ICE arrests wanted child predator following public tip
RALEIGH, N.C. — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arrested a suspected child predator early Thursday morning in Raleigh after a tip from the public led to his identification.
William Akers, 46, is in federal custody facing child pornography charges following a public outreach campaign by HSI to identify a previously unknown man captured on video sexually abusing an 8-year-old girl. The plea for public assistance was disseminated by dozens of media outlets, reached more than 1.6 million people on Facebook and Twitter and generated more than 80 leads to the HSI tip line.
“I am grateful for the American public's quick action in response to our appeal for help,” said ICE Director Sarah R. Saldaña. “Within hours of our request for assistance, more than a million people took notice and started spreading the word on social media and in the press. Because of this incredible support, we were able to identify and arrest a man accused of grossly violating an innocent child.”
U.S. Attorney Thomas G. Walker stated, “I am thankful that this suspect was so quickly apprehended by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations agents working under the Operation Predator international initiative after the incredible cooperation of the general public. My office will prosecute those who prey upon our children to the fullest extent of the law.”
Akers was identified by a member of the public who told investigators that he was employed in the Information Technology department of a Raleigh company. Within hours of the tip, HSI Raleigh special agents confirmed that Akers was indeed the John Doe who appeared in the video and arrested him at approximately 1 a.m. Thursday while he was working the night shift at his company.
The arrest was part of a joint investigation by HSI and the Harnett County Sheriff's Office, with assistance from the Raleigh Police Department.
This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 10,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2013, more than 2,000 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.
Kids and domestic violence: Why we should be worried
by Karen Bota Rave
It's a myth that children will forget the violence they witness in their homes.
Adults may not want to believe it, but the truth is that children – even young children – have a surprising ability to remember traumatic events, particularly if the victim of the violence or the perpetrator is a family member.
In fact, a child may recount violent events that their parent reports the child did not see or hear. The majority of children (75 to 87 percent, depending on the study) who live in homes where there is domestic violence have seen the violence.
Children also are keen observers of the aftermath of violence – torn clothes, blood, bruises – and they are aware of the tension, stress and fear felt by the victim. Young children are deeply affected by domestic violence. Even if they are not physically hurt, they may suffer not only immediate but long-term psychological harm, often very similar to that seen in direct victims of violence.
Here are some ways witnessing domestic violence may impact children, from the Domestic Violence Roundtable and the Children Witness to Violence Project:
· Stomachaches, headaches, bed-wetting, sleep disturbances.
· Developmental delays in speech, motor or cognitive skills.
· Fear, anxiety and worry about when the next violent episode will occur.
· Guilt, shame and embarrassment about keeping the family's “secret.”
· Sadness or depression.
· Feelings of powerless or worthlessness.
· Anger at both the abuser for the violence and at the victim for being unable to prevent the violence from happening.
· Distractibility, difficulty focusing and difficulty concentrating in school, affecting their ability to learn.
· Difficulty expressing themselves. They may be more aggressive and fight more often, making it hard to establish good relationships with peers.
· Unwillingness to try new things, fearful about exploring the world or fear of the world in general.
· Withdrawal and isolation, or attention- and approval-seeking behavior.
· Learning that disrespect, intimidation and violence in intimate relationships is “normal,” and that violence is an effective means to resolve conflicts and problems.
· Increased risk for child abuse.
· Increased risk for becoming abusers, or abuse victims, themselves.
· Higher risk of alcohol/substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder.
· The number one reason children run away from home.
Experts say the single best predictor of juvenile delinquency – and adult criminality – is witnessing violence in the home. With 3 to 10 million children (depending on the study) ages 3 to 17 who will witness domestic violence this year, how worried should we be? Very.
Relief After Violent Encounter – Ionia/Montcalm, Inc. offers free and confidential services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence as well as victims of homelessness. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence and you need help, call RAVE's 24-hour crisis and support line at 1-800-720-7233 (SAFE).
Picking up the pieces after a traumatic event
by Eric Adler
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Never mind the little girl's name. What's important is that she was about 10 years old and all the doctors she had seen month after month had failed to ease her pain.
The girl's stomach wrenched. Her chest tightened. Her skull seared with lightning-bolt headaches.
Then at Children's Mercy Hospital, pediatrician Lisa Spector decided to probe with a different set of questions. Instead of asking what was wrong physically, Spector asked the girl what had happened to her in her young life. Quickly, the crux of her pain became clear: Trauma.
“It was impacting her physical and mental health,” Spector said.
At school, she was bullied. At home, she witnessed repeated domestic violence. She talked of her dad belittling and abusing her emotionally. She recently had been a victim of an attempted carjacking; the thief fled after seeing her in the back seat. Day to day, she was living a tense and unsure existence that was translating itself into hobbling pain.
That the child's troubles ultimately eased not with medication but with counseling can be credited to a serious effort by Children's Mercy to focus on “trauma-informed” care.
For a growing number of children across the country, the approach has become the key to their emotional and mental health, “the most important thing we can do for people,” said Marsha Morgan, chief operating officer for behavioral health at Truman Medical Center.
Trauma-informed care focuses on the notion that a traumatic event in childhood, either experienced or witnessed, can alter the biology of the brain. A trauma-informed strategy works on multiple fronts — using counseling and changes to one's personal interactions and environment — to lessen or bypass those negative associations while forming new and more positive associative pathways in the brain.
“I've worked in this field for over 42 years, and this is the most important thing I've ever done,” Morgan said.
Together with Wyandot Inc. of Kansas City, Kansas, Truman and others are helping lead a communitywide task force, Trauma Matters KC, to transform Kansas City into a trauma-informed community. Meanwhile, across the region, scores of entities are offering programs of their own preschools; Kansas' child welfare system; mental health providers; shelters for battered women; and courts, jails and police departments.
“This has become a national conversation,” said Joan Gillece, director of the National Center for Trauma-Informed Care, which in 2005 was launched by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to combat trauma's pernicious effects. “It's really taken off.”
The underlying tenet of trauma-informed care is simple: The past matters.
When children experience singular or repeated traumas, they can exert a powerful influence on their behavior and mental health, now and as they become adults. Data from as far back as the 1990s, for example, show that the vast majority of incarcerated females were abused as children — sexually, physically or emotionally.
Mental illness, physical illness, substance abuse, behavior problems, eating disorders, promiscuity, criminality: All have strong links to previous abuse or neglect, to violence, to abandonment, to the traumas exerted by the deprivations of poverty. Other traumas might include anxiety surrounding family illness, or personal illness, or the feared or real loss of loved ones.
Even witnessing such events can create misery.
“We know that witnessing someone else being hurt is often as traumatizing as being hurt yourself,” Gillece said. “What about kids who hear Mom being beaten night after night, or kids who go to bed hearing gunshots?”
Such connections seem intuitive, but they're also being borne out scientifically with mounting neurological research offering evidence on how trauma can change the biology of the brain, flooding it with hormones in ways that keep its victims in easily triggered states of fight, flight or freeze. The hope of trauma-informed care, experts said, is that by teaching parents, teachers, social workers, doctors, police and even children to address underlying trauma, children's emotions, behaviors and futures can be changed. The triggers that prompt children, or even adults, to erupt (fight) or mentally escape (flight or freeze) through drugs, alcohol or other means can be averted.
In eastern Kansas, child welfare services such as foster care, adoption and mental health services are provided under a state contract to a private company, KVC Health Systems Inc. The organization manages about 3,000 of the 6,100 children in Kansas' welfare system. KVC is now in the fourth year of a five-year study, funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, to measure the effectiveness of the system it uses, Trauma Systems Therapy, to train children's caseworkers and foster parents.
Although many trauma-informed care systems exist (the California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare rates at least 25), they generally work in similar ways, starting with inclusion.
“It really works well when all the players in a child's life can come together,” said Kelly McCauley at KVC, director for evidence-based initiatives.
That means bringing together parents or foster parents, grandparents, physicians, case workers, law enforcement, teachers and even the rest of a school's staff, if possible. Then, in classes over a series of weeks, they learn the fundamentals of brain science and how trauma creates metaphorical circuits, strong neurological pathways, in a child's brain that surge with impulses to fight, flee or freeze.
This differs from the traditional method of care, which experts say tends to focus broadly on the symptoms of depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, or other mental or emotional problems. Medications are prescribed for the disorder. Then behavior modification therapy teaches children to try to control their actions, showing that positive behaviors bring positive results and negative actions bring negatives, like scoldings, timeouts and school expulsions.
Medication and behavioral therapy have been shown to be effective mainstays of treatment, but the fact that many children continue to emerge deeply troubled has been a hint that something significant was missing.
“The focus became the depression or the anxiety,” McCauley said, “but the trauma aspect was being overlooked.”
In trauma-informed care, time is spent teaching caregivers and others how to view the world through the eyes of a trauma victim and to look for “triggers” that cause behavior or moods to shift negatively.
Meredith Hengel, 32, of Grain Valley, said she and her husband didn't know the magnitude of the problems that their son Josh, now age 5 and recently adopted, had endured when he came to them as a foster child shortly before Christmas 2012.
But they knew he didn't trust adults. He slept erratically.
“He might fall asleep at 8, but he'd be up at 2 in the morning. He'd be wandering the house,” Hengel said.
Food was a major issue. The boy would scrounge through the refrigerator.
“If he thought he wasn't getting any food, he would be absolutely frantic,” Hen-gel said.
At Children's Mercy, Hengel and her son worked for some 20 weeks at the hospital's Safe and Healthy Families Trauma Prevention and Treatment Center, using Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, which for Josh was designed to create a trusting parent-child connection.
“Kids who have been in trauma need some sense of control,” Hengel said, “even if it is just playing with a Hot Wheels car. It was that play, coupled with positive praise, that helped. He loved it. I do feel it helped us bond and build a relationship.”
Child abuse, a 'public health epidemic' in Genesee County, needs community collaboration for prevention, experts say
by Sarah Schuch
GENESEE COUNTY, MI -- Genesee County had nearly 2,000 child abuse victims in 2013.
The community needs to do better and needs to do more, local officials say.
Of those victims, 1,050 were under the age of 5. Of those, 35 were reported as severely beaten in 2013.
"We have to educate. You have to get mad about what's going on," said Robert Ennis, president for Ennis Center for Children in Flint.
Whaley Children's Center brought together more than 75 health care professionals, law enforcement officials, businesses and school and community leaders Friday, March 13, to discuss child abuse inGenesee County.
The meeting was in preparation for the Paint Our Town Blue campaign, which kicks off in April during Child Abuse Awareness Month.
This is the second year that the community leaders were brought together to have a discussion about what could be done to prevent child abuse and neglect. This year, the hope was to produce some concrete strategies, said Kevin Roach, president and CEO of Whaley Children's Center.
"I think what we're really excited about is really trying to bring about awareness of this public health epidemic not only that is happening in our community but nationwide," Roach said.
It's time to take a step forward and turn words into action, Roach said.
Over the past three years, 21 children have died from abuse, according to a previous Flint Journal report.
Every police department in the county reported some sort of child abuse to the Michigan State Police in 2012, with 625 cases ranging anywhere from one case reported to Mott Community College police to 231 cases reported to Flint police.
"How can people neglect a child? How can you physically hurt a child? You have these statistics and you think, what can we do?" said Genesee County Undersheriff Chris Swanson. "The more you think about it, really, you can just do your part. ... You can't give up. None of us can."
Whaley Children's Center officials are calling on the community to do their part in getting the awareness out. They want to paint the city blue in the hopes of getting people to ask question. Whether through wearing blue, creating a blue pinwheel garden or selling paper pinwheels, they are asking the community to participate and spread the word.
But it has to be more than that, said Ennis.
"We can't just paint this town blue this month. We have to paint this town blue every day," he said.
April 24 is Wear Blue Day. For more information about the Paint our Town Blue campaign, click here.
There are many ways to help.
Saving children from abusive situations can start with a phone call.
The number to report suspected abuse -- 855-444-3911 -- is a statewide number available around-the-clock, 365 days a year.
Going forward from these discussions, Roach and other community leaders hope to see all the experts come together in one place to prevent child abuse. They want to pump up their prevention efforts and create a center to facilitate all the expertise under one roof.
An example they gave on Friday was the Chadwick Center for Children and Families in San Diego. It has forensic and medical services, a failure to thrive clinic, kids and teens court training, professional and education services and trauma counseling services -- all in one place.
The hope is to create a children's political action committee to give the issue of child abuse more attention with legislators. And to create more programs, such as Project Safe Place, which would bring training in the schools, create crisis counseling and intervention and create safe havens throughout the community for children who are being harmed or in danger of being harmed.
Swanson said he hoped the community leaders didn't leave the discussion with a lot a great ideas that don't result in action. There's something that everyone can do, he said.
"When you are willing to pitch kids aside, then that community is broken," Swanson said.
Critics blast BU doctor for child abuse defense
Says genetic disease often causes fractures; Critics cite a lack of science
by Jenifer McKimNew
A Boston University doctor with a history of butting heads with the establishment is irking child abuse specialists nationwide by testifying in defense of parents accused of maltreatment, saying that a rare genetic disease, not parental wrongdoing, is leading to children's bone fractures.
Dr. Michael F. Holick's testimony — currently at issue in a child abuse case in Maine — is prompting concern among pediatricians who say he has no scientific proof to back up his assertions. They fear he is providing cover to potentially dangerous parents and putting children further at risk.
“This false controversy makes it hard to protect the children,'' said Robert Sege, a Boston child abuse specialist and member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect.
Holick, a professor at BU's school of medicine and director of the Bone Health Care Clinic at Boston Medical Center, said he is confident from decades of working with families with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome that the disorder can lead to bone fractures. He said that although he is not a pediatrician or a child abuse expert, future medical studies will prove him correct.
“Just because you see fractures doesn't mean it's child abuse,'' Holick said. “Prosecutors are very unhappy with me, and child abuse experts are very upset with me.”
The dispute is scheduled to be aired publicly Friday night as part of an ABC News 20/20 story about a Maine couple's assertion that Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, not abuse, caused the injuries to their two-month-old son. The father, Brandon Ross, was indicted last year on 12 counts of child abuse and is awaiting trial.
Prosecutors declined to comment, and the Rosses could not be reached for comment.
Holick, better known for his research into Vitamin D deficiencies that can cause bone disorders, is not one to shy from controversy. In 2004 he was asked to resign from Boston University's department of dermatology because he recommended that people expose themselves to some sunlight to increase their body's natural Vitamin D production. He also was criticized at the time for accepting funding from a nonprofit arm of the Indoor Tanning Industry.
Holick said he first saw a connection between Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and fractured bones more than two decades ago while working with teenagers and adults. He said he first testified on behalf of people accused of abuse about five years ago, helping a Massachusetts couple win an acquittal.
He said he receives calls from frantic parents like the Rosses and provides his testimony on a pro bono basis. Already, he has provided expert testimony in two dozen cases, the majority of which have resulted in acquittals, he said.
Last month a Utah judge ruled in favor of parents accused of abusing their infant, who had multiple bone fractures in different stages of healing. The judge stated that there was no “clear and convincing evidence” the child was abused.
David Coleman, chairman of Boston University's Department of Medicine, said he was unable to comment.
But Holick's defense is prompting concern in the medical field. Stephen C. Boos, medical director for the Family Advocacy Center at Baystate Children's Hospital in Springfield, said some children could be returned to dangerous parents because of a defense that isn't based in science.
“We are creating out of nothing a defensive strategy,” he said. “Of course it concerns me.”
Sege said Holick has slim credentials to make a connection between Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and fractures in children.
He said Holick has not published any peer-reviewed research that links the genetic disease to bone fractures in infants and is gaining a following precisely because nobody else sees this link. Indeed, he argues that there is not even a genetic test that can adequately prove that a person has the disease, much less whether it leads to bone fractures.
Although he does not know the details of the Ross case, Sege said that often juries and others do not want to believe the sad truth that “babies really are abused.”
Pain and trauma of 1985 Kansas City child abuse case remembered
by DAVE HELLING
Thirty years ago, Iyobosa Ighedosa was the victim of a mysterious crime that baffled investigators and frightened families.
He doesn't remember much about what happened 30 years ago. He was 6 months old.
Ighedosa's right leg had been broken. So had the bones of five other infants at a child care center called We Serve Humanity, part of the influential Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church on Linwood Boulevard.
It took two years, and an extraordinary controversy, before authorities could find and convict a caregiver who had twisted the children's bones until they snapped.
Much has changed since then. Some of the investigators and prosecutors involved with the case have died. The caregiver has served her prison sentence. Missouri now has laws designed to reduce similar threats to children, laws that some say still don't go far enough.
Ighedosa, now a 30-year-old Los Angeles musician and poet, says there's been another change.
“One of my doctors told me my right leg is slightly shorter than my left leg,” he says.
A community crisis
In March 1985, Ighedosa's parents and the parents of other infants at the center compared notes. Someone at the facility, they firmly believed, had caused 16 fractures among their six children.
They went public, alleging the church was covering up the crime to protect its reputation.
Congregation members struck back, claiming the parents had slandered the church.
“It was nasty,” remembered Alvin Brooks, a former policeman and crime victim advocate who would later serve on the Kansas City Council and run for mayor.
Today, Alen Ighedosa — Iyobosa's father — remains bitter about the parents' treatment.
“I got death threats,” he recalled last week.
Iyobosa Ighedosa remembers none of that but says the incident affected his childhood.
“Things that happen when you're a baby, even if you can't remember them, do affect you,” he said. “When I was a kid, I had a lot of anger issues and behavior issues that I couldn't explain.”
His mother, Jeanette, a clinical social worker, says the family hired counselors to work with their son. She believes the trauma he suffered at the day care center contributed to his early challenges in school and at home.
“Kids who have been traumatized have more issues,” she said last week. “They don't get too close to people. … We had to get plenty of counseling for him.”
Today, she says, “I couldn't be more proud of the man he's become.”
The church and day care center were supervised by the Rev. Wallace Hartsfield Sr., one of the best known and most respected pastors in Kansas City. He did not respond to several requests for comment for this story.
But his reputation, and that of the church, suffered little following the incidents. Hartsfield remained pastor at Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church until 2008, when he stepped aside and his son, the Rev. Wallace Hartsfield II, took the pulpit.
Dinner and confession
Brooks helped solve the case.
As the controversy swirled in 1985, he conducted an independent investigation of the crime at Hartsfield Sr.'s request.
At first, some of the parents of the victims distrusted him, Brooks recalled last week.
“They were so angry with me,” he said. “They said, ‘Why are you coming in, some supercop, to solve this thing?'”
But he re-interviewed center employees, eventually sitting down for dinner with a caregiver named Lettie Ward, then 33.
Over barbecue, Ward told Brooks she was responsible for the broken limbs.
“She said how sorry she was,” Brooks remembered.
Her attorneys later claimed her statements were made under duress. But the jury found Ward guilty of six counts of child abuse and she was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
She was paroled in 1992 after serving five years. Ward could not be reached for comment.
We Serve Humanity wasn't licensed.
It didn't need a license under Missouri law because in 1985, church-affiliated day care centers were exempt from almost all state oversight.
Lawmakers quickly began discussions about changing the law to hold church-run centers to the same standards as secular child care facilities.
Church leaders, though, said state supervision would interfere with their First Amendment rights.
“How can the state, that is to be blind to matters of faith, understand how our care and training children exceeds the standards of the state?” John Yeats of the Missouri Baptist Convention testified in subsequent debates on the issue.
By the late 1990s, a compromise was reached. Missouri created a category of license-exempt facilities operated by faith-based groups.
License-exempt facilities must submit to annual fire and sanitation inspections but are not subject to rules about nutrition, caregiver training or staffing ratios that apply to licensed secular day care centers.
State officials visit exempt facilities annually, but there is no easily accessible online record of their findings. And there's no minimum age for caregivers.
“It's unlikely that's going to change anytime soon,” said L. Carol Scott, chief executive officer of Child Care Aware of Missouri, an advocacy and referral group. “Legislators really listen to the churches in their districts.”
Wounds that heal
Ighedosa says he notices no physical effects from his childhood injury. He doesn't recall any physical limitations after the bone healed.
He served in the military for a time. Now he runs on a regular basis, covering five miles in less than an hour.
“I'm out here working, chasing the dream,” he said by phone from California.
He writes songs and poems, plays guitar and helps publish music. He sometimes uses the name Enpho Bonaparte.
“Patience is sacrifice,” he tweeted in February. “Sacrifice is trust. Trust is forgiveness. Forgiveness is Love. Love is scary. Scary is beautiful.”
He's a health coach. In 2013 he appeared in a short film called “Love Cafe.”
He played an athlete.
But he admits to some remaining frustration with the mystifying crime.
“When you think about it, of course it makes you angry,” he said. “It makes you scared to have kids. You wonder, ‘What's going to happen?'”
He credits his parents with helping him accept the incident at the start of his life, the parents who fought to protect him three decades ago.
“My parents were great,” he said.
“I had the best dad, the best mom in the world.”
Task force wants more child abuse reports investigated
by The Associated Press
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A task force studying Minnesota's child protection system wants more reports of abuse to be automatically investigated.
The task force appointed by Governor Mark Dayton began on Friday to piece together another set of recommendations to overhaul the state's child protection system. It's also endorsing a new screening process to determine if other maltreatment reports should be investigated.
Minnesota officials are moving to make changes in light of a Star Tribune report on the death of a repeatedly abused 4-year-old boy. Eric Dean was killed by his stepmother in 2013 after numerous complaints lodged with county social services failed to prompt action.
Legislators already passed a bill repealing a law that prevents social workers from considering past abuse reports when deciding to investigate new ones.
'Swingers' wanted on sex assault charges arrested
by Will Isern
Two suspects wanted in connection with a sexual assault investigation involving two Escambia County Sheriff's deputies have been arrested in Colorado.
Douglas Albert Manning, 47, and Leah Giannotti Manning, 40, were taken into custody at 12:30 p.m. local time Thursday in Colorado. They had been wanted on outstanding warrants for sexual assault, lewd and lascivious behavior and child neglect.
They are being held at the Fremont County Jail City in Florence, Colo., and are awaiting extradition to Escambia County.
Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan expressed his gratitude to the sheriff's office Facebook community: "Many thanks to our media partners and followers on social media for working with us to locate these fugitives. It was a community effort."
The Mannings were being sought in connection with an investigation involving Escambia deputies Walter Michael Thomas, 44, and Mark Gene Smith, 40. The deputies have been charged with sexual assault on a victim older than 12. They are on unpaid administrative leave pending an investigation of the charges.
The Mannings worked as paramedics in Okaloosa County, and Leah Manning was previously employed at the Escambia County Sheriff's Office as a nurse in the Escambia County Jail.
In late September or early October 2014, Thomas allegedly visited the Mannings' home. A victim identified the Mannings as "swingers" who allegedly had multiple sexual partners.
The victim told police Leah Manning invited her into a bedroom where she engaged in sex acts with Thomas while Douglas Manning recorded the abuse with his cellphone.
The victim also reported multiple instances of abuse while visiting Smith in summer 2014. The incidents were reported through a child abuse hotline in February. Following an investigation, Smith and Thomas were arrested last Friday.
Portman measures to combat human trafficking on Senate floor this week
from Sen. Rob Portman's Office
On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), co-chair of the Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking, announced that the Senate will consider two of his bills to combat human trafficking, the Bringing Missing Children Home Act, as well as key provisions of his Combat Human Trafficking Act.
These bills passed out of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary as part of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, the bipartisan, comprehensive trafficking bill which is being debated on the Senate floor this week. The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act was introduced by U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX).
“Human trafficking is a heinous crime, and these measures will allow us to improve the way we find missing children, strengthen the prosecution against those who commit these acts and ensure that children who are sex trafficked or sexually exploited are treated as victims, not criminals,” Portman said. “I'm pleased that we're moving forward on these important measures to protect the most vulnerable among us and look forward to final passage later this week.”
The Bringing Missing Children Home Act is bipartisan legislation Portman introduced with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to improve the way we find missing kids by refining and streamlining how cases of missing children are handled and enhancing the critical information needed for law enforcement to investigate cases of missing and abducted children.
Specifically, for the first time ever, law enforcement will be required to add a photograph to the missing child's file if available. Since Jan. 1, 2015, there have been 87 children reported missing in Ohio, and there are photographs for only 21 of them.
Portman's bill also replaces the term “child prostitution” with “child sex trafficking,” reinforcing that children who are sex trafficked or sexually exploited are victims, not criminals, and making it clear that we must save these children from abuse.
The Combat Human Trafficking Act is bipartisan legislation Portman introduced with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to strengthen law enforcement efforts to investigate and prosecute all who commit sex trafficking crimes, particularly the buyers of sex acts from trafficking victims. Enforcement efforts often focus on prosecuting the sellers of these acts because of challenges in prosecuting buyers.
Portman's legislation sends a clear message to those who victimize children that they will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. By strengthening laws against buyers, we can take steps toward reducing demand for child victims and ensuring criminals are fully prosecuted.
These bills follow up on Portman's extensive efforts to combat human trafficking. Last year, Portman's provisions to protect children from violent criminals were signed into law as part of the Child Care Development Block Grant. Additionally, key provisions of Portman's Child Sex Trafficking Data and Response Act, which requires state child welfare workers to identify and document victims of sex trafficking within the child welfare system, were signed into law last year. In December 2012, Portman's bill to strengthen protections against trafficking in connection with overseas federal contracts, the End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act, was signed into law as part of the National Defense Authorization Bill.
15 arrested in Florida sex trafficking bust
Fifteen people have been arrested in a major human trafficking ring that was operating in central and south Florida.
State Attorney General Pam Bondi held a news conference Wednesday Tallahassee.
She said the sting involved at least six victims, all women, who had been illegally smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico and Central America.
According to state officials, the victims were tricked with the promise of being reunited with other family members already in the U.S., but, they were forced into sex slavery.
"These suspects are part of a loose network of individuals who worked separately to find individual victims. The captors know each other and routinely communicated," said Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen.
Swearingen said two more culprits remain at large. Their last known location was rural Lee and Hendry counties.
If convicted, the defendants in the case face a minimum of 60 years in prison.
Anti-human trafficking workshop coming to the Alerus
by Sarah Volpenhein
A local organization is sponsoring an all-day anti-human trafficking workshop at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks next month.
The Community Foundation, which serves the Grand Forks area, provided a $3,000 grant to 4her North Dakota to teach local professionals and community members about human trafficking on April 7 at the Alerus Center, said Kristi Mishler, executive director of Community Foundation.
The event is called "Combating Human Trafficking: Bodies are not Commodities."
"As the world's fastest growing criminal industry, (human trafficking) affects every nation across the globe," reads a release from 4her. "Every 30 seconds, someone is forced into this type of bondage — modern slavery."
Topics the workshop will cover include: who are the girls under pimp control and their identifiers, trafficking lingo and the power of coercion, and how to interact with girls under pimp control.
One of the speakers attending the workshop is Windie Lazenko. Lazenko, executive director and founder of 4her, was once a victim of trafficking. She is now an advocate for victims of sex trafficking, as well as a licensed chaplain and a trainer.
Shelle Aberle, of 4her, said the workshop is open to professionals, including law enforcement officers, attorney, counselors, social workers, clergy members, business owners, but is not exclusive. Community members are also welcome, she said.
"We feel the more people that understand about human trafficking, we might be able to save one person or 10 or 20," said Aberle. "Grand Forks has not been excluded from what's happening across the state."
The workshop will last from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., April 7. Lunch will be provided.
Inquiry urged over child experiment claims
by Tom Peterkin
CLAIMS that scientific experiments were done on orphans and the deportation of children to Australia and Canada must be investigated by the Scottish inquiry into child abuse, survivors insisted last night.
Allegations that Scottish institutions were involved in drug tests on vulnerable children should be fully explored by the Scottish Government inquiry, according to a group representing hundreds of survivors.
The Scottish Government is currently deciding what form its historical abuse inquiry should take and how it intends to uncover the deeply disturbing crimes that have been committed against children in Scotland over the last few decades.
Scotland on Sunday has seen a draft submission to ministers prepared by Incas (In Care Abuse Survivors Scotland) demanding that the government sets up an investigation with a wide remit looking at abuse allegations dating from the 1930s to the present. The document says the inquiry should “review medical experimentation that was carried out on vulnerable children and adults without consent”.
Incas does not give details of the allegations, but in the past claims have been made that children were victims of the practice at Lennox Castle Hospital, East Dunbartonshire.
Lennox Castle, which has since closed, was one of four Scottish institutions claimed to have been involved in trialling drugs on children as part of a program run during the Cold War by Porton Down, in Wiltshire. The MoD has said it is “not aware” of such tests and has seen no evidence to back up the claims. Survivors have claimed that six and seven-year-olds were tied to racks and given electric shocks. The Incas submission will also call for the “child migrant scheme” to be reviewed. This refers to the practice of sending children overseas, mainly to Australia and Canada, in the hope they would find a better life.
Between the 1920s and the 1960s as many as 150,000 young children were despatched to institutions and foster homes in the under- populated Commonwealth.
Charities including Barnardo's, the Catholic Church and local authorities helped organise the emigration of youngsters aged between three and 14. So the children could make a clean start, they were usually told their parents had died – even if they were still alive.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “This government must always be on the side of victims of abuse and we are currently engaging with survivors on the terms of reference for a public inquiry and the attributes of the chair. We want to do all we can to get this right which is why we are arranging events for survivors as well as encouraging views to be offered over the phone or online.”
Alleged Cosby victim testifies before Nevada Legislature
by The Associated Press
A woman who says Bill Cosby victimized her decades ago asked Nevada lawmakers on Friday to support a bill removing the state's statute of limitations on sexual assault — a provision that prevented her from pursuing a criminal case against the comedian.
Lise-Lotte Lublin, 48, fought through tears while telling lawmakers she passed out in the Las Vegas Hilton in 1989 after Cosby gave her two alcoholic drinks. The former model said she remembers Cosby stroking her hair, and then she woke up at home.
It was only after hearing similar allegations from other women that she concluded something happened to her while she was unconscious. She said she filed a police report on the incident in January, but was told Cosby couldn't be charged because too much time had passed. So she and her husband went to the bill's sponsor and urged her to draft the legislation.
"I want to empower victims, period," Lublin said, "regardless of what happens for me."
Cosby's publicist, David Brokaw, did not immediately respond to an email message seeking comment on Friday. More than 20 women have stepped forward in recent months to level various accusations against Cosby, ranging from unwanted advances to sexual assault and rape. Cosby has not been charged with a crime and has denied some of the allegations through his attorneys.
Las Vegas police have investigated "more than one" complaint against Cosby, but couldn't confirm if Lublin filed a police report due to department policy, said department spokeswoman Officer Laura Meltzer. None of the complaints have led to criminal charges, she said.
Nevada law dictates that sexual assault charges cannot be filed more than four years after the alleged incident. The bill would remove that restriction and bring sexual assault in line with murder and terrorism as crimes without a statute of limitations.
Democratic Assemblywoman Irene Bustamante Adams, who is sponsoring the bill, said the legislation would help sexual assault victims who often face severe emotional and social trauma and can take years to feel comfortable before filing a report with police.
Vanessa Spinazola, a lobbyist for the ACLU of Nevada, said statutes of limitations help ensure cases are reviewed before witnesses die and memories fade.
"They permit both the prosecution and the defense to try the case before evidence is stale," Spinazola said. "As more time lapses, it becomes increasingly difficult for the accused to prepare a meaningful defense."
Attorney Lisa Rasmussen said there's an unlimited statute of limitations for prosecuting a sexual assault when a police report is filed within four years of the incident.
"You also have to think about whether or not you would want to be in a position where someone is saying '35 years ago, someone did this to me,'" Rasmussen said.
The bill wouldn't apply retroactively due to constitutional concerns.
The Associated Press does not identify victims of sexual assault as a matter of policy, but Lublin went public with her allegations. Despite Lublin identifying Cosby as her attacker, committee chair Ira Hansen asked that witnesses not use names during their public testimony and refer to him as "the perpetrator."
Teen charged in kidnapping of 10-year-old girl
by Jimmy Bernhard and Alexandra Martellaro
O'FALLON, Mo. – A 17-year-old male has been charged after police say he kidnapped a 10-year-old girl Thursday morning.
Police responded to the girl's home after receiving a call about a child kidnapping. During a search of the neighborhood, officers located the suspect and the 10-year-old in a vehicle around 6:10 a.m.
The suspect, John Classen, was taken into custody and the girl was transported to the hospital. Classen was known to the family.
An investigation revealed Classen forced his way into the home by cutting the screen of a window he deliberately left unlocked and hid in the basement for about 4 1/2 hours. Next, police say Classen grabbed the sleeping girl from the couch and carried her down the stairs.
He lost his footing while carrying the girl and fell partially down the stairs, which woke up the parents. They called 911 after finding their daughter missing.
Classen admitted to officers he kidnapped the girl with the intention of being alone with her to tell her about feelings he had developed for her. He also admitted to threatening to harm her and stalking her in the past.
Police records show Classen wrote about his plan to kidnap, rape and kill the young girl.
In one note, Classen wrote, "She will die as she lived, my only friend. A lot of people are going to get hurt and I'm sorry this has to happen."
Classen has been charged with child kidnapping, first-degree burglary and abuse or neglect of a child. He's being held on a $1.5 million bond.
10 California high school boys arrested in alleged sexual assaults of 2 girls
by Michael Martinez and Alexandra Meeks
Los Angeles (CNN) -- Ten boys ages 14 to 17 were arrested Friday on accusations of unlawful sex acts against two underage girls for more than a year, on and off the campus of Venice High School, authorities said.
Eight of the nine male students were arrested on campus, and the other was taken into custody off-campus, police said. One suspect turned himself in.
Detectives have identified a total of 14 people, all between ages 14 and 17, who allegedly sexually assaulted the two female Venice High School students multiple times, said Cmdr. Andrew Smith of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Police have those names of the remaining alleged assailants, Smith said.
The investigation began Tuesday when school administrators told police about possible sex crimes involving students, police said.
Los Angeles Unified School District Police Chief Steven Zipperman told reporters that "student safety is our number one concern."
"Any type of issues pertaining to sexual misconduct on any of our campuses will not be tolerated. It will be dealt with seriously. Anything that amounts to a violation of the law will amount to an arrest," Zipperman said.
"Whenever there is an issue about student safety, we will do whatever we can to ensure that the behavior is stopped," he added.
LAPD Detectives learned the alleged sex crimes occurred from December 2013 to this month, police said.
Police made "an effort to protect the victims" when making the arrests at Venice High School, Smith said.
The Los Angeles Unified School District is cooperating with police and the system's school police, and the parents of the suspects have been notified, Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines said in a statement.
"This is a painful moment for Venice High School, and this District. I want you to know that no sexual misconduct of any kind by students or staff will ever be tolerated in L. A. Unified," Cortines said.
Crisis counselors were on campus Friday to assist students, Cortines said.
Venice High School has been used as a filming location, including in the 1978 film "Grease" and the 2003 film "Matchstick Men," according to IMDb.com.
Fort Hood prostitution case shows military's challenges with sexual assault
Sgt. 1st Class Gregory McQueen was a sexual assault response coordinator, but Army reports show he used his job to victimize women. He received a two-year sentence in a plea deal this week.
by Anna Mulrine
Washington — The details of a Fort Hood , Texas, prostitution ring – involving
US soldiers recruiting cash-strapped female privates who were struggling to keep their young children in diapers – came to light this week with the court-martial of the ring's coordinator.
Sgt. 1st Class Gregory McQueen could have been facing 33 years for an assortment charges including assault and battery, conspiracy to patronize a prostitute, adultery (which is a prosecutable offense in the military), and dereliction of duty.
While US military prosecutors had asked for five years, McQueen – who will be demoted to the rank of private and stripped of all pay and benefits – received a 24-month sentence in a plea deal. He will be dishonorably discharged.
Revelations about the Fort Hood prostitution ring have been particularly concerning to US military officials because McQueen was a sexual assault response coordinator, a job meant for those interested in helping to shepherd victims through the healing process.
McQueen “exploited his rank and position of authority to abuse young enlisted women, but at the end of the day, he is walking away with a slap on the wrist,” says retired Col. Don Christensen, who was chief prosecutor for the Air Force.
“The fact that Fort Hood's sexual assault prevention officer received only a 24-month sentence for running a prostitution ring with soldiers is disgusting,” added Mr. Christensen, who is now president of Protect Our Defenders, an advocacy group.
As the Pentagon struggles to encourage victims of sexual assault to come forward, one of its chief challenges has been convincing reluctant troops that perpetrators will face consequences for the crime. A Department of Defense report from 2014 found that 1 in 4 victims steps forward to report sexual assault.
McQueen used his job to victimize women, Army reports show. This deeply damaged the credibility of the Fort Hood sexual assault reporting program, said a US soldier who testified during a preliminary hearing for the case last June.
“There's no longer any trust,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Dice, who replaced McQueen as a sexual assault response coordinator after the allegations came to light in May 2013. “The program is pretty much compromised.”
During McQueen's court-martial, one soldier testified that she was assaulted during Army training, before arriving at Fort Hood.
McQueen told the female soldier, “I heard about your situation.” He then proceeded to invite her to pimping parties in which noncommissioned officers also in attendance had been told they could pay the young female soldiers under their command for sex.
“I felt angry and stressed,” she told the court. “It just reminded me of a bad situation.”
McQueen appeared to be a trustworthy figure on base, as the sexual assault response coordinator and a saxophone player in a nearby gospel church. At the same time, he was photographing female soldiers in the nude and shopping them around to higher-ups.
Many of these details came to light during the 2013 court-martial of Master Sgt. Brad Grimes, who was convicted of paying $100 to have sex with a soldier at Fort Hood.
“Basically, it was having sex with higher-ranking officers for money,” said the female soldier, who was granted immunity to testify in a hearing in the McQueen case.
“When I got home, I felt disgusting,” another soldier told Army investigators, according to The Daily Beast. “But at least I could buy food and diapers for my household.”
Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, who is the commander in charge of McQueen's court-martial proceedings – known in military parlance as the “convening authority” – must still approve McQueen's sentence.
At his sentencing hearing Thursday, McQueen cried and expressed remorse. “I would like to apologize to each of the individuals, the command, and everyone affected,” he said. “I was wrong for approaching soldiers and putting them in this situation.”
New medical exam site will help reduce wait times for sexual assault victims
by Calily Bien
AUSTIN (KXAN) — SafePlace and local law enforcement are teaming up to build a new medical forensic exam site to provide more options for women of sexual assault. The new facility, which will be built at the SafePlace campus, will be staffed 24-hours a day to eliminate long wait times and provide free services to survivors, including preventive medications.
Currently, victims of sexual assault might have to wait at an emergency room for hours before they can be examined.
“Having to sit and wait for prolonged periods of time can certainly agitate one or increase frustration or increase trauma,” explains Lt. Gena Curtis with APD's Violent Crimes unit. “To get in and to get out certainly reduces stress and trauma.”
The service provided will also be free of charge to the victims. SafePlace estimates 96 percent of sexual assault survivors (who do not need emergency care) will be able to take advantage of this option.
SafePlace hopes the on-site clinic will provide a safe and supportive place where survivors will feel at ease.
“We know that survivors leave an exam because of wait times,” says the Director of Community Advocacy Emily LeBlanc. “And you have to remember that survivor lives don't just stop because something traumatic has happened. They still have child care needs, family needs, they still have jobs to go to.”
The agency hopes to have the facility ready by this summer.
If you are a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault, you can contact SafePlace at 512-267-7233.
Ark. dentist arrested for sexual assault still seeing patients
by Meredith H Mitchell
LITTLE ROCK, Ark.(KTHV)- A Little Rock dentist was arrested on Thursday night for sexual assault, and was back seeing patients on Friday.
Healthy Smiles dentist, Doctor Jose Turcios is accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year old female patient.
It was anything but a regular day at Healthy Smiles in West Little Rock.
Little Rock Police along with the Crime Scene Unit were parked outside.
First-time patient Qiana Lipscomb says she was unaware of the allegations.
"I think it sucks. I'm thinking now I need to go somewhere else."
Lipscomb says she was shocked to learn that 44-year-old Dr. Jose Turcios is accused of sexually assaulting a teenager.
"This is my first time here and it scares me now because I don't know."
Little Rock Police say the 14-year old victim claims that Turcios kissed her and touched her inappropriately while having her braces and a crown fixed.
Sgt. Cassandra Davis says the victim had been given a small amount of nitrous, but police say she recalls the entire incident.
"Anybody that's been to the dentist and has used that gas, you know that you are conscious. It's just that you may be a little sluggish, but you do have the ability to see as well as feel and know what's going on."
THV11 did reach out to Dr. Turcios' office for his side of the story, but were told that an attorney advised them not to make any statement at this time.
Now, Davis says police want any other potential victims to come forward.
"Right now we don't have any information about anybody else out there. That has not been reported. If there is anyone who needs to make a police report or come forward with some information we do ask that they call police department."
An attorney for the Arkansas State dental board tells us the board is aware of the arrest and is in the process of completing an investigation.
At that time, it will be determined if they will suspend revoke or leave his license.
Also, many of Turcios' patients are coming to his defense, leaving comments on the THV11 Facebook page that the allegations are false.
Sandusky victim will share story of abuse at UNK event
by UNK Communications
KEARNEY — Matthew Sandusky endured years of sexual abuse by his adopted father, former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
Now, Matthew Sandusky is telling others how they can take action to prevent child sexual abuse and support adult survivors of abuse.
He will share his story Tuesday during the 26th-annual Criminal Justice Conference and Career Fair at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
Jerry Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of child sexual abuse in 2012. He was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.
Matthew Sandusky came forward during Jerry Sandusky's trial in 2012 after hearing testimonies from other victims. He is the founder of the Peaceful Hearts Foundation, which promotes stronger statute of limitation laws, education for children, stronger mandated reporting laws and other legislation. Peaceful Hearts also helps survivors of childhood sexual abuse find support.
Matthew Sandusky will speak at 9:15 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. Tuesday in the Nebraskan Student Union's Ponderosa Room. His first talk will include his own story of overcoming sexual abuse. In his second presentation, he will discuss life after sexual abuse.
“His talk is so valuable for our students and the community. Male child sexual abuse is one of the most under-reported crimes, and this is a population that is typically underserved,” said Julie Campbell, associate professor and chair of the Department of Criminal Justice.
“His story is so fascinating because it was part of this big national scandal. But he's going to talk about how hard it is to self-define as a victim and to make that decision to disclose that he was a victim. I'm hoping that it will make our audience more aware of how complex child sexual abuse is.”
Also speaking at the conference is Deb Minardi, Nebraska deputy probation administrator. She is in charge of community-based programs and field services, which includes specialized programming for sex offenders, domestic violence, mental health and juvenile services.
The conference includes a career fair from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Criminal Justice Conference and Career Fair is sponsored by the Department of Criminal Justice and Alpha Phi Sigma. Funding is provided by the Faculty Senate Artists and Lecturers Committee, the University Programming and Faculty Fee, and Department of Criminal Justice.
To The Woman With the Bruises
by Melissa Charles
To the Woman with the Bruises,
I know you. I don't know your name, where you live, your age or your phone number.
But I know you.
I know that look in your eyes. That frightened, defeated, depressed, broken look.
I know you, because I once saw that look in my own eyes.
I know what it's like to live with someone who terrifies you. I know what it's like to go to sleep sick and wake up scared.
I know you.
And I want you to hear me, as one survivor to another: It's not your fault.
I know the psychological warfare you've been besieged with. I know how your self-esteem is non-existent, replaced by a constant stream of negatives. I know that you've come to believe that you're so useless, damaged, stupid and lazy that you deserve every word hurled at you in anger, every blow that's ever landed upon you, be it emotionally or physically. I know you believe that if you could just be BETTER, this would all go away, that you'd meet with approval, that finally, he'd be happy. And love you.
After all, he can be sweet, can't he? You have memories that you treasure in your heart, that you keep close and turn back to, time and again. There's hope there. Proof that he can be loving, and kind, and gentle. The rage that takes him over, that's what's to blame. At heart, he's so loving, isn't he?
Here's the truth: No. No, he's not.
His rage is just a part of him as any good you've ever seen. And the reality is that no amount of enduring his rage will ever get him to stop. Nothing you say or do is responsible for his behavior, and therefore, nothing you say or do will ever make him stop lashing out at you.
Because it's all on him. You bear no responsibility for his abuse of you. None.
It doesn't matter how angry you make him, what you've done. If you burn dinner, return home late after work, decided to go out for a girls' night, put a dent in the car. Doesn't. Matter. As an adult, HE has the responsibility to control his emotions, because he's the only one that actually can. There is NOTHING you can ever do that would justify him putting his hands on you in anger. There just isn't.
It doesn't matter WHY he's abusive. It just doesn't. Be it mental illness, addiction or just being an evil, abusive jerk. The end result is the same. Someone that abuses their partner is not someone you need to be with. You can't heal him, save him or fix him. You need to attend to your own safety.
And as for all that crap he's drilled into your head? Think about something: If you're so lazy, stupid, ugly, fat or whatever load of psychologically damaging crap he's hammered into your head, ask yourself... why would he want to have someone like that around? Considering how high his standards are, it makes no sense at all, does it? It's because you're none of those things. What you are is a wonderful person who has the right to be treated by a partner as a blessing in their lives.
He breaks you down, psychologically and physically, because he knows he's not worthy of you, so controlling you, keeping you caged by fear and self-loathing, is the only hope he's got. That's why he ups the stakes the way he does. Finding fault with something he'd praised before -- be it a meal you cooked or a dress you wore -- shows that he needs to assure himself that no matter what he does, he's in control.
There is never, ever a way to satisfy him.
I'm praying you get out. Leave him. There are women's shelters that you can run to. Or, like the Superbowl commercial that aired this year, remember that you can call 911. Please, get help. Get to safety. Get yourself some therapy to undo the damage he's done. Be the woman you were made to be.
And I promise you, that woman? She's nobody's punching bag.
And if you do these things, you'll look in the mirror one day, and the woman gazing back at you will have joy in her eyes. Peace. Excitement. A love of living again. And strength. There will be a strength there that you recognize.
I know you. I was you... I am you. I got out. I stayed out. You can, too.
Be it a violent partner or abusive parents, there is hope. There is a way out.
You can do this. Reach out. Ask for help. Domestic violence hotlines in your area can give you a wealth of information, and are there to help, to listen.
You can do this.
In the U.S., there is both a hotline and a website with chat available. 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE), 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). http://www.thehotline.org
If you're in Canada, domestic abuse hotlines are broken down by province. Go here for more information and a breakdown of hotlines by province.
I wrote this post because no woman, child, or man should ever live in fear. No person, regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic status or any other label you'd like to use should EVER be a victim of domestic violence. I'm participating in the #1000Speak movement to get the message out, to offer understanding and compassion to those who are targets of domestic violence
I chose to write about a woman because statistically, women outnumber men as victims of domestic violence. I gravely suspect that the statistics about men who are abused by intimate partners are even MORE underreported than even the experts are guessing. I hope and pray that as more people speak out, more cry and yell about domestic violence being a crime in our world, that there will come a day when nobody lives in fear from someone who supposedly loves them.
This is my cry out. This is my yell. This is my banner waving furiously. No. More. End domestic violence.
Fighting against the exploiters
Take away demand for what they're selling, survivors tell forum
by Carol Sanders
It's time to go after the criminals who sexually exploit our children, a packed forum of more than 250 people heard Thursday.
In order to put sex traffickers out of business, you need to put an end to the demand for what they're selling, survivors told the sixth annual All Children Matter forum, hosted by the Winnipeg Sexually Exploited Youth Community Coalition.
Society has to buck up and go after the buyers who want sex with kids, said two women who were sexually exploited in their youth and are now advocates and counsellors.
"These johns are the problem," said presenter Bridget Perrier. "But we're not talking about the demand for paid sex," said Perrier, who was first sexually exploited as a youth in care in Ontario when she was just 12 years old. As an adult, she testified at committee hearings on Bill C-36 to criminalize sex trafficking. She said at the time she was threatened by organized crime "to be silent."
"We need to attack this more aggressively," said Perrier. The Report of the National Task Force on the Trafficking of Women and Girls in Canada cites RCMP estimates that traffickers in Canada can receive an average annual financial gain of $280,000 for every woman or girl they have trafficked. Court rulings and studies of sex-trafficked adolescents estimate being sexually exploited costs the survivors twice as much -- $552,964 per trafficked woman or girl in estimated lost earnings and personal costs, the report said.
Diane Redsky, the executive director of Winnipeg's Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, who headed the task force, said they came up with 34 recommendations to end sex trafficking in Canada, including decriminalizing women and girls who sell and criminalizing those who buy. "We know who the exploiters are but nobody wants to touch it," said Maroussia McRae, a survivor who was taken by sex traffickers from Winnipeg at the age of 14 and now works as a crisis counsellor at a women's shelter in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
"They say 'there's not enough proof' and then people don't want to report things... I'm completely overwhelmed and lost right now," McRae said after receiving a standing ovation from a hometown audience after seeing a video about her story. She also shared her story with the national task force that included 24 experts and visited 10 Canadian cities.
McRae said she came from a middle-class home and had good parents who loved her.
"But then along came these older guys at the mall. They were so smooth. They told me I was beautiful. They would find out the tiny little things in my life I wasn't happy about and magnify them," McRae said. "I was invited to a party and went there against my parents' wishes. It turns out I was the party favour. I was raped, beaten and dropped off in the morning. I was black and blue. I was ashamed. I felt I couldn't go back to my parents. That was the beginning."
McRae lived to tell her story, while the mother of a girl missing since 2006 said she stopped wondering if her daughter is alive and has started fighting.
Glendene Grant started Mothers Against Trafficking Humans (MATH) in 2010 to prevent others from losing their daughters to traffickers like she lost her daughter, Jessie Foster. The mother of four from Kamloops, B.C., told the forum in Winnipeg her daughter was smart, friendly and beautiful when she was groomed by a handsome older man who took her on free trips to the U.S., proposed to her, then sexually exploited her. When Grant couldn't reach her daughter by phone anymore, she confronted her daughter's "fiancé" in Las Vegas, who wouldn't tell Grant what had happened to her.
"We need survivors of victims to speak," said Grant, who's travelled all over the U.S. looking for her daughter, including Las Vegas, where she put up "missing" posters with Jessie's photo and met the man who lured her away. Vegas police told Grant he was a well-known pimp but wouldn't do anything to help her find her daughter.
"These pimps and traffickers are good at their jobs," said Grant. "How are we taking 12 years of motherhood and fatherhood and then someone can come along and say 'Are you ever pretty. I can make you a star,' and boom -- they're gone?"
Thursday's event took place at the Best Western Plus Winnipeg Airport Hotel.
Sexual exploitation by the numbers:
THE age of recruitment is 13 to 14 years old. Traffickers seek younger victims because they are easier to manipulate and control, and because of the high demand for sex with young girls.
As of January 2011, the majority of Canadian sex-trafficking cases involved trafficker-boyfriends, a major shift for Canadian courts that had previously looked for an adversarial relationship to prove the victim was indeed a victim.
The Internet has made it possible for traffickers to enter a child's bedroom through her computer screen. Evolving online and mobile technology has also made trafficking less visible to the public. Young girls on the street might have prompted public outcry. These girls are now indoors, away from the eyes of police and others who might help them.
Of 160 sexually exploited youth interviewed, the top five risk factors were being female, poor, having a history of violence or neglect, a history of child sexual abuse and a low level of education.
A survey of indigenous women who are survivors of youth sexual exploitation found:
50% were first recruited between the ages of nine and 14. One was younger than nine.
87.5% had already been sexually abused, raped or molested before they were trafficked.
100% said they were expected to do everything the men wanted.
87.5% had to do things they were not comfortable doing.
71% reported being forced to have sex with doctors, 60% with judges, 80% with police and 40% with social workers.
75% were not allowed to keep any of their earnings.
85.7% said they tried to resist and leave their situation. If they were caught trying to leave, 71.4% were beaten; 57% were locked up; 71.4% faced increased debt; and 43% were drugged or withheld food and water.
71.4% did not abuse drugs, alcohol and other substances before being trafficked, but 71.4% did abuse substances while being trafficked.
Women in the sex industry are 40 times as likely as the average Canadian woman to fall victim of murder and a majority of women experienced sexual, physical and emotional violence prior to entering the sex industry.
-- source: Report of the National Task Force on the Trafficking of Women and Girls in Canada
House passes bill to fund child abuse prevention center
SALEM — The Oregon House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill to fund Oregon's 21 community-based child abuse intervention centers, which includes the Mt. Emily Safe Center, La Grande, and Guardian Care Center, Pendleton.
Oregon law does not currently cover the reimbursement of the centers for certain services and treatment. Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, who sponsored the bill, explained in a written statement House Bill 2234 would require the Oregon Health Authority and insurers to adopt billing and payment mechanisms to ensure the centers are reimbursed for services, including for medical and mental health treatment and forensic interviews of children.
Nearly 11,000 children were confirmed victims of child abuse in Oregon in 2013, according to the Oregon Network of Child Abuse Intervention Centers, and many more abuse cases were unconfirmed or unreported.
Child Abuse Council hosts conference on children and violence
The Children Exposed to Violence Annual Conference, hosted by the Child Abuse Council, will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, March 19, at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center, Davenport.
Maria Trozzi, M.Ed., will open the morning with “Good Grief: Lessons Learned that Promote Resilience When Children Face Stressful Life Events”. Using case examples from her consultation after Columbine, Hurricane Katrina, Sept. 11 and the Boston Marathon bombing, Trozzi will describe what practices work when children are facing trauma and why.
Several breakout sessions will be offered on topics from “Outreach Worker Safety” to “Suicide Prevention and Intervention” and “The Whys of Behavior in Children”.
Professionals will end the day with nationally known speaker Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith's “Preventing Violence in the United States: A Public Health Mandate”. As a physician working in inner-city Boston, Dr. Prothrow-Stith broke new ground with her efforts to have youth violence defined as a public health problem, not just a criminal justice issue.
How a biker gang seeks to protect children against abuse
The escape of a suspected child molester from custody in California has prompted a Bikers Against Child Abuse to rally to support the child.
by Alexander LaCasse
They may have the leather vests, tattoos, bandanas, and choppers, but Sons of Anarchy they are not.
The motorcycle club Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) is dedicated to one thing and one thing only: protecting abused children.
Established in the 1990s, BACA has recently garnered national attention following the escape of suspected child molester Johnell Carter on Friday. Authorities have not yet located Carter, who had escaped custody in San Jose during a medical examination, reports KPIX, the San Francisco CBS affiliate. The Silicon Valley chapter of the international non-profit motorcycle organization stepped up and is now providing 24/7 security at the home of the girl that Mr. Carter's is suspected of having abused.
The group was founded by John Paul “Chief” Lilly, a licensed clinical social worker and a registered play therapist and supervisor, notes the organization's website. All of the bikers use code names to protect their identity from those they are trying to stop, according to AZCentral.com. The group says that their mission is to end child abuse and to work with law enforcement and state agencies to protect victims of child abuse, not to perform acts of vigilante justice.
"As a sheriff's office we appreciate them protecting the victim and the family," Santa Clara County Sheriff spokesperson Sgt. James Jensen told the Monitor.
Carter was scheduled to appear in court next month to face charges of five counts of child molestation, but escaped when he overpowered the lone deputy escorting him to his medical appointment, reports KPIX.
Despite the seriousness of Carter's charges, he was still classified as a minimum security inmate. “Because he's a minimum security inmate, our policy says that only one deputy guards him. We are going to reevaluate that policy,” Sgt. Jensen told KPIX.
BACA Spokesperson “Hoss” told KPIX that the group will, “do whatever we have to do to make this family feel safe, and we will do whatever we have to do to protect her.”
BACA strives to provide a physical presence for victims of child abuse, to let them know that they are cared about and protected. According to WJCT, a community-sponsored broadcasting outlet located in Jacksonville, Fla, the local BACA chapter intervened in roughly 100 of Florida's approximately 52,000 child abuse cases between 2010 and 2014.
"We give them the empowerment to say, ‘This is who did this to me,'" Seven Bridges President, "Chops," told WJCT. Seven Bridges is the name of the Jacksonville-area BACA chapter. "We're not speakers for the children, and we're not counselors. We're more like rocks of emotion for them. And we let them know that, while we're around, nobody's going to mess with them.”
BACA's website says that they work closely with state agencies that deal with abuse cases as well as law enforcement to provide the best possible support for an abused child. The group does not lend it services to a child until a referring agency or individual has established that a child still feels unsafe in his or her current environment. After a child abuse case has been filed in the legal system, and after a BACA liaison has communicated with the relevant agencies and parties, only then is the victim's contact information given to the region's chapter. At that point members will go meet with the child and the family and give the child a BACA vest with a BACA patch to sew on the back, meaning that the victim is an accepted member of the organization.
BACA is emphatic that its members are not vigilantes, "BACA does not condone, support or participate in the use of aggression, violence or physical force in any manner," says their website. But then it continues, "If, however, ANY person should seek to inflict harm on one of our BACA Members, we will respond with commitment and loyalty to protect our Member."
The group aims to turn the balance of power in the child's favor because they were abused by someone overpowering him or her, so the bikers demonstrate strength in numbers to signify that an abuser has to overpower a biker gang in order to abuse the child again, notes AZCentral.com.
"The biker image is what makes this work," biker Rembrandt, told AZ Central. "Golfers against child abuse does not have the same feel. The pink alligator shirt and golf shoes standing in the driveway doesn't do the same thing."
Police apologise to Rochdale child sex abuse victims
‘Mistakes were made and victims let down', admits Greater Manchester police chief, but critics say review fails to hold senior officers to account
by Nigel Bunyan and Matthew Weaver
Greater Manchester police have issued an apology to victims of the Rochdale child sex abuse scandal despite failing to discipline a single officer over the force-wide failure.
The assistant chief constable of Greater Manchester police, Dawn Copley, acknowledged “mistakes were made and victims let down”, following the publication of an internal review. She added: “We apologise to the victims and we give them our assurance that lessons have been learned.”
But critics, including a victim and a former detective with the force, say the review fails to hold senior officers to account.
The report looked at the conduct of 13 officers between 2008 and 2010, but served notices of misconduct on only seven. Ultimately only one officer, an inspector, was found to have warranted disciplinary action but he was able to retire without any sanction being taken against him. The remaining six officers were given “words of advice” by superiors.
Margaret Oliver, a former GMP detective who resigned from the force over its treatment of victims, said the review “doesn't go nearly far enough”.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Oliver said: “The buck stops with the chief constable and the assistant chief constable … The divisional detectives which this report talks about were trying to deal with an inquiry of such magnitude that it was way beyond the capabilities of a divisional office. And they are easy targets for the GMP media juggernaut to focus the blame on.”
She said she had highlighted problems raised in the report back in 2011 in a letter to the chief constable, Peter Fahy. “I highlighted some of the things being spoken about in this report – saying the victims weren't being properly looked after, crimes were not being recorded properly. Virtually everything in that report today we were very well aware in December 2010,” she said.
Oliver called for a full report on the scale of th at conducted in Rotherham.
“The number of victims and what has happened in GMP is as great as happened in Rotherham. It is a nationwide problem and there is still an overwhelming desire to conceal the truth. This was an opportunity which has been missed again, to bring all this into the open.”
GMP took four years to complete the investigation under the supervision of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). The officer who retired had been in a supervisory role in 2008 when Girl A, the teenager at the heart of the landmark 2012 trial of nine paedophiles, made her allegations of abuse. He had been in the force for 30 years.
A second officer failed to serve an abduction notice on Shabir Ahmed, the leader of the gang who preyed on girls visiting two takeaway restaurants in Heywood. A third was criticised for yawning while interviewing Girl A about her allegations.
Copley laid some of the blame at the force's focus in 2008–10 on targeting crimes such as burglary.
There was also a widespread lack of understanding about the complexities of child sexual exploitation. But she insisted that lessons had been learned in the aftermath of the failings.
Nine men from Rochdale and Oldham were found guilty of offences that included rape and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a child. Eight were of Pakistani origin, the other from Afghanistan. The court heard the group had plied five victims with drink and drugs and “passed them around” for sex.
Girl A reacted with fury at the report. “I'm fuming,” she said. “It's taken them four years and it reads like a whitewash. These policemen have done wrong and yet none of them has been named and the one they wanted to discipline has been able to retire. It just seems very, very convenient.”
She added: “At one point in the report they say I didn't want to proceed, but that's not true. I never said that. Overall I'm disgusted. They and Rochdale social services let me down, and they're letting me down now.”
Copley also expressed regret at the delays in revealing the contents of a report that was twice rejected by the IPCC. The report was due to be published last summer, but was withdrawn at the last minute after Rochdale council expressed concerns that victims might be identified. The resulting redaction took 10 months to complete.
She said the force had a file “ready to go” in relation to the misconduct allegation. “The report went to the IPCC in October 2013. They had it for about six months before they responded to say it had been signed off. The officer retired in that period. There was no reluctance on the part of GMP to have gone forward with those proceedings. We could not prevent someone from retiring. There is no power to do that,” she said.
Copley continued: “Officers have to account for their actions, and if they have misconducted themselves professionally then they ought to face misconduct proceedings. Very often, if they've misconducted themselves, it's because they've acted in bad faith or have been willingly neglectful.
“But if they've made genuine mistakes, if they've simply misunderstood what they've been dealing with, that is not necessarily misconduct. It is probably more of a performance issue, and the organisation has already acknowledged through the serious case review that organisationally GMP did not recognise this [crime] for what it was.”
The investigation concluded that the inspector, identified only as Officer 6, had “a compelling case to answer” for misconduct. He had failed to produce any meaningful investigative strategy, failed to keep records of strategy meetings, and had chosen not to properly update colleagues on “the scale of the harm to victims and the complexity of the investigation”.
He claimed to have been carrying a large workload, but this was “unacceptable”. His actions demonstrated “a particularly poor victim focus”.
In conclusion, Officer 6 would have been required to attend a formal misconduct process had he not lawfully retired during the investigation at the conclusion of his 30 years' service.
Copley acknowledged the huge public interest in the report. But while both she and two colleagues from GMP's professional standards branch attended a media briefing, they refused to do interviews on air. The force had also kept the release of the report a closely guarded secret, with victims and journalists only allowed copies two hours before the briefing.
The force appeared to try to shift blame for some of the failings on to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). It was the CPS, it said, who had wrongly judged Girl A to be an unreliable witness. Its lawyers had also dismissed forensic evidence linking Ahmed to underwear worn by her.
But in the briefing, Copley agreed that the force – whose detectives had found the teenager to be “an excellent witness” – could have contested the CPS decision. Four years after the original investigation was abandoned, Girl A became the pivotal witness in the landmark trial at Liverpool crown court.
Bill removing statute of limitations in child sexual abuse cases passes Legislature
by Katie McKellar, Deseret News
The Utah Legislature passed a bill Wednesday that eliminates the statute of limitations for lawsuits against perpetrators of child sexual abuse.
Deondra Brown, co-founder of the nonprofit Foundation for Survivors of Abuse, watched from the Senate gallery as lawmakers engaged in a final debate before voting to pass HB277 and sending it to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature.
“On behalf of victims across the state of Utah, we're excited to know that we can kind of breathe, take our time in healing, and come forward and tackle that big legal case when and if we are every ready,” Brown said.
Brown has followed the progress of HB277 and testified in favor of the bill at committee meetings throughout the legislative process. Three Brown sisters, members of the 5 Browns piano quintet, were molested by their father, Keith Brown, as children. The sisters sought criminal charges in 2010 against their father, who had also been their professional manager.
Keith Brown was sentenced in March 2011 to 10 years to life for sodomy on a child, a first-degree felony, and one to 15 years each on two counts of sex abuse of a child, a second-degree felony. The crimes occurred when the girls were 13 years old or younger.
Current Utah law limits civil actions to four years after a victim's 18th birthday. HB277 would remove those limitations and allow victims time to heal and muster the courage and maturity to take civil action and hold their abusers accountable, said bill sponsor Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan.
“Someone that victimizes a child should never be able to hide behind time — ever,” Ivory said.
The bill's floor sponsor, Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, said 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls in Utah will suffer or have suffered from sexual abuse. He added that most children who are sexually abused don't come to a realization or the ability to deal with the experience until after age 40.
The bill gives victims a four-year window from the time of discovery or remembrance of the child abuse experience to file civil action, Osmond said, allowing them to overcome emotional obstacles that often bar them from taking action.
As a result, perpetrators could be susceptible to lawsuits for crimes committed years ago, Ivory said.
Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, argued against HB277, saying the statute of limitations was put in place for a reason and citing cases where individuals who realized repressed memories of child sexual abuse, but later discovered them to be wrong. He said he's “not for abuse by any means,” but he's concerned about what the bill would allow.
Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, joined Jenkins in voting against the bill.
After the Senate's vote, Deondra Brown said victims of child sexual abuse shouldn't have a “door closed in their face” because of time limits, and they should be granted the option if or when they decide they want to file civil actions against perpetrators.
She said victims deal with medical bills and health issues for “the rest of their lives” and shouldn't have to shoulder the burden of paying for it, which she said costs the average victim up to $1 million over the course of their lives.
Victims should be allowed to pursue a case that would hold the perpetrator accountable and relieve that financial burden, Deondra Brown said.
“They're the ones that inflicted this upon us to begin with,” she said.
When asked if she would consider civil action against her father, Deondra Brown said she had talked about a civil case several years ago with her siblings, but they felt as though they “were able to get the case that (they) needed though the criminal side of things."
“But honestly, I don't know where I would be 10 years from now if that's something I would still like to be able to explore,” she said. “I'd love to be able to have that option in the state of Utah.”
The Senate's final vote on the bill was 24-2.
Penn State fine will rightly be used to help child sex abuse victims
Nothing ever could erase the pain suffered by Jerry Sandusky's victims. But out of the horrific tragedy that was the Sandusky case, some good has come.
Pennsylvania has 23 new child protection laws intended to fix some of the lapses that allowed Sandusky to abuse vulnerable children for years.
And soon, in accordance with the Endowment Act, grants will be available to multi-disciplinary teams that investigate child sexual abuse, victim service organizations, child sexual abuse prevention programs and children's advocacy centers.
For the Lancaster County Children's Alliance, this money will be very welcome.
A children's advocacy center under the fiscal umbrella of Lancaster General Health, the alliance brings together a multidisciplinary team to investigate, treat and prosecute cases of child sexual abuse. It works with 26 law enforcement jurisdictions and one state police barrack, Troop J, in Lancaster County.
Last year for the first time, children's advocacy centers were a line item in the state budget, in the amount of $2 million.
At the county's Children's Alliance, professionals conduct forensic interviews with victims so the children aren't traumatized by repeated questioning.
A law enforcement officer and caseworker from Lancaster County Children & Youth Social Service Agency watch interviews on closed-circuit television from a separate conference room. Forensic medical exams also are conducted at the alliance office.
The alliance is reimbursed for forensic interviews only when they are conducted with medical exams.
Program supervisor Kari Stanley says the reimbursement is capped at $1,000, a fraction of the actual cost, and comes from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
That state commission also has offered one-time grants — from the state's now-defunct Drug Abuse Resistance Education fund — to children's advocacy centers, including Lancaster County's.
Otherwise, the alliance — which served 581 children last year — mostly relies on its support from LGH, on grants and on fundraisers such as its annual 5K run/walk.
So this Endowment Act funding, Stanley says, “will be an amazing opportunity for us.”
Kristen Houser, vice president of communications for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, says the 50 rape crisis centers across the commonwealth serve 30,000 Pennsylvanians each year.
Roughly one-third of those served are children. Another third are adult survivors of child sexual abuse.
The rape crisis centers get a mix of state funding — just under $8 million — and federal and private grants, but it's never enough, so they'll likely apply for Endowment Act grants. The demand for services is unceasing.
Houser says the state's rape crisis centers would like to spend more on prevention education, which would decrease the need for their services, but they can't stint individuals who need those services.
They shouldn't have to stint on either prevention education or services.
The Endowment Act money will help.
But we shouldn't have needed a tragedy on the scale of the Sandusky abuse case to get us to adequately address child sexual abuse in Pennsylvania.
Child sex abuse victims must not be collateral damage
by Liam Clarke
Over the years a handful of people, besides those I have written about, have disclosed alleged child sexual abuse to me. In all cases they were adults and the abuse was a long time ago. One in particular, a good friend, had chosen not to go to the police because he feared it would do him more damage and produce no closure.
He was in his 40s and his abuser, an elderly man, lived nearby. I didn't go to the police.
I felt it was up to my friend to do so and he had made a conscious decision to come to terms with it in other ways, counselling and meditation.
He said it was now becoming just something that had happened, much of the emotional charge was gone and he could speak to the person though he would never like him.
Should I have stepped in regardless of what he wanted? Or should I simply have been sympathetic and supportive.
Other victims take a different view than he did. One recent example the Kincora boys who spoke out so bravely.
They want the authorities to investigate as do many other victims of institutional abuse.
One consideration in going to the police if you are not the victim yourself is whether other children were still at risk. In the case I mentioned they weren't, the abuser was too old.
It was different for Paudie McGahon and Mairia Cahill who recently told their stories on Spotlight. The IRA and republicans generally cannot get away with the claim that they respected Mr McGahon's or Ms Cahill's wishes.
The perpetrator had, in Mr McGahon's account, admitted abusing him and other boys. The IRA, he claims, offered to shoot him. It then agreed to exile him to Britain but later let him back to Ireland. The Belfast republican had, he says, abused him while staying in his home, which was an IRA safe house.
This goes to the very heart of the problem, an IRA member had been abusing children in safe houses where he was allowed to stay while on "active service". The danger of details of who was involved in recent IRA actions and of perpetrator or victim being recruited as an informer were obvious.
It is easy to understand. It is also easy to understand from former military intelligence officers that they were told not to investigate child sex abuse at Kincora and other homes. It gave the intelligence agencies a way of controlling abusers; that is the increasingly plausible claim being made by former intelligence officers like Colin Wallace and Brian Gemmell as well as former Kincora inmates like Richard Kerr.
Human trafficking victims among those seeking help at Covenant House, Loyola report says
by Rebecca Catalanello
The girl was 10 the first time she was held captive in a hotel room and forced to have sex for money.
"In the beginning, it wasn't by choice," she said.
She had been plucked from the shelter where she had rtun to escape sexual abuse by her foster parents. Once there, a man took her and another girl, beat them, locked them in a hotel and then pimped them out for sex, the report said.
The girl's experience, documented in a newly released Loyola University study of human trafficking among clients at Covenant House New Orleans, is far from unheard of among homeless youth, according to the report.
Among 99 clients interviewed at the youth shelter, 14 percent reported to researchers that they had been the victims of some form of trafficking -- 11 percent said they were forced into sex and 5 percent were forced into labor. Two of the youth described being victims of both.
Human trafficking is defined by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center as a type of modern day slavery -- the use of force, fraud or coercion to control victims for the purpose of engaging in prostitution or labor against their will.
Jim Kelly, executive director of Covenant House, said he asked Laura Murphy, assistant professor of English at Loyola University and lead researcher for the university's Modern Slavery Research Project, to interview the center's clients about their experiences.
The study replicated work done at Covenant House New York by Fordham University, which in 2013 found that 14.9 percent of the clients there also experienced some kind of trafficking victimization prior to entering the shelter.
"We've got a serious problem in New Orleans," Kelly said. "It isn't like this is only a New York problem."
The report estimated that about 86 people age 16 to 23 who walk through the doors of Covenant House each year are likely to be victims of human trafficking. It also found that 25 percent had been involved in sexual labor -- either through trafficking or as commercial sex workers. The researchers stated they believe the numbers are likely underreported because of the sensitive nature of the research topics. But it isn't clear now what these figures reveal about the size of the problem in New Orleans as a whole.
"If 86 kids walk through our door every year, how many kids don't walk through our door?" Kelly said.
Murphy said that there isn't a great deal of hard data on human trafficking in the nation or the state. But the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services last year was awarded a five-year federal grant designed to prevent, identify and investigate human trafficking among children who are in the state's child welfare system.
"This report is really the beginning of trying to get our finger on what the prevalence in our city really is," Murphy said.
For the study, Murphy and Rae Taylor and Christian Bolden, assistant professors in Loyola's College of Social Sciences, interviewed 99 Covenant House clients over age 18 who volunteered to participate. They were interviewed using a screening tool called the Human Trafficking Interview and Assessment Measure (HTIAM-14). Murphy said the interviews generally lasted 20 minutes to one hour -- with one lasting two hours.
The clients were not asked their names. But counseling referrals were available for those who may have felt re-traumatized in the process of talking about their past.
The homeless youth described numerous experiences being preyed upon by people who wanted to exploit them in exchange for food and shelter. One girl said her pimp locked her in a cage at night. Another said her mother "gave me to this man so that way we could spend the night with him."
One client told researchers she was recruited into sex trafficking by a young woman who approached her within Covenant House. Several said they were approached in the area outside Covenant House, including in nearby Louis Armstrong Park and the French Quarter, and offered supposedly lucrative jobs modeling, selling magazines, performing sex work and dealing drugs.
Fifteen percent said they had engaged in "survival sex" as adults as a way to generate income.
And though 15 respondents said they had been forced to work in drugs, sex or factories, none of them had been identified by law enforcement or the legal system as having been victims of trafficking, the report said. And yet half of them had been arrested for offenses related to trading sex or selling drugs.
Kelly said he felt the data offered a sobering look at how homeless youth are actively preyed upon. He said he hopes to use the work to leverage expanding services to youth who need it. "When you get a report or a study like this," he said, "you have to handle it with gravitas."
The study, which Murphy said she expects to be replicated at other Covenant House shelters throughout the nation, was modeled after the Covenant House New York report.
The report made several recommendations for how the New Orleans community might begin to address the issue, including:
Expanding beds, shelter services, job training and job opportunities available to homeless youth.
Improving laws to better equip foster children to "age out" of the state's child welfare system once they turn 18. In 2013, the state eliminated a program that helped foster youth pay for transitional housing after they turned 18. "As a result, 18- and 19-year-olds are especially vulnerable to homelessness, informal and exploitative labor arrangements and predatory offers," the report says.
Raise awareness of a 2013 Louisiana law that enables victims of trafficking to have charges for sex crimes removed from their criminal records. "As a result of being treated as criminals instead of victims, survivors of human trafficking often have extensive arrest records and even felony convictions," the report says.
Improve and fund training for law enforcement so that they are better able to identify victims of trafficking.
An ounce of prevention: A strategy to prevent child abuse and neglect in the first place: Guest viewpoint
by Susan Elsen
Massachusetts has undergone a year of soul searching about its ability to keep children safe following the death of Jeremiah Oliver, a child in the caseload of our Department of Children and Families. One key child protection strategy was discussed in all three outside reports issued after the Oliver tragedy: preventing child abuse and neglect in the first place. Now is the time to carry out that strategy.
We have strong new leadership at DCF and at the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. We have public and legislative awareness and a robust community of committed advocates. And we know how to implement common sense strategies that support and strengthen families to avoid the situations that can sometimes drive them into the DCF system.
The alternative is not only increased risk to children, but also more of what we unfortunately saw after Jeremiah disappeared: a dramatic increase in the number of children removed from their parents by DCF and placed in foster care. After Jeremiah's disappearance became public, the number of petitions DCF filed in the Massachusetts Courts to remove children from their parents and place them in foster care jumped dramatically (from 284 in December of 2013 to 414 in January of 2014). This trend continues: there were approximately 1,000 more children in foster care as of January 2015 than one year earlier. In Hampden County, for example, if DCF continues to file removal petitions at the same rate it has so far in fiscal year 2015, it will have filed 479 petitions to remove Hampden County children from their parents.
While foster care is sometimes necessary, it is no panacea and does not address the factors that lead to abuse or neglect in the first place.
Child abuse and neglect is a public health issue and requires a public health response: a coordinated multi-level prevention effort that reaches every community. DCF alone cannot keep all of the Commonwealth's kids safe because safety requires more than intervening once abuse or neglect has already happened.
All the Commonwealth's child and family serving agencies, community institutions such as schools, hospitals, and even universities must play a role in creating safe and supportive environments for children to learn and grow and, when problems arise, swiftly responding to address the needs of families in crisis.
We know the issues that many families involved with DCF face. They include parental substance abuse, mental health issues, domestic violence and family homelessness. Addressing these and other issues to keep kids safe requires not so much a financial investment as an investment in smarter, more coordinated use of existing services to prevent abuse and neglect in the first place. That's what every child deserves, plus it's sound policy in tough fiscal times.
Massachusetts can look to other state experiences and a vast body of research in building a better prevention approach here. For example, Washington and North Carolina have implemented effective child abuse prevention strategies. Research abounds including the Child Welfare League of America's 2013 special volume on Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect, published in coordination with Casey Family Programs.
Other recent promising initiatives in Massachusetts serve as key components of a stronger prevention strategy: a federally funded community-based prevention effort led by the Department of Public Health and the Children's Trust; a recently created interagency task force on child sexual abuse prevention, several task forces to respond to the opioid abuse crisis in the Commonwealth; the passage of An Act Relative to Families and Children Engaged in Services (FACES) which diverts some children from the legal process and directs them to community based services; and the creation of a statewide network of family resource centers where families can seek help to keep their children safe. These components need to be connected, coordinated and targeted towards preventing child abuse and neglect in order to coalesce into an effective prevention strategy.
A bill filed by Representative Kay Khan and Senator Barbara L'Italien would take a step in this direction by creating an interagency child abuse and neglect prevention task force. Among other things, this task force would oversee Children's Impact Statements, an innovative approach to prevention. Before a cut to any services intended to prevent abuse and neglect, a "children's impact statement" would be required projecting the impact of the proposed cut on child abuse and neglect and on DCF's caseload.
While child abuse and neglect is a serious public health issue, it is a preventable one. Our new state leadership is committed to improving safety, well-being and permanent homes for the Commonwealth's most vulnerable kids and families.
Let's seize this opportunity to build on promising practices and create a coordinated system focused on strengthening vulnerable families before their problems turn into crises. By doing this, we can keep children safe from abuse or neglect, and often prevent the circumstances that can lead to children becoming part of our already overburdened DCF system.
Susan Elsen is a child welfare advocate at the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, a statewide nonprofit poverty law and policy center which advances economic, racial and social justice through policy advocacy. She is the author of a report, written with an advisory committee of state and national child welfare experts and issued in June of 2014 after the Jeremiah Oliver tragedy, titled "If Not Now, When? A Call to Action for Systemic Child Welfare Reform in Massachusetts." [pdf]
Preventing Child Abuse in Yellowstone County
by Katie Chen
BILLINGS -- Recently, there have been cases of child abuse featured in the news - the most recent being the death of a six-year-old in Hardin.
According to the Billings Police Department, mandatory reporting is required, which means people in the school system, medical professionals, and the like have to report abuse.
Lt. Casey Hafner says he has seen all kinds of abuse, ranging from chronic, to physical, to sexual abuse. He says it's important to report these crimes because how we raise our children is how healthy our society is.
According to Prevent Child Abuse America, child abuse and neglect affects more than 1 million children every year and costs our nation $220 million every day.
"There are no more important victims in our society than children and they don't have an advocate,” Hafner says. “They may not have anybody who's looking out for them so we as a society have to make sure that we're taking care of our most innocent victims.”
There are resources in Yellowstone County provide mentoring and classes for parents.
The Family Tree Center has programs that prevent child abuse and neglect, including parenting classes and home visiting. Executive director Stacy Dreessen says they are meant to build in protective prevention factors for families. She says children don't come with instructions, so going through parenting classes or taking a break will help.
“Often times they do that because they didn't have a great childhood and they want to do better and they want to be better and they want to be better parents for their kids,” Dreessen says. “And in doing so that breaks that cycle.”
If you would like to go to any of their classes or get more information, you can call 406-252-9799.
County offices team together to fight child abuse
by Chad Wilson
If blue is your favorite color, you're going to love the month of April.
Henderson County District Attorney Scott McKee officially kicked off the 2015 Go Blue campaign Wednesday and challenged the entire county to wear blue every Friday in April.
Speaking during the Athens Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon at the Athens Country Club, McKee unveiled the new Go Blue T-shirt while also speaking on the importance of the annual event.
“We like to focus on the children in our community. We team up with Clint Davis in the county attorney's office and Henderson County Sheriff Ray Nutt,” McKee said. “April is Child Abuse Awareness month so what we do every April, we've done it the last six years since I have been in office, is we host Go Blue.”
McKee explained that Go Blue is a couple of different things, but most notably the blue T-shirts designed, in part, by a local fourth-grade student.
“We sell these shirts throughout the community to raise awareness about child abuse. Not only do we sell the shirts, we also give T-shirts to every grade school teacher from fifth grade on down in the county,” McKee said. “The T-shirts the teachers get have business sponsors on the back.”
A few sponsorship spots remain for this year's teacher T-shirt, but businesses have to act fast because the deadline is March 25.
“As part of the Go Blue, we sell the T-shirts and the teachers get to wear the sponsored shirts. One of the most important parts of Go Blue is that every fourth grader in the county has an opportunity to participate in our coloring contest,” McKee said.
In the contest the students are asked to draw a poster that is somewhat related to awareness of child abuse. Every school is judged at the end of the contest with winners chosen for the schools. Those winners enter a county competition where one drawing is incorporated on the next year's T-shirt.
The design for the 2015 Go Blue T-shirt was inspired by Brownsboro Independent School District student Trinity Wilmert.
Wilmert was presented with a shirt at the end of McKee's presentation Wednesday.
All the students who participate in the annual contest are invited to Whatz-Up Family Fun Park in Seven Points for a Kids are Heroes Day.
“We basically have a huge party for them. We give them pizza, let them play video games, but hidden inside there is our message to them,” McKee said. “Our message to them is pretty much the buddy system, look out for your friend.”
Henderson County is not immune to child abuse, despite the best efforts of law enforcement.
“We've got a wonderful community here, but in the deep, dark recesses of our county we have got a problem,” McKee said. “We are not the only county with this problem. There are a lot of rural counties that have this problem, and that is child abuse.”
McKee shared a story about a case tried in Van Zandt County where a 53-day-old child had 31 broken bones.
“That is what Clint, Sheriff Nutt and I deal with every day. It is our job,” McKee said. “So if we can take a few minutes to educate kids, educate teachers and bring awareness to this cause it is the least we can do. I love putting these guys in jail, but I wish I didn't have to.”
McKee is encouraging the entire county to wear blue every Friday in April, but Thursday, April 30 has been set aside for Go Blue Day.
Go Blue T-Shirts start at $10 each and are available at Citizen's National Bank Athens and Island Tans and the District Attorney's Office, 903-675-6100.
McKee encourages the entire county to participate in the month-long events, including wearing the Go Blue T-shirt on April 30.
“This is one month we really focus on giving back to the community,” McKee said.
New this year, there will be a business decorating contest as part of the month's events. The decorating contest starts April 1. Prizes for the best decorated business will be awarded April 30.
Teen sex abuse survivor's lifeline ends nightmare childhood
by James Ford
NEW YORK (PIX11) — Chances are that you or someone you know was sexually abused as a child, according to federal statistics, but PIX11 has committed to helping survivors of abuse, or people who know of their struggle, find hope.
Figures from the Department of Health and Human Services and National Institute of Justice show that one in five women, and up to one in ten men were sexually abused as children. The numbers rise with age, through adulthood.
“He started leaving porn images and magazines on the computer when I was just about seven,” said Odalis, an 18 year-old child sex abuse survivor who spoke with PIX11 News, but whose real name is being kept anonymous to protect her identity. “It kept going until I was around twelve and it just got worse and worse,” she said.
The man who abused her for five years was the boyfriend of her mother at the time.
“He was really nice to everyone,” said Odalis, “someone you would really look up to.”
Somebody else came forward six years ago and told authorities that Odalis's abuser had abused her also. At the time, when she was twelve years old, she felt she couldn't speak out.
“It was really hard to say what happened” said Odalis, “and it made it worse.”
Two years ago, however, she felt that she could no longer keep her secret to herself. First, she went to her local police precinct. She got help there from trained sex crimes detectives, but said she felt uncomfortable.
"They started asking me questions,” Odalis said, “and it felt like an interrogation.”
But the detectives ended up sending her to Safe Horizon. It's the country's largest non-profit specializing in helping survivors of sexual abuse and physical violence.
“[The case worker] started asking slowly about the details,” said Odalis, “and she made me feel really comfortable.”
Safe Horizon facilities are designed to be welcoming and calming, and all of the resources for reporting and stopping sexual abuse — police, doctors and caseworkers — are all in one place.
“We have all of them together under one roof,” said Liz Roberts, chief program officer of Safe Horizon, ” and the child only has to tell their story one time.”
Odalis specifically was sent to one of Safe Horizon's child advocacy centers. As of late last month, there's one in every borough. In fact, Help Me Howard Thompson cut the ribbon on the newest center, in the Bronx, at the end of February.
The work done at the child advocacy centers helps to stop abuse and, most important, helps survivors go forward, far.
“What Safe Horizon does,” Roberts told PIX11 News, “is have an advocate who will walk beside them.”
Attesting to that was Odalis. “What [my abuser] did to me, my whole childhood was a nightmare,” she said, about the man who fled the New York area after police first started investigating him six years ago. But since she started spending being helped by Safe Horizon's many resources two years ago, she says, “He doesn't dominate me anymore. my voice is louder than his.”
Anyone needing help for sexual or physical abuse can call 311 and simply ask for Safe Horizon.
Wash. law focuses on boy in attempted kidnapping of toddler
by NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS, Associated Press
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Lincoln County law officers say a 15-year-old boy is their main suspect in the attempted kidnapping of a 22-month-old toddler — an incident that drew wide attention after it was caught on surveillance video.
The boy, who lives in the small farming town of Sprague in eastern Washington, was arrested on Wednesday, Lincoln County Sheriff Wade Magers said.
"Deputies and detectives have worked relentlessly on this case," Magers said in a press release. They started focusing on the arrested suspect in the past 24 hours.
"Additional evidence, interviews, DNA collection, and surveillance" were carried out, Magers said. "A search warrant was executed at the suspect's residence."
The identity of the youth was being withheld because he is a juvenile.
The dramatic surveillance video footage showed a male running down a sidewalk with the toddler in his arms in Sprague last Sunday.
The child's two siblings screamed and chased him. The scene ended after two teenage boys joined the chase, and the man put down the toddler and fled. The toddler was not hurt.
One of the kidnap victim's young siblings also positively identified the suspect, Magers said.
The 15-year-old was booked into a juvenile detention facility on suspicion of second-degree kidnapping, Magers said. The Lincoln County Prosecutor's Office will make the formal charging decisions.
Magers thanked the media for distributing pictures of the suspect and the public for providing tips.
Sprague is a town of about 500 people on Interstate 90, about 40 miles west of Spokane.
The incident began after Michael Wright left his three children with a baby sitter in Sprague on Sunday while he went to work. The children — Brenden, 10, Delicia, 8, and the toddler — were playing unsupervised in a city park near the sitter's house.
Sheriff's deputies said the suspect talked with the children for a few minutes, then scooped the toddler out of his stroller and ran down the street. Surveillance video from a grocery store showed the kidnapper running, child in arms, with Delicia chasing and Brenden not far behind.
Delicia's screams alerted Dorothy Giddings, who was working at her antique store downtown.
Giddings said she realized what was happening and sent her grandson Andrew Crane, 15, and his friend Isaac Yow, 16, to chase the man.
As the older boys approached, the kidnapper put the child down in a vacant lot and fled, the sheriff's office said.
No vehicle was seen with the kidnapper, who was initially described by the sheriff's office as about 30 years old, 6-foot to 6-foot-2, with a thin build, brown hair and a mustache.
(Video on site)
Midday Kidnapping Attempt Caught on Video in Small Town
by NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS
Authorities on Tuesday were searching for a man caught on surveillance video running down a sidewalk with a toddler in his arms, with the boy's two young siblings screaming and chasing behind him, in what officials in the tiny town of Sprague, Washington say was a failed kidnapping.
The dramatic scene ended after a pair of teenagers also chased after the man and he set the boy down and ran off Sunday, authorities said. The 22-month-old child wasn't hurt, said Lincoln County Sheriff Wade Magers.
Authorities said they don't believe the man is a resident of Sprague, a wheat farming town of about 500 people located 40 miles west of Spokane.
"We don't believe him to be a local at this point," Magers said. "We'd recognize him if he was local."
Magers said authorities have no leads in the case.
The boy's father, Michael Wright, said he was horrified by the incident.
"I can't explain the feeling, the anxiety and everything that goes into finding out your children is missing or something has happened to them," Wright told KXLY-TV of Spokane.
Wright left his three children with a baby sitter Sunday while he went to work. The children — Brenden, 10, Delicia, 8, and the boy — were playing unsupervised in a city park near the sitter's house, he told the television station.
Sheriff's deputies said a man talked with the children for a few minutes, then scooped the toddler out of his stroller and ran down the street. Surveillance video from a grocery store showed the kidnapper running, child in arms, with Delicia chasing and Brenden not far behind.
Delicia's screams alerted Dorothy Giddings, who was working at her antique store downtown.
"I said there is something wrong," Giddings recalled Tuesday.
"Then this man busts out and runs across the street and he's got a baby and a little girl right behind him screaming," Giddings said. "The girl said, 'That man got my baby brother! That man got my baby brother!'"
Giddings said she realized what was happening and sent her teenage grandson, Andrew Crane, 15, and his friend, Isaac Yow, 16, to chase the man.
As the older boys approached, the kidnapper put the child down in a vacant lot and fled, the sheriff's office said.
"He went around a corner and disappeared," Giddings said. "Somehow he disappeared from the face of the earth."
No vehicle was seen with the kidnapper, who is described by the sheriff's office as about 30 years old, 6-foot to 6-foot-2, with a thin build, brown hair and a mustache.
"We are leaning on somebody coming through town," which sits along Interstate 90, a major east-west artery, Magers said.
Autopsy shows Chicago baby dead when cut by power saw
by The Asociated Press
CHICAGO — A Chicago woman is charged in the death of her 7-month-old granddaughter, who was struck in the head multiple times before having her throat cut with a power saw, prosecutors announced Tuesday.
Police have said the baby girl, Rose Herrera, was killed Monday, apparently because she would not stop crying. The Cook County State's Attorney's Office said Tuesday that the baby's 52-year-old grandmother, Manuela Rodriguez, was charged with first-degree murder in Rose's death.
An autopsy concluded that the baby was already dead when her throat was cut. It concluded that not only was the girl struck in the head with an object, but that she also likely suffocated on a sock that was “placed in her mouth,” according to a county medical examiner's log that includes the infant's death.
Rodriguez, who police say attempted to take her own life after the attack, was taken to a hospital for treatment for injuries that were not considered life threatening. The State's Attorney's Office said Rodriguez is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday. It did not immediately know whether Rodriguez had an attorney who could comment on the charge.
Residents of the quiet street in the predominantly Hispanic Little Village neighborhood where Rose was killed said the Rodriguez had some health problems but was always pleasant. State child welfare officials said they had no record of ever being called to the brick home. Neighbors said the woman and her family were always polite and did not cause trouble.
“She would help everybody and if you needed a glass of milk or something she would give it to you,” said Maria Gentil, who has known Rodriguez for several years and said she was a doting grandmother. “When my mother died, she went up and down the street asking for money for her funeral.”
New safe house will shelter victims of domestic abuse
by KAYLA J. MARSH
Over the past five years, 180 Turning Lives Around has provided safe shelter for more than 400 adult victims of domestic and sexual abuse and 500 children, but the nonprofit has had to turn away just as many.
To meet the growing need for safe shelter, the Hazlet-based nonprofit broke ground last week on a new safe house for domestic abuse victims.
“Today marks a milestone for our organization and victim services throughout the state,” Anna Diaz-White, executive director of 180, said at the ceremonial groundbreaking on March 3.
The new facility will be the largest safe house for victims of domestic violence in New Jersey, according to Diaz-White.
For nearly 40 years, the Hazlet-based nonprofit has assisted victims of domestic and sexual violence and child abuse in Monmouth County through hotlines, shelters, counseling, court assistance, therapies, transitional housing and more.
“180's work would not be possible if it were not for the outstanding staff and volunteers who are on the frontlines serving survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse each and every day,” Diaz- White said at the event, held at New Jersey Natural Gas headquarters in Wall.
At the groundbreaking, 180 Turning Lives Around launched a $7.65 million capital campaign to build the new facility in Monmouth County — the location is confidential — and Diaz-White said more than three-quarters of the campaign goal has already been raised.
“We hope to raise the balance in the coming year with help from the community at large,” Diaz-White said.
In a March 6 interview, Diaz-White said having to turn away so many people in need of help has been a huge concern for the nonprofit's board.
“It has been a five-year court battle to build this shelter, mainly just because of where the new shelter will be, but during that time — to the extent possible — we have always tried to refer those who need assistance to other organizations and shelters in neighboring areas,” she said. “Many of these individuals we know have been able to receive help at other shelters, but many others we don't know what happened to.
“Our capital campaign was created in response to this terrible situation.”
She said the new facility, which is expected to be completed by year's end, will increase living space to up to 45 beds and will feature 12 family bedroom suites, which will include communal kitchens, dining and living areas, private baths, counseling rooms, a resource room, creative arts studios and more.
“The need for services for victims of domestic abuse is great. … Our new facility will double our capacity so that we can meet the demand for emergency sheltering in Monmouth County,” Diaz-White said. “We can do better, we know we should be doing better, and we hope this new shelter will show the community that they can be doing better, as well.”
At the groundbreaking, several organizations, including New Jersey Natural Gas, Verizon Wireless, the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, and the Faith and James Knight Foundation presented the nonprofit with $100,000 donations toward the capital campaign.
“To be on the frontline of any social issue is not easy, nor is it an easy road for a traumatized parent or child living in a home affected by domestic violence to rebuild their lives,” said Mimi Rice, executive director of the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation. “We hope the financial support to this project will encourage others to join the effort to bring about an end to domestic and sexual violence in our community.”
As a former advocate with the program, state Sen. Jennifer A. Beck (R-Monmouth) commended the nonprofit and its volunteers for their hard work and dedication.
“180 is definitely one of the shining stars in this county in terms of the work they do, and this [safe house] puts a positive light where there was none before. And those we were not able to help before, now we will be able to help,” she said.
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno applauded all the “heroes” in attendance at the groundbreaking — from the victims to the volunteers to all the organizations showing their support.
“It takes courage that is beyond words, and that is what today is about,” she said. “And I don't think we should ever forget what we're really doing here — and that is saving lives.”
Leahy Urges Senate To Fight Trafficking Before It Starts
The Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act
Chief RHYA Sponsor Leahy Urges Combatting Trafficking Before It Starts
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate Tuesday morning began debate on legislation approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee to combat human trafficking and sexual exploitation, a form of modern day slavery that affects thousands of people every day. In a floor statement. Tuesday, Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said any legislation the Senate approves must include key protections for runaway and homeless youth who are among the most vulnerable to human trafficking.
“Human traffickers lurk around bus stops and parks where homeless kids congregate, offer promises of something to eat and a night off the streets. They exploit the sad reality that most of these kids have no place to go. Far too many of our cities have no shelters for kids and those that do face a chronic shortage of beds,” Leahy said in a floor statement.
Leahy, a former prosecutor, added: “If we are serious about preventing human trafficking, we must protect these vulnerable kids. We must include the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act in our efforts here to prevent more of our kids from becoming trafficking victims. We must provide the resources desperately needed by those on the front lines in protecting young people every day, like organizations in my home state of Vermont. We owe it to all the survivors who bravely tell their stories, hoping to prevent just one more child from falling prey to this terrible crime.”
Recalling how the tragic death of Christal Jones showed that Vermont is not immune from this crisis, Leahy added: “In Vermont, we still remember the tragic case of a 16-year-old Burlington girl, Christal Jones, a foster child and runaway who was led into a world of heroin and prostitution. In 2001, Christal was found dead in a Bronx apartment, strangled to death with a blend of drugs in her system, including the ‘date rape' drug GHB. Her death resulted in many more young girls from the Burlington area coming forward to describe how they, too, were caught up in this drug-and-prostitution ring that lured them to sell themselves on the streets of New York. With Vermont now facing a Vermont heroin epidemic not seen before, I have every reason to believe that there are more runaway youths who face similar threats.”
The Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (RHYA, S. 262) is a bipartisan bill authored by Leahy and Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) that protects the vulnerable children they exploit and trains those on the front lines to identify. The bill, which was reported unanimously by the Judiciary Committee last year, has 31 cosponsors and is supported by more than 260 organizations including the National Network for Youth, the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking, the True Colors Fund, the Center for American Progress, and the Human Rights Campaign.
The New York Times last week called on the Senate to approve the bipartisan prevention bill, and Leahy penned an op-ed with trafficking survivor Holly Austin Smith for the HuffingtonPost. Smith testified before the Judiciary Committee last month on her experience as a childhood victim of trafficking. A bipartisan group of women Senators has also called on the Senate to protect children from being trafficked.
Prevention is a vital component of combatting human trafficking
· A 2013 survey the Covenant House in New York that found that 1 in 4 homeless youth became a victim of sex trafficking or was forced to provide sex for survival needs, such as food or a place to sleep.
· The population of homeless teens has more than doubled since 2007 in the United States, and approximately 39% of the homeless population is under the age of 18.
· A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that 46% of homeless youth had run away from home because of physical abuse and 17% because of sexual abuse.
· A growing number of homeless youth identify as LGBT, and it is estimated that they comprise up to 40% of the runaway & homeless youth population.
The Collins-Leahy Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act reauthorizes vital programs designed to stop the cycle of victimization
· Basic Center Program – provides short-term emergency shelter for youth who do not have a place to sleep. This bill also improves support for family reunification and intervention services, which can be critical to successful youth outcomes.
· Street Outreach Program – provides crisis intervention and services referrals to runaway and homeless youth at street locations and drop-in centers.
· National Support Activities offer guidance and assistance to grantees including a national runaway youth crisis line, training and technical assistance, a management information system, and access to evaluation tools to help grantees track the success of their efforts.
· Transitional Living Program – provides longer-term residential services and life skills, education, and employment support to older youth to ensure they become productive, successful adults.
Deputies: 5 children lived in filthy home with dead grandfather
by Dave Faherty and Natalie Pasquarella
IREDELL COUNTY, N.C. — A couple, arrested and charged with child abuse, told Channel 9 their children were never in danger.
However, officials said the children were living in an unsafe home with their dead grandfather inside.
Investigators believe a 62-year-old grandfather had been dead for more than 24 hours before anyone called for help.
Sheriff deputies told Channel 9 their biggest concern is the safety and well-being of the children.
They said they found uneaten food on the bed of the deceased and they believe the children were the ones who left it there.
Melissa Poole and Jeremy Dishner are both charged with five counts of misdemeanor child abuse.
Investigators said they found raw sewage under the home and spoiled food inside.
They said the 62-year-old who died was Poole's father and grandfather to some of the children.
"As far as eating, one of the parents or other adults had directed the children to take food in there to him,” said Iredell County Sheriff's Office Maj. Andy Poteat. “So neither adult had checked on him up until the time they had contacted us and realized what was going on."
Poole and Dishner spoke with Channel 9 on Tuesday night, saying they're hoping to set the record straight after their arrest.
“Even a social worker said we did not abuse our kids,” Poole said. “That's why they didn't take our kids.”
Poole said her children often took food into her father's room, but she would never have them do that if she knew her father had died.
She claimed they called police as soon as they found him.
As for reports investigators found raw sewage under the home, spoiled food inside and debris piled on the floor, Poole said her children had been sick.
“My kids had been sick with the flu, rotavirus,” she said. “It's been happening for a month. There were things that haven't been taken care of. I feel like I'm getting accused of being a bad mom for worrying about my kids rather than my house.”
Deputies said the contacted the Department of Social Services and the Health Department about their concerns.
"If there was reason for me not to have my kids, I wouldn't have my kids right now. If there was reason for the social services to be concerned, I would've had a report on me before this,” Poole said.
Channel 9 also spoke with Dishner by phone about the case. He also denies much of what investigators said.
"No, they were not taking meals into his room. Everybody in the house had the flu virus and the rotavirus at the time, which is why things had gotten backed up,” Dishner said.
Outside the home Tuesday, Channel 9 could see a sign posted on the door that said the home was unsafe to live in.
The grandmother of some of the children wants people to know her daughter is a good mother.
"Yes she has problems like everybody else, but she loves her children with all her heart,” said Melissa Hastings.
On Tuesday afternoon, Channel 9 also got a copy of the magistrate's order, which says debris was piled up on the floors throughout the house.
The couple is scheduled to go before a judge next month.
Gov. Mead signs child abuse protection bill in Casper
by Lillian Schrock
Gov. Matt Mead signed into law Tuesday a bill limiting the release of information regarding child abuse investigations.
When child abuse or neglect cases are reported to law enforcement, victims are interviewed at the Children's Advocacy Project in Casper. Those interviews are recorded.
House Bill 180 prohibits the showing of those recordings in non-criminal court proceedings, like during a divorce case, unless deemed appropriate by a judge.
“If we do one thing well in this state, we certainly want to do a good job of protecting our kids,” Gov. Mead said just prior to signing the bill at the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in Casper. “And when something tragic happens, we certainly want to hold the perpetrator or perpetrators accountable, and that requires the foundation and security that this bill provides.”
The nonprofit Children's Advocacy Project works with law enforcement agencies across the state on cases involving child maltreatment. Children are interviewed one-on-one at the center's facility by licensed counselors, said Heather Ross, director.
The interview, called a forensic interview, provides child victims an opportunity to speak about abuse so investigators can obtain information necessary to conduct their investigation, Ross said. The recordings of those interviews are then used in criminal proceedings to prosecute the perpetrator.
The bill requires that a judge watch the interview to determine if it's necessary to show the recording during a civil court case, such as a divorce involving custody matters.
The bill help further the Child Advocacy Project's goal to provide as comfortable an atmosphere as possible for children, Mead said.
“So there's not a fear that if the child says, ‘Mom did this' or ‘Dad did this,' that somehow that's going to be used in a civil matter,” Mead said. “What it provides is security and freedom in those interviews to make sure you get all the facts and that there's not some guarded information that the child is directed by a parent or guardian not to reveal.”
If a judge decides the recording is necessary in a civil case, they can now forbid anyone from making a copy of the interview and sharing it with others, Ross said.
Under Wyoming statue, a person found guilty of sharing confidential information of a child abuse case would face up to six months in prison.
State Rep. Tom Walters, R-Casper, and Sen. Bill Landen, R-Casper, were among those who sponsored the bill and attended the signing.
“I think it's great for the kids here in Wyoming to be able to have this place to go and discuss what's taken place and do so in confidence,” Walters said.
Ross said she appreciated the legislators' hard work.
“It makes me realize that they really look at our local communities and what we need to have in our local communities,” Ross said. “Protecting our most vulnerable children is most at stake, and they recognize that.”
Child Abuse And Neglect Cases Strain Courts, Foster System
by Taylor Dobbs
Vermont's continuing problem with opiate addiction has led to a rise in the number of children in state care, officials say. The recent surge is driven largely by children under six years old, a trend that has officials scrambling to find foster families to meet the needs of younger children.
According to Cindy Walcott, the deputy commissioner at the Department for Children and Families who heads up the Family Services Division, there were 1,045 minors in state custody on June 30, 2014.
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Last Friday, March 6, 2015, the state had 1,251 minors under its care. The 20 percent increase is due in large part to opiate problems, Walcott said.
“In 2014 we experienced a substantial increase in the number of calls to our child protection hotline, a substantial increase in the number of child abuse investigations and assessments that we do, and that has also resulted in a pretty startling increase in the number of children that have come into state custody,” Walcott said.
The increases from last June to March 6 were significant not just for the rise in the total number of children in state custody. The majority of the children that make up the increase between June and March are under six years old.
“That went from 336 on June 30 to 511 on March 6,” she said. That's an increase of more than 50 percent in the number of young children in state care. The number of children from 12 to 17 years old in custody actually fell over the same period, from 481 to 437.
“Right now we have about 85 children in our custody who came in when they were less than one month old,” Walcott said.
The high overall numbers of children in state custody paired with the surge in preschool-aged children has put a strain on the state's roughly 1,000 foster families, Walcott said.
“To try to find a foster family where there's a parent in the home that can care for a very young child, it's just not that easy to do,” Walcott said, “because most of our families have two parents that are working.”
Vermont's foster families aren't the only ones feeling a strain as a result of the rising number of abuse and neglect cases in Vermont. The state's court system is also struggling.
The total number of cases involving children in need – known as Child in Need of Care or Supervision, or CHINS – has risen dramatically in recent years.
“The increase in CHINS filings over the past few years has been fueled primarily by a dramatic growth in abuse/neglect cases,” according to the Fiscal Year 2014 statistics report from the Vermont Judiciary Branch. “The number of abuse/neglect filings increased by 62 percent between FY10 and FY15.”
The state's chief public defender and top court administrators say they are struggling to keep up with the increases.
“Not only are many of the children involved in these cases removed from the custody of their parents, there is always the threat of termination of parental rights if parents are unable to regain custody within a reasonable amount of time,” according to a document outlining “Key Budget and Programmatic Issues” for the branch.
“Five years of clearance rates below 100 percent is a source of significant concern,” it says. “It means the development of a backlog of cases that will be difficult to overcome without a dramatic decline in the number of filings or an increase in resources.”
Clearance rate refers to the number of cases completed compared to the number of incoming cases.
Matthew Valerio is Vermont's defender general and oversees all publicly appointed attorneys in Vermont courts. He says his office is especially involved with abuse and neglect cases.
“Fundamentally we represent everybody,” he says. “We have attorneys who represent the children, we have attorneys who represent the parents. So when they come into the legal side of things as opposed to some response by DCF that doesn't involve the legal system, we end up getting those cases 99-plus percent of the time.”
Defense attorneys, too, are struggling to keep up with the caseload.
Valerio says federal law “requires certain timelines ... in a case and at various stages along the way. Frankly I don't always agree with those timelines as being realistic, but if you use those as the basis, yes, that's an issue.”
According to data released by Valerio, nine of Vermont's 14 counties experienced an increase in juvenile cases from the first half of fiscal year 2014 to the first half of fiscal year 2015. Windsor County's caseload nearly doubled, while both Chittenden and Franklin County cases rose significantly.
None of the five counties that saw decreases in juvenile cases had changes as dramatic; total caseloads across the state has gone up.
“In various counties, we have seen a significant increase such that it's causing problems with our contractors and staff attorneys to be able to keep up,” Valerio says. “That's absolutely clear.”
New report shows child sexual abuse costs Florida $1 billion a year
by Carli Teproff
A new report focusing on the economic and fiscal impact of child sexual abuse in Florida, compiled by the nonprofit organization Lauren's Kids, will be released to Florida legislators Wednesday.
Among the key findings:
? One in three girls and one and five boys will become a victim of child abuse in Florida before they turn 18.
? On average, each victim of child sexual abuse loses $250,000 in earnings throughout his or her lifetime because of the abuse.
? Fifty percent of victims have below-average grades.
? Child sexual abuse ends up costing Florida about $1 billion a year.
Lauren Book, who founded the organization in 2007, said the ‘‘White Paper'' report, which took about four months to compile, is meant to show the true cost of child sexual abuse — both the financial and human impact.
“When you look at the true cost to our state, it's huge,” she said. “The numbers are staggering.”
Book said 95 percent of childhood abuse cases can be prevented through education and awareness.
When Book, now 30, was 11, she was sexually abused over a period of about eight years by her nanny. She formed Lauren's Kids to help sexual abuse victims. Through the organization, she developed educational and national awareness campaigns, including the annual Walk in My Shoes event, which kicks off March 14.
The 1,500-mile walk begins in Key West and ends April 22, 42 days later in Tallahassee. The 42-day journey is meant to raise awareness of the 42 million survivors of child sex abuse.
“It's about using our collective voice,” she said. “It's a huge accomplishment. We all want to take a stand to protect a child.”
For more information on the walk visit Laurenskids.org/Walk.
Praise for special advocate: 'She made me a survivor'
by Marisa Kwiatkowski
More than 350 people gathered Monday in the Statehouse to plead for more funding and volunteers for the state's court-appointed special advocate program.
They are the voices for Indiana's most vulnerable children.
On Monday, more than 350 court-appointed special advocates melded those voices together during CASA Day at the Statehouse. They pleaded for more funding and volunteers.
"They're our children, and our children have needs," said Steve Overbey, a court-appointed special advocate who represents children in the child welfare system in Marion County. "We have to take care of them."
The Indiana Supreme Court, which funds and oversees the state's CASA program, had asked for an additional $2.1 million per year, but House legislators stripped it from the proposed state budget. The program's $2.9 million budget is the same as it was 2007, yet it serves children in 15 more counties.
State officials said they hope Indiana senators will agree to their request for additional funding.
"We're not going to let it go," Chief Justice Loretta Rush said Monday.
She said it was "not acceptable" for children to go unrepresented. Indiana law requires the appointment of either a guardian ad litem or a court-appointed special advocate, which is an unpaid volunteer, in child abuse and neglect cases.
In 2014, court-appointed special advocates represented 18,690 children in 77 counties and donated more than 346,700 hours. More than 4,000 Indiana children still are waiting for a volunteer to represent them.
Fourteen-year-old Danielle Todd said her court-appointed special advocate, Lee Ann Goeke, was the only familiar face in an ever-changing environment.
During her six years in the child welfare system, Danielle said, she bounced among 15 family case managers, six therapists and six foster homes. She said Goeke was her rock, the only adult who noticed her needs and nurtured them.
"She taught me that some people stay around and that she is worthy of my trust," Danielle said Monday during her speech at the Statehouse.
Danielle was adopted in 2013. She lives in Fountain City, where she is an honor roll student who participates in a variety of school activities. She said she'd like to become an attorney.
Crystal Taylor, 21, entered the child welfare system in 2009. For the first year, she said, she never saw her biological mother, nor her siblings, who had been placed separately. That changed when Debby Gamache was named as Taylor's court-appointed special advocate.
"She listened to me and genuinely cared about how my future would turn out," Taylor recalled. "She cared about me more than I cared about myself at that time."
Taylor, who aged out of the system, is working full time.
"She taught me how to survive," Taylor read Monday from a poem she'd written about Gamache. "She made me a survivor."
Become a volunteer advocate for children
Help children have a voice in child welfare cases. There aren't enough in Indiana. About 4,000 Hoosier children are waiting for a court-appointed special advocate. For information on how to become a volunteer, visit casa.in.gov or call (800) 542-0813.
Sexual abuse prevention law passes state Senate
by Erin Beck
“Erin Merryn's Law,” a bill that will create a task force to study child sexual abuse in West Virginia, passed the state Senate unanimously on Monday.
The bill had already passed the House of Delegates on Feb. 18.
Brooke Drake, a sexual abuse survivor who has promoted and lobbied for the legislation, believes it will eventually lead to more children feeling comfortable coming forward, and more families learning to recognize the signs.
“It's definitely ripped my family apart, and I really believe my family would still be intact if Erin's Law passed 20 or 30 years ago,” she said.
Since Merryn, an Illinois woman, started her crusade to pass the bill five years ago, she has succeeded in 20 states. In other states that have passed the legislation, it has required sexual abuse prevention in schools.
Drake hopes that prevention education will be the end result in West Virginia.
She said if the task force comes up with a recommendation for sexual abuse prevention in schools, it could have changed her life.
“I really feel if this were something that were actually taught to me like reading or writing, I would have understood that my body was my body,” she said. “I didn't know that until I was in my 20s.
”If not in schools, she wants to see some sort of outreach developed for adults.
Drake has worked with the Our Children Our Future campaign, a statewide coalition, to drum up support for the legislation for the past year.
During that time, she has become more aware of the crucial need to create conversation around the issue.
“It's just something that doesn't get talked about,” she said. “So many people have come to me since I've started working on this that say they couldn't even say the words until they were in their 50s. It's not uncommon unfortunately.
” The national sexual abuse prevention organization Darkness to Light reports that about one in seven girls and one in 25 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18.
Drake is the one who first introduced the legislation to Sen. Chris Walters, R-Putnam, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill.
He calls the bill a “self-respect bill,” meaning the end goal is teaching children they have control of their own bodies.
“We as a society need to do all that we can to encourage our youth to be sure of themselves, to know and respect their own bodies, so they're empowered to tell someone no,” he said.
Walters said he is looking forward to attending some of the task force meetings and reading the its final recommendations. He and Del. Amanda Pasdon, R-Monongalia, the sponsor of the House bill, have said this bill may be a step towards an educational requirement.
Walters hopes so. That was Erin Merryn's original goal for the legislation when she set out to pass the bill in every state.
“I think it will create an atmosphere where we have children that have more self-respect and feel like they have a stronger voice,” he said. “I think that when they speak up, that they will know their words won't fall on deaf ears.
”Because the Senate made changes to the bill, it now heads back to the House for its concurrence. After the bill passes both chambers in the same form, it is sent to the governor.
NM high court ruling: All must report child abuse
by The Associated Press
SANTA FE (AP) - The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled Monday that all residents are required by law to report suspected child abuse and neglect.
The ruling reverses a 2013 decision by the state Court of Appeals that limited who was required to report such allegations. That previous ruling prompted a proposal being considered by state lawmakers requiring all persons to report suspected abuse and neglect.
According to the high court's ruling, the reporting requirement applies to both privately and publicly employed social workers, and statements made during counseling sessions aren't protected from disclosure in court.
The ruling stems from the case of an Albuquerque man charged with sexually abusing his minor daughter. He had counseling sessions with a licensed social worker in private practice.
The Associated Press is not identifying the man to protect the privacy of the child who was allegedly abused. The daughter is not identified in the court ruling but her father is named.
The appellate court had affirmed a Bernalillo County district judge's decision granting an order to prevent the man's social worker and ex-wife from disclosing to law enforcement what he had said during counseling.
The man has pleaded not guilty to charges of criminal sexual contact of a child under age 13. The case was pending while prosecutors appealed the protective order.
The Supreme Court justices said their research yielded no case that distinguished between reporting duties whether a social worker was private or government paid.
The state's statute calls for “every person,” including 10 specified categories of occupations, to report child abuse.
Addressing the sweep of the wording in the reporting statute, the justices noted, “this combination of identified occupations and broadly inclusive language has been widely recognized as imposing universal reporting requirements.”
They said there was no judicial opinion in any other state that has construed its combined and specific and general statues as imposing obligations only on the identified occupations.
“And we see no reason to construe New Mexico's statute in such a manner, particularly in light of history,” the justices wrote.
Nor did the Legislature intend to “make an unannounced policy change from the universal reporting requirement that had existed for thirty years to a sharply limited requirement,” they added.
Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers have been pushing for clarification ever since the 2013 appellate ruling.
“For more than four decades, New Mexico law has been crystal clear that child abuse and/or neglect must be reported by anyone who knows or suspects it to be taking place. This ruling affirms that ‘every person' means every person,” the governor said in a statement issued Monday.
The New Mexico House of Representatives last month unanimously passed legislation to clarify the law requiring the reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect to authorities, removing the categories of professions from the language of the act altogether and leaving little doubt the everyone must report.
Child abuse prevention awareness
by Joelle Gallagher
The relationship between our experiences in early childhood and our health in later life is well researched and established; however it has taken almost 20 years for this research to hit the “prime time.” Today, you can't open a newspaper, read an online article or listen to a public radio show without hearing about the long-term effects of the experiences of our earliest years.
A recent series on NPR, “What Shapes Health?,” focuses on the social and environmental factors that affect health throughout life. This story is one of many that discuss the breakthrough “ACE Study” conducted by Dr. Vincent Felitti of Kaiser, which started over 25 years ago.
In the 1980s, the dropout rate of participants at Kaiser Permanente's obesity clinic in San Diego was about 50 percent; but what was perplexing was that all of the dropouts had been successfully losing weight before they left the clinic. Dr. Felitti conducted interviews with individuals who had left the program, and discovered that a majority of the 286 people he interviewed had experienced childhood sexual abuse. Felitti and Dr. Robert Anda from the CDC went on to survey childhood trauma experiences of Kaiser Permanente patient volunteers.
The 17,000 or so patients in this study were mostly middle-aged whites, upper- and middle-class, from San Diego. Felitti and Anda asked them to think back to their childhoods and list how many of 10 different types of adverse childhood experiences they'd had, including sexual, physical or emotional abuse; neglect; loss of a parent due to death, divorce or incarceration; mental illness in a parent; and drug or alcohol abuse by a parent.
About two-thirds of individuals reported at least one of these Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE); 87 percent of individuals who reported one ACE reported at least one additional ACE. Felitti and Anda were shocked by the numbers. “I wept,” Anda remembers. “I saw how much people had suffered and I wept.”
The suffering didn't end in childhood. The number of ACEs was strongly associated with adulthood high-risk health behaviors such as smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, and severe obesity. With an ACE score of 4 or more, things started getting very serious. The likelihood of chronic pulmonary lung disease increased 390 percent, depression 460 percent, and suicide 1,220 percent. A recent study in Florida confirmed that over 75 percent of juvenile offenders had experienced family violence, parental separation/divorce and had an incarcerated family member. The upshot is, these negative experiences in childhood have a direct link to our most personal and collective social problems.
At Cope Family Center, and through the work of many agencies affiliated with the Child Abuse Prevention Council, we focus on preventing adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) from occurring in the first place. To do this, we focus on supporting children and their families, starting before they are even born.
Research or “evidence-based” programs that have been proven to reduce family trauma are available to families in our community. One such program is “Healthy Families America” (HFA). The HFA program pairs trained home visitors who work with families from the time mom is pregnant through the child's fifth year of life. In this program, parents are supported in developing healthy attachments with their children and have an opportunity to recognize and heal their own traumatic experiences.
In addition to the personal loss to families and the community, childhood trauma exacts an enormous economic toll. As the Nobel Laureate and economist James Heckman concluded, “The early years are crucial in creating the abilities, motivation and other personality traits that provide success downstream: in school, in the workforce and in other aspects of life.”
Next month, April, is national Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month. Our theme this year, “Right from the Start: Raising Napa's Children,” is meant to focus our community on both the fragility and the potential of our young children. Events will be happening throughout the month and the entire community is invited to participate.
Please contact the Cope Family Center to see how you can be involved. Most importantly, reach out to parents with young children and offer your support. You may end up saving a life.
Letter to the Editor
Peterson takes on child sex abuse in difficult climate
by Bill LaHay
State Sen. Janet Petersen deserves credit for taking on the issue of
child sexual abuse in a difficult political climate, but the opposition she's encountering shows how little this crime is understood even by lawmakers and others who should know better.
This is especially true concerning the retroactive "window" provision for civil actions, which Petersen had to remove to make the SF107 bill more palatable to her colleagues and to lobbyists from the Iowa Catholic Conference and the Iowa Association of School Boards. These opponents argue that they could not defend against claims of decades-old crimes because witnesses die and/or records get destroyed. Sounds reasonable, but this is a classic red herring distraction.
For obvious reasons, witnesses and official records regarding child sexual abuse are scarce even for recently perpetrated crimes. In reality, most abusers and enablers are discovered or convicted not through witnesses or documents but through the detailed independent corroboration of other victims, and therein lies the real fear that these claims will make it to a public courtroom.
Legal claims regarding decades-old abuse have to meet the same standards of evidence and case merit as any other civil action, so the legislative "window" is hardly a carte blanche for false or frivolous lawsuits. Child sexual abuse is an all-too common crime with devastating lifelong consequences for victims, and for Iowa's school boards and Catholic bishops to deny justice to these individuals is appalling and indefensible.
To prevent child sex abuse, victims must not be seen as morally inferior
by Harry Ferguson
It is regrettable that the aspect of the government's response to the shocking disclosures about child sexual exploitation in Oxfordshire that has got most attention is the intention to make it possible to prosecute social workers, police and other professionals for “wilful neglect” where it appears they have not acted on child abuse.
While this has obvious populist appeal it distracts us from the real issues. The complexities of how abused children's experiences appear to professionals and of dealing with the exploitative tactics of gangs of offenders are such that it is highly unlikely that a charge of “wilful” neglect could ever be proven.
The tone of the Oxfordshire serious case review is altogether different from the government's. It is a wise, insightful report that carefully and sympathetically analyses why it was that despite professional involvement, teenage girls were subjected to horrific sexual and physical abuse by a gang of at least seven men. It concludes that over many years professionals “on the ground worked relentlessly (if not always effectively) to fulfil their professional duties” and that ultimately it was their observations and persistence which brought the child sexual exploitation into the open. However, scores of professionals and organisations misread the signs and acted in ways that the victims and their families experienced as callous and indifferent.
Professional ignorance was central to what went wrong. I worked in social work at a time in the 1980s when child sexual abuse was barely recognised. By the 1990s major breakthroughs had occurred, levels of reporting increased and it felt like a good understanding of the dynamics of grooming, secrecy and the impact of sexual abuse had been established. The horrific disclosures in Oxfordshire, Rotherham and elsewhere are humbling. Professionals have been clueless in the face of the organised barbarism perpetrated on young women by groups of men. The Oxfordshire report describes how one girl was punished by being taken to a wood and raped by seven men. Left alone, hurt, crying and naked, the person she called for help was not her parents, social worker, police or an ambulance but one of the abusers who had just raped her.
Despite having been groomed, controlled and violated in ways that left them with no capacity to say “no” and with a fear-based loyalty to their abusers, the serious case review concludes that they were seen by professionals as “very difficult girls making bad choices”.
The perpetrators did not operate in a cultural vacuum. They tapped into the cruelly oppressive social attitudes that are typical towards children in, or on the edge of, care. Their victims were from troubled families who are despised within political discourse as “chavs”, “welfare scroungers” and “the undeserving”. It is their vulnerability and social positioning as morally inferior objects of disgust that makes gangs of abusers target them and professionals blame them.
In the Oxfordshire report, the familiar finding of a “lack of curiosity and rigour” by professionals who had the wrong “mindset” was a central failing. It is vital that multi-agency training and ongoing supervision help professionals learn about both the impact of abusers' tactics and the complex dynamics that can wear down their own compassion and judgment, so that they can avoid blaming and giving up on abused children.
Change must occur from the top down, prejudice must be eliminated and workers given the skills and knowledge required to help very challenging children and families. If change doesn't happen agencies must be held accountable, through staff performance reviews that already exist and by forced resignations at the top of organisations, as happened in Rotherham.
Once again we have been shamed into recognition of the limits of our capacity to understand and act humanely in the face of the brutality perpetrated on children. For genuine learning to occur professionals need support. Nothing must detract from the real issues and hard work required if children are to be adequately protected.
Children the main perpetrators of sex abuse in out-of-home care, royal commission told
by Paul Bibby
The vast majority of child sexual abuse occurring in Australian foster homes and residential care facilities is perpetrated by other children, not the adults looking after them, the royal commission has heard.
But the task of addressing this and other types of abuse in out-of-home care has been plagued by a lack of data about how much abuse is occurring and how institutions are responding.
The revelations emerged on Tuesday as the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse turned its attention to Australia's out-of-home care institutions.
The commission heard that, as of June last year, 43,009 children were in out-of-home care across the country, having been taken away from their parents or guardians because it was deemed not safe for them to remain.
Nearly 19,000 of these children were in care in NSW, and Indigenous children were nine times more likely to be in care than non-Indigenous children.
These children were placed in different types of institutions including "kinship" or relative care, where an extended family member is paid by the government to look after them; foster homes; and residential care where staff are paid to look after them.
In her opening address to the hearing, counsel assisting the commission, Gail Furness, SC, said that evidence suggested a significant number of these children were subjected to abuse.
Of the 3000 survivors of child sexual abuse who have spoken to the commission during private sessions, out-of-home care represented more than 40 per cent of all institutions named.
"The majority of survivors of abuse in out-of-home care attending the private sessions to date had described child sexual abuse taking place during the 1950s and 1960s in residential homes run by government or religious institutions," Ms Furness said.
She said that the studies which had focused on child abuse in out-of-home care had found that child to child abuse was the most prevalent, rather than that inflicted by carers or other adults.
"The major focus of preventing child sexual abuse in out-of-home care should be on efforts to prevent child to child sexual abuse rather than caregivers to child sexual abuse, since this type of abuse likely represents the vast majority of observed child sexual abuse in out-of-home care."
While this and other research was useful, the commission heard, determining the size of the problem had been seriously hindered by a lack of reliable, comparable data and statistics, with NSW and Victoria having failed to record abuse statistics almost completely.
Ms Furness said the commission had obtained its own statistics from government departments in every state and territory and 13 non-government organisations.
It found there had been 2683 reports of child sex abuse over the past two years in government institutions, with a further 956 reports from out-of-home care. However, this data had a number of limitations, including that it did not distinguish between recent and historic abuse allegations.
The hearing continues.
Grandmother charged with capital murder for allegedly forcing girl to run for hours carrying firewood
by Dan Taylor
An Alabama woman who allegedly forced a girl to run for more than three hours carrying firewood as punishment until she died has been charged with capital murder.
Authorities say Joyce Garrard made 9-year-old Savannah Hardin to run as punishment for telling a lie about eating candy on the school bus, and Garrard now faces either the death penalty or life without parole should she be convicted, according to an Associated Press report.
During opening statements in the courtroom, assistant district attorney Marcus Reid promised to reveal neighbors who could testify against Garrard by describing what they saw the day the girl died, while defense attorney Dani Bone tried to suggest that medical evidence indicated the girl did not die of dehydration, but actually appeared overhydrated, adding that the prosecution has “oversold their case.”
Prosecutors allege that neighbors witnessed Garrard acting like a drill instructor to the girl, forcing her to continue running and carry firewood and sticks for two hours. A neighbor said they were both in the yard and Garrard was yelling at Savannah to “keep running.”
The neighbor said he eventually became concerns when the girl was on all fours and vomiting, and Garrard was pouring water onto her. Paramedics were on the scene shortly after, but it was too late to save the girl. Garrard told the medics that Savannah, whose body was cold and soaking wet, had collapsed while in the yard.
Reid said that Savannah had been banned from eating candy due to her medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but it was the lie that set Garrard off, according to the report. Garrard apparently told the school bus driver, who had told her about the fact that Savannah had eaten candy, that she was going to “run until I tell her to stop,” according to surveillance video shown in the court as reported by the AP.
Several Bills Sponsored by Senator Ron Young Gets Hearing This Week
Several bills being put forth by Frederick County Senator Ron Young, will be heard in committee this week.
The Student Loan Forgiveness Bill is for orphan and foster care students. "There are orphan and foster care children that somehow manage to get themselves through and they have no support system," said Young. "They've been on their own since they were kids. This bill would forgive their loan for each year that they are in college, and pay $10,000 as long as they work for the State," he continued.
This bill is being heard on Wednesday, March 11th.
The Child Sexual Abuse-Statute of Limitations Bill will be heard on Tuesday, March 10th. "This bill would expand the statute of limitations filing a tort claim in child sexual abuse cases from 7 years to 20 years," said Young. "These children are sexually assaulted when they are little, and they don't understand it. They hide it and are ashamed of it, and it's not until they grow up that they realize what has happened to them," said Young.
The Death with Dignity Bill gets a hearing on Thursday, March 12th. The measure is patterned after Oregon's Law, which allows terminally ill patients to secure lethal doses of medication from their physicians. "First of all they would have to sign papers and have 2 witnesses, one of which could not be a family member," said Young. "The bill would allow a doctor to prescribe the medication and a pharmacist to fill it without either one being held responsible," he continued.
Aid-in Dying proposals have gained a lot of support after a 29 year old Oregon woman who was diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor chose to end her life last year.
Judge could rule on critical archdiocesan sex abuse claims
The judge in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee bankruptcy could decide as early as Wednesday whether to throw out 10 claims of men and women who allege they were sexually assaulted by priests or others representing the church.
The archdiocese has not disputed that the 10 were abused. However, it argues it is not required by law to compensate them for a number of legal reasons, including the lapse in the statute of limitations.
Attorneys for the survivors reject those arguments.
"This is just the latest attempt by the archdiocese to hide behind the passage of time instead of treating survivors fairly," said Michael Finnegan, whose firm represents six of the victims whose claims will be heard Wednesday, and most of the bankruptcy's 570-plus sex-abuse claimants.
Archdiocese spokesman Jerry Topczewski said the church has been clear from the beginning that it would not pay claims ineligible under the law.
"It's not fair to the people who should be compensated to include those who shouldn't," he said.
Wednesday's hearing is the latest battle in the costly and contentious bankruptcy filed by the archdiocese in 2011 to address its sexual abuse liabilities. Victims allege the archdiocese defrauded them by moving problem priests from post to post without telling families they were a danger to children.
The church has filed a reorganization plan that would set aside what is now about $5.1 million to compensate 128 victims of diocesan priests whose names appear on the its website, www.archmil.org.
But U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Susan V. Kelley ruled last June that she did not have jurisdiction to approve the plan while key questions in a related lawsuit, over $60 million the archdiocese holds in trust for its cemeteries, are pending before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Kelley has moved ahead on other issues. The judge said she would withhold her decisions on some questions until after the 7th Circuit rules, to cut down on costly appeals.
But she has suggested she would rule Wednesday on at least some of the 10 claims outlined in a request for summary judgment filed by the archdiocese.
Those claims involve:
Two victims the archdiocese says aren't eligible for compensation because their prior lawsuits against the church were dismissed by a state court.
Two others abused by individuals the church does not consider its direct employees. One case involved a former therapist with the nonprofit organization that would become Catholic Charities; the other involved two members of a religious order, a Capuchin brother and priest, who worked at St. Lawrence Seminary in Mount Calvary.
Six victims the archdiocese says cannot prove fraud because they were the first to report abuse allegations against their respective molesters.
Lawyers for the survivors say the archdiocese knew or should have known that the priests in question — including some of its more notorious pedophiles — were a problem.
They argue, among other things, that:
The archdiocese does have a supervisory role over religious orders that operate locally.
The statute of limitations on fraud, which begins ticking when the victim has reason to believe he or she was defrauded, has not yet expired for those survivors.
Many of the issues are questions of fact, not law, that must be decided at trial.
Monica Barrett, who alleges she was raped by the late Rev. William Effinger at the age of 8, is one of the two whose prior lawsuits were dismissed in state courts.
Barrett said her case was never heard on its merits — it was dismissed by a state court under the statute of limitations for negligent supervision — and she would like her day in court.
"I think every survivor has the right to hold the archdiocese accountable for their experience," she said.
Could a Difficult Childhood Age You?
Jack was the victim of child abuse growing up. Then, his mother died and he became a ward of the state, in and out of foster homes. His childhood was not only filled with abuse and trauma, but abandonment. As an adult, he suffered from depression and anxiety.
Many people have stories like Jack's –some less traumatic like growing up in a home with a depressed mom, an alcoholic dad, critical parents who fought continuously,etc. We know the psychological and emotional fall out of such events, but what about the physical effects of trauma, abuse, and psychiatric disorders?
A new study gives credence to the idea that a rough childhood ages a person on the cellular level. The study published in Biological Psychiatry looked at 299 healthy adults and assessed them for psychiatric disorder diagnoses and childhood histories of adversity like abuse, neglect and parental loss.
What researchers found was that childhood stress and psychiatric disorders were linked to cellular changes, especially those who experienced major depression and anxiety disorders, parental loss or childhood maltreatment. When researchers analyzed DNA, specific cellular changes important to the aging process were found. Thus, childhood adversity may accelerate the aging process.
This study supports the idea that we have to be better at preventing childhood maltreatment and help children deal with significant loss and trauma at an early age.
Father convicted of child abuse shares story on web
by Lisa Roose-Church
A Brighton father facing prison for child abuse is sharing his story on the Internet in the hopes of exposing what he calls the "evil regime in Livingston County."
Supporters, who started the website — tornfamily.com — for Joshua Quincy Burns also are seeking donations to the Josh Burns Benevolence Fund, which is administered by "two people who were not part of the Burns family" and is used to fund legal expenses.
Prosecutor William Vailliencourt's response to the website is that Burns is "entitled to say and post whatever he likes, but I think there are a lot of factual inaccuracies" on the website. He did not get specific due to the still-pending criminal case in Livingston County Circuit Court.
"I did not harm my daughter," Burns said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "I love my family. …
"People have to look at the evidence and decide for themselves. There's hundreds of people who decided to; they know my character … and they know there's no way this happened," said Burns, who was convicted following a jury trial for child abuse for harming his then 11-week-old daughter.
The phone call was disconnected and Burns stated in a subsequent email: "I am not interested in doing an interview with you."
Burns acknowledged in the phone interview that the incident — he grabbed his daughter Naomi's face to stop her fall when she slipped from his grasp after he ended a phone call from his wife in March 2014 — did happen as he testified at his criminal trial in Circuit Court in Howell.
However, Burns said "it was an accident" and not child abuse as the prosecution claims. He maintains the evidence supports his stance.
"I admitted my daughter slipped off my knee," Burns said in the phone interview. "If you want to call an accident abuse in this country, then we all better watch out. I've apologized to my wife on countless occasions. ... I now stand convicted of a felony for an accident with my daughter."
The evidence as the Burns family and their supporters see it has been posted online at tornfamily.com. Burns said in email that the "website was created by a group of supporters." He was not more specific.
One supporter listed on the site, Del Belcher, a pastor spearheading the Josh Burns Legal Defense Fund, said he's known the Burns family for about six years, and he was "taken aback and shocked" when he heard about the allegations.
"Someone might argue it would be easier for us to let it go and say he's guilty and that's that," Belcher said. "Why pick the hard road? There's no merit to choose the harder road in this except my conscience and all the evidence I saw. … My opinion is the prosecution did not prove the civil (case) or guilt at the criminal trial. I have to be honest with that."
In the family court trial, a jury found that Burns' wife was not responsible for their daughter's injuries, but Burns was responsible. As a result, the prosecution is moving forward with terminating his parental rights, and he is waiting for a disposition hearing in April.
In a separate criminal trial, a 12-member jury deliberated for more than 10 hours before returning a guilty verdict against Burns for harming his daughter, Naomi, now 1. He faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced March 19.
Burns and his supporters blame his family's situation on the Livingston County prosecutor's office. He said authorities asked him to take a polygraph test and he readily agreed, but they never followed up with the request. He took a polygraph in his attorney's office and passed.
He claims the prosecution "used Naomi as a pawn" by offering to return the infant, who was in the custody of Child Protective Services at the time, to his wife's custody if she would divorce him. The couple did not divorce.
Vailliencourt said his office does ask the custodial parent — in this case Burns' wife — what action, if any, she will take to protect a child in an abuse case and that can include whether the custodial parent will seek a divorce. If so, the prosecution would have withdrawn a petition against the wife for neglect.
"The concern is whether the parent is taking action to protect the child," the prosecutor said. "If they are not taking action to protect the child, then we have no choice but to go forward."
Burns also blames Dr. Bethany Mohr, director of the child-protection team at the University of Michigan Medical Center's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, who testified that she believes the injuries on Naomi constituted child abuse.
Mohr testified that Burns' daughter had retinal hemorrhaging in both eyes, which she believed is an indicator of child abuse, as well as bruising.
However, multiple doctors who testified for the defense reviewed Naomi's medical records and concluded her medical issues were the result of birth trauma and not child abuse.
"We have six expert doctors saying it's not child abuse," Burns said in the Tuesday phone interview. "No one suspected child abuse until Dr. Mohr got involved in (Naomi's) life."
On the website, it is explained that Naomi was born in January 2014 "through a traumatic birth that started with four hours of pushing, followed by several failed attempts at vacuum extraction" and an emergency cesarean section. The website says that traumatic birth left her with "unforeseen health issues that would later cause serious problems."
On the website tornfamily.com, it is alleged the prosecution's case was "based on the old 'junk science' of shaken baby syndrome, which is being disproven by current medical research."
Burns, who notes he passed a polygraph test, said "head trauma is the new buzzword for shaken baby syndrome."
Vailliencourt said the case was not "a shaken baby case."
"This was a case of physical abuse, head trauma, and the child almost died," he said. "The experts have said the true effects on the child won't be known until she's grown. It's premature to say she's healthy and won't suffer any lasting effects from abuse."
However, the website says just that: "Naomi is back, safe and sound in her mother's arms. She is happy, healthy and meeting all her developmental milestones."
Help your children recognize the signs of child abuse
by Rachel McClellan
A new family moved into our neighborhood when I was in the seventh grade. I remember the first time I saw them. All four of the children stepped onto the bus, their eyes darting around as if one of us might pounce on them.
It was their appearance that made me stare. The boys' faces were dirty, their hair long and unkempt. The girls' hair was just as bad, snarled and twisted around their faces like dried weeds. Their stained, tattered clothing barely fit, revealing many scabs and small bruises upon their skin.
Then there was the smell. The air stirred as they passed by me, an odor of dried urine and animal feces. Older kids around me made audible sounds of disgust.
One day the oldest boy, who I think was fourteen, got on the bus with burn marks around his wrists. I asked him where they came from. He said he was tied up all night as easily as if telling us what he ate for dinner.
Although my gut told me from the very beginning that something was wrong with the children's situation, I never said anything to my mother until after I heard the boy's casual confession. My mother was calm and thanked me for telling her. Within a few weeks I never saw those children again. My mom said the state came to help them.
Looking back, I wish I would have said something sooner, but as a child I didn't know the signs of child abuse.
Make your children aware of these signs of child abuse so if the time comes, they can help a child in need.
Warning signs of emotional abuse in children
Is excessively withdrawn, fearful, or anxious about doing something wrong
Shows extremes in behavior (extremely compliant or extremely demanding; extremely passive or extremely aggressive)
Doesn't seem to be attached to the parent or caregiver
Acts either inappropriately adult (taking care of other children) or inappropriately infantile (rocking, thumb-sucking, throwing tantrums)
Warning signs of physical abuse in children
Has frequent injuries or unexplained bruises, welts, or cuts
Is always watchful and “on alert,” as if waiting for something bad to happen
Has injuries that appear to have a pattern such as marks from a hand or belt
Has injuries that appear to have a pattern such as marks from a hand or belt
Shies away from touch, flinches at sudden movements, or seems afraid to go home
Wears inappropriate clothing to cover up injuries, such as long-sleeved shirts on hot days
Warning signs of neglect in children
Clothes are ill-fitting, filthy, or inappropriate for the weather
Hygiene is consistently bad (unbathed, matted and unwashed hair, noticeable body odor).
Untreated illnesses and physical injuries
Is frequently unsupervised or left alone or allowed to play in unsafe situations and environments
Is frequently late or missing from school
Warning signs of sexual abuse in children
Has trouble walking or sitting
Displays knowledge or interest in sexual acts inappropriate to his or her age, or even seductive behavior
Makes strong efforts to avoid a specific person, without an obvious reason
Doesn't want to change clothes in front of others or participate in physical activities
Has a sexually transmitted disease or is pregnant, especially under the age of 14
Runs away from home