and healing.
It is difficult to measure a crime that is notoriously underreported and often overlooked. Experts believe that hundreds of thousands of people in the United States are forced to work under coercive, slavery-like conditions, many of them children.
Through research and advocacy work we know that domestic trafficking of children is far more common than most Americans believe, and more underreported. It can take the form of sexual exploitation, like what happened to Brian and Katy. And, it can take other forms. Some traffickers force children to work in peddling rings, selling magazines or candy on street corners or in suburban neighborhoods. Others put children to work involuntarily in agricultural or domestic settings.
As we grapple with the growing trafficking problem in our country, it's important that we are equally informed, concerned, and moved to act, whether a child is the victim of labor exploitation or the victim of commercial sexual exploitation.
This February, with the opening of the Safe Horizon Child Advocacy Center in the Bronx, every borough in New York City will have an ally in fighting child abuse and trafficking. The Bronx CAC will likely see the highest volume of child abuse cases in the country, and it will be a lifesaving resource for children in trafficking situations.
Having the systems and laws that stop abuse, heal children and seek justice in New York City and around the world are essential, but none of this would be effective without one critical component. Child victims of abuse and trafficking, whether for labor or sexual exploitation, need you.
Children are protected from abuse because someone cares enough to say something to people that can help.
Child trafficking is a cruel form of abuse that profits from children's innocence and vulnerability. The next time that you that suspect a child might be a victim of abuse, seriously ask yourself: does this child need my help? It's better to do something and be wrong than not to do anything and be right.
Know the signs , call the New York State Child Abuse Hotline: 800.342.3720.
Pa.'s investment in training mandated reporters of child abuse is good news
The Post-Gazette has embraced the need for Pennsylvania to improve its child abuse policies and practices. It was surprising then that your editorial portrayed recent reforms as bad news, including inaccurately suggesting too little public funding was available to train mandated reporters (“Trouble Spotters: Pa.'s New Child-Abuse Reporters Need Training,” Feb. 11).
Mandated reporters (e.g., social workers, child care providers, teachers, Girl Scout volunteers) have a legal duty to report suspected child abuse. These individuals are critical to protecting children, and Pennsylvania recognizes training them is important.
Pennsylvania provided public funds to the University of Pittsburgh to create a free online training resource that meets the legal requirements that certain mandated reporters (e.g., doctors, social workers, teachers, foster parents) be trained about recognizing and reporting suspected child abuse. This free online resource can also be used by volunteers, who do not have a legal training requirement.
Public funds also support contracts with the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance to provide face-to-face training. Meanwhile, other entities like Pittsburgh Action Against Rape offer state-approved training.
Expecting that demand would outpace existing resources, lawmakers targeted some of a certified birth certificate fee into training mandated reporters. Such training may also eventually receive a share of the $48 million available to state officials to spend as part of a settled lawsuit over sanctions imposed on Penn State University by the NCAA.
Pennsylvania's efforts to better protect our children and investment in training mandated reporters is good news. The good news will continue if Pennsylvania commits to evaluating how mandated reporting, including related training, impacts child safety and well-being.
The Center for Children's Justice
Volunteer child advocacy program comes to Bay County to give a voice to victims of abuse and neglect
by Cole Waterman
BAY CITY, MI -- A national program is getting off the ground in Bay County, designed to help and give a voice to the area's most vulnerable children.
Already in Saginaw County for years, the Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, program involves volunteers being specially trained and appointed by family court judges to research an abuse and neglect case, assess the facts, identify problems and submit court reports.
"CASA has been in Saginaw County since 2000," said Suzanne Greenberg, president of the Child Abuse & Neglect Council Great Lakes Bay Region. "Prior to that, it was really bringing a program to this community that can be an advocacy program purely for children who are already in the system, who have experienced abuse and neglect, and bringing a program that is nationally recognized and provides a standardized system.
"We knew we'd be following a long history of national CASA excellence."
In 2012, the CAN Council's Saginaw and Bay County branches merged. Since then, the plan had been to start a CASA program in Bay County, Greenberg said.
"It was only in the last 18 months or so that (former) Bay County Probate Judge Karen A. Tighe mentioned that she was interested. From that point on, we began a more in-depth conversation with Judge Tighe and, in the last year or so, began meeting with some directors and managers from the court, as well as the Department of Human Services to see how we can make CASA work in Bay County."
Tighe said she has wanted CASA in Bay County for a long time and is glad it is finally materializing.
"So many of the people who work in the court system have a turnover and the children don't always have the same case worker from month to month," she said. "The CASA workers will provide that kind of continuity."
Earlier this month, the Seattle-based National CASA Association gave full approval to the Bay County endeavor, Greenberg said.
"We're ready to go," she said.
An advantage the Bay County program has is that there are already several trained CASA volunteers in Saginaw County. Those folks will need to be trained in the Bay County court system and then can start working cases, Greenberg said.
"We're really excited about the possibilities in Bay County," Greenberg said, crediting CASA Program Director Randy D. Roberts for making it happen.
How it works
CASA works by having citizens age 21 or older come forward to volunteer their services. Each volunteer undergoes three extensive background checks and participates in 40 hours of training, Roberts said.
"After the training, we get referrals for the kids that are abused and neglected, and then we place them on the cases that we feel they fit best," Roberts said. "They get to choose. We don't tell them they have to take a case, because we want them to feel like they really fit in on that case. With a court order, they have a right to all the information that has to do with the best interest of the child."
Each case to which a volunteer is assigned is already under court jurisdiction due a Child Protective Services referral, Roberts said. A judge signs an order appointing a CASA volunteer to a particular case.
In Bay County, such orders will come from interim Probate Judge Dawn A. Klida.
"I think it's going to be a very good program for the kids that go through the system in Bay County," Klida said. The volunteers "are not going to replace anybody, they're not going to replace an attorney, they're not replacing any advocate; they're going to be an extra piece, an extra tool. Children in those situations -- where you're working with abuse and neglect cases -- can use all the help they can get. Sometimes, they just need a little more attention. A lot of the people I've met so far, they're generous spirits. I intend to push forward with it. Everyone I've spoken to it has just raved about what a great thing it is and I anticipate it will be just that here in Bay County."
If a child's parents are asked to submit to drug testing, for example, a CASA volunteer ensures such testing occurs. The volunteer can also meet with anyone in the life of their child -- relatives, friends, teachers, counselors. The volunteer meets with the family and children weekly and submits a monthly report to Roberts, she said.
"We have a lot of conversation within that timeframe," she continued. "About every three months, we generate a report for the court. We put in recommendations and factual information. That goes in to help the judge with all the other reports that come in from service providers for a judge to make a decision on what we're dealing with at that point."
"At the end of the day," Greenberg added, "what's really important is the CASA is able to gather all that information the judge needs to make that decision about a permanent plan for that child."
One case at a time
CASA volunteers are to be objective and factual in their reports, refraining from injecting their opinions.
As of Friday, Feb. 20, Bay County's program has eight volunteers ready to start their training before the month's end. Another training session is to commence sometime in the fall, Greenberg said.
Emily Yeager, marketing manager for the CAN Council, said that while there are numerous individuals who care about a child's wellbeing in a given case -- judges, attorneys, DHS or Child Protective Services workers, foster parents -- there are those kids who may fall through the cracks. CASA is intended to ensure this does not happen, by having one volunteer focusing on one case.
"This CASA volunteer is assigned to one child or a sibling set and that's it," Yeager said. "They have one case, so whether they're working a full-time job as a teacher, as a professional, or whether they're a stay-at-home mom, regardless of what their life entails, they have this one case.
"They're not bogged down by what the system has put on them as a contractual attorney or a DHS worker. They're really able to look at it from all facets ... and be with the child every seven to 10 days and advocate for them in the court system and let the judge know what is in the best interest of the child."
According to Yeager, there is an increasing prevalence of child abuse in Bay County. Statistics provided by the most recent Kids Count in Michigan Data Book, compiled by the Michigan League for Public Policy, support Yeager's contention. The report shows that 2,709 families were investigated in 2013, up from 1,723 in 2006. The number of confirmed child victims was 366 in 2013, up from 232 in 2006, the report states.
Yeager and Greenberg speculated that CAN Council's increased education efforts of late have heightened the public's awareness of possible abusive situations, leading to more reports, investigations, and confirmed instances of abuse and neglect.
Those interested in becoming a CASA volunteer can visit www.cancouncil.org, which features a link on the right-hand side of the screen labeled "How Do I Become a CASA?" People can also call the Bay County CAN Council office at 989-671-1345.
New Calgary chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse set to fight for abused kids
by Michael Platt
You'll hear them long before they arrive, and when they do, you might wish the motley crew of leather-jacketed bikers had gone the other way.
Greasy, grim and menacing, the dozen-strong motorcycle gang sure seems like a respectable citizen's nightmare, with one particular bearded behemoth looking like the kind of guy who spends his spare time wrestling grizzly bears.
But unless you're a child molester or someone who abuses kids, there's nothing to fear at all — and if you happen to be the young victim of such abuse, these intimidating men and women are the best friends you could ever hope for.
“We're there entirely for the children — we're there to let the children know that they have nothing to fear,” said Brian “Woody” Woodhouse.
“They have friends who are much scarier than the abuser, and the child can look at us and know, that guy over there may be scary, but my friends are here, and they're a lot scarier than him.”
They call themselves Bikers Against Child Abuse, and over the past 20 years BACA members have helped kids across the United States and Canada, offering them friendship, support and a large-and-hairy escort into the courtroom when it comes to facing the bad person accused of hurting them.
It starts when BACA is notified about a victim of child abuse living in fear, and from there, the bikes roar to life and the gang moves into recruit its newest member.
With the cooperation of parents or guardians, a large contingent of motorcyclists head to the home of the child, making a noisy show of the arrival, and presenting the kid in question with a vest and other biker souvenirs, along with a promise of friendship: “I am not alone, and you don't want to mess with my family,” is the intended message.
Started by a child psychologist in Utah in 1995, the program now has more than 3,000 members in eight countries, and the success has led to chapters opening in cities across the continent — a list that now includes Calgary.
Currently in the training and education phase, Calgary's BACA chapter expects to be fully active by fall, when the gang — made up of riders not affiliated with any other motorcycle club — will start working with local children and families needing moral support in the face of abuse.
And it's much more than making a lot of noise with V-Twin engines.
Though the organization has a mandate to avoid direct confrontation with an accused abuser, BACA states it will take whatever steps are necessary to prevent further abuse against a child.
“We are not a vigilante group and we do not condone violence, but if we are the only obstacle standing between that child and further abuse, we are ready to be that obstacle,” said Woodhouse, echoing BACA's official mandate.
That can include using intimidation to keep the bad guys at bay, by standing guard at the child's home, or holding large and loud rallies in the area where the abuser lives, so the bad guy gets the message.
“The purpose of BACA's presence is to deter further abuse and to protect the children and the family, if necessary,” reads the BACA mandate.
For Woodhouse, joining BACA and helping establish a Calgary chapter was a personal crusade, his need to protect children driven by personal tragedy.
In March 2011, his six-year-old stepdaughter Meika Jordan was murdered, with the girl's biological father and his girlfriend charged with first-degree murder in what prosecutors are calling a case of torture.
“My stepdaughter was a victim of child abuse, and I found out about BACA through Internet research and grief support,” said Woodhouse.
“Something clicked deep inside me, and I knew this was something I had to be a part of.”
The trial for Spencer Jordan and Marie Magoon starts March 23, and that day, 150 members of the BACA, from Edmonton, Saskatoon and Lethbridge are planning a rally in Calgary, to call for justice in the case.
“It's going to be a very large BACA presence,” said Woodhouse.
Another Voice: Investigating techniques have improved greatly for child sexual abuse cases
by Judith G. Olin
I am writing in response to The News story and editorial about a child sexual abuse case from 1991. The story reports that two children made false allegations in the early 1990s because they were coached by authorities. This piece is meant to educate the public about recent developments and research in the field of forensic interviewing of children and child sexual abuse.
The News editorial acknowledges positive changes in child forensic interviewing since the time of the reported case. The field of forensic interviewing of children has grown by leaps and bounds since 1991.
In 2004, a panel of experts in New York State developed a child forensic interview protocol titled “The New York State Forensic Interview Best Practices.” This protocol trains child forensic interviewers to use neutral, developmentally appropriate interview techniques that are not leading or suggestive. Other nationally recognized child forensic interviewing protocols have developed since 1991.
Forensic interviews of children take place in Child Advocacy Centers, which are governed by national accreditation standards. Nationally, there are 770 accredited child advocacy centers. The CAC in Erie County opened in 1994, and was one of the first two accredited CACs in New York State.
Fabricated claims of child sexual abuse are very rare. One study published in a peer-reviewed journal looked at 551 cases of child sexual abuse reports to the Denver Department of Social Services over one year. Only 1.5 percent of the cases involved a deliberately made fabrication of sexual abuse by a child. While recantation of abuse allegations does occur, it is usually not evidence of a fabricated claim. A 2007 article in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry tells of a study conducted by nationally respected researchers that looked at cases in which child abuse allegations were substantiated, i.e. credible evidence of abuse was found, by child welfare workers. In this pool of cases, recantation rates ranged between 19.5 percent and 23.1 percent.
Researchers agree that child sexual abuse is under-reported. Some research shows that only 38 percent of child victims disclose the fact that they have been sexually abused. Sadly, child sexual abuse is a common occurrence, with research showing prevalence rates between one in four girls, and one in six boys to one in 10 children being sexually abused before their 18th birthday.
Increasingly, child sexual abuse is being viewed as a serious public health problem. According to the widely cited study, Adverse Childhood Experiences, childhood sexual abuse is an adverse childhood experience linked to serious problems in adults such as heart disease, depression and suicide attempts.
Judith G. Olin is director at the Lee Gross Anthone Child Advocacy Center Child & Adolescent Treatment Services.