Event will 'ring out' against child abuse
by Chris Lavender
The number of child abuse and maltreatment victims has dropped nationwide for seven consecutive years, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families.
That's the good news. The bad? There are still far too many cases and experts say there's still a great need to raise awareness about the issue.
April marks National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
On Wednesday, a “Ring Out” Child Abuse event will be held at the Children's Museum of Alamance County, 217 S. Main St., Graham. It is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.
County DSS Child Welfare and Family Support Program Manager Angela Cole said the event will feature several speakers, including a county commissioner and a front-line social worker who will provide statistics about child abuse and neglect.
Graham Mayor Jerry Peterman is scheduled to read a proclamation, and a ringing of bells also is planned for the event.
“The ringing of the bells is symbolic of calling attention to child abuse and neglect, as well as reminding children that it is important to make noise about maltreatment they may experience,” according to organizers.
The event is supported by the Alamance-Burlington School System, Alamance County Department of Social Services, and The Exchange Club's Family Center in Alamance.
A REPORT RELEASED in January by DHHS' Administration for Children and Families showed 679,000 victims of child abuse or neglect across the country in 2013, down from 680,000 victims in 2012. Most states recognize four major types of maltreatment: neglect, physical abuse, psychological maltreatment and sexual abuse. Although any of the forms of child maltreatment may be found separately, they may also occur simultaneously.
The estimated number of fatalities attributable to child abuse and neglect also decreased to 1,520 in 2013, according to the report. The national rate of child fatalities was 2.04 per 100,000 children, and 73.9 percent of all child fatalities were children younger than 3.
According to the report, boys had a higher child fatality rate than girls, and 78.9 percent of child fatalities were caused by one or both parents.
A REPORT IN JANUARY from the Alamance County Department of Social Services provided local statistics on child abuse reports and cases: There were 166 child abuse reports in the county in January as compared to 139 child abuse reports in the county during January 2014.
From July 1, 2014, through January, there were 1,065 child abuse reports in the county as compared to 961 reports of child abuse in the county during the same period in 2013-14.
In January, 10 child abuse cases were investigated by DSS. According to the report, 25 child abuse cases were investigated in January 2014.
During the current fiscal year, 83 child abuse cases have been investigated by DSS. During the same period in 2013-14, 185 child abuse cases were investigated.
To learn more about how to prevent child abuse, visit: www.ChildWelfare.gov/Preventing
Help break the cycle of child abuse
by Barbara Tucker Executive Director of CASA-Hope for Children
Texas Child Protective Services (CPS) has been in the news lately for failing to protect children in the state's care. If we only focus on this issue when it is in the news, it can be easy to miss the bigger picture.
This April, as we observe National Child Abuse Prevention Month and National Volunteer Week, we must recommit ourselves to ending the vicious cycle of abuse and to standing up for every child too young to speak for themselves.
This month, and throughout the year, CASA-Hope for Children encourages residents of Parker and Palo Pinto Counties to come together to promote awareness of the child abuse and neglect that exists in our local community.
CASA-Hope for Children is one of 71 CASA programs across Texas that works to ensure all children in foster care because of abuse or neglect are in safe, stable and nurturing environments they need to heal and to thrive. CASA programs recruit, train and support volunteers in the community to speak up for children in court and to work to get them placed into loving, permanent homes as quickly as possible. These extraordinary people are called CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) volunteers.
There are two upcoming opportunities where you can learn more about how CASA-Hope for Children is making a difference in the lives of children in our communities.
April 2, 4 p.m. at Slice the pizza joint, 9650 E. Bankhead Highway in Aledo
April 9, 5 p.m. at Community National Bank, 101 SE 1st Ave, in Mineral Wells
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. Children with a CASA volunteer spend less time in foster care and are more likely to get the help they need.
CASA advocates make a difference by encouraging family members to do what is necessary to change their lives so they can be reunited with their children. They help identify family members or close family friends who are willing and able to care for and adopt children. And, they advocate for adoption when the rights of the parents have been terminated by the courts. CASA volunteers make sure the children are not lost or forgotten in an overburdened foster care system.
The future of Texas relies on the healthy growth and development of all children. As we mark National Child Abuse Prevention Month, I invite residents, community and faith groups, schools, government agencies and businesses in Palo Pinto and Parker Counties to be part of the solution, to support families and to prevent child abuse and strengthen our entire community.
Last year, all 520 children in foster care in Parker and Palo Pinto Counties had CASA volunteers. Yet the rapid growth in our communities mean more children are entering foster care and more volunteers are needed. You can be part of the solution by becoming part of the CASA community in Parker and Palo Pinto Counties as a volunteer or supporter of our program.
If you see abuse, report it to (800) 252-5400 or go to www.txabusehotline.org. If a child's life is in danger, call 911. If you want to leave a legacy of positive change, become a CASA volunteer. For more information, visit www.CASAHopeforChildren.org or call 817-599-6224.
Sign on for a national child abuse registry
Abuse should not be tolerated — period.
But people who abuse children, children who may not even be able to yet speak for themselves, not only should they face criminal penalties, but they should be forced to register in a national database open to a free, public search.
Why? A person who has battered a child has already crossed a moral line that might be difficult to keep from repeating.
If that person wants to move to another community and take care of children, how would anyone know his or her past? In Indiana, people who have five or fewer children in their care who are not related to them do not have to adhere to day care licensing rules. Sure, you can look on the Indiana Sex and Violent Offender Registry, but that might only give you a smattering of offenders who have been convicted of sex crimes.
Had the family of 19-month-old Kirk Coleman had this tool, would he still be alive?
The babysitter arrested and charged with his death, Jackie Rolston, had previous charges of battery upon a child and neglect of a dependent brought against her in December 2006. According to court records, she later pleaded guilty to the neglect charge and was given an 18-month suspended sentence and placed on probation. A condition of that sentence was that Rolston was to not “engage in child care as a commercial enterprise” during her probationary period.
Nine years after that incident, Coleman, the coroner said, died of abusive head trauma. But let's point out, Rolston has not been convicted of anything in Coleman's case.
Unfortunately, Coleman's death is just one of many occurring in Indiana each year. Even locally, deaths by neglect or abuse are not uncommon and most are not from a babysitter but from their own family members. And not all incidents of abuse lead to death — those are just the ones that make headlines.
Remember Mariah Gibson? Back in 2011 she fell out of a moving vehicle and died from head trauma. Her mom, Mande Turner-Berger, 22, and her mom's boyfriend, Daniel Pennington, 31, a felon, concocted a story saying the 18-month-old girl was struck by a car and died. It turns out that was a lie.
Or do you remember Taranova Glick and her little brother Israel?
Taranova was 3 years old when she died in 2004. Her mom, Dusty James, and mom's boyfriend, Chad Strong, were both sent to prison. James admitted in court she left Taranova and Israel in Strong's care even though she had seen him abuse them.
Israel suffered severe injuries and had to be placed in foster care. He survived with the help of some very special and caring people.
These cases are heart-wrenching. And in these cases, a registry probably would not have made a difference.
But for families like the Colemans who seek out child care, let's give them a tool to help keep their children alive.
The petition the Coleman family is encouraging local residents to sign is available online at
Fighting child sexual abuse in Florida
by Erik Fresen
The topic of child sexual abuse has been ignored for far too long.
Today, 42 million survivors of child sexual abuse are living in the United States, and studies say 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys have or will become victims of child sexual abuse before they reach age 18.
Lauren Book is one of those survivors. Motivated by her life-altering experience, she founded Lauren's Kids to promote education for abuse prevention, raise awareness and help survivors heal.
Lauren's Kids just released a revealing study that examined the fiscal impacts of child sexual abuse on Florida taxpayers. It found that collectively, children living in Florida today will endure between $76.6 and $125.2 billion in lost earnings and related costs over their lifetimes.
The Lauren's Kids research also shows how the effects of child sexual abuse cut across all aspects of life.
Since 2008, when I began serving in the Florida Legislature, I've seen how our economy, health, education and other programs are profoundly impacted by violence and abuse toward children.
As one example, the study found taxpayers spend between $12 and $16 million annually in direct prison costs for female inmates with a history of child sexual abuse.
I'm proud to say I've been involved from the very beginning of the innovative movement begun by Lauren's Kids.
In 2010, the organization launched the first Safer, Smarter Kids abuse prevention curriculum, initiated at the direction of the Florida Legislature for use in pre-K and kindergarten classrooms.
In just the first year of this new curriculum, we saw a 77 percent learning gain in personal safety information among those students.
The curriculum has now expanded to cover not just pre-K and kindergarten, but also first, second and third grades. The curricula for fourth and fifth grades, as well as middle and high school classrooms will launch during the next school year.
The curriculum is an outstanding product, teaching lessons to kids from a place of fun, not fear. It includes such topics as personal boundaries, safe and unsafe secrets, cyber bullying, establishing a “Trusted Triangle” of adults and more. Each curriculum addresses statewide educational benchmarks required for all Florida students to achieve.
In my time in the Florida Legislature, I've seen my colleagues develop a clear awareness of the horrors of child sexual abuse, in large part thanks to the work of Lauren's Kids. The lessons our children are now learning will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
By working together as a community, we can help them become leaders for future generations.
That's how we will create a world that doesn't tolerate child sexual abuse.
Erik Fresen, Florida House of Representatives, Miami
Medical examiner: 22-day-old baby girl starved to death
by Tamara Lush
BARTOW, Fla. (AP) — A baby who was found dead in her car seat in a Florida restaurant parking lot had lost more than one-third of her body weight in the 22 days since she was born, a medical examiner testified Friday.
Betsey Kee Stephens died as a result of malnutrition and starvation, said Dr. Vera Volnikh, Polk County's assistant medical examiner.
"When we examined her stomach, small, intestine and large intestine, all of them were empty," Volnikh said. "There was no fat tissue on this baby."
Betsey was pronounced dead on Dec. 23. Her mother, 23-year-old Ruby Stephens, and Ruby's husband, 48-year-old Roy Stephens have been charged with first-degree murder.
Friday's court hearing was for Judge Donald Jacobsen to hear evidence on whether Roy Stephens of Tennyson, Indiana, should be released on bail pending trial. Later in the day, Jacobsen denied Stephens' lawyer's request to lift his no-bond status.
Stephens' lawyer, Byron Hileman, said his client isn't a flight risk. Stephens has multiple health problems, court records show, and on Friday he sat slumped in a chair in the courtroom, wearing an orange jail outfit. His sister attended the hearing but declined to speak to the media.
Hileman also countered Volnikh's assertions that the baby died from malnutrition, saying that the medical examiner only did a cursory examination and tests.
According to records, the baby wasn't Stephens' daughter, but he had assumed parental responsibilities.
The couple had two other children and both were in good health when police and paramedics responded to the Stephens' calls for help.
Officials said Betsey was dead for over three hours before 911 was called.
The family had traveled from their home in Indiana, to Polk County for the holidays to visit Roy Stephens' family.
Erin Of Erin's Law To Speak At For The Child Breakfast
by Harry Saltzgaver
The author of Erin's Law, who is a childhood sexual abuse survivor herself, is the featured speaker at the 14th annual Circle of Friends breakfast Wednesday benefiting For The Child.
Erin Merryn was a victim of rape and incest starting at 6 years old, and became an advocate for children when she became an adult. She says her quest is to have all 50 states pass a version of Erin's Law, which requires public schools to teach students how to tell on anyone who touches or attempts to touch their private parts.
So far, 21 states, including California, have passed the law. Merryn's nonprofit is located in Illinois, and she has told her personal story in a series of three books.
For The Child was formed in 1974 in Long Beach to advocate for children and help those who are abused or neglected. A program to help sexual assault victims began in 1984.
Wednesday's breakfast starts at 7:30 a.m. at the Long Beach Hilton ballroom. Tickets are available by calling (562) 422-8472, ext. 103, or emailing: ddahlhausen@ForTheChild.org
Documentary addresses child abuse issues in New Mexico
by Haley Rush
ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – A new documentary will soon address the issues in New Mexico when it comes to child abuse and neglect. Currently, the state ranks 6 th in the nation for deaths due to child abuse.
It's called “Everyone's Business: Protecting our Children.” People behind the documentary said child abuse and neglect is an issues not talked about in New Mexico and rarely addressed properly.
“We wouldn't have done the show if we didn't think there were good solutions,” said filmmaker, Chris Schueler.
University of New Mexico Psychologist, Susan Miller, said New Mexico has made some progress. She said the number of fatalities from child abuse are down from previous years, but the state is still lagging behind most.
“At the same time we are a poor state, but we still don't have to put our children at risk,” said Miller.
New Mexicans have seen cases where the warning signs were ignored. Like Omaree Varela, who police said was kicked to death by his mother while his step father watched.
The film will address what to do if anyone sees warning signs. It will also teach about early intervention, family stress, and shaken baby education.
“This film will give you some answers,” said Schueler. “It will give some concrete ways to save kids in our state.”
“I hope it gives them hope, because it gives them ideas on what they can do in their community,” said Miller.
The film will premiere at 6 p.m. at the KiMo Theatre on April 3.
Group marches to raise awareness about child abuse
by James Fillmore
MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. - There were 224 cases of proven child abuse in Laporte County last year alone.
More may have gone unreported.
The information comes from a group called Dunebrook.
On Friday night members brought their message to the streets.
April is national Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Members of Dunebrook Incorporated and dozens from the community got a head start on raising awareness.
They marched through the streets of Michigan City to make some noise for their cause which is to encourage people to not be silent when it comes to protecting children.
Gail Johnson with Dunebrook says, "Every person that is 18 years-old or older is a mandated reporter by state law."
That means people are legally required to report child abuse if they see or know about it.
Dunebrook provides services and outreach programs to six counties in Indiana including LaPorte, Starke and Pulaski.
The organization also works on educating people about parenting and child development.
Johnson says, "An abusive or neglect situation may simply be that the family does not have the resources needed to meet the needs of their children."
Advocates say recognizing the signs of child abuse is more than just spotting bruises.
Lisa Sharp participated in march and she says, "If you have a neighbor and you hear a lot of yelling. Maybe the kids aren't looking well dressed or their dirty. Or, they're acting out a lot."
The group says within its six county region there were around 800 cases of substantiated child abuse cases last year.
People who suspect abuse or can call Indiana's Child Abuse and Neglect hotline.
That number is: 1-800-800-5556
In Michigan the number to call is: 1-855-444-3911
Hampton Roads has most child abuse/neglect deaths in VA
by 13 News
NORFOLK -- Nearly half of all child abuse and neglect deaths in Virginia last year occurred in Hampton Roads, a region with about a quarter of the state's children, health officials say.
The report released Friday says 17 of the 39 child deaths occurred here and were found to be caused by the abuse or neglect of a caretaker. Six of the 17 were under age one and three were age two or under.
Now, a federal grant will let the Eastern Region Child Fatality Review Team and the Va. Department of Health study sudden death in children that occur in Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk and Virginia Beach. They will work to see whether causes of death can be found in cases where no medical certainty in cases like sudden deaths associated with cardiac problems, epilepsy, and infant sleep environments.
In FY 2014, 15 unfounded deaths were associated with unsafe sleeping environments such soft bedding, being laid to sleep on their stomach, co-sleeping with an adult, and/or sleeping in an adult bed, couch, car seat or other surface not intended for infant sleeping, health officials stated.
Officials also outlined steps they believes will help reduce the number of child deaths. Read those recommendations in the report below.
The Eastern Region Child Fatality Review Team is made up of child service and health professionals who review child fatalities occurring from possible abuse or neglect. It's collected data for the last 18 years.
The report comes as Virginia prepares for National Child Abuse Prevention Month in April. A blue pinwheel, representing the simple joys of childhood, is a symbol of the campaign.
Town of Rosepine doing its part to prevent child abuse
by Daniel Green
ROSEPINE — April is “National Child Abuse Prevention Month.”
And the Town of Rosepine wants to play an integral role in helping to not only prevent child abuse, but also in providing a community where a nurturing, safe environment is paramount.
Rosepine Mayor Donna Duvall signed a proclamation on Tuesday at the town's municipal complex, signifying the town's dedication and vigilance in this area.
Flanked by members of CASA of West Cenla, Duvall said she will encourage all of Rosepine's citizens to “protect our children from abuse and neglect and to help ensure that every child can grow up in a secure and loving environment.”
CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of West Cenla plays a pivotal role in helping those children who have been abused. CASA volunteers represent the best interest of these children who have suffered abuse.
“I want to commend all of the people of CASA for such an amazing service they provide to these children,” Duvall said.
According to Tommy Edwards, the Executive Director of CASA of West Cenla, CASA started in Beauregard Parish in 2002 and planted an office in Vernon Parish some four years later. His group represents 61 children from all across Louisiana.
“We have 30 advocates representing 61 children all over the state,” Edwards said. “From Gretna to here in West Cenla, we provide representation for these children.”
It is the job of the CASA volunteer to best represent the child and to have them placed in a nurturing and safe environment before they turn 18 years of age.
“There is nothing worse than seeing a child grow out of the program,” Edwards said.
In addition to CASA, a group known as Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana (PCAL) plays a pivotal role in making the public aware of the growing problem of child abuse.
Since 1986, PCAL has been dedicated to accomplishing one mission: prevention of abuse and neglect to the children of Louisiana. The group supports parents and children through intensive, evidence-based programs and community-based education.
PCAL is the only statewide non-profit organization focused solely on child abuse prevention.
The pinwheel is a symbol of PCAL, representing what every child deserves, a healthy, happy, carefree life free from abuse.
After signing the proclamation, Duvall, Rosepine alderman Rev. Ray Blanchard and all representatives of CASA placed pinwheels in the ground in front of the municipal complex sign as their pledge to do whatever it can to help prevent child abuse in the area.
The proclamation reads as follows:
“Whereas, our nation has a responsibility to build a safe and nurturing society so that our young people can realize their full potential, During National Child Abuse Prevention Month, we renew our commitment to prevent child abuse; and
Whereas, CASA is a key organization in the Town of Rosepine for the promotion of abuse prevention and actively participates in the community to create a safer community for every child in Rosepine; and
Whereas, Creating a protective environment for our young people requires the shared commitment of individuals, families and faith-based and community organizations. Parents and family members are the first and most important influence in a child's life. A safe and stable family can provide children with a foundation of love and security that encourages growth and development. Federal, state, and local government officials can also improve the lives of our young people by doing all they can to keep children safe from harm; and
Whereas, Together, we rededicate ourselves to ensure that we protect our future generations so that they can realize the opportunities of our nation. By providing help and hope to our young people, we will build a better and more compassionate world for our children and grandchildren.
Now, therefore, Donna Duvall, by the authority vested in me as Mayor of the Town of Rosepine, in the sovereign State of Louisiana, do hereby proclaim April 2015 as, “National Child Abuse Prevention Month” in the Town of Rosepine and encourage all citizens to protect our children from abuse and neglect and to help ensure that every child can grow up in a secure and loving environment.”
Legislation moving forward for increased school sexual abuse reporting measures
by Samantha Schoenfeld
HARTFORD–The legislature is trying to increase penalties on schools and administrators who don't properly report abuse.
The Judiciary Committee approved legislation to reform state laws protecting kids from sexual abuse in schools.
Rep. William Tong (D-Stamford, Darien) introduced the legislation and said it was a important to be the first bill approved by the committee during his tenure as chairman.
“By giving this bill my highest priority, I wanted to send the strongest message we possibly can – that the failure to report child abuse in our schools is not only wrong and a violation of duty, it is a criminal act punishable as a felony under our laws, which can carry significant jail time and heavy fines,” Tong said.
Here are some aspects of the new bill:
The penalty for an administrator or supervisor in a school who becomes aware of allegations of child abuse but doesn't report it has been upgraded from a misdemeanor to a felony. The original charge carried a maximum one-year sentence and or up to a $2,000 fine, while the new charge has a maximum of three years in prison and a fine of up to $3,500.
Based on a law passed in 2013, if someone intentionally interferes with or prevents another person from reporting suspected child abuse or neglect it will be considered a felony with up to five years in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Require teachers to attend DCF training on mandatory reporting and to attend refresher courses in order to maintain a teacher certification.
Any person who is considered a mandatory reporter–or must by law report any suspected child abuse–would not be able to keep their job or get the job back if found guilty of not reporting abuse.
Require principals to verify with the school district that all training has been completed. The district would then have to verify with the Department of Education that all schools have been properly trained. Districts who don't comply would face a fine of $25,000. Fines would be used by DCF to investigate child abuse.
It re-enforces the mandatory process for investigating child abuse by making DCF and school districts responsible. Distrcits must have a rapid response team that coordinates with DCF to ensure prompt reporting of alleged abuse and ensure DCF has access to witnesses. It also ensures DCF and the state's multi-disicplinary team investigating reports takes quick action to address all reports of child abuse.
No murder charge for woman accused of cutting baby from womb
by SADIE GURMAN
DENVER -- A Colorado woman accused of luring an expectant mother to a basement and cutting the baby from her belly will not be charged with murder, prosecutors said Thursday night.
Catherine Olguin, a spokeswoman for the Boulder County District Attorney's Office, said prosecutors won't bring the charge in the baby's death. But she declined to say why or what charges Dynel Lane, 34, will face.
Investigators say Lane lured Michelle Wilkins, 26, to her Longmont home March 18 with an ad on Craigslist offering baby clothes. Inside, police say, Lane attacked Wilkins and extracted her unborn baby girl.
Lane's husband found the infant in a bathtub and rushed the child to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Wilkins survived the attack and was discharged from the hospital on Wednesday.
District Attorney Stan Garnett is expected to release more information Friday about the decision not to charge Lane with murder, and the coroner's office is expected to release the findings of an autopsy performed on the baby.
The gruesome attack revived the highly-charged debate over when a fetus can legally be considered a human being.
Even though the baby girl died, legal experts say the situation is complicated by the fact that Colorado is one of 12 states that do not have laws making the violent death of an unborn child a homicide. State legislators in 2013 voted down such a measure over fears it would interfere with abortion rights, and voters overwhelmingly agreed when they rejected a similar ballot measure in 2014.
Advocates say the attack shows the need for a fetal homicide law.
Legal experts say a person can still be charged with homicide for an unborn child's death under existing Colorado law if the baby was alive outside the mother's body and the act that led to its death also occurred there.
After rejecting a fetal homicide law in 2013, Colorado legislators did pass a measure that makes it a felony to violently cause the death of a mother's fetus. The maximum punishment under that provision is 32 years in prison. The maximum punishment for homicide in Colorado is the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Lane is expected to be formally charged on Friday.
Fetal homicide bills seeking justice for unborn children, like Wilkins' baby, have not passed in CO
by Amanda Zitzman, Kim Nguyen, Jennifer Kovaleski
DENVER - The attack on a pregnant woman in Longmont last week, in which her baby was cut from her womb, is renewing the debate over how Colorado handles the deaths of unborn children killed in violent crimes.
Colorado is one of a dozen states that doesn't allow for fetal homicide charges. In order for those types of charges to apply, it must be established that the baby lived outside the body of the mother for a period of time. The length of time required is not clear, as there is no law that explains how long a baby must live independently of its mother to be considered a child.
State Senate President Bill Cadman on Friday announced that he is working on a bill to update Colorado law to extend legal protections to unborn children.
"It is past time to demand justice for murdered infants by changing Colorado law so that prosecutors will be able to bring homicide charges in cases like this," he said in a statement. "Our mothers deserve nothing less."
Heather Surovik was eight months pregnant when she was hit by a drunk driver. Her unborn, whom she planned to name Brady, son didn't survive.
"I've been there. I know exactly what she's going through," Surovik said.
Surovik became a political activist on the subject, and says that she believes the law should be revised. In fact, she's tried twice before.
"When it comes to that baby, that baby was a person and that lady should have faced murder charges," she argues.
Others who've made public statements that the law should be changed are the Archdiocese of Denver and Colorado Citizens for Life. However, Colorado has a history of rejecting these proposed changes.
During the past few years, anti-abortion groups have focused on so-called “personhood” amendments in an attempt to define a fetus in the womb as a person. All attempts have failed thus far, including the most recent in 2014 with more than 60 percent of Colorado voters rejecting it.
There have also been a couple of bills introduced in the past, after crimes involving pregnant women were committed.
In 2011, a bill was introduced after 27-year-old Laura Gorham was struck by a hit-and-run driver while walking in her Stapleton neighborhood. Gorham was 34 weeks pregnant at the time. Doctors delivered her son, but the infant died. The bill did not pass.
The following year, two bills introduced in the name of Surovik's unborn son also failed
The main reason these bills failed to pass is they got caught up in the abortion debate. Reproductive health advocates, and pro-choice supporters, say they worry these types of bills could lead to changes in abortion laws.
Progress in GA -- But chamber of commerce works behind the scenes
Ga. lawmakers consider hidden predator act
On a mission to get Georgia's Hidden Predator Act signed into law, a local man who says he was sexually abused as a child is speaking out. He and the bill's sponsor, Republican State Representative Jason Spencer of Woodbine, say the bill is getting a lot of push back from some powerful special interest groups.
"Imagine summoning the courage to come forward. Most survivors come forward to protect other children, and they often come forward when they are at an age when they have their own children and want to identify the perpetrator, and being told there is nothing you can do," said Justin Conway.
That is what Conway, 37, who is from Kingsland, Georgia says happened to him. It wasn't until about 18 months ago that he says he broke his silence and went to authorities sharing a dark secret he says he had kept for decades.
"I'm a survivor of childhood sexual abuse," said Conway. "Unfortunately the laws sets up now are set up to hide predators and the Hidden Predator Act is aimed at changing that."
Due to the statute of limitations Conway can't take any legal action against the person he says abused him when he was a child.
The Hidden Predator Act would extend the civil statute of limitations to give victims of childhood sexual abuse access to a court of law. It would open a two year window for civil suits to be filed against alleged perpetrators, allow victims access to investigative files pertaining to their case, and under certain circumstances allow entities to be found liable if the victim can prove negligence.
"There's been just a huge response behind the scenes against it. There's been hearing after hearing, and not one individual or organization has voiced concern at a public hearing," said Conway.
Representative Spencer said, "There are powerful interests that have chosen to stand in the way of HB 17, favoring instead to protect the almighty dollar over taking a brave, principled stand for our children. Who are these pro-child sexual predator special interest groups that are trying to stop this bill and undermine the promise of justice for all? The Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the insurance lobby and the Archdiocese of Atlanta are all working fervently behind the scenes to see to it that this proposal never becomes law in Georgia."
We reached out to the Archdiocese of Atlanta seeking a comment and to an insurance lobbyist but got no response.
In a statement to First Coast News Georgia Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman, Jo Morsberger said:
"The Georgia Chamber supports the intent of the Hidden Predator Act (HB 17) and sympathizes with victims of childhood sexual abuse and supports efforts to bring offenders to justice.
We are concerned however over one section that would allow employers, non-profits and government entities to be sued even though there was no willful misconduct on their behalf. We believe that a Georgia law requiring "willful misconduct" when bringing legal claims against an entity that did not perform the alleged abuse is a reasonable standard and should apply for HB 17.
Our sincere hope is that the bill will be amended to help victims, hold predators accountable and provide reasonable recourse for willful misconduct of an employer without harming small businesses, innocent taxpayers or nonprofits."
In response to that statement Rep. Spencer issued the following statement:
"The statement issued by The Georgia Chamber's stating that they believed applying a "willful misconduct" standard of negligence would be a reasonable protection for entities is a significant departure from current case law in Georgia. According to the nation's leading expert on statute of limitations reform, Professor Marci Hamilton, "The Chamber is saying, where an organization knew or should have known they were harboring a pedophile, they are off the hook. That will keep Georgia in the worst state category and a magnet for child sex trafficking." The Chamber of Commerce did make an attempt to amend the bill in committee offered by Majority Leader Bill Cowsert (R-Athens), but the amendment failed to pass. The Chamber's amendment failed because of the committee members' dedication to passing a well-rounded piece of legislation. Georgia case law requires that an entity be held liable for negligent acts when they "knew or should have known" that a risk to harm others is reasonably foreseeable (Munroe v. Universal Health Services,Inc. 2004). I believe The Chamber inadvertently supported a standard of "willful misconduct" that would have made the bill "predator friendly" and effectively placed a burden of proof on survivors of childhood sexual abuse that does not exist in any other state. This would essentially provide immunity to businesses and organizations that have knowingly covered up abuse.
The Hidden Predator Act passed the House and is now making its way through the Georgia Senate. Lawmakers have until April 2 to get it passed. That's when Georgia's 2015 Legislative Session ends.
"The only people who should be afraid of the Hidden Predator Act or the laws changing the way they should be are pedophiles and institutions or people who have knowingly protected them," said Conway.
SPECIAL to NAASCA
Child abuse, in any form, is an ugly thing
March 26, 2015
by Arkady Bukh, Esq - www.nyccriminallawyer.com
Child abuse, in any form, is an ugly thing. While ill-treatment of children is turning into a topic that more people talk about openly, it is still underreported to authorities. Another aspect which, until recently, has not received a great deal of attention is what happens to these children when they become adults.
Do they continue the pattern of abuse? What increased risks, if any, or adult survivors of childhood abuse, face?
Several studies have started putting the focus on these questions — and more.
Types of Abuse
Child abuse is any behavior by parents, guardians or older siblings that runs outside of the normal conduct and includes an increased risk of physical or emotional harm. The behaviors may be intentional or unintentional. Child abuse can be caused by omission and commission.
Emotional Child Abuse
Emotional abuse can be as damaging to a child 's mental health and social development as physical abuse . Some examples:
Belittling and humiliating a child
Challenging a child 's worth
Ignoring a child as a form of punishment
Limited physical contact — no hugs or kisses
Physical Child Abuse
Physical abuse involves physical harm and/or injury to the child. Often, but not always, physical abuse is the result of an intentional act meant to hurt the child, but not always. Physical exploitation can also take the form of severe “discipline,” such as by means of a belt on a child or corporeal punishment that is not appropriate to the age of the child.
Only Violence is Abuse
Corporeal abuse is just one form of child abuse in a range of abuses. Emotional abuse and neglect can be just as harmful and are less like to trigger an intervention.
Only Bad Parents Abuse Their Children
It is easy to say that only bad parents are abusive towards their children. Not all abusers intentionally harm their kids and many have been victims themselves. Many otherwise “ good parents” may also suffer from mental health issues or substance abuse issues.
A Good Family Won 't Have Child Abuse
Child abuse is found in all economic and cultural layers. Often, families who appear to have it all together are entirely different when it comes to their time behind closed doors.
Child Abuse is Perpetrated by Strangers
Strange abuse does happen, but typically abusers are either family members or someone close to the family.
Abused Children Grow Up to be Abusers
While it is true that numerous abused kids grow up and repeat the pattern of abuse, it 's just as true that many adults, who were abused as children, take a different path and work to prevent child abuse.
The consequences of experiencing abuse in childhood vary among adults. For some, the effects of abuse are chronic while others have less negative outcomes. Frequency and duration of mistreatment are two factors that can influence the way childhood abuse impacts him or her later in life.
Transmission of Abuse and Neglect
While many survivors of child abuse don 't go on to mistreat their children, there is evidence suggesting that adults who were abused as a child are at an increased risk of abusing their children. In one study, an estimated one-third of children who are subjected to child abuse go on to replicate patterns of abusive parenting towards their children.
Adults with a history of domestic violence and child abuse in their past are more likely that the average population to experience healthy problems such as diabetes gastrointestinal problems, arthritis, stroke and heart disease. In one study, Sachs-Ericsson found that adult survivors of childhood abuse had more medical problems than non-abused adults.
Mental Health Problems
In an ongoing study in America, Widom, DuMont and Czaja found children who were physically abused were at increased risk of a depressive disorder in early adulthood. The complications included attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, PTSD, bipolar disorder, drug abuse and generalized anxiety disorder.
Studies such as Felitti 's Adverse Childhood Experiences in 1998 found that adults who experienced four or more abusive episodes in childhood were twelve times more likely to attempt suicide that those who experienced no child abuse in childhood.
A study by Herman, Susser, Struening and Link in 1997 found that either physical or sexual abuse during childhood was prevalent in the homeless population. Adults who experienced a combination of neglect and either physical or sexual abuse were 26 times more likely to become homeless than people with no similar experiences of abuse.
Arkady Bukh is a criminal defense attorney based out in New York City, an active advocate of abused children rights, and a friend of NAASCA. You may wish to get in touch with him at Bukh Law Firm P.C., 14 Wall St, New York NY 10005, (212) 729-1632, or through his website.
California loosens Jessica's Law rules on where sex offenders can live
State will stop enforcing Jessica's Law provision that prohibits all sex offenders from living near schools
by KATE MATHER - Los Angeles Times
lifornia officials announced Thursday that the state would stop enforcing a key provision of a voter-approved law that prohibits all registered sex offenders from living near schools.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said it would no longer impose the blanket restrictions outlined in Jessica's Law that forbids all sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park, regardless of whether their crimes involved children.
High-risk sex offenders and those whose crimes involved children under 14 will still be prohibited from living within a half-mile of a school, the CDCR emphasized. Otherwise, officials will assess each parolee based on factors relating to their individual cases, the agency said.
The shift comes nine years after California voters approved the controversial law, which has made it difficult for some sex offenders to find places to live.
The California Supreme Court on March 2 unanimously ruled that Jessica's Law violated the constitutional rights of parolees living in San Diego County who had argued that the limitations made it impossible for them to obtain housing. As a result, advocates said, some parolees were living in places like riverbeds and alleys.
"While the court's ruling is specific to San Diego County, its rationale is not," CDCR spokesman Luis Patino said Thursday. "After reviewing the court's analysis, the state attorney general's office advised CDCR that applying the blanket mandatory residency restrictions of Jessica's Law would be found to be unconstitutional in every county."
The CDCR sent a memo to state parole officials on Wednesday outlining the policy change. The directive said residency restrictions could be established if there was a “nexus to their commitment offense, criminal history and/or future criminality."
The memo said officials would soon provide further direction on how to modify conditions for parolees currently already living in the community.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court determined that the blanket policies for parolees "severely restricted their ability to find housing." Justice Marvin R. Baxter, who is now retired, wrote that the rules "increased the incidence of homelessness among them, and hindered their access to medical treatment, drug and alcohol dependency services, psychological counseling and other rehabilitative social services available to all parolees."
A CDCR report found that the number of homeless sex offenders statewide increased by about 24 times in the three years after Jessica's Law took effect. Parole officers told the court that homeless parolees were more difficult to supervise and posed a greater risk to public safety than those with homes.
One of the San Diego County parolees who challenged the law was convicted of a sexual assault on an adult woman in 1991. That man, who had several serious illnesses, wanted to live with a relative who was a health professional, but he couldn't because of the residency restrictions. Instead, he stayed in an alley behind the parole office.
The court ultimately determined that the residency restrictions did not advance the goal of protecting children and infringed on parolees' constitutional rights to be free of unreasonable, arbitrary and oppressive government action.
Times staff writer Maura Dolan contributed to this report.
Residence restrictions relaxed for released sex offenders
by Julia Cheever
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is taking steps to carry out a state Supreme Court decision that struck down mandatory residency restrictions for some paroled sex offenders.
The restrictions barred paroled sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or park. The measure was enacted by California voters as part of a 2006 initiative sometimes known as Jessica's Law.
In a March 2 ruling issued in San Francisco, the state high court unanimously said the ban is unconstitutional when automatically applied to all offenders in areas where it is virtually impossible to find housing that meets the requirement. The court said the ban did not help public safety because it increased homelessness among paroled offenders and made it more difficult for authorities to monitor, supervise and rehabilitate them.
The panel said the measure infringed on the limited liberty and privacy rights of the parolees. At the same time, the court said parole authorities retain the power to impose special conditions, including residency restrictions, on individual parolees on a case-by-case basis.
The Corrections Department began implementing the ruling in a letter sent to all parole agents, supervisors and administrators by Bobby Haase, deputy director of the department's Division of Adult Parole Operations, on Wednesday.
The letter orders agents to cease automatically imposing the residency restrictions in cases of new parole releases or parole revocations, but says that agents can set the restrictions in cases where there is a connection between the ban and the nature of the crime committed and the criminal history of the defendant.
The restrictions barring residency within 2,000 feet of a school or park will continue to apply to defendants convicted of lewd acts on children under the age of 14, Haase wrote. The letter says that further directions about the modification of parole conditions for paroled sex offenders who have found housing will be provided at a later time.
Although the California Supreme Court ruling was made in a case concerning San Diego County, Attorney General Kamala Harris advised the department that automatic implementation of the restrictions would be found unconstitutional in every county, according to CDCR spokesman Luis Patino.
“We believe the changes will reduce the alarming number of homeless sex-offender paroles, reduce their risk of reoffending and increase community safety. … Californians can be assured that the monitoring of sex offenders, particularly dangerous ones, remains a top priority for CDCR.”
Patino said there are about 6,000 sex offender parolees in the state, of whom about 1,400 are transients without established housing. The co-authors of the 2006 initiative, George and Sharon Runner, said in a statement:
“We're disappointed by the Corrections Department's sweeping decision to stop enforcing the people's will as expressed in Jessica's Law.”
George Runner, now a member of the state Board of Equalization, was a Republican state senator from Antelope Valley when he co-authored the initiative. Sharon Runner, who now holds a state senate seat, was a state Assembly member at the time. The Runners said they plan to support legislation that would give local governments more flexibility to set residency requirements for sex offender parolees.
Hope Haven helps abuse survivors find healing
by MEGAN MATTINGLY-ARTHUR
When lives are shattered by the trauma of child abuse or sexual violence, Hope Haven of the Lowcountry helps victims and their families pick up the pieces and emerge as survivors.
The children's advocacy and rape crisis center has served the community for more than a decade, providing comprehensive services to help child victims of abuse and victims of rape, sexual assault and incest find healing.
“We're able to provide hope and healing for these victims, whether they're adults or children,” said Hope Haven executive director Shauw Chin Capps. “We pave the way to ensure that healing happens and make sure that the trauma these children and adults have experienced doesn't have to define them in any way.”
Hope Haven of the Lowcountry serves South Carolina's 14th Judicial Circuit, which includes Jasper, Colleton, Hampton, Beaufort and Allendale counties. The organization works closely with local law enforcement agencies, as well as county solicitors' offices and the South Carolina Department of Social Services. One might assume that the types of services offered by Hope Haven wouldn't be in demand in a place as idyllic as the Lowcountry. Unfortunately, that isn't the case. In 2014, Hope Haven served 544 direct victims of child abuse and sexual assault, as well as 464 secondary victims — siblings, caregivers or spouses who were also impacted.
Accredited by the National Children's Alliance, Hope Haven's children's advocacy center offers services for children who have suffered physical abuse, sexual abuse or neglect, as well as children who have witnessed domestic violence and children who are endangered by drugs in the home. Hope Haven not only has staff members who are specially trained to conduct child forensic interviews, it also has a medical expert who specializes in child abuse to perform forensic medical evaluations. The center also uses a multi-disciplinary team approach that eliminates the unnecessary duplication of services that could place further stress on a traumatized child.
“We also help by limiting the number of interviews that happen and therefore reducing or preventing further trauma to the child caused by having to retell their story over and over again to different entities,” Capps said. “We essentially coordinate all of those investigative efforts to protect the well-being of the child.”
Hope Haven offers a number of additional services for child and adult victims, including a 24-hour crisis hotline staffed by trained counselors, crisis counseling and family support provided by experienced advocates, victims' rights education, survivor support groups, victim advocacy and evidence-based mental health treatment. The children's advocacy and rape crisis center also provides 24-hour hospital accompaniment services — area hospitals alert Hope Haven when an adult or child victim enters the emergency room, and the organization dispatches an advocate to provide support and crisis intervention, as well as help victims understand their rights.
As a nonprofit organization, Hope Haven of the Lowcountry relies, in part, on the generosity of the community to support its mission. The organization accepts financial donations and is always on the lookout for new volunteers, according to Capps.
“We have a strong pool of volunteers who are constantly looking for other reliable volunteers who are willing to do the work,” she said. “Our volunteers actually help with the 24-hour crisis hotline that we have and the 24-hour hospital accompaniment; they kick in after-hours to help with the 24-hour services. Our board of directors are all volunteers, so we're also always looking for those movers and shakers in the community who are willing to provide some leadership when it comes to the growth of the organization. There are many ways that folks can plug in — there are volunteer opportunities in the office and at community events that we do, and those are just a few examples of the ways that community members could get involved.”
Capps deals with weighty issues on a daily basis, but that doesn't mean that she considers Hope Haven a depressing place to work on volunteer. Quite the opposite, actually.
“It's actually very hopeful work,” Capps said. “As awful as all these cases are, at Hope Haven, we get to see the other side; we get to see the healing and second chances.”
Hope Haven of the Lowcountry is located at 1212 Charles St. in Beaufort. To learn more about volunteering, call 843-525-6699 or go to: www.hopehavenlc.org. Hope Haven of the Lowcountry is also on Facebook.
For immediate help, call the Hope Haven crisis hotline at 800-637-7273.
Oblates confirm sex-abuse claim against late priest
He was at St. Francis de Sales High School
by NOLAN ROSENKRANS
Catholic church leaders are looking for other potential victims of a deceased priest who once served at St. Francis de Sales High School, and who, they confirmed, abused a minor 14 years ago.
The Rev. James H. Roth, 61, died Feb. 11 at Hospice of Northwest Ohio after taking a high dose of insulin. Though his death has not been confirmed as a suicide, he left a note admitting to the allegation, said the Rev. Ken McKenna, provincial of the Toledo-Detroit Province of the Oblates of Saint Francis de Sales.
The survivor, who was not a St. Francis student and is now an adult, reported the abuse to the Oblates in January. Father Roth, who at the time was working for a Catholic school board in Toronto, was immediately removed from his position, police were alerted, and an internal investigation begun, Father McKenna said.
Father Roth was in a drug study for diabetes, and the side effects of the drug included depression and suicidal thoughts, according to the Oblates. While co-workers had noticed mood changes, Father McKenna said it's unclear whether the drugs impaired his judgment or if the revelation led to his death.
Father McKenna acknowledged that the note would give the impression that Father Roth killed himself because of the charge, but he said he was waiting for the coroner's office to rule officially on the manner of death.
The Oblates, as well as the Toledo and Detroit Catholic dioceses, announced the accusations on Wednesday through their websites, the Catholic Chronicle, and a website -- tdprovince.org -- created by the Oblates that solicits further information or other accusations.
“There's always the possibility of other victims,” Father McKenna said. “But right now only the one allegation has come forward.”
The survivor told the Oblates Father Roth sexually abused him on multiple occasions 14 years ago. Father Roth worked at St. Francis de Sales High School from 1976 to 1987 and from 1995 to 2004 as a faculty member and administrator.
Among his administrative roles was guidance counseling, said the Rev. Geoffrey Rose, who is vice president of the school and will take over July 1 from the Rev. Ronald Olszewski, the longtime president.
“He was a beloved minister, so I think that it's always difficult for people when we find out something of their brokenness, and we have to kind of reconcile the good we know they did and this awfulness,” Father Rose said.
The survivor, who was 9 or 10 at the time, was not a St. Francis student, according to the Oblates, but was a family friend.
Father Roth also worked at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Monroe and in Utah.
Father McKenna said the Oblates waited until now to publicize the allegation because Father Roth was not a threat to anyone by the time the allegation was confirmed. The Oblates wanted to coordinate a public acknowledgment between themselves and area dioceses.
The Diocese of Toledo's chancellor, the Rev. Monte J. Hoyles, said that Father Roth never worked for the diocese and that the diocese was only recently made aware that the abuse allegation was confirmed.
“[The Oblates] have provided a place and the contact information to come forward and we would encourage that,” he said.
Claudia Vercellotti, spokesman for the Toledo chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the public acknowledgment of the sexual abuse came too late and not enough was done.
“My question squarely is to Bishop [Daniel] Thomas. What are you going to do about this because you haven't done enough? You haven't done close to enough,” she said. “It's a little too convenient that they wait for him to die.”
She also said the diocese needs to provide “full, unabridged detail” of the accusation. “Can't we all agree to not molest children and cover it up?”
Ms. Vercellotti said the victim who came forward is courageous and hopes that any other potential victims will report the abuse.
Robert and Nancy Jo Roth of Lockport, N.Y., are listed in Father Roth's obituary as his brother and sister-in-law. A call Thursday to a phone number listed for them was not returned.
Three things you can do to help break abuse cycles
April is both Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention Month, and it is no coincidence these topics are recognized in the spring.
by Marcia Szymanski
April is both Sexual Assault Awareness and Child Abuse Prevention Month, and it is no coincidence these topics are recognized in the spring.
Spring is when we think about new life taking hold around us, trees with tiny green shoots, flowers emerging from their dormancy, and neighbors emerging from hibernation after winter's blast. Therefore, spring is the perfect time to shed our silence about uncomfortable topics that impact every community: sexual violence and child abuse.
Statistically, each of us has a family member, friend, neighbor or coworker who has been a victim of childhood or adult trauma. They may have difficulty in school or work, battle substance abuse issues, eating disorders, or high blood pressure — each condition a possible after-effect of assault and/or abuse.
I share these details not to overwhelm you, but to underscore that each of us is impacted and each of us plays a role in breaking the cycles of abuse and victimization.
So what can you do?
First and most important, believe and support the victim. Let them know that what happened was not their fault. While that sounds like common sense, the practice of victim blaming — or responding to violence with questions like, “Why did she drink so much?” — is still alive and well.
Second, to borrow a line from airport security, if you suspect something, say something. You can safely report your concerns to your local police or to the Mass. Department of Children and Families, and you can refer the victim to New Hope's round-the-clock, confidential hotline (1-800-323-4673).
Finally, educate yourself and insist that your schools, community groups and faith communities integrate these public health issues into their education curriculum. Talk to your elected officials about legislation and activate your social networks to change laws to increase the safety and security of survivors. Volunteer at organizations like New Hope, who deliver care to adult and child victims of violence.
In the words of Hillel: “If not now, when? If not you, who?”
Marcia Szymanski is executive director of New Hope, Inc.
Alleged torture of 2-year-old highlights rare charge in child abuse cases
by Sarah Schuch
FLINT, MI -- A Flint 2-year-old allegedly beaten, tortured and left with multiple fractured bones is one of only three known cases in Genesee County where child abuse charges was coupled with torture charges, officials say.
The boy, who has since been released from Hurley Medical Center, was examined on March 19 and found with injuries at least a month old, records show.
In 2013, there were 1,963 confirmed victims of child abuse in Genesee County with 1,050 of those being under the age of 5, according to information from Whaley Children's Center. Cases of child abuse paired with torture are rare in the county, however, said Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton.
To Leyton's knowledge, there have been only two other cases involving both child abuse and torture charges.
"One case of child abuse is too much. We have too many cases of child abuse in this community," he said. "It's infrequent that we also have a count of torture. But it does happen."
Prosecutors allege the 2-year-old boy had his face rubbed into urine-stained carpet and Icy Hot balm smeared on his groin after a toilet-training accident, according to court records.
When the boy was eventually taken to Hurley Medical Center following the alleged abuse, doctors discovered he had suffered fractures to his clavicle, arm, shoulder blade and sternum that were at least a month old.
Joshua Robert Demott, 44, was arraigned Monday, March 23, in Flint District Court on torture, first-degree child abuse and first-degree child abuse in the presence of another child charges after Flint police responded to Hurley Medical Center for a report of suspected child abuse.
One of the other two cases that included torture charges included one where Donovan Lamar Haynes, 23, was sentenced July 21 to 18 years, 9 months to 40 years in prison after pleading no contest to second-degree murder for the beating death of his daughter, Ti'Airra Woodward.
It was claimed that Haynes beat the girl in an attempt to turn her gay in hopes that she would avoid men like him, who had a history of treating women poorly. Adult human bite marks were also found all over the girl's body, police said.
Haynes was also sentenced to serve a concurrent 5-15 years in prison for first-degree child abuse. He initially faced charges of open murder, first-degree murder and torture that could have earned him life in prison without parole if convicted.
On April 11, 2010, 4-year-old Dominick Calhoun was found in his home after days of torture, allegedly at the hands of his mother's boyfriend. He was removed from life support the following day after he was declared brain dead.
Brandon Hayes, the former boyfriend of Dominick Calhoun's mother, was found guilty in January 2012 of first-degree murder, first-degree child abuse, torture and seven other counts.
The most recent case, which is still under investigation, fit the charge of torture, Leyton said. The definition of torture is, "Did with the intent to cause cruel or extreme physical or mental pain and suffering, inflict great bodily injury or severe mental pain or suffering upon ... a person within his or her physical custody or control," Leyton said.
Icy Hot balm allegedly being smeared on the boy's groin was considered an act of torture, he said.
'It's a serious issue everywhere'
Child Protective Services began an investigation March 17 after a neighbor tipped authorities off to the suspected abuse. Authorities claim Demott began abusing the 2-year-old boy after the boy, his sisters and their 37-year-old mother moved into Demott's south side Flint home in late January, according to the petition.
The petition claims the boy had bruises on his face, arms and legs, and that the children were forced to wear coats inside the home because there was no heat. The 14-year-old child complained of being hungry and it was unknown if there was any food in the house, the petition alleges.
Records indicate CPS began investigating and conducting interviews with the March 17
However, CPS was called to the case a second time, on March 19, after Demott allegedly beat the 2-year-old boy following an accident while toilet training, court records show.
The neighbor did the right thing, Leyton said.
"They saw something that looked amiss and they called it in. We need more of that. We need more that in terms of all sorts of crime prevention," he said. "That's how we get a handle on a criminal problem, if folks become part of the solution, same with child abuse."
Dr. Brian Nolan, clinical director of pediatrics for Hurley Children's Hospital, said the hospital continues to see abuse cases coming through.
The most common cause of death for babies is head injuries. In toddlers, it's abdominal injuries and blows to the liver, Nolan said.
He sees cigarette burns, bruises, fractures to the ribs and skulls and internal injuries. It's not uncommon to see new and old injuries, he said.
"Unfortunately, we see a lot of this," Nolan said. "We see a lot of child abuse and the problem that we see is that you hear about the deaths but you don't hear about the kids who are beaten with brain damage but they don't die. ... But it's a big problem."
Child abuse is a problem nationwide, Nolan said.
"I think it's a serious issue everywhere. Across the country, child abuse is going down. We are not seeing the reduction that they are seeing in the rest of the country," he said.
Between 2011 and 2013, there were 21 deaths from child abuse in Genesee County, according to a previous Flint Journal report.
It takes a community effort to make a difference, both Nolan and Leyton said.
Saving children from abusive situations can start with a phone call.
The number to report suspected abuse -- 855-444-3911 -- is a statewide number available around-the-clock, 365 days a year.
Nolan said of all the calls that go into CPS, only 10 percent come from medical professionals. The rest come from teachers, social workers, neighbors and family members, he said.
"A lot of people kind of know if something doesn't look right," Nolan said. "If somebody sees a child that they are concerned about being neglected or abused, CPS should be called."
Long-term study complicates understanding of child abuse
by Bruce Bower
Official reports of child abuse may overestimate the tendency of such maltreatment to run in families. Parents who were abused themselves as kids are more likely than nonabused parents to be reported to authorities after having sexually abused or neglected their own children, a new study finds. Yet child protective service agencies should not assume that child abuse and neglect only or mostly occur when parents have histories of maltreatment, researchers conclude in the March 27 "Science".
Psychologist Cathy Spatz Widom of City University of New York and colleagues interviewed 649 Midwestern, mostly blue collar or poor participants three times, in their late 20s, late 30s and late 40s. Of that number, 358 suffered documented abuse or neglect as children. Widom's group also interviewed 697 of the participants' biological children, all at least 8 years old. Finally, the investigators checked child protective services records for each participant.
About 21 percent of previously abused adults were reported to child protective services when they had abused or neglected one of their own kids, as were almost 12 percent of nonabused adults.
In study interviews, greater proportions of children of abused parents reported sexual abuse and neglect than did their peers with nonabused parents. While this finding suggests abuse does make parents more apt to repeat that behavior with their children, selective reporting of abuse to authorities underestimates the abuse risk for kids with nonabused parents, the researchers conclude.
To the researchers' surprise, roughly equal percentages of abused and nonabused parents' kids reported having been physically abused during childhood.
How can parents prevent child abuse?
Prevention tips from Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC
PITTSBURGH — How can you, as a parent, prevent your child from being abused? There are some signs you can look for -- both in yourself and in others who you allow to be in your child's life.
The following information comes from the official website of Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.
Child Abuse Prevention
Each year, approximately 100 children are admitted to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC due to non-accidental trauma. Children's Hospital reminds you to choose your child's caregiver wisely to prevent injury. Know your caregivers background. Before leaving your child with anyone, including a babysitter, family member, friend, or significant other, understand how they will be caring for and treating your child. Ask yourself the following questions:
Does this person want to watch my child?
Will my baby be in a safe place with this person?
Has this person been a good caregiver to other children?
Does this person have a history of violence, alcohol, or substance abuse?
Have I had a chance to watch this person interact with my child before I leave?
Being a caregiver is hard work and at times can be overwhelming. Remember these tips when caring for your child:
All babies cry. Check your baby's basic needs. Is it time to eat? Do they need a diaper change? Are there signs of sickness? If your baby is not sick or hurt, but continues to cry, it is OK to put your baby in a safe place such as a crib, or infant seat, and let them cry while you take a break or call someone for relief. It is important to stay calm and to remember that it is never OK to shake a baby. Shaking a baby can lead to serious head injury or even death.
Monitor your stress levels. If you find yourself becoming irritated or stressed, it is OK to take a timeout before the situation escalates. If you feel you are losing patience, call the Warmline at 800-641-4546. Family Resources, a non-profit organization that seeks to prevent child abuse by supporting families, offers the Warmline free of charge to parents who need to talk with someone about their frustrations.
If you suspect child abuse, call the Child Abuse Hotline at 800-932-0313. In an emergency situation, call your local police department or 9-1-1.
Child Abuse Prevention Tips
Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC's Child Advocacy Center offers parents these tips for preventing child abuse:
Monitor your stress level. Find out where your frustrations lie and address them in some way. If you feel you are losing patience, call the Warmline at 800-641-4546. Family Resources, a non-profit organization that seeks to prevent child abuse by supporting families, offers the Warmline free of charge to parents who need to talk with someone about their frustrations.
Be cautious of new people you bring into the lives of your children -- for example, babysitters or significant others -- and understand how they will be caring for and treating your child.
Evaluate your use of substances such as alcohol. Understand how these substances change your decision-making ability or your personality. Do you yell? Do you hit? Does it change you in some other way?
Closely supervise your children while they are on the Internet. Even if you have parental controls set on your computer, many pornography sites still are accessible, and teens and pre-teens can easily access the sites' chat rooms where they can meet people who may harm them.
If you suspect child abuse, call the Child Abuse Hotline at 800-932-0313. In an emergency situation, call your local police department or 9-1-1.
42 Rotherham police officers are being investigated in child sex abuse scandal probe as IPCC reveals it has received more than 100 allegations
by Chris Pleasance
A probe into how police handled child sexual exploitation in Rotherham is looking into allegations against 42 officers after complaints were sent to the force watchdog.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) was already examining allegations against ten officers involved in the investigation into one of the country's most prolific child abuse rings.
But today the commission said it had received 30 new complaints containing 100 allegations about 42 officers involved in the Rotherham investigation.
It said in a statement: 'The complaints contain more than 100 allegations against 42 named police officers, both retired and serving, as well as a number of allegations against officers whose identities are currently unknown.'
The complaints followed on from the Jay Report, which described how at least 1,400 children were raped, trafficked and groomed in the South Yorkshire town between 1997 and 2013.
The IPCC statement said: 'Work to establish the identity of the unknown officers and to identify any links between the different complaints and incidents is ongoing.
'The allegations range from neglect of duty by failing to adequately investigate on the basis of intelligence or to deal with incidents appropriately, inappropriate comments and suggestions of corrupt relationships between police officers and offenders.'
The commission said it was also investigating an allegation that South Yorkshire Police failed to act on information passed to them in 2004 and 2006 about alleged child abuse in nearby Sheffield.
This complaint relates to two named police officers who are now retired from the police service, the IPCC said.
The Jay Report, published in August last year, sparked furious debate about the tragic crimes which took place in Rotherham, and how the perpetrators went unchallenged for so long.
Professor Alexis Jay, who wrote the report, described how hundreds of vulnerable teenagers, mainly girls, were routinely exploited by gangs of mainly Asian men with impunity.
Police and senior council officers were accused of failing to tackle the problem for fear of being seen as racist, and of ignoring or doubting the victim's accounts.
A wave of high profile resignations followed and the National Crime Agency was brought in to investigate the crimes and how they were handled.
The Jay Report was followed by another report by Louise Casey, which was scathing in its criticism of Rotherham Council and led to the replacement of the local authority's ruling cabinet with commissioners appointed by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.
After more revelations about the scale of exploitation in neighbouring Sheffield, the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Alan Billings, last month called for a wide-ranging inspection of his force, along the lines of Ms Casey's review of the council's actions.
Child sex abuse victims 'retraumatised' by counselling services, royal commission hears
by Paul Bibby
Victims of child sexual abuse are being "retraumatised" by inadequate Medicare-funded counselling services that are plagued by a shortage of properly trained practitioners, the head of the Australian Psychological Society has told the royal commission.
As the commission continued to examine the issue of redress for victims on Thursday, the executive manager of the Psychological Society, Louise Roufeil, said the maximum of 10 private counselling sessions provided for people with mental health issues under Medicare were nowhere near sufficient to support abuse victims.
Commencing a therapeutic relationship with a survivor and offering hope and then not being able to carry the treatment to fruition represents a failure again for the survivors.
"Commencing a therapeutic relationship with a survivor and offering hope and then not being able to carry the treatment to fruition represents a failure again for the survivors," Dr Roufeil told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
"The treatment response is itself retraumatising. This cannot be allowed to continue."
Dr Roufeil said there were very few counselling services in the country which had practitioners who were properly trained in assisting victims of child sexual abuse.
"There is an issue of survivors struggling to find practitioners who have the appropriate knowledge, skills and experience to work in an effective and respectful manner and there are simply not enough services that can provide effective clinical care," she said.
"Specialist services are overburdened and cannot prioritise adult survivors."
She joined with the head of the Australian Association of Social Workers, Gladys Wilkinson, in arguing strenuously that rather than setting up a new body to provide counselling and support, a substantial expansion of the existing system was needed.
This put them in direct opposition to the federal government which has told the commission it does not support an expansion of the public provision of counselling and psychological care.
"We believe the Medicare system is an excellent platform on which to build this new service system," Ms Wilkinson said.
"We don't need a new system. We have people already working in that system."
Earlier, the Catholic church joined with victims' advocates in expressing disappointment at the federal government's lack of support for a national redress scheme.
"It is surprising to say the least that the Commonwealth government initiated the calling of the royal commission and yet the government has so quickly discounted itself from one of the most fundamental issues we have to address," the chief executive of the church's Truth, Justice and Healing Council, Francis Sullivan, said.
"You would think that any government that was setting up a royal commission of this nature would know that a redress scheme would be one option."
The federal government stated in its submission to the commission that a national scheme would be too complex, time-consuming and costly.
Mr Sullivan said the church supported a national scheme with a cap on compensation of $150,000, and a limitation period of 25 years for abuse victims to come forward, taken from the time of their 18th birthday.
The hearing continues.
Trafficking Victims Need More Than Legal Reform
by Rory Lancman
We've made great progress in recent years in how sex trafficking cases are adjudicated -- and sex trafficking victims treated -- in the legal system. Although women were once arrested for prostitution and sent back to their pimps without any help, we now acknowledge that these individuals are forced into sex work, often held hostage, beaten and raped by their captors. The Human Trafficking Intervention Courts in New York, starting with Queens County in 2004, have led the way by treating those arrested for prostitution as survivors of trafficking, not criminals. Instead of sending the victims to jail, women are connected with service providers for counseling and other resources to help them leave the criminal sex trade.
Our legal framework for handling sex trafficking cases continues to evolve, and is being pushed even further to ensure that women are recognized as victims and traffickers don't escape justice. Human trafficking legislation, which has passed both houses of the New York legislature, would increase criminal penalties for trafficking and require law enforcement officials to receive anti-human trafficking training. Queens District Attorney Richard Brown created a pro-bono program for immigrant trafficking victims that connects survivors with lawyers who work to vacate their criminal convictions. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance is pushing legislation to make it easier to convict child sex traffickers by making it clear that no child can choose to enter sex work of their own volition. Congress created the T-Visa to ensure that trafficking victims who cannot return to their home countries are able to stay in the US legally.
But we're missing something. While we reconfigure the legal paradigm to recognize the inherent humanity of trafficked women, we have failed to provide them with the services their humanity requires.
Incredible non-profit organizations, such as Restore, Sanctuary for Families, GEMS and the New York Asian Women's Center, provide crucial services to victims, including culturally and linguistically matched long-term trauma counseling to help victims return to a normal life after years of horrific abuse; legal assistance to guide them through immigration proceedings; educational and employment counseling, so they can return to school or get a job; and peer-led trainings to prevent girls from entering the sex trade. But these organizations are chronically underfunded and struggle to meet the demand for their services. One organization that Queens courts refer victims to for counseling and support services has even stopped accepting new referrals for thirty days because it simply cannot meet the demand.
These services also work to provide victims with adequate housing. As unbelievable as it sounds, victims often have no choice but to return to living with their trafficker because they don't have anywhere else to go. While we provide shelter for victims of other gender-based crimes, there are scarce resources for trafficking victims in New York. Although organizations in this field have attempted to provide housing on an ad hoc basis, they aren't currently able to provide the level of support these victims need.
It's great that we're reforming our legal system to protect sex trafficking victims rather than prosecuting them, and focusing our attention on the real criminals -- the traffickers themselves. But we must increase funding for organizations that support trafficking victims so we can help victims leave the commercial sex trade, and possibly even be able to place victims in housing and away from their traffickers.
18,000 foreign nationals are trafficked into the US each year. Thousands of these women travel through JFK, thinking they have come for a new job and a brighter future, only to find themselves enslaved and forced to have sex with twenty men each day. They are isolated by language and cultural barriers that make it difficult for them to access help. Thousands more come from within the United States, fleeing abusive circumstances at home or chasing the dream of living in New York City -- until they get caught in a cycle of virtual enslavement. As our legal framework has changed to recognize that these women are victims, not criminals, we have an opportunity to help trafficked women. We must ensure that the organizations working every day to restore these women's lives have the resources they need to help every victim, every time.
Words Of Warning
Survivor Gives Glasgow Insight On Human Trafficking
by Bonnie Davidson
Advocate, speaker and survivor of human trafficker Windie Lazenko made a stop in Glasgow last week. Her topic was a difficult one that doesn't normally draw large crowds, but awareness of a growing domestic problem is starting to spread nationwide. Being so close to the Bakken, the dangers of trafficking to local youth is something that is very real.
As around 80 students gathered into the Glasgow High School library at the end of the day, a few snickers were heard from students as the words sex trafficking came from Lazenko. Those snickers and uncomfortable movements soon slowed as the audience soon became active in listening. Lazenko started out talking very bluntly about the issue, about how most kids thought that there wasn't trafficking in their town, or maybe they're aren't at risk. What she told them had a lot of shocked faces.
"The average age of children being trafficked is 12 to 14 years old," Lazenko said.
She told the kids that trafficking happened in three different ways: force, fraud and coercion. She said that some kids were forced, abducted and placed into slavery. Others are being told they'll do something else, like housekeeping, and once they move to a new job, they're trapped and stuck in a very bad position. The type of trafficking she focused on with the youth was coercion. When boyfriends, or creepers on Facebook sought out the youth and groomed them for a life in sex trafficking.
"They pretend to be your peers on social media. They're a creeper, a trafficker, an exploiter," Lazenko said.
She said that 200,000 to 500,000 kids in the U.S. were at risk. That two of three runaways would be approached by a sexual predator in the first 48 hours, and they'll make an offer. "But we're seeing the boyfriend element typically," she said. "No one is safe in the world now because of the internet."
She explained her story which resonated with the local youth. Several raised their hands when asked if they had known someone to run away. She told the students about how she came from a broken home, she had been sexually abused and when she ran away she figured that anything had to be better than what she had been experiencing. Lazenko explained to the kids she never drank, never did drugs, wasn't promiscuous, she just wanted out of a bad place.
"I know for a fact that if there would have been awareness in the community ... I was giving them every single red flag," she said.
She explained how not long after she ran away she was approached at school by a 16-year-old friend. The girl offered her a place to stay with her older boyfriend. She explained that the game today hasn't changed much from back then, other than the internet has made it a little bit easier to access teens in a bad situation. She was invited to a party that night. The girl offered her free reign to a closet full of name brand clothes. She helped her do her hair and make up and made her look older. During the party she saw drugs, there was loud music and there were adults and drinking.
She thought her friend was having a fight with her boyfriend and was told to go into a room. She hesitated and when she saw money exchanged from a couple to the girl's boyfriend she assumed that a drug deal was about to go down, so she left the room. She said that she wasn't in the room for more than a minute when the couple walked into the room. When she told the kids that they had sex with her, most of the faces were solemn.
"That thrust me into a long life with a trafficker," Lazenko said.
She explained that she didn't leave because of her previous trauma; she just detached from the situation. She later said she threw up for a while after it happened. She didn't fully understand what had happened. "People need to know this is happening to kids."
She explained that the long journey of healing and walking away didn't happen until she was 32. Many years after her 13-year-old self was sold for the first time, for how much she will never know.
She told the kids that she started working with at risk youth years after her own healing process. She wanted to create resources, she wanted to warn the youth before they ended up in prostitution. She said for a while she lived a normal life and worked in youth ministry. She made kids know that there was an adult who cared. Adults who would listen.
Social Media Dangers For Teens
After telling her story she tackled social media. She told the group of teens that men are asking for naked pics from teenage girls. She asked the students if they had been asked, some meekly raised their hands, others nodded recognizing that it was going on.
"If and when you take a naked picture of yourself, it's there forever, you might think it's untraceable in Snap Chat, but I'm telling you it doesn't go away," Lazenko said. "Did you know the company can store those photos?"
She explained that she met a 14-year-old girl who was offered $14,000 for a photo of her topless and kissing another girl. She said that it's a large amount of money for what seems like an easy task. "But that now becomes a sellable product," she said.
She explained that often those photos are used to blackmail girls into performing more tasks. She said that it was a thriving industry and that she was suckered in so quickly, she didn't even realize she was a victim. She explained that domestic minors are becoming more and more at risk and involved in sex trafficking.
Other issues with the media include making it acceptable to objectify women. She said that the "pimp culture," such as rap singers like Snoop Dogg, killing hookers on the video game Grand Theft Auto and hearing songs that talk about prostitution, promiscuity and sex like it's normal are creating a dangerous atmosphere for kids.
"A pimp is just a street name for a trafficker," she said. "What is the message the world is setting out? How sick is that? That they value a girl so low it's OK to kill her."
Stories Of Voiceless Victims
She talked about an 11-year-old who was rescued. The girl's mother had died and she was placed in the custody of her father who was heavily involved in drugs. He sold her for drugs. She was tattooed on her eye lids by her trafficker and grew up in an area where the pimp culture was normal.
She spoke about another girl who was passed around a gang and branded with a cattle brand and a tattoo on her neck. That girl was able to recover after she was rescued but is now searching to get the brands removed. The cattle brand if seen by another gang member could signify to them that she's property and could be raped.
Another example was given about a girl who had the right parents; she was homeschooled, protected, a virgin who was saving herself for marriage. She went to a high school party, was drugged in a drink she had and was sold to the highest bidder for her virginity. None of her peers at the party stopped it. She ended up so ashamed, she spiraled downward and ended up addicted to heroine. Lazenko explained that the girl eventually found herself help.
"There is nothing that can take your value away. You can heal from anything," she said. "It's never too late, there's always hope."
Talking To Kids About Sexual Abuse
by Selma Fragassi
Starting Wednesday, three Northbrook public schools will launch programs for Erin's Law, the new house bill that requires schools in Illinois to implement an age-appropriate sexual assault awareness and prevention curriculum for grades pre-K through 12.
In Northbrook District 30, the presentations are at Wescott, Maple and Willowbrook schools and will be helmed by sexual abuse survivor and motivational speaker Victor Pacini, who hosted a thoughtful Q&A session for parents on Monday night, March 23.
“I assure you that my goal is to make sure you trust me and feel comfortable,” he said to the packed meeting room before taking the parents step-by-step through the material and learning guides he would soon be providing to their children. Though there are distinct programs he tailored for three different age groups, kindergarten through third grade, fourth and fifth grades and six through eighth grades, on this night Pacini focused on the curriculum for the youngest students.
The program he developed is called “Be Seen & Heard,” and focuses on five key goals—to distinguish between safe and unsafe touches and safe and unsafe secrets, learning how to say no and how to tell an adult or “trusted hero” and understanding that sexual abuse is never the child's fault. Pacini was clear that he never uses the words “sexual abuse” nor does he talk about specific body parts with the youngest groups; instead he said he gives the children ideas they can cognitively understand so that they have a basis of knowledge to know how to deal with situations if they are in danger of becoming victim.
Pacini used drawings of kids in bathing suits to show that anything covered up was private, employed thumbs up and thumbs down illustrations to identify clean and healthy touches (such as a doctor's visit) and worked with a lot of repetition in sayings like “Say no, go tell someone you know.”
The program builds from there for more mature groups. For the oldest kids, Pacini relates his own story, which began when he was abused by a family friend at just eight years old and later lost a sister to domestic violence.
By the end of the night, parents did have questions, most wanting tips for how to broach the topic with their children at home this week. “Be there for them,” said Pacini, himself a dad of three. He recommended beginning the conversation instead of waiting for the child to bring it up and also noted that each student would go home with the “Be Seen & Be Heard” booklet that includes discussion prompts parents could use to make it easier.
Others parents wanted to make sure teachers would have some sort of plan for when students came back to class after Pacini's presentation likely full of questions.
“We have provided lessons for faculty for how to deal with those conversations and what to look for in signs of a possible disclosure,” said one of the district's administrators in attendance, noting that the program, which will be a yearly requirement, was also a “work in progress.”
One parent asked about the statistics of sexual assault: A district administrator said one in three girls and one in six or seven boys will be victimized before the age of 18, and it will take six or seven times of telling someone before action is taken.
“You can't think it won't happen here because no area is immune,” said a school official pointing to the fact that Erin Merryn, who the law is named for, is from Schaumburg.
Parents seemed relieved after Pacini's presentation, a few talked about how they felt more comfortable with the program now that they had seen it. The reaction echoed the sentiment in the Berwyn School District, which had been surveyed about Pacini's material and unanimously agreed that it “is effective, appropriate and benefits the ages involved.”
Though parents who do want to opt out their children can do so by e-mailing the child's classroom teacher and addressing the note to Asst. Principal, Betty Holzkopf at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tait on 8: The brave and the bold
You really have to wonder what will be going through Matthew Sandusky's mind the minute before he steps on to the stage next week at the Shaw Convention Centre.
His task is most daunting: to speak in front of a huge room is one thing, but to share your story of being sexually abused in such a public way is on an entirely different level.
But that's what Matthew is going to do at the annual Stand Up and Be Brave Luncheon April 1, a major fundraiser for Little Warriors.
“I'm usually reminding myself of why I am doing what I am doing,” Matthew said of the final minute before addressing a crowd.
“I'm thinking about the millions of survivors who haven't found their voices yet. The millions who are hurting and deserve someone to stand up and support them.”
The name Sandusky is connected with sexually abuse — former Penn State University football coach Jerry Sandusky was charged with 52 counts of sexual abuse of young boys over a 15-year period.
The elder Sandusky sexually abused Matthew while acting as Matthew's adopted father. The abuse began when Matthew was eight years old.
Such abuse scars for life. He struggled with keeping it inside and not telling anyone. He is married, and has children, and didn't want to put any added pressure on them.
Matthew worked, hard, by himself in therapy. Last summer he was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey on Oprah Prime.
Now, Matthew has dedicating his life to raising awareness about sexual child abuse.
“The Oprah interview was when I decided to go public. Before that my disclosure to police was leaked not my doing,” Matthew said.
We might turn the channel or change the subject when the subject of sexual abuse of children is within earshot. Matthew is driven to create more discussion about the subject when he's in Edmonton.
“I want every survivor to know they are loved and supported, that healing does happen and that hope always exists,” he said.
“I want the audience to be inspired to educate themselves further on the issue of child sex abuse.
“I want people to understand that I don't allow fear to control my life any longer and that is my hope for everyone, especially survivors.”
Sadly, he knows there are people in Edmonton, both children and adults, who have been hurt by child sexual abuse.
“I know that every one of those people has the opportunity to heal and live life by their terms,” said Matt.
And that's what Little Warriors does so well. The agency helps children of sexual abuse through their journey.
Little Warriors has just opened the Be Brave Ranch in Sherwood Park, a long-term treatment centre and is looking to raise $2.5 million this year.
“The luncheon will bring us one step closer to our target,” said Little Warrior founder Glori Meldrum.
“It's been an incredible journey, and we couldn't have done it without the support of our community.”
Glori, who has worked tirelessly to make Little Warriors the helping organization it has become, said next week's luncheon is the group's largest fundraising event of the year.
Tickets are $200 each or $2,000 a table.
For more information visit http://littlewarriors.ca/events/3rd-annual-be-brave-luncheon/.
Child abuse bill signed into law years after death of 2-year-old
by Rachel Collier
FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Four years ago, a two-year-old boy was pricked with a thumbtack more than 140 times, and abused so badly, he died.
The man responsible will be out of prison after serving 5-1/2 years -- but the boy's mother has succeeded in making sure that, from now on, abusers in Kentucky who kill will stay in prison longer.
"I just see such a happy, free spirit," said Mashanna Bachuss Waggoner, when she looks at a picture of her two-year-old son, Conner Bachuss. The boy had white-blonde hair and electric blue eyes. "He definitely didn't deserve what happened to him."
Conner Bachuss' life was taken by Ronald Saunders II, four years ago in Paducah. Bachuss Waggoner says Saunders, her boyfriend at the time, used a thumbtack on her child.
"Conner had 148 puncture wounds on his body," Bachuss Waggoner explained. "He had blunt force trauma to the head and face. He had been without oxygen for over a 10-minute period."
Saunders will be out of prison by next April after serving just 5-1/2 years. He was originally charged with murder, looking at 25 years to life in prison. But he took a plea deal to a lesser crime, manslaughter in the second degree, a non-violent crime.
"I was sick and devastated," said Bachuss Waggoner.
Defendants like Saunders often receive lesser charges because it can be hard to prove child abuse death cases. There are often no witnesses to the crime.
There is nothing Bachuss Waggoner can do to keep Saunders in prison longer. But every chance she has gotten, she has told Conner's story to anyone who'd listen.
"I went to several political rallies, I went to Fancy Farm picnic two years in a row," said Bachuss Waggoner.
A bill to toughen child abuse death laws failed to pass the last two years. But this session, Conner's Law became law, with a signature from Governor Steve Beshear. Manslaughter in the first degree, which carries a 10-20 year sentence, now includes fatal child abuse. Plus, abusers have to serve 85 percent of that sentence before being released.
"I think it's going to be a good tool for the jurors, and I think we'll have much better outcomes in these cases," said Senator Danny Carroll, who sponsored the bill.
A mother's love got Bachuss Waggoner through the pain, and her son's story has moved mountains.
"He has done amazing things," she said. "In his name, nobody will get anymore little-to-light sentences. It takes a huge stance against fatal child abuse."
Legislators say this law obviously will not prevent child abuse deaths, but it will provide a more just outcome for families who do lose a child to abuse.
Jamaica PM Urges Harsher Penalties For Child Sex Abuse
SAN JUAN, March 26 (BERNAMA-NNN-EFE)-- Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller is proposing tougher penalties for sexual offenses committed against minors and for murders of pregnant teens.
"The abuse of our nation's children weighs heavily on my heart, and I know on the hearts of every well-thinking Jamaican. This is an ugly subject, a shameful matter. It is unacceptable and unworthy of us as a nation," she told the House of Representatives.
Simpson-Miller pointed to research showing "that one girl in every five aged 15-19 years who are sexually active, has reported being forced to have sex."
"Research by the Office of the Children's Registry indicates that only 1 in 10 adult Jamaicans, despite knowing, come forward with information to the police about cases of abuse against children, including sexual abuse," she said.
The prime minister wants to see harsher sentences for sex offenders who target minors and for killers of pregnant adolescents, especially if it can be established that the perpetrator knew of the pregnancy.
"This is unacceptable! We cannot remain silent! Cases of incest and sexual abuse in the family setting are also very unsettling. It is a crime. It is evil. It must be condemned. Big men and women, some fathers and mothers, step-fathers, uncles and cousins, who prey on children, must leave our little children alone," she said.
Simpson-Miller called on Jamaicans to contact authorities if they have any information related to sexual abuse of minors.
Mother's support is vital for sexually abused children
by Madeline Kennedy
Sexually abused children whose mothers believe them and offer comfort are less likely to suffer from anger and depression, according to a recent study.
“Disclosing sexual abuse can be a very stressful process for a child, and the reactions of the child's primary caregiver can play a key role in the child's adjustment,” said lead author Kristyn Zajac, an assistant professor at the Family Services Research Center at the Medical University of South Carolina.
Nearly half of all sexual assault victims are under the age of 18, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.
According to previous studies, children who are abused are at risk of suicide attempts, running away and behavior problems, the researchers write in Child Abuse and Neglect.
Zajac and her colleagues recruited 118 pairs of children and mothers (or female guardians) from a child advocacy center. The children, who were between the ages of seven and 16, had been forensically evaluated to determine that physical abuse had occurred. None of the mothers was involved in the abuse.
The research staff interviewed each mother and child in separate rooms and asked them questions about the mother's level of support including her tendency to doubt or blame the child, to reassure the child, to seek more information and to express a wish for revenge against the offender.
In addition, both mother and child answered questions about the child's trauma-related emotional symptoms.
The researchers repeated the interviews nine months later, though about half of the mother-child pairs were unavailable for the second round.
Half of the perpetrators of sexual abuse were family members, about one in six were in a romantic relationship with the mother, and nearly one quarter were strangers.
Based on the first round of interviews, the study team found that children who rated their mothers as being more emotionally supportive showed lower levels of anger and depression.
Children were more likely to act out with behavior problems – so called externalizing behavior - if their mothers rated themselves as displaying more blame or doubt, but not when their mothers rated themselves as emotionally supportive.
Children whose mothers expressed a desire for vengeance against the perpetrator were at greater risk for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Zajac noted in an email that the study was the first to specifically examine maternal behaviors - including expressing a desire for revenge or suggesting that the child was in some way responsible for the abuse - that had a negative effect on children's adjustment.
Beverly Lovett, a professor of social work at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts, said that part of the reason mothers may react in an unsupportive way is that the abusers are so often people close to the family.
Lovett, who was not involved in the study, noted that mothers may be financially or emotionally dependent on the offender, which can complicate the situation.
“When a mother hears her son or daughter tell of being sexually abused, particularly by a known and trusted person, it often catapults her into crisis,” Lovett, said in an email. “Just as disclosure is a process for a child, mothers also may need time to digest the disclosure and respond in a way that does not doubt or otherwise fail to meet the child's emotional needs,” she noted.
Zajac recommended seeking professional help for the children. For families without access to therapy or counseling, she recommends child advocacy centers, which may offer services to people with fewer resources. The National Children's Advocacy Center website has a search page (bit.ly/1y7I0Tl) for finding a local child advocacy center.
Zajac also advised that the most helpful reaction mothers can have to the news of abuse is to provide comfort and reassurance and avoid expressing skepticism or a desire for vengeance.
California woman's kidnapping plot led to baby's death, police say
by The Associated Press
LONG BEACH, Calif. – A violent kidnapping that ended with the murder of a 3-week-old baby girl took an even more sordid turn when police announced they had arrested a California woman who they said plotted to steal infants and pass them off as her own.
In arresting the woman and three others Wednesday, police in Long Beach and El Segundo said they had cracked a sinister scheme that led not only to the kidnapping and murder of tiny Eliza Delacruz in January, but also to an assault on a 23-year-old mother at a hotel in El Segundo last month who was targeted for her 4-month-old son.
Investigators in both cities would not say how baby Eliza died and declined to discuss what may have motivated the woman's three alleged accomplices to participate beyond saying that the man who they believe carried out the attacks was a friend and the other woman arrested was her daughter.
Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna said his staff suggested avoiding the word "evil" to describe the case, but he couldn't.
"I can't summarize it any other way," he said. "In my 29 years, I've never seen anything like this. We've never seen anything like this where someone goes out looking for babies and they attempt to kill the mothers. It's just unbelievable."
Giseleangelique Rene D'Milian, 47, of Thousand Oaks, was arrested on suspicion of murder, kidnapping, attempted murder and conspiracy. Her alleged accomplice, 29-year-old Anthony McCall, of Oceanside, was arrested on the same charges.
Two others — D'Milian's 30-year-old daughter Charisse Shelton and 44-year-old Todd Boudreaux — were arrested on suspicion of helping cover up the crimes after the fact, authorities said.
All were being held without bail except Shelton, whose bail was set at $1 million.
The four are expected to make a first court appearance Friday. It wasn't clear late Wednesday if they had already retained attorneys or would request a public defender on Friday.
Eliza's mother, father and uncle were shot in their home on Jan. 3 and Eliza was kidnapped by McCall just two hours after he and D'Milian tailed a public bus that was carrying the baby and her mother, police said.
Eliza's body was discovered the following day in a trash bin in Imperial Beach, a city on the Mexican border about 100 miles to the south.
A second woman was beaten with a baseball bat on Feb. 6 in El Segundo, about 20 miles to the north, while her 4-month-old son was in the room and police now believe the child was the target of the same kidnapping scheme.
The mother was saved when hotel employees interrupted the assault but McCall escaped, said El Segundo Police Chief Mitch Tavera.
D'Milian also started a fake charity focusing on 1- to 2-month-old babies and asked her friends and acquaintances to spread the word by text message and phone calls in an attempt to get access to other children she could kidnap, authorities said.
D'Milian may have identified Eliza's mother through that network, police said, but the mother told police she'd never seen D'Milian before.
Police asked any woman with young infants who'd been contacted about such a charity to call police — although they don't believe there were any other victims.
There is no indication that D'Milian's married boyfriend — who lives somewhere in California and also has his own children — knew of the plot, said Long Beach Lt. Lloyd Cox.
D'Milian told him the twins had been born when she was out of the country.
"She fabricated a story and wanted him to believe these children were his. Why? We don't know. We're not sure what the motivation was," he said, adding that D'Milian was searching for children with a dark complexion that matched her own.
The case stumped Long Beach authorities for weeks because Eliza's parents and uncle were too severely wounded to be interviewed, Luna said.
When her mother recovered, she recalled that a woman pulled over in a black Range Rover she got off the bus on Jan. 3 and asked her about the baby girl.
Police last week released composite sketches of the woman and the kidnapper and released surveillance video of the SUV. The information generated tips and new witnesses who told police the location of the Range Rover and gave them names that matched exactly with suspects that the El Segundo police were already looking at in their assault case, Luna said.
Boy fatally shoots 6-year-old brother, wounds another, then kills self
HUDSON, Fla. — A 13-year-old Florida boy fatally shot his 6-year-old brother, hurt his 16-year-old brother and then killed himself Wednesday, The Associated Press reports.
Sheriff's officials in Pasco County said the shooter used a handgun after the brothers had an argument about food in their home. The 16-year-old, who suffered a non-life-threatening injury, called police.
"This is a horrific scene," said Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco. "This is a nightmare."
The boys' mother and 18-year-old brother were not at home at the time of the shooting, officials said.
The shooter and victims' names were not provided, and police did not say how the boy obtained the gun.
Sex offender who photographed drugged girl's molestation sentenced to 23 years
TACOMA, Wash. — A convicted sex offender who sexually abused a 10-year-old girl while she was on pain medication recovering from a broken leg was sentenced Friday to 23 years in prison and 25 years' supervised release, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Clark County Sheriff's Office and the Vancouver (Washington) Police Department.
Blaine K. Nipp, 37, of Vancouver, Washington, was arrested in January 2014 after investigators tied Nipp to a username distributing illicit images through an overseas photo sharing website, according to court documents. A search of Nipp's electronic devices turned up photos of him abusing a 10-year-old girl. Investigators learned Nipp had volunteered in August 2013 to assist the family of the girl who had suffered a broken leg while riding her bike. The family was acquainted with Nipp, but did not know him well. While alone with the injured child, Nipp, among other sexually abusive conduct, took sexually explicit pictures of her while she was asleep on pain medication.
“Nipp's trading of Internet child pornography was a symptom of a larger problem,” said Brad Bench, special agent in charge of HSI Seattle. “As we later learned through our investigation, the defendant used his charm to manipulate his way into situations where he could victimize young girls. With this sentence, children will be safe from Nipp. However, his victims must live the rest of their lives with the scars of his sexual abuse.”
Court documents describe Nipp's long history of sex offenses against children. He was convicted of his first sex offense at the age of 19 when he fathered a child with a 13-year-old girl. In the years that followed, Nipp was convicted of child pornography offenses and of entering and trespassing in an apartment where a 10-year-old was home alone.
“This horrifying betrayal of trust deserves a significant prison sentence,” said Acting United States Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “The defendant knew he was prohibited from having contact with children and yet he still did so to satisfy his prurient interests. To molest a child suffering from a serious injury, and under the influence of powerful pain medication, is outrageous. I commend the efforts of the DHS HSI agents and investigators whose careful investigative work uncovered the defendant's crime and led directly to the sentence that the court imposed today.”
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Washington prosecuted the case.
This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 10,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2013, more than 2,000 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page.
Calls for abuse early intervention
Compensation for child abuse victims should include a scheme to help those between three and 12 so they don't suffer later, an advocacy group says.
by the AAP
An early intervention program for very young victims of sexual abuse is needed to avoid chronic adult mental health illness across Australia, a royal commission has heard.
Wayne Chamley from Broken Rites, a support group for people abused in the Catholic Church, said on Wednesday a national redress scheme for abuse survivors should include an early intervention program for children between the ages of three and 12.
He was giving evidence at a royal commission hearing into how to compensate victims of childhood sexual abuse.
Dr Chamley said Broken Rites supported a national redress scheme but would like to see an early intervention scheme as well.
Despite the federal government rejecting a national redress scheme, Dr Chamley said his group and others would continue to campaign for one - including going to the UN.
He said a high proportion of people who came to Headspace, a mental health program for people aged 14-25, were victims of childhood sexual abuse.
Broken Rites would like to see the program expanded for younger children.
"So this is a major public health problem and we can begin to work to diminish its impact and the key is to get an early intervention program in place nationally, which is directed at the childhood group."
Dr Chamley said Broken Rites supported a national redress scheme with governments and institutions contributing funds but having no part in administration.
He said it was hard to measure the impact of abuse but he would like the commission to acknowledge that because of childhood abuse, many men had lived lonely lives.
"They have lived as loners for all of their life with only drinking mates, never involved in a relationship with a person of the same sex or the other sex; never knowing what it is to have the joy and responsibility of raising family and those sorts of things," he said.
Tragically there were also many who took their own lives, he said.
Erin's Law must be passed
A proposed law allowing public schools to start programs to prevent child sexual abuse moved to the Senate floor Monday.
The Senate Committee on Education approved the bill, 12-1, Monday.
The bill, named for childhood sexual assault survivor, author, activist and Illinois-native Erin Merryn, already has passed the House. Merryn founded a nonprofit group that promotes prevention-oriented child sexual abuse programs nationwide.
The bill's Senate author, Sen. A.J. Griffin, said the program empowers children and young adults to identify and report dangerous situations and avoid them. The program is voluntary and local school board would decide if child sexual abuse prevention programs should be offered at their schools and at what age.
Child sexual abuse is a huge problem in America. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 25 percent of women and 16 percent of men are sexually abused as children. The median age of child sexual abuse victims is 9.
It's important to note that Erin's Law doesn't involve sex education in any form. It merely lets children know that if something an adult is doing makes them uncomfortable, they should notify another adult. It also teaches them how to avoid potentially dangerous situations.
The Senate should approve this bill, and the governor should sign it.
If that happens, all public school administrators and their board of education should look into the available programs and, we hope, decide to implement child sexual abuse prevention programs in their districts.
A Brighter Future: Ending Child Abuse Through Advocacy and Education
The University of South Carolina Upstate's Center for Child Advocacy Studies is hosting its sixth annual conference, A Brighter Future: Ending Child Abuse through Advocacy and Education, on Friday, March 27 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on the USC Upstate campus. Nearly 400 participants are expected to attend the conference, which will be held in the University Readiness Center.
“We bring national experts to Spartanburg to examine pressing issues related to child abuse and neglect,” said Dr. Jennifer Parker, director of the USC Upstate Child Protection Training Center. “Our attendees are front-line child protection professionals and community leaders. With a diverse program and audience, we can obtain a deeper understanding of the complexities of child maltreatment and improve our response and prevention efforts.
According to recent statistics, one in four girls is sexually abused and one in six boys is sexually abused before the age of 18. Child maltreatment, however, involves more than just physical and sexual abuse; it also includes emotional abuse and failure to meet the basic needs of the child.
The state of South Carolina ranks 45 th in the United States for overall child well-being, and high rates of all forms of maltreatment in Spartanburg County have far-reaching consequences. Many serious and costly youth problems, such as teen pregnancy, juvenile crime, school failure and substance abuse are preceded by child abuse and neglect. Furthermore, child abuse and neglect can disrupt early brain development, leading to increased risk of lifelong emotional and physical problems. If we direct our efforts to education and prevention of child maltreatment, then we can effectively eliminate many of these later developing problems.
According to Parker, the conference is a major initiative to increase community awareness of the problem and to provide ongoing community education. It is designed to target a broad audience of concerned citizens and professionals, including healthcare personnel, legal experts, the faith community, counselors, educators, social workers, victim service professionals, and community members.
Dr. Robert Block, emeritus professor of pediatrics and immediate past Daniel C. Plunket chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine in Tulsa will open the conference with a presentation on Toxic Stress and Responding by Building Resiliency.
Victor Vieth, executive director emeritus of the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center, will speak at the Conference. He has presented at the annual conference every year since 2010.
Vieth has trained thousands of child protection professionals from all 50 states, two U.S. territories, and 17 countries on numerous topics pertaining to child abuse investigations, prosecutions and prevention. Vieth has been instrumental in implementing 22 state and international forensic interview training programs and dozens of undergraduate and graduate programs on child maltreatment. He also is the author of Unto the Third Generation , an initiative that outlines the necessary steps we must all take to eliminate child abuse in America in three generations.
“We can significantly reduce most forms of violence by implementing a series of common sense, long overdue reforms,” Vieth said. “Many of these reforms are already unfolding in South Carolina through the work of cutting edge child protection professionals. We believe the changing landscape of South Carolina will one day lead to a changing landscape everywhere.”
The event's other expert speakers include:
Daniel Garrabrant, special agent, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Dr. Nancy Henderson, medical director of the Division of Forensic Pediatrics at Greenville Hospital System
Dr. Anna Salter, consultant, Wisconsin Department of Corrections
Sgt. Jim Sears, law enforcement officer with more than 30 years at the Irving Police Department
For more information, contact Dr. Jennifer Parker at (864) 503-5700, email@example.com or visit: www.uscupstate.edu/childadvocacyconference
Mechanicsburg Area School Board approves child abuse protection policy for volunteers
by Roger Quigley
MECHANICSBURG -- The Mechanicsburg Area School Board has adopted a policy that requires volunteers within the district to go through background checks to comply with new state laws designed to prevent child abuse in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky case.
The new laws include significant changes to the background check requirements for new and current employees, contractors with direct contact with children and volunteers, including band and sports booster organizations.
It was the requirement for volunteers that presented the biggest problem for the board.
Under the law, employees having contact with children must obtain the following three clearances:
_ Report of criminal history from the Pennsylvania State Police.
_ Child abuse history clearance from the Department of Human Services.
_ FBI background check.
Combined those clearances can cost about $50.
And they must be renewed every three years.
The Mechanicsburg board decided that paid employees will have to incur those costs.
But members had a concern about forcing volunteers to pay up.
They and other district officials are concerned that the requirement could result in the loss of volunteers in areas ranging from band parents to sports booster to many other extracurricular activities.
The FBI background check that costs about $27 is not required for volunteers if they can show they have lived in the district for the last 10 years. That still leaves a cost of about $20 in other clearances.
After significant discussion, the board amended the policy to allow the district to pay those costs in certain cases.
The section of the policy states that "reimbursement for clearances for volunteers may be approved by the superintendent or designee based on financial need or extenuating circumstances."
April is Child Assault Prevention Month training/education available in Newton
by The Warren Reporter
The month of April has been designated as National Child Abuse Prevention Month by the United States Department of Health & Human Services, announced local organizers of the Enough Abuse Campaign, a cooperative effort of Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey, Project Self-Sufficiency and the Sussex Warren Partnership to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse.
Training sessions will be held at Project Self-Sufficiency on Wednesdays, April 15, 10 a.m. to noon, and 6-8 p.m. at 127 Mill St., in Newton. Participation is free and open to anyone interested in stemming the tide of child sexual assault, but advance registration is required.
Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey will be hosting several events throughout the month to help raise awareness of the importance of preventing child abuse in all of its forms. Northern New Jersey residents can learn how to help prevent child sexual assault by joining the Enough Abuse Campaign. The community-wide education initiative aims to mobilize adults and communities to prevent child sexual assault by increasing awareness of the warning signs displayed by predators and as well as victims.
"The goal of the Enough Abuse campaign is to educate every adult in the community about the true nature and scope of child sexual assault, and give them the tools and knowledge they need to better protect children," commented Deborah Berry-Toon, Executive Director of Project Self-Sufficiency, "Project Self-Sufficiency is proud to be partnering with the Sussex Warren Partnership to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey in this important effort to eliminate child sexual abuse in our area. This educational outreach program will build on Project Self-Sufficiency's legacy of assisting families with their goals of becoming stable and economically self-sufficient. We are confident that the Enough Abuse Campaign will help to prevent child sexual abuse and result in safer, more stable families in our community."
Studies continue to show that many parents believe the major risk of child sexual abuse involves strangers, which in reality, up to 90% of cases are committed by someone known and trusted by the victim and family. Educators with the Enough Abuse campaign are particularly interested in training middle and high school youth, their parents, teachers, administrators, coaches and other youth-serving professionals on how to recognize and prevent child sexual abuse.
To register, or to find out more about the Enough Abuse campaign, call Project Self-Sufficiency, 973-940-3500.
Detroit Mom Arrested Over Dead Kids Found in Freezer
A Detroit mother was taken into police custody Tuesday after the bodies of her two children were found in the freezer as officials tried to evict the family earlier in the day, authorities said.
NBC station WVOD reported that the mother had been arrested but did not name the suspect. The victims, 14 and 11, were not identified by authorities.
The bodies were found inside a plastic bag stuffed into a freezer at 10:45 a.m., police said. The grim discovery was made after a bailiff visited the property to conduct an eviction.
A resident of the apartment complex alerted police to the children's mother, who was at a separate location at the time, officials said in a news release. Police identified her as a person of interest.
Officers first found the body of a 14-year-old girl inside the freezer, and then the body of an 11-year-old boy. Authorities did not immediately say how long they might have been left there. The identities of the children and their mother weren't released.
"Terrible find this afternoon," Police Chief James Craig told reporters on Tuesday, according to NBC affiliate WDIV. "It was during that eviction process that they discovered two young children in a freezer ... they were inside a bag and appeared to be frozen."
Craig added that there were two other children who were living at the home who have been placed into protective custody. He couldn't immediately provide a motive.
A neighbor told WDIV that the brother and sister used to play with her stepchildren.
"There were no signs of injuries or any kind of trauma at all," neighbor Tori Childs said. "I would have never expected this."
The brutal reason Boko Haram just took 500 ‘young women and children'
by Terrence McCoy
This is the story of what comes after the headlines. What happens after the shock dissolves and the news marches onto the next tragedy. This is what happens to the boys, girls and women who are kidnapped by Boko Haram — and why.
Every few months, another fresh kidnapping grips northeastern Nigeria, where the Islamic militants are embroiled in several campaigns against the forces of Nigeria, Chad and Niger. The most — and perhaps only — famous kidnapping is, of course, what occurred around this time last year at a school in the city of Chibok. There, Boko Haram made off with hundreds of schoolgirls and did god knows what with them. They were said to have become “sex slaves,” married off to any number of militants, and haven't been heard from since.
But there have been many more kidnappings than that. Tuesday brought fresh evidence. According to the BBC and Reuters, hundreds of women and children have been reported missing in a the town of Damasak, which was just reportedly liberated from Boko Haram's yoke. Specifics are sketchy. Reports don't agree on either the number of people taken, nor whether the missing are exclusively children under the age of 11 or include women as well. “They took 506 young women and children [in Damasak],” a trader named Souleymane Ali told Reuters inside the town. “We don't know if they killed others after leaving, but they took the rest with them.”
Ali's own wife and three daughters were taken as the Boko Haram militants fled. “Two of them were supposed to get married this year,” he said. But Boko Haram “said, ‘They are slaves so we're taking them because they belong to us.' ”
Mass kidnapping of women and children has come to define the barbarity of Boko Haram. But it's actually a fairly recent development in its 14-year history — and can in part explain the horrifying rise of a terrorist organization that this month pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. To be sure, Boko Haram has always kidnapped. But as the operation has become more sophisticated and sprawling and in need of additional human capital, Boko Haram has widened its efforts from capturing foreigners — who can be ransomed off for big bucks — to targeting mass numbers of young women and children who can be put to other uses.
Before, Boko Haram's terrorism tactics were relatively rudimentary, though effective. Drive-by assassinations. Setting fire to churches and schools. These assaults “required minimal training,” noted Jacob Zenn of West Point's Combating Terrorism Center. That began to change in late 2010 and 2011 with sophisticated bombing strikes. Then in 2013, the kidnapping opened in earnest, rising to international notice with the capture of 250 girls taken from Chibook. Zenn called this mass kidnapping on April 14 a “turning point.”
Consider what happened next, according to Zenn. “On April 19, May 5, June 10, 2014, the militants took more than 40 girls from the towns near Chibok, and on October 20, 2014, took 45 more girls from Wagga, Adamawa State and ‘married' the young ones. … [It is] estimated that Boko Haram may have abducted between 500 and 2,000 women since 2013, but most incidents go unreported.”
Mass kidnappings have become essential to Boko Haram's campaign. The kidnapped are used as soldiers. They're used as wives. They're used as bargaining chips. They're used as cooks, as suicide bombers and as future soldiers. Boko Haram, unlike the Islamic State, doesn't worry about attracting fresh recruits. They simply take them. It's an effective method of swelling their ranks to match the international coalition assembled to fight them.
“These gunmen had been telling us to join them to fight our soldiers here and at the borders with Cameroon and Chad,” one boy told the Nigerian publication Vanguard last September. “… The insurgents were adamant and ruthless threatening us to either be conscripted and fight against the troops in Gamboru or be killed.” He added: “Since last Monday's attacks, these sect boys have been going from house to house in search of residents in hiding. … Residents who refused to join the insurgents were summarily executed using guns or knives and swords.”
Yet the kidnapped and conscripted appear expendable for Boko Haram. In the past few months, a rash of disturbing news has risen out of northeastern Nigeria telling of very young girls used as suicide bombers. In January, for example, a girl said to be as young as 10 was strapped with explosives. She marched into a market, where the bomb exploded, killing at least 16 people.
“Only after the Chibok kidnapping did Boko Haram start using women in operations,” Zenn wrote, citing an apparent “operation link between the kidnapping in Chibok and the deployment of the female suicide bombers, even though the schoolgirls were likely not the bombers.”
“Using children to carry and detonate explosives is not a new tactic for Boko Haram, but it is an intensification,” Elizabeth Donnelly, assistant head of Chatham House's Africa program in London, told NBC. “Boko Haram has been abducting and conscripting children and young men and women for a long period for various purposes. They will be seen by the movement as expendable resources.”
Last week, Agence France-Presse and other news organizations reported that “dozens of Nigerian women who were forced to marry Boko Haram fighters were slaughtered by their ‘husbands' before a battle with troops” in the northeast town of Bama. Witnesses told AFP that “they killed the women to prevent them from subsequently marrying soldiers or other so-called non-believers. … ‘The terrorists said they will not allow their wives to be married to infidels,' said Sharifatu Bakura, 39, a mother of three.”
No one knows what will happen to the 500 children said on Tuesday to be taken by Boko Haram. But the rationale behind their capture seems all but certain to local experts. “The very young ones, they will give to the madrassas,” Borno state Senator Maina Maaji Lawan told the BBC,” referring to Islamic religious schools. “And the male ones between 16 and 25, they conscript them and they indoctrinate them as supply channels for their horrible missions.”
Depression or Chronic Shame?
by Sarah Newman, MA
When a person has been resistant to every form of depression treatment, is it possible that their illness stems from a different place? In a recent New York Times article Hillary Jacobs Hendel, a psychotherapist, writes about a patient who experienced what she calls “chronic shame.”
Hendel's patient, Brian, had tried every type of treatment but electroconvulsive therapy, which he didn't want to do. After meeting with him, she learned that he was neglected as a child.
During our initial sessions I developed a sense of what it was like to grow up in Brian's home. Based on what he told me, I decided to treat him as a survivor of childhood neglect — a form of trauma. Even when two parents live under the same roof and provide the basics of care like food, shelter and physical safety, as Brian's parents had, the child can be neglected if the parents do not bond emotionally with him … Brian had few memories of being held, comforted, played with or asked how he was doing.
Hendel says the “innate” response to this kind of environment is distress. Brian blamed himself for that distress, believing he was the reason why he felt so alone. He felt shame for being abnormal or wrong. “For the child, shaming himself is less terrifying than accepting that his caregivers can't be counted on for comfort or connection.” This is called attachment trauma. It results from a child seeking safety and closeness from their parent — yet the parent is not close or safe.
Hendel also is a clinical supervisor with the AEDP Institute. She specializes in a treatment called accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy. Because Brian didn't trust his own emotions, he was unable to use them as a compass for living, she explains. She aimed to use AEDP to bring this emotional life into awareness and allow Brian to experience his thoughts and emotions in an actively supportive environment.
Unlike traditional talk therapy, the therapist in AEDP is emotionally engaged and actively affirming. Hendel repeatedly grounded Brian into the present moment, as he still fought bouts of “wordless suffering.” When he was more stable they worked on validating his emotions and helping him to feel them fully. “When I noticed tears in his eyes, for example, I would encourage him to inhabit a stance of curiosity and openness to whatever he was feeling.” It sounds a lot like mindfulness — being in the moment and staying observant without judgment.
Over time Brian learned to express his feelings and practice self-compassion. In a way, he became the kind of parent he never had. Before treatment he had no template, no model for doing this.
What struck me the most about Brian's story is how adversely affected we can be simply by having no model — not just having overtly bad ones. I didn't have the caregiver who was distant, unfeeling, inaccessible, or uninvolved. I had the unsafe kind. My worth was very clearly communicated through physical violence and verbal abuse. But it's no different. Depression is so inherent in childhood trauma it's as natural to us as breathing.
What comes to mind for me is the feeling of being “unlovable,” and that is the seed of shame. The feelings of the parent, whether expressly communicated or intuited by the child, become internalized and automatic. And the state of being alone and powerless is so pervasive we don't even know how they shape our lives — even our treatment.
During my years in talk therapy, most of my sessions focused on my trauma history. Practical techniques from cognitive behavioral therapy were more often aimed at controlling my panic attacks and anxiety. Why didn't we talk about depression? Why did I accept a prescription for anti-anxiety medication but not antidepressants? Because I had denied my depression for so long that I believed I was powerless.
When I had a panic attack, I knew something was wrong, but depression was different. A therapist wanting to talk about my depression felt like he or she were questioning my very existence. It was as if taking away sadness was pulling the rug out from under me. It was my way of life. When therapists asked how long I had experienced symptoms of depression, I didn't understand the question. The answer was, “for as long as I can remember.”
It took a long time to face the fact that sadness wasn't supposed to be something that lived in my shadow and took hours, weekends, weeks away from me while I sheltered in bed or in the bathtub wishing I could blink and no longer exist.
Childhood trauma isolates, then depression keeps that person all to itself. If I could give anyone advice, it's share. Talk to people about how you feel — especially your therapist. Join a Facebook group like Group Beyond Blue or the peer support forums on Psych Central. Don't keep depression's secrets.
Finding the roots of depression is illuminating, but it's not enough. We're all just looking for a model that helps us manage our emotions. If you see someone struggling, offer your support.
$50,000 Walmart grant aims to stop Upstate child abuse
SPARTANBURG, S.C. —Walmart presented a $50,000 grant to Hope Center for Children in Spartanburg on Monday to help in efforts to build healthy families in South Carolina.
According to a press release from the Hope Center, the grant will support a mission to break the cycle of child abuse and neglect.
"We are extremely grateful for this funding,” said Chamlee Loscuito, chief executive officer of Hope Center for Children. "We thank Walmart for investing in our community and helping us offer high-quality services that truly have an impact on the lives of children."
Hope Center for Children, formerly the Children Shelter of the Upstate and Ellen Hines Smith Girls' Home, served nearly 2,000 children and adults last year.
Programs include an emergency shelter for abused or neglected children as old as 18, a residential program for teen girls in foster care, a residential program for youth ages 16 to 22 who are aging out of foster care or are at risk of homelessness, and two community-based prevention programs for families with an increased risk of child abuse or neglect.
"Walmart is honored to support Hope Center for Children and take a stand against child abuse and neglect in South Carolina," said Brooke Mueller, Walmart's director of public affairs.
To learn more about Hope Center for Children, visit www.hopecfc.org.
AG: Moms giving birth to drug-addicted babies committing "child abuse"
Drug-addicted moms giving birth are committing "child abuse" and laws already on the books should be used to deal with it, Attorney General Maura Healey said today on Boston Herald Radio's "Morning Meeting" show.
Show co-host Jaclyn Cashman asked why a mother can't be arrested for giving birth to a child who is addicted.
"Here's where I come down on that. I agree with you it's child abuse," Healey said. "I also believe though and recognize that there are a lot of people who are dealing with this as a disease. It is a disease and so penalizing somebody who acts in ways that are a product of their disease -- while it's wrong, we don't like what's happening -- I'm not sure that we need more laws to address that. I think we've got laws in place that deal with efforts we need to take to protect the safety of children."
The Herald first reported Wednesday that the Department of Children and Families investigated more than 1,700 reports of drug-exposed newborns in the last 10 months of 2014 — a stunning new glimpse at the wide-ranging effects of the raging opiate scourge.
Treating those newborns could cost an estimated $90 million, the Herald reported Saturday.
Healey said reports of opiate abuse are climbing.
"It is so incredibly sad, and you're absolutely right. Those numbers are growing across this state. I was with a woman a week or two ago from the Worcester area, who has three grand-babies. The mother, who is a heroin addict, has been using actively and now has a restraining order against the grandmother who just wants to be there to take care of her young grand-kids who call her and say 'Mommy is upstairs with a spoon,'" Healey added.
"Those stories are heartbreaking and to me it's why we need to be doing everything we can to support recovery and treatment services because at the end of the day, people are going to continue to use and continue to relapse. We need to get a handle on that. We need to do everything we can to keep kids safe and take the necessary steps to make sure that they are safe."
IRA Accused of Child Abuse Cover-Up
The paramilitary group's terrifying internal justice system meant abusers and rapists were protected from the law and sent into exile where they could attack children again.
by Dana Kennedy
DUNDALK, Ireland—While Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams celebrates St. Patrick's Day at the White House on Tuesday, accusations that his party and the IRA covered up that child rapists were in their ranks have erupted back home.
The main allegations come from members of two families with strong ties to the IRA; families who would normally go by a fiercer code of silence than the Italian mafia.
Adams has long denied that he was ever an IRA member, but Sinn Fein is closely allied with the notorious paramilitary organization and some current party officials admit their past involvement. The scandal comes at a bad time for Adams, who The New Yorker named in a devastating, 15,000-word article this week as the person who ordered the IRA's 1973 bombing campaign of London.
One Irish newspaper, the Independent , reported Sunday that there may be up to 100 abusers in the IRA ranks, though that claim has been denied by a member of Sinn Fein.
In an eerie parallel to Ireland's clerical sexual abuse scandal in which pedophile priests were shuttled from parish to parish and sometimes overseas to remove them from their victim but shield them from the law, the alleged rapists were reportedly moved between Northern Ireland and the south or sent to Britain or the U.S., according to media reports.
Speaking out is extremely complicated for these alleged victims because they have been betrayed by the organization they once believed in so strongly. Now, some are doing what was once unthinkable: publicly turning on the IRA and Sinn Fein and exposing what they describe as a system of thuggish internal justice. They say they were warned not to go to police.
Last week, a married father of three from a town a few miles from Dundalk rocked the country when he went on national TV to say that he was raped by a senior IRA member from Belfast in his own home in around 1992.
Paudie McGahon, 40, came from a family whose home served as a hideout for IRA members during “The Troubles,” the 30-year conflict pitting the IRA against British-run Northern Ireland.
McGahon lives in County Louth, a rough region bordering Northern Ireland where the IRA often “disappeared” its enemies from the north and buried their bodies on local beaches during the conflict's bloodiest years. Guns and ammunition are still hidden in the forests and mountains that dot the Cooley peninsula. Adams now represents the area in the Irish Parliament.
“It takes a lot of guts to go up against the IRA here of all places,” Francis McArdle, a 42-year-old man who lives just outside Dundalk, told The Daily Beast. McArdle wanted to be identified by his middle name. “Everyone's been glued to the TV wondering what's going to happen next.”
McGahon said he was 17 when a senior IRA member being sheltered in his home sexually assaulted him. After the attack, McGahon said his attacker warned him, “Listen, if you ever open your mouth about this to anybody, you'll be found on a border road.”
McGahon said he told a local leader in Sinn Fein about the rape in 2002 and had to endure what he called a “kangaroo court” in his own home. He wrote in an article for the March 14 Independent that he was “quizzed by shadowy men from the IRA.”
McGahon said he planned to go on TV in silhouette with an actor dubbing over his distinctive Louth brogue but then decided not to hide anything.
“I was all too aware that I was taking on a powerful monster with limitless resources and a record of burying anyone who has ever tried to expose the truth at the centre of its rotten heart,” McGahon wrote.
“Sinn Féin and the IRA are one entity; a cross between the mafia and a cult. So a few sad childhood rape victims would be easily swatted away and silenced. It has one leader, Gerry Adams, who has remained untouched in that position for well over 30 years, unlike any other democratic political organization. And no one dares question the leader who is looked on as God.”
In McGahon's case, he said IRA members eventually told him that his attacker had admitted to the abuse. McGahon was given options as to how he wanted him punished.
“The first one was for them to deal with it—put a bullet in the back of his head,” McGahon told the BBC. “It was said with such ease you knew that it wouldn't be a problem.” In the end McGahon opted for another choice: the expulsion of his attacker to Britain.
But the Independent also reported that McGahon's attacker was a serial rapist who attacked a number of children while he was moved around IRA safe houses.
The paper said it had obtained a “secret document” about an internal investigation by Sinn Fein in 2006 into alleged IRA sex abusers that showed the same man who assaulted McGahon allegedly raped a 12-year-old boy in an IRA safe house in Dublin and two teenagers in Derry at some point after his attack on McGahon.
McGahon said he was inspired to come forward after he watched Mairia Cahill tell the BBC in October 2014 that she had been raped at age 16 by a man alleged to be a senior member of the IRA.
McGahn said Cahill's story sounded a lot like his own. Cahill, 33, said she was subjected to years of interrogations by IRA members about her allegations in internal investigations. As part of the IRA's inquiry into her claims, she was asked to confront her abuser as part of a process to see who was telling the truth.
Cahill told Newstalk radio that there may be as many as 60 people who were abused by up to 40 IRA members who are still at large.
In a firsthand account of her ordeal for the Independent, she spoke of conducting her own investigation after a prosecution of her alleged rapists and the four people she said tried to cover it up fell apart in a North Ireland courtroom.
“I learned of people who the IRA moved to safe houses, who then went on to abuse children,” Cahill wrote. “Of young children who made allegations against prominent republicans of unwanted sexual contact, who were told they were lying by family members to stop social services being told because it created an embarrassment for the IRA. I heard first-hand of allegations that victims were raped at gunpoint, or threatened with being killed so they wouldn't disclose their abuse. I was told of people who went ‘on the run', who attacked children, and who were then moved on and attacked them again.”
Adams admitted last week that he had been informed on McGahon's rape in 2009 but said he did not learn the identity of his abuser until contacted by the BBC two weeks ago. The scandal has become a political free-for-all in Ireland as Prime Minister Enda Kenny accused Adams of not being truthful about what he knows about the IRA sex abuse. Adams branded Kenny's charges “despicable.”
Adams came under fire in 2013 for not telling authorities that his niece Aine had been sexually abused for years by her father, Adams's brother Liam, until Aine went public with her story in 2009. Adams, who claimed to have distanced himself from his brother, was later seen with him in family photographs and helped him secure a job at a youth center in West Belfast and even helped him run for a political seat in County Louth.
Adams revealed in 2009 that his father, a revered IRA leader, sexually abused members of his own family.
Sex abuse victim offers advice to parents
by Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
SAN DIEGO — Child sex abuse in an Orthodox Jewish community, indeed in any community, is not an easy topic to discuss. It isn't an easy topic to write about either, especially in a Jewish publication.
But when Judy Bloom Friedel called and asked if I would moderate a panel discussion on this topic for the recent JCC Film Festival based on the film, Code of Silence, I said I would. Ever try to turn down Judy?
Serving on the panel with me on two evenings of packed audiences, were Donald Harrison of this publication, Rabbi Moishe Leider of the Chabad Center of University City and Oded R. Shefizi, Psy.D, RPT-S, Psychologist of the Jewish Family Service.
The film tracks the strained and stressed emotional journeys of Manny Waks of Melbourne, Australia, and his observant Orthodox family, following the claim that Manny was sexually abused as a school student at the Yeshivah Centre in Melbourne. In fact, three children of the Waks' family were victims.
This is not a review of the film, which left the JCC audiences speechless immediately following it's showings, nor is it my intent to tell the story of the Waks family's tragic excommunication for breaking an ancient rabbinic Jewish law, “mesirah,” that forbade Jews from informing secular authorities about the gross misdeed of other Jews. The energetic and passion-filled audience discussion with our panel covered every reaction you can imagine.
What it didn't cover though, was what I wanted to talk about with Manny Waks. Due to Manny's graciousness, commitment and devotion to seeing that all Jewish communities are free of child sexual abuse and its associated harmful behaviors through the organization he founded in 2012, Tzedek, he kindly offered his time to chat with me. Manny's organization is a support and advocacy group for Jewish victims/survivors of child sexual abuse.
While I was interested in the impact that being sexually abused by his teachers at the Yeshiva as a child had on Manny's marriage and his own children, Manny noted that he preferred to keep his family, especially his children, out of the public domain.
I asked Manny about the measures he believes are necessary in our Jewish Day Schools that would make him comfortable enough to send his own children.
Manny stated, “The absolute minimum would be adequate policies and procedures in place specifically relating to the issue of child protection in the context of child sexual abuse. It would also be essential that the culture at the school is an appropriate one.”
He gave this example, “ For example, students, parents and staff need to be encouraged to disclose any allegations of child sexual abuse (or cover-ups) – they must be fully supported when doing so (and they must know that this will indeed be the case).”
Regarding training, Manny added, “There also needs to be ongoing training and professional development opportunities for students, parents and staff. Too often institutions have seemingly excellent policies and procedures in place but the staff may not be well versed in these or worse, it is there simply for public consumption rather than for genuine intent to address this issue properly.”
He cautioned parents today, “It's important that parents don't just rely on the reputation of a school. They need to check for themselves beginning with ensuring that the school has a dedicated and appropriate child protection policy in place, which covers the safety of students in all the activities and services that the school provides.”
I asked Waks about what he advises parents today, like him, who are raising children, sending them off to schools, camps, overnights with friends and other such environments given the climate of concern we have for the safety and wellbeing of our children and grandchildren.
He noted, “Parents play an important role in ensuring that their children are safe – whether their children are with them or under the care of others. Parents need to be proactive in addressing the issue of child sexual abuse by empowering themselves as well as their children.”
When I asked for examples, he added, “For example, parents must:
Take steps to mitigate risks such as by asking questions before leaving their children in the care of others (babysitters, friends, schools, camps, extra-curricular activities etc.) and checking the culture, child protection policies and processes of the institutions in which they entrust the welfare of their children (e.g. is everyone being encouraged to report disclosures or suspicions of abuse, what the reporting process is, interactions between staff/volunteers and students).
Endeavour to have an open and honest relationship with their children. They must discuss the issue of child sexual abuse with them in an age-appropriate manner. There are plenty of training options available – workshops, programs on the internet . Ideally, children need to feel comfortable sharing everything with their parents. For example, “Uncle Sam has been taking me every week for pizza and he asked me not to tell you” or “Mr Jones has been asking me to stay back after class because he said he wants to help me”. While these instances may simply be an irresponsible family member or a genuinely concerned teacher, it may be the start of the grooming process for possible sexual abuse some time in the future. They may be testing the waters (e.g. will this child keep our secret?). If the child feels comfortable with their parents, and if the parents have an open communication with their child, they will come to learn of these developments early on, which they may wish to address in an appropriate manner. In all likelihood perpetrators will look for another victim if they feel proceeding with this child is too risky for them. So I'd encourage parents to ensure they share with those around them that they discuss these issues with their children – this is a basic preventative measure as those with ill-intentions will (sadly) look for another target. Often, simply by raising the fact that you've discussed these issues with your children is a deterrent for a paedophile – they'll look for an easier target. So tell your family, friends, babysitters, staff at their schools, staff/volunteers at their extra-curricular activities and anyone else you can think of that you have ongoing discussions with your children about body safety and appropriate interactions. If you're uncomfortable or uncertain how to go about this, research this. There are appropriate ways to go about it. And ultimately, if you're still uncomfortable, remind yourself that a moment of discomfort may save your child from a lifetime of pain and suffering.
Learn how to recognize signs of abuse and become well-equipped to respond to a disclosure of abuse. How many of us can genuinely say that we'd know how to react if our child disclosed this to us? Would we remain calm? Would we know what to tell our child? The reality is that most victims will not disclose the abuse they endured. However, many will often send signals because they're unsure how the parent will react or because of the shame, guilt or other reasons often associated with non-disclosure of this type of abuse. It's our role as parents to make our children feel safe to share this information with us, and to react appropriately when this occurs.
He summarized by saying, “Ultimately it's our role as parents to empower ourselves and our children. No doubt the school and other institutions have an important role to play in all of this (especially when the abuse is being perpetrated by a parent). But it's our role as parents to ensure that the school, camps and any other institution we send our children to have appropriate policies and procedures in place, that the culture there is appropriate, and that they take this issue seriously. We as parents need to take responsibility and be proactive about this issue. And education is the key to all of this – we must educate ourselves, our children and others, including, if necessary, those we entrust with the safety and welfare of our children.
I asked Manny how his experiences being sexually abused in his childhood affected the way he raised his children. He shared this with me.
“Soon after I disclosed my story publicly (8 July 2011), my children started hearing that I was in the media and in other forums discussing this issue (our children are still very young). So we shared with them – in an age-appropriate manner – that I was sexually abused as a child, and that I'm a public advocate in this area. Ultimately we took that opportunity to discuss with them the issue of child sexual abuse and incorporate it as part of our body safety conversations. For example, we've said things like: ‘Daddy didn't know who to tell when someone touched him in his private parts but you know that you can come to us about anything and we'll believe you and support you no matter what.'”
Manny Waks demonstrated his sensitivity in healthy child-rearing by noting that he and his wife, “Try to maintain a sense of balance. Thankfully I'm married to an incredible person whose mothering skills seem to be innate. This makes my job a lot easier. We do what feels right to us and our children. Indeed, we treat our children as individuals with their own needs and personalities – what works with one child may not necessarily work with another child. It's important to us not to frighten them about all the bad things that exist in the world. So we empower them by a range of means. We read age-appropriate books with them. We maintain an open and honest dialogue with them – for example, each day we ask them about their day – the good, the bad and anything else they wish to share.”
Waks told me he feels fortunate that he and his wife, “struck a fine and important balance. This is evident through the close and open relationship we have with our children.”
What came out in the film was that Manny decided to turn away from observant Orthodox Jewish practices. I asked him about his decision.
He was open about this.
“I wouldn't necessarily call it a choice nor can I pinpoint a precise time this occurred. The first time I was sexually abused happened when I was around 11 years old. It took place inside the Chabad-run Yeshivah Centre Synagogue in Melbourne during the first night of Shavuot, when it's customary for Orthodox males to remain awake all night to study religious texts and the like. My abuser, Velvel (Zev) Serebryanski, was the son of one of the most senior and respected Chabad officials in Australia. He also used to read the Torah every Shabbat at the synagogue we both attended. My second abuser, David Cyprys, who's currently in the middle of serving an eight year jail term for sexually abusing me and eight other children, abused me in several locations – the most memorable one was inside a male Mikveh (ritual bath) where I blacked out briefly during the abuse, which caused him to stop.”
Manny continued to share that he “suspected the fact that his abusers were both ultra-Orthodox (Chabad) and the locations of my abuse – a synagogue and a Mikveh – has impacted on my lifestyle choice and my (subconscious) decision to become secular. Moreover, the fact that some at the Yeshivah Centre covered up the abuse and/or ignored it didn't help.”
Interestingly, Manny noted that, “Just prior to my Bar-Mitzvah (and subsequently) I showed a clear disinterest in religious practice. As a Chabad member, where every aspect of my life was dictated by religion, it was a very challenging time in my life. My world came crashing down. I remember forcing myself to desecrate Shabbat – I recall forcing myself to turn the lights on and off (despite the fear that was instilled in me, as I was taught that the punishment for desecrating Shabbat is the death penalty). I also remember forcing myself to eat non-Kosher (prior to that I forced myself to eat non-Cholov Yisrael items) – I vividly recall forcing myself to eat a non-Kosher schnitzel sandwich, which disgusted me simply because I had grown up to believe that it was “treif”. But I felt compelled to go through with these “sins” – evidently at that point I felt repulsed by what I understood to be my religion and its practices.”
He clearly identified that “the abuse caused me to rebel against my religion. However, I did remain within the Chabad community until the age of 18. This was probably mainly due to a lack of options, especially due to my very limited secular education at the time. But as soon as I could leave, I left. It was to Israel to fight in the Israel Defense Forces.”
Finally, I asked Manny Waks this question, “Manny, if you had 30 seconds to share a message with the world, what would it be?” His answer says it all and reveals his continued Jewish connection.
He said, “Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof” – ‘Justice you shall pursue' It seems to me that the greatest impact this has had on me is my quest for justice; for children, against racism and antisemitism, and in other areas as well. I seem to feel an overwhelming need to stand up to injustices, and not to turn a blind eye.
“My concluding message is really for everyone to stand up to injustices wherever this may occur. In the context of child sexual abuse, if you are aware of past or current abuse or cover-ups, take action. And of course an important element of pursuing this justice is our responsibility as parents to do what's right and just for our children – not just after the fact, once it's too late in many ways, but also in mitigating risks and preventing their abuse in the first case.”
Manny Waks, a victim who comes to teach us all how to be victors.
Dr Michael Mantell, based in San Diego, provides coaching to business leaders, athletes, individuals and families to reach breakthrough levels of success and significance in their professional and personal lives. Mantell may be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org
Law Helps Those Who Escape Sex Trafficking Erase Their Criminal Record
by Edna Ishayik
She has applied for jobs cleaning airplane cabins between flights, tidying up offices overnight and ringing up orders at concession stands. But the 57-year-old woman from Queens has been rejected from these and dozens of other low-wage jobs because she has a long criminal record.
She has been convicted 133 times and does not deny any of her crimes.
But her record should not condemn her to a life of struggle, she says, because all of her crimes were the result of 17 years of being forced to work as a prostitute by an abusive ex-boyfriend.
“It's not like I did it to myself,” said the woman, who asked that her name not be published because she feared for her safety. “He had me at an advantage. There would be repercussions if I didn't do what he asked me to do. I could not talk about the beating I used to get. I always had a black eye.” She added: “Wherever I went, he'd always find me and bring me back. It was a lot of violence.”
She escaped her captor in 1990, but her criminal record has followed her, preventing her from finding steady work. Now, however, she is close to having all her convictions erased thanks to a New York State law designed to treat those forced to become prostitutes as victims rather than as criminals.
“Before, my life was like hell,” she said, anticipating a clean record. “Now, I feel good about myself. It's like I died, and when I came back, I came back clean. Nothing to hold me back.”
The law, passed in 2010, allows convictions related to sexual trafficking to be removed from a person's record. New York had the first such law in the country and today 18 other states have adopted similar statutes.
“If certain prostitution arrests arose directly from trafficking, the court must vacate the charges,” said Melissa Broudo, a lawyer with the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center. “The case is over. It's a recognition that they should not have been convicted in the first place.”
More than 60 women with prostitution convictions have had their records cleared in New York. l
The law is particularly important, Ms. Broudo said, because sex-trafficking victims who manage to escape their plight often find themselves in financial crisis. “You have to start from scratch,” she said. “They're not going to have money. They will have been forcibly cut off from family members, anyone that could have helped them.”
But the criminal records that can follow many former prostitutes make it nearly impossible to overcome financial hardship. “I can't overstate the collateral consequences of criminal convictions, even for petty offenses,” said Kate Mogulescu, a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society who has helped clear the records of 49 prostitutes. “It's crippling. People come to us with one prostitution conviction from 10 years ago and they cannot get a job as a school bus matron.”
Ms. Broudo, with pro bono help from the law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges, has worked with the Queens woman to remove 129 convictions — mostly for prostitution or loitering — from her record, the most of any prostitute under the state law.
Now she is trying to have her four remaining convictions, which are more serious, removed. All of them stem from arrests involving thefts, including for stealing from a department store in Nassau County, crimes she says she was forced to commit by her trafficker when she did not earn enough money from prostitution.
She spent nine months in jail for the department store theft. Later, she moved to Virginia, where one of her sisters lived. After surviving for years on odd jobs and the support of her fiancé, the woman hopes to apply for a job as a school crossing guard or security guard.
“I got a second chance at life,” she said. “Doors are opening for me. I always wanted to do security but I never could because I had these convictions. This is the moment I was waiting for.”
But first, she must await a response from a Nassau County prosecutor about whether her convictions will be cleared. To have a conviction vacated under the law, a motion must be filed in court and with a prosecutor in the county where the offense was committed. If the prosecutor consents, then the conviction is removed. If not, a judge can decide after a hearing in which both sides make arguments.
Most prosecutors have approved the removal of convictions. Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, whose office has cleared 114 of the Queens woman's convictions, said his prosecutors took a sympathetic approach to former prostitutes.
“Though law enforcement's treatment of prostitution has evolved significantly over the past decade, many victims' records contain convictions from an era when they were not viewed as victims,” Mr. Vance said in a statement. “Overturning those convictions is not only a positive way to help them move forward, but the just thing to do.”
Though efforts to remove convictions have been largely successful, providing legal help to sex-trafficking victims can be challenging. “There are very few providers doing these motions,” Ms. Broudo said. “The capacity is limited and there are thousands of survivors. There's a real dearth of resources.”
The financial, emotional and physical consequences of being forced into prostitution can prevent victims from even seeking out legal services, she said. “For so many people that have experienced severe trauma and are living beneath the poverty level, there are endless barriers. Transportation, child care, a health issue stemming from the trauma, and emotionally, for a long time the criminal justice system is something they were trying to get away from.”
G. M., a 56-year-old Bronx woman, who abbreviates her name to protect her identity, was the first person to have her convictions vacated under New York's law. In 1996, her husband began physically abusing her and forced her into prostitution, she said. She experienced “continued violence” that at times left her “scarred and disfigured,” according to court documents, and she accrued nine convictions over 11 years.
“When you have these convictions, you feel like the world is falling on you and that your life has ended,” she said, speaking in Spanish through an interpreter. When she did find work, she said, she would be fired when employers ran background checks. “They would see me as a delinquent,” she said. “It made me depressed because that wasn't who I am. My record doesn't show what my heart is.”
Since her convictions were cleared, she has been working as a home health aide. “My life has changed,” she said. “I'm part of society. I think about the past. It's something I cannot forget. When I look back I just see darkness and these huge holes I couldn't get out of. But I did get out.”
One Place internships an eye-opening experience
by Tom Smith
FLORENCE — Brooke Leonard said the first months of her college internship at One Place of the Shoals have been an eye-opening experience.
“I expected to see people who needed help, but I never realized how prominent domestic violence was in the area,” said Leonard, a junior at the University of North Alabama. “I'm from Florence, lived here all my life, but you never realized how much domestic violence there was here until you work in it and see it on a daily basis. Christopher Sena wielded control over his wives and children through intimidation and abuse, according to a new account by one of the children.
He would monitor phone calls and tell the women how to dress. He prohibited them from making friends. He set up video cameras around their trailer, inside and out, watching them at all hours.
If they didn't obey his orders, the children would be beaten and sexually attacked inside their home in the 6000 block of Yellowstone Avenue, said the accuser, who is now an adult.
After Las Vegas police learned of the abuse allegations in September, a SWAT team served a warrant at the family's trailer south of Nellis Air Force Base, and Sena was arrested. He remains in jail, with a preliminary hearing scheduled for next month.
In December, after authorities said they had learned that Sena videotaped sexual abuse of the children, his wife, Deborah Sena, and ex-wife, Terrie Sena, also were charged.
But in a nearly 1,000-word letter to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the accuser wrote that the women should not be locked up.
The accuser, who asked not to be identified by age or gender, called Deborah and Terrie Sena “good people” who were “beaten, tortured, threatened and controlled” by Christopher Sena.
“Our father is in jail, where he belongs,” the accuser wrote. Deborah and Terrie Sena “continue to be victims of the state. And the absence of our mothers continues to victimize us kids.”
In February, Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Melissa Saragosa found a “factual dispute” over allegations of violence in the home and ruled that a jury should decide on the 28 charges against Deborah Sena.
“The defense of duress does not negate a defendant's criminal state of mind when the applicable offense requires the defendant to have acted knowingly or willfully,” the judge said at the time.
Deborah Sena, who is being held at the Clark County Detention Center, has a bail hearing set for March 31, the same day Terrie Sena, who pleaded guilty to one count of sexual assault, is scheduled to be sentenced.
Deborah Sena still faces 28 counts, including sexual assault, incest, child abuse, open or gross lewdness and use of a minor in the production of pornography.
“Unfortunately, Debbie was sometimes forced by Christopher to do bad things,” the accuser wrote. “If Debbie wanted to do bad things, why did she never do them when Christopher was not there forcing her? Christopher did bad things all the time, with or without either mother there. … I have seen the terrified look on Debbie's face when Christopher was angry. She was always afraid of being hit by my father.”
Defense attorney Kristina Wildeveld has called Deborah Sena a “severely battered woman” and a victim of her husband . While he faces at least 60 counts of child sex abuse, lewdness with a child, sexual assault against a child, and possession of child pornography, Christopher Sena has not been charged with any form of domestic violence against his wife or ex-wife.
Wildeveld said that both Deborah and Terrie Sena and at least one of the children tried to reach out to authorities about abuse at the hands of Christopher Sena several times.
After he learned about attempts to contact Child Protective Services, the children received beatings, according to Wildeveld.
“Christopher would ask them if (Deborah or Terrie Sena) would like to take the punishment instead of us,” the accuser wrote. “And they would take those beatings for us.”
In a voluntary statement to police, Deborah Sena wrote that “Chris made me have sex” with one of the children.
“Ever since that incident, he has emotionally blackmailed me because of it,” she said, and “threatened to kill me if I sent him to jail.”
She said her husband “slapped me twice across the face after backing me up against the wall. He hit me in front of the kids. … Nobody says no to Chris. He has guns … He has told everyone in the house he will kill them if they call the police on him.”
Initially, Deborah Sena, a woman and a child told a family law attorney about the abuse. That attorney contacted police, who seized recording equipment from the home.
While the sexual abuse allegations are severe, experts said the kind of psychological control Christopher Sena is accused of exercising is common.
Lisa Lynn Chapman, director of community relations at Safe Nest, a shelter for victims of domestic violence, said women are often forced to commit crimes at the demand of their abuser.
“Cases like this always pose moral questions about accountability and culpability of actions,” Chapman said. “We as a society need to have an open mind in dealing with extreme cases and why people in extreme situations do not think and act in a rational manner.”
She added, “If the women are taking those beatings for the children, they're in some ways saving those kids from something worse.”
Daniele Dreitzer, executive director at The Rape Crisis Center, said “extreme manipulation and control is very pervasive and very far reaching.”
She declined to comment on the Sena case directly but said victims of sexual abuse frequently feel helpless and without a means to escape.
“It is often the reason we don't see victims come forward for a very long time,” Dreitzer said. “They are so disempowered and so much control is taken from them that they just, in some cases, end up in a situation where literally everything they do, at every moment of the day, is controlled by this other person.”
Anyone who suspects abuse should speak up, Dreitzer and Chapman said.
“When you're in a violent relationship,” Chapman said, “you often don't see your exits because you're too busy trying to stay alive from day to day.”
Man talks about sexual abuse by convicted mother
by Sam Stockard
As far back as Alan Von Webb can remember, his mother sexually abused him. He remembers how uncomfortable it made him feel.
"But she would kind of explain that's part of growing up. You get comfortable with it," says Alan.
Now 25, Alan provided key testimony a week ago against his mother, Angela Montgomery, 53, of Portland, Ore., as she was convicted on six counts of child rape by a Circuit Court jury in Murfreesboro. In the aftermath, Alan spoke with "The Post" in hopes of giving strength to other children going through similar circumstances.
Dealing with sex abuse at a young age is difficult and can cause a lifetime of pain.
When he was around 7 or 8, Alan says, he began to discover from talking to friends this sort of behavior wasn't normal. After his parents divorced when he was about 9, the abuse grew "progressively worse," he says.
His mother lived on South Kings Highway in Murfreesboro in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and when the children went there for visitations she turned to him and his siblings for gratification, Alan says. The court case dealt primarily with that time frame.
"It got to the point where I really knew it was something only happening to us, (but) it's not something you just want to go around telling everybody," he says.
Finally, though, Alan asked his stepmother, Susan, why she didn't do the things to her son that his mother did to him. Besides getting extremely upset, he says, she explained "that's not something a mother does to her children. She's supposed to raise us and protect us, not do that to us."
Even when his father, Paul, a Murfreesboro resident, told the Department of Children's Services about the abuse, DCS wouldn't believe it, according to the family.
As a result, Alan and his brothers, Michael, 23, Jonathan, 21, who has Down's syndrome, and sister, Anna, 18, endured sexual abuse at the hands of their mother, followed by years of counseling, custody battles and, most recently, the child sex abuse case. Anna initially filed charges against her mother in 2012, and Alan, who lived out West at the time, left a good-paying job as a boilermaker and pipefitter and to move back and join her.
Montgomery initially was indicted on 20 counts of child rape, six counts of rape and 12 counts of incest, in addition to two counts of coercing a witness to a crime, according to reports.
Eventually, Alan's case was severed from Anna's so the state could concentrate on charges involving one victim. Sentencing is set for May 6, and each count could bring at least 15 years.
"This has been through numerous judges, detectives, attorneys in different states, three different states, and it progressed on to where it is today," says Paul Von Webb. "And (Alan) finally stood up and said, 'Look, I've got a little brother that can't defend himself. She could've just went off and left us alone and we would've tried to sweep this behind us and go on with our lives. But she's not gonna quit. So I'm gonna do something about it.'"
When the youngest brother, affected by Down's syndrome, turned 18, his father says he was preparing for a guardianship hearing when he found out his wife was coming from Portland to contest it. The judge wound up giving her unsupervised visitation rights and, according to Paul and Alan, she sexually abused the younger son at a shopping mall.
Alan says he was "exasperated."
"I knew at that point, with him not being protected under the laws of custody anymore, because he was an adult, if she had any kind of visitation with him or get any kind of guardianship, then it would never end for him," Alan says.
"And that's why I said (on the witness stand) I'm here to protect those who can't protect themselves. ... I learned don't ask for a lighter burden, ask for broader shoulders," he says. "Go ahead and just pull yourself up by your bootstraps and say this is gonna suck, but I've got to get through it, because getting through it you're going to come to something that's worth it.
"You'll get to the point where kids are safe, she's been labeled, she can't get to anybody else, and if I've got to go through a little embarrassment and whatever else comes along with it, then I'm man enough to take it."
Alan, who lives in Scottsville, Ky., and works at a metal company making stabilizer bars for vehicles, plans to move to the West again and make another start.
It'll be difficult because no matter how much therapy and counseling he receives, Alan says, his past is always "jumbling" in the back of his mind. Yet he realizes he is slowly but surely bringing that chapter of his life to an end.
"It's given me closure on something I thought I would just have to live with and never really get the justice I deserve and my siblings deserve," he says. "It's given me closure and the peace of mind of knowing I don't have to worry about what she's doing out there in the populace, that I don't have to worry about her getting to another kid, that maybe if I'd stood up and said something, then that child would be safe."
Turkey releases Adverse childhood experiences (ACE) survey of university students in Turkey report
On 27 February 2015 agencies gathered in Ankara for the release of the Adverse childhood experiences (ACE) survey of university students in Turkey report, which incrementally links abuse and other adversity in childhood to higher instances of health harming behaviours in adulthood including smoking, alcohol abuse, street drug use and overall worse physical and mental health. Following several presentations, 90 stakeholders participated in a multisectoral policy dialogue centered on strategies to prevent and address child maltreatment.
At the meeting, Professor Betul Ulukol from Ankara University presented the results of the ACE study, which found that in Turkey the prevalence of reported child physical, sexual and emotional abuse was high (20%, 8% and 11% respectively). 20% of respondents also reported witnessing domestic violence. Although 50% of students had not experienced any ACEs at all, 8% reported experiencing 4 or more.
In conjunction with the ACE report, Dr Dinesh Sethi presented baseline assessment for Turkey as reported in the Global status report on violence prevention 2014 together with "Investing in Children: the European Child Maltreatment Prevention Action Plan" that was adopted by the Regional Committee for Europe in 2014. This report calls for a broader social response to address a broad range of factors further upstream, including supportive family environments, social networks, social capital, social and gender inequalities, social and cultural attitudes to violence, belief in corporal punishment, and access to alcohol and drugs as well as strengthening child protection services.
The policy dialogue revealed that a wide range of preventive and protective programs to counter child maltreatment are already in place in Turkey, but progress has been hindered by an overall lack of coordination. Participants resolved that the best way forward is to improve governance mechanisms so as to enable a coordinated multisectoral response and the sharing of information between different agencies and sectors. The focus should be on prevention, and progress towards this goal should be monitored through the administration of periodic community surveys.
The workshop was led by Mr Mehmet Kontas, Head of the WHO Country Office in Turkey, and by the Hon. Halide Incekara, Member of Parliament and member of the Child Rights Monitoring Committee. As a follow-up, a report with these action points will be submitted to the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Development for consideration.
Saving the ‘Invisible Girls' from sex trafficking
They're called the “Invisible Girls” — girls from 13 to 17 who flee to the streets after facing physical, sexual and emotional abuse or domestic violence at home. As runaways, they get sucked into prostitution and sex trafficking.
This is a big problem for Texas and Dallas County.
Texas accounted for 10 percent of human trafficking tips received by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline in 2013, according to a Department of Public Safety Report. Children at Risk reports that sex trafficking of adults and children is a $99 million industry in Dallas County.
However, three developments, at the federal, state and local levels, indicate progress in cracking down on this insidious crime.
At the federal level, the bill by Republican Sen. John Cornyn (S 178) to combat human trafficking would provide relief to victims from criminal fines. It was on the brink of Senate passage before getting caught on the buzz saw of abortion politics this week, which we hope will constitute only a temporary delay. We call on Democrats and Republicans to work together — for a change — to break the weeklong stalemate.
The first bill the Texas House approved this session (passed unanimously Monday) would make it easier to prosecute those who force minors into prostitution. HB 10 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, also would create a child sex trafficking unit in the governor's office.
It's part of a border-security push, but sex trafficking isn't just a border issue. In Dallas, Houston and other urban areas, runaways are coerced into prostitution and become beholden to pimps who promise shelter and food.
Locally, the $9.4 million Letot Girls' Residential Treatment Center, which opened this month, will house up to 96 underage juvenile offenders, including many runaways. The girls will receive safe shelter during prosecution of abusers and pimps, attend charter school and participate in enrichment and skill-building programs. Dallas County will operate this first-of-a-kind center with additional community resources.
Texas can't be proud of these statistics: 10,000 runaways a year, with as many of one-third of those falling prey to sex trafficking. Letot and Dallas Women's Foundation estimate that on any night, 400 girls are being exploited.
We can do better. And we will, thanks to those are making this issue a priority.
The Dallas Symposium on Human Trafficking will be held next month, with anti-trafficking experts who will explain what human trafficking is, how to recognize it and how to help locally to stop it.
When: 9 a.m.- noon April 18
Where: St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, 8011 Douglas Ave., Dallas
For more info: saintmichael.org/stopslaverydallas
Male on male sexual assault in the military: Overlooked and hard to fix, investigation finds
by Dan Lamothe
Here's a scenario: A male U.S. service member is hanging out with others from his unit at a barbecue when he realizes he has had too much alcohol to drink. He's taken back to his barracks to sleep it off, but wakes up several hours later to be “teabagged” — with another man putting his scrotum on his face.
That notional situation was sketched out by officials with the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, in survey interviews with 122 American male service members across the country. Forty-eight of them — more than a third — said they have heard about something like that happening, the GAO said in investigative findings released Thursday. Thirty-four service members — more than a quarter — interviewed believed the scenario happens occasionally (21), sometimes (nine) or regularly (four), the new GAO report said.
The new report adds to the growing conversation about sexual assault in the military, which senior military officials and the White House have both said repeatedly needs to addressed. But the GAO focused this time on an angle that is less commonly discussed: sexual assaults by men on men.
The investigation found that while the Defense Department has made a number of changes in an attempt to reduce sexual assault in the military, the number of people who report sexual assault is about 40 percent for women, and 13 percent for men. The statistics don't apply only to rape, but to a variety of activities that can be considered hazing, in which someone is initiated into a group through humiliation or abuse.
GAO investigators who traveled to Camp Pendleton, Calif.; Keesler Air Force Base, Miss.; Fort Bliss, Tex.; and Norfolk Naval Base, Va.; found that although both hazing and sexual assault are against the law in the military, both continue to occur, and some of the incidents should be considered both.
“For example, victim advocates and prosecutors at one installation described a series of escalating incidents that began with hitting the victim in the crotch, then throwing objects at the victim's crotch, and ultimately then saying the hazing would stop if the victim performed oral sex on the assailants,” the report said. “These service officials added that training on hazing-type activities and their relationship to sexual assault would be particularly beneficial to males in that it might lead to increased reporting and fewer inappropriate incidents. However, they stated that they have not seen this addressed in the training.”
Of the 122 men interviewed by the GAO, 87 said they believe other male service members may have reservations about reporting unwanted sexual contact. The most common reason was fear of being judged, especially if it led to questions about their masculinity or sexual orientation, the GAO said.
“For example, one male victim said that military culture encourages men to see themselves as dominant males and leaders, and that being sexually assaulted makes you feel like you are less than a man, helpless and weak, and stated that he had previously seen other sexual assault victims be treated badly after reporting an assault,” the report said.
GQ magazine took on the issue in a long-form article last year that drew widespread attention. In most cases, the male victims they interviewed said they didn't report attacks because of an overriding sense of shame about what had occurred.
The GAO raised questions about whether altering sexual assault training in the military — and consequently, the conversation about sexual assault — would help.
Sexual assault prevention officials in the military acknowledge that they focus the majority of their programs on women because the overwhelming majority of those filing reports are female and they are at greater risk of being attacked, the GAO said.
But changes are coming. Last spring, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel directed the services to put in place programs to encourage male sexual assault victims to seek care. The Marine Corps hosted an inter-service meeting to discuss the problem in September, and the services provided plans to address it to the Pentagon in January. The Defense Department is currently reviewing them, the GAO said.
Volunteers are lifesavers at sexual assault center
Roanoke's Sexual Assault Response and Awareness needs additional volunteers to work the hotlines so that staffers are free to handle the service's everyday work.
by Tiffany Stevens
Four years after Sexual Assault Response & Awareness became an independent center, executive director Teresa Berry is never far from her phone.
Berry, one of two paid SARA staffers, said she often spends more than 70 hours a week providing resources for sexual violence victims in the Roanoke Valley.
The center serves 350 victims a year through a 24/7 hotline, free counseling and education services. Volunteers and staffers also act as advocates by accompanying victims to hospitals, police departments and courts. The center's clients include recent victims, those dealing with past trauma and family members of victims.
The demand is often overwhelming, Berry said, especially with only two volunteers at the moment. Though backgrounds vary, volunteers are often “allied professionals” — social service workers, teachers, attorneys and nurses.
“We need 10 to 15 volunteers, active volunteers, to keep the hotline covered 24/7,” Berry said. “Every day, every minute that a volunteer can take, it frees us up to do things that we need to do.”
Securing volunteers with few resources and staff is the challenge Berry said the center now faces.
Making do with less
SARA became independent in 2011 after its partnership with Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare ended. Blue Ridge, which had partnered with the center since SARA started in 1978, could no longer subsidize administrative costs, Berry said.
“We still have a strong collaborative partnership,” Berry said. “We provide a service to their clients that they don't provide, and we're a referral source for them.”
Rather than merging with a domestic violence shelter, Berry combined $165,000 from three state grants, $6,000 in donations and $8,000 of her own money to open an office at 3034 Brambleton Ave.
“We tried for a year and a half to find a collaborative agency and could not find anything that worked,” she said. “There were several agencies that were interested in the grant money but they weren't interested in the staff. Our options were to close down and have no services or be absorbed by an existing service.”
By that point, Berry said she was already used to making do with less. The center lost funding for a third staff position in 2005 and hadn't had an adequate number of volunteers since 2000.
According to the Virginia Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, stand-alone sexual assault centers often struggle with funding. Most of the 55 centers in Virginia are dual centers — organizations that act as both domestic violence shelters and sexual assault centers. Only six deal solely with sexual assault.
Statistics collected by the lobbying agency show domestic violence services received $8 million between federal and state funds in 2014. Sexual assault services received $4.2 million.
Pat Brown, executive director of the Women's Resource Center of the New River Valley, said part of the discrepancy is due to the extended services that dual centers provide. According to tax forms, the Women's Resource Center allotted almost $775,000 of its $1.37 million budget to domestic violence services such as a 20-room emergency shelter, seven apartments, counseling and legal services during the 2013 fiscal year.
“We provide a lot more because we are a dual facility,” Brown said. “It's not comparing apples to apples. It's comparing apples to oranges.”
Melissa DeDomenico-Payne, former executive director at Warren County's now-closed domestic violence shelter Harmony Place, said that while greater domestic violence funding can provide sexual assault programs in dual centers with more stability, the unexpected costs associated with shelters can create a huge financial burden.
“And it's not just about the rent and the mortgage and that kind of thing. It's also about not seeing your clients all the time so you can remain more objective,” DeDomenico-Payne said.
Greater awareness of domestic violence also contributes to the disparity. In 2003, when DeDomenico-Payne was executive director of the Charlottesville Sexual Assault Resource Agency, a stand-alone sexual assault center, community members often confused the center's needs with a shelter's.
“When it comes to sexual assault, you're not as much seeing the harm,” she said. “They feel uncomfortable with it. They don't know how to talk about it. They don't know what kind of support their money goes to.”
The traumatic nature of the work can also exacerbate volunteer turnover at sexual assault centers.
“When people want to volunteer, they want that feel-good experience,” DeDomenico-Payne said. “They want to feel like they're able to help but they want to stay somewhat detached. Getting them to go to the hospital or getting them to talk with people is pretty intimate.”
SARA attempts to alleviate some of the toll by providing monthly meetings where volunteers and staff members can share concerns without breaking confidentiality.
“People who are drawn to this kind of work have a hard time seeing someone else struggling, and end up taking on some of that pain,” Berry said.
Time commitments are another hurdle. At SARA, volunteers' backgrounds and personalities are first evaluated to make sure candidates are a good fit for the agency. They are then required to complete 30 hours of training before they can both work the hotline and act as advocates.
The Charlottesville Sexual Assault Resource Agency requires 35 hours of training for hotline workers; only staff members act as advocates. The Women's Resource Center requires 60 hours for hotline workers and 25 additional hours for advocates.
Volunteer coordinators help train and recruit volunteers at both the Charlottesville and NRV centers. That position, often vital for allowing staff members to tackle counseling and other services, hasn't been filled at SARA since 2005.
“For many years we maintained about eight to 10 [volunteers], and that was great,” Berry said. “There was a period of time, I want to say two years straight, where I didn't have to take a [hotline] call.”
Callers are first forwarded to a crisis counselor provided by Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare. If the caller is not homicidal or suicidal, he or she is forwarded to a SARA volunteer. If a volunteer is unavailable, the call goes to a staff member. The time between calling the hotline and being placed with a volunteer is usually two to three minutes.
Taylor Starns, crisis service coordinator at the Charlottesville center, said the organization's hotline is covered by 20 volunteers. When volunteers can't be reached, calls are answered by the Action Alliance's state hotline.
SARA does not use the state hotline as a backup because the service costs $3,000 a year, Berry said.
The Charlottesville center's larger staff and budget — $456,000 in 2012 compared with SARA's $180,000 budget — allows it to offer bilingual counseling and advocacy services to adults and children, among other programs. It employs seven full-time employees and a part-time employee, and is hoping to hire a full-time prevention educator and part-time emergency room advocates.
Starns said high-profile sexual assault cases, such as the alleged gang-rape covered in a recent Rolling Stone article, have raised the number of volunteers and donations by spreading awareness. Starns said she has lately been trying to recruit more community members as volunteers in addition to students, who are more likely to stop volunteering during the summer or after graduation.
“It takes a lot of time, but I think the reason that it was less challenging for me is there's enough community awareness of our existence,” Starns said. “People know what we're doing and most people know that we're doing good things.”
Center turns no one away
Even if SARA's staffing and volunteer situation stays the same, Berry said, the center will provide resources to all victims who request them.
New clients interested in SARA's counseling services, however, might have to wait days or weeks for an opening.
“Everybody that wants to be seen is seen. Where the demand comes in is the frequency that they want to be seen,” Berry said.
With the start of 2015's grant season, Berry said, she hopes to change SARA's luck by securing additional funds. The center is also looking to schedule training for three recently prescreened volunteer candidates. No matter how many volunteers the program recruits, she said, staff members will always be there to provide support.
“If a volunteer is in a bind with a call or has a question, a staff member is always available,” Berry said. “But I wouldn't necessarily need to work so many hours a week. I might actually be able to work 50 hours instead of 70.”