Hurt twice: Society questions validity of male sex assault, domestic violence victims
by Angie Jackson
GRAND RAPIDS, MI - The teenage boy, tall for his age and wearing a tie, settled into the witness stand in a downtown courtroom for days straight earlier this winter. Each time, he carefully looked away from the 35-year-old high school tutor who was accused of sexually assaulting him when he was just 15.
Though clearly embarrassed, the boy was courteous - even unflappable - answering lawyers' questions about rough sex and skimpy lingerie photos, explicit evidence dredged from the more than 1,000 texts and emails sent between the teen and his Catholic Central tutor.
In some ways, the trial was similar to dozens of other sex assault cases that have been prosecuted in Kent County Circuit Court.
What made the Abigail Simon case stand out was not only the teen-tutor relationship, or that the victim was a boy, but how people reacted to it.
It was online wildfire. Social media was abuzz with locker-room banter about the boy. Some said the relationship should have been the teen's biggest fantasy. Others suggested it wasn't a real crime. The teen wanted it, they insisted.
"He's a boy. Why would you open up this can of worms?" people asked the teen's mother, who brought the allegations to the school and police.
Simon in January was sentenced to eight to 25 years in prison for three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Sixteen is the age of sexual consent and Michigan law prohibits school employees from engaging in sexual activity with students under age 18.
Now that the trial is behind them, the teen's mother says if the case had involved a female victim, it would have elicited a different response from the community.
"Absolutely there's a double standard because she was a little, petite female and they think he convinced her and he manipulated her," said the boy's mother, who is not being identified by MLive and The Grand Rapids Press. "I think society does have a problem with (male victims), and I think it's because they have this vision of males having raging hormones."
The lack of public outrage in sex assault cases involving teenage boy victims is troubling for Randy Flood, director of the Men's Resource Center of West Michigan's Grand Rapids office. Teens are too often regarded as privileged to have been "sexually mentored" by a seasoned, older woman, he said.
"I think that it is dismissive of the vulnerability of boys and it causes them problems in their adult lives," Flood said. "They can't talk about what happened to them when they were 13, 14 years old because society tells them that they weren't victims because it's glamorized."
Society also has a tough time viewing males as true victims of domestic violence, and there's a misconception that men are always the perpetrators, Flood said. While the majority of domestic violence victims are females, Michigan statistics show more than one-fourth of victims are males.
"There's a lot of people who are afraid to talk about male victimization for fear that we're going to digress or devolve back into the era where we weren't taking violence against women seriously," he said, "and so people are afraid to have this discussion."
Statewide, males made up about 4 percent of rape victims over a five-year span from 2009-2013, according to Michigan Incident Crime Reporting data collected by Michigan State Police.
Counselors may never have an accurate understanding of how many males are victims of sex crimes because of the myth that "it only happens to girls," said Carla Blinkhorn, CEO of YWCA West Central Michigan. She believes such abuse is underreported in part because the majority of outreach is targeted toward encouraging female victims to come forward, resulting in undertones that it's a gender-specific crime.
"There's a real way that we minimize that experience for boys and young men. And when you minimize it, people don't come forward," Blinkhorn said. "A lot of those conversations, I think, historically have been more focused on girls than they have been on boys."
The YWCA has long provided services for boys and men who are victims of child sexual abuse, sexual assault and domestic violence. Blinkhorn said she has noticed a shift in more male victims of sex abuse coming forward in recent years. Thirty years ago, the YWCA saw virtually no boy clients.
During the 2013-2014 fiscal year, 29 percent of the YWCA's clients were males. They received services such as therapy for child sexual abuse and sexual assault, domestic violence counseling, court-referred counseling for abusive men, supervised parenting and sex assault exams.
High-profile criminal cases, such as the Penn State child sex abuse scandal, have given male victims more permission to come forward compared to decades ago, when sexual abuse against children was not widely recognized. Addressing adult survivors has helped take the crime out of the shadows, Blinkhorn said.
"What we do see is people identifying boys (as victims) more," Blinkhorn said. "I think a whole lot of that is because of the in-school programs."
Victims of domestic violence also face gender-specific challenges to seeking help, Flood said. Struggles for men are commonly rooted in the traditional definition of masculinity that tells them real men are tough and in control. Coming forward as a victim can be a mark of shame, so males may often suffer in silence, Flood said.
"The man code tells them to suck it up and to tough it out," Flood said. "I'm not saying it's difficult for men and it's easy for women. Women have their own barriers and feelings of shame."
In 2014, the Kent County Prosecutor's Office handled domestic violence cases involving 1,362 victims. Of those, 22 percent were males. Statewide, males accounted for between 27 and 29 percent of domestic violence victims from 2009-2013, according to Michigan Incident Crime Reporting data.
When males seek counseling at the Men's Resource Center, they aren't usually comfortable with naming victimization as their presenting problem. They will at first express struggles with depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. Domestic violence issues may surface later after many counseling sessions.
"There's something about victimization that causes a man to feel weak and unmanly and experience shame," Flood said. "There's a lot of aspects in our social fabric that tell men they're supposed to be superior. For male victims of domestic violence, they may question their own manhood."
Some victims, such as those who choose not to fight back, fear they won't be believed because men are generally physically stronger than women. The physical aspect makes it hard for people to view men as victims.
But there are broader components to domestic violence, such as emotional abuse, social and financial control.
"What we know about domestic abuse, it's just a misuse of power and control. It would be dismissive of women to say they're not capable of wielding power and control," Flood said.
And so there's no room for preconceived notions about domestic violence when police address complaints, said Kent County Sheriff's Lt. Ron Gates, who oversees the department's Family Services Unit. It's not always apparent which person is the aggressor. That's when witness statements, 911 calls, physical injuries and other evidence of a fight or attack help investigators piece the story together.
"You have to go into everything with an open mind," Gates said. "How can you say, 'Hey, the male's always the stronger one, the aggressor?' That's not the case."
Male victims of domestic violence are more often hesitant to follow through with pressing charges than females, Gates said, solely referring to personal experience over his nearly 25-year career in law enforcement.
"There aren't as many male victims and when there are, I think most of them say, 'You know, we'll handle it ourselves,'" Gates said.
Embracing male victims
Being willing to broach the sensitive topic of male victimization can be a first step toward better embracing boys and men who are victims, Blinkhorn said. That requires not only acknowledging that male victimization occurs but also recognizing that perpetrators don't fit a profile.
"I think people still want to have this idea about what a molester looks like and what they behave like," she said. "Over and over and over again you just have people saying, 'Not that person.' There's still this sort of strange idea of what a perpetrator looks like, and they look like everybody."
Flood said a change can start with the messages males receive at an early age. Masculinity needs to be revised to reflect that vulnerability and insecurity are part of the human process.
"Then maybe they will feel that society's safe for them to talk about their wounds and talk about their victimization and their struggles without being ashamed or feeling as if they're unmanly or weak," Flood said.
There's hope when considering the strides in how society has addressed PTSD among war veterans, Flood said. Understanding that condition allowed for greater knowledge of emotional trauma, and that knowledge could be translated to incidents of sex abuse and domestic violence.
"We used to not even consider a man being traumatized by war if he came back with all four of his limbs intact," Flood said. "We can learn about that and extrapolate from that. ... We can do that with war, so why can't we do that in other forms of trauma?"
The Men's Resource Center offers a range of support groups and therapy for abuse, trauma and victimization, as well as other forms of counseling. The center may be reached in Grand Rapids at 616-456-1178 and Holland at 616-355-3000. http://menscenter.org
The YWCA provides therapy, support groups and other services for victims of violence and abuse. To reach a 24-hour confidential crisis line, victims of sex assault may call 616-776-7273, and victims of domestic violence may call 616-451-2744. http://www.ywcawcmi.org
Teacher secretly taped kids
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio teacher secretly recorded his kindergarten students using a tiny spy camera hung inside his classroom's bathroom, prosecutors said Saturday.
Dozens of videos of students were found on the computer of Elliot Gornall, 32, a former teacher at the elementary school in Loudonville who resigned last year after being charged in another case, Ashland County Prosecutor Chris Tunnell said.
“The thought that a previously trusted kindergarten teacher would take advantage of young children in this way is horrifying,” Tunnell said in a statement announcing the charges.
Gornall faces 25 felony charges: 23 counts of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material or performance and two counts of attempting the same crime. Twenty-five kindergartners were recorded, Tunnell said.
Gornall had worked in the district for four years following clean background checks, officials said.
“He was well-liked by students and staff and parents,” said Annette Gorrell, principal at R.F. McMullen Elementary School. “The betrayal is huge.”
Gornall was arrested Friday and was expected in court Monday.
A message left for his attorney Saturday seeking comment on the charges was not immediately returned.
Another American is sexually assaulted every 107 seconds
by Ina Ponder
Governor Steve Beshear signed a proclamation declaring March as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in Kentucky. Sexual violence can happen to anyone regardless of age, race or gender and affects a large number of individuals per year.
The definition of sexual violence is any time a person is forced, coerced, or manipulated into any unwanted or harmful sexual activity.
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), every 107 seconds another American is sexually assaulted. That means by the time you read this article three people will have been affected by sexual assault.
Multiple forms, many effects
There is an average of 293,000 victims of sexual assault (ages 12 and older) each year according to RAINN. One in 33 men in America will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. According to the Bluegrass Rape Crisis Center (BRCC), in Kentucky one in nine adult women has been “forcibly raped” at some point in their life.
Sexual violence can happen in multiple forms including rape, acquaintance rape, child sexual abuse, hate crimes, incest, male sexual violence and sexual exploitation by helping professionals.
Sexual harassment, dating and domestic violence, stalking, drug-facilitated sexual violence, military sexual trauma and child abuse are also forms of sexual violence.
There may be psychological, emotional and physical effects on a survivor as well as friends and family. These effects are extremely difficult to deal with and require help and support to be managed successfully.
Victims can suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), self-harm, flashbacks, sexually transmitted diseases/infections (STIs), unwanted pregnancy, depression, substance use, dissociation, eating disorders, sleep disorders and suicide.
Recovering from a sexual assault or helping someone recover can be a complicated process. It is important that victims receive early medical attention to preserve evidence for law enforcement. Report the incident to the correct authorities.
Approximately 70 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police. Survivors, family members and friends can contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline for resources for coping with emotional distress, legal issues and the “where to go on from here” feelings.
The cost of sexual violence, aside from the traumatic event of the survivor, can include extensive medical care. Overall, victim costs are estimated at $127 billion per year. This includes short-term medical care, mental health services, lost productivity and pain and suffering which are estimated at $110,000 per victim.
Society burdens the cost of absenteeism, criminal justice, investigation, prosecution, incarceration, and most importantly, non-monetary losses such as fear and loss of quality of life.
Many times victims are left with deep scars thatnever heal. Thirty percent of rape survivors experience PTSD and experience major depression at times in their lives. Over 33 percent of victims battle serious suicidal thoughts at some time in their lives.
Ina M. Ponder CFCS is a health educator in the community health education department at the Franklin County Health Department, 851 East-West Connector.
Debunking some myths
Below are some myths and realities about sexual assault according to the website bluegrassrapecrisis.org.
Myth: When someone is raped, they get over it pretty quickly.
Reality: Studies show that recovering from rape can take several years for some. In one study, 26 percent of survivors had not recovered four to six years after being raped (Koss, 1993).
Myth: Most people who are victims of sexual violence tell someone about it.
Reality: Studies find that over 90 percent of women have never told anyone about the sexual assault (Friedman, Samet et al., 1992).
Myth: People who feel guilty after having sex turn around and say that they were raped.
Reality: Few people (between two and eight percent) falsely cry “rape” (Lonsway, Archambault, & Lisak, 2009).
Myth: Rape usually involves a black assailant and a white victim.
Reality: Victims and assailants are most frequently of the same race.
Myth: A male cannot be raped.
Reality: The rape of males is believed to be even more underreported than that of females. Males who are raped are typically assaulted by heterosexual men. Male children are more likely to be assaulted by heterosexual men than by women or homosexual men. Very young males are most likely to be assaulted by family members or caretakers. Young teenagers are typically assaulted by authority figures and young adult males by peers or older adults.
For more information:
National Sexual Assault Hotline 24/7. Free and confidential. 800-656-4673.
Bluegrass Rape Crisis Center counselor can meet individual in the hospital emergency room to provide support through the medical process. 800-656-4673.
Franklin County Health Department offers testing for STIs and Anonymous Rapid Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). 502-564-7647.
Experts address learning to live after child abuse
Open, calm discussion and normal hobbies can help children cope
by C.L. Abercrombie
When an 8-year-old girl blew out the candles on her birthday cake in January, she made three wishes instead of one.
“My three wishes were to go to Steak 'n Shake, have my brother back and to do this,” she said while standing outside Set Free Ministries on Dorsey Street in Gainesville.
“This” is bring dozens of bags of food and water to the men who live at Set Free, many of whom are homeless.
“At her birthday party, she said she wanted to learn how to share so other kids would learn, too,” said Denise Wilson, the girl's guardian.
The girl's aunt and grandmother, with whom she lives in Gainesville, were quick to encourage her philanthropic endeavor.
“She was abused, and we're trying to build up her morale,” Wilson said.
Unfortunately, she is only one of hundreds of children who are abused or neglected in Hall County every year. She currently finds herself separated from her younger brother due to a custody dispute as a result of the abuse.
She may not be close to getting her brother back in her life, but as any expert will say, even the smallest effort to reach out and be a part of the world again may make a world of difference to a child who was abused or neglected.
Psychology of abuse
Dr. Guy W. Jordan is a psychologist based in Gainesville who has worked with abused or neglected children on and off throughout his decades-long career. In 2013, he published a book called “Simplify Your Emotions: Steps to Happiness” to help kids and adults simplify and manage their emotions in the wake of traumas such as loss or abuse.
The biggest problem with helping children who have been victims of abuse, according to Jordan, is that they have been conditioned not to address the real problem.
“The big problem with abuse is people tell kids ‘don't tell or I'll be in trouble; I'll have to go to jail,' so kids are coached to not talk about the abuse,” Jordan said. “I've worked with abused children for over 30 years, and the thing that I've learned with them is if I can tell them ‘Let's talk about the abuse to understand what it was so you understand it wasn't your fault,' and ‘Let's talk about ways it should've been different and how you're going to be, act different from it.' You can use it as a steppingstone to learn from, not as a damaged goods image for your life.”
Jordan recommends parents or guardians not keep bringing up the abuse, and especially not to talk about it in emotional tones.
“If the child brings it up, they need to deal with it in a neutral tone of voice rather than an emotionally intense voice,” Jordan said.
Jordan also recommends highly encouraging any attempts the child makes to have normal hobbies or social connections.
“Any positive activity or involvement the child can have with other kids or with an adult — that's why mentors in school are great,” Jordan said. “That's why sometimes having a relative do things with a child, have the child spend time with another child who has a healthy environment for them to interact and be part of is great.”
Adults should be careful not to overindulge children who have been abused, because it was a lack of boundaries that led to their abuse in the first place. But positive steps should be encouraged at all times.
“You have to be firm with your limits and set boundaries that are reasonable, but involve them in activities that are healthy, child spend time with another child who has a healthy environment for them to interact and be part of is great.”
Adults should be careful not to overindulge children who have been abused, because it was a lack of boundaries that led to their abuse in the first place. But positive steps should be encouraged at all times.
“You have to be firm with your limits and set boundaries that are reasonable, but involve them in activities that are healthy, child spend time with another child who has a healthy environment for them to interact and be part of is great.”
Adults should be careful not to overindulge children who have been abused, because it was a lack of boundaries that led to their abuse in the first place. But positive steps should be encouraged at all times.
“You have to be firm with your limits and set boundaries that are reasonable, but involve them in activities that are healthy, that make them feel good about themselves," Jordan said.
By the numbers
In 2014, the Hall-Dawson Court Appointed Special Advocates program advocated for the welfare of 511 abused or neglected children in court.
Of those children, 240, almost half, were younger than 5.
Some 95 percent of the children were victims of neglect, whether it be educational, medical or the lack of basic needs and supervision.
Of the 511 children that received help from a CASA advocate in 2014, only 168 found a stable home through reunion with relatives or adoption that year.
Even if someone isn't a social worker or therapist, there are still a variety of steps anyone can take to help combat child abuse in their area.
“There are children in Northeast Georgia that are being neglected and abused, and they need someone to speak up for them because they need a safe, loving home,” said Connie Stephens, executive director of Hall-Dawson CASA. “We have a serious need for volunteers and foster homes for these children.”
Potential CASA volunteers must be 21 years of age and consent to a criminal background check, as well as attend 40 hours of courtroom procedures and policies.
There is also a pressing need for more foster homes in Hall and Dawson counties.
Given the rate of re-victimization, children who suffer from abuse or neglect need as much help as they can get.
“When a child has been previously victimized, that child is three times more likely to be mistreated than other children,” Stephens said. “Shockingly, the group with the highest victimization rate — 16 victims per 1,000 children-is among children from birth to age 3."
Class focuses on child sexual abuse prevention
JACY House is offering training in the prevention of child sexual abuse from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday in Group Room B of Meridian Health Services, on the second floor of 630 E. Main St. in Richmond.
Darkness to Light Stewards of Children offers strategies for protecting children and information about signs of abuse, how to react responsibly and the importance of talking about prevention with children and other adults.
The event is open to anyone who has contact with or concern for children.
Thanks to a grant from the Wayne County Foundation, the class is offered free of charge on a regular basis. Registration is requested by Monday. To register or for information about future events, go to: www.jacyhouse.org
The long shadow of child sexual abuse
by April Hudson
This article contains some depictions of child sexual abuse that may be triggering to some readers. John's name has been changed due to a court-ordered publication ban. John participated in this article with the desire to help others speak out about their abuse.
In the past 12 months, Stony Plain provincial court dealt with more than 100 sexual charges against more than 50 members of the community. More than one-third of those were sexual assault charges and more than one-third were charges of sexual interference with a minor. A distant third on that list was charges related to child pornography, of which there were at least 13.
Some of those charges resulted in acquittals and a small percentage may have been waived in from other regions of Alberta.
Assaults, aggravated assaults and offences related to troubled youths and adults were too numerous to count.
Thirty-five years ago, John was sexually assaulted by a man who would later be charged with committing the same crime against four other boys.
John's story of abuse began in 1980 on an acreage outside Devon when he was six years old. The abuse happened for a year and it wasn't until 1985 that he came forward to his family.
On Oct. 7, 2013, John pleaded guilty to making child pornography after taking photos of an underage girl without her knowledge. But his therapists agree his crime can be traced to an event that triggered memories of his past trauma, which had festered undisturbed for decades — without that trigger, the events that came after may never have happened.
As a child and later as an adult, John trifled with therapy, never staying with one therapist and finally abandoning the pursuit altogether.
Throughout his youth, the effects of the abuse he suffered began to manifest in anger, acting out and suicide attempts.
The early signs of his trauma went unnoticed, at times written off as rebellious outbursts and at times completely hidden from view; his parents never suspected he had tried to overdose on pills three times and hang himself from the roof of their garage by the time he was 12, or that he cut and burned himself — a cry for help that went unseen.
As he aged, the anger inside him grew more volatile. But even as he got into drugs and alcohol and began committing property crimes, no one connected his troubles to his past — least of all him.
As he reached the age of maturity, his behaviour normalized. He started a family and a career, and for the first time in his life began to look toward the future.
Now, at 41, John's story is not unique: a well-to-do businessman who had a lengthy career in emergency services, who started his own business, was involved in his community — but who eventually took photos of an underage girl on five separate occasions over three months.
Therapists and psychologists have endless stories like John's: one man who was sexually abused at age five by a nine-year-old girl became fixated on child pornography and, in a sense, still cannot leave the scene of the crime.
The stories are all over the map, but there is nothing uncommon about middle-class, supportive families facing these traumas.
John's story does differ from others in one aspect, however: he and his therapists insist the photos he took were not for sexual gratification, but instead were taken after that triggering experience sent him into an automatic state — an altered state of reality where his subconscious had to face his past.
In other words, the walls he had erected to deal with his childhood abuse had come crashing down.
The Canadian government says children and youth are more frequently victims of sexual offences than adults:
One in five offences with a child or youth victim reported to police in 2012 was a sexual offence;
At least two in every 1,000 children and youths are victims;
In 2012, Canada reported 1,698 victims between four and six years of age. Of those, 62 per cent were sexually abused by family and more than one in seven were abused by a casual acquaintance;
17 per cent of male victims had a delay in reporting of more than 10 years;
Four in 10 sexual offences against children by family or authority figures resulted in delays of years between the abuse and reporting;
Three-quarters of sexual offences against children in 2012 took place in a private residence.
The power of traumatic sexualization
Whether childhood traumas result from sexual abuse, physical abuse or other adversity, studies have documented how repeated traumas can actually affect the structure and function of a youthful brain.
In 1985, sociologists David Finkelhor and Angela Brown published a framework to understand how sexual trauma impacts young victims. That framework outlined factors that can determine how traumatic an experience is to an individual.
One of those factors is traumatic sexualization. And although Finkelhor and Brown's framework is dated, University of Alberta associate professor Dr. Gerri Lasiuk says it raises areas that tend to be themes for most victims.
Lasiuk's career has delved into the effects of traumatic experiences on victims, including the relationship between childhood traumas and mental and physical health as an adult.
She says traumatic sexualization — when a child's sexuality develops inappropriately — can be connected to how we store memory.
“In a stressful experience, what we remember and how it gets laid down into memory becomes quite charged and salient,” she explained.
“An extreme stressor will trigger stress hormone systems, and if you have repeated triggering — especially at a young age — (that) can actually change the architecture of the brain.”
According to Harvard University's Centre on the Developing Child, the activity of a brain that develops without trauma is markedly different from the muted activities of a brain that has undergone significant traumatic experiences.
Rebecca Pawlechko, a Spruce Grove therapist who has been seeing John ever since he was first charged with producing child pornography, says repeated traumas get stuck in a “feedback loop:” negative emotion becomes attached to trauma, and those emotions pile up with additional traumas.
Pawlechko uses a relatively new form of trauma-based therapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), which stimulates both sides of the brain at once while guiding a victim through their traumatic memory.
The basic principle of EMDR, which has reported success with people struggling with PTSD and other trauma-based problems, is that reliving a traumatic memory while focusing on external stimuli, such as back-and-forth eye movements or hand-tapping, can remove negative feelings associated with that memory. The recipient of EMDR then forges new associations with that memory.
“People by nature like to stay superficial; they don't want to go deep. A lot of us don't even realize what's caught in (our minds), impacting us,” Pawlechko said.
“We all do things for a reason and we often have no idea how those reasons are impacting our lives.”
Part of the problem, she says, comes from guilt, which is a primary instinctual emotion.
The purpose of that emotion is to feel bad when we do something wrong, so we don't do it again.
“Where it gets screwed up is when it becomes about us individually: ‘I'm not worthy, I'm disgusting, a bad person,' ” Pawlechko said. “That's not the point of guilt.”
The perpetual cycle of abuse
There is a myth out there that psychologists hear a lot: victims become abusers, and the people they abuse eventually make victims of their own.
It's a belief that can make it more difficult for people who were sexually abused to come forward — particularly males.
But while many abusers may in fact have a history as a victim, most victims do not become abusers.
Dr. Vinesh Gupta, a forensic psychiatrist with Alberta Hospital Edmonton and director of the Division of Child Psychology at the University of Alberta, says he has seen a split along gender lines when it comes to sexual offenders.
Gupta works with young offenders and says many of them have histories of abuse as children. And while many female victims internalize their abuse, many male victims tend to externalize it, sometimes resulting in violent outbursts and sometimes leading to further abuse.
“It's difficult to generalize. You cannot say, ‘This is what happens to everyone.' Not every person who is sexually abused ends up having difficulties later in life, and not every person becomes a perpetrator,” Gupta said.
“But it's not just a single event of being sexually abused or assaulted that causes problems. There are multiple issues that cause it.”
In John's case, those issues included raw emotions, suicide attempts, self-harm, substance abuse and other high-risk behaviours.
Gupta estimates that an overwhelming majority of the girls he sees have been abused in some way in the past, and a large number of them have never gone to therapy. Yet boys make up the majority of his patients.
As for Lasiuk, many men she has dealt with have been reluctant to reveal their abuse because of the perceived stigma attached to male victims — particularly, the stigma of being a potential future offender.
“There are a lot of people who were sexually abused who, for the most part, are well; they feel good about themselves, are successful in their own lives, they have good relationships,” Lasiuk said.
“That's where the thought, ‘I'm an abuser because I was abused as a child,' doesn't really hold water.”
John has never believed this, either. And while his past abuse may offer up an explanation for what he eventually did — reasons that are important to understand for the sake of rehabilitation — there is never an excuse for abuse.
“If you keep the secret, you keep the shame.”
The effects of sexual abuse are well-documented, although they vary from victim to victim, and studies show that child victims often carry a deeper sense of shame, guilt and inadequacy than adult victims.
Dr. George Pugh, a psychologist with Resolutions Centre for Counselling Assessment and Psychology Services who has been counselling John, says part of those effects come from keeping their abuse a secret.
“The number one manifestation (of sexual abuse) is this abiding, reverberating self-talk that somehow there is something wrong with you,” Pugh said.
“That creates what I call ‘errors in thinking' about how you interact with the world, and any time you take on a challenge, it's doubly hard.”
John puts it more bluntly: if you don't deal with your traumas, they will eventually manifest. And the shadow of past abuses can fall over every aspect of one's life.
“(The effect) of abuse has a presence within the persona. I often say it's like a vampire is living inside you, sending those messages. The nature of vampires is they survive in the dark and they have power. It is only when we shine the light of truth on them that they lose that power,” Pugh said.
“If you have been sexually abused and you've kept it a secret, and you carry some shame, don't be afraid to speak with a psychologist in a confidential setting. No one is going to know; the door is closed. And just say it out loud: you know it wasn't your fault.
“One side of your brain already knows that, but the other side condemns you. If you keep the secret, you keep the shame.”
Different resources fit different people. In general, any therapeutic relationship can be beneficial, be it a close friend, a partner or a self-help group.
Tri-area resources :
780-968-7272: Stony/Spruce Victim Services
780-962-7583: Spruce Grove FCSS
780-963-8583: Stony Plain FCSS
780-963-8774: Parkland Turning Points Society
780-963-6151: Stony Plain Mental Health
1-800-387-5437: Alberta child abuse hotline
780-468-7070: YESS (Youth emergency shelter)
Walsh Launches Initiative to Fight Sex Trafficking
by Hannah Sparks
Boston and 10 other cities will work to reduce the demand for paid sex by targeting those who buy it, rather than those they buy it from.
On Friday, Mayor Marty Walsh officially announced the launch of the Boston chapter of CEASE (Cities Empowered Against Sexual Exploitation), which is supported by Demand Abolition, a non-profit organization based in Cambridge that is “catalyzing” the nationwide initiative.
The program's goal is to reduce demand for buying sex by 20 percent online and 80 percent at the street level over the next two years.
“In Boston, we will not tolerate this illegal and exploitative industry that deprives vulnerable people of their basic human rights and funds a predatory business often tied to gangs and organized crime,” Walsh said.
While a human trafficking law passed in Massachusetts in 2011 sought to increase the penalties johns could potentially face for soliciting sex, The Boston Globe reported that it did not mark any real change in the number of johns prosecuted or the severity of their punishment. The Globe' s investigation attributed that failure to a lack of resources, information and understanding about the sex trade.
Emphasis on public education and awareness, as well as increased accountability measures, will be among the tactics used in Boston, along with giving survivors (and even buyers) better access to treatment and exit programs, according to the city's press release.
The initiative will also track data related to online sex-purchasing trends, attitudes toward sex trafficking and the effectiveness of public campaigns against it.
Other cities in the CEASE Network include Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Oakland, Phoenix, Portland (Ore.), San Diego and Seattle.
Steps Against Juvenile Sex Trafficking
The impression that America's sex-trafficking problem mostly involves young people smuggled from overseas has given way to broad recognition of a cruel homegrown reality: the tens of thousands of juveniles who are exploited each year by traffickers in this country.
On Capitol Hill, a consensus is emerging on new initiatives to confront this human-rights problem and help its victims, often runaways or homeless youngsters who have been forced or coerced into prostitution.
The Senate Judiciary Committee last week unanimously approved a pair of anti-trafficking bills with wide backing from victim advocates and other experts, and the full Senate is expected to take up the package soon.
A bill championed by Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, would create a new pool of financing — through additional fines on people convicted of sex and labor trafficking, child pornography and other crimes — for restitution, victim services and law enforcement. The idea of aiding victims without committing more tax dollars has drawn support from Republicans, and any new money for this badly underfinanced cause would help.
The Cornyn bill would also encourage prosecution of the “johns,” or buyers of juvenile sex, who typically escape criminal charges even though they are paying for what amounts to the statutory rape of children and teenagers. Their demand is what's fueling the highly lucrative human slavery business.
The second bill, put forward by Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, would give a preference for Department of Justice law enforcement grants to states that adopt “safe harbor” laws.
These laws help ensure that young people sold for sex are treated as victims and offered support services instead of being prosecuted. The House has approved similar bills, so it should not be hard to hammer out a strong final package.
A preventive measure that would help ensure housing and services for homeless juveniles, who are often prey to traffickers, unfortunately stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee. One obstacle was the resistance of some Republicans to its nondiscrimination provision guaranteeing fair treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths.
No young person should “have to choose between selling their bodies and a safe place to sleep,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, who introduced the bill with Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont. Undeterred, they plan to seek consideration from the full Senate.
Trafficking abroad remains a tremendous problem, so it is fitting that a promising approach comes from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which last week unanimously approved a measure to create an international public-private fund dedicated to the issue, similar to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. More resources could do a lot to help trafficking's victims at home, too.
San Diego Unified hosts screening about teen sex trafficking
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) - Human trafficking in San Diego is growing and local schools are concerned that children are at risk.
Exploitation, humiliation, violence and abuse: the cruel reality of child sex trafficking and a growing concern for parents, students and educators.
The documentary is called "Indoctrination: The grooming of our children into prostitution."
It's an eye-opening look at how pimps and predators lure children and teens into the sex trade in San Diego.
The trafficking survivors in the film are from San Diego.
Brian Lowell is a parent with a son in middle school.
He says many people may not realize how many children are being exploited.
Just like the trade in drugs, human traffickers sell the same person over and over again. Sex trafficking becomes especially lucrative for gang members.
According to local law enforcement, gang related pimping is now the second largest source of money for San Diego street gangs.
The movie made an impression on Ana Bello who works as a nurse at the charter school in the College Grove area.
Eighth grader Giselle said one of her friends was almost swept up into the undertow of the sex trade.
With the ease of connections through the Internet, traffickers find even more opportunities to exploit children for sex; a new reality that requires a crash course through films like this to keep the predators at by and children safe.
This film is the first in a series of films that the school district will show to highlight the crisis of human trafficking.
A question and answer session followed the movie, with panelists from the law enforcement as well as advocacy groups for sex trafficking survivors.
This is not a problem that is going to disappear.
According to one statistic, street gangs made $97 million on human sex trafficking and that estimate was just for gangs here in San Diego County.
Bills target sex trafficking
Wyden measure would create a fund for victims
The U.S. Justice Department estimates that 450,000 children in the United States run away from home every year. At least a third end up living on the streets, and many are forced into a sex trade that leaves its victims physically and psychologically abused — and sometimes dead.
Federal lawmakers can take an important step to combating the problem of juvenile sex trafficking by approving a bipartisan bill sponsored by Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; John Cornyn, R-Texas; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill. The bill would use additional fines on people convicted of sex and labor trafficking, child pornography and other crimes to create a fund that would be used for restitution, victim services and law enforcement.
The bill, which was unanimously approved last week by the Senate Judiciary Committee, would also encourage prosecution of adults who buy juvenile sex — or to put it in starker terms, who pay for the right to rape children and teens.
In far too many states, young trafficking victims are treated as criminals and their abusers escape with little or no consequences. In Oregon, state lawmakers in 2013 approved legislation making it a felony to pay for sex with a minor and toughening sentences for pimps.
Several other bills also target juvenile sex trafficking. A proposal sponsored by Klobuchar would discourage states from charging underage sex trafficking victims. Among other things, her proposal would provide preference for federal law enforcement grants to states that recognize young people who are sold into the sex trade as victims and provide them with services that offer healing and hope instead of criminalization.
Congress must continue to take on the insidious problem of child sex trafficking. The proposed bills are limited in scope but would represent an important step forward and, hopefully, would be followed by more comprehensive measures.
L.A. County acts to curb child sex trafficking in some motels
by Jean Merl
Looking for an additional weapon in their continuing battle against the peddling of teens and children for sex, Los Angeles County supervisors moved Tuesday to more tightly regulate emergency shelter motels to ensure they aren't sites for child prostitution.
On a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the board directed county officials to develop agreements with motels that get money from the county to provide short-term housing for the destitute.
Operators of motels that want to continue to receive county-paid clients would be required to sign a statement promising not to participate in or allow any form of sex trafficking on their premises. They would also agree to undergo training in how to spot sex trafficking, allow police or sheriff's deputies to check their guest registries and post information for occupants on how to report suspicious activity.
Supervisors also agreed to explore the feasibility of raising the per-voucher amount it pays the motels to provide emergency housing for general relief recipients, now $24 a day.
The Department of Public Social Services, which runs the housing program, and the county counsel were instructed to report back to the board within 30 days with a proposed contract between the county and motel operators and the feasibility of requiring operators to submit bids to participate in the program.
The county's move came the same day the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a Los Angeles case in which the city wants the authority to check, without obtaining a search warrant, the guest registries of hotels and motels suspected of harboring sex trafficking. The county has supported the city's case, as have several law enforcement agencies.
"The ability for law enforcement to inspect hotel registries without a warrant is a powerful weapon in our fight to end child sex trafficking," Supervisor Don Knabe said in a statement Tuesday.
He did not attend Tuesday's meeting but, along with Ridley-Thomas, has spearheaded efforts to combat child prostitution and pornography that authorities say is on the rise, especially as street gangs discover that sex trafficking is often more lucrative than selling illegal drugs or guns.
Ridley-Thomas' motion said that about 45 motels or hotels throughout the county — 22 of which are in his 2nd District — participate in the county's housing voucher program. In 2013, the county paid about $3.5 million in vouchers. He said authorities have seen evidence of unsafe conditions — including possible child sex trafficking — at some of those establishments, thus the need for tighter regulations via contracts and competitive bidding.
Supervisors Sheila Kuehl, Hilda Solis and Michael D. Antonovich all said they strongly supported the proposal but added amendments. Kuehl wanted to ensure that the proposal would not deplete the number of rooms available for the homeless, and Solis wanted to find ways to help the young girls who had been coerced into prostitution find better lives. Antonovich said he wanted officials to identify ways the county could cover additional costs of the "important" program.
"These kids have no one to look out for them," Antonovich said. "That's our responsibility."
Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey, Sheriff Jim McDonnell and Compton Mayor Aja Brown were among the elected officials supporting Ridley-Thomas' proposal.
Men are victims of sexual assault more than you might think
by Lee Shearer
No one really knows how often men suffer sexual assaults.
The recent incident in which a male Athens Regional Medical Center patient reported that nurse Christopher Michael Piller allegedly sodomized him seems the exception to the norm.
Those who work with sexual assault victims, or conduct research in the area, suspect many more men get victimized than ever report the crimes.
“Sexual assault in general is under-reported, but especially for men,” said Devon Sanger, adult services program manager at The Cottage, an Athens-based organization that gives support and assistance to survivors of child abuse and sexual assault.
Research findings suggest that about 17 percent of men experience an abusive sexual experience by the time they're 18, according to 1in6, a group dedicated to helping men overcome the trauma of such assaults.
However, data on adult male victims of sexual assault varies widely from agency to agency.
But when surveys are done well, the number of males who report sex assaults goes up, said Lara Stemple, a researcher and a faculty member in the UCLA School of Law.
Stemple cited data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey conducted in 2010.
The same percent of men reported being “made to penetrate” as women who reported being raped during the previous 12 months, 1.1 percent, according to the CDC. Slightly more men than women reported unwanted sexual contact. More women (2 percent) than men (1.5 percent) called themselves victims of sexual coercion in the previous year, according to that report.
Those rates are at odds with another set of data collected by the federal National Crime Victimization Survey - about 35,000 assaults on men in 2011, an unexpected spike to 131,000 in 2012, then about 34,000 in 2013. During those same three years, the rates for women ranged from about 209,000 to 266,000, Stemple said
Three University of Georgia School of Social Work graduate students have found clues to explain why males might under-report even more than females.
Stephen Young, Marianna Colvin and Jana Pruett analyzed five years of calls to a hotline for victims of sexual assault. Of nearly 2,000 calls, just 58 were from males who were primary victims, Pruett said.
The graduate student researchers also found that males and females expressed different purposes and worries when they called the hotline.
Women were more likely to want specific information, such as how to get information on date-rape drugs or obtaining restraining orders, Pruett said.
Males proved more likely to use the hotline for counseling services, wanting to tell their story. They were also more likely to hang up before they got information about where they could receive services.
Females wanted someone to believe them, Pruett said. Males feared how others might judge them.
“They (males) don't want to identify as a victim,” Young said. “It really speaks to those masculine norms.”
In some ways, men are where women were 40 years ago, Stemple said. Back then, sexual assault hotlines were established as feminists pushed back against “rape myths” that stigmatized female victims - such as the notion that it was her fault because of the clothes she wore or because of past sexual history.
Today, male victims of sexual assault also face a stigmatizing set of false stereotypes, Stemple and Ilan Meyer wrote in a 2014 article in the American Journal of Public Health.
Ideas like men are unlikely victims, that men welcome all sex, that gay victims “asked for it” or that male victims are less harmed than females may contribute to under-reporting, according to Stemple and Meyer.
Even the way rape is defined by the CDC and the FBI, which collects national crime statistics, may artificially reduce the reported rates of sexual assaults in which males are the victims, Stemple and Meyer noted.
But attitudes are changing.
“Society is beginning to accept that this is true,” Stemple said of males as victims of sexual assault.
“There's a real push going on for men to come forward and receive help here,” Sanger said. “We know it's happening, but they're not coming forward to receive services as much.”
Child-abuse task force saved, what's next
by John Hult
Governor Dennis Daugaard has revived a child sexual abuse task force killed by a legislative committee earlier this week.
The Jolene's Law Task Force on child sexual abuse will continue its work under the umbrella of the state Department of Health, using unexpected grant funding that became available this week.
The House State Affairs Committee voted down a second year of task force funding 10-2 on Wednesday, but Daugaard said Friday the group's work is worthy of continued funding.
"In my estimation, the work is too important," Daugaard said. "The executive branch will partner with the task force members to continue this important work for a second year."
The task force began meeting last summer after being created through legislative action. The group is working to tackle the issue of child sexual abuse, a crime that touches the lives of one in four girls and one in six boys in the state.
The task force asked for $21,000 in funding for a second year, in hopes of bringing in experts and creating a set of best practices for handling disclosure and investigation of sexual abuse by children.
The House panel's decision to cut off funding mid-stream for the multi-year project sparked uproar from advocates. Jolene Loetscher, an abuse survivor who's lent her name and story to the cause, called the legislators out for callousness.
"Their actions sent a loud message of support saying we vote with pedophiles and rapists and don't care if we ignore the tens of thousands of children abused, assaulted and raped in this state," Loetscher said.
The Child Advocacy Centers of South Dakota took to Facebook to urge its followers to call and email elected officials and ask that funding be reinstated. Loetscher's disgust was written about, published and broadcasted widely across the state on Thursday.
Advocates praised Daugaard's decision to revive the task force.
Loetscher issued a statement Friday praising those who'd raised alarm bells over the vote, and also praised Daugaard and a group of legislators who'd pushed the issue: Senators Deb Soholt, Jenna Haggar and Alan Solano and Rep. Peggy Gibson.
"I hope victims of child sexual abuse see today as validation that your pain will not be ignored. Our stories will continue to empower," Loetscher wrote. "I believe continuing to be a survivor and not just a victim comes when you see more good days than bad. Today is a good day."
One bill passed through task force action
Soholt, who chairs the task force, said during Friday's press conference that there's a lot of work left to do, but "we have the right people at the table" and a good start.
"We've come a long way in our understanding of the issue," Soholt said.
The task force's five meetings so far have produced a series of recommendations, including Senate Bill 70, which would make it mandatory that reporters of sexual abuse be available for questioning by law enforcement.
People in several fields, including psychiatry, counseling and child care, are required to report any disclosure of potential sexual abuse.
Hollie Strand of Rapid City is one such mandatory reporter.
If a child tells the child advocate that they've been abused, she has to tell police. Strand can't tell a director, supervisor or anyone else. Not all first responders are like that, though, an issue Senate Bill 70 was meant to address.
Those who work in hospitals or schools don't have to report directly to law enforcement. They can and do report to supervisors. This is an issue, Strand told the committee, because "over 50 percent of disclosures are made to school teachers."
This can be problematic, advocates learned during task force meetings, as the words of endangered children change as they travel from one person to another.
For example, Strand said, a teacher might be told by a child that "My uncle touches my pee pee."
The teacher hears that word, but isn't comfortable with it, so the he or she uses the word "private parts" in a report, which is passed along to a principal. The principal might not be comfortable with that word, so he or she writes the word "genitals."
Minor changes peppered through a series of reports can create confusion for the officers and forensic interviewers who might take the case and decide how to proceed.
"This happens a lot in investigations," said Strand.
The issue is that this telephone-style cycle of errors can create confusion for the people who'll have to use this information to decide whether a child needs a full forensic interview, whether they need to be pulled from the home and whether someone needs to be arrested for a crime.
"What happens (now) is that we lose the child's words," said Cam Corey, a DCI agent who sits on the task force.
This is the sort of real world problem the task force was created to address, Corey said.
Next steps for revived group
Senate Bill 70 sailed through the State Affairs Committee before the panel killed funding for Senate Bill 71, which would have carried on the work of the task force.
Part of the reason Soholt was concerned was that the bill only addressed one of the group's five identified goals. The group's other goals include:
- Improving medical, mental health and spiritual health responses
- Improving the criminal justice and child protection responses
- Developing effective prevention practices
- Increasing public awareness and improve research
Soholt said Friday that the group wants to set benchmarks for each of these goals, and part of the work in 2015 will involve bringing in national experts to help set a high enough bar to make a difference.
"It's not only possible, but highly probable that with further work in this task force, we can really change the landscape in child sexual abuse forever," Soholt said.
The task force would spend no more than $21,000 in its second year, she said, and would be able to dip into leftover funding from last year. The group was allotted $21,000, but spent only $13,000.
Other steps in the works include standardizing training and public awareness curriculum throughout the K-12 system, Loetscher said, so that students, parents and faculty are hearing a consistent and evidence-based message.
"There were things that were in the works, but not quite ready for legislation," said Loetscher, who is on the task force.
A sexual abuse studies minor might be added to state university options, as well, she said. The coursework for such a minor could be helpful electives for students majoring in criminal justice, psychology, journalism and pre-law.
Child abuse cases higher in the county
by Hiliary Gavan
With increasing child abuse cases in Rock County, the services of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) are needed more than ever, according to Peggy Emery, community outreach coordinator for CASA Rock County.
A CASA is a trained volunteer appointed by a judge to advocate for the best interests of children who find themselves involved in the court system. Once trained, the CASA volunteer is assigned to a case and supervised by CASA program staff.
“They are expected to be the eyes and ears of the judge,” Emery said.
In Rock County the rate of child abuse is more than double the state rate. For example, in Wisconsin in 2012 there were 29.9 reports of child abuse and neglect per 1,000 children. But in Rock County there were 62.9 reports per 1,000 children for the same time period, according to the annual survey released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Emery explained there are around 170 to 200 cases of child abuse/neglect a year going through the court system in Rock County. Of those, 40 are considered severe and are on a wait list for a CASA volunteer. Currently, there are only 20 CASA volunteers to serve.
Emery said child abuse/neglect seems to be increasing as heroin and other drug abuse escalates in Rock County. She said more children are in need of foster care because of their parents' drug dependencies, followed by factors such as parents' mental illness and/or cognitive issues.
The number of overdoses related to drug or alcohol abuse is increasing in Beloit. For example, from March of 2013 to March of 2014, there were 81 EMS calls for overdoses in Beloit. From March of 2014 to March of 2015, there were 121 calls for overdoses, according to an interview with Beloit Fire Department Deputy Chief of EMS Joe Murray.
Alcohol and other drug abuse strongly contributes to child abuse, according to School District of Beloit Homeless Liaison Robin Stuht.
“As poverty remains high, it keeps families in a constant state of stress leading to distress. Adults and children are often self medicating mental illness or stressors to numb themselves as a coping mechanism. Drug and alcohol abuse lowers inhibitions and allows emotions such as anger to escalate reactions to challenging situations in an abusive way both physically and emotionally,” Stuht said.
Stuht agrees CASAs are sorely needed. Stuht's has firsthand experience seeing abused children placed back in the home because of the lack of evidence, or a child who is afraid to speak up and get the parent in trouble.
Stuht is currently working with a youth who has experienced physical abuse, who is suicidal and self-harms. The child doesn't have an advocate or voice when the court will decide whether that child should return home.
“This reality leaves a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness. The youth still loves the parents, just wishes for safety and better treatment. We always strive for reunification. However, sometimes it takes a removal of the child from the home to allow the system to work with the parents and allow a desperate child the break from trauma to heal and learn better coping skills in a safe and stable environment,” Stuht said.
Emery explained a CASA's job is to interview biological parents, foster parents, medical personnel, counselors and teachers to create a whole picture of a child's life to present to a judge. CASAs make recommendations regarding the permanent placement of the child and services needed for the child and biological parents.
Although there are assigned caseworkers, they often have heavy caseloads and can use help. Many times a CASA may be the only constant in a child's life as teachers, caseworkers and even parents may change.
Training to become a CASA is 30 hours.
To learn more about the CASA program people can call 608-305-0187, visit its website at www.casarockcounty.org and follow the link for volunteering, or visits the Facebook page, “CASA of Rock County.”
36 children removed from youth facilities in Mobile following allegations of abuse
by Theresa Seiger
Allegations of child abuse and apparently deplorable living conditions led the Department of Human Resources to remove more than 30 children from a pair of youth residential facilities Thursday night, according to the Mobile Police Department.
Officials said 15 girls were removed from the Saving Youth Foundation building at 770 Sullivan Ave. Police received a complaint of possible child abuse from a mother whose daughter was at the all-girls facility, according to MPD.
"The health department found code violations such as a sewage leak near the kitchen, food improperly stored and expired food for which the facility was cited," Police Chief James Barber said in a statement released Friday afternoon.
That same day investigators removed 21 boys from the Solid Rock Ministries facility on Spring Hill Avenue near Ann Street. Barber said the facility was reportedly managed by the same organization responsible for the Sullivan Avenue building. It only housed boys.
On Friday afternoon, officers conducted search warrants at both facilities. Capt. John Barber, head of MPD's Special Investigations Section, declined to elaborate on the condition the children were found in, citing the ongoing abuse investigation.
"Their conditions and the conditions they were being housed in and kept in was enough for DHR to take them from the scene," Capt. Barber said.
As of Friday afternoon, police did not believe any of the children were sent by court order to live in either facility. Capt. Barber said it appeared parents from outside the Mobile area paid tuition to send their children to the homes.
"It's our understanding that these were facilities for problem children, through attitude or academics," police spokeswoman Ashley Rains said.
The facilities housed children between 13 and 17 years old, she said. Capt. Barber said DHR would house the children until their parents could pick them up.
Detectives with MPD, DHR and the Mobile County District Attorney's Office continued Friday to investigate whether the facilities were part of a larger network.
Police said two people were apprehended on outstanding warrants Thursday after they were found at Solid Rock Ministries.
William Knott, 46, was wanted on three traffic warrants and one count of third-degree domestic violence out of Prichard. Officers picked up John David Young, 53, on one outstanding traffic warrant.
Child Abuse Council celebrates Parenting Awareness Month
Area children recognized for creativity
The Child Abuse Council serving Charlevoix and Emmet counties joins the Parenting Awareness Month Michigan initiative to promote awareness, education, and resources emphasizing the importance of effective parenting in nurturing children to become healthy, caring and contributing citizens.
The statewide initiative began in 1993 and celebrates its 22nd anniversary this month.
Parenting Awareness Michigan celebrates people who are parenting our children, and seeks to:
— Draw public attention to the critical importance of effective parenting across the lifespan.
— Raise awareness that effective parenting is a key factor in alcohol, tobacco, and other drug prevention.
— Promote education and resources for developing parenting skills.
— Raise awareness that everyone benefits from parent education and support.
— Encourage and assist in the development of parent networks.
— Celebrate the month of March as Parenting Awareness Month, and promote locally planned events in March and throughout the year focused on parenting.
The heart of Parenting Awareness Month is local activity.
Locally, the Child Abuse Council asked area second and third graders to share their opinions on the topic, “What Makes Your Family Strong?” through drawings and essays. Nearly 500 students participated in the contest. Ten winning drawings were selected throughout Charlevoix and Emmet counties by local high school advanced art students and are on display at the Charlevoix Public Library and Petoskey District Library throughout the month of March.
Twelve essay winners were chosen by local high school journalism students and will be published in the Petoskey News-Review throughout the month. See the first three essay winners writing about “What makes your family strong?” (below).
The Child Abuse Council board was awestruck at the profound insightfulness of many of the essays. Executive director, Maggie Kromm, has a personal favorite that includes the phrase, “But all I know for sure is they love me because I'm me.”
Additionally, the Child Abuse Council is hosting a one-day conference titled, “Supporting Children, Building Community.” The conference will take place on Friday, April 17, at North Central Michigan College, and is open to the public. The full day event will include several breakout sessions on parenting and continuing education for professionals working with children. Visit www.UpNorthChildAbuseCouncil.org for more information and a registration form.
For questions regarding the essay or drawing contest, contact Kromm at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Child Abuse Council serving Charlevoix and Emmet counties was founded in 1982. The mission of the council is prevention of child abuse and neglect through increased public awareness and education. The Child Abuse Council is a Children's Trust Fund designated council. Children's Trust Fund is a statewide, nonprofit organization also dedicated to the prevention of child abuse and neglect. The Children's Trust Fund works in partnership with the local councils that serve Michigan's 83 counties.
Enough Abuse Campaign launched to prevent child sex abuse
by Denise Wong
Las Vegas, NV -- About 50 people packed into a room inside the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department headquarters for the Enough Abuse Campaign.
It's a movement to educate adults on how to recognize child sex abuse when it's happening.
"You know, I think the problem is worse than people realize," said Danielle Dreitzer, executive director of the Rape Crisis Center.
The Rape Crisis Center is making this campaign happen, along with Prevent Child Abuse Nevada and a two-year grant from the Englestad Family Foundation.
"It's actually way too late to be taking action," said Dreitzer. "We actually should have taken action decades ago, but you know, every journey starts with a first step, right?"
Friday's meeting was mostly to bring together case workers, church leaders, educators, and more people who work with kids every day and may be able to speak up when our youngest victims can't.
"Each year, we have about 5,000 substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect," said Amanda Haboush-Deloye, Ph.D. and director of programs at Prevent Child Abuse Nevada. "Out of that, about 5.3-percent are actually confirmed for child sex abuse. And only about one in ten victims actually report cases or instances of sex abuse."
But what if more adults didn't just know the signs, but knew tactics to get kids who may be victims to open up? That's another goal of this campaign. And it's why these experts say it's going to take professionals and parents from all over the valley and more discussions like the one on this day.
"We would love the community to get involved and learn this information and learn how to spread it because it takes a whole community to be able to implement these prevention efforts," said Haboush-Deloye.
For more information on the campaign or on how to get invovled, call the Rape Crisis Center at 702-366-1640 or click here.
Senate approves child abuse intervention bill
by The Associated Press
OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Senate has passed a bill seeking quicker intervention by the state in cases of suspected child abuse.
Senate Bill 5888 passed unanimously Thursday night and now heads to the House for consideration. The measure is known as "Aiden's Act" and is named for Aiden Barnum, a Port Orchard child who is permanently disabled following abuse he suffered during infancy.
Under the measure, cases of suspected child abuse are immediately reviewed when a social worker decides not to remove a child if additional allegations of abuse are reported. If the review finds there were any errors in the case by employees of the Department of Social and Health Services, a formal employee investigation would occur.
High Schools and Middle Schools Are Failing Victims of Sexual Assault
The issues college campuses are facing are evident in primary and secondary education as well.
by Tierney Sneed
Daisy Coleman switched high schools after allegations that another student had raped her sparked outrage and national headlines. Still, the 17-year-old's struggle to live a normal life was made even harder recently, when her new principal told her she could not attend prom because, according to Coleman's mother, the school couldn't guarantee that she wouldn't be harassed there.
“Because he can't protect her, he is going to punish her more,” Melinda Coleman, Daisy's mother, said at a press conference at the National Press Club in February, which was Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. (She and her daughter have allowed the media to publish their names.)
The principal eventually changed course, but it didn't undo the trauma Daisy – who has been hospitalized multiple times for self-harm and eating disorders since the night of the alleged assault – has faced since making the accusations against a well-known football player in her small Missouri community.
“It's been hard. She quit cheerleading, and she's come to the conclusion that she is not going to be able to have some magical high school experience,” Melinda Coleman tells U.S. News. “There's too much water under the bridge.”
While recent months have brought to light how colleges are struggling to deal with sexual assault on their campuses, high schools and even middle schools are also facing challenges. Secondary school educators are unsure and ill-trained when it comes to handling allegations that one student has assaulted another, which they are legally required to report to the police. Once accusations are made, survivors at times continue to face harassment and victim-blaming among their peers, which some victims say is even worse than the assault itself.
“The problem in general seems to be that schools aren't taking appropriate action once they have knowledge of a possible sexual assault,” says Neena Chaudhry, senior counsel at the National Women's Law Center.
Daisy's nightmare began in Maryville, Missouri, January 2012, when her mother found the then 14-year-old soaking wet and nearly unconscious on her front porch in the bitter cold of the early morning. Daisy and a friend sneaked out of the house late the night before to hang out with friends of Daisy's older brother. Daisy said the older boys gave the girls a strong alcoholic beverage that made her black out. After finding her on the porch, her mother brought Daisy to the hospital – she had frostbite on her hands and feet – and a rape kit revealed she had been assaulted.
The Colemans sought charges against the male student believed to be responsible; he does not deny that he had sex with Daisy, though he says it was consensual. But the way the authorities handled the case attracted national scrutiny: Video evidence of the assault went missing and ?the county prosecutor dropped the charges against the alleged rapist, whose grandfather was a popular political figure in the town.
A special prosecutor eventually stepped in, and Daisy's alleged attacker pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor. In the meantime, Daisy faced harassment not only from students online and in person, but from her high school administrators as well, whom the Colemans say suspended her from the cheerleading team for drinking and sneaking out at night.
Even after moving about 40 miles away, to the town of Albany, the harassment has continued: Coleman?? had lost her job in Maryville over the controversy, the house they left there mysteriously burnt to the ground and bullying continues for Daisy at her new school.
“I know it's hard for them to monitor everything, but they make her sit alone at lunch,” Coleman says. The isolation has made Daisy's life more difficult, not less.
Federally funded colleges are required to report sexual assault statistics under the Clery Act (though the number of such incidents is often downplayed by schools)?. There is no equivalent data collection requirement? for high schools, but CDC data has revealed that 30 percent of female rape victims were first raped between the ages of 11 to 17. According to Justice Department statistics, nearly 20 percent of girls between the ages of 14 and 17 have been victims of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault, and another 1990 study shows that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18. In an additional study using CDC data, released this week, 1 in 5 high school women and 1 in 10 high school men reported experiencing dating violence.
In general, most rapes go unreported and, of the 32 percent that are reported to the police, only 2 percent lead to a felony conviction, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Nearly 2,200 ?minors are arrested for rape each year, and 9,200 more for other sex offenses.
Mandatory reporting laws require K-12 teachers and administrators to report to the police any sexual assault allegations told to them by a student. College officials are under no such requirement – though some states are trying to change that – and while universities have their own investigative and disciplinary protocols in accordance with Title IX??, many colleges have been accused of being biased against victims.
Public primary and secondary schools ?are also covered under Title IX, which requires schools to make certain arrangements for students making sexual assault complaints while an investigation is underway, such as seeing to it that the victim can still attend school, is protected from harassment and can be separated from his or her attacker.
“Part of the problem right now is a lot of parents don't realize that Title IX applies to not only high school but middle school and elementary school,” says Laura Dunn, ?executive director of SurvJustice, which provides legal resources for survivors of campus sexual assault. Rather, when Title IX is considered, it is often associated with gender equity for sports teams or funding school programs. “Even the state officials at the highest level don't know of Title IX or enforcing it in a meaningful way,” Dunn says. ?
While the campaign against college rape has raised awareness about the statute, many parents and even some school administrators are unaware that it also applies to primary and secondary education. Furthermore, many schools are unsure of what else is required once they have reported an incident, as mandated, to the authorities.
“If there was any real evidence of any violation of the law, our first instinct was to refer the matter to the commonwealth attorney,” says Kristen Amundson?, a former school board chairwoman in Fairfax County, Virginia, who is now the executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education. She says when she was chairwoman, only the school board in her district could expel students, and any disciplinary action was likely to follow legal adjudication.
“Investigating a situation, particularly if you're talking about sexual assault, requires real skill and training – and at least in Fairfax, detectives had that ability, had that training,” she says. “The issue is, sometimes, what do you do in that beginning period?”
Amundson also served in the Virginia legislature, where she sponsored a bill that allows school boards to impose short-term suspensions or alternative education programs on students charged with intentionally harming another student – a measure she says could be applied to incidents of sexual assault. Maryland has also issued guidelines for what to do if a teacher or school board member believes a student has been sexually assaulted. But in many states, such protocols are lacking, leaving schools to interpret federal requirements on their own.
“I don't know what schools know or don't know, but there is no excuse,” Chaudhry says, referring to Title IX. “This law has been around for four decades, these are not new policies.”
Under the SaVE? ?Act, an amendment to the Clery Act that became law in 2013, colleges receiving federal student aid must educate students and staff alike on the prevention of rape, ?domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. Universities also must meet certain standards pertaining to campus response, including in relation to ?disciplinary proceedings for perpetrators.
The U.S. primary and secondary education system is decentralized, meaning not only do policies regarding sexual abuse – both preventive educational measures as well as protocols for when an assault is reported – vary state by state and even school district by school district, but ??????????whose responsibility it is to make those ??calls differs across individual schools. What is constant is that, in many places, the guidelines regarding sexual violence are not sufficient. For instance, according to Break the Cycle, an organization that focuses on teen dating violence, more than 80 percent of high school guidance counselors say they feel ill-equipped to deal with reports of abuse on their campuses.
"It's really important that they have a policy in place, and that that policy is clear and also has been ?communicated to the entire school community," says Kelly Hampton, director of programming for Break the Cycle. "That is the most important best practice and that is what we see is most lacking."
Monica Rodriguez?, president and CEO of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, says educators are better prepared for when a child reports sexual abuse by an adult – which usually would prompt the involvement of a social services agency.
"If a student told a teacher her father was raping her, they would know what to do,” Rodriguez says. “When a student discloses something happened on a date, or with someone they're interested in, for teachers that gets a little murkier.”
Schools have made great progress with bullying, she says. “But often when people think about bullying, they don't think about it in terms of gender or sexuality.”
The Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that federally funded schools are required to stop sexual harassment between students to maintain funding, and a 2010 Department of Education “Dear Colleague" letter reminded administrators of their responsibilities, which include distinguishing between sexual harassment and general bullying.
While many high-profile sexual assault cases have taken place at the high school level, teachers in middle schools are struggling with the issue. In one study, 1 in 5 middle school students reported sexual harassment of a physical nature, while other research has shown staff training on student-to-student sexual harassment in middle schools to be sparse – even as training programs concerning bullying are on the rise. Special needs students at all grade levels are especially vulnerable.
In one particularly egregious case in Alabama, a middle school boy had propositioned female students for sex as well as harassed them in other ways, according to court filings. One girl, who was a special needs student, reported his harassment to school officials, and was told to go to the bathroom with the boy, as the school board's policy required that sexual harassers be “caught in the act” in order to be documented and punished. School staff arrived at the bathroom too late in the attempted sting operation, and the female student was raped by the boy. A suit against the school board for violating Title IX is being litigated in a federal appeals court.
“We need to be educating young men and women about awareness first and foremost, because it is a little too late at the college level,” Dunn says.
A federal bill introduced in February ?by Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., would require schools that teach sexual education to address sexual assault and dating violence. The Teach Safe Relationships Act would allow schools to develop a specific curriculum and also provide grants to train teachers on sexual assault prevention. It would not, however, apply to schools in which sexual education is not mandated.
Meanwhile, 20 states have passed Erin's Law, which requires public K-12 schools to teach students how to come forward if they are being sexually abused, and to instruct staff on how to handle such revelations. “We can't rely on parents because the conversation between parents and children ends at stranger danger,” say Erin Merryn?, an abuse survivor who is leading the campaign for the law.
When schools do adopt awareness programs, evidence shows the education is extremely effective.
Kentucky's Green Dot program has led to a 48 percent reduction in sexual violence in schools that utilize it, as well as drops in bullying, sexual harassment, dating violence and stalking.
The program provides a general education for all high school students, faculty and staff, and then a small pool of students – identified and selected by educators because they are formal or informal leaders among the student body – receive a more extensive training that includes bystander intervention methods.
“We want the social diffusion, so you get these leaders that have a much more in-depth piece and they're spreading that with the idea of changing social norms,” says Rhonda Henry?, director of the University of Kentucky Violence Intervention and Protection Center, which leads the training sessions. “Within their groups of peers they are able to have that influence – how to get them to see situations differently, and basically come from a place that [sexual assault] isn't OK.”
After a five-year study that measured the program's success against a control group of schools that did not participate, the researchers?? are now pushing for Green Dot to be implemented in all schools in the state and elsewhere.
“We're seeing the students that were going through those high schools' programs showing up at a college,” Henry says. “They're able to leverage it more effectively there as an adult.”
While advocates say legislation is likely necessary to guarantee that schools consider such educational programs, training requirements and response protocols, lawsuits – particularly the Title IX complaints that have become a focus of the anti-rape movements on college campuses – could also effectively force schools to more broadly consider how they are handling sexual assault allegations.
Currently, the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights has 33 sexual violence investigations open in 32 school districts. Rodriguez compares those complaints to the way legal action brought attention to the issue of anti-LGBT harassment in schools.
“Recently, in the last 10 or 15 years, we have gotten much smarter about bullying about sexual orientation,” she says. “What made that happen was lawsuits.”
She points to a lawsuit against a Wisconsin school district for not protecting a gay student against bullying that ended in a $900,000 out-of-court settlement for the victim. It prompted other schools to adopt pre-emptive anti-bullying policies, she says.
Advocates are also hoping the White House will use the spotlight it has shed on college campus assaults to offer more guidance at the K-12 level.
“The first step around some of the campus sexual assault issue is the White House Task Force to Protect Students Against Sexual Assault,” says Katie Hanna?, executive director of the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence. “The guidance that's been issued within that also speaks to looking to create additional guidance later on in terms of working on K through 12.”
Increased awareness of a high school's requirements under federal law?, in fact, was what helped Coleman change the mind of her daughter's principal about letting Daisy attend prom.
“I was a little bit pleasantly surprised by some of the things that already are in place legally,” she says. “If I had had that information in the beginning – that's something [parents] should have accessible, to help their children heal and recover from something like this and have some sense of justice or fairness in how it's dealt with, instead of the victim being revictimized over and over and over.”
Child-abuse survivor stunned by callous legislative committee
by Jim Callison
Wednesday was a difficult day for Jolene Loetscher. And that is a masterful understatement.
That was the day the South Dakota House of Representatives killed the state's child abuse task force. That was Senate Bill 71, also known as Jolene's Law. Yes, that's Jolene as in Jolene Loetscher.
Loetscher herself is a survivor of child sexual abuse, and she went public with her story in 2011. Loetscher was used to being in the public eye as a former television reporter, but it takes a lot of courage to speak out when the story is about you.
As an adult, Loetscher traveled back to her childhood home in Nebraska to confront her abuser. This image from our original interview has stayed with me as she described seeing him face to face: "I know what you did to me," she said to the man standing near his home's doorway. "And I will not be quiet."
In the aftermath, Loetscher founded the nonprofit Selfspiration. Its goals are to help "survivors of child sexual abuse and give a voice for girls and boys who feel theirs may be gone. We advocate for victims to become survivors and provide support in (their) healing journey."
For several legislative sessions, Loetscher has spent time in Pierre lobbying state legislators to take action that would protect the state's children. In 2014, a task force was established with the first meeting in August. The goal was to suggest ways the state could increase awareness and improve its policies for dealing with child sex abuse.
Members had hoped for one more year to complete the work.
But in what Loetscher describes as a passive-aggressive gesture, the House state affairs committee voted 10-2 against a proposal to allow the task force to continue working this year. It would have cost $21,000.
What really irritates Loetscher is a comment made by Rep. Roger Solum, R-Watertown, stating transportation may be a greater priority for the state than child sexual abuse.
"Their actions sent a loud message of support saying we vote with pedophiles and rapists and don't care if we ignore the tens of thousands of children abused, assaulted and raped in this state," Loetscher said.
"The committee strategically assaulted this bills, rushing it through (Wednesday) morning, being dismissive and at times blatantly ignoring victims and advocates as they spoke of the horrors of rape and child sexual abuse. And without even asking a single question, they moved to kill the work, hope and possibility that had been started to protect children."
I can't find an online link to the story Loetscher and I did in 2011, but here it is reprinted below:
Two sentences set Jolene Loetscher free.
"I know what you did to me," she said to the man standing near his home's doorway. "And I will not be quiet."
With those words, lightness replaced the darkness that had held Loetscher's spirit dormant for more than half her life.
Almost two years earlier, Loetscher had attempted suicide. Power had been building in her since then. Now, on a cold January day, she returned to her hometown to confront the man who had sexually abused her.
"I lost my innocence, I lost time to be a child, but I didn't lose myself," Loetscher says, seven months later. "He could have tried to take that away from me, and for a while he did, but I found it again."
Last month, 32-year-old Loetscher publicly revealed that she was 15 when a family friend raped her repeatedly.
She was one of eight speakers at the first TEDxSiouxFalls event. It is modeled after a decades-old event in Long Beach, Calif., organizer Hugh Weber says.
South Dakotans who are doing extraordinary things or have had unusual experiences addressed the audience.
Until Loetscher's husband, Nate Burdine, approached him about Loetscher as a speaker, Weber had no idea what she had experienced.
"Since I've known her, I've always seen her as a happy person," he says. "I had no idea of the incredible turmoil happening below the surface."
If you don't know Loetscher, you might recognize her face. She was a reporter with KELO-TV from 2001 to 2005. It seemed that whenever a reporter had to stand outside on a cold winter day, it was Loetscher, fuzzy hat pulled over her ears.
She worked in Sioux City, Iowa, before joining Sanford Health's media relations department. Today, she and Burdine operate a dog-waste removal service, and she freelances her media skills.
The abuse remained secret, even from Burdine, whom she met in 2001.
But he suspected what had happened.
"I would have nightmares, and I would yell things out," Loetscher says, "so I think Nate kind of pieced it together."
Triggering the memory
She told no one until she began her MBA studies at the University of Nebraska about three years ago.
Loetscher began returning regularly to Nebraska. She had grown up in Wayne, about three hours north of Lincoln.
Turns out her adviser once lived in Wayne. They began sharing the names of people they knew.
Something in Loetscher's face or manner made the adviser pause.
"She stopped and looked at me and said, 'Did something bad happen?' " Loetscher says. "It was this weird moment, and even now she says, 'I don't know what possessed me to ask that.' But the floodgates opened, and it all came crashing down."
If anything, acknowledging the sexual abuse she'd endured as a teen made life worse. Months later, on a winter day that froze her spirit completely, she looked at her kitchen clock.
It read 5:32 on the last day of her life, Loetscher decided. She opened a big bottle of pills - aspirin or Advil, she thinks now - swallowed the contents, wrapped up in a comforter and prepared to sleep away her pain.
"I thought, I won't wake up tomorrow, but at least I won't be cold, and at least this darkness will stop following me," Loetscher said in her TEDxSiouxFalls speech.
"The tremendous thing was, the next morning, even on a February day, these beams of light came through our wooden blinds. I felt this warmth. I realized I was still here ... and I was here because I had a story left to tell."
Loetscher began seeing a counselor. She shared the story of what had happened with her mother. She prepared to tell it to the public.
But first, she wanted to confront her abuser.
With her husband by her side, she traveled to Wayne. It was Jan. 15, a day she now calls her second birthday.
The day was like none other she'd seen in Wayne, Loetscher says. The sky's white clouds perfectly matched the snow on the ground.
Before Loetscher and Burdine drove up to her abuser's house, they stopped so she could record her thoughts.
The video shows Loetscher huddled in the car seat, her face pinched and pale.
"I just want to record this so I can look back, and I can see how far I came, and I can remind myself that I have nothing to be scared of and that he holds no power over me," she says.
Forty-five seconds later, Loetscher and Burdine walked up the sidewalk to the front door.
She said the two sentences that freed her, then walked away.
Burdine, behind his wife, could hear the man's response. "OK," he said.
That was all.
No denial or apology would have changed how she felt, Loetscher says.
Those two sentences finally released a 15-year-old girl from the squalid back room where he would take off her clothes, run his hands over her body and rape her.
She was a sophomore in high school. She stood only 4-foot-9, and when she drove she needed to sit on two books to see over the steering wheel.
She was so small she wore not the satiny underwear that a teen girl desires but the cotton Hanes worn by much younger girls.
Loetscher remembers once seeing those Hanes pooled on the floor near her feet, just before she was raped.
The next day, she says, he told her he had videotaped it all.
Today, Loetscher doesn't know whether that is true. She doesn't know whether she was the only girl in Wayne he assaulted. In her gut, she suspects she wasn't.
Sharing with the world
For years, she felt no one else ever had this happen to them. Now, she knows it's not true. One in four girls will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday, she says. It will happen to one in seven boys. Ninety percent will know their abuser.
And 88 percent of the cases will go unreported.
Loetscher never reported her assault. She didn't tell her father until the day she confronted her abuser.
Now, she is unafraid to tell the world.
The video of her presentation to TEDxSiouxFalls is online. In three days, more than 300 people viewed it on YouTube, and it now is on the TEDxSiouxFalls website.
Weber has seen Loetscher change in the six months since that trip to Wayne. On stage, she is confident and unafraid.
"The transition is astounding to me on a personal level," he says.
"And, there's the message she has to share and her willingness and desire to help others going through the same thing."
Since word of the video began to spread, Loetscher has received many e-mails and Facebook messages, some from others who also were sexually abused.
Sometimes, she is surprised by the person who shares the information. They're the last person, she says, that you would think it would happen to.
But the same thing can be said about Jolene Loetscher.
She doesn't want the story to end here. She intends to build a camp for child sexual-abuse survivors. It also will be a place for adults who were abused as children to come stay and for parents tormented by what happened to their child.
Her abuser cannot be charged because the statute of limitations has expired, although Nebraska does have laws that deal with repressed memories. Loetscher is talking to a lawyer about whether that applies to her.
She would like to see South Dakota law allow adults to pursue child sexual-abuse lawsuits. Without those, she says, abusers are told it's permissible to abuse the youngest of children.
It doesn't matter what happens in a court of law, however. In her video, she says she learned this after her suicide attempt:
"Closure wouldn't exist for me, but I would pray for justice, and I would find peace, and in that peace I would find a purpose."
Today, she adds, "In the end, my justice is my voice. And my justice is my story. I may never see the day he walks into a courtroom, but I've already seen the day that I've told my story."
Reach columnist Jill Callison at 331-2307.
To view Jolene Loetscher's video presentation at the TEDx conference in Sioux Falls, visit www.tedxsiouxfalls.com.
To follow her personal blog, visit http://selfspiration.com.
To Human Traffickers, Runaway & Homeless Youth Are Walking Prey
by Sen. Patrick Leahy, Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee, and Holly Austin Smith, Survivor, Advocate, and Author of Walking Prey
It is hard to think of a more despicable crime than the buying and selling of other human beings, especially children. Yet we know that it is happening right here in America, every day. Each year, thousands of children are bought and sold for sex. That should keep all of us awake at night.
Many of these young people are homeless or have run away and are fighting to survive on the streets. They are forgotten by society, but they are walking prey to traffickers. They are young and vulnerable. Thirty-nine percent of the homeless population is under the age of 18, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless, and according to the National Network for Youth, the average age at which a teen first becomes homeless is 14.7 years old. The homeless youth population has more than doubled since 2007. Many are running away to escape physical and sexual abuse. Others have been ordered out of the home by parents who reject them. Still others have been lured away by adults who want to exploit them.
We must do all we can to hold traffickers responsible and to help survivors of trafficking rebuild their lives. But if we are serious about addressing this problem, we must also act to prevent this devastating crime from happening in the first place. And that means making sure that all our children have a safe place to sleep. As the Senate prepares to consider legislation to combat the scourge of human trafficking, Senators must support the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act, S.262.
This bipartisan bill supports housing, education, and job training for homeless youth. It ensures that no child is turned away from services because of her or his sexual orientation or gender identity, and it offers training to service providers who are working on the front lines to protect homeless teens every day. It has earned broad support from advocates for trafficking victims and homeless youth, along with more than 25 Senators from both parties.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who serve on the Judiciary Committee, are championing efforts to protect victims and hold traffickers accountable. So are Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), the longest serving woman in Congressional history, and Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), the most senior Republican woman currently serving. Both of them recently testified before the Judiciary Committee about the importance of prevention.
Senator Collins told committee members: "Homeless youth need access to safe beds at night and services during the day so that they never have to choose between selling their bodies and a safe place to sleep." Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) also implored the Committee to focus on preventing more of our kids from becoming victims of human trafficking. They were joined on the Senate floor this week by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), who called for the Senate to take a comprehensive look at the issue of trafficking.
We couldn't agree more. Diverting kids from a lifetime of victimization will save lives and encourage the development of successful, productive young adults.
Jayne Bigelsen directs anti-trafficking initiatives at The Covenant House, which serves more than 56,000 young people in 27 cities. A 2013 study by the Covenant House in New York found that 1 in 4 homeless teens became a victim of sex trafficking or was forced to provide sex for survival needs, such as food or a place to sleep. Of these victims, about half reported that the number one reason they had been drawn into commercial sexual activity was because they did not have a safe place to sleep. As Jayne testified, "To prevent trafficking, we must understand the pipeline between homelessness and the commercial sexual exploitation of young people."
Holly understands this because she lived it. She was one of those runaway teens lured into sex trafficking. At the age of 14, she was sold by a man who pretended to care about her, and promised her a better life. This horrible trauma nearly destroyed her life, but now she is an advocate for others who have been trafficked. As she testified last week, "There needs to be more awareness in communities that this is happening in states all across the country."
As Holly knows from personal experience, and as Jayne knows from the front lines, homeless and runaway kids desperately need our help. Human traffickers view them as walking prey. Lawmakers, advocates, and survivors must stand together with the most vulnerable kids on the streets and protect them from being trafficked. We hope you will join us to urge Congress to pass the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act.
Nashua child's death raises questions of how child abuse handled
Agencies, organizations set up to try to protect children
by Amy Coveno
CONCORD, N.H. —In November last year, 3-year-old Brielle Gage, of Nashua, died. Her mother, Katlyn Marin, was charged with murder, and the case set off a firestorm after it was revealed that child abuse allegations were being investigated at their home earlier in the year.
Many wondered why more wasn't done to protect the child.
Nashua police were called to 14 Oak St. on Nov. 25, 2014, for a medical emergency. The girl was rushed to Southern New Hampshire Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead. Her mother was arrested and charged weeks later.
"It's disgusting that the system would let something like that happen," said neighbor John Hunt.
Public outrage continues to surround the case because Marin's five children had been removed from the home in May. The Department of Children, Youth and Families were investigating allegations of the abuse of two boys in the home.
The children were placed in foster homes for a few months, but then the court awarded custody back to Marin.
"They should have dug deeper," Hunt said. "They should have continued with their investigation instead of letting it go."
The DCYF intake office is the front line of child protection in New Hampshire. Calls come in from people describing possible cases of abuse.
"When they come, it's usually back to back to back," said Angie Prindle of DCYF. "I'll hang up a call and be working on a referral, and before I can even finish it, I've got to take another call."
Ten workers take about 22,000 calls per year. Of those, approximately 9,000 assessment files are opened to investigate alleged abuse or neglect of a child. Less than 1 percent end up in the court system.
Lorraine Bartlett, the director of DCYF, said there are two major misconceptions about the scope and power of the department.
"Children should be removed from their parents regardless of what the allegation is. DCYF should take them," Bartlett said. "On the other side is, we don't take enough. So it's that push and pull that happens."
The power to remove children and place them in foster care lies with the court, not DCYF, and the threshold for removal is high, Bartlett said. She said state law mandates that DCYF look at the entire family and to try keep families together if at all possible.
"You'll hear my colleagues talk about the fact that we all know that removing a child from a parent, regardless of how bad that parent is, is significantly traumatic for that child," Bartlett said.
Egregious abuse goes to court and to Court-Appointed Special Advocates of New Hampshire. CASA CEO Marcia Sink said CASA and DCYF don't always agree because CASA only considers what's best for the child. Family unification is secondary.
"Making that child alive for the court," Sink said. "Painting a picture of who that child is, what they've suffered, the ramifications and implications of their ongoing health and well-being."
"To have a child pass away or to be injured is an absolute failure of something, be it somebody's behavior or the system, in the way in which we deal with abuse and neglect," said Bernadette Melton-Plante, program director of CASA.
The Attorney General's Office has established a Child Fatality Review Committee. Thirty people, from EMTs to police officers to DCYF and CASA officials, meet every other month and review every child death in New Hampshire, from homicide to accidental causes.
But when cases are criminal, such as Brielle's death, the review doesn't happen until after the court proceeding is complete, which could take years.
This Child Abuse Survivor Is Teaching Kids About The Importance Of Speaking Up
by Alena Hall
After being sexually abused by her nanny throughout her childhood, Lauren Book overcame the traumatic experience. Now, she's dedicating her life to advocating for victims like herself.
The CEO of the Lauren's Kids Foundation and new author of Lauren's Kingdom joined HuffPost Live host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani to discuss how the educational components of child abuse prevention programs can be improved.
"I think the most important thing we can do is educate our children in a safe, developmentally appropriate way," Book said. "We have a pre-K through grade-12 curriculum in Florida that the Lauren's Kids Foundation has rolled out in schools throughout the state talking about our private parts. I have private parts, you have private parts, even the president of the United States has private parts. But it's not okay for anybody to look at or touch your private parts unless you're hurt or you need help and you ask your mom or your dad, or you're at the doctor -- and who's with you when you're at the doctor? Your mom or your dad. Those are your special grown-up buddies."
New child abuse reporting law taking toll on Children & Youth Office
Office receiving more calls but many not substantiated
by John Latimer
The Lebanon County Children & Youth Office is seeing the impact of the state's new mandatory child abuse reporting law.
At their Thursday morning meeting, Children & Youth Director Jim Holtry told the Lebanon County commissioners that the state's new Child Protective Services Law, requiring anyone who works or interacts with children to report suspected child abuse, is creating more work for his staff. In the two months it has been in effect, he said, the agency has received 46 more reports of abuse than it did during the same period last year, a 62 percent increase.
"We are seeing rather a significant increase in child abuse reports filtering down to the county," he said. "It is more than what anyone anticipated. The impact of the changes are rather significant."
The problem is also being felt at the state level where the Department of Human Services' ChildLine telephone reporting system is having trouble keeping up with the calls. Earlier this month the department announced it will be hiring more people to answer the phones and take reports.
But that may only make things worse at the county level.
All reported cases must be investigated and many are not substantiated, Holtry said. Before the law went into effect only 13 percent of child abuse reports were validated last year, and he suspects that rate will drop with the new law.
With more false reports coming in, Holtry fears an overworked staff may miss a valid one.
"That is my biggest concern," he said. "We are spending a lot of time investigating child abuse cases that there is really not that much substance to. Because we are spending so much time on those, I'm concerned that we are going to miss something that is critical."
Holtry said he and the commissioners have begun talking about ways to handle the additional workload but hiring more workers is not imminent.
"We've been in discussions trying to reorganize things to be a little bit more efficient and effective in the way we are handling the cases," he said. "And I'm sure we will have future discussion on those."
There may be some hope for the county.
In his 2015-16 budget released this week, Gov. Tom Wolf increased funding for county child welfare services by more than $40 million and targeted $8 million for improvements to the state's Child Welfare Information System.
Hours expanded for child abuse hotline housed at Georgia State
by Janel Davis
State funding given to Prevent Child Abuse Georgia will allow the state's 1-800-CHILDREN Helpline to expand its hours.
The $82,500 awarded by Georgia's Division of Family and Children Services is a one-year pilot contract to support the DFCS call center. The helpline provides citizens with resources on positive parenting, and referral services to prevent child abuse and neglect.
Financial support from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation allowed PCA Georgia to restart the hotline in February 2014. The hotline had shut down in 2011. The new state funding increases the Helpline's service hours to 8 a.m.-7 p.m., Mondays through Fridays. l
Prevent Child Abuse Georgia's helpline gets expanded hours with new state funding.
A murderer and rapist's views reflect those of many in India
by MUNEEZA NAQVI
NEW DELHI (AP) — When a condemned killer said the woman he and others brutally gang-raped on a New Delhi bus was responsible for what had happened to her, his comments were shocking in their callousness and lack of remorse. But the underlying view has wide acceptance in India.
Blaming women for rape is what hundreds of millions of men here are taught to believe.
And the code for women in this country is simple: Dress modestly, don't go out at night, don't go to bars and clubs, don't go out alone. If you break the code, you will be blamed for the consequences.
When one of the four men sentenced to death for the high-profile gang rape of the woman in 2012 was quoted in a new documentary as saying "a girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy," he was repeating something community and religious leaders in this nation of 1.2 billion routinely say.
"A decent girl won't roam around at 9 o'clock at night. ... Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes," Mukesh Singh said in the documentary, "India's Daughter," meant to be shown on Sunday, International Women's Day, in India and several other countries.
But how different were the convicted rapist's words from comments that Manohar Lal Khattar, the top elected official of Haryana state made last year?
"If a girl is dressed decently, a boy will not look at her in the wrong way," Khattar told reporters, "Freedom has to be limited. These short clothes are Western influences. Our country's tradition asks girls to dress decently."
The convicted rapist learned only what he has heard leaders in his community say, said Jagmati Sangwan, a women's rights activist who heads the All India Democratic Women's Association.
"This man is just following the example our leaders are setting for our young men," she said.
In 2009 when a rightwing Hindu group attacked women in a pub in the southern state of Karnataka, then-Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa said that he wanted to "end the culture of boys and girls roaming around in malls holding hands."
Women leaders are not immune.
When a female journalist was shot dead in 2008 while driving home from work well past midnight, New Delhi's top official at the time, Sheila Dixit, make clear she partly blamed the victim.
"All by herself till 3 a.m. at night in a city where people believe...you know...you should not be so adventurous," she told reporters.
It's a view that Sangwan hears all too often.
"It's a heinous view to hold, but it's the view of our religious leaders, our community leaders, our legislators," she said.
The country's women aren't surprised either.
"A lot of Indian men think this way. They don't have any empathy or they are brought up in such a way that they don't feel anything for women. They feel that women are only for sex and to be thrown away," said Bhavleen Singh, an 18-year-old student at Delhi University.
Mukesh Singh, who was driving the bus for much of the time that the 23-year-old woman was being attacked, told the documentary film maker that the victim should have remained silent and allowed the rape, and that they would have spared her life.
The documentary, which includes a 2013 jailhouse interview with Singh, set off government alarm bells after transcripts were released this week. On Tuesday, India's Information and Broadcasting Ministry ordered television channels not to air the film.
It remains unclear whether the government will be able to block the film but the legal wrangling will most likely delay its screening in India.
The brutality, and perhaps the fact that the gang rape occurred on a moving bus in a posh New Delhi neighborhood, galvanized this country of 1.2 billion, where sexual violence is rampant.
The woman and a male friend were returning home from seeing a movie at an upscale mall when they were tricked by the attackers into getting on the bus, which the men had taken out for a joyride. The attackers beat the victim's friend and took turns raping her. They penetrated her with a rod, leaving severe internal injuries that led to her death two weeks later.
Four men were convicted of rape and murder in an unusually fast trial for India's chaotic justice system. A fifth man died in prison, and another attacker who was a juvenile at the time was sentenced to three years in a detention center.
The four adults who went to trial confessed to the attack but later retracted their confessions, saying they'd been tortured into admitting their involvement. Legal appeals against their death sentences are pending in the Supreme Court.
In response to the 2012 attack and the widespread public protests it provoked, India's government rushed through legislation doubling prison terms for rapists to 20 years and criminalizing voyeurism, stalking and the trafficking of women.
But while laws can change quickly, mindsets do not. India's Parliament held a stormy debate Wednesday on whether the film should be screened. Some legislators questioned how the filmmaker, who is British, had gotten into the prison to do the interview. Many, though, were uncomfortable with having India's problems aired publicly — particularly by a foreign filmmaker.
But several lawmakers, many of them women, disagreed.
"What the man spoke reflects views of many men in India," Anu Aga, a prominent businesswoman and legislator said in Parliament.
"Every time a rape happens, the victim is blamed to have provoked the men. Let's be aware of the view and not pretend all is well," she said.
Associated Press journalist Chonchui Ngashangva contributed to this report
Thousands of Vulnerable Children Go Missing from Britain's Protective Services
by Leah McGrath Goodman
Many of the child sex abuse scandals that have shocked Britain in recent years involve victims who were supposed to be under the protection of the state—children identified as at risk by child protective services and in the care of local authorities.
Many in Britain have characterized the abuses as a thing of the past. Surely such horrors could never happen today. But an analysis of the most recent official data shows that each year the government loses track of around 2,000 vulnerable children in care, even as reports of human trafficking inside the country are on the rise.
Moved by a string of revelations of abuse involving entertainers, politicians and other public figures, Home Secretary Theresa May in February named New Zealand High Court Judge Lowell Goddard to chair a nationwide inquiry into decades of child sex abuse—much of it involving children in care.
At any given time, more than 30,000 children in England are in the care of local authorities, who monitor their progress and oversee their placement in government-run children's homes or with foster-care givers or other guardians. The authorities try to keep track of what happens to children who officially leave the care system, logging them in categories such as children who are adopted, returned to parents or family, taken into foster care, those who have grown out of care and those deceased. But children who don't fall into these categories—for instance, those who run away or end up homeless, abducted, trafficked or worse—are lumped into a category that the U.K. Department for Education simply labels “other,” also known as “E8.”
An analysis of the data shared with Newsweek shows that, according to Education Department statistics for the year ending March 31, 2013, around 1,910 children (legally defined as under the age of 18) left the care system in England for unknown “other” reasons, including 180 babies under the age of 1. In the same period in 2012, about 2,260 children left the system for “other” reasons, including 160 babies. Detailed figures for 2014 are not yet available.
According to Mike Murphy-Pyle, a spokesman for the Education Department, local authorities are given no guidance on how they should fill out the “other” category. “It is for everything else not covered by the other categories provided,” he says. U.K. Education Minister Edward Timpson declined to comment.
While some of the children, particularly the older ones, may have left by choice, there is increasing concern about those under 16. There were 1,220 of them in the “other” category for the year ended March 31, 2013, and 1,420 for the same period in 2012.
“We have over 1,000 children a year who just go missing, and we don't know what's happening to them,” says John Hemming, a Liberal Democrat in Parliament who provided the data to Newsweek . “You'd think with all the headlines over abuse of children in care, people would be all over this, but they're not. We are talking about children and babies. Why are we not doing a better job of tracking them?”
The Education Department releases limited data collected annually from local authorities across England, who must fill out what is called an “SSDA903 return,” which asks for the details on children in care as well as those who leave care.
The refined figures of children missing for unknown “other” reasons provided by Hemming to Newsweek drilled further down into the data to reveal the ages and origins of the children who leave the system for unknown reasons. London showed the highest totals for children leaving care for unknown other reasons in the year ended March 31, 2013, with 370 under 18.
The statistics and reporting categories can be confusing, allowing for missing children to be easily conflated with runaways, says Hemming. “If local authorities wish to conceal a situation, they can simply put a child down as ‘leaving care for other reasons,'” he says. “And no one will ever know what happened to the child.”
Bad record-keeping has been a feature of the abuse scandals. Last autumn, a review by the U.K.'s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children found that between 1979 and 1999, the U.K. Home Office had “lost or destroyed” 114 files relating to reported child abuse by high-ranking people, including senior politicians. The review came after a report last year from Rotherham, South Yorkshire, revealed that at least 1,400 minors were subjected to widespread, organized child-sex abuse from 1997 to 2013, including many who were in care.
Hemming believes that better tracking of children who leave care might have made a difference in Rotherham and another abuse case, in Rochdale. In 2012, the same year abusers were brought to justice in Rochdale over a child sex ring that went ignored for years despite victims repeatedly seeking local authorities' help, the district did not provide any figures at all for children who left care for unknown reasons.
“[This] is all about abuse of power by employees of the state,” says Hemming. “The fact that it involves the maltreatment of children for sexual gratification makes this all the worse. For the future, we need to make it harder for state employees to conceal abuses of power. More transparency and accountability are needed, as well as less secrecy.”
Liz Davies, a veteran social worker who teaches at London Metropolitan University, says in light of the recent revelations of sexual exploitation and trafficking of vulnerable children in Rotherham, Rochdale, Oxford and other regions, there needs to be better reporting on children in care.
“Many children go missing from care but come back,” she says. “No one is counting the ones that don't come back. There's no statutory requirement to report how many children have disappeared and have never been seen again. Really, we should have a report on every single one.”
Hemming laments that the freshest data available are still nearly two years old. “The U.K. is clearly taking none of it very seriously,” he says. “By the time the stats come in, it's nearly time to report them again.” Hemming has data going back to 1995 showing more than 300 children a year under the age of 4 leaving England's care system for unknown reasons.
He says the lack of concern about vulnerable children is illustrated by the fact that statistics on children counted by local authorities are rounded to the nearest 10. “The system is that bad that we're losing hundreds of children due to rounding errors,” Hemming says. “They don't care enough about the children to count them individually.”
According to Murphy-Pyle, the rounding is a feature of “all government statistics” and also “protects the children's identity, in cases where only one child might fall into a given category.” Hemming is not convinced by that argument. “It does not really make a difference in practice to confidentiality, and it makes checking the figures harder,” he says.
Jon Bird, operations manager at London's National Association of Adults Abused in Childhood, says nearly half of the survivors who report to the group that they were victims of human trafficking were at one time inside the U.K.'s care system. “We hear from about 5,000 people a year and receive around one and a half thousand emails, and, increasingly over the past year, we've been hearing about this kind of abuse from children who've been in care,” he says.
The U.K.'s Human Trafficking Centre's latest assessment shows a total of 2,744 people, including 602 children, reported as trafficked for exploitation in the U.K. in 2013, up 22 percent from 2012. The organization stresses that the numbers reflect only what's been reported and are rough figures. Not all reports indicate confirmed trafficking, but, at the same time, the totals could be much higher, as not all incidents are reported. Victims were forced to work in brothels, hotels, private homes or on the street as sex workers, and also forced into domestic servitude or to work on building sites or in farms and factories.
According to the latest statistics from the U.K.'s National Crime Agency, the number of trafficked children who were sexually exploited rose 250 percent in 2013 from the year before, representing 88 percent of all minors identified as victims of trafficking. The government-run National Crime Agency declined to discuss potential links between the child-care system and trafficking.
One of the reasons the numbers have spiked is that more people are coming forward, says Bird. “This has been going on for many decades, but it has always been ignored,” he says. “In recent years, due to the headlines, there have been an increasing number of people reporting abuse in hopes they may finally be believed.”
As far back as December 2011, Hemming asked then Education Minister Tim Loughton on the Parliament floor if he would consider overhauling the classifications tracking children in care, to make it easier to see what happened to children disappearing from the system and “to identify when a child runs away from care or is abducted or trafficked.”
Loughton's response was similar to that of ministers before him. “The department has no plans to expand the codes under which local authorities provide statistical returns on children missing from care, as this will lead to an unnecessary increase in the reporting requirements."
In February, Hemming raised the issue in Parliament again, referencing the child sex ring in Rotherham. “Would it not be a good idea for the government to have an independent audit of what happens to these children and what is happening to the children who leave care officially for ‘other' reasons?” he demanded of Eric Pickles, a conservative MP and secretary of state for communities and local government.
Pickles demurred from answering the question directly, saying, “I certainly feel that as a nation we need to do a lot more in terms of offering assistance to people who leave the care system.”
Child Abuse Survivor: We Must Expose Horrors
A survivor discusses the long-term effects of abuse and the positives - and potential flaws - of the statutory inquiry.
Laurence Wheeler, a 61-year-old survivor of sexual abuse from Kent, explains what the inquiry into historical child abuse within the British Establishment means to him:
As an adult survivor of childhood abuse, I am pleased that an inquiry into historical child abuse allegations has at last been set up.
With a background of cover-ups and deception, it is essential to have an open and independent panel and chair, to fully publish their findings with complete clarity.
For this to happen it is essential that the inquiry has statutory powers to compel witnesses to give evidence, and that exemption from the Official Secrets Act and other impediments are removed.
This inquiry is groundbreaking in its scope. It is a very important step towards the de-tabooing of a taboo subject that ruins so many lives.
The exposure of child abuse within the Establishment sector is something that had previously been considered as unthinkable. In reality it is more than thinkable - it is a fact.
The assumption that child abuse doesn't, and would never, happen in the upper echelons of society has, at long, long last, been exposed as a complete fallacy.
After so many years and so many denials, we now know it did happen and it happened big time. Now we have the opportunity to expose it fully.
The present Establishment needs this to happen in order that they can clean out their historical horrors to maintain their credibility.
It needs to happen, so that confidence in the process of protecting our children can be maintained and improved. It needs to happen for the survivors who need to see the perpetrators of this insidious crime punished. And it needs to take place in the public domain and to be as open as possible.
The Home Secretary's statement to the House was full and encouraging.
The appointment of Justice Lowell Goddard to head the inquiry is a welcome step forward. She would appear to be well qualified and has the support and experience to carry the job through.
The concern from a survivor's viewpoint is that everything contained in the statement now happens and that justice is done and seen to be done.
Child abuse is a crime that inflicts long-term, permanent injury on its victims for which there is no cure.
Survival is a question of degree and survivors often face an uphill struggle to come to terms with what has happened to them. Many struggle without ever getting resolution or recognition of their problems.
They need to know they are not rejected and discarded, as so many have experienced, and that their plight and injury is recognised as being serious, damaging and life altering.
Because of the present culture of more openness, many victims of abuse are now coming forward with disclosures where previously they would not have done.
I have suffered from the effects of childhood abuse from the age of four and know first-hand how destructive and negative a force it can be.
This is, to quote the Home Secretary, a "once in a generation opportunity" and it is vital that we get it right. What survivors want is the recognition that wrong was done to them and that help is available.
Obviously there are concerns about how this inquiry goes forward and it raises many questions but we should wait and see how it develops before judging.
That said, issues like limiting the inquiry to 1970, missing files and previous cover ups all need addressing urgently.
I personally know two people whose abuse occurred in the 1950/60s whose experiences will not be considered with the present remit.
One can only hope that this inquiry will actually do what it says on the tin.
State looks to ramp up fight against human trafficking
by News Service of Florida
Targeting what one senator described as a “sick but profitable criminal enterprise,” lawmakers have started moving to ramp up Florida's response to human trafficking.
One proposal (HB 465/SB 1108) would increase penalties for “soliciting, inducing, enticing or procuring another to commit prostitution.” Another (HB 457/SB 698) would dedicate funding from a “Safe and Free Florida” specialty license tag to victim services.
A third proposal (SB 534/HB 369) would require the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline number to be posted “in all Florida transportation hubs.”
“Human trafficking is a sick but profitable criminal enterprise that affects up to 300,000 children and many young adults in the United States each year,” Sen. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican and sponsor of SB 534, said in a prepared statement last week. “SB 534 will get more of these cases reported and hopefully help put an end to this widespread practice of modern-day slavery.”
Florida ranks among the top three states for human trafficking. And as more about the crime has become known, the state has toughened its laws. Last year Florida earned a B in a study of state trafficking laws by the American Center for Law & Justice and Shared Hope International, an advocacy group.
Virtually everyone involved in the state's response agrees that community awareness has grown exponentially over the past few years.
“It's becoming a hot topic,” said Zachary Hughes, a detective with the Marion County Sheriff's Office. “The community wants to be involved.”
But Hughes also warned that the state network of victim services is far from adequate.
“The response is very, very regionalized,” he said.
On Monday, when the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking met at the Capitol, the panel heard a report that recommended a more coordinated system of care.
“Currently Florida's system is somewhat fragmented,” Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Christy Daly said.
According to the report, conducted by the Department of Juvenile Justice and the Department of Children and Families, there are about 180 known survivors of sexually exploitation in the foster-care system. During federal fiscal year 2013-2014, 31 were referred for specialized services, but no safe houses or safe foster homes were available.
The report also recommended specialized victim advocates and a much wider array of services for trafficking survivors — including treatment for substance abuse, mental health and medical needs.
“It is important to know that the council was not charged to look at funding,” Daly said. “But one of our biggest challenges is funding. Often these programs are very expensive.”
Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle asked the council to consider backing a proposal to extend eligibility for services to victims who are 18 and older.
“What we're finding in our community is that for the young girls, under the age of 18, we have a very good safety net. DCF's doing a great job,” she said. “But what happens if that same girl turns 18 years old? We cannot find a place to help her get out of the brutal environment she's been in.”
Both Rundle and Hughes of the Marion County Sheriff's Office emphasized that sex-trafficking victims tend to enter the life at 13 or 14, often due to abuse or poverty at home. Both said that victims become “trauma-bonded” to their abusers — and are often badly beaten and addicted.
“We've got to break that bond,” Hughes said. “Abuse becomes normal. They don't know what a healthy relationship is.”
But to provide that healing response, experts agree, more services are needed.
“We know there's not enough shelter and housing,” said Robin Hassler Thompson, a Tallahassee lawyer affiliated with the Center for the Advancement of Human Rights at Florida State University. “The challenge about human trafficking is that it is vast. We've got a whole range of needs and a whole range of victims.”
Hassler Thompson recently helped establish a non-profit called the Survive and Thrive Advocacy Center for trafficking victims within the 2nd Judicial Circuit in North Florida.
New ‘Stop Fighting' website aims to curb domestic violence surge
Campaign launches with calls up 136 %
by Collin Szewczyk
Incidences of domestic violence are on the rise in the United States, and Pitkin County is no different.
Nan Sundeen, director of the county's health and human services department, wrote in a memo to county commissioners that domestic violence calls to law enforcement in Pitkin County, Basalt, Snowmass Village and Aspen increased 136 percent from 2008 through 2014. Domestic violence arrests were up 48 percent during the same span.
The county saw 65 calls to police and 27 arrests in 2008, and 154 calls with 41 arrests in 2014. The Pitkin County Adult and Family Services department also received 133 child welfare referrals in 2014 — up from 59 in 2008. Staff estimates that around 60 percent of those referrals involve domestic violence.
Members of local law enforcement and health and human services (HHS) agencies have kicked off an effort to stem these unsettling trends.
The “Stop Fighting It Hurts” campaign went live on Monday, and is designed to “reduce the incidence of domestic violence in Pitkin County and to educate the community on the impact of domestic violence on children,” according to Sundeen's memo.
Sundeen and members of the valley's HHS agencies unveiled the campaign was unveiled to county commissioners on Tuesday afternoon.
“We decided to try and work together and get out in front of domestic violence in our local community, and see if we could create a prevention program,” Sundeen said.
Gary Bender, executive director of Valley Life for All, said the increasing number of people affected by domestic violence speaks for itself.
“We're just looking at the fact that there are people in our community who are not safe, and these calls are increasing dramatically,” she said.
Health and human services started meeting with the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office last year and formed the idea for a three-year awareness campaign, which is funded by a three-year, $70,000 grant from the county.
The outreach effort includes newspaper and radio advertisements, rack cards and the website.
The ads include phrases speaking to the impact that violence in the home has on a child.
Bender and Sundeen stressed that children who witness domestic violence are at an increased risk for “mental health issues, antisocial behavior, and escalated rates of depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder.”
As part of the campaign, they wanted to take the stigma out of the terms “violence” and “fighting,” and replace them with “conflict,” Bender said.
But Commissioner Rachel Richards warned that every family has conflict, and it might be too wide-ranging of a term.
“This makes it sound like if you have any family conflict, all these bad things will happen,” she said. “And so by removing the words violence and fighting ... I think you've left it so generic so to not have a meaning.”
But Sundeen said the term was intentionally selected to cover all negative conflicts that can adversely affect a child.
“It's not just violence, so the family conflict is broader and more inclusive, and less exclusive,” she said. “The other reason why we chose this language is that we find that people don't like to think they're involved in violence, and even when they have calls with police, they're likely to deny that there is violence in the home and that they are victims of domestic violence.”
Sundeen added that using “conflict” helps people distinguish early what is healthy and unhealthy strife.
The website, stopfightingithurts.com, is bilingual, and offers myriad advice and resources for people dealing with domestic violence. It features a “quick escape” button that rapidly changes the web page to the Weather Channel site, in case the person fears that they will be abused if they are researching ways to get help.
Richards was impressed by the campaign and praised the work by the agencies and sheriff's office.
“I really can't thank you enough for this work,” she said. “I have great hopes for improved outcomes because of it.”
Logan Hood, executive director of RESPONSE: Help for Survivors of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, added that there is a 24-7 crisis hotline and said that all statistics will be tracked to measure the effectiveness of the campaign.
“We're really going to get to use [the hotline] as a measurement tool,” she said. “To really focus on the effects of children witnessing [violence], this is really capturing that so well. A lot of providers came together in a collaborative effort to hopefully be a great example to the rest of our valley and our state.”
Oxford grooming scandal: 'Stressed police don't have time to keep girls safe'
As a shocking new review shows that authorities in Oxfordshire missed opportunities to help hundreds of girls who were being groomed, a retired police officer tells Radhika Sanghani what went wrong
by Radhika Sanghani
At least 370 girls were sexually abused in Oxford over the last 16 years, an official inquiry has found.
The Serious Case Review into the grooming of girls, some as young as 11, found that they had suffered “indescribably awful” ordeals. It also said that police and social workers were partly at fault.
According to the report, social workers missed opportunities to intervene because they had no basic “human connection” with the girls. Police actually ignored evidence of rape and violent sexual abuse.
The findings are shocking.
There are claims that police officers told parents that their daughter's life was none of their “business” and that one girl seemed “happy” with her abusers.
They also described victims as “prostituting themselves.”
No individual police officers have been called to resign – instead the report concluded that the failings happened because of general ignorance, and a “culture” of turning a blind eye to young children being sexualised.
For an ordinary member of the public, it's hard to understand.
How can 370 girls have been abused over 16 years without the police doing something? Especially after recent findings that the same thing happened in Rotherham on a much larger scale, with over 1,000 girls being abused.
It begs the question: what exactly were the police doing?
One retired Metropolitan officer from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) has tried to answer that.
He wishes to remain anonymous.
Here he explains why there have been such systematic failings by the police, when it come to child sexual exploitation and abuse:
"Back when I joined the police in the 1980s, the focus was on 'stranger danger' and rapists in alleyways.
But, by the 1990s, there was an understanding that most sexual abusers were people the victims trusted, or family abuse. Children being abused outside of those groups were suddenly left out.
Today, people talk about online abuse but they're doing it offline, too.
A typical pattern is that police officers, who may not have experience of working with young people who have been sexually abused, hear about a possible case of child abuse first. The case doesn't always go to CEOP.
The officers go and speak to the girl who has allegedly been abused. She might tell them to 'eff off'.
Then they try to speak to the suspect, but a solicitor says: ‘Where's your evidence?'
They likely don't have any. Sometimes you know abuse has happened but you can't get the evidence together. Then the CPS will say there isn't enough of a case for prosecution.
This is a fundamental problem of investigating child abuse.
The answer lies in training. It's about accepting that young people are different to adults. There needs to be some sort of understanding of what they've been through. Currently, we're not seeing things from a child's perspective.
The teenage brain is quite fascinating. They put things together in a different way from adults. They're worried their peers will find out. When girls have been out of their skulls on drink and drugs, then had sex with 10 people, why would they want to tell someone that? Especially if they don't understand that they've been abused. They don't know what a good relationship looks like.
Police officers need to see it as a drawn-out process, where the victim might tell you one thing one day, and another thing the next. Their story might well keep changing.
At the moment police officers see it as any other crime, and try to get the facts as soon as possible.
The police are under pressure. You get a nasty allegation, then there's pressure for the child to disclose the story to you, and for you to charge someone with the crime.
But we need to give police time to build a relationship with the child and take that pressure off.
With child sexual exploitation, it's more about safe-guarding the child than getting a charge.
That's different from normal policing.
It's why police officers just need more training on how to deal with children. Even the terminology we use like ‘child prostitution' is wrong. It should be ‘the sexual abuse of children'.
If you're asking officers to investigate things they don't understand, you will get comments that are inappropriate. I've heard officers say things that have made me wince.
Obviously it's damaging to the child, if they've been brave enough to come forward.
The judicial system isn't set up for these situations either. It's actually abusive sometimes. The victims, such as the girls in Oxford and Rotherham, have already been abused. Then they get called liars in court.
Other problems occur if there aren't police systems in place. If incidents aren't recorded properly, you're going to get things that are missed - particularly if they're not being picked up by specialist units.
It's why I'm not sure the police chiefs should be asked to resign. If they had intelligence identifying that there were a number of children being sexually abused, then they'd have to answer for that. But if there weren't the systems in place to identify it and bring it all together on the ground, it's very difficult to say.
There's just a general lack of understanding. Mistakes have been made, but it needs to be looked at in the light of how people investigated it at the time.
To put the blame on the police as a whole is misleading. We need a societal change. Frankly, there needs to be acceptance that sex abuse is prevalent.
Think about it: you're more likely to bump into an unconvicted sex offender than a convicted one on the street.
What we need, most of all, is to recognise that sexual abuse exists. Only then can we start to change the attitudes that have led us to this point."
PSA on child abuse leads to more phone calls reporting abuse
by Mayra Moreno
BEXAR COUNTY -- Since a public service announcement on child abuse aired earlier this year, newly elected District Attorney Nico Lahood said the calls are coming in to report abuse.
Last year 151 children died in Texas as a result of child abuse or neglect and 12 of those children were from the Bexar County area.
A shocking statistic pushed Noelle Manasco to become a volunteer for CASA, Child Advocates San Antonio. The organization recruits, trains, and supervises court-appointed volunteers who help abused children. "Bexar County's numbers are outstanding," said Manasco.
"It was just important to say you can't talk about something being wrong unless you step in and do something about it yourself," Manasco said.
In 2012, 6,205 children in Bexar County were confirmed victims of abuse. In 2013, 5,846 were reported, and 2014 there were 5,434 cases. CASA leaders said the numbers are slowly dropping, but too slowly.
Since taking office, Lahood has made some changes like creating a child abuse division. "It's not going to change overnight," said Lahood. "We have prosecutors that are just focused on child abuse cases."
Lahood is now working with county leaders to re-vamp the Child Protective Services child court.
Also this year, 'Child Safe' aired a PSA. where several county leaders called for action, asking residents to report child abuse. Lahood sits on the board.
"There's been a lot more phone calls a lot more people a lot more awareness out there," said Lahood.
Lahood also said while the county is making progress, the public's help is also part of the big picture and the solution.
To report child abuse you can call 1-800-252-5400.
Child abuse law changes approved, continued study defeated
by James Nord
PIERRE (AP) — To the surprise of lawmakers and others fighting child sexual abuse in South Dakota, a House committee on Wednesday defeated a plan to authorize more time to study how to address the issue.
The House State Affairs Committee voted 10-2 to kill a proposal to allow the Jolene's Law Task Force, which was created by the Legislature in 2014, to add another member and continue its work this year.
The bill had passed through the state Senate without any dissent. The task force was named after Jolene Loetscher, of Sioux Falls, who was a victim of sexual abuse as a teenager and has talked publicly about her story.
Loetscher bowed her head and prayed from the audience as the committee voted, and the resulting outcome brought her to tears.
"I'm disappointed and disheartened that we have legislators that don't believe that protecting our children against child sexual abuse is ... a priority in this state," Loetscher said after the vote. "We were formulating things that were going to change lives and save lives, and now we decide to play politics with children, and it's heartbreaking."
Loetscher said the task force wanted to continue working to strengthen mandatory reporting, improve how K-12 students and parents are educated about abuse and to focus on a broader public awareness campaign, among other initiatives.
But Republican Rep. Roger Solum said shortly before the vote that there are funding limitations and that he would hate to commit to the study when other issues may need to be examined.
Republican Sen. Deb Soholt, the bill's main sponsor, said after the hearing that the committee's vote against re-authorizing the study took her by surprise and that she's "disappointed on behalf of the children."
The committee did vote unanimously to pass a companion measure that would require that a mandatory reporter — such as a teacher or school counselor — who first hears a child's account of abuse must be available to answer questions when the account is passed on to authorities.
Soholt has said that's to make sure the account doesn't become jumbled as it passes through multiple people on its way to authorities.
"I'm proud we did get a change into mandatory reporting ... but there's so much more we need to do." Loetscher said.
High Court Weighs Limits on Child Abuse Evidence
by Sam Hananel
The Supreme Court is considering limits on the type of evidence that can be used in child abuse cases, a move that could hamstring prosecutors in domestic violence trials.
The justices on Monday debated whether out-of-court statements that children make to their teachers about abuse can be used as evidence if a child is unable to testify in person.
The case involves Darius Clark, a Cleveland man convicted of abusing his girlfriend's three-year-old son. Clark says allowing the trial court to consider statements the boy made to teachers denied him the constitutional right to confront his accuser.
The Supreme Court has previously said that statements about abuse that children make to law enforcement officials are not admissible on their own because they were gathered as evidence and, if used, would amount to hearsay.
During a one-hour argument, several justices seemed concerned about the role played by teachers and others who are not law enforcement officials, but have a legal duty to report allegations of abuse to authorities.
Chief Justice John Roberts said questions the teacher asked the boy about who caused the injuries "seem to be designed to compile a case."
Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the question is whether the statement was intended to substitute for testimony later on.
"So whether it's given to a private individual or a police officer is irrelevant," Sotomayor said.
Ohio officials and children's advocacy groups say the primary purpose of having teachers disclose possible abuse is to protect children from immediate harm and remove them from danger, not to compile evidence for a criminal prosecution.
Matthew Meyer, an assistant prosecuting attorney representing Ohio, said the 6th Amendment right to confront accusers applies only when government agents investigate for purposes of a criminal prosecution. If there's no direction by police, he said it's simply a conversation between a teacher and student.
"These are just the basic questions a teacher would ask when a student comes to school with a bruise on their face," Meyer said.
Clark's attorney, Jeffrey Fisher, said his client was not asking for a ban on use of children's statements about abuse to teachers. But he insisted a defendant must be allowed to confront the accuser.
"How can there be a question of cross-examining a 3-year-old?" Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked.
Fisher said the child could be interviewed in another setting, possibly by an expert.
"If by interviewing the child outside the courtroom in a more therapeutic setting is more likely to be able to enable the child to tell his story and to answer questions, then that's what confrontation is all about," Fisher said.
The case began in March 2010 when preschool teachers at a Head Start program questioned the boy about bruises and welts they saw around his left eye when Clark dropped him off. Asked who caused the injuries, the boy said "Dee," referring to Clark.
Clark was later indicted, and at trial, the court allowed the teachers to discuss statements the boy made identifying Clark. But the boy was deemed "incompetent" to testify. Clark was convicted of felonious assault and child endangering.
A state appeals court overturned Clark's conviction and the Ohio Supreme Court affirmed by 4-3 vote, finding that teachers are in the same position as law enforcement officials when they question children if they are legally bound to report possible cases of abuse.
Forty-two states filed a brief supporting Ohio. They argue that excluding from evidence the statements children make to teachers, counselors and others who must report abuse will only protect abusers and impair the ability of states to protect children.
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers says children are susceptible to suggestion and unreliable testimony.
Opponents say Missouri bill legalizes child abuse, supporters argue it protects parents' rights
by Shannon Halligan
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Supporters of the Missouri bill dubbed "Isaiah's Law" say it protects parents' rights. Opponents, however, say it legalizes child abuse.
Eight-year-old Jaxon Adams struggled to gain weight for more than a year.
Jaxon's mom, Tiffany Adams, explained, "We got nowhere; he didn't gain any weight at all. That was our biggest frustration. We had an eight-year-old little boy who weighed 40 pounds, and where we were at nothing they did was working."
When Tiffany and Jason Adams decided to get a second opinion, they say doctors at Children's Mercy Hospital took Jaxon away.
"You can just make a call as a medical professional and the next day, boom, your kid's removed from you without any due process of law or any investigation," said Jason Adams.
The Adams' were accused of having Munchausen by proxy syndrome, also known as medical child abuse.
That was in September 2014.
Since then, the family and their lawyer testified in support of a bill that aims to protect a parent's right to seek a second opinion.
"There is far too much power in this process and far too little oversight, and that is exactly what I said when I testified for House Bill 217," Shelley Patterson, the family's attorney, said.
It's also known as "Isaiah's Law," after another child removed from his mother's care.
The bill would protect a guardian from charges of abuse or neglect if they seek another opinion.
Opponents say there are major issues with this piece of legislation.
"The idea of a bill that would limit the rights of a medical professional to call the state when they think abuse is occurring is horrendous," Martha Gershun, Executive Director of Jackson County CASA, said.
CASA of Jackson County will help 1,200 abused and neglected children this year.
Gershun pointed out this bill requires parents to see a licensed health provider but not necessarily the right one.
"That means a parent could take a child to a psychiatrist and follow their recommendations for their metastatic cancer, and no one in a hospital could hotline that parent for medical child abuse. That's not ok," Gershun said.
Missouri Representative Ken Wilson introduced the bill. His office said he's working to adjust the language to address concerns.
Jaxon's parents get a supervised visit with him once a week for two hours.
Children's Mercy Hospital said they cannot comment because of patient confidentiality.
In a statement, the hospital added:
"Children's Mercy, like any hospital, is obligated by law to report suspected child abuse to duly constituted legal authorities, including the Missouri Department of Social Services and the Kansas Department for Children and Families. The State then investigates and, when it determines it to be appropriate, takes action to protect the child. It's important to note that it is the courts, based on totality of the facts and evidence presented to them, that then determine child placement. It's also important to note that for nearly 120 years, our top priority has been and will continue to be the health, safety and well-being of all children."
Child in cage prompts Wyoming child abuse legislation
by Steve Staeger
CHEYENNE, Wy. – The case of a child forced to live in a cage on a rural Wyoming property last summer is prompting state legislators to consider changes to the state's child abuse statute.
Jena Harman and her boyfriend Alexander Smith pleaded guilty in January each to a count of child abuse and a count of felonious restraint. They were accused of keeping Harman's 7-year-old child in cage outside their home for weeks in the elements.
State lawmakers say the case was difficult to prosecute because the state's current child abuse statute requires proof of immediate physical or mental harm. The child was malnourished so it did qualify under the physical harm provision of that law.
But lawmakers were concerned the statute doesn't specifically address that the child was held against his will.
"We've added that if there's torture or confinement, cruel confinement, that that too would reach the level of child abuse," State Rep. Cathy Connolly (D-Laramie) said.
Connolly is a co-sponsor of a bill with Republican House Speaker Kermit Brown. The bill also increases the maximum penalty for child abuse in Wyoming from five to 10 years. Critics of that change argue it may harm chances of leniency for some deserving offenders.
The bill passed the Wyoming state house by a vote of 55 to 5. It is up for a third reading in the state senate this week. If the senate approves the bill it would head to the governor.
Harman and Smith each face five years for the child abuse charge and an additional five years for the felonious restraint charge. They are scheduled to be sentenced in April.
House passes bill eliminating statute of limitations in child sexual abuse cases
by Marjorie Cortex
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah House of Representatives unanimously passed HB277 Monday, which would eliminate the statute of limitations for lawsuits against perpetrators of child sexual abuse.
The bill, as amended by the House, applies only to perpetrators of child sex abuse as individuals.
Deondra Brown, co-founder of the nonprofit Foundation for Survivors of Abuse, was among a handful of supporters who sat with lawmakers as members of the House debated and voted on the bill. Other backers filled part of the House gallery.
The bill passed 74-0.
"It was so exciting for any of us who are victims to be able to see such support," Brown said. "Today's passage is another victory for victims across the state of Utah, so it's an exciting day."
The bill moves the Senate for its consideration.
Brown said she and her sister Desirae established their foundation to provide hope, encouragement and empowerment to survivors of abuse by working to remove the statute of limitations for crimes of sexual abuse.
Three Brown sisters, members of the 5 Browns classical piano quintet, were molested by their father as children. In 2010, the siblings sought criminal charges against their father, who had also been their professional manager.
In March 2011, Keith Brown was sentenced to 10 years to life for sodomy on a child, a first-degree felony, and one to 15 years each of two counts of sex abuse of a child, a second-degree felony. The sodomy and abuse incidents occurred when each of the girls was 13 or younger.
Deondra Brown also has testified at committee meetings as the bill has gone through the legislative process.
Each time she and her sisters have shared their experiences, they are contacted by other people who have experienced sexual abuse as children, who offer their support and thanks to the Browns for their advocacy work.
“It sort of lifts you through the difficult times,” she said.
As a mother of a 4-year-old daughter, Brown said she feels an even greater responsibility to help protect children by raising awareness and working to pass legislation that holds people who molest children to account.
She called the birth of her child a “huge blessing."
“I look at her and I'm constantly reminded why I'm doing this,” she said. “I look at my daughter and think, ‘I'm doing this for you so the world is safer.'"
Bill sponsor Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, whose wife Rebecca testified to the House Judiciary Committee that she was sexually abused by a school teacher during her childhood, told House members that the emotional scars of child sexual abuse “never fully heal.”
Innocent victims end up paying the price of molestation for a lifetime in term of lost productivity, the toll on their mental and physical health and challenges it presents in their personal relationships, he said.
Ivory said the statute of limitations for lawsuits needs to be eliminated to allow victims of child sexual abuse time to heal and gain the courage and maturity to hold their abusers to account.
On average, it takes a victim until to age 40 to come forward with allegations of child sexual abuse. It can take decades to overcome feelings of shame, humiliation and even fear of retribution, he said.
Current law limits civil actions to four years after a victim's 18th birthday or if older, within four years of discovering the abuse.
“It is often said that justice delayed is justice denied. When it comes to abuse of children, justice not delayed is justice denied,” Ivory said.
Brown said she looks forward to the Utah Senate's consideration of the bill.
“Hopefully this is going all the way to the governor's desk,” she said.
Advocates for child sexual abuse victims push for longer window to seek justice
by Charles Thompson
Pennsylvania lawmakers spent a lot of time and effort in the last legislative session working to prevent future cases like the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal at Penn State.
In many ways, the state is still adjusting to those changes.
But advocates rallied at the Capitol Monday for one more change they say is needed to deliver justice to those who've already been abused: extending the time frames that former victims have to seek civil damages against their abusers.
Current state law bars a victim of childhood sexual abuse from bringing a civil case against a perpetrator after the victim turns 30.
It's not long enough, advocates say, for many childhood victims to come to terms with what happened to them. As a result, it has the effect of sheltering too many perpetrators from accountability for their actions.
"It's high time that we accept that delayed reporting (of sexual abuse by victims) is the norm," said Kristen Houser, vice president of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.
"We have recently seen glaring examples of this in the Boy Scouts, in religious institutions, in schools and most recently with the allegations against Bill Cosby. It's time for us to stop asking why... and finally change our laws so they are based in reality."
Bills offered by Rep. Mark Rozzi,, D-Berks County, and Sen. Rob Teplitz, D-Dauphin County, would raise the statute of limitations on civil action to age 50 for cases arising from incidents of childhood sexual abuse.
They would also remove immunity from the state, local government or private employers in the event of a finding of gross negligence by supervisors in a case of child sexual abuse by one of their employees or agents.
The age 50 benchmark would place potential civil cases on the same deadline as criminal cases.
That's especially, important, some supporters said, since victims don't get to make the final call as to whether criminal cases are pursued.
"We all have to be able to work through this on our own time," noted Matt Sandusky, who went public in 2012 with allegations that he'd been abused for years by the man who would eventually become his adoptive father, Jerry Sandusky.
The statute of limitations would ordinarily have barred him from seeking damages, because Matt was 33 years old at the time.
He benefitted from the contrition of Penn State, which has bent over backwards to try to treat Jerry Sandusky's victims fairly, and received a monetary settlement in late 2013.
Others, Matt Sandusky noted, aren't as fortunate as he was.
"If the statute of limitations laws stay as they are... some people are no longer allowed to seek justice, just because they've reached that arbitrary number," he said.
Matt Sandusky was scheduled to appear in person at Monday's rally, but missed it due to a minor illness. He later spoke by telephone with PennLive.com.
State Rep. Louis Williams Bishop, D-Philadelphia, touted an alternative measure on the same subject Monday. Bishop's bill would eliminate all statute of limitations restrictions, civil or criminal, on childhood sexual abuse.
Taking that step, said Bishop, will send a strong message to perpetrators that in Pennsylvania, "You can run but you can't hide... You will have to face your day in court."
The statute of limitations changes have been opposed in the past by the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference - the public advocacy arm of the Roman Catholic Church - and liability insurers.
Both groups would presumably be placed at greater economic risk if the changes were passed, but they also contend that the justice issue applies to them, too.
Catholic Conference spokesman Amy Hill noted that as evidence gets lost, memories fade and witnesses move away or die, it becomes "impossible for any organization that cares for children to defend themselves in court years later."
Hill also pointed to the 2012 report by a special legislative task force on child protection issues that found Pennsylvania is already "one of the most generous states in terms of the length" of the tail for childhood sexual abuse.
None of the statute of limitations bills were considered in the 2013-14 legislative session - even as nearly two dozen other child protections bill were enacted - but Rossi, Teplitz and Bishop said they don't intend to let the issue rest.
"Pedophiles don't retire and our law should not protect their heinous acts," Rossi said.
From the FBI
Brooklyn Man Sentenced to 36 Years for Attempting to Drug and Sexually Abuse Children
Intended Victims Included a 3-Month-Old Child
On Friday, February 27, 2015, in federal court in Brooklyn, Bebars Baslan was sentenced to 36 years' imprisonment for his attempt to drug and sexually abuse three young children: a seven-year-old, an 18-month-old, and three-month-old infant, and for his possession of over 76,000 images and videos of child pornography. Baslan was convicted on July 24, 2014, following a two-week trial of traveling with the intent to engage in sexual acts with a child under 12 years of age, conspiracy to produce child pornography, attempted production of child pornography, and attempted coercion and enticement of a child to engage in illegal sexual conduct. The sentence was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
“Today, the defendant received just punishment for his depraved actions—a lengthy prison sentence that will protect other children from him and hopefully deter others from engaging in such crimes,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. Ms. Lynch expressed her grateful appreciation to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and New York City Police Department, who investigated this case.
The evidence at trial showed that in January 2013, Baslan attempted to involve a friend in a plan to sexually abuse children. That friend went to law enforcement and agreed to co-operate under the direction of the FBI. Over the course of the next two months, the friend recorded the defendant and his girlfriend discussing plans to take sexually explicit photographs and videos of children as young as three months old. The defendant planned to exploit his girlfriend's history of working with children to convince parents to allow her to babysit their children so that he could drug and sexually abuse the children.
The defendant's plan ended in the government's sting operation. As part of the sting, the friend offered the defendant and his girlfriend the opportunity to sexually abuse the friend's two young children and seven-year-old niece at a Jersey City hotel. On March 19, 2013, the defendant gave the friend Benadryl and instructed him to give his niece an excessive dose in order to “knock her out” so that the defendant could sexually abuse her. Later that night, Baslan and his girlfriend traveled to the Jersey City hotel with an array of cameras to photograph the planned sexual abuse. They were arrested by FBI agents as they were about to enter the room they believed contained the drugged children.
The defendant was also sentenced by lifetime supervised release to follow his sentence of imprisonment. He will also be required to register as a sex offender.
The government's case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Tyler Smith, Tiana Demas, and Robert Polemeni.
Name: BEBARS BASLAN
Brooklyn, New York
The chilling reason the Delhi bus gang-rapist blames his victim
by Terrence McCoy
By now, the details of that horrible night are well known. A young woman, aged 23, had just completed a four-year study program and was about to begin an internship when she ventured out one December night to see a movie at a local Delhi cineplex with a male friend. Her family had high hopes for her. If anyone had the gumption and pluck to escape the three-bedroom basement apartment where she had been raised without running water — it was her.
Those dreams were shattered that night in late 2012. After leaving the movie theater, she and her male friend hailed a private bus, where they encountered a pack of six drunk men on the lookout for sex, reported The Washington Post's Annie Gowen.
The male friend put up a struggle, but it was no use. The men raped and beat the woman, tossing her from the bus with injuries so devastating she died within weeks. The shocking nature of the case convulsed India, ushering in death sentences for the rapists, changes to Indian criminal law and a painful reckoning for a country long bedeviled by gang rape.
But even years later, questions have persisted. What could possibly have driven those men to do what they did? What capacity for barbarity did they tap to commit so heinous an attack? What kind of monsters do such a thing?
The answer, according to a filmmaker who spent two years on the case, is in fact more chilling than what she expected. The men, she said, weren't monsters. They were ordinary, unrepentant and illustrative of a misogynistic culture that entraps some young Indian men.
“It would be easier to process the heinous crime if the perpetrators were monsters, and just the rotten apples in the barrel, aberrant in nature,” Leslee Udwin wrote for the BBC, which will air her documentary on Sunday. “… For me the truth couldn't be further from this — and perhaps their hanging will even mask the real problem, which is that these men are not the disease, they are the symptoms.”
And among the most symptomatic was the driver of the bus, Mukesh Singh, who granted a lengthy interview to Udwin from prison. He denies that he took part in the rape, but nonetheless recalled it in granular detail. In the 16-hour interview, he maintained the rape wasn't his or the other rapists' fault — but the victim's. She was out too late and was asking for trouble.
“A decent girl won't roam around at nine o'clock at night,” he told Udwin. “A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy. Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes. About 20 percent of girls are good.”
The woman's mistake, he said: She fought back. “When being raped, she shouldn't fight back,” he said. “She should just be silent and allow the rape. Then they'd have dropped her off after ‘doing her,' and only hit the boy. … The death penalty will make things even more dangerous for girls. Now when they rape, they won't leave the girl like we did. They will kill her. Before, they would rape and say, ‘Leave her, she won't tell anyone.' Now when they rape, especially the criminal types, they will just kill the girl. Death.”
The comments, while deeply disturbing and misogynistic, are also representative of a pervasive cultural problem. This culture of misogyny isn't something that lurks in the shadows, argued author Sonia Faleiro in the New York Times, but is overt and open. It was present when state officials like Mulayam Singh Yadav explain rape as “boys will be boys.” And it was present when other politicians blame rape on cellphones and women going out at night.
Laws against rape “have been ineffective in the face of a patriarchal and misogynistic culture,” Faleiro wrote. “It is a culture that believes that the worst aspect of rape is the defilement of the victim, who will no long be able to find a man to marry her — and that the solution is to marry the rapist.”
Even when pressed on those positions, Udwin found attorneys who defended the six rapists who attacked the 23-year-old woman wouldn't back down. The woman, not the men, were to blame for what happened that night.
“In our society, we never allow our girls to come out from the house after 6:30 or 7:30 or 8:30 in the evening with any unknown person,” attorney ML Sharma said. “You are talking about man and woman as friends. Sorry, that doesn't have any place in our society. We have the best culture. In our culture, there is no place for a woman.”
Lawmakers hope to give child sex abuse victims their day in court
Bill sponsors will host groups supporting the Child Victims Act on April 22 in Albany
by Matthew D'Onofrio
Criminal and civil statutes of limitations for child sexual abuse crimes in New York would be eliminated if the state Legislature passes a bill reintroduced this session.
Under current law pedophiles are able to hide behind the statute of limitations and go unpunished for sexually abusing a child if the victim doesn't press charges before age 23. A growing number of bi-partisan lawmakers are hoping to change that.
The Child Victims Act (A.2872/S.63), sponsored by Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, D-Queens, would eliminate the criminal and civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse crimes as well as establish a one-year window for victims to bring civil lawsuits against people or institutions in older cases that were exempt because of the existing statute of limitations.
Criminal cases are not included in this one-year window because they cannot be pursued retroactively.
The bill has a long legislative history but made headlines in 2012 in light of high-profile scandals at Syracuse University, Penn State University, and Horace Mann, a private school in New York City.
Former Syracuse University assistant basketball coach, Bernie Fine, was accused of inappropriately touching two ball boys for the team in the 1980s and 1990s. The two boys announced the abuse and accusation in November of 2011 on ESPN.
Jerry Sandusky, former assistant football coach for Penn State University was convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse in June of 2012 for child molestation that occurred between 1994 and 2009 and stretched as early back as the 1970s.
At Horace Mann, more than 63 students were allegedly sexually abused by 22 staff members between 1962 and 1996. The abuse was uncovered decades later in June of 2012.
New York is one of five states that has not yet eliminated or extended their statute of limitations laws on child sexual abuse.
The bill language states that "Sex crimes, particularly those committed against children, are among the most heinous and deeply disturbing in our society. They are crimes that leave life-long scars, multiple victims and require an all encompassing strategy to combat. Victims of childhood sexual abuse do not come to terms with their abuse until well into adulthood. Under current law they have no recourse. By eliminating the statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse cases victims can bring their claims regardless of whether or not DNA evidence is available.
The bill further states that "by eliminating the statute of limitations in childhood sexual abuse cases, victims of these horrific crimes will get their day in court and be able to seek the justice they have been denied."
California passed similar legislation in 2002, including the one-year window to file lawsuits for older crimes. More than 1,000 lawsuits, resulting in $1.2 billion in settlements by statewide dioceses of the Catholic Church, followed the passage of the law.
The Catholic Church of New York opposes the Markey bill. Although the church supports the elimination of the statute of limitations for crimes going forward, it does not support the one-year window for past offenses.
In 2012, The Catholic Conference supported a bill proposed by Sen. Andrew Lanza, R-Staten Island and Assemblyman Michael Cusick, D-Staten Island. Their bill (S.6477/A.8064) extended the statute of limitations, but did not offer the one-year window to file new claims on older crimes.
Dennis Poust, director of communications for the New York State Catholic Conference, said the church views the one-year window as "unconstitutional" in terms of the criminal code.
"It is impossible to sort out the truth when you go back decades and decades," said Poust, noting that "memories fade and evidence [is] lost" and most offenders are deceased by now. "We're not looking to defend them," Poust said of past offenders. He noted that it is the private institutions the church is defending, including groups such as the Boy Scouts.
There is some debate about whether the proposed law would open public institutions up for liability in past abuse cases. Poust believes public institutions would be insulated from lawsuits but a spokesman for Markey's office says the bill doesn't specify between private and public institutions.
Poust said the state is protecting itself from lawsuits and he'd like to see the bill amended to include public institutions as well because "anything less than that isn't justice at all."
"If you were 25 and were abused 10 years earlier by a public school teacher you would not be able to bring up a lawsuit," said Poust, referring to the bill in its current form. "If you were 25 and abused in 1945 by the Catholic Church, you can."
Mike Armstrong, a spokesman for Markey, said the legislation doesn't include public institutions because it doesn't include any institution at all — it is non-specific. There is no writing in the bill that states which type of institutions will be affected or targeted. It applies to both public and private institutions.
Armstrong said the opponents of the bill, or protectors of "molesters" as he referred to them, are concerned with the part of the bill that includes the one-year window.
Armstrong believes the legislation has the best chance of passing this session due to the largest number of supporters — 59 as of press time, both Democrats and Republicans between the Senate and Assembly — in recent history and the "aggressive, energetic" sponsor in the Senate, Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan. Armstrong also notes that Sen. Jeff Klein, D-Bronx, is a new supporter of the bill.
On April 22, Markey will host a number of groups supporting the Child Victims Act during an advocacy day in Albany and other organizations concerned about the issue of child sexual abuse to educate others, get their message out and visit legislators.
House approves bill to keep sexual offenders out of classroom
by Morgan Jacobsen
SALT LAKE CITY — When West Jordan resident Rebecca Ivory was in junior high, her choir teacher took special notice of her and her natural singing ability. Ivory was initially flattered by the attention, putting at ease, somewhat, her insecurities.
"Little did I know that her attention would cause me nightmares for the rest of my life," Ivory said.
After two years of grooming, Ivory's teacher crossed the line into sexual abuse, which went on for four more years. Ivory said it took her eight years to realize the abuse was not her own fault, and it took a total of 20 years to summon the courage to talk to school district leaders.
Within two days, the district verified the story and got a confession from the teacher, who was then fired. But two years later, the choir teacher was given back her teaching license by the Utah Professional Practices Advisory Committee, a group of educators and community members who manage educator licensure in the state.
After the teacher died last summer, Ivory, who is now a teacher herself, learned there are at least four other people who had endured sexual abuse from the same teacher.
"I will be fine," Ivory said to members of the State School Board last week. "There's going to be ongoing things in my life, just like we all have. But if I can show you the hell that I've lived through, there's not a one of you who would put her back in the classroom."
But the State School Board, the top governing body for public education in the state, has been limited in what it can do to because of a rule making authority of the Utah Professional Practices Advisory Commission an advisory group to the board that manages teacher licensure in the state.
The House on Monday unanimously approved a bill that would answer two questions: Should a person convicted of a felony sexual crime be allowed in the classroom, and who has final say when it comes to teacher licensure in Utah?
HB345 would permanently restrict a person convicted of a felony sexual crime from obtaining or renewing a teaching license in Utah. The restriction would also apply to teaching license applicants or prospective school volunteers who were convicted of other offenses, such as engaging in sexual conduct with a minor, or with a student who is not a minor but is enrolled at the school where the applicant is or was employed.
Brad Smith, state superintendent of public instruction, said education leaders will likely develop a list over the next year identifying additional behaviors, such as violent crimes, that would preclude a person from being a teacher.
"We can all agree at present that sexual crimes should preclude one from entering the classroom again — ever. And that's what the bill does," Smith said. "It is not a universal listing. For example, I would propose that someone who is engaged in behavior that might constitute attempted murder probably should be precluded from a classroom again. We're not defining that because we know we have substantial additional work to do."
The bill also defines the State School Board as having the power to approve or revoke educator licenses, and it moves the Utah Professional Practices Advisory Commission into its intended advisory role to the board instead of having independent rule-making authority.
Bill sponsor Rep. Daniel McCay, R-Riverton, said the bill is a "reboot" of rule making authority, and it would help protect other teachers who work to maintain a safe school environment.
"We all wince in pain, somewhat, for the suffering of the abused. But we also struggle for the suffering of the system that then takes a reputational hit and a suspicion that then is cast over every educator as a result of it," McCay said. "This now becomes the opportunity for the state board and for UPAC to work together to make policies that best protect the children in the classroom."
The bill, which now awaits Senate approval, has struck home for several legislators, including Rebecca Ivory's husband, Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, who said sexual offenders being able to re-enter the classroom is a "critical problem."
House Minority Assistant Whip Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, said he also is an adult survivor of sexual abuse as a child by another student at school.
"Child sexual abuse casts a very long shadow," Briscoe said. "It takes a long time to come to grips with."
Briscoe voiced his support for HB345, but he said more training is needed to prepare teachers in handling such incidents.
"My only concern is that we do a better job up front in our training of teachers entering the profession and every several years in helping them understand explicitly what they should and should not be doing," Briscoe said.
"We do a good job in our schools of education at training people how to write tests, how to do curriculum, how to understand children psychology, how to do classroom management. But we don't prepare teachers really well for that first interesting tweet or email message they get from a student."
Social workers to face five years in prison for failing to protect children from sexual abuse, warns Cameron
Prime minister will announce consultation on whether criminal charge for wilful neglect should be extended across children's social care
by Luke Stevenson
Children's social workers could face up to five years in prison for failing to protect children from sexual exploitation, the prime minister will announce today.
Speaking at a Downing Street summit later today, David Cameron will outline plans for the government to consult on extending the criminal offence of wilful neglect to children's social care, education and elected council members.
Currently, a criminal charge for wilful neglect – as introduced in the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 – would only apply to professionals who work in adult social care and health workers providing care for adults and children.
The criminal charge for wilful neglect carries a maximum jail term of five years.
The announcement will come on the same day that a serious case review is published into child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Oxfordshire. It follows major CSE investigations, which revealed social work failings in Rotherham, Rochdale and Derby.
Cameron will say the proposals send an “unequivocal message” that professionals who fail to protect children will be held accountable.
“It is about making sure that the professionals we charge with protecting our children – the council staff, police officer and social workers – do the job they are paid to do.”
“Offenders must no longer be able to use the system to hide their despicable activities and survivors of child sexual abuse must be given the long-term therapeutic treatment they need to re-build their lives,” he will say.
Other proposals include a new child sexual abuse taskforce of professional troubleshooting experts in social work, law enforcement and health. The taskforce would support local areas at every level in an attempt to eradicate the “culture of denial”, which meant victims were disbelieved and even blamed in places like Rotherham.
Social workers will be given access to a new national whistleblowing helpline to report bad practice, which will seek to prevent child sexual exploitation (CSE) being hidden and ignored – as seen in the damning reports into CSE in Rotherham and Rochdale.
Cameron also wants to clamp down on “huge pay-offs” for senior staff and council staff who failed to protect children. He will propose that exit payments can be “clawed back” where those people are quickly re-employed in the same part of the public sector.
Child sexual abuse will be prioritised as a national threat, like serious and organised crime, he will say. This means police will have a duty to collaborate across force boundaries. Funding of £7m will be given to organisations in 2015-16 to support victims of sexual abuse.
Maris Stratulis, England manager at the British Association of Social Workers, said the organisation totally supports public accountability and transparency. However, she said further discussion is needed about what the legal threshold of individual and corporate responsibility is.
“It is totally unacceptable for institutions to attempt to cover up abuse of children to protect their reputation,” she said, “But we have to acknowledge these days being a senior member of staff in the public sector carries a lot of responsibility and risk.”
Similarly, David Simmonds of the Local Government Association agreed those responsible for failing vulnerable children should be held to account. But he added: “We need to move on from the muddle situation councils currently face so the detail of today's proposals is important to get right.”
However, threat to jail frontline workers is not the answer to child sexual exploitation, The College of Social Work has said.
Brigid Featherstone, chair of the college's children and families faculty, said the move will reinforce a climate of persecution. “The proposals also fail to address the incredibly important safeguarding issues that recent serious case reviews have raised,” said Featherstone.
“We must address the severe lack of investment in child protection services, which has put organisations and systems under incredible strain and reduced their capacity for in depth work with children and their families,” she argued.
‘Super' Garda units will target sex and gang crimes
by Cormas O'Keefe
High-level meetings are expected to be held this week to draw up blueprints for the establishment of two new ‘super' Garda units.
Last week, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan announced the creation of a Child Protection and Human Exploitation Unit, which will cover child abuse, domestic violence, sexual violence, and human trafficking.
She also announced a new anti-gang squad, combining the Garda National Drug Unit and the Organised Crime Unit.
Rape Crisis Network Ireland yesterday welcomed the establishment of the Child Protection and Human Exploitation Unit, but noted it had a much wider remit. It pointed out the investigation of sexual violence required “a level of specialisation”.
The unit expands the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Investigation Unit (DVSAIU) and will also take the human trafficking section from the Garda National Immigration Bureau.
The DVSAIU also investigates paedophile crime and is headed by a detective superintendent. The new unit will have a detective chief superintendent and two detective superintendents.
A Garda source said: “This shows the priority the commissioner is placing on this particular area, The fact that it will be led by a chief superintendent, assisted by two detective superintendents, reflects the expanded size and strength of it.”
Sources said the heads of the Child Protection Unit and the new Organised Crime Unit are expected to meet senior leaders in the Garda National Support Services this week, in advance of them formally starting their new job next Monday.
RCNI acting executive director Clíona Saidléar said: “RCNI welcome the more senior and increased staffing levels of the new Child Protection, Domestic Violence [which will include Sexual Assault Investigation] and Human Exploitation Unit but note that this Unit also has a much wider remit.
“RCNI are clear that the unique nature of sexual violence crimes as well as our obligations under the EU Directive on Victims' Rights, require a level of specialisation from the gardaí and from other State agencies.
“It is as yet unclear how the new unit will help to create a specialist approach to survivors of sexual violence, within the new Garda Victim Service offices, but there is a real opportunity within these new structures to develop such an approach.?
A Garda Inspectorate report, published last November, said that the DVSAIU was ?"very much focused on sexual violence against children and particularly victims of clerical abuse?". It said that with regard to adult rape and other sexual offences, the unit did not perform an investigative role and did ?"little work" in relation to monitoring investigations.
The inspectorate said only a ?"cadre of specially-trained gardai" should record and investigate such crimes.
Secondary victims: the children of rape survivors
by Jazelle Hunt
When Tiffany Perry learned about her conception, she was too innocent to fully understand the gentle explanation her mother offered, too young to process such a heavy and complicated behavior.
What she distinctly remembers is watching “Oprah” with her mom a few years later. In this episode Oprah revealed to the world that she was a rape survivor.
“When [Oprah] said herself, and started crying…my mom just fell apart,” recounted the 39-year-old New Jersey native. “I tried to console her, but she was inconsolable. It was just so intense.”
At 15 years old, Perry's mother was raped by her foster mother's adult, married son. The rape continued for two weeks, sometimes at knifepoint. Despite being a virgin at the time and under the care of the state, few people bothered to inquire about the details of the pregnancy. Plus, the fact that he had threatened to kill her kept Perry's mother silent.
In subsequent years, freed by the Oprah episode, Perry's mother became more forthcoming. But opening that door triggered another set of emotions.
“My mom was awesome, she never talked down to me…my mom always praised me, always gave me love. But I felt like…I owed it to her to be perfect so she doesn't feel like keeping me was a mistake,” said Perry, voice trembling with emotion.
“It's just assumed whenever a woman gets raped, she never gets pregnant, or if she does get pregnant, the child is automatically aborted or adopted,” said Perry. “There's this group of people who've been conceived by rape and nobody ever discusses us. I want to talk about it because we exist. I exist.”
Philadelphia-based author, activist, and scholar Ewuare Osayande wasn't born of this violence, but grew up in its shadow. His mother spent her childhood at the mercy of a sexually abusive stepfather.
Today, he is the creator of Project ONUS: Redefining Black Manhood, a series of anti-sexist workshops for Black men. It took time before he was able to connect the dots and realize how his mother's abuse – some he had witnessed, some he had not – had affected his own development.
Justice Department data show that Black women are more likely than their White counterparts to be assaulted, sexually and otherwise by strangers and family members.
As the son of a rape and abuse survivor, and as a formerly emotionally abusive person, Osayande also realized he had to address his own internal conflicts and beliefs.
“It's been a very real, clear determination on my part to make sense of the life I've experienced as a Black man, in a gendered way…It's been my desire to become an effective ally in that struggle, in that engagement in the world in which Black women exist, and experience.”
Lori Robinson's “I Will Survive: The African American Guide to Healing from Sexual Assault and Abuse”, cites a study that draws parallels between the emotions of boyfriends and husbands of women who have been sexually assaulted, and the wives and girlfriends of war veterans.
“Not surprisingly, past or recent sexual trauma can present unique challenges for the survivor's partner,” wrote Robinson. “You are a victim too. Some experts call you the secondary victim. After all you are experiencing many of the same emotions sexual assault victims feel.”
Perry's breaking point came about 20 years ago. A probation officer contacted her out of the blue, looking for her father. He had given her name and birthdate as his next-of-kin. She learned that not only did he know about her, but he also knew where she lived. To this day, they live less than an hour apart. She has never contacted him, but has learned a bit about his life via relatives on Facebook.
“When I went to go look for support groups for children of rape victims or children conceived out of rape, they're pretty much nonexistent,” said Perry. “[Rape] is so common we don't even cringe when we hear about it. Rape is inhumane, and people are not treating it like it's inhumane. They just treat it like ‘Well, it happens.'” Her mother remains her primary source of support.
This project was made possible by a grant from the National Health Journalism Fellowship, a program of the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
Experts urge parents to report suspected child abuse
by David Nyczepir
Child abuse prevention experts Monday evening urged Desert Hot Springs' residents, during a “Keeping Kids Safe” event held at the city's Wellness Center, to immediately report suspected physical or sexual abuse of a child.
The discussion ranged from how to monitor kids' Internet activity to broaching the subject of abuse with potential victims to protecting special needs children — popular targets for child predators.
Citing a number of calls from concerned community members regarding the recent arrest of a local man in connection with a suspected child porn ring, SafeHouse of the Desert provided a forum for parents to have their questions about child abuse answered.
“Don't get involved, but report it,” said Kathy McAdara, Operation SafeHouse executive director. “Err on the side of making a mistake in reporting because they're not going to tell the person you called, and once you report you turn it over to the professionals who can do something.”
McAdara warned parents “predators have taken over the Internet” and to be watchful of mobile apps Omegle and Kik, which she said are packaged as ways for people to meet strangers and keep in touch with friends, but can lead to sexting and the spread of explicit images online.
Sofia Campos, United Cerebral Palsy of the Inland Empire director of program services, echoed McAdara that “reasonable suspicion” is enough to report child abuse.
Every one of her organization's employees is a “mandated reporter,” she said, so if abuse is actually unveiled they're in no danger of being held responsible as well.
A child with special needs is three times more likely be abused, Campos said, and a child with an intellectual disability four times more likely.
“Unfortunately, the reasons that they're endearing to me are the same reasons they're targets for predators,” Campos said. “Predators seek out children that they can manipulate.”
John David Yoder — a 43-year-old special needs aide for the Palm Springs Unified School District — was arrested on Jan. 30 along with two other suspects on suspicion of luring children into pornography under the guise of legitimate modeling.
Yoder lived in a Desert Hot Springs house with two adopted sons, ages 18 and 14, and a 12-year-old special needs child of whom he was seeking guardianship.
Other people believed involved in the suspected child porn ring spent time and rented property in Desert Hot Springs, according to court documents.
Yoder's preliminary hearing resumes March 23.
“We've had times where we've looked back and we've seen, if someone would have called earlier, we could've prevented victims down the line,” said Gary Jeandron, Monday night's moderator and a former Palm Springs police chief. “So please call. Notify your law enforcement. Talk to your kids.”
New Report Recommends Changes to Handling of Suspected Child Abuse Cases
by Beth McDonough
KSTP TV - A report released Friday calls for changes to be made in how social workers handle suspected child abuse cases in Minnesota.
The report mentions the particular case of four-year-old Eric Dean who was killed by his step mother in 2013. She has been convicted of murder.
A state panel reviewed that report and suggested recommendations. The task force is scrutinizing the system that's supposed to help abused children in Minnesota and finding ways to improve it.
Fifteen issues are outlined in the report. It calls for every case in which a child has a suspicious injury to be investigated by a social worker and reported to law enforcement. Photos of injuries would be required.
Furthermore, the report argues that when a report of abuse or neglect comes in, authorities should check to see if a caregiver has a substance abuse or mental health problem and needs treatment. Every adult in the home should be questioned, not just the guardian. Background checks should be done on anyone 13 years and older in the home. Vigorous fact-finding should take place.
The state has a long-standing policy of trying to keep families together and not assessing blame for alleged abuse. The suggested reforms would change that.
Irene Griffin said one county isn't listening to her pleas for help, so she took it a step further and spoke before the panel.
"My grandson is being abused, beaten by the boyfriend in a home in Goodhue County," she said. "They're not paying attention to what my family is saying. I need help; I don't want my grandson to be a statistic."
A Department of Human Services staffer took her information and promised to follow up after the meeting.
The recommendations offered are just that; the panel votes on them next month.
Eric Dean died in Pope County. The Commissioner says social workers there are already making changes in their approach to high-risk cases. The Commissioner also pointed out, Governor Mark Dayton made a supplemental budget request of $50 million for child protection, which now needs lawmaker approval.
Jehovah's Witnesses silencing techniques: as terrifying as child abuse
by Candace Conti
Growing up in a Jehovah's Witness family is different. As a child, I didn't celebrate birthdays, Christmas or July 4. Nor did I, or anyone I knew, mix with non-Witness families in Little League or Girl Scouts. Instead, I spent much of my time sharing the “good news.” I used to go door-to-door on my own with a big, strong, well liked man in my congregation, named Jonathan. I was just 9 and 10 when he repeatedly sexually abused me.
It is really hard for kids to speak up when they're abused. But the Jehovah's Witnesses make it a lot harder.
They have a “2 Witness” rule, which says that anyone who accuses an adult of abuse must have a second witness. If there is no second witness, the accuser is punished for a false accusation - usually by ordering that no Witness may talk with or associate with the “false” accuser. This is called dis-fellowshipping. For a kid raised only with other Witnesses, it was horrifying. Even your parents would have to ignore you. It was more terrifying than Jonathan.
It was the elders of my congregation who had assigned Jonathan to team up with me. When we separated from the others, he forced me into his pick-up truck and drove us to his house. Then he would say “Let's play”. It happened too many times. Like everyone else in the congregation, my parents liked “Brother” Jonathan and trusted him in our family.
My parents were consumed with some really huge problems in those years, and later divorced. I was emotionally alone - and wanted to be the best Jehovah's Witness I could be. That's why I went out to field service - the door to door ministry that Witnesses are known for.
What my parents didn't know, was that Jonathan had sexually molested another girl in our congregation. The elders knew this and had kept it a secret. They were following orders from Watchtower leaders, based in the world headquarters in New York, who in 1989 had issued a top-secret instruction to keep known child sex abusers in the congregations a secret. This instruction became Exhibit 1 at my civil trial.
The elders and the Governing Body all knew that child molesters hide in religious groups and often are people who are likeable and friendly - like Jonathan. They knew molesters would likely do it again. But they chose to ignore the safety of the kids, in favor of protecting their image - and their bank account - from lawsuits. It was all in that 1989 letter.
A recent report by the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that they have continued to issues directives urging silence around child abuse. Last November, elders were instructed to avoid taking criminal matters like child abuse to the authorities. Instead, they were told to handle them internally in confidential committees. The report also showed that Jehovah's Witnesses evoke the First Amendment to hide sex abuse claims.
It took me learning about Jonathan's other victims for me to speak up. In 2009, I looked on California's Megan's Law website, the state's official list of registered sex offenders. There, I found he had been convicted a few years before for sexually abusing another 8-year-old girl. I felt horribly guilty that I hadn't spoken up about him earlier. Now, I need to stop predators from doing this again.
The only way to end this abuse is by lifting this veil of secrecy once and for all.
Local actors train police to interview abused kids
by Sharyn Jackson
CornerHouse is a Minneapolis nonprofit that trains police, social workers and child-protection officers to interview children who have been sexually abused. It has revolutionized the way traumatized kids have been treated by humanizing and streamlining the interview process.
It's not the average acting gig.
Six days a year, Trudy Monette plays Rosalind, a 12-year-old girl whose teacher touched her inappropriately. Sullen and slouching, Rosalind guardedly answers questions about what Mr. Gibbs did: how he grabbed her shoulders, how she could smell his foul breath as he forced his mouth on hers.
She plays the role again, and it goes differently. Sometimes she gets angry, other times she weeps. There is no script.
Rosalind is a creation of CornerHouse, a Minneapolis nonprofit that trains police, social workers and child-protection officers to interview children who have been sexually abused. One of the country's leading child-advocacy centers, it has revolutionized the way traumatized kids have been treated, by humanizing and streamlining the interview process.
It also has helped law enforcement officials do something that may not come naturally: listen.
“You get that stereotype of the big deputy dressed in brown and they're intimidating and they're authoritarian,” said Anne Lukas Miller, a CornerHouse trainer. “To sit with a child and say, ‘My job is to listen to you,' people don't know that that is also part of [police officers'] jobs, and they need to be reminded of that.”
CornerHouse trains about 1,100 professionals a year in weeklong sessions conducted here and abroad. Most of the week is spent learning about child development and interview techniques. On the last day, trainees practice what they've learned by role-playing a forensic interview.
In an unusual intersection of crime and the arts, local professional actors stand in for victims.
“It's a really fulfilling job,” said Jamila Anderson, an associate company member at Pillsbury House Theatre. “The more we can prepare these people who are going to be interviewing children, the better it is for children in the system.”
With heightened attention, of late, on how police relate to the people they are charged to protect, officers say the training helps them be more sensitive to victims.
“Typically as law enforcement, you interview and interrogate to get answers that you want — who, what, when, why, where — and you're not being mindful of the person's needs,” said Bruce Coonfield, a patrolman for the police department in Ada, Minn., who recently took the training. But with CornerHouse's protocol, “you don't just ask them the question right out.”
Telling their story once
Children who have made an allegation of sexual abuse come to child-advocacy centers to be interviewed and examined by professionals who are trained specifically to work with kids.
Instead of subjecting children to repeated interviews with police, child protection and the county prosecutor, CornerHouse interviews a child just once. It was one of the first organizations in the nation to adopt this approach. Now more than 850 such organizations in the country follow this research-driven model.
“These types of centers are wonderful, and they are very needed,” said Bette L. Bottoms, a researcher on child-witness interviews at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “[Bringing] the results of psychological research to front-line workers is extremely important.”
Every child sexual abuse investigation in Hennepin County lands at CornerHouse, which conducts about 500 interviews a year.
“It's better for the child,” Amy Sweasy, senior assistant Hennepin County attorney, said of the single-interview approach. “The research tells us not to push somebody through retelling a story over and over again.”
In addition to conducting interviews, CornerHouse is a leader in interviewer training. Its use in role-plays of professional actors, first recruited from Illusion Theater 20 years ago, is unique.
“It's so beneficial having professional actors portraying the kids,” said Julie Stauffer, a CornerHouse interviewer who manages the actor program. “You get so much more of a real perspective.”
An effective teaching tool
While some first-time trainees have expressed concern about interviewing adults pretending to be children, the role-playing has proved to be very effective.
“I felt like I was talking to a 5-year-old little girl,” said Celena Lusk, a Muskogee, Okla., child-protection worker.
Most actors who participate have two roles in their arsenals, usually a teen and a young child. CornerHouse provides the age, the identity of the perpetrator and the abuse situation, and the rest is up to the actor. Because they never know what an interviewer might ask, the actors concoct elaborate back stories.
“I get asked some weirdly specific questions, and it's a lot easier to draw from personal memory as opposed to making something up,” said Chase Burns, a recent graduate of the Guthrie Theater acting program at the University of Minnesota.
That's the easy part. Eventually, the questions turn to why the child is there in the first place.
“Do you know why you came to talk to me today?” a trainee asked Monette as she played Rosalind.
The pair sat facing each other in the corner of a classroom. Arms folded, barely audible, Rosalind was every inch the classic preteen who didn't want to talk. But after 30 minutes of careful conversation, the story was out. She had entered Mr. Gibbs' classroom alone and had a bad feeling. He looked her up and down. Then, he grabbed her.
“I just stood there like a dummy,” Rosalind said.
Drawing from her past
Talking about the abuse, even in character, is “definitely kind of icky and dark,” said Burns, the U grad.
For that reason, he chose to create characters that didn't feel victimized. His 5-year-old is “oblivious” to the act, and his 14-year-old believed he was in a consensual relationship — both of which are very real responses to abuse.
By putting their own feelings on the line, the actors are integral to the training, said Patricia Harmon, executive director of CornerHouse.
“The information, the process, the data that our learners get during the training week is obviously very important, but the ability to practice that is huge,” she said. “It's the application of what they learned.”
For Monette, the emotionally taxing role has an even deeper meaning, because her character, Rosalind, is based on herself.
When she was in middle school, her teacher, too, forced a kiss. Playing the role for 15 years with CornerHouse has kept the memory from fading.
“I remember his gray pants, his yellow shirt, the T-shirt underneath, the stains under his arms, his breath, everything,” she said. It was a secret she carried for decades.
Though she relives the experience every time she plays Rosalind, she still struggles to share her story.
For many victims, a sense of humiliation lingers long after the abuse. Monette has direct access to that feeling, even now. “All these years later,” she said, “there's still a shame behind it.”
Process of carving up $60M Sandusky fine from Penn State for anti-child abuse efforts underway
by The Associated Press
HARRISBURG, Pa. – Now that a settlement has cleared the way for $60 million from Penn State to be spent in Pennsylvania to address child sexual abuse, potential recipients are starting to think about how that money might be put to use.
"There's certainly a tremendous need," said Linda Rosenberg, executive director of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. "In the area of child sexual abuse, I don't know if there's ever enough money to help support the need."
The Jan. 16 deal that ended litigation by two state officials against Penn State and the NCAA split up the money, with $12 million being retained by the university and $48 million going to Rosenberg's agency.
Penn State agreed to the $60 million fine in 2012, as part of a consent decree with the NCAA over the university's handling of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal. Soon after, the state senator who represents the State College area, Majority Leader Jake Corman, pushed through the Institution of Higher Education Monetary Penalty Endowment Act to prevent the money from being sent out of state.
Corman argued that state money helped fund Penn State, and much of the money would come from state residents.
The Endowment Act dictated five purposes for the money: preventing child sexual abuse or helping its victims, supporting investigative teams, aiding victim services' groups that work with children, training about how to report or treat child abuse victims, and operating child advocacy centers.
Rosenberg said half of the $48 million going to her agency is expected to be doled out in grants over the next five years. The other will fund an endowment, with additional grants funded out of the investment proceeds.
The commission plans to identify areas with the greatest needs and then solicit applications, probably starting in early July. The first grants may be going out by October.
The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape is among the groups waiting for application details.
"There are 50 rape crisis centers in Pennsylvania who are serving child victims as well as adult survivors of child sexual assaults," said coalition spokeswoman Kristen Houser. "We certainly expect that our network will be applying in one capacity or another."
Abbie Newman, director of the Mission Kids Child Advocacy Center in East Norriton and a member of the state child advocacy center board, said an infusion of new money could help expand existing centers and establish them in new areas. Child advocacy centers, specifically named in the Endowment Act, bring together police, child welfare authorities, prosecutors and others to tackle child abuse cases.
"Every time a child reports child abuse, if they're in an area that does not have a CAC, there is a very good likelihood that that child is going to be re-traumatized by the systems that are put in place to help them. Having a CAC decreases the trauma to the child and puts that child on the road to healing," Newman said.
Joan Benso, chief executive of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, said there is also a need for help with the costs of additional background clearances required for those who work with children, including teachers, school volunteers and youth coaches.
The costs of clearances raised concerns they could have the unintentional outcome of limiting opportunities for children, she said.
"A fund to help defray the costs for those who cannot afford them could lessen these concerns while still achieving the most important goal: keeping our kids safe," Benso said.
Penn State recently announced its $12 million will set up an endowment fund at its Network on Child Protection and Well-Being, an entity established in 2012, in response to the Sandusky scandal.
Jennie Noll, a human development and family studies professor who directs the network, expects the money to generate $400,000 to $500,000 a year to fund research into detecting and preventing child abuse.
It will also pay for conferences, workshops and similar events, fund interdisciplinary cooperation, and help upgrade Transforming Lives of Children, a research and treatment clinic in Harrisburg that is run by a Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital pediatrics professor.
Noll said Penn State has hired five of the 12 new faculty members for the network, but none of the fine money will pay for salaries.
"The endowment is strictly for operations to facilitate the research," Noll said. "You're not going to build a building -- or use it right away."
The Endowment Act requires annual reports to the Legislature about how the money is spent.