Westmoreland Mall's Easter bunny a registered sexual predator
by Jacob Tierney
A man registered as a sexually violent predator donned a costume and posed with children as Westmoreland Mall's Easter Bunny before his criminal past was discovered, according to the company that hired him.
Michael Paul Jacobs, 23, of Jeannette worked at the mall for 12 hours before being fired, according to Cherry Hill Photo Enterprises, the New Jersey company that runs the mall's Easter Bunny program and hired Jacobs.
Jacobs was fired as soon as his criminal history was discovered, Cherry Hill said in a statement.
The firm would not release details about how Jacobs' past was uncovered.
“An employee of Cherry Hill Photo who does the local hiring of the mall Easter Bunny staff violated strict company guidelines and permitted a person to portray the Easter Bunny at the mall without first sending in the appropriate information to the corporate office for approval,” the company said.
Neither the mall nor Cherry Hill have said which days Jacobs worked.
“The person playing the Easter Bunny was immediately terminated and the local manager who does the hiring was suspended pending the completion of our investigation. No incidents of any inappropriate behavior were reported and Cherry Hill is cooperating with authorities while conducting its own internal investigation,” the statement said.
A spokeswoman for the company declined to answer questions.
Westmoreland Mall officials issued their own statement.
“Cherry Hill Photo Enterprise Inc. provides the Easter photo experience at Westmoreland Mall and as such (is) responsible for the hiring of all staff. It is regrettable that one of their local employees failed to follow their stringent background screening procedures,” Sean Phillips, regional marketing director for the mall, said in the statement.
Jacobs was convicted in 2011 of statutory sexual assault for having sex with a 15-year-old girl in December 2010, when he was 19. He was convicted again in 2013 of statutory sexual assault and unlawful contact with a minor for having sex with a 15-year-old girl in March 2011.
A third case against Jacobs was filed in which he was charged with statutory sexual assault for having sex with a 12-year-old girl in June 2011. That case was dismissed in 2013 when the victim died.
Under the law, as a result of his convictions, he is required to regularly register his whereabouts with law enforcement officials.
But nothing in Megan's Law, which mandates the collection of information about sex offenders in a state database, prohibits an offender from being around or working with children, according to Capt. Scott Price, operational records division director for the state police.
“There's nothing to preclude him from working as the Easter Bunny,” he said.
However, Price said, court orders may limit an offender's proximity to children in ways the state law does not.
A new Child Protective Services Law that took effect Dec. 31 states that those who leave a child “unsupervised” with a registered offender can be charged with child abuse, but the actual definition of the law is vague, Price said.
“That's something that's still being worked out. What exactly does ‘unsupervised' refer to?” he said.
Jacobs pleaded guilty in March to disorderly conduct for threatening to slit his brother's throat during an argument in September about who would do the dishes.
A Christian minister teaches churches to guard against pedophiles — like his father
John Hinton, an evangelical Christian minister, was convicted of sexually molesting girls over years. His son, Jimmy, who inherited the pulpit, teaches churches to root out predators.
by Peter Smith
In his growing work of consulting with churches on matters of sexual abuse, Jimmy Hinton says he hears a common refrain.
If a devoted member of a congregation is accused, members will give all kinds of reasons “it just can't be him,” he says.
The accused is so kind and nice. He's a family man. He never cusses.
“At the end of that,” Mr. Hinton says, he tells them: “You just described in great detail my father.”
The father, John Wayne Hinton, whom he watched with admiration as he preached the gospel from the pulpit of Somerset Church of Christ, a small evangelical congregation where the elder Hinton was minister for 27 years until 2001.
The father who inspired Jimmy Hinton to go into ministry himself, assuming his father's old pulpit in 2009.
Then in July 2011, a woman confided to Jimmy Hinton that his father had molested her when she was a girl.
By the end of the conversation, Jimmy Hinton was convinced she was telling the truth.
“I'm not saying I wanted to believe that about my dad,” he said. “Doing the right thing isn't doing what we want to believe. It's about doing the right thing.”
The right thing amounted to alerting police about the allegation. After a widening investigation, John Hinton was arrested on 200 counts — one charge of rape and dozens each involving indecent assault on children and the possession and creation of child pornography — including numerous nude, explicit photos he had taken of girls as young as 4.
John Hinton, now 65, ultimately pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated indecent assault in 2012 in the Court of Common Pleas in Somerset County. He is serving a sentence of 30 to 60 years at State Correctional Institution Rockview in Bellefonte, Centre County.
Jimmy Hinton will be telling his story — and how churches can prevent, detect and respond to sexual abuse — at Crossroads Church of Christ, 236 Thomas Road in McMurray at 2:30 p.m. next Sunday. More information is at crossroadscoc.org/?safekids. He'll also be speaking at North Hills Church of Christ, 797 Thompson Run Road, at 6:30 p.m. April 19.
The talk is part of a wider work Mr. Hinton has begun since his father's arrest. He founded a nonprofit consulting group, Church Protect, and speaks to congregations around the country on the issue.
So far, his audiences have been in the Churches of Christ — the network of self-governing, evangelical congregations that his church is a part of.
“But I don't limit myself. I'll speak to anybody,” said Mr. Hinton, 35, who with his wife, Natalie, have two children. His story was first told last year in the Christian Chronicle, a newspaper of the Churches of Christ.
“I've never seen anybody who took action like Jimmy did,” said Somerset Borough Police Detective Ruth Beckner, who investigated the elder Hinton's crimes. “He just wants to make everybody aware.”
Detective Beckner received a visit from Jimmy Hinton and his mother on Aug. 1, 2011, in which they reported the initial allegation against John Hinton. Jimmy Hinton said his father soon confirmed the allegation to him indirectly by saying he was under police investigation — but didn't know yet who had reported him — and was likely bound for prison.
“More victims started coming forward, and I started fielding phone calls, many of them disclosing what my dad had done to them in very graphic details,” Jimmy Hinton recalled. “They were looking for validation that somebody was listening and somebody believed them. The amount of emotion was incredible. The only thing I did know was that my family would never be the same.”
Jimmy Hinton said he didn't know how members of the congregation, many of whom became Christians under his father's ministry, would react. But he has found only warm support, then and since.
Elton Blenden, an elder at Somerset Church of Christ, said he visited Jimmy and Natalie Hinton after getting the news.
“I went in hugged them and said, ‘This is going to be a trying time. I just wanted to step forward and say I support you,' ” Mr. Blenden recalled.
Mr. Blenden said while he visited John Hinton in jail, he wasn't shocked by the betrayal.
“If you even look at the Scripture, it tells you to beware of wolves in sheep's clothing,” he said.
Elder Bob Martin said the church, which typically draws a few dozen on a Sunday, grew stronger through “the simple fact that we rallied together.”
The curse of hindsight
Jimmy Hinton said he's still haunted by a basic question: Before the first victim came forward, “How did we not see this?”
He came to learn that pedophiles can be highly sophisticated in gaining the trust of children — and their parents.
He looked back on things that, in hindsight, “didn't seem right.”
“I could start to see how he had manipulated people into gaining access to children,” he said.
Jimmy Hinton said he's not sure why he himself was not abused. To protect victims' confidentiality, he hasn't said where his father encountered his victims. Much of the investigation indicated that John Hinton preyed on young female victims. The Somerset church — which was not the only congregation where John Hinton was involved — has never faced a lawsuit.
"The children were put in your trust and put in your care through your befriending the families at church,” the sentencing judge, John M. Cascio of the Court of Common Pleas of Somerset County, told John Hinton, according to the Daily American. “You violated that trust in the most severe way."
It wasn't the first violation of trust. John Hinton was convicted in U.S. District Court for Western Pennsylvania in 2002 for mail fraud, one of several convicted over an investment scam that cost elderly persons millions.
He was sentenced to a day in prison and ordered to pay restitution, although attorneys on both sides acknowledged he lacked the means to fully repay victims..
Jimmy Hinton said his family supported his father at the time, but in hindsight, he sees the case as part of a pattern of manipulation.
Jimmy Hinton is still in contact with his father, who, he said, sent him a letter thanking him for turning him in and stopping his assaults on children. Jimmy's mother, Clara, also helps her son in his training efforts.
Awareness of sexual predators in churches erupted into public view 30 years ago with cases of abuse and cover-up involving Roman Catholic priests in multiple countries.
Similar patterns were later revealed in numerous Protestant, Jewish and other religious groups.
But Jimmy Hinton said many churches still naively think it can't happen to them, or that they could control an offender in their midst.
He said every church is vulnerable. When they proclaim, “Everybody welcome,” predators will take advantage of that.
Congregations, he said, should check out a person's criminal record for themselves, not trusting the perpetrator's version of events. Even churches that know of a person's past and believe they can monitor him would be shocked at how a predator can groom and even abuse victims in plain sight, he said.
Mr. Hinton said some convicted pedophiles, no longer incarcerated, have tried to get involved in his church, appealing to its sense of forgiveness and reacting angrily when told the only fellowship he would offer is a separate gathering time for adult men only.
A survivor of abuse is often re-traumatized in the presence of a perpetrator, and not just their own, he said. “If you truly are remorseful, you're not going to put me in that position” of having to bar them from being at church when children are around, he said.
The ordeal has not alienated the younger Hinton from his religious vocation.
“In a strange way, it's really helped to increase my faith,” he said. “When you look at Scripture, it's from cover to cover — God hates oppression and God calls his people to stand up and oppose it. It's not that God is passively sitting by, watching innocent children being abused and doesn't care. God is angry. God is weeping with us. God is calling people to stand up and oppose it.”
Raise your voice against child abuse
by Megan Dolmage
Recently you may have read an article titled “For how long will we look the other way,” by my good friend Danielle Ellison. In her article she mentioned a 2-month-old boy who was abused by his biological father. What you do not know is that that baby is my son.
This story is not comical, nor is it romantic. It is the truth — raw and unpreserved truth.
Let me start by posing this question: Is it wrong to ask for justice?
My life changed when my beautiful baby boy was brought into this world. I never knew that complete and utter perfection could exist in a 7-pound, blue-eyed boy. Then, unexpectedly, my life changed again, and not in the way I thought.
May 22, 2013, is a day that will continue to haunt me for the rest of my life. Any questions I had about my fiancé were answered, any doubts I had about my relationship were clearly brought to light.
My son was taken to Oregon Health and Science University with multiple fractures throughout the body, strangulation, retinal hemorrhages in the right eye, and subdural hematoma to the right side of his brain. I remember everything so vividly. I remember the hallway to the pediatric intensive care unit, I remember the color of the walls, I remember the smell of sterile medical equipment, and I remember seeing my defenseless baby asleep, covered in casts and monitors.
“I'm sorry; he is too broken to touch right now.” the nurse stated.
I couldn't nurse my baby. When he would cry I couldn't pick him up to comfort him; all I could do was wait for doctors to tell me the next step to take.
My son was taken for a full magnetic resonance imaging appointment. My mother held my hand as I sat and cried and prayed that they would tell me he was going to be OK and that I could take him home. Sitting in that dark room his neurosurgeon walked in and told me that the bleeding had stopped and that we were going to be able to move to a new floor.
Later, I received a phone call from the detective that was assigned to our case. His words were so haunting that I couldn't even walk straight. To hear him confirm that my ex fiancé had a history of abuse in the form of sexual offenses made me go mad. I was upset, I was confused, I felt betrayed, abused, and destroyed. I was angry, in a form that was foreign to me.
Today my son suffers from shaken baby syndrome, epilepsy, cortical visual impairment, cerebral palsy and developmental delays. Our days are filled with medication, physical therapy and doctor visits. After a year of legal battles involving bail hearings, district attorney meetings, plea bargains and court dates, my ex-fiancé was sentenced to four and a half years in prison for assault, not child abuse. Four and a half years for almost taking the life of a 2-month-old baby. A baby who had no idea what was happening to him, no way of protecting himself, and no voice. Can you call that justice?
Shaken baby syndrome is defined as an “injury to a baby caused by being shaken violently and repeatedly.” However, what you may not know is that shaken baby syndrome hardly ever has any visible signs. To look at a child you would have no way of knowing that there were broken bones or retinal damage. My son had old fractures and new fractures throughout his body, on top of severe head and retinal trauma.
You cannot put a time frame on a crime such as child abuse. There is no expiration date for altering a life, and there is no explanation that can justify why someone would decide to harm an infant. No child ever deserves to experience that kind of pain.
I am a single mother to a child with special needs, but I am a mother nonetheless, I am also a mother who is determined to make a difference. I am determined to have my story heard, I am determined to see my son learn to walk, I am determined to raise my voice. Now I ask you to raise yours.
Study Suggests Emotional Abuse is as Damaging as Physical and Sexual Abuse
by Sara Oon
“I wish you were never born.”
Such a simple phrase, yet capable of causing deeper, long-lasting scars in children than bruises and broken bones, according to a study published in January.
The study, conducted by Casey Family Programs and the Richard H. Calica Center for Innovation in Children and Family Services, examined emotional maltreatment in children's association with anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and illegal activity as an adult. However, the report argued, the child welfare system is currently more focused on the prevention of physical and sexual abuse than on the assessment and mitigation of emotional trauma.
“Many cases of emotional abuse do not come to the attention of Child Protective Services (CPS) because when we think about what triggers a CPS call, it is not a parent calling their child mean names or saying they wished the child had never been born,” said Paul Sterzing, an Assistant Professor at UC Berkeley's School of Social Welfare whose research includes bullying problems among vulnerable adolescent populations. “More empirical data on the long term effects of emotional abuse is needed to shift our national discourse towards understanding this as a preventable public health problem.”
The researchers analyzed data collected on 846 maltreated and at-risk children and youth over a 14-year period from the time each child entered the database at the age of four through the age of 18. While previous research has evaluated the potential effects of specific forms of emotional maltreatment, this is the first study to follow children over the course of their childhood up through adolescence in order to evaluate the long-term effects across all forms of emotional abuse.
Overall, the study found that emotional maltreatment of children was a predictor of both trauma symptoms and risky behaviors. The most common form of emotional abuse was found to be attacks on children's psychological safety and security, which refers to behaviors that cause a child to feel threatened and unsafe, including violence towards other family members and abandonment. Adolescents who had experienced psychological threats as children were found to be more likely to exhibit anger and irritability, anxiety, depression and an increased frequency of suicidal thoughts, arrests, cigarette smoking and use of illegal drugs.
This study builds on a growing body of existing research that has contributed to an improved understanding of the emotional and behavioral consequences of maltreatment, which has in turn been reflected in the increase in detection and reporting of emotional abuse cases over the last two decades. Nevertheless, the child welfare system still lacks a consistent protocol for identification and reporting of cases, with definitions and practices that still vary widely across states.
According to 2012 data collected by the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, 18 states had reported that less than 1 percent of reported child victims were found to have experienced emotional maltreatment, while in six states, over a quarter of reported child victims had been found to have been emotionally mistreated. The researchers suggest that the significant discrepancy across states is attributed to a variation in how emotional maltreatment is defined and assessed as opposed to a variation in actual rates of abuse.
In addition to being able to improve assessment and prevention of emotional abuse, ongoing research also seeks to build a more holistic understanding of how emotional maltreatment interacts with physical and sexual abuse. “Forms of violence cluster together, yet most research is conducted in silos,” Sterzing said. “We need to break down the research silos of emotional abuse, sexual abuse, exposure to family violence, and bullying to identify the profiles of children who are at the greatest risk for one or more forms of abuse in the future.”
Sara Oon is an MBA candidate at U.C. Berkeley's Haas School of Business. She wrote this story as part of the Journalism for Social Change class at U.C. Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy.
Youth mental health on the agenda for 2015 “State of the Child”
It was a tough year to be a child in Onslow County.
The Onslow County Partnership for Children's Child Advocacy Center (CAC) evaluated 288 unduplicated cases of child abuse in 2014, according to in-house data. There were also seven completed suicides among county youths ages 18 and under, according to CAC Director Kathleen Holbrook.
The Partnership's annual State of the Child event, which will take place over the course of two days — March 26 and 27 — will focus on the topic “Children's Mental Health Matters” and is expected to discuss how to reign those statistics in during 2015.
The event includes two presentations led by a nationally recognized psychiatrist and an 8 a.m. breakfast, which is expected to feature elected officials, law enforcement representatives and social workers signing a proclamation, officially dedicating themselves to prevent child abuse through 2015.
Children in Onslow County are facing “unique stressers,” Holbrook said, because of the common challenges found in military towns that might not be found in other areas. That includes couples having children at younger ages and the emotional and physiological tolls of combat and frequent deployments on families.
“What we've seen is an increase in physical abuse,” Holbrook said. According to data from the CAC, reports of physical abuse nearly doubled in 2014 from 2013 — from 45 reported cases to 80. “Parents are under more stress and there are financial stressors as well.”
The growing number of reported cases of child abuse doesn't paint an entirely bleak picture, Holbrook said. She believes a main reasons why there's been a rise in reported cases in the county is its growing population and because children, and their families, feel more comfortable reporting cases of abuse than in years past.
“Do I think there's more abuse than in past years? No,” Holbrook said. “I think (victims) are more willing to talk about it.”
But, Holbrook said mental health is still a major problem among Onslow County youths, saying she's seen it manifest in the multiple teenage suicide she's heard about over the past year.
Jacksonville Police Department reported one suicide from Jan. 1, 2014, until March 12 of this year among juveniles at or under the age of 15. Onslow County Sheriff Hans Miller said his office investigated two teenage suicides over the past 12 months.
Officials with Surf City Police Department, Richlands Police Department, North Topsail Beach Police Department and Holly Ridge Police Department reported no investigations of juvenile suicides over the past year.
Officials from the Swansboro Police Department did not respond to inquiries from The Daily News.
Holbrook said a factor she's seen contributing to teenagers taking their own lives is difficulty coming to terms with sexual orientation or their gender identity.
“We often see this,” Holbrook said, adding she's found it more prevalent among males and often stems from sexual abuse earlier in life. “When they have gender identity issues, there are questions and concerns, like a mom and dad who is not supportive...It can create stressors at home. They worry about acceptance at home and at school.”
Dr. Barry Feldman — director of psychiatry programs in public safety at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the breakfast's keynote speaker — said those issues, along with other hot button social topics like bullying, are risk factors, but aren't the cause of suicidal behavior, though risk factors can greatly agitate deeper psychological problems like depression, withdrawal and isolation.
Feldman is a member of the Clinical Advisory Board of the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide.
“There's a lot of misinformation about bullying,” Feldman said. “Being the target of bullying or being an aggressor in bullying are risk factors, but they don't cause suicidal behavior.”
He said similar symptoms can manifest in people, especially youths, who are shunned or scorned for being an open member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, but “no causal relationship has been established between those risk factors and contemplating suicide.”
Feldman will host the two presentations affiliated with State of the Child — one at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Northside High School and one following the State of the Child Breakfast at 10:30 a.m. Friday at First Baptist Church of Jacksonville. During those sessions, Feldman said he hopes to help colleagues, instructors, public officials and individuals concerned about mental health in Onslow County and society as a whole.
Feldman said research shows youths in military families have an increased potential for suicidal ideation.
“It's usually no fault of the parents,” Feldman said. “Adolescents are already experiencing many stresses and challenges in their life like getting along with their peers. It's a time in their lives when their brains are not fully developed.”
Feldman added that the reasoning part of the brain, found in the frontal lobe, is usually the last to develop.
Feldman said the only thing he wants participants to bring to either presentation is themselves and an open mind. He hopes, though, to have an open, honest discussion on teenage suicide, saying it's a talk that could save someone's life just as its beginning.
“You need to pick opportunities to have discussions and know when's a good time and when is not a good time,” Feldman said. “You don't want to harangue (your kids). Listen to them...give them an opportunity to talk, listen to them. They think ‘adults are old and don't understand what I'm going through.' That's the perception and often times, adults forget the challenges they experienced.”
There is no admission required for all State of the Child events. Registration is encouraged, but not required. Attendance at all three are first come, first served. The breakfast attendance cap is 250 individuals, and organizers say spots are usually taken quickly.
For more information, visit onslowkids.org.
Want to go?: Onslow County Partnership for Children hosts its annual “State of the Child” event March 26 and 27. Dr. Barry N. Feldman, a professor and psychiatrist, will lead two presentation sessions — one Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Northside High School and the other Friday at 10:30 a.m. at First Baptist Church of Jacksonville. The event's breakfast will begin 8 a.m. Friday and will feature a presentation by Feldman. There is no admission required for all State of the Child events, but registration is encouraged. Attendance at all three are first come, first served, and the breakfast attendance cap is 250 individuals. Spots are usually taken quickly. For more information or to register, visit onslowkids.org.
Central Florida mother to face murder charges in death of 2 children
Police say woman also seriously injured her baby
by The Associated Press
PALM BAY, Fla. - A Central Florida mother is facing murder charges in the death of two of her children who were found injured Friday, police said.
Palm Bay police said 33-year-old Jessica McCarty called 911 Friday night claiming she killed her three children. When police arrived, they found her in the front yard carrying a knife. After several unsuccessful attempts to get her to drop the knife, authorities said they shot her with several bean bag rounds and then took her into custody.
Inside the home, police found the three unresponsive children and transported them to the hospital.
Seven-year-old Laci McCarty and 6-year-old Philip McCarty were later pronounced dead. Christopher Swist, who is six-months-old, is in critical condition at an Orlando hospital.
Police said Swist's father also called 911 and said he was McCarty's boyfriend. He took the baby outside and administered CPR.
"We are still trying to verify the sequence of events, how and why they occurred," said Lieutenant Mario Augello. "This is still a very active criminal investigation and our priority as always is making sure we have the right answers so there can be justice in the deaths and injuries of these innocent children."
Police Chief Mark Renkens said police had prior interactions with McCarty but did not elaborate.
Neighbors said the family moved to the quiet neighborhood about six months ago.
According to records and a representative with the State Attorney's Office, McCarty pleaded guilty after she was arrested for stealing four prescription pads and passing prescriptions for controlled substances while working as a certified nursing assistant in 2013.
Florida Today reports she was sentenced to two years of community control and drug court, but failed a drug test almost immediately and was sent to the county jail for a week.
The newspaper reported she was sentenced to six months in county jail after failing another drug test.
It's unclear if McCarty had been assigned an attorney. Authorities said Saturday they were still in the process of transporting her to the Brevard County Detention Center where she will be held without bond. She has a hearing Sunday morning.
Home visiting reduces potential for child abuse, experts say
by Heath Haussamen
Javier Martínez was familiar with home-visiting services when his son Camilo was born in January.
Martínez's 2-year-old daughter Marisela participated in a program, which teaches parenting skills and provides other support for pregnant mothers and new parents and guardians. Such programs improve kids' performance in school and beyond. And, as New Mexico In Depth and the Las Cruces Sun-News reported in December, home visiting is one way to help reduce fatal child abuse.
While preparing to check out of UNM Hospital after Camilo's birth, Martínez, who is a Democratic state representative from Albuquerque, says he and his wife "tested the system" at the hospital by asking about available services for them and their newborn. They wanted to see if they would be told about home visiting.
They weren't, Martínez says. So he asked the discharge nurse specifically about home visiting, and says she didn't know much about it. Martínez says he left the hospital disappointed that it was so difficult to learn about the program.
For four of the past five years, New Mexico has been among the eight states with the highest number of per-capita child abuse and neglect deaths, according to the U.S. Children's Bureau. While there are no simple solutions for addressing the complex factors that lead to child abuse, every expert interviewed by NMID and the Sun-News for the December article supported expanding home-visiting programs to better educate parents and help prevent child abuse and neglect.
The state has significantly increased funding for home visiting since fiscal year 2011. Still, current spending falls short of the estimated need, and the budget proposal making its way through the current legislative session wouldn't change that.
Martínez wants to see a grander effort to make home visiting available for most new parents in the state and to more actively promote its use.
"We really do need a big-picture plan," Martínez said, "or we're going to lose another generation of kids."
Medicaid, the government health-insurance program for the low-income, pays for 82 percent of births in New Mexico, according to a Legislative Finance Committee report. Martínez would like to see home visiting available for parents of all those children, at least.
Martínez said his family has "hit some roadblocks, as any other family would, and home visitation has been key." He said he couldn't imagine how much more difficult parenting is for parents who face greater challenges than he and his wife.
The state has increased funding for home visiting from $2.1 million in fiscal year 2011 to $12 million in this year. And in the current legislative session, next year's budget bill, which has yet to receive final approval, would increase funding to $14.3 million.
The Legislative Finance Committee estimates the state needs to spend $41 million a year to make home visiting available for all eligible families. The nonprofit advocacy group New Mexico Voices for Children estimates that it would take $85 million.
Like Martínez, Veronica C. Garcia, Voices for Children's executive director, wants to see a grander expansion of home visiting.
"The increases in funding for home visiting are certainly a step in the right direction, but we're still nowhere near to meeting the need," Garcia said. "Fully funding these programs makes sense because they help prevent child abuse and cost just a fraction of what it costs to investigate child abuse, prosecute and punish abusers, and try to make the young victims whole again. Home visiting services have many other benefits for children, families, and the state as a whole."
How it works
Home visiting works like this: Parents might learn of the free, voluntary programs through doctors' offices, hospitals, schools or word of mouth. Once enrolled, a nurse or early childhood education specialist visits the home of a pregnant mom or parent or guardian of a newborn for an hour each week, usually through the child's third birthday.
Home visitors work from a set curriculum. They urge pregnant women to stop smoking, drinking and doing drugs. They remind parents and guardians to take deep breaths or walk away when they're frustrated with children. They help families enroll in Medicaid or food stamps. They teach parents and guardians about the dangers of shaking a baby. They explain child development, helping parents and guardians understand, for example, that children who wet their pants or cry inconsolably don't mean to be aggravating.
During the review of the deaths of 14 children in southern New Mexico in recent years, NMID and the Sun-News found that kids often did not meet their caregivers' expectations because the caregivers did not understand their behavior.
Some home-visiting runs are privately funded. That includes the nonprofit Catholic Health Initiatives St. Joseph's Children, which provides free home-visiting services for 500 families in Sandoval, Valencia and Bernalillo Counties. St. Joseph's recruited Martínez and his wife for home visiting after their daughter was born.
In addition to those privately funded programs, the state funds programs that operate in most counties in New Mexico.
Henry Varela, spokesman for the state's Children, Youth and Families Department, said expanding home visiting is not as simple as providing new money. In some communities, offering money to start a home visiting program wouldn't work because there's no organization prepared to do it. So CYFD also works to help ready communities for home visiting.
Varela said CYFD is doing that by contracting with community development programs to identify and equip potential leaders, working with partner agencies to build community support for home visiting, and offering workforce-training and technical-assistance programs.
Since the 2011 fiscal year, Varela said, CYFD has expanded from funding 16 home visiting programs in 21 counties to 27 programs in 26 counties.
The funding debate
The administration of Gov. Susana Martinez sought no new money for home visiting in this year's budget, instead asking for millions of dollars for investigating child abuse and neglect claims.
Varela said CYFD is focused on "sustainable and responsible growth" of home-visiting programs by using existing funding to "efficiently target communities who have providers and services available to those in need."
Martínez the legislator wants more. He supports a proposal to divert 1.5 percent — or tens of millions of dollars a year — from the state's $14 billion permanent fund to pay for a number of early-childhood initiatives including expanded home visiting.
"There's a way of funding this without raising taxes, without diverting money from other programs," Martínez, the Albuquerque state representative, said. "We can do it while ensuring the solvency of the fund and at the same time investing in what works."
The proposal to allow a statewide, public vote on a proposed constitutional amendment to tap into the permanent fund has stalled in recent legislative sessions. Though her support isn't necessary to place the initiative on the ballot, Governor Martinez opposes the proposal.
The governor also last year vetoed a $500,000 appropriation through Medicaid that would have leveraged an additional $1.1 million in federal matching funds for home visiting. While she has voiced support for expanded home visiting — and her administration has overseen the recent growth of the program — Martinez has said expansion should be done using existing money in the state budget.
Incremental change for now
With the permanent-fund proposal shelved for now, Rep. Martínez is working on incremental reforms. He says he will introduce a bill in the next legislative session, which starts in January 2016, to require hospitals to notify new parents about home-visiting services.
But he still hopes the state will embrace the grander plan of expanding home visiting by tapping into the permanent fund.
"As a parent, it is extremely frustrating that we have the answer, we know what we need to do, but that we are investing small dollars and that we are moving at a snail's pace," Rep. Martínez said.
United Nations: Bring paedophiles and enablers to book!
The United Nations (UN) in Jamaica is urging the nation to take a zero tolerance approach to the crisis of paedophiles preying on children.
UN agencies working on the issue — UNFPA, UNICEF, UNDP, UNAIDS, UN Women and UNESCO — said the recent cases reported by the media point to the long-standing and deeply alarming issue of sexual abuse facing children, and adolescent girls in particular, in Jamaica.
Key statistics underscore the horrific scale of the problem:
· In 2013, the total number of sexual abuse cases reported to the Office of the Children's Registry (OCR) was 3,386. Of these, 92 per cent were girls, and more than half of the cases were carnal abuse (sex with children under 16 years of age).
· According to data from the National Reproductive Health Survey 2008, 34 per cent of adolescent girls reported that their first sexual encounter was coerced, that is their first experience of sexual intercourse was an act of rape.
· According to the latest national data, one in every five sexually active Jamaican girls, aged 15-19 years, has reported being forced to have sex.
· Recent research indicates that only one in 10 adult Jamaicans report cases of child abuse, including sexual abuse, despite knowing about the abuse.
“Efforts to prevent and reduce teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and sexual violence against children are severely compromised when individuals and communities fail to report cases of abuse and when predators are not prosecuted with urgency,” said Arun Kashyap, the UN resident coordinator.
Kashyap also said pointing fingers at victims is unacceptable. “Sex with children is always a form of abuse. The children are never to blame.”
In addition to supporting various government initiatives (including development of policies and legislation) to protect the rights of girls, the UN agencies have, since last year, been supporting a new initiative by non-governmental organisation EVE for Life to address the challenges of sexual violence within select communities in St Ann, St James and Westmoreland.
The programme, called “Nuh Guh Deh”, will focus on urging these communities to take specific actions to prevent the covering up of sexual activities with children and to hold perpetrators accountable.
“Nuh Guh Deh” was officially launched on November 25, 2014 in recognition of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, as part of the UN Agencies UNITE campaign, which aims to address the global pandemic of violence against women and girls. On that occasion UN Agencies in Jamaica gave a public commitment to the “Nuh Guh Deh” campaign, which aims to increase awareness about the long term physical, emotional, financial, health and social consequences of sexual abuse of young girls and the links to HIV. It is expected that a key outcome will be to mobilise Jamaicans to report acts of violence against girls.
“Nuh Guh Deh” emerged from EVE for Life's extensive experience working with young survivors of sexual violence, many of whom became pregnant and also contracted HIV as a result of this violence. The support provided has empowered and enabled many survivors to break free of the violence and abuse. The UN is confident that this programme will help mobilise Jamaicans to report on sexual violence against girls.
Abused women live in fear all over our Valley
by Leslie Apps
"THE tragedy about domestic and family violence is that it's peppered with myth," was the first sobering fact delivered by Clarence River Women's Refuge manager Nav Navratil.
"People tend to think it's a certain class of people that come here but that's just not the case.
"We've had financially secure women, university educated women, teachers, nurses, policewomen all stay here in the past. There's no discrimination when it comes to domestic and family violence."
Nav has worked at the Grafton refuge for the past decade and in the field of domestic and family violence for 21 years. She said the onus was still put on the victim's behaviour.
"They are the ones put under the microscope rather than the perpetrator," she said.
"The system hasn't lent itself to change as far as that goes but it is better than it was 21 years ago."
Apart from the high-profile physical aspect to domestic violence, Nav said the mental effects could be just as devastating.
"Physiological abuse doesn't seem threatening enough but the long-term effects can be devastating," she said.
"Being constantly put down year after year, it's a form of brainwashing.
"The media like to highlight the drama. The visual elements, the black eye or the broken arm.
"In a lot of cases physiological violence is not reported because there's no visual evidence but it can be much more far reaching. You don't need to see violence for it to have an impact on kids."
Nav said the Clarence Valley rated in the top 20 areas of domestic and family violence incidents in the state but those numbers could be higher as often the isolation of living in a rural area contributed to people not reaching out for help.
She said the Clarence was geographically challenged when it came to things like transport and technological black spots.
"I've had women who live on isolated rural properties being held hostage, the phone line cut and there are firearms," she said.
"But everything can be a weapon, knives in the kitchen, power tools, cigarettes - I've seen the burns - and others being terrorised with kerosene."
Nav likened domestic violence to being in the trenches at war.
"There can be a honeymoon period where everything is going okay, chocolates, flowers and then the cycle of behaviour turns explosive again. They either remain there or leave," she said.
"But often being constantly under threat emotionally and put down, you lose the capacity to make choices. A lot can't get out of that trench. They might leave three or four times but go back when it seems to settle down again."
Nav said the most dangerous times for a woman in this type of relationship were when she was leaving or pregnant.
"There is a higher incidence of violence in those cases," she said.
"Often with pregnancy it is because the woman is receiving all the attention and support. With medical services intervening the perpetrator feels their control is under threat."
It's this control that is at the centre of most domestic violence situations. Nav recalled one case where a woman worked in the finance industry but didn't know how to use a key card.
"She'd never been allowed to own one. People think how is that possible but it's all about the control," she said.
Nav said the higher the perpetrator's social status in the community, the harder it was to prosecute.
"There's a lot of shame and embarrassment involved for women and quite often they are pitted as being crazy," she said.
Even something as simple as getting a haircut can became a major issue.
"One woman hadn't been to the hairdressers for 10 years. Her partner was paranoid about losing power and control. Women talk to hairdressers. We have had to tell them where to send clients before."
Nav said the Clarence River Women's Refuge had operated since the 1970s; Grafton the first to be funded in the state. Last year the five female staff looked after 252 clients and children from all over Australia and took innumerable calls from women seeking advice.
"We've had women from Western and South Australia, Tasmania stay here," Nav said.
"It depends on the nature of the offender and how dangerous they are. Unfortunately demand for our service exceeds our capacity to deal with requests."
Nav said the refuge was a specialised service, a place of safety for women who need to be removed from a stressful situation.
"It's somewhere they can come and think clearly and make decisions. A lot of women let their general health go too, like those regular medical check-ups, pap smears, breast checks. Others have been here as children and come back as adults, we don't want to see that happen."
She said the first two weeks were critical when settling in.
"We work within a six to eight-week period because we have to have some sort of timeframe but there is longer-term accommodation onsite."
Nav said their main job was to support their clients' growth and point them in the right direction.
"Many of those who had no education have gone on to study and get qualifications," she said.
She said the offenders "aren't all homeless, uneducated men who drink a lot. They are doctors, solicitors, police officers and teachers too.
"Some men also go on to make the choice to seek help after they identify they have a problem and not all adolescent boys growing up in DFV families go on to be perpetrators. Sometimes it has the opposite effect."
While the statistics and stories are harrowing, Nav holds hope for the future of affected families.
"The community is full of good men. They need to help shape young boys' behaviour within families by standing up and saying this sort of behaviour is not acceptable," she said.
"The message is more powerful to perpetrators when it comes from their peers."
Love Bites program
The Clarence River Women's Refuge also provides education to Clarence Valley high school students (Year 10) through its Love Bites program. "We've educated thousands of students over the past few years on the subject of domestic violence and sexual assault."
(Audio and letter of response on site)
Shock jock John Laws savages caller claiming to be sex abuse victim
In an interview likely to outrage child abuse victim support groups, radio announcer John Laws has savaged an elderly caller who rang in to share his story about the sex abuse he claimed to have suffered in the 1940s, telling the caller to "go to the pub and have a lemonade".
The once influential talkback 2SM morning talkback host was called on Thursday morning by a man, who identified himself as "Brian" and claimed he had been sexually abused as a child in the mid- and late-1940s, first when he was 11 in Goondiwindi and then when he was 14.
"I rang up about being sexually assaulted when I was a kid," he said.
He claimed that, when his family moved , the man followed and sexually abused him in his new town, which he did not name. He also claimed he was abused by the man, after he left home, on a cattle property near Gympie.
"I can bet your life that he's had other young fellas out there and done the same thing to them too," Brian said of the man.
Laws proceeded to conduct the interview in a hostile tone, hectoring the man about why he had not reported the incident at the time, and why he had not fought back against his alleged assailant.
"Brian, we're talking about a very long time ago," he said.
"Where were your parents?" Laws asked.
When Brian said he had not told his parents, Laws incredulously asked why.
"There was no such thing as family love," said Brian, as he started to cry. As the interview went on, Laws continued his hard line of questioning.
"Haven't you found people to give you love in your life since you left home?" Laws asked
"No, no one," Brian replied. "I live on me own."
As far as relationships go, the abuse "just turned me off it altogether", Brian said
Although Laws tried to cheer the man up, and asked whether he felt better having talked about it, a negative response earned Laws' ire.
"In other words, we've wasted each other's time. I'm sorry, I would have thought you'd have felt a little bit better after you'd have got it off your chest," he said
"I'm not interested in talking to human beings at all, actually. It'd be better if I could go away and never talk to any of them again, actually," Brian said.
Brian said that, in the 1960s and 1970s, he reported his abuse to the police but they "told me to go away and forget about it".
"It's not that they didn't believe me, it's just that they didn't want to do anything about it, that's all," he said.
"You're 80 years old, you've suffered for a hell of a long time," Laws said.
However, as the interview neared the end, Laws started to tell Brian to cheer up.
"Don't be down all the time, don't be a wet blanket all the time, try to have a laugh, go to the pub, have one beer; it's not going to hurt you.
"Go to the pub and have a lemonade, for God's sake."
Laws also suggested that Brian could do well with a change of attitude.
"You've got to help yourself. God helps those who help themselves.
"Smile, be happy," Laws said.
Cathy Kezelman, president of Adults Surviving Child Abuse said that, although it was pleasing to show some level of empathy, Laws' "cheer up" views were very unhelpful.
"The danger with someone like John Laws is that he has a very broad audience and he's very influential therefore, and if he perpetuates myths at the time when the royal commission [into institutional child sexual abuse] is trying to change societal attitudes and views and educate among other things, tha'ts very counterproductive," Dr Kezelman said.
"There was also definitely a theme of 'pull yourself together'. There was some empathy, which was good to hear, but no understanding of the depth of this man's isolation and why he's so isolated and why he's lost his trust from that primary betrayal," she said.
"What it did show is a complete lack of understanding about what it means to be sexually abused as a child - that children are often completely helpless against adult perpetrators, they aren't able to scream and fight - and that's a very common and dangerous myth," Dr Kezelman said.
"I'm glad to hear there was some empathy for the way Brian was feeling, but certainly no understanding as to why he was feeling like that, and why he couldn't put a smile on his face and go to the pub and have a drink."
Who Told the Truth?
A hearing in San Antonio will revive the ghosts of the satanic abuse trials and questions about the testimony of child victims.
by Maurice Chammah
Any courtroom lawyer will tell you that young children are among the most difficult witnesses to put on the stand. Their stories can shift over time, they easily contradict themselves during cross-examination, and though they can swear to tell “the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” it is not always clear they understand what that means.
Nowhere is this problem trickier than in a case of sexual abuse where the child is the only victim and witness, a dynamic that took full form during the so-called ‘satanic abuse' cases in the 1980s and 1990s. These cases may have faded in the collective memory, but from California to Texas to New York, communities were roiled by sensational tales of animal sacrifices, murders of babies, and violent orgies that children were sworn to keep secret by powerful cabals of daycare workers. Many believed the cases were linked, while doubters saw such bizarre claims as products of a Salem-like hysteria.
The accusations all started with children. As a generation of journalists and lawyers discovered that the victims had been subjected to faulty interviewing techniques and flawed medical exams, most of these cases were debunked, even when the children did not formally recant their accusations.
But the case of four women from San Antonio, who were convicted of molesting two young girls in the late 1990s, has endured, stretched out over more than two decades of trials and a years-long effort to free them. (I first began reporting on the case for The Texas Observer.)
On April 22, the case will enter its final act as the two alleged victims take the stand. Now in their late 20s, one still maintains the abuse took place, and the other says the two were coerced to make a false accusation. After each is cross-examined, a judge will decide the likely truth — essentially who is more credible — and make a recommendation to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The state's highest criminal court will then decide whether the women should be declared innocent and entitled to compensation from the state, or, in an unlikely but plausible scenario, sent back to prison.
The women whose fates depend on the hearing have been branded the “San Antonio Four” by their supporters. They fall into an increasingly visible category of prisoners who have been freed due to evidence of a wrongful conviction but have not been formally declared “innocent” by courts. They were arrested in 1994 for sexually molesting the two girls, who were 7- and 9-years-old at the time. Elizabeth Ramirez, the girls' aunt, was considered the ringleader. In 1997, Ramirez was sentenced to 37.5 years while her three friends, Anna Vasquez, Cassie Rivera, and Kristie Mayhugh, got 15 years each in a separate 1998 trial. The girls had stayed with “Aunt Liz” for a week because their father had been busy with work. Mayhugh was Ramirez's roommate, and the other two were friends who often spent time at the apartment.
The girls accused the four women of holding them down, inserting various objects into them, and threatening them with a gun. Or a knife; their stories changed multiple times, though they always had overtones of witchcraft, leading one doctor who examined them to wonder if the crimes were “satanic.” The women had come out as lesbian to their families — Anna and Cassie were dating at the time — and the idea that their sexual orientation explained their purported crimes came up multiple times throughout the investigation and trials.
In 2006, a reclusive teacher and one-time dog sledder from the Yukon Territory named Darrell Otto began exchanging letters with Ramirez. She persuaded him of her innocence, and he convinced several journalists and activists to investigate the case. They in turn convinced a lawyer, Mike Ware, to file new appeals for the women. Doctors reviewed the original medical exams of the victims and found that the original doctor, Nancy Kellogg, erred in testifying that the girls had definitely been sexually assaulted; at most, Kellogg later admitted, the results were inconclusive.
In my reporting, I discovered a messy family saga. Ramirez's family believed the two victims had been coached by their father, Javier Limon. He was an ex-boyfriend of Ramirez's sister who the family said had made romantic advances toward the much younger Ramirez. When Ramirez rebuffed him, her family claimed, Limon retaliated by coaching his daughters to accuse her of molestation, and the girls ended up accusing Ramirez's three friends as well.
Implausible as this scenario may seem, questionable allegations of child abuse often permeate bitter divorces and custody battles. Websites offering advice to men going through divorce often include sections on how to deal with being accused of abuse.
At a burger joint one evening in 2013, Limon strongly denied this account. He told me he never propositioned Elizabeth Ramirez and that his two young daughters came to him unsolicited to accuse their aunt and her friends. He said he'd done what any father would do: gone to the authorities.
Limon had reason to be defensive. The year before, in August 2012, one of his daughters, named in the public record as Stephanie Limon (now Stephanie Martinez), announced that Javier had coached her to accuse the women and that she was never molested. Twenty-five years old and a mother herself, Stephanie read to a camera from a sheet of notebook paper in the backseat of a car, saying her father forced her as a 7-year-old to accuse her beloved aunt. “I was threatened,” she recalled, “and I was told that if I did tell the truth that I would end up in prison, taken away, and even get my ass beat.” (A film about the case is also in the works.)
With that recantation and the disputed medical evidence, Mike Ware, the lawyer, convinced a judge and the Bexar County District Attorney that the women were entitled to a new look at the case, and in the meantime could be freed. The women emerged from a jail in downtown San Antonio in November 2013 to teary hugs with family. Cassie had never held her new granddaughter, and Liz had not seen her teenage son since he was five years old.
Though celebrated by gay and lesbian activists as martyrs for a prejudiced era, their situation was still precarious. They took menial jobs and began a long wait for resolution, knowing that if they were declared officially ‘innocent,' they would be entitled to hefty checks from the state for their wrongful imprisonment. If their innocence was placed back in doubt, they could return to prison. Because she got out of prison ahead of the others on parole, Anna remained on the sex offender registry. She could not be in the presence of children and faced limited work prospects. She has since been removed from the registry.
As their lawyers continued negotiating with prosecutors, a strange dichotomy emerged; Stephanie, the younger of the two victims, maintained that she'd never been molested. Her older sister — who is still officially a victim of sexual assault and therefore goes by the initials V.L. in public records, and who will not agree to interviews — never recanted. She still says it all happened. Stephanie's recantation is compromised by the fact that she has fallen out with her father, Javier; he says she is recanting to get back at him. Her sister's accusations are compromised by the fact that she and Javier are still close.
On April 22, Stephanie and V.L. are expected to take the stand and hash it all out with lawyers for the four women and prosecutors. The judge will then make a recommendation to the state's Court of Criminal Appeals about whether the women are entitled to a ruling of “actual innocence” and millions1 of dollars in compensation.
But the hearing will have larger ramifications. Since the satanic abuse scandals died down, there has been a lingering intellectual battle between lawyers, journalists, and activists who have mostly succeeded in getting these cases overturned, and a small community of opponents who say the pendulum has swung so far in the direction of defendants that actual cases of child sexual assault are being papered over. In his 2014 book, “The Witch-Hunt Narrative,” Ross E. Cheit, a professor of political science at Brown University, argued, “We have, over the last 20 years, discounted the word of children who might testify about sexual abuse” and have become “more worried about overreacting to child sexual abuse than we are about underreacting to it.”
Cheit reserves particular vitriol for Debbie Nathan, a journalist whose reporting for The Village Voice and book, Satan's Silence, challenged the satanic cases. Nathan now helps challenge convictions of child sexual abuse with the National Center for Reason & Justice, and it was she who learned of the San Antonio women from Darrell Otto and convinced lawyers with the Innocence Project of Texas to take on their case.
Although Cheit's book did not make a big splash, his line of argument is reflected in the fact that some of those convicted in the satanic abuse cases have not been exonerated. Among them are Jesse Friedman, who pled guilty to molesting children with his father at a computer class in Long Island in 1988. (His best-known supporter, the documentary filmmaker Andrew Jarecki, serves on the advisory board of The Marshall Project. He is also the director and co-producer of the HBO documentary series “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.”) After Jarecki's 2003 film, “ Capturing the Friedmans ,” cast doubt on the allegations, prosecutors revisited the case file and reaffirmed his guilt in a disputed 2013 report.
And then there are Fran and Dan Keller, who ran a daycare in Austin, a short drive from San Antonio. The couple spent 22 years in prison after they were accused, in the words of the Austin American-Statesman, of “dismembering babies, torturing pets, desecrating corpses, videotaping orgies, and serving blood laced Kool-Aid in satanic rituals.” Like the San Antonio women, the Kellers were recently freed while the case was reopened, but they have not been declared innocent. The Kellers are represented by Keith Hampton, who also is aiding Mike Ware in the effort to exonerate the San Antonio women.
Hampton and Ware, like all defense attorneys trying to exonerate defendants in these cases, are confronting the vagaries of child testimony. If the victim, now an adult, has not recanted, he or she may be relying on false memories, or the abuse may have really occurred, even if some of the most horrific stories are fictional.
If the victim has recanted, the change of heart can easily be undermined by prosecutors. In the fall of 2012, a young woman took the stand in San Antonio in efforts to exonerate her father. As a child, she had testified that he abused her, but now said it had never happened. As in the San Antonio Four case, she claimed to have been pressured by another family member with adverse motives. After her testimony, prosecutor Mary Beth Welsh told reporters, “The question turns on this witness and whether she was being truthful then or is being truthful now.” A San Antonio judge found her credible, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals declined to overturn the man's sentence, arguing the recantation was not enough to prove his innocence.
The testimony of Stephanie Limon and V.L. will present a microcosm of these issues of child testimony and memory, which haunt us a generation after the satanic abuse cases. There are two witnesses, alike in their unshakeable conviction, and one of them is wrong.
Ginnie's House promotes awareness of child abuse
by GREG WATRY
NEWTON — The pinwheels rise out of flowerpots, their curled wheels alternating from chrome blue to silver. In the conference room of Ginnie's House Children Advocacy Center in Newton, a cluster of the flowerpots stood on the conference table.
“They are the symbol for child abuse prevention,” Tori Simeone, an intern at Ginnie's House, said of the child's toy.
Starting April 1 and through the month, five Sussex Bank locations and five Lakeland Bank locations in Sussex County will display the “prevention pots” as a way to raise awareness of child abuse during Child Abuse Prevention Month.
“We here at Ginnie's House and a lot of other child advocacy centers do events to raise awareness for child abuse,” Simeone said. “We found some ideas of projects we can do with the pinwheels, and we thought it was a great way to (reach out) to the community and raise awareness.”
Each flowerpot is equipped with a card that illustrates how an individual can report suspected child abuse, along with the signs and symptoms of different kinds of abuse, including physical and sexual abuse, and neglect.
“The United States loses an average of between four and seven children every day to child abuse and neglect,” the 23-year-old Simeone said. “That's a very high number for an industrial country like us.”
Some signs of physical abuse include unexplained bruises, welts, burns, fractures or abrasions; signs of sexual abuse include sexual knowledge/behavior inappropriate to age, difficulty walking or standing, or trauma to the genital areas; and signs of neglect include consistent hunger, poor hygiene and abandonment, among other symptoms.
The awareness project is Simeone's brainchild. A senior at Montclair State University, she is majoring in family and child studies with a concentration in family services and a certificate in child advocacy. She has been interning at Ginnie's House for about one year.
“I've always had a passion for working with children,” she said. “I think that if we can help children recover from traumas that we'll enable future success. ... No kid should go through any sort of hardship and feel that defines their life.”
Simeone cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Adverse Childhood Experiences Study.
“Childhood adverse experiences lead to behavioral issues, such as early pregnancy (and) drug abuse,” she said. “Our goal here is to stop that and prevent that before it becomes more of a societal issue.”
The reception room at Ginnie's House is oriented toward making children as physically and psychologically comfortable as possible. The room resembles a playroom, and nothing in it references child abuse, said Rhona Beadle, the executive director of Ginnie's House.
“It's very child-focused out there; it's friendly,” Beadle said of the reception room.
“We provide services to people that live in Sussex County who have been affected by criminal child abuse, and we also provide services to children who have been traumatized,” Beadle said. “That trauma may be witnessing a murder or being involved in a fatal auto accident or witnessing domestic violence.”
Since 2000, the organization has performed 636 forensic interviews in conjunction with the Sussex County Prosecutor's Office. Forensic interviews occur when an allegation of criminal, sexual or physical abuse comes to light.
Typically when a child has been sexually abused, Beadle said, they are told by the perpetrator, who is usually someone the child knows or trusts, that if they speak of the abuse to anyone they will get in trouble.
“It's really, really important that we do everything that we can to let the child know that they're not in trouble, so we are as non-threatening as possible,” Beadle said.
Beadle called Simeone a “godsend,” and said her dedication shows in her work output.
“She's amazingly creative, she's organized, she questions things, and then she comes up with something like this, which is amazing,” Beadle said. “We're really, really happy to have interns, especially from Montclair because they have a child advocacy program.”
On top of forensic interviews, Ginnie's House provides a number of other services, including a medical program with Dr. Navneesh Kabarwal, of Vernon; a child therapy program; and a family advocacy program.
Simeone, after her intern hours are complete, hopes to continue volunteering with Ginnie's House.
“Ginnie's House is an amazing, amazing, organization and all of our services are here free for the children,” she said.
“We couldn't do this without the community support,” she added. “It's just one small little step but it's a big wave in the ocean.”
For more information on Ginnie's House, go to www.ginnieshouse.org
Prosecutor links recent increase in child sex case filings to low deputy prosecutor pay
More than two dozen people have been accused of sex crimes involving children since August. The Elkhart County Prosecutor's Office explains the apparent uptick and why it doesn't necessarily mean there's more abuse happening.
by Jon Parrott
What might have seemed like a spike in child sex abuse cases in Elkhart County actually was the result of staffing changes caused largely by low pay in the county prosecutor's office, the office of Prosecutor Curtis Hill announced Thursday, March 19.
Since August, the Elkhart Truth has reported on formal charges brought against at least 26 individuals on charges of child molestation, solicitation or sexual misconduct with a minor.
Hill said his office has been filing more such cases as it works to reduce “prolonged delays in our investigative review process brought on by unexpected changes in our prosecutor personnel during the last quarter of 2012 and the first quarter of 2013.”
From September 2012 through March 2013, eight deputy prosecuting attorneys — more than one-third of Hill's staff — resigned to pursue other interests. Six cited pay as a factor in their decision to leave, Hill said in a press release.
“This turnover in staff at such a level was unprecedented for this office and came in the midst of county government's decision to withhold a pay increase for county employees, which include deputy prosecuting attorneys, in 2010, 2011 and 2013,” the news release reports, noting that the county did approve a 1.5 percent increase in 2012.
The resignations left the office less able to process child victim cases as efficiently as before, Hill said.
By August, additional prosecutor resources and personnel were trained and assigned to review child abuse investigations, and cases that were delayed for review were placed back on track, he said.
The backlog from 2013 has been eliminated with the exception of two cases involving the same suspect that are still being reviewed by deputy prosecutors, Hill said. For cases filed in 2014, two-thirds have received a filing decision.
“In order to prevent these types of delays in the future, my office will continue to work with Elkhart County government to illuminate the importance of experienced, well-trained and sufficiently paid prosecutors to the efficient flow of justice in Elkhart County,” Hill said.
Barb Vernon, vice president of programs at Child and Parent Services, an Elkhart nonprofit that works with police and prosecutors to interview child sex abuse victims, said she didn't notice a period when cases were not being filed by the prosecutor's office over the past two years.
But she said more child sexual abuse cases are coming into the criminal justice system.
“The numbers of children we're seeing has increased, and the majority of those are sexual abuse cases,” said Vernon, who supervises the staff who interview child victims at CAPS' Child and Family Advocacy Center.
“I think it's a good thing. It could be that children are more aware and are making more reports about it. There is education happening at the schools, and recognition and reporting training going on in the community among adults,” she said. “It's not as much of a taboo subject as it used to be. I hope those are the reasons, as opposed to there being more kids getting victimized.”
A pregnant Colorado woman's baby cut from her womb hints at rare phenomenon
by Terrence McCoy
Perhaps the most shocking element of Wednesday's tragic events in Longmont, Colo., where an aspiring mother allegedly cut a baby from a 26-year-old pregnant woman, is that it wasn't an isolated incident.
The details defy imagination. In early afternoon, a 911 call came into local authorities. “She cut me,” a voice said on the other end. “I'm pregnant.” Then shortly afterward, a black-haired woman named Dynel Lane arrived at a nearby hospital. Bundled in her arms was a baby. Lane said she had miscarried, and the baby soon died. But authorities said she was lying.
This inconceivable scenario makes more sense considered through the lens of an extremely rare but recurring phenomenon known among forensic scientists as Cesarean kidnapping or fetal abduction. It has roots in an earlier rash of kidnappings in the 1990s, when a string of baby snatchers descended upon North American hospitals and made off with infants. But as hospitals adopted to the troubling trend, installing more secure tracking measures, the phenomenon took a gruesome turn, experts said.
The urge to slice a child from another woman comes from a place of such desperation, such need, that desire solidifies into action, wrote Connecticut psychologist Theresa Porter, who has published a number of academic articles about infanticide and “neonaticide.” The women who do these sort of things aren't insane, she said. Quite the contrary. They recognize a want — and act upon it.
“These women don't simply want a baby; they need one in order to secure all the rewards and privileges of motherhood,” she wrote. “These women so desired the attention, care and love that society gives pregnant women and new mothers that they were willing to kill to obtain it.”
There's no shortage of examples. In 2004, a Missouri woman killed a pregnant woman and then removed her baby. In 2008, a Seattle woman attacked a stranger who was pregnant and cut her live baby from her. In 2009, a Maryland woman was arrested after she attempted to cut a baby from another woman. A study in the Journal of Forensic Science discovered eight cases between 1987 and 2002. Porter counted 21 instances globally since 1987, saying the phenomenon is increasing. All of the “womb raiders,” as they're sometimes called, are women.
“Unlike many homicides, in which a variety of different factors and influences make it impossible to generalize, the woman who commits this crime is someone whose feminine identity is very much wrapped up in her fertility,” Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist, told ABC in 2008. He was discussing a woman who removed a woman's baby, killing her, then called 911 to inform them she had just given birth, but that her baby had died.
The women often fit into a fairly set profile, researchers said. Many of the women orchestrate an escalating series of ruses and deceptions. Most fake a pregnancy for weeks, if not months. Some even buy baby clothing, and two women, Jacqueline Williams and Effie Goodson, had baby showers. Such gambits attract the attention that motherhood — and especially pregnancy — confers upon a woman, Porter said.
“Children weren't individuals with their own rights or destinies; they were means to an end, a way of garnering attention,” Porter said. “In the cases of cesarean kidnapping, the perpetrators are also seeking a role, that of a pregnant woman and new mother.”
The web of deception then widens to ensnare an unsuspecting woman who actually is pregnant, researchers said. Perpetrators deploy a trick in the form of an apparent act of generosity that belies malevolence. “For example, Josephina Saldana told Margarita Flores that she had a large supply of diapers she was willing to donate to the pregnant woman,” Porter found. “When Flores went to Saldana to pick up the supplies, she was killed and her fetus removed.”
Echoes of that anecdote are apparent in what police say happened in Longmont. The victim discovered a Craigslist advertisement to buy baby clothing. So she traveled to the home, where her baby was taken. Investigators told The Washington Post on Thursday they have “a pretty good idea” what Lane's motive was. “It would be something everybody would think,” a police spokesman said.
She wanted, perhaps, to be a mother.
Woman stabs Longmont mom, takes baby from womb
by Robert Garrison
LONGMONT, Colo. -- A 34-year-old woman was arrested Wednesday after Longmont police say she attacked a woman who was seven months pregnant and cut the victim's unborn baby from her womb. The baby died, but the victim is expected to survive.
Longmont police Cmdr. Jeff Satur said the suspect later showed up at an area hospital with the deceased baby, claiming a miscarriage. Satur said the suspect's husband drove her to the emergency room, thinking the child was alive. He said the husband is not considered a suspect.
The ambush happened around 2 p.m. Wednesday at the suspect's home in the 1600 block of Green Place in Longmont. Satur said the suspect and the 26-year-old victim did not know each other prior to this incident. The victim was responding to a Craigslist ad for baby clothes and came alone to the home.
"We've made some requests of Craigslist to try to freeze that account," Satur said. "At this point, we don't want to give away too much, because we don't want it removed."
Police said the victim had been beaten and stabbed in the stomach before the suspect allegedly removed the unborn child. When officers arrived on scene at the Green Place home, they could hear the mother calling for help from inside the house. She was taken to the Longmont United Hospital and underwent surgery. She is expected to recover.
Police have not determined a motive. The suspect has two children of her own. It's not clear if anyone other than the suspect and victim were in the home at the time of the attack.
The woman was booked into the Boulder County Jail and is facing charges of attempted first-degree murder, first-degree assault and child abuse resulting in death. She is expected to make her first appearance in court at 2 p.m. Thursday.
Detectives obtained a search warrant for the suspect's home and are expected to be there throughout Wednesday evening.
Investigators have not released the names of the suspect and the pregnant woman.
Increasing trafficking awareness
Lawmaker, area agencies battle illegal sex trade, forced labor
by Kyle G. Horst
Last May, Bill and Rita Spruce spoke to 30 young women and their parents in Grapevine about abusive relationships, domestic abuse and human trafficking as part of Safe Transitions, which is a course that aims to teach young adults skills they need to remain safe after leaving home.
“The response from the group was amazing,” Bill Spruce said. “Safe Transitions helps people transition from life at home to life on your own. After kids leave home for college, they have to learn some life skills that their parents took care of for them at home. This program makes sure that they have the skills they need to remain safe as a young adult.”
Bill Spruce said the information on domestic abuse and human trafficking initially took many of the girls, and their parents, by shock.
According to the U.S. Department of State, human trafficking is essentially modern-day slavery. Trafficking occurs when a victim does something against his or her will resulting from the use of force, fraud, coercion or addiction. Victims fall into one of three categories: forced labor, sexual labor, or both.
In many cases, victims are regularly transported across city and state lines to further exploit them or keep law enforcement off of their trail.
The State Department notes that one of the major problems with trafficking is that no official statistics exist about the crime as a whole—the only statistics that exist are from cases that have been discovered or prosecuted.
The Spruces host several Safe Transitions courses each year as part of their nonprofit organization, Disrupt Human Trafficking, a volunteer group that provides law enforcement training, community awareness programs and targeted classes to the general public.
“In a recent Transitions class a mom disclosed to everyone that she suffered everything in a previous relationship that the Safe Transitions course had covered,” Rita Spruce said. “She spoke to us about her perilous journey to break free from her abusive relationship and all that it entailed to her family.
“The revelation took me by surprise,” she said. “This mother was exposed to the elements when she was younger and was able to escape. She felt so strongly about it that she revealed this information to her daughter for the first time in front of everyone.”
State Rep. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, filed four bills March 4 to combat human trafficking in his district and throughout the state. The bills are intended to be a multifaceted effort to fight trafficking in the name of child safety.
“We are going to attack this problem at both ends,” Parker said. “First we are going to crack down on those who take advantage of children, and then we are going to pave the way to get victims the help they need to recover, rebound and move on to productive lives.”
Children are not excluded from trafficking. According to Dixie Hairstrom with the advocacy organization Children At Risk, there are about 10,000 child runaways in Texas each year—and one-third of those will be lured into the sex trade within 48 hours of leaving home. The average age for a child to enter the trafficking world is 13.
As filed, House Bill 2391 aims to decrease demand for sexual traffickers by increasing penalties for those who solicit prostitutes. HB 2291 would increase the penalties for individuals with multiple convictions of possessing child pornography. HB 2286 would provide a way for individuals convicted of prostitution to possibly overturn their convictions, and HB 2290 would designate the month of January as Human Trafficking Prevention Month to increase public awareness.
“Virtually everyone in Texas is touched in some way by this crime,” Parker said. “We live in a state that accounts for 14 percent of all calls received by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.”
On a local level, The Fort Worth Regional Transportation Authority announced in January that it was partnering with DART for a new public awareness campaign on how to recognize and report potential trafficking.
The Denton County Transportation Authority, Megabus, Amtrak and Greyhound have also partnered with DART for the campaign.
The campaign has two major components: training and advertisements. Posters on agency vehicles draw attention to trafficking, and employees are also being trained on how to spot indicators of trafficking.
“Trafficking is lucrative because of how easy and cheap it is to start,” Bill Spruce said. “Traffickers are opportunistic criminals who look for people that are in a very bad situation and offer them something slightly better than what they have.”
A feature film
The details of human trafficking caught the attention of Dallas-based movie director Jaco Booyens in 2014, which led him to write and direct a movie that folds true stories together to show that human trafficking is a real occurrence that can be found in nearly every facet of society.
In preparation for the movie, titled “8 Days,” Booyens, along with the cast and crew of the movie, worked with the Department of Homeland Security and state law enforcement agencies in order to learn about trafficking patterns and sting operations. The research also led Booyens to talk directly to survivors of trafficking.
“For the most part the American population does not know what trafficking looks like. It's a [hidden] epidemic: it's in our private schools. It's in the malls. It's in the communities. So for us making this movie was a no-brainer.
“[People] don't know that trafficking is in our neighborhoods,” Booyens said. “We shot some of the movie in Highland Park for a reason. Every part of the film is inspired by actual events.”
“This is not just in the red-light district ... it has literally infiltrated suburban America,” Booyens said.
Greens announce plan to toughen child sex abuse laws
Thousands of child sex abuse victims would benefit from tougher laws to make it easier for them to seek justice from their abusers, the New South Wales Greens said as part of their election campaign.
The Greens announced a plan to reform legislation so victims could seek compensation more easily and lodge civil claims years after the abuse.
The reforms would also permit judges to impose tougher sentences.
The three-point plan also included preventing churches from hiding their money in trust funds.
Greens MP David Shoebridge said the reforms were similar to measures being introduced in Victoria and some countries overseas.
"When you put the three reforms together, we're talking about generational legal reform that will ensure that victims and survivors, and thousands and thousands of them, get justice in both the civil courts and in the criminal courts," Mr Shoebridge said.
"The longer the Royal Commission continues, the more stories we're hearing and the more victims [that] we need to help."
The reforms, if enacted, would remove a three year limit on victims filing a claim in the courts once they are adults.
Greens looking for unanimous support from Parliament
The changes would also allow judges to impose sentences more in line with current values, rather than have to comply with sentencing laws relevant at the time of the offence.
The measures would also make it harder for institutions such as the Catholic Church to hide its assets in trusts to avoid paying compensation.
Mr Shoebridge said he hoped the reforms would have unanimous support in the NSW Parliament.
"Each of these reforms is essential to deliver justice and taken together as a package, as a Parliament if we pass these laws we can genuinely provide a generational reform that will see [a benefit to] thousands of victims," Mr Shoebridge said
"Case after case has come out of the Royal Commission involving the criminal sexual abuse of children dating as far back as the 1950s, and it's not enough to just wring our hands and say 'we'll try harder in the future'.
"Those children are now adult survivors of child abuse, and their path to justice is still strewn with obstacles.
"We can and should change the law going forward, but there are barriers facing victims of past child abuse that must be removed to deliver justice now."W
Sextortion: Richmond Mounties warn public following rise in sexual blackmail cases
by Nick Eagland,
A B.C. sexual abuse society is asking male victims of “sextortion” to seek their support after Richmond RCMP released a warning that three men recently fell victim to the cyber crime.
Don Wright, executive director of the B.C. Society for Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse, said he was “not at all surprised” by news of the “sextortion” cases, which involved three adult males being asked to send money or face having their intimate videos and images shared online.
“Women are more likely to look for a relationship online, men are very often looking for some kind of sexual connection online,” Wright said.
“So I think we're going to see this happening a lot more often with men.”
There were five cases of “sextortion” reported in Richmond in 2013 and 13 in 2014, but all three cases reported in 2015 have involved men, said Acting Cpl. Dennis Hwang.
“We also suspect there's a lot that goes unreported just due to the sensitivity of it,” Hwang said.
Wright said exploitation of men who are putting themselves “out there in good faith” while seeking sexual connections is an example of what he termed “sexuality abuse.”
Such exploitation likely causes shame and embarrassment, he said, similar to that felt by his clients who were filmed while being abused as children and now fear that footage may some day be found online.
Mounties said “sextortion” involves victims visiting companionship or dating websites and forming online friendships with suspects who then entice them to perform “intimate acts” streamed over a webcam or mobile device.
The interaction is secretly recorded and the suspect threatens to release the video online unless the victim pays.
Suspects have asked for money in the “several-thousand-dollar range,” Hwang said, and in some cases have released the video even after payment was made.
Police are encouraging anyone who suspects they may have been a victim of “sextortion” to come forward and contact police, and not send any money to suspects.
They also recommend victims seek the support of a family member, partner, friend, mental health professional or crisis worker.
Wright said if a person is absolutely certain they want to share intimate videos or photos online, they should do so without revealing their face or anything that could identify them, but RCMP warned against it altogether.
Anyone who has been a victim of “sextortion” or knows someone who may have been a victim can call Richmond RCMP at 604-278-1212 or leave an anonymous tip with CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
Child abuse and neglect in Texas requires 'community-centered' solutions
S.A. area had most in Texas in recent years, study says
by Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje
More children died from sleep-related neglect in the San Antonio area than elsewhere in the state, according to a new study on child abuse prevention.
Sleep-related neglect typically involves an infant co-sleeping with a parent who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The impaired parent rolls over on the child, suffocating him or her.
The San Antonio area, which includes New Braunfels, saw 17 such deaths from 2010 to 2012, according to a study by the Department of Family and Protective Services and the Department of State Health Services.
The study found two other regions also had elevated numbers of sleep-related child fatalities compared to the rest of Texas — Beaumont/Port Arthur (nine) and Midland/Odessa (five).
The study concluded that child abuse and neglect are a public health issue that can only be addressed with community-centered solutions.
Researchers compared data on nearly 700 child abuse deaths with public health information about the victims and their parents. From that analysis, the agencies recommended that prevention programs be created that target communities with unusually high numbers of sleep-related deaths, deaths that involve motor vehicles and deaths in homes where domestic violence also is present.
During the three-year period, more than 4,700 children died in Texas. Of those deaths, 686 — 14.5 percent — were caused by abuse or neglect.
Among those deaths:
Nearly 8 percent of sleep-related deaths were linked to neglect.
About 6 percent of motor vehicle deaths were linked to neglect, with most of those involving children left in hot cars or being struck and killed by a car because of neglectful supervision.
Eight children died when left in hot cars in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, compared to 16 in the rest of the state.
Many risk factors for child abuse or neglect are also known risk factors for domestic violence.
Infants who died of sleep-related neglect were more likely to have mothers who smoked during pregnancy, a practice believed to compromise the respiratory health of the child.
The study draws on past research that shows adversity in childhood can lead to poor health outcomes in adulthood, making child mistreatment a public health issue that requires local remedies, said Sasha Rasco, director of prevention and early intervention for DFPS.
The study also found that two-thirds of mothers whose children died of abuse or neglect received Women, Infants and Children benefits while pregnant. The agencies therefore recommended that a pilot program be developed in which WIC clinic staff are trained in safe sleeping practices and other issues.
Child advocates welcomed the analysis and its effort to address root causes of child fatalities. However, close to half of the child abuse fatalities involved families with a prior or open case with Child Protective Services.
“No matter the circumstances, the children who were known to the department and investigated but who subsequently died is the worst tragedy,” said Madeline McClure, CEO of TexProtects, an Austin-based child advocacy group. “We must (analyze) all factors related to those deaths in order to determine future child abuse prevention and family strengthening resources.”
A bill written by state Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, would require a closer look at child deaths where CPS was previously involved, as well as cases where abuse had previously been found in the home but was ruled out as a factor in the child's death.
A DFPS Website offers tips on safe sleeping practices.
MN Taking On Child Abuse, "They Can't Talk for Themselves"
Some drastic changes to the way child abuse is investigated in Minnesota. A new law will allow child protection workers to look at previous abuse reports.
Governor Mark Dayton began pushing for the law after a four-year-old was killed by his stepmother in 2013. Pope County Social Services Received numerous complaints from daycare providers, saying they believe Eric Dean was being abused. Social services failed to take action, leading to Dean's death.
Clay County Social Service workers say this law will make an impact on how they investigate.
"It's more than broken bones, it's more than a couple tears here and there, it causes long term effects, and it's really hard for them to bounce back from that," Says Andrea Arntson, Director of Nokomis Childcare Center, explaining the heartbreak of child abuse.
"You want to be able to do more, and you get these letters back saying it doesn't meet the criteria, and it's like, what now?" Arntson has filed numerous reports in her years working with children, and feels Minnesota child protective services needs to do better. "What am I supposed to do? Am I just supposed to file report after report after report? When some of these reports that we file are pretty intense, and to have them come back saying they don't meet the criteria, what needs to be happening in order for them to meet the criteria?"
Since 2011, Clay County Child Protection workers are investigating over 90% more cases.
"Very happy to add some staff to better respond to those issues," says Rhonda Porter, Director of Social Services. Tuesday, the county commission approved a request for more staff.
Porter says the new workers come at a good time. She says the new law will add more work to their plate, but she's not opposed to it. Porter says being able to look back on all prior reports of abuse will allow them to do their job better. "I think we have been concerned because of our inability to do that, that perhaps we are not looking at the whole picture," she says.
One step, aimed at protecting children. Something Anrtson says is past due. "There are so many children out there that need people to stick up for them, they can't talk for themselves," she says.
Cincinnati Mother Charged With Aggravated Murder After Beheading Her 3-Month-Old Daughter
by Lindsey India
A mother from Cincinnati has been taken into custody and charged with aggravated murder after she allegedly beheaded her 3-month-old daughter.
According to ABC 2 News and police sources, Deasia Watkins was charged after authorities discovered the gruesome murder scene in her home yesterday evening.
The site reports:
Cincinnati Police said they responded to the 5900 block of Waldway Lane at about 6 a.m. for a report of a deceased infant. Officers said they found the 3-month-old dead inside the home.
Early investigation showed the baby suffered “multiple traumas” according to Hamilton County coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco. The coroner said Monday it remains unclear ifWatkins acted alone.
“It's days like this when you really wonder how much evil there is in the world and how we're fighting it,” Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco said. “We're trying to do right by this child. We're trying to bring justice for this baby."
The investigation is being handled by the Cincinnati Police Department, Homicide Unit, as well as the coroner's office.
Knowing the warning signs of child sex assault
by Brandon Goldner
GREENVILLE, N.C. - A Greenville psychotherapist specializing in child sexual assault explained to 9 On Your Side the warning signs parents and other trusted adults should keep an eye on if their child may be a victim of sexual assault.
"If you notice a modification in a child's behavior in any way that you're used to seeing or accustomed to seeing," Dr. Leon Johnson said. "I think parents ought to take notice."
Dr. Johnson said changes include weight, mood and sleep patterns.
By law, all adults are required to report suspected child abuse to the local Department of Social Services.
It's why Dr. Johnson encouraged adults to reassure their children and try to get all the facts.
"Inform them about what is coming next so that they don't feel as if you're betraying them in anyway," Dr. Johnson said.
He said children not treated for sexual assault could develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression or anxiety.
If you or someone you know is a child victim of sexual assault, call 1-800-4-A-Child or click here for Childhelp's National Child Abuse Hotline.
For the Pitt County Department of Social Services, call 252-902-1110 or their after-hours emergency line, 252-830-4141 and ask for the social worker on-call.
Grandmother Gets Four Life Sentences for Raping Grandchildren
by Cherese Jackson
A grandmother in Ohio was sentenced to four life sentences without the possibility of parole after being convicted for raping her own grandchildren. Judge William T. Marshall said after 19 years serving on the bench he has never seen anyone more evil than 53-year-old Edwina Louis. Her four victims were often tied up for weeks at a time; she would only untie them long enough to go to the restroom or take online classes.
This grandmother sat through testimony after testimony showing no remorse for the pain and mental anguish her four grandchildren, all under 12-years-old, suffered. The trial lasted nearly a week as stories of abuse, torture and rape of one boy and three girls were presented to the court. The jury deliberated less than six hours before convicting Louis on all counts.
The children described years of abuse. They discussed being tied up for long periods of time and rarely being fed. They were strapped down with chains and ropes and were beaten with paddles and belts. Both of the girls told the court they were forced to stand against the wall for hours with arms outstretched; if they put their hands down they were slapped and beaten. The children were forced to starve many days while the freezer and refrigerator were kept locked with the keys securely around the neck of the adults in the home.
In 2012 and 2013, Child Protective Services received at least four complaints about this family. They never followed through by checking on the children. Child Protective Services only stepped in to help after the nine-year-old girl told her online teacher about the abuse she and her siblings were enduring. Four days later the children were removed from their grandmother's custody.
The children's grandmother, biological mother and her boyfriend were all arrested. Louis received four life sentences; the mother, Bobbi Sue Pack, was sentenced to 10 years and her boyfriend Juan Sanchez received 25 years. The children have all been placed with a foster family and are reportedly doing well. Pat Apel, Scioto County Chief Assistant Prosecutor, said:
If there is a bright spot in all of this, it is the transformation we have seen from the kids. Maybe now, they have a chance.
Studies suggest that survivors of childhood sexual trauma are at high risk of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They are also more likely to suffer from suicide, depression and other mental health issues. One study showed that childhood rape survivors have a 52 percent chance of suffering lifetime depression compared to non-victims. They are also at a greater risk for developing eating disorders, becoming abusers of drugs and alcohol as well as failing to establish and maintain healthy relationships later in life.
Rape is a devastating trauma for anyone to experience. Regardless of the circumstances, it can take a long time to move forward and truly feel “better” again. Sadly, even after some feel like they have recovered, certain triggers can quickly bring them right back to the scene of the crime. Although the trauma gets easier to manage with time, recovery for most survivors lasts a lifetime.
Even if the recovery does not last a lifetime for these young victims, their grandmother will be in jail for the duration. She was convicted on four counts of rape, child endangerment and kidnapping for abusing her own grandchildren. According to the prosecutor, Edwina Louis showed no signs of remorse but “got what she deserved – four consecutive life sentences” without the opportunity for parole.
This man is a pedophile, and proud of it
Meet the activist whose life's work is arguing that pedophilia is OK.
by Corinne Purtill
LONDON, UK — Tom O'Carroll is a pedophile. Every three months, two police officers visit him at home in England, a condition of his 2006 conviction and imprisonment for distributing child pornography. They are always polite, he says.
He keeps a blog. Because he cannot legally have sexual relationships with the people he wants most — children who have not yet reached puberty — he writes to relieve the frustration of unfulfilled desire, and of living in a society that tells him those desires are illegal, harmful, evil, sick.
He believes this conclusion is incorrect. He believes there are children, even those of a very young age, who like and seek sex with adults. He believes that adults who want to satisfy this perceived need should be legally allowed to do so. He believes there are situations where it is all right for adults to have sexual relationships with children.
He knows that this makes him a monster in the public eye. He would encounter such revulsion less if he kept these opinions to himself, as most of the few people who share them do. The sex offender registry in the United Kingdom is not public as it is in the United States. No one has to know the most private thoughts of a gray-haired former teacher with ice-blue eyes.
But he can't stop himself. For almost 40 years, O'Carroll, 69, has been an outspoken advocate of what he sees as his right to desire children, and detractor of those who would oppress those desires.
He has argued this position on television, in books, blog posts and the comment sections of other blogs. He has logged volumes upon volumes of lucid, copiously footnoted prose. When officers failed to take notes during his last monitoring interview in January, he sent them an unsolicited 5,000-word manuscript clarifying and detailing his answers.
The UK is grappling with major investigations of child sexual abuse reportedly perpetrated and covered up by senior figures and institutions in the 1970s and 1980s.
This coincides with a seminal time in O'Carroll's own history, when his voluminous capacity for argument and extraordinary conviction that pedophilia is “a power for good” found a momentary toehold in the public sphere.
While others sort through shame, anger and unanswered questions, he is among the infinitesimal population of people who looks back at the time and waxes nostalgic for a golden era of pedophilia.
“This was the era of make love not war, and so forth,” he said. “A general liberated atmosphere. Things have gone, as far as I'm concerned, steadily downhill since then in terms of sexual anxiety being greater and greater toward children.”
The pedophile lobby
Before there was the internet, and the alternate universe of pro-pedophilia blogs and forums where O'Carroll and like-minded people now congregate, there was a brief but singular time in British history when their views were allowed their closest ever access to the mainstream.
O'Carroll was a chair of the Pedophile Information Exchange (PIE), a London-headquartered advocacy group that existed from 1974 to 1984 to lobby openly for legal acceptance of pedophilia and to provide an international network for adults with sexual attraction to children.
“Pedophiles do not use a child's sexuality. Pedophiles develop a mutual sexuality with the child. It's an entirely reciprocal relationship,” former PIE chairman Steven Adrian Smith told a skeptical BBC interviewer in 1983.
“The responsible and caring pedophile always refers to the firm wishes of the child.”
The group billed itself as another front in the sexual liberation movement of the 1970s.
Even in the age of free love, PIE was considered a controversial fringe element. Staff and students protested O'Carroll's speaking engagements at universities, and many who spoke up in defense of the group's right to free speech expressed disgust at its agenda.
But the group was affiliated with the National Council for Civil Liberties, now the respected lobby group Liberty. In a 1976 submission to Parliament on changing the law governing age of consent, the NCCL wrote: “Childhood sexual experiences, willingly engaged in, with an adult result in no identifiable damage.”
In 2013, Liberty Director Shami Chakrabarti said the group's past connection to PIE was a subject of “continuing disgust and horror.”
PIE's existence coincided with a time in which widespread sexual abuse of children is alleged to have taken place at institutions across Britain tasked with children's care.
Multiple police operations, several institutional internal investigations and a national inquiry are now sorting through claims that abusers were allowed access to children in institutions that were meant to protect them, and that government officials knowingly covered up their crimes.
PIE had at least physical proximity to power. During his chairmanship of PIE, Smith actually worked as a contract electrician in the Home Office, which oversees Britain's police and other security agencies.
Smith kept PIE's files in a locked cabinet in his office, according to a biographical essay published in 1986 and quoted widely in UK media. His security clearance was annually renewed, he wrote.
PIE Secretary Barry Cutler also worked in the Home Office but was fired in 1983 when a UK tabloid outed his affiliation with the group.
A Home Office spokesman would not confirm or deny either man's employment.
Other members had high-profile jobs in the public and private sectors, like Peter Righton, a social worker, child protection expert and consultant to the National Children's Bureau. Righton, who died in 2007, wrote openly in defense of pedophilia even while working in child care homes in the 1970s.
Police are now investigating claims that he was part of an organized ring of child predators that included high-profile figures from Britain's establishment.
Last year, a retired police officer whose force arrested Righton in 1992 on child pornography-related charges came forward to say that the boxes of papers seized from Righton's home contained evidence showing “a definite link to establishment figures, including senior members of the clergy.”
The leads he passed to London's Metropolitan Police appeared to be shelved, Terry Shutt said, and Righton was let off with only a small fine.
“At the time there was a culture to protect the establishment, that it was seen to be more important to protect the establishment than to deal with individuals who may have transgressed,” Shutt told the BBC.
On Monday, an independent watchdog announced a formal inquiry into allegations that the Metropolitan Police deliberately shut down investigations and covered up for powerful abusers.
“I feel that we now are the bullied ones, not the bullies.”
O'Carroll's blog reads like a parody of mainstream UK media's coverage of these events.
When former PIE executive committee member Charles Napier was jailed in December for sexually abusing dozens of boys at the school where he taught in the 1960s and 1970s, O'Carroll eulogized him as “witty, charming, the life and soul of the party,” who “for the most part charmed the pants off his mainly pre-teen pupils.”
Francis Wheen, a prominent British journalist who waived his right to anonymity as one of Napier's victims, he described as “cry-baby journalist Francis Whine.”
“I've been absolutely amazed by the way it's taken off,” O'Carroll said of the current investigations, in a telephone interview with GlobalPost last month.
“I feel that we now are the bullied ones, not the bullies.”
A ‘moderate' pedophile
On the phone and in email, O'Carroll is ingratiatingly polite. He describes himself as a “moderate” in the pedophile community, in that he does believe that there should be some laws governing sexual contact between adults and children. Forcing sex on a child is wrong, he says. So are acts that could cause physical damage to a small child.
But he maintains that certain types of sexual touching of children — “things that they would do with each other” — should be okay for adults to initiate.
“Girls won't even get pregnant,” O'Carroll said. “There's literally no harm to it.”
He believes that the negative feelings sex abuse survivors report years later — the depression, panic attacks, substance addiction and self-loathing that can haunt people for decades — are brought on by society's disapproval of the encounter, not the abuse itself.
He has been convicted three times for pedophilia-related offenses.
“I am a great believer in the rule of law,” he said. “I don't happen to like the rule of law as it applies in certain circumstances, as it applies to me.”
A 1981 arrest for "conspiracy to corrupt public morals" through his PIE work resulted in a two-year prison term. In 2002, he was sentenced to nine months in prison after customs officials at Heathrow airport found naked photographs of children in his luggage on a trip home from Qatar. The sentence was later overturned after the judge was found to have been more influenced by O'Carroll's longtime pro-pedophilia activism than the content of the actual images.
O'Carroll served two and a half years in jail after pleading guilty in 2006 to making, distributing and possessing child pornography.
"Has he ever had sexual relations with minors?" O'Carroll wrote in a third-person online biography. "It is a possibility he has always refused publicly either to confirm (which would of course be dangerous) or deny."
His 1980 book on the subject detailed how an adult might initiate a sexual relationship with a child.
“The man might start by saying what pretty knickers [underpants] the girl was wearing, and he would be far more likely to proceed to the next stage of negotiation if she seemed pleased by the remark than if she coloured up and closed her legs,” he wrote.
“Despite ‘being wrong' about her intentional sexual seductiveness, he might never-the-less be right in gradually discovering that the child is one who likes to be cuddled and who thinks it great fun to be tickled under her knickers.”
O'Carroll called this a “negotiation” between partners. Sexual abuse experts call it grooming.
O'Carroll called this a “negotiation” between partners. Sexual abuse experts call it grooming — the process in which a predatory adult builds a child's trust and confidence so that when abuse begins, their silence and cooperation is assured.
“The very reason we have moral standards and criminal laws to support them in this area is because children are, by their very age and nature, vulnerable,” said Donald Findlater, director of research and development at the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, a UK charity that works with families affected by sexual abuse.
“They are less emotionally and physically developed to make the wisest decisions for themselves or to understand the implications of a proposition brought to them by adults.”
For many people abused by a family member or other adult known to them, this emotional manipulation is one of the most damaging elements of the abuse.
“Who doesn't like to be made to feel special, to get gifts, to get presents, to feel validated? That's what grooming is,” said Susan Crocombe, 54, an intensive care unit nurse from western England.
An extended family member began sexually abusing Crocombe when she was 4 until her teens. Having been conditioned to believe that his behavior was normal, and rewarded with gifts and attention in return, “I would have done anything for him,” Crocombe said of the abuser. “I don't remember feeling ashamed at first.”
She compared the feelings some children have for adult abusers to Stockholm syndrome, the psychological condition where hostages develop warm, sympathetic feelings for their captors.
“You don't know how to break free from it, either,” she said.
An information exchange way beyond leaflets
O'Carroll hosts his blog on the US publishing platform WordPress. He saw on social media that people have sent complaints about his site to the company, but WordPress has never contacted him, he said.
“The content of what Tom O'Carroll is writing does not constitute as an offence,” the UK's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre wrote in response to a complaint from child protection expert and former social worker Liz Davies, as posted on her site. “He is stating his opinion, and although distasteful he is entitled to free speech.”
His blog is part of an unsettling online universe of blogs and forums where adults air their attractions to children, an information exchange beyond anything the readers of PIE's homemade leaflets could have dreamed of.
The sites, like O'Carroll's, have no images. Users prod each other to remain within the law of their hosting server's country.
“Do not advocate or counsel sex with minors,” read the rules of the BoyChat forum. “This rule does not extend to philosophical, political, or biological discussions. Therefore, discussing whether or not one should be able to have sex with a minor ... is not a threat.”
From some posts, it is clear the author is close to a child's family. They write of the nervousness of a parent's approach, and the relief of learning the parent is only coming to thank them for watching or employing the child.
“I am around 90 percent sure there is something between us — that she sees me as more than just her friend,” a user on one forum wrote of a 10-year-old girl. “It's looking pretty obvious where this one is headed.”
Not all pedophiles share that sense of entitlement. There are people who acknowledge that they have sexual feelings for children, but recognize them as wrong. The Lucy Faithfull Foundation is one of a few groups offering confidential outreach to such people, so that they can manage their feelings without harming a child.
Those who have justified their impulses to themselves are harder to reach. Across these blogs and forums there is a strain of righteous anger, of adults who see themselves as victims of a society that fails to understand the nature of their impulses.
“Many abusers delude themselves to believe their behavior isn't depraved, isn't harmful and can be positive in a number of ways,” Findlater said. “Abusers groom themselves to believe it does no harm.”
This is true of some pedophiles, O'Carroll believes. He just doesn't think he's one of them.
“There have to be sanctions for those people who are wishful thinkers, and there are those people. There will always be people who do that,” O'Carroll said.
He agreed there is no way to know what pain an adult's choices will cause a child in the future, how an adult's intrusion might reshape the person the child becomes. It is the one point on which his language is anything other than certain.
“You just make a judgment as you do with anything else,” he said. “Many years later you may get a different impression. You may get an impression that you were wrong before that.”
Combat teen suicide now
Commentary by Toby Stark, Executive Director of Chaucie's Place
Indiana has the highest rate in the country of teens who have considered suicide and the second-highest rate of those who have attempted it, according to a just-released report from the Indiana Youth Institute. This is not a national ranking to be proud of.
We all know that suicide is not always preventable; we cannot look for blame in the victim or the survivor. But we – as a community – can reduce the incidences of suicide with education and action. After a young person commits suicide, we often hear people ask, “Why didn't I see this coming?” “What could I have done?” “Why?!?!” Too many times, there is actually something we could have done – had we better understood depression, known the warning signs, and understood what resources our community offers.
The reasons behind suicide are never simple and the community response is just as complex. But that doesn't mean we do nothing. Chaucie's Place offers Lifelines, a youth suicide prevention program for 8th– 10th grade students. Right now Sheridan, Westfield Washington and Hamilton Heights schools are implementing Lifelines, which is starting to change the conversation in their hallways about youth suicide and are the first steps to educating and building resiliency among their students.
Because 90 percent of people who die by suicide had a diagnosable and treatable mental disorder at the time of their death, suicide prevention can sometimes be as simple as getting mental health treatment for depression, bipolar disorder and other mental disorders. One of the most courageous things a person can do for themselves is ask for – and accept – help.
Since children who have been sexually abused are seven times more likely to commit suicide, child sexual abuse prevention is another way to reduce youth suicide. Educate and empower your children that it is okay to say “NO!” to unwanted touches from anyone and to tell a trusted adult. And the adults in our community need to participate in one of the many child sexual abuse prevention programs that are offered throughout Central Indiana.
We must also learn to recognize and take seriously the warning signs for suicide. While there are many, the most common warning signs are sadness or depression for an extended period of time; a drastic change in mood or behavior; talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live or being a burden to others; and withdrawing. The most prevalent warning sign of suicide is talking about wanting to die or talking about a plan to commit suicide. In fact, 50 to 75 percent of all people who attempt suicide tell someone about their intention.
If someone you know shows these warning signs, the time to act is now. Tell them that you are worried and want to help them. Don't be afraid to ask whether they are considering suicide, and if they have a specific plan in mind. Encourage this person to connect with a mental health professional, or if suicide seems more imminent, call a suicide prevention hotline; get this person to a psychiatric hospital or hospital emergency room, or call 9-1-1. Remove any firearms, drugs or sharp objects that could be used for self-harm and don't leave this person alone.
Other resources that offer programs and information on suicide prevention and intervention are American Federation of Suicide Prevention – Indiana Chapter and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If we believe we are helpless against the monster known as suicide, then that is how we will remain; and we will continue to say good-bye to too many young people who believe death is the only way to end their pain. But if we believe that we can, in fact, do something to reduce the incidences of suicide in our schools, then we will. A man far wiser than myself, Henry Ford, once said, “If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right!”
8 tips for helping your traumatized child rebuild trust
by Susan Cornbluth
When a child experiences or witnesses any form of emotional or physical abuse, their trust can become shattered. Trauma survivors may have trouble trusting their close family relationships or friendships. The symptoms of trauma can cause problems with trust, closeness, communication, and problem solving. These problems may affect the way the survivor acts with others.
Traumatized children do not believe the world is safe or that adults will protect them. They often live in fear of what could happen next. All children need calm and caring caregivers, but especially traumatized children. Remaining calm when your child is agitated and teaching calming techniques reduces the anxiety and emotional arousal that affects their mood, sleep, and concentration.
Children need to learn that adults can be dependable, caring, patient and loving following a divorce, bullying incident or child abuse . Parents can become their children's secure base by being emotionally available, sensitive, responsive and helpful. Parents can learn when not to push and when to hold back. Most of all, parents need to feel confident that they can help their child move through their healing process.
Here are 8 steps to help your child heal from trauma and learn to build trust again:
1.Talk with your child: communication builds trust and is a constructive coping skill; find times they are likely to talk; start the conversation – let them know you are interested.
2.Listen: listen to their thoughts, feelings, and point of view with empathy – don't interrupt, judge or criticize; this opens the door to a healing relationship.
3. Accept feelings: anxiety, irritability, anger and depression are normal reactions to loss and trauma and will subside over time in a safe environment.
4. Be patient and supportive: it takes time to come to terms with trauma and grieve losses; each child's path to recovery is unique; offer comfort and reassurance and be available when they are ready.
5. Encourage healthy expression: children act-out distress negatively without constructive outlets; foster the use of talking, art, play, music, sports, journaling and other healthy methods.
6. Maintain consistency: structure and routines enhance security and stability; provide appropriate rules, expectations, boundaries and consequences.
7. Promote a sense of control: children feel helpless and powerless in response to trauma; help them believe they can successfully deal with challenges via constructive activities (e.g., hobbies, sports, clubs, volunteering).
8. Make home a safe place: your home should be a “safe haven,” a place of comfort, security and peace; stress and chaos provokes traumatic reactions; minimize conflict and discipline with calmness and love.
Rebuilding trust takes time, patience and a great deal of strength on every parent's part. Remember your dreams for your child can be rebuilt. They just may look a bit different
Study: Child abuse in Texas is a ‘public health' issue
by Robert Maxwell
AUSTIN (KXAN) – Texas child abuse and child health authorities are touting a plan to prevent child deaths stemming from abuse, while sleeping or being left in hot cars based on links that tie a child's birth record with their demographic background. A new joint study between the Texas Department of Family Protective Services and population experts at the Department of State Health Services looked at nearly 700 child abuse and neglect-related deaths over three years between 2010 and 2012.
“Building upon past research connecting adverse childhood experiences to health outcomes in adults, we finally can see child abuse as a public health issue, and a community problem that can only be attacked with community solutions,” said Sasha Rasco, director of Prevention and Early Intervention at DFPS.
The study used birth and death certificate information, along with aspects of a child's community such as poverty, parent income, education and crime levels. It found 53 percent of all abuse and neglect deaths in this time period had no prior involvement with Child Protective Services. Some 14.5 percent of all non-medical child deaths were physical abuse or neglect-related.
Of neglect-related deaths:
8 percent were sleep-related
6 percent of motor vehicle deaths involved children who were left in a hot vehicle or hit and killed by a car
Infants who died from sleep-related death were likely to have a mother who smoked during pregnancy (indicating a stressful home environment or lack of knowledge about healthy choices)
The results of the study have prompted the creation of a strategic plan that targets communities where child deaths are highest. For example, the study found children are more likely to be abused if domestic violence is going on in a home. One idea is to strengthen support and screening for domestic violence during a mother's pregnancy.
“How do we engage (mom and) dad at that 20-week scan where moms know about the baby's gender? That's a real popular place for dads to show up,” Rasco told KXAN in an interview. “If we can get them there, is that a place we can engage them early and do some fatherhood work and promote their involvement with their child? And maybe to learn that violence is not the best way to solve their problems and frustrations.”
The report concludes: “While this analysis was based on confirmed child abuse and neglect fatalities, future collaboration will look at near-fatalities, serious injuries and general child abuse and neglect.This ongoing work will allow both agencies to further pinpoint particular geographic areas and specific risk factors that need targeted services and outreach.”
Travis County has experienced a spike in the number of infant sleeping deaths, according to county health authorities. And of course, the highest profile child death recently has been the discovery of Colton Turner's body in Southeast Austin in September 2014.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month
Court Appointed Special Advocates of Trinity Valley are joining with several other child advocacy groups to work with Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders and his fellow commissioners to declare April National Child Abuse Prevention Month, according to LeeAnn Millender, CASA of Trinity Valley executive director.
Judge Richard Sanders said, “I wholeheartedly support the work that CASA and the other child agencies do. Please join us on April 7th at noon on the west courthouse lawn for a reading of the proclamation designating April as National Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month.”
Millender, said this April is observed as National Child Abuse Awareness/Prevention Month and National Volunteer Week.
“It's important to recommit ourselves to ending the vicious cycle of abuse, and to stand up for every child too young to speak for themselves,” Millender said.
This month, and throughout the year, CASA of Trinity Valley encourages the people of Anderson, Cherokee and Henderson counties to come together to promote awareness of the child abuse and neglect that exists in our local community.
“CASA of Trinity Valley is one of the 71 CASA programs across Texas that works to ensure that all children placed in the foster care system, due to abuse or neglect, can have the safe, stable and nurturing environments they need to thrive.” said Millender. “CASA programs recruit, train and support everyday members of the community to speak up for the best interests of children in court to ensure that they are placed into loving, permanent homes as quickly as possible. These ordinary people are called CASA volunteers.”
Last year, more than 46,800 children were in the care and custody of the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) due to abuse or neglect. CASA of Trinity Valley, along with our statewide CASA community, provided 8,066 CASA volunteers who served 24,742 children in 207 of Texas' 254 counties over the course of the past year.
Millender said, “Children in foster care experience a tremendous amount of change and instability. Often, they don't have a consistent adult that they can rely on – someone to keep them safe, and make sure their voices are heard. But children with a CASA volunteer typically spend less time in foster care, and receive better access to support and services.”
In a time when so many are focusing on the problems, CASA programs are collaborating with other stakeholders and contributing to the solution. On Feb. 12, hundreds of CASA volunteers, staff and board members from the 71 local Texas CASA programs traveled to the Texas State Capitol to bring attention to the challenges facing children and youth in the child welfare system, and to discuss policy priorities aimed at improving outcomes and transforming CPS.
The organization was also honored with a resolution introduced by Rep. John Otto, along with the overwhelming support of many other elected officials in the House of Representatives.
“The future of Texas relies on the healthy growth and development of all children. So this April, as we mark National Child Abuse Prevention Month, I call upon all citizens, community agencies, faith groups, schools, government agencies and businesses to increase their participation in efforts to support families, and prevent child abuse, thereby strengthening our entire community.” said Millender.
With National Volunteer Week coming up April 12-18, now would be the perfect time to get involved with the CASA cause. Last year, roughly less than half of the children in the child welfare system did not have a CASA volunteer to advocate for their best interests. Be that someone for a child in foster care, someone who speaks up to change a child's life forever.
Take that first step in helping to break the cycle of child abuse and neglect by calling our office at 903-675-7070 and ask to set up an exploratory meeting or visit our website for more information: www.casaoftv.org
LeeAnn Millender is executive director of CASA of Trinity Valley, which recruits, trains and supports volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children in Anderson, Cherokee and Henderson counties. Our vision is a CASA for every child who needs one.
The Guardian view on an establishment child sex abuse ring: no more excuses, no more delays
Piece by piece, the evidence mounts of a high-level paedophile ring in the 1970s and 80s involving figures from what used to be called the establishment: MPs, diplomats, officials and senior police officers. On Tuesday, the Independent Police Complaints Commission announced that it was to supervise an inquiry into the Metropolitan police's failure to continue inquiries into child abuse because they involved public figures. Later that day, BBC Newsnight alleged that an extensive investigation conducted by the Met in 1981 secured video evidence of sex parties involving the Liberal MP Cyril Smith and a senior figure from the security services abusing teenage boys from care homes. But – according to the Newsnight report – the Met's investigation was abruptly halted by an unknown senior officer who threatened to prosecute under the Official Secrets Act any officer who revealed what they had found.
If this charge is substantiated, it marks another new low in the wretched history of the failure to protect victims of abuse. But this would be abuse of a different and even darker kind, for it would amount to a grotesque misappropriation of state power. The Official Secrets Act has only one purpose: to protect the security of the state. It is the weapon of last resort, to be employed only in extremes. It is almost beyond belief that it could have been used to stifle an investigation into a crime as terrible as the sexual abuse of children by adults.
There is a second point. Whatever was threatened more than 30 years ago cannot be prayed in aid now. Officers are reportedly telling MPs that they are still worried that they might be prosecuted under the Act. At a session before the cross-party home affairs committee on Tuesday afternoon, the home secretary, Theresa May, agreed to demands that there should be a guarantee of immunity for any officer who gave evidence. Although ultimately it is a matter for the attorney general and the new chair of the child sexual abuse inquiry, the New Zealand judge Justice Lowell Goddard, a precedent has already been set in the inquiry into the Belfast boys home, Kincora, the subject of a separate inquiry. But it is very hard to understand how the threat of prosecution could have power over any officer with evidence of such a crime. Are they really claiming that the state, after all that we have learned over the past few years, is still so wilfully blind to the nature of child abuse that it might threaten official secrets prosecutions in order to stifle the truth?
The persistence of the rumours and the steadily growing number of sources of allegations has shifted the claims from the realms of conspiracy theory into a much more substantial case. The proper response is a vigorous and powerful inquiry. But it is still hard to be confident that such an inquiry is going to happen. Justice Goddard, after a fleeting visit to London to meet Mrs May last month, has gone home again. Last week her terms of reference were slipped out in a written answer to the Commons. She will not actually sit down to decide her priorities and assess the powers she needs until after Easter, nearly 10 months after the home secretary first promised a full investigation into the failure of state and non-state institutions to protect vulnerable children from abuse.
Among the first decisions Justice Goddard will have to make, when she does finally get her knees under the desk, is the relationship between her inquiry and the IPCC. The IPCC has acquired a significant role now that it is supervising the Met investigation into 14 allegations that its officers suppressed or hindered inquiries and covered up offences involving MPs or their own officers. That investigation runs alongside its inquiry, launched last autumn, into other allegations about a derailed investigation into a 1980s establishment paedophile ring. But the IPCC is tainted by old failures. Doubts linger that it is well enough resourced to oversee such a sensitive and complex investigation.
Theresa May has made up a lot of ground in the past year. She has slowly built a relationship of trust with survivors of abuse. After the election, her successor must nurture it. Not only are there many old and terrible secrets still to uncover, but the fight against the abuse of children is far from over.
Victim of paedophile teacher who came forward 40 years after abuse because of Jimmy Savile publicity tells how pervert 'robbed her childhood'
by Richard Spillett
The victim of a paedophile teacher says she felt like a 'weight was lifted from her shoulders' when she saw her tormentor finally jailed for the abuse which ruined her childhood.
Angela Taylor, now 50, was just one of many nine and 10-year-old children targeted by Ronald Wotton on a daily basis at East Durham Catholic primary school between 1968 and 1980.
She went to police in the wake of the Jimmy Savile revelations after telling herself she couldn't take the truth about her abuse to the grave.
Ms Taylor has now waived her anonymity to tell how the abuse affected her life and of her relief at seeing Wotton convicted and sent to jail.
During her school days, Wotton would catch Angela's eye during lessons, call her up to the front of the class and make her stand behind his desk while he sexually abused her.
Children were so afraid of the teacher, they would make themselves vomit by pouring washing up liquid down their throats to avoid his classes.
Wotton, now 73, was finally reported over thirty years later in 2013 when Ms Taylor read about allegations of child abuse committed by Jimmy Savile and rang police.
Her complaint was the first and started off a huge police investigation which led to 20 other victims coming forward.
During his sentencing on November 5 last year, Teesside Crown Court heard that Wotton was a bully who had an obsession with authority and abused children for his own sexual gratification.
The court heard how Wotton's offending extended to PE lessons, where he would make children touch their toes so he could look at them, as well as wandering into their changing rooms during swimming lessons, in the hope of seeing them naked.
Wotton, who now uses a wheelchair, admitted 17 counts of indecent assault, three counts of indecency with a male and one of indecency with a child over a 12-year period from the late 1960s and was jailed for five years.
Angela, of Newcastle, Tyne and Wear, said: 'I was terrified of Ronald, he was an evil bully and he ruined my childhood as well as many other people's lives.
'I came from a devout Catholic family, my mother was a teacher and I was made to feel as though God was punishing me for something I had done wrong.
'In Year 5, the year I went into Ronald's class, it was common knowledge that something bad was going to happen to us and we were all afraid.
'I couldn't confide in any of my family and he was just getting away with abusing us - I feel completely let down by the school and my religion.
'I feel as though he has made me the adult I am today, I've found it hard to trust men and be the best mother I can be because of him.'
As a child, Ms Taylor was shy and grew to hate school because of Wotton's abuse.
She would often feign illness and beg not to attend because she was scared of being abused by him again.
She became depressed when she went to secondary school and hid the abuse for 40 years.
She finally called the police to report him in July 2013.
Ms Taylor, who is now training to become a chiropodist, said: 'I was sitting watching the news about Jimmy Saville and Stuart Hall and I thought - I cannot die with this sordid secret.
'When I rang the police I felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
'I had carried guilt and shame around for years because I felt I was to blame. I lost my childhood and part of myself. It did a lot of damage.
'It feels good to know that my actions have inspired others to come forward and report him as well.
'I was prepared to stand up and look him in the eye to tell everyone what he did to me. He is an evil, disgusting human being.
'Five years is not long enough for the suffering he caused to hundreds of innocent children like me, but I am now glad he is in jail, paying for his crime and I can finally move on.
'I only hope my story can persuade others to be brave and stand up to people like him so they can be brought to justice.
'There is a lot of help available from Victim Support and Rape Crisis. Having a safe place to talk everything through really makes a big difference.
'It is not an easy path but you come out of it feeling stronger.'
Family of abuse survivors are 'secondary victims', can't claim compensation: NSW Anglican Church
by Lucy McNally
A woman whose father was sexually and physically abused at an Anglican Church-run home in New South Wales says she will keep fighting for compensation money for her family, even though the church has rejected her claim because she is a "secondary victim".
Kim Brannigan barely knew her father Wayne for the first 26 years of her life.
Scarred by an horrific upbringing of sexual and physical abuse at the North Coast Children's Home in Lismore, he was a heavy drinker who would erupt in fits of rage when remembering the men and women responsible for robbing him of his childhood.
But when Ms Brannigan reunited with her father as an adult, she formed a close bond with him and saw first-hand the devastating effects the abuse had on him.
"When he had a few drinks he would change and the home would come up and that's when you knew 'look out' - he would get aggressive, angry, and black out," she said.
"One time he smashed up everything in my home - I had to call the police."
Mr Brannigan hated to be woken up in the night because it brought back raw memories of his abuse.
"He would tell us 'if you have to wake me up use a broom - don't touch me'," she recalled.
Over time Mr Brannigan managed to control his drinking, because he desperately wanted to be a father to Kim and a grandfather to her daughter.
"She [my daughter] loved her Poppy Wayne. In the end I was just so glad we became close because he was a wonderful man - he taught me unconditional love for the first time," Ms Brannigan said.
That unconditional love was there until the end, when Ms Branigan held her father's hand as he lay dying from end-stage liver disease in Ballina Hospital.
It was 2006, and Mr Brannigan had read in the local newspaper that Tommy Campion, another man who had been abused at the same Lismore home, had just started a class action against the Grafton diocese of the Anglican Church, involving 40 people.
"He said to me: 'You follow that up Kimmy, I want you to have whatever money I am entitled to for what happened to me'," she said.
Five-page letter to church outlined father's dying wish
Years later in 2014, Ms Brannigan did follow it up. She wrote a five-page letter to the Anglican Church detailing what her father went through, and how it was his dying wish that she receive the money he never had the time to fight for.
She sent her letter to the Grafton diocese about eight months after the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse began its inquiry into the diocese, where the church unreservedly apologised to Mr Campion and fellow victims for mishandling their compensation claims.
Within weeks, Kim's family received an answer from the church - rejecting her request.
The Reverend Canon David Hanger from the Church's Professional Standards Committee explained that "financial settlements and victims' compensation have always been intended for primary not secondary victims".
"Having outlined the reasons for our decision, it is important that I make it absolutely clear to you that the diocese accepts your account of Wayne's experiences at the North Coast Children's Home," he said.
The issue went further up the chain, with the Bishop Sarah Macneil - the first woman to lead an Anglican Church diocese - penning her own response two months later.
"The advice we have received is that any payment to the family of a deceased victim, where the victim has themselves not made a claim, would have implications far beyond the Diocese of Grafton, and indeed extending to a broad range of institutions," she wrote.
Bishop Macneil ended the letter by describing the issue as "an important one" which should be considered by the royal commission.
"I'm devastated," Ms Brannigan said.
"I'm not a money person but it was my father's final wish and it would have meant the world to me to have them properly acknowledge the abuse," she said.
The ABC asked the Anglican Church whether it had any plans to consider the issue regardless of whether the royal commission makes findings in this area.
In response, the church provided a statement.
"The diocese of Grafton recognises that abuse is insidious; it has implications much wider than on the direct recipients of abuse," the statement said.
"However, the diocese needs to continue a strong focus on its restorative action with those who were direct victims of abuse and the diocese's changed behaviour to prevent a recurrence of this terrible situation."
Report: Doctors not trained to spot sex trafficking victims
by Reuters Media
Most healthcare providers aren't trained to recognize victims of sex trafficking - and many don't realize that's a problem, according to a new study.
"The majority of medical providers will come across victims or patients who are at risk for victimization at some point," said Angela Rabbitt of Children's Hospital of Wisconsin's Child Advocacy and Protection Services in Milwaukee.
OB/GYNs, emergency room personnel, doctors working with adolescents or with child abuse victims, and those working with urban and underserved populations are most likely to encounter victims of sex trafficking, Rabbitt said in an email to Reuters Health.
That's because reproductive healthcare problems like pregnancy, abortions, and infection, and also violence related injuries are more common in these individuals, she said.
Rabbitt and her coauthors reached out to physicians, nurses, physician assistants, social workers, and patient and family advocates at several hospitals and medical clinics in Wisconsin. Of about 500 providers contacted, only 168 - mostly women - filled out the online surveys.
More than 60 percent said they'd never been trained to recognize a victim of sex trafficking. Those who did receive training were more likely to say that trafficking is a major problem locally and had more confidence in their ability to identify victims.
Only 10 percent of providers with training said they had never encountered a trafficking victim, compared to 35 percent of those without training.
The surveys included various vignettes designed to test whether providers would recognize a victim of sex trafficking, such as an underage female who is forced to have sex by an adult, or who chose to have sex for money.
In either case, a minor would meet the legal definition of sex trafficking victim, but only 48 percent of providers correctly identified this.
Lack of training and awareness are important barriers to identifying victims, the authors write in Pediatrics.
"It's no surprise because where are people going to learn about this?" said Donna Sabella, director of the Office of Human Trafficking at Drexel University College of Nursing and Health Professions. "It's typically not part of any medical school curriculum."
Sabella said social work departments at some U.S. universities offer short courses to give health care providers an overview of what sex trafficking is and what its victims may look like - which is to say, Sabella said, that they could look like anyone.
Good data are lacking on how many people are victims of sex trafficking, but it's well known that big sporting events like the Super Bowl draw traffickers in large numbers, Sabella told Reuters Health by phone.
"We can't arrest people, we don't interrogate people," but there are helpful questions to ask, and clear steps to take when reporting a victim, she said.
Adult victims can decide for themselves if they want the crime reported, she said. But if a provider suspects a minor is a victim of trafficking, they're mandated by law to report it.
"We recommend reporting to both law enforcement and child protective services," Rabbitt said.
Many victims are unwilling to disclose their victimization and many are simply not asked, she said.
"It is clear that the number of victims is probably much higher than the current research would suggest and that the number increased significantly once we became aware of the problem and started screening patients," she said.
It is especially important to look for signs of victimization among kids and young adults.
"I think often when the community, including the medical community, sees a victim of domestic sex trafficking their first thought is that he or she is a prostitute who chose that lifestyle," Rabbitt said. "There is now a growing awareness that many "prostitutes" start out as children or as young adults who were coerced or forced into the sex trade and now due to fear, addiction, or many other reasons, find it very hard to get out of the life."
"When you see them as victims, it makes it more obvious that we should be actively trying to recognize them and taking steps to keep children from entering the lifestyle in the first place," she said.
Let's Talk About It: Kids and domestic violence: Why we should be worried
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.
by Karen Bota
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?
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).
‘Erin's Law' Takes Effect in ...
by Selena Fragassi
Every six minutes a child is sexually assaulted in the United States. It's a staggering statistic and one that North Shore schools hope to affect by instituting curricula to educate students about sexual abuse and its prevention. Beginning this month, all students in Illinois in grades pre-K through 12 will start to receive age-appropriate presentations during physical education or health classes in alignment with the new House Bill 6193, also known as Erin's Law, that was signed by former Governor Pat Quinn on January 24, 2013.
In Northbrook District 30, student presentations begin next week. Topics to be discussed include distinguishing safe from unsafe touches, safety rules at home and school, how to say “NO,” and not keeping secrets, and telling trusted adults. “The focus of the presentation is to teach children basic skills to keep them safe from dangerous or abusive situations,” said representatives with Student Services.
The woman behind Erin's Law is Schaumburg native Erin Merryn, an author, speaker, child advocate and activist who is the survivor of childhood sexual abuse and rape by family members. She received national attention when she self-published her first book, Stolen Innocence: Triumphing Over a Childhood Broken by Abuse: A Memoir, while still a senior in high school. Since, Merryn has been devout in her mission to get all 50 states to pass Erin's Law, which mandates that all public schools use age-appropriate curricula to teach students how to tell on anyone who touches or attempts to touch them inappropriately.
Illinois was one of the first to sign on, setting up a task force including Merryn, certified art therapists and psychologists and members of the Children's Advocacy Centers of Illinois, Prevent Child Abuse of Illinois and the Board of Education, among others, to begin putting together the materials.
In District 30, school officials have been closely working with Victor Pacini, a survivor of sexual abuse and a motivational speaker, to develop the material, which is “developmentally appropriate, interactive, and aligned with learning standards,” said the school in a news release.
Parents will have the chance to hear from Pacini during an informational night on March 23 at Maple School at 7 p.m. It will preview the student presentation and offer a Q&A session to answer any questions.
District 30 parents can opt children out from the prevention education session by e-mailing the child's classroom teacher at Willowbrook and/or Wescott and at Maple addressing the e-mail to Asst. Principal, Betty Holzkopf (email@example.com).
Bill to Keep Sex Offenders Away From Schools Could Cause ‘Chaos,' Critics Say
by Jordan Fenster
A bill intended to keep convicted sex offenders away from kids would throw the Connecticut's sex offender registry into “chaos,” according to the state's Department of Correction.
Included in Senate Bill 1087 is a provision that would prohibit registered sex offenders from residing within 1,000 feet of a school or a child day care center, but according to Eric Ellison, deputy director for parole and community services at the Correction Department, that's not a feasible, or even desirable, goal.
“In reality, future sex offenders would no longer be allowed to live in major urban areas,” he told members of the legislature's Judiciary Committee during a public hearing Monday.
Should such a provision be put into law, Ellison said registered sex offenders would be forced to move away from urban areas and, therefore, treatment programs and support services.
“It would certainly displace thousands of offenders that we are successfully managing at this time,” he said. “It would cause a migration into suburban, rural areas.”
State Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford, said that the desire to keep sex offenders away from school zones is “emotionally satisfying,” though the concerns Ellison raised also make sense.
“We don't want a permanent class or category of people who are frankly living under bridges,” he said.
Ellison argued that the efficacy of residency requirements have been disproven, that it “throws the registry into chaos” making tracking and management of sex offenders a far more difficult task and actually increasing the risk of additional offenses.
“Housing instability has been known to increase general and sexual recidivism,” he said.
There are currently about 5,800 registered sexual offenders in Connecticut, many of whom live in major, urban areas. For example, a search through the registry for offenders living in Hartford returns 746 individuals. The registry lists 340 individuals living in Bridgeport, 482 living in New Haven and 262 offenders in New Britain, not including adjacent towns.
Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Norwich, testified in favor of the bill, saying that if something can be done to keep residents safe, it is the legislature's responsibility to do so.
“The majority of Connecticut residents believe that sexual violence is a problem in their community,” she said.
In December, Norwich residents spoke en masse to Osten and other legislators expressing displeasure with the number of sex offenders living within the town's borders. American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney David McGuire told the Judiciary Committee that residency restrictions are “irrational,” which sparked a vociferous debate with state Rep. Emmett Riley, D-Norwich.
“I find that offensive,” Riley said.
The problem, Ellison said, is that most sex offenses against minors are not committed by “predatory” offenders but individuals known to the victims.
“The research is clear that victims for the most part know their perpetrator, they know their offenders,” he said. “They're family, they're friends, they're those that are in a position of authority over those children.”
“It's not these predatory offenses that we're all concerned about,” Ellison said. “There's a perception in the general public that they occur routinely and it's just not the case.”
Ellison's contention is borne out by a 2000 U.S. Department of Justice report titled “Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement: Victim, Incident, and Offender Characteristics.”
“The temporal pattern of sexual assault shows that unlike adults, young juveniles are at highest risk of sexual assault in the hours when meals are served and after school,” that report says. “Rarely were the offenders of young juvenile victims strangers. Strangers were the offenders in just 3 percent of sexual assaults against victims under age 6 and 5 percent of the sexual assault victimizations of youth ages 6 through 11.”
Randall Wallace, a psychologist with the Justice Resource Institute, told committee members about 90 percent of sex crimes committed against children in Connecticut are committed by individuals known to the victim. Residency restrictions, therefore, are actually detrimental, making “appropriate housing and employment” more difficult to obtain.
“It's been shown over and over again to be ineffective,” he said.
As Wallace wrote in testimony submitted to the committee, “Empirical evidence clearly indicates all key aspects of this bill are overly costly, ineffectual, heighten empirically known risk factors for sexual reoffending, undermine the current effective collaborative supervision system, create an environment for additional trauma to sexual abuse survivors, and mislead the general public about sexual offense risk.”
According to a 2012 report on sex offenders and recidivism issued by the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management, “it is important to recognize that individuals who have committed sex offenses do not constitute a single, homogenous population.”
“Together they exhibit a wide range of criminal behaviors that may or may not include violence or contact with other persons,” the report says. “Sex offenders vary by age, ethnicity and social background. They also vary by their motivations, the nature of their crimes and by the extensiveness of their non-sex-related criminal histories. As a consequence, the risk, or likelihood, of committing new sex crimes is not consistent across all sex offender types.”
Australian archbishop charged with concealing child abuse
by Rod Mcguirk
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A Roman Catholic archbishop in Australia was charged Tuesday with covering up for a pedophile priest during the 1970s.
Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson said he was disappointed that New South Wales state police had decided to charge him with concealing a serious child sexual abuse offence. Wilson said he would fight the charge, which carries a potential two-year prison sentence.
The charge alleges the 64-year-old failed to report child sex abuse carried out by priest James Fletcher during the 1970s when they both served in the town of Maitland, north of Sydney.
Fletcher died in prison aged 65 in 2006, a year into an almost eight-year sentence for raping an altar boy between 1989 and 1991.
"The suggestion appears to be that I failed to bring to the attention of police a conversation I am alleged to have had in 1976, when I was a junior priest, that a now deceased priest had abused a child," Wilson said in a statement.
"From the time this was first brought to my attention last year, I have completely denied the allegation," he said.
Wilson said he take leave from his job "to consult a wide range of people" about the charge.
Jason Parkinson, a Canberra lawyer who specializes in representing victims of clergy abuse in civil law suits, said he not aware of anyone else ever being charged with covering up child sex abuse in the church in Australia.
"We can only hope that this is the beginning of a number of people being charged with concealing child abuse," Parkinson said.
A police statement said Wilson had been served with a notice that requires him to appear in a court in Newcastle, north of Sydney, on April 30.
A police task force was established in 2010 to investigate allegations of concealment of serious offences related to child abuse by clergy attached to the Maitland-Newcastle diocese of the church.
Wilson is one of Australia's most senior bishops, serving as President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference from 2006 until 2012.
A victim of Fletcher's pedophilia, Peter Gogarty, said he felt relief that police had charged Wilson.
"I think it's a very, very important day for Australia, that we've now had someone in such a high position charged," Gogarty told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.
Covenant Children's to Hold Day-Long Child Abuse Summit on March 27
LUBBOCK, TX (PRESS RELEASE) -- Every day in Texas, 182 children are victims of abuse (neglect/physical/sexual/emotional). Texas leads the nation in child abuse fatalities. Last year 151 Texas children died as the result of abuse.
Just prior to Child Abuse Awareness month, which is April, Covenant Children's is hosting a summit to enhance the skills of health care professionals in prevention, investigation and treatment of abuse in children. The event is 7:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. March 27, at the Knipling Education and Conference Center, on the 6th floor of the West Parking Garage at the corner of 21st and Louisville.
“This conference will address human trafficking, sexually transmitted infections and legal reporting requirements in an effort to proactively respond to child abuse as evidenced by an increased competence in the attendees,” said Brandy Pitts, Covenant pediatric regional educator.
“The summit has been designed for physicians, nurses and social workers in the field of emergency medicine, family practice, pediatrics and all pediatric specialties.”
Pitts said at the conclusion of the day's series of workshops, participants will be able to:
Define the roles of CPS, law enforcement and healthcare workers in child abuse prevention, investigation and treatment
Recognize the epidemiology, diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infection in children
Discuss the prevalence of domestic minor human trafficking
The kick-off breakfast, sponsored by the South Plains Coalition for Child Abuse Prevention and Covenant Health, will feature Lubbock Mayor Glen Robertson, State Sen. Charles Perry and Rep. John Frullo, as well as a ribbon-cutting by the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce.
Registration fee is $50 and $20 for students, with all fees paid at the door. To register, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website.
6:45 – 7:30 a.m. – Registration
7:30 – 8:15 a.m. Kick-off Breakfast
8:15 – 8:30 a.m. Break
8:30 – 8:35 a.m. Welcome
8:35 – 9:05 a.m. “Local Resources Available in Preventing Child Abuse”
– Carla Olson, executive director of The Parenting Cottage; and Yondell Maston, Ph.D, WHNP-BC, RNC-OB
9:05 – 9:35 a.m. “Common Mistakes Made by Health Care Workers and Law Enforcement in Court Cases”
– Matt Powell, Lubbock County district attorney
9:35 – 10:35 a.m. “Talking to Kids about Abuse” – Dr. Beth Robinson, Ph.D, LPC
10:35 – 10:45 a.m. Break
10:45 – 11:45 a.m. “Roles of Child Protective Services” – Shawn Vandygriff, CPS
11:45 – 12:15 p.m. “Ethical Dilemma of Child Protection” – Cheryl Erwin, JD, Ph.D
12:15 – 1 p.m. Lunch
1 – 2 p.m. “Sexually Transmitted Disease” – Dr. Rebecca Girardet, MD
2– 2:30 p.m. “Legal Requirements on Reporting Child Abuse” – Natalie Ramello, JD
2:30 – 2:40 p.m. Break
2:40 – 4:10 p.m. “Sex Trafficking” – Andrea Sparks, NCMEC
4:10 – 4:15 p.m. Closing Remarks and Evaluations
Child sex abuse royal commission: Salvation Army did not protect young boys from being abused while in its care, report finds
by Antonette Collins
The Salvation Army did not protect young boys from being abused while in its care from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has found.
Last year the commission heard harrowing details and accounts from victims of child sexual abuse that occurred in four boys' homes run by the Salvation Army in NSW and Queensland.
In a report released on Tuesday, the commission found that the boys who reported abuse were punished, disbelieved and accused of lying.
"Former residents told us of brutal sexual abuse at the hands of Salvation Army officers, at times accompanied by extreme physical punishment," the report said.
The commissioners also found the Salvation Army's policies and procedures did not enable the prevention or detection of child abuse, and that it failed to provide appropriately trained staff to ensure child safety.
Government agencies were also criticised in the findings for not properly investigating allegations.
A survivor of child sexual abuse while in the care of the Salvation Army, James Luthy, said he felt vindicated after the findings were handed down.
He was a resident at the Gill Memorial Boys Home in Goulburn and said he was subjected to brutal abuse, but was ignored when he first made a complaint in the 1970s.
"People were told that no-one would believe us, things were hushed up and people just wouldn't and couldn't believe that the Salvation Army was involved in these kinds of things," he said.
"But they were - they hid officers, they moved them interstate, they denied these things happened.
"And now I guess we all feel very much vindicated."
The report said the Salvation Army had since developed its approach to dealing with child sexual abuse claims.
She reported being raped twice and was convicted
Special to The Washington Post.
WASHINGTON — Almost seven years ago, a troubled 11-year-old girl reported that she had been raped — twice — in her Washington neighborhood. Despite medical evidence of sexual assault, records show that no suspects were arrested and the cases were given only sporadic attention by the police. Instead, in the second case, the police had the girl, Danielle Hicks-Best, charged with filing a false report.
After Danielle's family agreed to what her parents say was a poorly understood plea, she was convicted and made a ward of the court. She spent the next few years in and out of detention and secure treatment centers between episodes of running away. She never finished high school, had a baby at 15 and is struggling to move forward with her life.
"After 11, she lost the rest of her childhood," said Danielle's mother, Veronica Best, who campaigned for years with her husband, Mayo, to get the police to focus on the assaults, contacting officers all the way up the chain to Washington Police Chief Cathy Lanier and her deputy, Peter Newsham.
Last fall, after inquiries from The Washington Post, the department launched new investigations into the cases and the way they were handled, according to the Bests and a law enforcement officer familiar with the matter.
Danielle and her parents have spent years urging the police to charge the suspects and seeking an explanation for the way the criminal justice system treated an already disturbed young girl who was sexually assaulted.
At 11, Danielle had severe behavioral, academic and mental-health issues rooted in the drug exposure and physical abuse she suffered from her birth mother, a crack addict. The Bests, her adoptive parents, struggled to handle those issues, turning to but not always following the recommendations of the school and psychiatric communities. The couple and other supporters say the cases are complicated by Danielle's instability.
But after Danielle reported the rapes, the police interviewed her in a manner that violated guidelines for handling child sexual assault cases, records and interviews show. They delayed analyzing DNA evidence — and then analyzed only some of it. An officer misled her to get her to contradict her account, and then had her charged her with lying, according to police reports. And many officers treated her with extreme skepticism; in one internal email, a lieutenant called her "promiscuous" and the "sex" consensual.
Yet Danielle was just 11 years old, well under the age of consent, which is 16 in the District of Columbia. The suspects in the police reports obtained by the Bests were described as being in their late teens or early 20s.
The Bests say that after The Post approached the police, Lanier telephoned the family to apologize.
Lanier would not confirm either the new investigations or the phone call, citing the confidentiality practices governing cases involving juveniles. But she said, "If there is a case that has not been handled properly, I think it's important that that victim or that family hear from the chief of police that we screwed up and we want to fix it."
She added: "Obviously we cannot turn the clock back and fix things that have happened in the past. . . . The best I can offer the hypothetical victim from six or seven years ago . . . is to make sure if there were any investigative leads that were never followed or things that should have been done that they are done. It's never too late to try to correct things."
The new investigations, confirmed by the law enforcement officer who is not authorized to speak on the record, have left the Bests with mixed emotions. "I was desperate for the police to do their job six years ago and get those guys off the street and away from Danielle," Veronica Best said. "It's hard not to be angry when she was the one locked up and labeled . . . a delinquent."
'Hard to listen to'
Police documents say Danielle was charged with filing a false report because her recounting of the rapes shifted and she acknowledged lying about the identity of one of the abductors, who claimed the sex was consensual. Danielle said she cannot recall exactly what she told the police about the alleged abductor; experts say inconsistent accounts by rape victims are not uncommon but do not mean that rape did not occur.
Furthermore, Danielle's age at the time of the assaults raises the question of why, when there were two medical reports detailing the sexual injuries she suffered, the police did not at least look into statutory rape charges.
The Bests' is not the first criticism of the police department's handling of rape cases. Last year, the D.C. Council passed the Sexual Assault Victims' Rights Amendment Act, which gives victims the right to have a trained advocate present during police interviews and medical exams and provides for oversight of the department's handling of sexual assault cases, among other measures.
Veronica Best testified during a public hearing on the legislation, which was introduced by then-Council member Tommy Wells. The family's story is "hard to listen to," Wells told The Post. "It's painful. And you think about the terror and bewilderment of the parents, who are trying to keep their child safe."
This story is based on legal, medical, police and psychiatric documents provided by Veronica and Mayo Best, police records that Danielle Hicks-Best obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, and interviews with police, the Bests, and experts in child psychiatry, juvenile justice and law enforcement.
Veronica, 66, and Mayo, 69, live with Danielle, her twin brother, David, and her son, Levi, in a modest rambler in Temple Hills, Maryland. The dining room table is surrounded by boxes of documents related to Danielle's case, including a collage she created in therapy when she was 12 or 13. The word "water" represented when Danielle "got into hot water," she explained to a reporter. A picture of a derelict building portrayed "how I felt about the police — as though everything was coming down on me like it was my fault."
Danielle has an engaging smile and often sports flamboyant hairstyles and long, elaborately painted nails. She displays a tattoo of a pistol and the words "Boss Lady" on her chest — warnings, she says, not to "mess with" her. "I walk through the streets with so much hatred, and I do not care anymore," she said. "I feel like everything's taken from me."
Danielle says she is studying for her GED and that she would like "to become a lawyer or work with social services and help victims of sexual assault." At other times, she says she wants to leave her parents' home with 2 1/2 -year-old Levi — but doesn't have a coherent plan. She argues frequently with her parents, then apologizes in calmer moments — at which point they try to coax her to get back on medication for anxiety and depression and visit her therapist.
Danielle hopes that speaking out will help her move forward, and others as well. "A lot of this same stuff happens to young girls and they just keep it within themselves, sometimes for a long time. But if you bottle it up, you don't get anywhere. If you can talk about it . . . people will understand better where you're coming from and maybe you can get some closure."
Although The Washington Post usually does not identify rape victims, Danielle has chosen to go public. "I used to be very closed off about it all," she said, "but I'm not ashamed anymore."
A bare mattress on the floor
The first rape took place Saturday evening, April 19, 2008, Danielle said, not far from her house in the District's Columbia Heights neighborhood.
Her parents had put her in a timeout for coming home late from a nearby playground. "I got angry," she said, "so I went out secretly." On the street, she ran into young men from the neighborhood hanging out, "like always." The family estimates their ages ranged from the late teens to early 20s.
One of the young men started talking to Danielle, and "I walked with him, I wasn't forced," Danielle said.
They walked to a house several blocks away. Danielle said the young man asked her to come inside to watch TV in what seemed to be a basement apartment. "I went in and I didn't like the vibe," she said. "I saw how dirty it was."
Two other young men were there, and she thinks the man she walked in with left. The two who remained locked the door. She remembers a bare mattress on the floor and a gun beside it. She said both men raped her repeatedly overnight.
On Sunday afternoon, another man burst in waving a flier, saying, "They are looking for her; she is missing," and the two young men ordered her to leave, she said. Danielle walked home in a daze and arrived disheveled. D.C. police had been summoned, and a female officer and Veronica Best found blood on the 11-year-old's underwear. Detective Kenneth Carter of the Youth Investigations Division retraced Danielle's steps with her. She said he took her back to the exterior of the house where the attack occurred "and I was scared."
In Carter's report, obtained by Danielle through a FOIA request, the two suspects are described as "18-19 yrs. old" and one is called a "friend of a month and a half." Danielle recently said to a reporter that she did not recall telling the officers he was a "friend." In the report, Danielle gives a confusing description of the sexual assault, at one point saying she was thrown over a suspect's shoulder and carried up and down the neighborhood.
Experts say that trauma often causes rape victims to give inconsistent accounts, which should not be used to determine credibility. They suggest that police investigators' initial interviews with young victims be brief and involve only minimal facts, with follow-up interviews conducted by specialists. The D.C. police signed a best-practices memorandum to that effect in 2003.
Using specialists is especially important in the case of children who have suffered prior abuse, according to Cindy Bridgman, director of clinical services at Safe Shores, the D.C. Children's Advocacy Center. A child "who reports sexual assault and has a history of trauma should be taken as soon as possible after the incident to . . . a child-friendly setting to be interviewed by a trained forensic interviewer," she said.
After speaking with Carter, Danielle was taken to Children's National Medical Center to be examined. In the medical report, a copy of which was obtained by the Best family, the doctor wrote that she had vaginal tears, cuts and scrapes. She had scars on her left leg and thigh from "burns when younger."
"Patient, raped in vagina and anus by [name] and another male last night after leaving home in anger. One held her while the other raped her. Also oral sex . . . Rape kit specimens collected." The report includes a first name Danielle gave the doctor, but The Post is not reporting it because no one was charged.
Over the next few days, Veronica, a retired hospital administrator, and Mayo, a retired letter carrier, waited for news of the investigation. When none was forthcoming, they said, they made calls to the Youth Investigations Division and went to the police station to try to speak to Carter, with no success. (Carter, who moved to the department's Internal Affairs Division last July, referred requests for comment to the D.C. police's media office, which declined to comment on a case involving a juvenile.) Danielle was an emotional mess, her parents say — often crying or withdrawn, not eating or sleeping — and they kept her home. The only exceptions were school and a visit to the District's Children's Advocacy Center.
'I was exhausted'
On Monday evening, May 12, the Bests made a decision they said was a mistake: They let Danielle visit her uncle across the street. He sent the 11-year-old to the corner store. As Danielle passed an alley, she recalled to a reporter, she was pulled into a vehicle full of young neighborhood men, including one from the first rape. She said she was driven to a parking lot, where that man raped her again, then back to the grubby basement apartment, where, she said, she was raped by both of the young men from the first incident.
Later that evening she was let go, then picked up by passersby who told her they would take her home. Around 11, before reaching her house, the car was stopped by police who were searching vehicles to try to find her.
This time, she was interviewed by Detective William Weeks of the Youth Investigations Division, who consulted with Carter. Weeks, who left the youth division in 2008 and as of last fall has been assigned to the Property Division, declined to comment.
A copy of Weeks's report, obtained by the Bests, said he tracked down and questioned a 21-year-old man Danielle had identified as the man who had abducted her that evening. According to the report, the 21-year-old said he hadn't seen Danielle since a month earlier, when he had taken a flier for the missing 11-year-old to a basement apartment where "she was in the back bedroom offering to have sex with any number of a group of young men, telling them she was 16."
In the District, sex between anyone younger than 16 and someone at least four years older, whether coerced or willing, is first-degree child sexual abuse, a felony punishable by up to life in prison. Mistaking an underage victim for a 16-year-old is not accepted as a defense.
Weeks went to the hospital to interview Danielle again. It was now after 5 a.m. May 13, according to his report; Danielle and her parents recalled that she had been up all night. In his report, Weeks said he "confronted the Complainant with a ruse" — he told her that he knew the man that she had identified was in a restaurant at the same time she claimed he had abducted her. Danielle admitted that the man "did not abduct and then forcibly rape her . . . she fabricated the report," according to Weeks's notes. When asked why, Danielle said the man was a drug dealer "headed to prison anyway," the report said.
"Over the next three-hour period, the Complainant proceeded to tell Detective Weeks a myriad of stories. . . . In the presence of her parents the Complainant continuously changed her stories whenever confronted with inconsistencies from the previous tale. It became apparent that the Complainant was determined to get any story across that she could, regardless of how incredible it might be," Weeks's report said.
"I don't remember giving lots of different accounts," Danielle said recently. "What I remember was being confused, and I was exhausted, and I was still wearing the same clothes and I felt horrible."
Weeks and the Bests took Danielle to a doctor at the hospital for a forensic rape exam. Weeks's report said that he informed the doctor "of the early morning antics of the Complainant."
That exam, like the first, determined that Danielle, who at that point was "barely comprehendable," had been sexually assaulted, according to a copy of the medical report kept by the Best family.
Weeks concluded his report, dated that same day, by noting that he had decided to ask the Office of the Attorney General for a custody order so Danielle could be charged with making a false or fictitious police report. He then marked the child sexual abuse case "closed." Eleven days later, a supervisor signed off on the report.
Advocates for rape victims say victims should not be challenged by the police. "The victim's response to the trauma of a sexual assault shall not be used in any way to measure credibility," reads the 2005 Model Policy for Investigating Sexual Assault from the International Association of Chiefs of Police, an Alexandria, Virginia-based organization that develops guidelines to assist police departments in establishing their own policies.
Six days after the second incident, Danielle was admitted to the psychiatric ward at Children's Hospital as a suicide risk. Her evaluation report reads: "Pt stated that she was going to kill herself with a knife. . . . she is fearful of remaining at home b/c the boys who raped her have been watching her & threatening to harm her again."
On June 20, 2008, two months after the first reported rape, Weeks and prosecutor Joshua Henline, who had been with the Office of the Attorney General for two years, met and requested an order for Danielle's arrest, which was issued by D.C. Superior Court Judge Anita Josey-Herring, according to a police document obtained through Danielle's FOIA request. The report's conclusion read: "Based on the Complainan/Respondent's admission of lying to Detective Weeks, and her subsequent arrest for filing a false police report. It is recommended that this case be classified as 'Unfounded' for sexual abuse."
Henline, who left the attorney general's office in 2012 and is the assistant general counsel at the D.C. Fire and EMS Department, said he cannot comment on a juvenile case. Spokespersons for the attorney general's office and the Superior Court also declined to comment, citing confidentiality issues.
On June 28, after the family was told by Weeks that there was a warrant for her arrest, Danielle, who had recently turned 12, went with her parents and turned herself in to police.
Her mother said she felt her heart breaking as she watched her daughter shuffle into court in shackles.
Dunked in a scalding bath
That was the start of Danielle's legal problems, but her life troubles began before she was even out of the womb.
Danielle and her twin, David, were born in 1996 to a crack addict named Marquise Hicks. The family believed their father was Hicks's boyfriend, Emmanuel Brooks, Veronica Best's brother.
At 4 months old, Danielle was rushed to the hospital "suffering from second-degree burns on her buttocks, vagina, left leg and foot," according to court records.
The authorities think Hicks dunked Danielle in a scalding bath and said there had been reports of other abuse.
It was Veronica and Mayo who came to the hospital to see Danielle, scoop up baby David and take him to their home. The Bests, who had two grown children, adopted the twins — although it turned out that Veronica's brother was not the father. The twins' biological parents have since died.
A 2000 pre-adoption report by the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency, kept by the Best family, praised Mayo and Veronica's parenting and described the twins as happy and playful. But it also concluded that Danielle had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and reactive attachment disorder, which is typically caused by abuse as a baby and inhibits normal relationships.
Her emotional instability appeared to be greatly exacerbated in 2005 after an elementary school friend was fatally shot while playing in front of his house a few blocks from hers. Already in therapy, she began more intensive treatment.
But by the time she was 10, she had cycled through four schools. At 11, she underwent two psychological evaluations. One report ascribed the "fragility of Danielle's functioning" to drug exposure in utero and abuse as an infant. The other said she drifted into trances at school, became overwhelmed by anxiety, had been roughed up by peers and had no friends. Her mental abilities were evaluated as borderline to low average. The reports said Danielle displayed behavior that included being disruptive, disrespectful and combative, yelling, lying, throwing things, using profanity, throwing herself to the ground, banging her head into a locker, fighting and arguing.
Both reports, issued approximately six months before the first rape, recommended full-time special education and suggested she would benefit from medication to treat ADHD and post-traumatic stress disorder. The Bests did not pursue the recommendations, saying they were satisfied at the time with her therapy and with her individualized education plan at her public charter school.
'Reckless and ill-advised'
When Carter came to Danielle's house to investigate the first sexual assault, Veronica Best said, she warned him that her daughter was unstable. He included Danielle's age and key points about her mental-health history in his police report.
There are no documents in the materials Danielle received through her FOIA request that detail how the police conducted the April rape investigation. "I'm not sure they ever really did much," Veronica Best said. The family said Danielle continued to spot the young men she thought had been involved in the rapes in the neighborhood, which they reported to the police.
Roger Canaff, a former prosecutor in Alexandria who has worked as an adviser to the U.S. Army on prosecuting sexual assault, said he is puzzled by the police actions. "I understand why the police may not have believed Danielle's version of events, because it was unreliable; the account of what happened is so mixed up," he said. "But she's 11, and you have strong medical evidence that she has been sexually assaulted, and she has a history of mental-health problems. I don't know if they could have prevented the second rape, but the police could have worked with Danielle to develop suspects and, if nothing else, warned them away from her while they were conducting their detailed investigation."
The decision to close the second sexual assault case and charge Danielle with filing a false report "was reckless and ill-advised," Canaff said.
"This case renders me speechless," said Carol Tracy, executive director of the Women's Law Project in Philadelphia. "At no point should a child who said she was raped at 11 have been arrested. That is inexcusable."
Lanier said that in circumstances such as Danielle's today, the victim would "absolutely not" be charged with lying. She said that since 2011 she has "completely revised" the department's handling of sexual assault for adult and youth cases, improving the treatment of victims and the way files are classified, tracked and reviewed throughout the investigative process.
But, "even in 2008, the process was not to arrest a victim for discrepancies in reporting," she said.
"There is no rationale for that."
'We never really understood'
Danielle faced probation or commitment to a youth rehabilitation facility if convicted. Her court-appointed lawyer, Madhavan Nair, informed her by letter in July 2008 that prosecutors had offered a plea deal: If she admitted guilt, they would not oppose probation.
Danielle refused to plead guilty, she and her parents said.
But her parents said her behavior deteriorated markedly. Sometimes she was withdrawn, other times she was wild and belligerent. She started running away from home. She was hospitalized several times and put on antianxiety and antidepressant medication. In the fall of 2008, Danielle initially reported another sexual assault. But, her parents wrote at the time to the police, "our daughter has been so mentally traumatized as a result of the first 2 rapes" that they had decided she could not participate in an investigation and had "reluctantly" agreed not to go forward with the charges.
On Jan. 3, 2009, Danielle ran away for almost two weeks. When she was located, according to the police report, she told them that during that time she had "engaged in a sexual act with six or seven unnamed males." She was taken to Children's Hospital and admitted to the psychiatric wing, according to police records obtained through the FOIA request.
Bridgman, of Safe Shores, said: "Research indicates that children who have been sexually assaulted have a higher rate of risky sexual behaviors, contrary to what people might expect. Especially ones who feel disbelieved or not protected. The reason why you might repeat what happened is because you don't believe you deserve any better and you report it as a sexual assault because there is a part of you that knows it's wrong, or you may be being coerced or threatened into participating."
Danielle's therapists were also concerned about the risky behavior in which she was engaging. While she was missing, they sent a letter to Danielle's probation officer requesting residential care for the 12-year-old, who by that time had also been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, mixed with psychotic features.
"Although Mr. and Mrs. Best have been responsible and reliable . . . they are incapable of ensuring their daughter's safety at this time and they need the court's urgent assistance," the therapists wrote. "Due to Danielle's severe impulsivity, fragile emotional functioning/mood lability, delusional thinking, non-compliance with medication, severe insomnia, traumatic flashbacks, multiple elopements, sexual promiscuity, and profound poor judgment, she is now in urgent need of residential care placement."
Other action was taken while Danielle was missing: After consulting with Court Social Services, the D.C. Family Court's probation agency, prosecutors decided to go ahead with the false-report charge against her, citing the fact that she had violated the terms of her pretrial supervision by running away from home. One legal official familiar with the situation, who is not authorized to discuss it on the record, suggested prosecutors proceeded with the case against Danielle to "get her into the system" to obtain additional therapeutic services. "There's not a lot of funding available for youth that are not charged," the official said. "You have to be neglected or a juvenile delinquent."
Ted Gest, a spokesman for the Office of the Attorney General, said that although the office could not discuss specific cases, "we often bring juveniles into the juvenile justice system when they can benefit from services that the system has to offer."
That explanation baffles the Bests. "Why the heck would you want to do that when we already had things in place?" said Veronica, referring to the therapy and other treatment Danielle was receiving.
On February 13, Danielle passed a second evaluation of her competency to stand trial, but her parents worried that she was too unstable to endure a trial. Instead, she entered an Alford plea, according to her parents and a person who is not authorized to speak on the record. The plea meant that she would acknowledge that there was enough evidence for a conviction — in effect, consenting to the court's finding of guilt — while maintaining that she was actually innocent.
"We never really understood the plea very well," Mayo Best said. Nair, Danielle's attorney, has declined to comment.
On February 23, Danielle was declared a ward of the District by the Superior Court. The Bests were shocked. Veronica and Mayo said they wish they had pushed their attorney for more help and had been more familiar with court procedures. "I feel guilty. I do," Veronica said.
"She would say, 'Daddy, I got raped and I got locked up,' " Mayo said. "I still hear her voice today saying that to me."
Danielle spent much of the next 2 1/2 years in residential mental-health facilities as a ward of the District.
The Bests continued to try to find out from the police what had become of the physical evidence collected during the two forensic medical exams.
A series of emails between police officers discussing the case and the evidence, which were obtained through the FOIA request, includes this from one lieutenant to another on July 27, 2009:
"Danielle was convicted of lying. No other evidence, so I'd suspect therefore based on poor victim credibility all other cases she reported were suspended.... All sex was consexual. Parents are unable to accept the fact of this child's promiscuous behavior caused this situation."
Only one email in the documents obtained through the FOIA request noted that Danielle was a minor and sought to know how old the suspects were. No follow-up email was included in the documents.
In November 2009, the Bests left Washington. Veronica and Mayo had lived at various addresses on the same block for 30 years but were hit by rising interest rates and fell behind on their mortgage payments. With their house under repossession and Danielle still traumatized by seeing her attackers in the neighborhood, they decided to move to a rental in Temple Hills.
In May 2010, the Bests wrote to Lanier complaining about the continuing silence. They also appealed to their D.C. Council member, Jim Graham, who e-mailed Lanier — copying the Bests on the message — saying, "I am deeply concerned."
Lanier wrote back to the Bests promising answers and asked Newsham, her assistant chief, to follow up. Later that day, according to documents received through the FOIA request, Newsham got an email from colleagues saying the April rape kit had been tested by a private contractor on an undisclosed date "as part of the FBI backlog project." The swabs of Danielle's body had not found semen, the email said, while two semen stains on Danielle's underwear had yielded DNA without sufficiently clear profiles. The May rape kit hadn't been tested, the email continued, because Danielle had been charged with filing a false report.
Newsham emailed the Bests saying that neither rape kit had been entered into the FBI's Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS. "There are very stringent rules regarding the entry of DNA profiles into CODIS," he wrote. "The two cases you have inquired about were not entered for the following reasons:
1. Evidence analyzed — profiles obtained were not CODIS eligible.
2. Case was unfounded."
The email confused the Bests, who remained unclear about the status of the investigations.
Meanwhile, Danielle continued to run away. Her parents sent her to a residential mental-health facility in Utah for almost a year. Then, after her return to the Washington area, she became pregnant.
In September 2011 the city eased its supervision of Danielle, under conditions that included obeying her guardians, avoiding drugs and keeping her appointments with her social worker. After a few months with a foster family, she was allowed home. She had her baby May 16, 2012, shortly before she turned 16.
She named him Levi because, she said, "I like the jeans."
When Danielle is not out with friends, she plays with Levi and reads nonfiction, particularly young women's stories about overcoming adversity. She spends a lot of time on the Internet, looking especially at fashion Web sites. She prefers the computer to television, although when she does watch TV her favorite shows are "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" and "CSI."
She has oscillated between periods of emotional calm and turbulence. Since the summer, her worried parents said, Danielle has settled into more regular hours and is studying for her GED, but she still isn't in therapy or on medication.
"I think she ties it in with when she had no choice, when they stand over you while you take your pills and you have to attend therapy, and now she is free she's making a choice not to; it's part of her empowerment," Veronica said. "But I wish she would."
Danielle and her family said she has had some meetings with the police. But she is worried about the emotional effect the new investigations will have on her.
"I've held it in for so long," she said. "I walk around seeming like I'm strong, but deep down inside I still feel helpless."
Students want state oversight of campus sex assault cases
by Jessica Bakeman
ALBANY—Student activists from private colleges pushed Monday for state oversight of universities' handling of sexual assault allegations, during a press conference at the Capitol hosted by Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul.
Kulsoom Ijaz, 25, a third-year law student at Syracuse University who said she was drugged by a fellow student last fall, recommended that the state require colleges to annually release aggregated data on the outcomes of campus adjudications of sexual violence. She also suggested annual random compliance reviews by the State Education Department.
Hochul, who has led the Cuomo administration's efforts to address college sexual assault, said the students “have been in conversation with the governor's team,” and their suggestions would “absolutely” be considered.
Two Columbia University seniors—Sejal Singh, 22, and Zoe Ridolfi-Starr, 21—joined Ijaz and Hochul at the press conference, where the women praised Governor Andrew Cuomo's legislative proposal, which would codify SUNY's new policy for the prevention and handling of sexual assaults so it also applies to private colleges.
Hochul said the proposal should be approved as part of the state budget process. Cuomo included the plan, along with other education policy initiatives, in his proposed spending plan.
“The budget is a vehicle that will get this accomplished sooner than any other vehicle in place. That's why it's part of the governor's budget,” Hochul said. “It is also a strong statement of his priorities, and that's what a budget is: A budget is a document that reflects the priorities of the governor and his administration. So his inclusion of this shows how seriously he treats these issues.”
Despite Hochul's argument, the legislation could have been passed sooner than the April 1 budget deadline if Cuomo had introduced it as legislation separate from the budget. He first announced the new policy for SUNY in October and said then he intended to codify it in state law. He also included it in his combined State of the State and budget address in January.
Asked why the Cuomo administration wasn't pushing lawmakers to approve the legislation sooner, Hochul said: “The budget process, we anticipate, will be wrapped up very shortly. They budget time is the absolute right time to make sure this becomes law as soon as possible.”
As for whether there is legislative pushback, Hochul said: “I'd be shocked.”
“This is already the SUNY policy, and we think that anybody who really cares about the 1.2 million students on college campuses would want to support uniform policies statewide,” she said.
Spokespeople for the Senate and Assembly majority conferences did not immediately return a request for comment.
At the news conference, the student activists shared personal stories of their experiences with sexual assault and violence in college.
Singh, now a Columbia senior, said that during her freshman year, she left a party, after which another student followed her to her room, pinned her down and sexually assaulted her.
“I told him to stop and tried to push him away, but he said he would hurt me if I didn't stop fighting back,” she said. “So even though I had tears running down my face, I stopped saying no. … Because I stopped saying no, I was convinced that reporting my assault would be pointless. I was convinced that even though I felt violated and sick, even though is started having panic attacks when I saw him in the library, even though I had never consented, I had no promise of justice because I had stopped saying no. I felt helpless and I blamed myself. My grades slipped and I thought about dropping out.”
If “affirmative consent,” which states that consent must be given actively and continuously throughout a sexual act, had been Columbia's policy then, she might have felt comfortable reporting her assault, Singh said.
“Instead, without an affirmative consent policy in place, I blamed myself, and he went on to abuse at least two other women,” she said of her alleged attacker. “An affirmative consent law tells perpetrators that if a woman accepts a drink, it's not a yes; that threatening a woman until they stop resisting is not a yes; and that silence is not a yes. Affirmative consent tells survivors that they can come forward and seek justice, because only a yes means yes.”
Columbia recently updated its sexual assault policy. The definition of consent states, in part: "Consent requires unambiguous communication and mutual agreement concerning the act in which the participants are engaging." Read the full policy here.
Singh said she was reluctant to report the incident because she had friends who had had bad experiences with the judicial system at Columbia. She knew three women who had been sexually assaulted and brought college charges against their alleged perpetrators.
Singh said all three men were found responsible for sexual assault, but their punishments were a one-semester suspension, a revocation of campus housing or a requirement to write a reflective essay.
“Columbia has a well-deserved reputation for mishandling cases and punishing rapists with a slap on the wrist,” she said.
For that reason, she praised Cuomo's policy, which would require immediate suspension or expulsion of anyone found responsible of sexual assault through a campus judicial review process.
Another Columbia senior, Zoe Ridolfi-Starr, said she was also sexually assaulted during her freshman year. She, too, declined to report the incident, she said, because, “I didn't trust my school to take my complaint seriously because of Columbia's history of grossly mishandling sexual violence cases in our community.”
When her family and friends offered advice about college, “no one told me that during my freshman year, two men would get me so drunk that I could barely stand and sexually assault me in their fraternity house,” she said.
“No one told me where to go, what to do and how to get help,” she said. “No one told me that I would spiral into a deep depression, see my grades slip and contemplate leaving school. No one told me that it wasn't my fault, and I felt I had no options other than to struggle through this alone. Because of this, it took me two years to come forward for help.”
A spokeswoman for Columbia did not immediately return a request for comment.
Ijaz, who will graduate from Syracuse's law school in May, criticized her institution for its handling of a classmate allegedly drugging four fellow students, including herself.
“Last September, a female law student was drugged at another law student's house party near campus and notified the school afterward,” she said. “The school then failed to make an anonymous report informing the student body of the danger. Since then, three more female law students were drugged later on in the semester. I was one of them. I was rendered immobile. I began seizing, and I was losing consciousness.
“My fear since then hasn't really stemmed from the fear of being attacked again, but the fear that someone like me could be attacked in the future and next time, the consequences will be worse, because my school has refused to take meaningful action to stop it," she said.
She said she reported the attack to campus police and has asked the school to “accurately and anonymously report to the student body that this was not an isolated incident.
“I have been ignored and silenced by Syracuse at every turn,” she said.
Erin Kane, a spokeswoman for Syracuse, responded in a statement: “This remains an active investigation so we are limited in what we can provide. What I can tell you is on January 15, a report was filed by a College of Law student concerning a possible alcohol tampering/drugging incident at an off-campus social event. To date, this remains the only report that has been received by the College of Law on this issue.
"In response to this issue, the College hosted a Personal Safety Forum on February 3, open to faculty, staff, and students at Syracuse Law,” the statement said. “The forum organizers also invited members of Syracuse University Department of Public Safety, the University Counseling Center and Vera House, an off-campus domestic and sexual violence service agency, to help answer questions and comments about safety on and off-campus.
"Dean Hannah Arterian also held an open student forum on February 9 where this issue was discussed,” she said. “As a follow-up from the Public Safety Forum, the College of Law created a Program Planning Group focusing on issues of safety for all students. The first meeting was held on Feb.18 and is co-chaired by Syracuse Law faculty member Lynn Levy, who teaches a class about violence against women and is developing a violence prevention program for Syracuse University students in sororities and fraternities as part of a two year U.S. Department of Education grant," the statement said.
Kane said the university supports "Cuomo's call for a comprehensive, uniform sexual assault policy on college campuses in New York State. We look forward to working with his administration on implementation in the months ahead.”
Taboo topics: Sexual assault
by Erin Mansur
In the United States, 75 percent of sexual assault victims are attacked by people they know.
Twenty million American women have been sexually assaulted and women between the ages of 20 and 24 are most likely to experience domestic violence, according to a study done by Safe Horizon.
The conversation about detecting, supporting and assisting victims of sexual assault might be taboo because it so frequently happens behind closed doors. Some think it's a situation to be dealt with personally.
Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, an anti-assault organization, found that 80 percent of the 293,000 yearly victims of sexual assault are under 30. Only 30 percent of these assaults are reported to police and 98 percent of rapists will not face jail time.
Police departments across the country have hundreds of thousands of backlogged and untested rape kits that may be the key to securing convictions for sexual assault victims. Detroit's backlog includes more than 11,000 untested kits.
One in six women will be sexually assaulted.
How can we change these statistics in the future? 2014 was a call to action from many feminists and women's rights organizations to assemble and open up a dialog about sexual assault, sexual harassment and other attacks that dehumanize women. The question is how students can continue dialog and action.
I sat down with University of Nebraska-Lincoln's PREVENT coordinator Jamie Porter to ask how UNL can conduct respectful and supportive dialog that honors victims and deters abusive cultural norms.
Daily Nebraskan: What are the thoughts you have about the statistics of victims of sexual assault?
Jamie Porter: When you look at relationship violence and sexual assault, you normally just think about victims and perpetrators. And those statistics are staggeringly high: 1 in 6 to 1 in 5 women and 1 in 33 men are sexually assaulted. But if you look on the flipside, 4 in 5 women or 32 of 33 won't be victims and 85 percent of men are not perpetrators. So there are a whole batch of people that we aren't addressing when we talk about sexual assault, so while they might not be direct victims or perpetrators, we all know someone who has been affected by relationship violence or domestic violence.
DN: How to do you connect with folks who are not directly affected by sexual assault?
JP: We use bystander intervention to help people see these things happening, to say something and have a part in our community to keep it safe. So PREVENT talks about what to do and recognizing scary situations. We talk about intervening now or later, indirectly or directly.
DN: What would be the best thing for friends to do if they believe someone they know has been sexually assaulted?
JP: Every situation is different. One big resource for victims and secondary victims (friend/family of victims) is our Voices of Hope Victims advocate. She can talk to navigate specific situations. But the biggest thing is telling them that you believe them. Maybe you are the first person they have told and if you shed a shadow of doubt on that, they may not tell anyone else to seek the help they need or want. One thing Morgan [victim advocate] will always say is, ‘follow their lead.' When someone has experienced this tragedy, all of this power has been taken away from them and specifically, there is a loss of control over your body. Giving them as much power as possible back is very important. Then it is very important to be mindful of boundaries, so giving them plenty of space and respecting that you might need to ask to give them a hug or affection.
DN: What can you do if you are a victim of sexual assault?
JP: If you want to go through the justice system, don't take a shower. They can collect evidence for up to 72 hours and they will do a Sexual Assault Response Kit. Save your clothes to preserve your evidence. You can go to a hospital and get that done as well, but they are mandated reporters. So if you go into a hospital and say you have been sexually assaulted, they will call the police and Voices of Hope will be contacted as well to send you a victim's advocate. If you just want to have evidence collected (at the hospital) and later decide whether or not you want to seek the justice system you can go on to UNLPD's crime stoppers website and anonymously report this crime and you will get a case number. Than if you bring that case number into the hospital they will be able to collect evidence anonymously.
DN: What are some on-campus resources for victims after an assault?
JP: Morgan is our victim advocate for Voices of Hope, where she does short-term counselling and aids in navigating the justice system or other Title IX things, along with restraining orders and she will make sure victims know what actions they can take. The Women's Center has free confidential counselling for students, faculty, staff and community members for any number of sessions. That's open to all genders. CAPS, Counseling and Psychological Services, has three counseling sessions that are free to students.
DN: What things on campus can be done so that students are aware that sexual violence is happening and can be prevented?
JP: This year with the national spotlight and attention our campus is getting people, this topic has been on fire. One thing that happened on campus is ASUN recommending they pass a Title IX section of the syllabi in each class. To say ‘We support victims and here are the resources to support you.' Becoming a peer educator and bystander intervention individual through PREVENT. IF you want to be a really visible person who says ‘I stand against these issues.' Through Title IX we are also required to do a bystander intervention.
DN: What prevents these conversations from happening?
JP: People don't know how to respond, especially when it is really personalized. When we think about these issues we think about them in an abstract that happens over there to those people, we don't think of it as us in our communities. Being faced with that can be really scary, and it creates a lot of turmoil for people and the idea of a just world, where bad things happen to bad people. It's hard to be faced with the reality of what sexual assault is.
DN: Why is it so important to talk about these issues?
JP: Besides the rates of perpetration in college communities, which is extremely high; it's part of a larger conversation. It's about sexism and rape culture, and this climbs a lot of things in. By starting with this really concrete topic, we can broaden the conversations about social justice.
FACT SHEET: Investments to Reduce the National Rape Kit Backlog and Combat Violence Against Women
Federal Information & News Dispatch, Inc.
"It's the single-most significant and direct way to measure the character of a nation -- when violence against women is no longer societally accepted, no longer kept secret, when everyone understands that even one case is too many. That's when it will change." -- Vice President Joe Biden, 2014
Today, Vice President Biden will deliver remarks in Maryland to highlight the Administration's new Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, which is investing $41 million this year to help communities accelerate testing of the estimated 400,000 rape kits that have been backlogged in law enforcement storage rooms and crime labs across the country. This is a problem which prevents or delays the prosecution of sexual assault crimes. In addition to this initiative to address the backlog, the Administration invested an unprecedented $430 million in violence against women programs in Fiscal Year ("FY") 2015.
The President's FY 2016 Budget proposes an additional $41 million to continue the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative as well as $20 million for research under the Department of Justice'sNational Institute of Justice. This funding aims to identify more effective and efficient strategies to reduce the backlog of sexual assault kits and to prevent future backlogs from occurring.
Audio of the Vice President's remarks at 12:30 PM ET will be available at www.whitehouse.gov/live.
The Sexual Assault Kit Initiative
A sexual assault kit, or "rape kit," is a medical kit used to collect evidence from the body and clothing of a victim of rape or sexual assault. The rape kit generally contains tools such as swabs, tubes, glass slides, containers, and plastic bags. These items are used to collect and preserve fibers from clothing, hair, and bodily fluids, which can help identify DNA and other forensic evidence left by a perpetrator. Rape kits, when tested by crime labs, have proven vital to successful investigations and prosecutions of sexual assault crimes, and thus to holding perpetrators accountable. Testing rape kits can lead to new DNA matches in the criminal database, identification of serial rapists, and increased rates of arrest and prosecution of perpetrators, leading to improved public safety.
The number of kits backlogged in crime labs-meaning those that have been submitted for testing over 90 days ago-is thought to be around several hundred thousand. But over the past decade, law enforcement agencies around the nation have discovered scores of kits in storage facilities, and it isn't known how many other jurisdictions have similar problems. Some of these kits have been booked into evidence in police evidence storage facilities but the detective and/or prosecutor has not requested DNA analysis. Other kits have been submitted for testing in crime lab facilities, but are awaiting DNA analysis and have not been tested in a timely manner.
To better understand the factors causing the backlog and assess strategies for accelerating the submission of rape kits to crime labs, in 2011, the Administration, in conjunction with businesses and foundations, funded pilot projects in Detroit, Michigan and Houston, Texas. The results of these pilots demonstrate that progress can be made to reduce the backlog and identify and convict perpetrators, though challenges still remain. In Detroit in 2009, 11,000 untested rape kits were found in an abandoned police storage unit. As of January 2015, a team of law enforcement officers, prosecutors, researchers and advocates had tested 2,000 kits as part of the pilot project. The testing resulted in approximately 760 DNA matches and led to the identification of 188 serial offenders and 15 convictions.
To implement the successful strategies identified in the pilots in more communities across the country, the President's FY2015 budget proposed the creation of the new Sexual Assault Kit Initiative. The Administration secured $41 million for this Initiative to help state, local, and tribal law enforcement and prosecutors' offices take action to reduce the rape kit backlog. The Department of Justice is accepting applications for this competitive grant through May 7, 2015.
The Sexual Assault Kit Initiative complements past legislation to address DNA backlogs, including the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting (SAFER) Act, passed by Congress as part of the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). SAFER focuses on ending the rape kit backlog. The Sexual Assault Kit Initiative also builds upon the Debbie Smith Act of 2004, which amended the DNA Analysis Backlog Elimination Act of 2000 to include DNA testing of sexual assault kits.
Additional Investments in the President's Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Proposal to Combat Violence Against Women
The President's FY 2016 Budget requests an unprecedented $473.5 million for the U.S. Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women to combat and respond to violent crimes against women. This request includes $41 million to continue the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative and $20 million for research under the Department of Justice'sNational Institute of Justice in order to identify more effective and efficient strategies for reducing the backlog of sexual assault kits. It also includes $193 million for STOP Grants to Combat Violence Against Women, $27 million for the Sexual Assault Services Program (SASP), and $26 million to reduce violent crimes against women on campus, and funds two new initiatives in the Office on Violence Against Women:
*$21 million for the Violence Against Women 20/20 Initiative, which aims to implement substantial, targeted projects that can be utilized in diverse communities across the country and serve as models that can be replicated across the nation, and $5 million for a new Tribal Special Domestic Violence Criminal Jurisdiction grant program to support tribes in strengthening their criminal justice systems, providing indigent defense counsel, developing appropriate jury pools, and assisting victims.
Highlights of the Administration's Record Fighting Violence Against Women
From their first day in the White House, the President and Vice President have been committed to addressing violence against women and have taken action.
*VAWA 2013's "special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction" (SDVCJ) took effect. This Act recognizes tribes' inherent power to exercise jurisdiction over non-Indian perpetrators who commit acts of domestic or dating violence or violate certain protection orders in Indian country.
*The President established the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. After 27 listening sessions with stakeholders across the country, the Task Force released its first report -- Not Alone -- with new recommendations for schools to prevent and respond to sexual assault and new steps by federal agencies to improve enforcement of federal laws. The work of the Task Force is ongoing.
*The Task Force launched the 1is2many PSA aimed at spreading the word that one victim is too many. The campaign launched on the 20th Anniversary of VAWA.
*The President and Vice President unveiled a new public awareness and education campaign: "It's On Us. " The campaign seeks to engage college students and all members of campus communities in a dialogue around effectively responding to and preventing sexual assault in the first place.
*The Vice President celebrated the 20th anniversary of VAWA at the National Archives and called for a renewed focus on civil rights and equal protection of women.
*The Affordable Care Act of 2010 began prohibiting insurance companies, healthcare providers, and health programs that receive federal financial assistance from denying coverage to women based on many factors, including being a survivor of domestic or sexual violence.
*The President signed the third reauthorization of VAWA, creating new protections for LGBT victims, immigrant women, and Native American women. The legislation also expands housing protections for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, and directs resources towards improving the criminal justice response to sexual assault.
*The Vice President and the Attorney General announced a new initiative to prevent domestic violence homicides. Using evidence-based lethality assessment tools, the initiative identifies victims at high risk and links them with immediate services.
*The President issued a memorandum directing federal agencies to develop policies to address domestic violence in the federal workforce and to assist survivors.
*The Affordable Care Act began requiring all new and non-grandfathered health plans to cover screening and brief counseling for domestic violence, and made it unlawful for plans to require cost sharing or deductibles for these services.
*The Vice President kicked off the "1 is 2 Many" campaign, focusing on the high rates of dating violence and sexual assault experienced by teens and young adults. Through "1 is 2 Many," the National Dating Abuse Helpline expanded to digital services, and new mobile apps were created to help prevent sexual assault and support survivors.
*The Department of Education sent new guidance to schools, colleges, and universities about their obligations under federal civil rights law to respond to and prevent sexual assault.
*The President signed the Affordable Care Act, which provides individuals who have experienced domestic, sexual, and dating violence with the economic security of affordable health insurance. Because of the law, most health plans must now cover preventive services, including screening and counseling for domestic or intimate partner violence, at no cost to the consumer. And insurers can no longer deny health coverage or charge a higher premium because a woman is a domestic violence survivor.
*The President appointed the first-ever White House Advisor on Violence Against Women.
When the pope speaks, priest abuse cases get heard
by Anthony Faiola
NAPLES, Italy — Diego was the shy one in Father Silverio Mura's class; a 13-year-old, olive-skinned and handsome, who spent his free time indoors watching cartoons. He walked to school alone in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, stopping first to pray to a statue of the Virgin Mary in the rose garden in front of his apartment building.
“She was my protector,” he said.
But nothing and no one, Diego charged, protected him from Mura — the religion teacher who invited the then-teenage boy to the priest's small apartment on Brothers Grimm Street after class one day in 1989. There, Diego, now 39, said Mura cajoled him into a kiss. A few days later, he was asked to return, suffering the first of what he described as hundreds of incidences of sexual abuse that turned a quiet boy who wanted to be a pilot into a deeply troubled adult.
After he finally came forward in 2009, Diego's case languished. The local diocese even transferred Mura in 2012 to a school where the priest had regular access to children as young as 14. That's when Diego, who is still Catholic, made what would become a decisive move — he wrote directly to Pope Francis.
His case is one of several in which Francis has personally intervened to aid alleged abuse victims in what the Vatican calls yet another push for change by a pope known for leading by example. The pope, according to the Vatican, escalated Diego's case, prompting an official church investigation that could ultimately lead to Mura's defrocking. Given the length of such legal processes in the church, it could take a year or more to establish his guilt or innocence.
Yet even as Francis seeks to bring a forceful new tone to an issue that severely damaged the Catholic Church's reputation before his appointment, the pope is sometimes swimming against the tide. In local dioceses from Italy to the Philippines, Francis is confronting stubborn and sloth-like bureaucracies that are still committing some of the same grave errors of the past.
That, Vatican officials say, is what Francis is trying to change, and few cases exemplify that effort more than Diego's. Mura declined to comment through a representative of the Diocese of Naples, which additionally refused to say whether the priest is denying the charges against him.
“I would say the pope is very sensitive to all kinds of suffering, and certainly he is sending an indirect message,” said a senior Vatican official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “These kinds of cases will not be tolerated.”
New Jersey Colleges Struggle to Deal With Issue of Rape
by Mary Jo Layton
Legislators and universities in New Jersey are changing the way rapes are dealt with on campus following two explosive incidents at local colleges and several high-profile cases that have brought national attention to the epidemic of sexual assault among students.
The allegations of rape at William Paterson University in Wayne and Ramapo College in Mahwah late last year came on the heels of incidents in New York, Florida and Virginia, scandals that prompted the federal government to push schools to be more aggressive in the handling of sexual assault cases.
But universities have struggled to investigate claims that are often difficult to prove — consent sometimes comes down to a matter of perspective, especially in young adults, and in most incidents there are no witnesses and memory is impaired by trauma, alcohol or drug use.
The task is all the more complicated by the need to preserve the rights of the accused. And increasingly, more young men are suing their schools — three have filed notice of intent to sue William Paterson — saying their lives have forever been altered by accusations that are unfounded and cases that were mishandled.
The proposed reforms seek nothing less than a cultural change — and it's roiling campuses and statehouses.
Lawmakers in New Jersey and other states are trying to legislate the very nature of consent and take rape investigations out of the hands of campus police, putting outside law enforcement in charge. Students are marching at more than 100 universities in solidarity with rape victims. Administrators at Ramapo and other schools are banning boozy gatherings in the hopes of preventing the kind of activities that lead to trouble. Ten states are even considering permitting students to carry guns to prevent rape.
"There's definitely been a big change," said Scott Berkowitz, president of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, a victim advocacy group, told The Record (http://bit.ly/19opnVr). "There's a lot more awareness on the part of students about the risks they face. There's a lot more focus by college administrators on implementing prevention and on making sure how cases are adjudicated meets the expectation of all parties."
Fearful of finding themselves in the middle of the next national scandal, several universities are hiring consultants to review their policies, mindful that missteps can result in litigation or federal fines.
Fairleigh Dickinson University is changing its internal judicial process: Two retired law enforcement officers will now investigate and report findings to a specially trained dean, rather than a panel that had included students. Ramapo hired a former state attorney general to review its policies following the alleged rape of an intoxicated freshman, which led to the arrest of five students in November.
Meanwhile, Princeton University has promised to respond to complaints of sexual abuse and harassment on campus in a more timely and thorough way, according to an agreement the school reached with the federal government last fall.
More changes are needed, said state Sen. Peter J. Barnes, D-Middlesex. He is sponsoring a package of bills to ensure better investigations. "We can look at Princeton University, we can look at William Paterson and the conclusion is clear: New Jersey has not done a good job of handling sexual assault allegations on campus," he said.
One bill would require colleges and universities to report incidents to local law enforcement, including prosecutor's offices, which typically have sex crimes units. "Campus security or police are not equipped or trained to handle sex crimes investigations," Barnes said. "Leave that to the people and experts who are trained for this."
Public and private colleges in New Jersey reported 91 sexual assaults in 2013, according to federal data. But experts and students suspect there are far more.
How allegations are handled varies by campus. At Montclair State University, nurses who are part of the school's Sexual Assault Response Team conduct forensic exams and work with trained officers, a program that campus Police Chief Paul M. Cell helped create and lectures about nationally.
At Rutgers University, campus police inform the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office, which takes the lead in the investigation. In Bergen County, allegations of sexual assault must be immediately reported to the Prosecutor's Office.
Others forge ahead on their own — using campus security to investigate cases that would be prosecuted as felonies if tried in criminal court and likely result in a prison sentence for those found guilty.
Campus police undergo training to handle sexual assault claims, but expertise varies. Few have the experience — or the case volume — of a dedicated sex crimes unit in a prosecutor's office.
Missteps last year in the campus police department at William Paterson resulted in police releasing a report about an alleged gang rape without first redacting the victim's name. Three of the young men accused in the case have filed a notice of their plans to sue the university, contending that campus police botched the investigation in many other ways. They were charged with first-degree sexual assault and spent several nights in the Passaic County Jail. They were cleared in January when a grand jury declined to indict.
Complaints of sexual assault are also handled by school disciplinary panels, which are also facing much greater scrutiny following many high-profile missteps.
Alleged victims — as well as the accused — argue that disciplinary panel members aren't properly trained to undertake sensitive investigations involving allegations of serious crimes. For instance, at Hobart and William Smith College in upstate New York last year, a panel exonerated three football players accused of assaulting a freshman before the medical evidence from the victim had been reviewed.
"You have investigators and deans who are reviewing complex factual events and sitting in judgment of things that are highly nuanced and for which they are not trained to do," said Andrew T. Miltenberg, an attorney who has filed lawsuits on behalf of students accused of assault who say their cases were mishandled.
Rose D'Ambrosio, associate vice president for human resources at Fairleigh Dickinson, acknowledges the difficulties faced by disciplinary panels. "We, in addition to police, have to do our own internal investigation," she said. "We are not equipped necessarily with the expertise that law enforcement has, but we do provide training to our panel. There's definitely a burden placed on administrators now to be brought up to speed on sexual assault investigations."
Still, the legislative effort to require that outside law enforcement be called in immediately — also proposed in Rhode Island, New York and Virginia — is meeting opposition from the victims the reforms are meant to protect. A victim still has a right to refuse to file a criminal complaint under the pending laws, but advocates say even the initial involvement with police can be too much.
"When a survivor has been sexually assaulted, much of her power and decision making has been taken away," said Sarah McMahon, associate director of the Center on Violence Against Women and Children at Rutgers. "One of the most important things we can give them is control over how their case moves forward and what options are best for them."
And there's no guarantee outside experts will do a better job, advocates say. "We know a bit about police — they do a lot of victim blaming," said John Foubert, national president of One in Four, a sexual assault prevention group and a professor at Oklahoma State University. In cases that involve alcohol, some prosecutors and district attorneys won't prosecute because it's not winnable, Foubert said.
"It's not a panacea to go off campus," he said.
A 31-year-old Monmouth County woman, raped a decade ago at a college in North Carolina, said efforts should focus on better training for first responders.
After the attack, she said, she went to a college clinic and the doctor dismissed her. "I blurted out I was raped," said the woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "She looked me up and down. She made me feel like a germ. I just shut down." She never filed charges.
In fact, many victims decide not to report. Of 10 allegations of sexual assault reported at Fairleigh Dickinson in 2012, none of the victims opted to pursue a case, D'Ambrosio said. "It could be peer pressure, not wanting word to get out," she said. "They may not be strong enough to deal with what's occurred. We can encourage them to go to police, but we cannot force them."
The federal government has been pressuring universities to take sexual assaults more seriously since 2011, when the Department of Education sent a letter saying that under Title IX — designed to prevent sex discrimination at schools — schools could face fines and sanctions if they didn't comply. The letter clarified the standard to be used in deciding cases — previously panels had to determine it was "highly probable" that an assault had occurred before it could sanction a student. Now, a lesser standard applies — preponderance of the evidence, which means it's more likely than not that a rape occurred.
Last year, the Obama administration appointed a task force to recommend how to prevent and respond to sexual assaults on campus. It sparked congressional hearings and placed the issue of college rape in the national spotlight.
As a result of the growing awareness, more schools are expelling students for sexual misconduct, a far cry from prior years when deans thought Title IX referred only to sex discrimination in sports, said Colby Bruno, a lawyer at the Victim Rights Center in Boston who has represented victims of campus sex assault.
"We've made progress," Bruno said.
But some law professors and other experts see a more aggressive process that risks violating the rights of the accused. Indeed, in this charged atmosphere, an article in Rolling Stone magazine in December about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia led school officials to suspend all fraternities, provoked death threats against some male students and incited marches on campus. The story was later deemed to be not credible.
"Some of the best advice parents can give their children, especially their sons, is to warn of the dangers and perils of a one-night hookup with someone, where you can very easily be accused of a sexual assault when the one night is over," said Raymond Flood, a former assistant Bergen County prosecutor and longtime defense attorney.
In the lawsuits filed against Drew University, the University of Colorado, Vassar College and Columbia University, the narrative is similar: A couple has sex, alcohol is typically involved, and there's a dramatically different account of what transpired, leaving police or discipline panels to sort out private acts between two people.
Kevin Parisi, 21, a former student at Drew, said he was promised a quick resolution after a woman accused him of rape in 2013. He was banned from campus except for classes, the case dragged on for nearly three months and a key witness — a woman who was told by the alleged victim that the sex was consensual — was never interviewed by the panel, he said.
"The school handled it so miserably," said Parisi, a resident of Hunterdon County, who maintains the sexual encounter was consensual and the alleged victim refused to cooperate with Madison police.
"When you're accused, the school policies don't help the males," he added.
No charges were filed. Nearly three months after the allegation and a day before the semester ended, Parisi learned he had been cleared by the university. A month later, the Madison police said they found no wrongdoing.
"There was no due process," he said.
"It's pretty horrifying to think of going back to school," said Parisi, who has not resumed his studies and has filed a federal lawsuit against the university. "It's a hostile environment."
A university spokeswoman said Drew has filed a motion to dismiss the suit. "We are confident that the university behaved lawfully and appropriately," the spokeswoman, Elizabeth Moore, said.
Alleged victims too, are fighting back, in many instances taking their accounts public or filing federal complaints.
Emma Sulkowicz, a senior at Columbia, has argued her case was badly mishandled by the school disciplinary panel after she reported in 2013 of being raped in her dorm months before. The visual-arts major has carried a mattress around campus — in what is now her senior thesis "Carry That Weight" — calling for sexual assault policy reform. Students at Rutgers and dozens of other universities have launched protests and carried mattresses in solidarity.
Sulkowicz was one of 23 students who filed a federal complaint against Columbia last year for mishandling sexual assault cases under Title IX. Officials at the federal Department of Education declined to discuss individual cases, but the department's Office of Civil Rights is investigating 102 sexual violence cases at 97 colleges and universities and Columbia is on the list, a government spokesman said. (No New Jersey colleges appear on that list.)
According to news accounts of the Sulkowicz case, the tone of the disciplinary panel was inappropriate — one member asked her repeatedly during the investigation how a painful sex act was physically possible. In addition, her alleged attacker had been accused of sexual misconduct previously, and that case was reopened by the discipline panel so it couldn't be used as evidence in her case, her parents, Sandra Leong and Kerry J. Sulkowicz, wrote in a letter published in the university newspaper in October.
"It's hard to see the conduct of the investigation of our daughter's complaint and the subsequent hearing as anything but a circus," they wrote.
The investigation took seven months — and the student she alleged attacked her remains on campus.
The accused student went public, most recently last month in the Daily Beast in which he said the sex was consensual. The story included emails he said revealed cordial contact after the incident.
Columbia officials declined comment, citing the pending litigation. The university opened a second rape crisis center last year and more than doubled the professional staff there.
Other universities also have found themselves in the national spotlight over alleged incidents. A student at Florida State University filed suit against the school after police and a discipline panel failed to take action against Jameis Winston, now a top NFL prospect, whom she accused of a sexual assault in 2012.
Campuses and even some legislators are taking another tack to better protect students — preventing sexual assault in the first place.
New Jersey, California and several other states are wading into the nuanced world of intimacy and proposing that colleges adopt codes making it clear that students say what activity they wish to engage in. The "affirmative consent standard" would make any sexual encounter a potential crime if it's not preceded by a verbal agreement.
"We're trying to change the culture and the mentality of young men and women," said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Englewood, a prime sponsor of the bill and others to prevent assaults.
"Currently, no means no," she said. "But if you're silent, if you're drugged or intoxicated or there's a non-verbal miscommunication, this helps clarify the definition of sexual assault."
Student groups are holding seminars to educate men and women on how to talk about consent — some schools call them "Enthusiastic Consent Workshops." There's even an App — parents are cringing at the name Good2Go — which is intended to put the brakes on hookups long enough to clarify intentions.
"Not getting a 'no' from your partner is not getting a 'yes,'" said Sarah Stern, 21, who helps plan seminars sponsored by the Rutgers group We Organize Against Harassment.
"It's hard for some people to grasp that idea," she said. "In movies you never see people ask if they want to keep going. It just happens. In reality, we have different perspectives and it's difficult to communicate, but it's necessary."
Sex crimes against males soar in Bradford
by Paul Whitehouse
SEX crimes against male victims have increased massively in the space of a decade in Bradford, with 60 per cent of those who have complained to police also aged under 13.
In the year 2000, there were only four offences reported against male victims in the Bradford district, with all four victims being children and three of them aged under 13.
By last year, there were 58 offences in Bradford during the first ten months, meaning a likely total of 70 for the full year, with eight more in Ilkley , seven in Shipley and six in Keighley .
Police attribute the rise at least partly to the number of historic sexual offences now being reported and increased confidence that victims will be treated with sensitivity and the information they offer will be taken seriously.
But the rising scale of the problem has also seen the emergence of support services to assist victims of such crimes.
Research was commissioned on sexual offending against men and young boys in Bradford in 2001, when official reports of such crimes were rare.
That led to the charity BLAST being established in 2003, offering support for boys and young men who have become the victims of sex crimes.
The organisation has spread from Bradford to go national and last year organised a campaign to raise awareness of male child sexual exploitation.
Next month the Staying Put organisation, which assists female victims of domestic violence, is extending its services in the city to provide help for male survivors.
Many of its female clients are also victims of sexual abuse and spokesman Yasmin Khan told the Telegraph & Argus she expected that to be repeated when men started to use the service more frequently.
That is being financed by the local authority and NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups in Bradford.
"I expect we will have males from same sex relationships but the pattern may be different to that for females," she said.
Detective Chief Inspector Terry Long, head of Safeguarding at Bradford District with West Yorkshire Police, said: “Sexual offences of any kind in Bradford district are treated extremely seriously, with investigations handled directly by specially trained officers.
"This response is the same regardless of the victim's gender and services provide equal support to girls and boys alike to encourage reporting.
“Bradford District has a dedicated unit which handles both investigations and victim care.
"Reporting of these offences is encouraged, and recent high profile cases are helping people to feel more empowered and confident to report instances of abuse in Bradford, particularly historic offences.
"Victims of sexual abuse in Bradford can be reassured that their reports will be dealt with sensitively and robust investigations will be carried out. There is a higher proportion of reporting against children, clearly as a result of their vulnerability."
West Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson, said: “We are aware that the number of sexual offences have increased over time and it can in part be attributable to three key factors that include increases in historical reporting - historic offences used to account for one in ten of all cases reported, but now accounts for one in five.
“It can also be down to proactive Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) operations and campaigns.
“It may also be that in the wake of publicity associated with Savile and other historical abuse cases, more adult survivors of child sexual abuse, as well as more recent victims, have felt empowered to come forward."
The commissioner has given financial support to BLAST and that charity's spokesman, Phil Mitchell, told the T&A it was impossible to know the full scale of such offending.
BLAST runs a confidential service and would not pass details of victims who approached them to police without consent.
Mr Mitchell said: "Some don't want to talk to police and we have to be led by them."
BLAST's work was try to ensure the safety of victims and in some cases they were allowing themselves to be sexually abused for payment.
Locking up perpetrators did not always make the victim safer as they may drift towards other offenders: "We want to get people making safer decisions," he said.
The child sex abuse scandals engulfing Britain
by Corinne Purtill
LONDON, UK — Try to forget it.
That's what Jon Bird's mother told him in 1963 when he ran home at age 4 weeping and in pain, after a stranger pulled him into the woods and raped him.
He heard the same thing six years later, he said, when a boarding school head teacher was fired — but not criminally charged — for sexually assaulting Bird and other students.
Denial, forgetting and covering up were for years the British response to allegations that children were being sexually abused in institutions that were supposed to care for them. Now those walls are coming down.
The UK is poised to launch a major national investigation into allegations that government officials knowingly covered up evidence of sexual abuse of children over decades, even when those crimes were perpetrated by people in the highest echelons of public life and in institutions specifically tasked with children's care.
“This could be — it probably will be — the biggest inquiry this country's ever seen,” inquiry spokesman David Jervis told GlobalPost Friday.
Police are looking into reports of a long-rumored pedophile ring in Westminster, the London seat of power and government, that operated in the 1970s and 1980s and allegedly involved high-ranking figures from politics, the police and the military.
Investigations are also going on around the country into children's homes, schools, hospitals and other institutions where victims — now adults — say that people assigned to their care were exploiting them for sexual purposes.
In some cases, police are investigating whether children were murdered to cover up the crimes.
It's the ugly legacy of a period in which a lack of child safeguards in public institutions and a cultural preference for protecting the system instead of individuals allowed abuse to proliferate.
For social workers and abuse survivors who have been trying for years to get complaints heard, these investigations are a validation many thought they'd never receive.
“I thought they'd keep a lid on it forever,” said Bird, now operations manager at the National Association for People Abused in Childhood. “I'm still amazed it's being taken seriously.”
Open secrets, official silence
There have been whispers and rumors for decades in Britain that certain public institutions — and certain high-ranking people — were dangers to children.
Recently released National Archives documents show that in the 1980s even Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was briefed on the pedophilic predilections of people in and close to her government.
There was Sir Peter Hayman, a career diplomat and member (under an assumed name) of the Pedophile Information Exchange, a lobby group that existed in Britain in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1978 Hayman left a package of pedophilic materials on a London bus but was let off by police with only a warning.
There was Sir Peter Morrison, a close Thatcher aide and deputy Conservative Party leader, whose rumored abuse of young boys in the 1980s is now the subject of an investigation into abuse in children's homes in Wales.
There was Cyril Smith, a Liberal member of Parliament (MP) from 1972 to 1992 who was investigated at least three times for sexually assaulting boys but never charged.
Last week, after a year of stalling on a newspaper's information request, the government released documents showing that a top adviser warned Thatcher about Smith's previous abuse investigations, and that knighting him could harm “the integrity of the honors system.”
Thatcher ignored him. Smith got his knighthood. Last year, Greater Manchester Police acknowledged that there was “overwhelming evidence ... that young boys were sexually and physically abused” by Smith, and that he would likely face trial were the same evidence presented today.
At the time, the attitude to Smith's rumored predilections was very different.
“All he seems to have done is spanked a few bare bottoms.”
Cyril Smith, Liberal parliamentarian
“All he seems to have done is spanked a few bare bottoms,” a Liberal Party spokesman said in response to a 1979 newspaper investigation.
Hayman, Morrison and Smith are now dead.
In 1984, a Conservative MP named Geoffrey Dickens sent then-Home Secretary Leon Brittan multiple letters charging that people in and linked to the government were sexually abusing children. Brittan claimed to have passed them to Home Office officials for investigation. Nothing more came of it. Brittan died last month.
In 2013, the Home Office, which oversees Britain's police and other security agencies, said that those letters, along with more than 100 other documents related to child abuse allegations, are missing from their files.
A Home Office-commissioned review of the missing documents could neither confirm nor rule out that they were deliberately removed from the record.
Allegations of abuse by powerful people at that time were treated more as embarrassing secrets than reportable crimes. As far back as 1995, former Conservative Party whip Tim Fortescue explained in a BBC documentary how even open admissions of child molestation could be brushed aside.
“Anyone with any sense, who was in trouble, would come to the whips and tell them the truth, and say, ‘Now, I'm in a jam. Can you help?' It might be debt, it might be a scandal involving small boys,” said Fortescue, who died in 2008.
Keeping the secret had more political value than reporting it, Fortescue said: “If we could get a chap out of trouble, he'd do as we asked forevermore.”
Those who did try to bring alleged crimes to attention were met with silence or stonewalling from police and prosecutors, for reasons that have never been satisfactorily explained.
As a social worker in the London borough of Islington in the 1990s, Liz Davies began to work with police on a major investigation of sexual abuse in children's group homes there.
She maintains that she found evidence that children in the system were being subjected to sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect and even murder.
One day, she said, it all stopped. She was informed that the investigation was over and not given a reason. Her counterpart in London's Metropolitan Police was told the same, she said.
“We'd been working together every single day. It was very intense,” Davies said.
But now, some 20 years later, she said, “the truth is coming out and it can't be stopped.”
Savile blows it open
Jimmy Savile was a fixture on British television for almost 50 years, a Yorkshire-accented equivalent to someone like America's Dick Clark.
He was famous for his charity work and children's shows on the BBC. But less than a year after his death in October 2011, allegations came to light that he used both those outlets to find, groom and rape children. Hundreds of people have since come forward to claim that Savile sexually assaulted them when they were underage.
“That was the watershed moment in the UK,” Bird said.
A subsequent London police investigation has led to the arrests of 17 other men so far on sexual offenses against adults and children, most committed between the late 1970s and early 1990s.
The conviction and imprisonment of British TV personalities like Gary Glitter and Rolf Harris made headlines. But it was also clear from victims' reports that institutions and the people who ran them were complicit in the abuse.
There are now at least 13 separate investigations underway across Britain into past sexual offenses against children.
Some are internal reviews to understand how institutions like the National Health Service or the Department for Education exposed children to predators and failed to act on reports of abuse.
At the top is an independent national inquiry announced in July that will seek to determine whether and to what extent institutions in England and Wales were negligent in their duty to protect children from sexual abuse.
“We have to be investigated just like anybody else.”
Bishop Paul Butler of the Church of England
“A full public inquiry is required because under those terms people have to take oaths and therefore swear to tell the truth. My fear is the whole story won't come out without that,” said Bishop Paul Butler of the Church of England, which has uncovered evidence of sexual abuse by clergy. “We have to be investigated just like anybody else.”
Investigations in Northern Ireland and Scotland will be left to those regions' devolved governments, May said, despite calls to include them in the national one.
It has gotten off to a rocky start. The first two inquiry chiefs stepped down over concerns that they were too close to establishment figures likely to surface in the course of the investigation.
In February the inquiry virtually started from scratch, announcing New Zealand High Court judge Lowell Goddard as the new chief. It relaunched last week with a new panel of investigators.
Evidence hearings will not begin for months, spokesman Jervis said. The full investigation, he added, will likely take years.
When it was announced, Prime Minister David Cameron said the inquiry should leave “no stone unturned." When news emerged of a separate sexual abuse scandal in Britain — one involving the exploitation of young women by primarily South Asian gangs — he called the problem a “national threat.”
But Simon Danczuk, an MP leading the push for a full investigation, said in December that he believed Cameron was “dismissive” of the allegations toward establishment figures and ready to “move on.”
Cameron sat on a parliamentary committee examining police investigations of abuse at children's group homes in 2002, when he was still an MP.
Phil Frampton, 61, who was sexually abused as a child in care, gave evidence to the committee. In a phone interview, he recalled Cameron's demeanor as “pretty arrogant and dismissive.”
In transcripts, Cameron's questions have a skeptical tone: Could people be making fraudulent accusations to claim compensation? Were police questions triggering false memories? How many accusers had criminal backgrounds? (Cameron's office did not immediately respond to several requests for comment last week.)
Before Savile, that was the common attitude toward accusers raised in state institutions, who were often cast as troubled youth seeking money or attention, Frampton said.
“For us, who've been fighting for so long, [the national inquiry] is very, very important, and a chance to set the record straight,” Frampton said.
A criminal trail
There are also police investigations that could lead to the arrest and prosecution of offenders who are still alive.
These operations are complicated beasts. Take, for example, the investigation into Elm Guest House, a former hostel in Barnes, a suburb southwest of London.
The Edwardian house served simultaneously as a legitimate bed and breakfast, a brothel for gay men and, allegedly, a place where trafficked children were brought to be sexually abused by adults. Police are investigating claims that prominent government officials were among the men who raped boys at the house.
Police opened an investigation in 2012 called Operation Fairbank. Fairbank subsequently launched three new lines of inquiry (not included in the 13 investigations mentioned above).
One of those, Operation Fernbridge, is looking at reports of a pedophile ring operating out of Elm. This includes claims that boys were trafficked to Elm from Grafton Close Children's Home, a group home in southwest London.
In 2013, police arrested two men on charges of sexually assaulting children at Grafton Close in the late 1970s and early 1980s — John Stingemore, its former manager, and Anthony McSweeney, a Catholic priest.
Stingemore died in January at the age of 72, weeks before the trial against him was due to start. McSweeney, now 68, was convicted Feb. 27 of sexually assaulting a boy and making child pornography. He will be sentenced later this month.
Another line of inquiry, Operation Midland, is investigating claims that three boys were murdered by an organized ring of pedophiles operating in London and its surrounding counties.
The families of two boys who went missing near Elm Guest House in the late 1970s and early 1980s have asked police to investigate the possibility that their sons were taken and killed by people linked to the house.
A system gone wrong
Britain must now reckon with a history of crime and institutional neglect on an overwhelming scale.
Jordans Solicitors, a law practice in Yorkshire that specializes in representing sexual abuse victims in civil lawsuits, received between 600 and 1,000 calls last year from people claiming to have been abused, attorney David Gibbs said.
Sexual abuse of children happens all over the world. Institutions everywhere sometimes fail the people they're charged with protecting.
But some believe that British culture in the latter half of the 20th century allowed these two truths to merge in a particularly toxic way; that these abuse allegations are the dark, ugly consequence of a social system that valued the preservation of order and the establishment above all else.
“Remember the atmosphere of the times,” said Lord Norman Tebbit, a member of Thatcher's cabinet, on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show in July.
“At that time, I think most people would have thought that the establishment, that the system, was to be protected. And if a few things had gone wrong here and there, that it was more important to protect the system than to delve too far into them.”
Asked if there was a government cover-up of child sex abuse, he said, “I think there may well have been. But it was almost unconscious. It was the thing that people did at that time. You didn't talk about those sort of things.”
Jon Bird of NAPAC compared the cultural shift on child abuse in Britain to the animal rights movement.
“There was a time when they thought you could do whatever you liked to an animal and it doesn't feel any pain,” he said. “I think there was a time when they thought children were the same way.”
Ohio Woman Held Captive a Decade Says She's Overcoming Fears
Michelle Knight said she now likes reading Stephen King novels.
"I like a little scare in my life," she explained at a Cleveland Main Library public discussion on Saturday.
She also said she plans to go skydiving to overcome a fear of heights and because "I'm adventurous."
The Plain Dealer of Cleveland reported, though, that she hasn't decided whether to watch an upcoming TV movie about the ordeal she, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus survived.
"I prefer not to put myself in a backwards spiral," Knight, now 33, explained. "You've got to take the bad in life and replace it with something good."
She said her main goal is "to keep hope alive for the missing and the voiceless."
Knight was kidnapped at age 21 by Ariel Castro. The women escaped his house in May 2013 and Castro committed suicide in prison that September after pleading guilty to a long list of charges.
Knight was the first taken captive by Castro, in August 2002.
"When I first was outside, it felt like my eyes were being fried like eggs in a frying pan," she said, telling the audience she needed special sunglasses after being freed.
"I don't have pity for him," she said of Castro. "He has hurt me for years, and now I am over that."
The Plain Dealer reported repeated applause and cheering for Knight, whose book "Finding Me" is now in paperback.
"How could you not be moved?" asked Cleveland resident Karen Sroka, one of the many who lined up to have books signed by Knight, be photographed with her or just chat briefly. Sroka gave Knight her sweatshirt from Alaska after Knight complimented her on it.
She didn't want to discuss her son, who was adopted while she was still missing and "locked away in hell." She also described her relationship with Berry and DeJesus as "kind of hectic ... It's best to deal with it in our own way.
Knight legally changed her name to Lily Rose Lee, but still goes by Michelle Knight in public appearances.
She said she recently moved into her own house and has named a puppy she adopted "Sky," because the pattern on her fur "reminds of the sky I didn't get to see for years."
"She's an inspiration," said Cindy Spiegler of Willoughby. "We've all had hardships, but hers is beyond anything."
Woman found guilty of raping her own children
by Aldo Amato
MURFREESBORO – A woman accused of raping her children while living in Murfreesboro more than a decade ago was convicted six counts of child rape Friday afternoon.
Angela Elizabeth Montgomery was found guilty on six counts of rape of a child. Montgomery was charged with raping her own two children multiple times when she lived in Rutherford County more than a decade ago.
Montgomery's bond was revoked and she was taken into custody.
"It's finally over and I can finally move on with my life," child rape victim Alan Von Webb said as he left Judge Royce Taylor's courtroom in tears.
Von Webb gave approval to the Daily News Journal to be publicly identified as a victim in the case. The newspaper typically does not name victims of sexual assault.
Von Webb, his girlfriend and his family cried as Judge Taylor read the jury's verdict which was returned around 3:30 p.m. Friday.
Members of the jury, who deliberated for more than six hours, also cried upon returning to Taylor's courtroom.
Montgomery was indicted in December 2012 after Murfreesboro Police Department detectives were contacted about the alleged rapes and assaults.
She was initially charged with two counts of child rape by Murfreesboro Police Det. Wayne Lawson after her two children gave the detective "detailed statements" about rapes and sexual assaults they said they suffered at the hands of their mother when they lived in Murfreesboro more a decade ago.
She was charged with 20 counts of rape of a child, six counts of rape, 12 counts of incest and two counts of coercion of a witness, according to court records.
Montgomery was extradited from Oregon, where she now lives, to Murfreesboro where she later posted a $10,000 bond.
Nine women and five men were selected Tuesday to serve on the jury. After the selection, jurors heard testimony from Von Webb, Montgomery's biological son.
He told jurors he was first sexually assaulted around the time he started learning about sex education in school.
"I thought it was normal," he said during his testimony on Tuesday. "All the time I thought it was normal until I talked to other kids."
Von Webb said the hours he waited for the verdict to be returned Friday felt like a continuous muscle cramp.
"I've been waiting for this day for a long time," he said. "I hope she knows she can't hurt anyone anymore."
Assistant District Attorney's Hugh Ammerman and Sarah Davis were the lead prosecutors in the case.
Ammerman said he was proud of Von Webb's courage.
"I'm glad (Von Webb) knows even though justice was delayed, it wasn't lost," Ammerman said. "I'm very proud of him."
Von Webb thanked all those involved in the case including the Rutherford County District Attorney's Office, MPD Detective Tommy Roberts, Detective Wayne Lawson and his friends and family that supported him throughout the process.
"I feel like this is a new beginning," Von Webb said with a big smile. "This is where I start over."
Montgomery's sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 6.
Bill Cosby Accuser Testifies Before Nevada Lawmakers To Eliminate Statute Of Limitations In Rape Cases
An alleged victim of Bill Cosby testified before lawmakers on Friday in support of a Nevada bill that will eliminate the statute of limitations in rape cases.
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Lise-Lotte Lublin did not mention Cosby by name; however, her testimony left no question she was speaking of the comedian. Lublin detailed to lawmakers the sexual assault she alleges happened 25 years ago. Although the accuser says it is too late for her to seek justice, she wants other victims to have the opportunity.
“I will never see justice. And I didn't do anything wrong. If I had had an idea of what had happened, I would have filed a report 25 years ago. I now understand that the law prevents the victim in my circumstances from seeking justice. Why would the law want to prevent me from seeking justice? So who is protecting the victim? The law is on his side.”
Lublin's attorney, Gloria Allred, also testified before lawmakers on Assembly Bill 212. Allred explains that she represents multiple Bill Cosby accusers who have alleged being drugged and sexually assaulted by the comedian in Nevada. These alleged victims cannot file a civil lawsuit or criminal charges as the statute of limitations bars them from doing so.
Lise-Lotte's husband, Benjamin, also testified before lawmakers about his own sexual assault that occurred when he was 13.
Even if Nevada's statute of limitations, which is now four years, is changed, Bill Cosby will not be prosecuted, as the change would not be retroactive.
Nevada's News 3 reports the only real opposition to the bill came from Attorney Lisa Rasmussmen said an extension of the current law would be better than eliminating the statute of limitations altogether.
“So our concern if this passes is that people will come forward and say this; ‘So and so did this to me 35 years ago, 25 years ago, even 40 years ago. It's almost impossible to defend a case like that.”
Over 30 women have come forward since November to accuse Bill Cosby of drugging and sexual assault. The majority of these allegations fall outside of the time required to report a sexual assault, so Cosby will not face criminal charges. Three of the women filed a defamation lawsuit against the comedian. Cosby's attorneys recently asked the judge in the case to throw the suit out as their client did nothing wrong when denying the sexual assault allegations lodged against him by the women involved.