Finding help for victims of human trafficking
by Dr. Daniel Taylor
Forced to think that hell is a place called home
Nothing else to do but get her clothes and pack
She say she's about to run away and never come back.
- Ludacris, "Runaway Love"
Though I addressed all my questions to my 14-year-old patient, every answer came from the older man who brought her in to the clinic. "She just needs shots," he blurted, staring at his phone.
He said he was her Uncle Jimmy, and, no, he would not let me speak to her alone. He said he was in a rush, and wanted me to hurry up.
It's been a few years, but I still remember this girl, and how she stared at the floor.
I decided she was shy, vowed to follow up with her soon, gave her some shots, and sent the pair on their way.
Now I believe I may have failed her.
In retrospect, I have failed several of my patients. I have missed the subtle signs, the unspoken words, the unusual tattoo, clues to an ominous situation outside my exam room. My eyes were not open yet to their plight. I failed them.
Many of us have had contact with these potential victims. They come to our emergency departments with unexplained injuries, overdoses, and infections caused by unprotected sex. They come to our schools tired, truant, withdrawn. They come to our stores, buying clothes and jewelry inappropriate for their young age.
We have walked or driven by these victims in hot spots under the El on Kensington Avenue, by strip malls on Roosevelt Boulevard, and while waiting for flights at the airport. We have passed them at truck stops, military bases, and convention centers.
We have seen their faces on Facebook posts and weathered fliers stapled to utility poles.
In the past, they might have been considered just runaways. Today, they often are victims of sex trafficking, meaning they are being pressed into prostitution. It's important to note that any minor involved in sex trafficking is a victim; force, fraud, or coercion does not need to be proved, as it does for adult victims.
This is a form of modern-day slavery operating in shadows that must have light shined on them.
At least 100,000 children in the U.S. each year are at risk for sex trafficking, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Philadelphia ranks in the top 15 of all cities. The most common age of entry into trafficking is 12 to 14, and 80 percent are girls. A single victim can make $1,000 a day for her pimp, her captor.
Human trafficking is both a crime and an emerging health-care priority. All health-care providers, particularly those in primary care, emergency care, reproductive health, mental health, and pediatrics, are well-positioned to identify and assist victims and those at risk.
Nearly half of trafficking survivors report having gone for medical care while under the control of their captors, yet most health-care providers have no training in recognizing victims.
Though traffickers often target schools and malls in their search for victims, the Internet has made luring victims even easier. Seduced with promises of love, attention, money, and fame, victims are separated from family, supplied with drugs, and threatened with violence if they disobey.
Children and teens who have been abused or don't have strong family ties are especially vulnerable. Many use "survival sex" to pay for food or shelter.
The American Academy of Pediatrics published a report last month that lays the groundwork for health-care providers to identify victims, to understand the health effects on children of trafficking and how professionals can work with community organization and the public to help victims and their families.
As a pediatrician, this report opened my eyes. It may have come too late for that 14-year-old with the overbearing "uncle," but I hope it will help other health-care professionals to do our part to stop this crime.
Victims live in constant fear - of harm to themselves or loved ones, of returning to an abusive home, of deportation, of shame and stigma, of being left alone. With so much on the line, victims - much like other trauma survivors - need our help to admit what is happening to them.
Health professionals are uniquely placed to reach victims, but any caring adult who sees a child who might be in trouble can take action. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline (888-373-7888 or text BeFree at 233733) received more than 21,000 calls last year. The Polaris Project at polarisproject.org is a national advocacy group dedicated to disrupting the conditions that allow human trafficking to thrive.
Dawn's Place is the only residential program in the tristate region for women affected by sex trafficking; contact it at www.ahomefordawn.org. Covenant House, covenanthousepa.org, is a resource and shelter for runaway teens, and PATH (Physicians Against the Trafficking of Humans) at www.doc-path.org/ is a resource started by Jefferson physician Kanani Titchen to help health-care professionals identify and help victims of human trafficking.
In the fall, Philadelphia will host Pope Francis, a powerful advocate against human trafficking. "We must not allow these women, men, and children to be treated as objects, to be deceived, raped, often sold and resold for various purposes, and in the end either killed or left devastated in mind and body, only to be finally thrown away or abandoned," he has said.
We must open our eyes to this crisis and help victims out of the shadows and into a place of healing.
Daniel R. Taylor, D.O., is an associate professor at Drexel University College of Medicine and director of community pediatrics and child advocacy at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children.
Educate adults to better protect children
by Mary Whittier
Be Brave, Be Blue! That's Bivona Child Advocacy Center's battle cry this month during Child Abuse Prevention Month. Every April, we rally to raise awareness about the epidemic of child sexual and physical abuse and how to protect our children better.
Many Facebookers are swapping profile pictures for our “blue hand.” Local hospitals, libraries, City Hall and even Niagara Falls lit blue lights for Bivona. The Strong museum, Monroe Community College, local malls and Midtown Athletic Club are hosting our “Healing Soles” art installation. This exhibit of 125 pairs of children's shoes represents the number of children evaluated for abuse monthly at Bivona. That's 1,500 children a year.
Every morning in our waiting room, new little faces are waiting for a forensic interview or medical exam, or to meet with a victim advocate or therapist. They are typically 7 years old or younger — although the youngest victim was 3 days old and the oldest an 82-year-old developmentally disabled woman. We're so busy, we are moving in August to a building three times our current size.
Some might wonder whether changing a Facebook picture or a lightbulb can truly affect change. Educating adults, any way we can, is the first step in prevention.
• One in 10 children will be sexually abused by the age of 18. Only 10 percent will ever tell as a child because 90 percent of abusers are someone the child knows, loves or trusts. Because of that, “Stranger Danger” is an antiquated, dangerous concept to teach our children.
• Many, many children come to Bivona from the nicest suburbs around Rochester. Children need to know proper names for their private body parts — and that a mouth is a private part — so they can articulate if a parent, uncle, sibling, friend, coach, etc. has crossed a boundary.
• Background checks done by schools, daycares, athletic centers, summer camps, etc., are ineffective if an offender has never been caught.
• Call Child Protective Services, law enforcement or Bivona (585-935-7800) to report child sexual abuse , even if you aren't sure , because it's better to be safe than sorry.
Adults armed with correct information can mitigate the risks and better protect all children. Sign up for a two-hour Stewards of Children/Darkness To Light workshop. Monthly classes are listed at BivonaCAC.org.
Mary Whittier is founding executive director at Bivona Child Advocacy Center.
Stopping child abuse focus of documentary
by Rick Nathanson
What if the answer to solving the horrific problem of child abuse and neglect in New Mexico were readily within our reach?
That's the conclusion reached in a new film from multi-Emmy-Award-winning Albuquerque producer/director Chris Schueler and associate producer Diane Berger in their documentary airing this week, “Everyone's Business: Protecting Our Children.”
Schueler and Berger interviewed law enforcement officers, a children's court judge, social workers, investigators, medical professionals, educators, researchers and others on the front line who regularly respond, treat or work with children and families in cases of abuse and neglect.
“Child abuse is 100 percent preventable and the things we need to do to prevent it are already being done, we're just not doing it consistently and not doing it enough,” said Schueler.
When it's all distilled, he said, experts point to five measures that, when implemented collectively and on a large scale, can turn the problem of child abuse around:
Understanding the stressors families go through, whether it is poverty, unemployment, isolation or exhaustion, and how these stressors can ultimately cause adults to act out in inappropriate ways toward children.
Early intervention to support families with stressors, as well as early intervention for to help prevent teen pregnancies, addictions and other adverse situations.
Education on shaken baby injuries, so that everyone, particularly new parents, understands what it is and what causes it. Speaking in the documentary, Kathy Lopez Bushnell, director of Nursing at University of New Mexico Hospital, said shaken baby syndrome “is the number one cause of child abuse and death in children younger than 3 years of age.” Despite that, she noted that “almost 70 percent of our parents had never heard of it before.”
Professional training for law enforcement, first responders, teachers, clergy, social workers and others who work with children and need to understand and recognize the signs and behaviors of child abuse. Las Cruces is home to one of five Child Abuse Prevention Centers in the country that train these professionals.
Home visits, “the big one, and the one we think can have the largest effect,” said Schueler. Home visits provide an opportunity for a nurse or other trained professional to touch upon all the other measures. When once-a-week home visits take place for three years, starting while the mother is pregnant, “you've got an incredible tool of support,” he said. “It's the instruction manual for the baby.”
Schueler said the documentary has been five years in the making. Berger suggested it while taking a documentary film-making class from Schueler at Central New Mexico Community College. The two of them continued researching the topic and interviewing a host of people with expertise in different areas related to the topic.
Victor Vieth, director of the five Child Abuse Prevention Centers, said research shows that child abuse is a factor in nearly every social ill, from juvenile delinquency to crime, to poverty to drug and alcohol abuse. To get a handle on these, “you have to reduce child maltreatment,” he said. “We could save millions of children and literally hundreds of billions of dollars.”
According to Charles Sallee, deputy director of the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee, the state spends about $113 million yearly on child protective services, “which is the negative outcomes at the back end of the system,” while spending far less “on the front end of the system.”
Children's Court Judge John Romero said that he often hears people say that New Mexico is a poor state, and we can't afford to invest in the resources required to combat and end child abuse.
“I think we're being penny wise and pound foolish,” he said.
If we really believe that our children are our most valuable resource and we should invest in their futures, then “we need to put our money where our mouth is,” he said. “Spend it now or spend it later. You're going to spend it.”
Warning signs to watch for suspected child abuse
Resources for parents, educators and adults to protect West Michigan children
by WOTV 4 Women Staff
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOTV)- April is Child Abuse and Prevention month and WOTV 4 Women is committed to connecting you to resources to help protect children in West Michigan. One way you can help is by understand and recognizing the warning signs associated with different forms of child abuse. Sometimes physical signs of abuse are obvious and other times you have to trust your gut instinct and dip deeper for patterns of abuse.
Helpguide.org offers these insightful suggestions for parents, educators and adults.
Warning signs of child abuse and neglect
Warning signs of emotional abuse in children
•Excessively withdrawn, fearful, or anxious about doing something wrong.
•Shows extremes in behavior (extremely compliant or extremely demanding; extremely passive or extremely aggressive).
•Doesn't seem to be attached to the parent or caregiver.
•Acts either inappropriately adult (taking care of other children) or inappropriately infantile (rocking, thumb-sucking, throwing tantrums).
Warning signs of physical abuse in children
•Frequent injuries or unexplained bruises, welts, or cuts.
•Is always watchful and “on alert,” as if waiting for something bad to happen.
•Injuries appear to have a pattern such as marks from a hand or belt.
•Shies away from touch, flinches at sudden movements, or seems afraid to go home.
•Wears inappropriate clothing to cover up injuries, such as long-sleeved shirts on hot days.
Warning signs of neglect in children
•Clothes are ill-fitting, filthy, or inappropriate for the weather.
•Hygiene is consistently bad (unbathed, matted and unwashed hair, noticeable body odor).
•Untreated illnesses and physical injuries.
•Is frequently unsupervised or left alone or allowed to play in unsafe situations and environments.
•Is frequently late or missing from school.
Warning signs of sexual abuse in children
•Trouble walking or sitting.
•Displays knowledge or interest in sexual acts inappropriate to his or her age, or even seductive behavior.
•Makes strong efforts to avoid a specific person, without an obvious reason.
•Doesn't want to change clothes in front of others or participate in physical activities.
•An STD or pregnancy, especially under the age of 14.
•Runs away from home.
Preventing child abuse: a community effort
by Alex Krach
Child abuse isn't just a broken nose or bruised face. It isn't limited to “bad households” or “bad people.” It's an ongoing issue that affects the child, his or her family, schools and the community.
In fact, in March alone, nearly 14,600 hotline calls were made to the Indiana Department of Child Services, and since January, 41,082 hotline calls have been made.
With that in mind, Mayor Tom DeBaun, pointing to the 1,516 reports of child abuse and neglect in Shelby County in 2014, officially proclaimed April as Child Abuse Prevention Month, joining the rest of the United States in observance of “Making Meaningful Connections,” the theme for the month.
“When we make meaningful connections with the children, youth and families in our communities, we can help parents build the knowledge and skills and access the resources necessary to raise happy and healthy children. Everyone can play a role in preventing child abuse and neglect and promoting child and family well-being,” the United States Children's Bureau said on their site, The Child Welfare Information Gateway (childwelfare.gov).
Typically, when talking about child abuse, the focus is on getting the child or children out of an abusive household, but rarely is the focus on prevention, Kris Meltzer, a DCS lawyer from Shelbyville, said at the proclamation.
“Prevention really are the people (in clubs) like the president of the Boys Club, Girls Club, schools, 4-H, local churches; anybody in the community that works with children, that's really the essence of prevention. Anything that's positive is what prevention is about. The more prevention, hopefully, the less work we do,” Meltzer said.
According to the USCB, research shows that when parents are nurturing and attached, have knowledge of parenting and child and youth development, have parental resilience, have social connections, have concrete support systems and encourage social and emotional well-being, the risk for abuse and neglect diminish and the best outcomes for children and their families are promoted.
“One of the things we always try to convey is prevention can be people just watching out for each other and checking in on each other. If a family member or friend has young children, we recommend checking in on them and seeing how they are doing,” Sandy Runkle, program director of Prevent Child Abuse Indiana, said.
“Just offering support or respite, as the case may be, is an important piece, especially for parents of children 3 and under, because they tend to be at more of a risk. They require a very high level of supervision and care and are obviously very dependent.”
Runkle also said PCAI calls on places of worship and challenges them to invite a guest speaker in to talk about child care, such as potty training, dealing with teenagers and soothing a crying child.
“Places of worship are just natural gathering spots and natural community places. Having programs there, as well, is something that doesn't require a big city…They have lots of resources and public transportation, but small communities don't always have that, but almost every area has a…place of worship,” Runkle said.
Runkle also said that it is a myth that children who grew up in abusive families will be abusive themselves.
Currently, PCAI is set up in a number of counties, including Marion County, Johnson County and Bartholomew County. They are currently looking to expand into Shelby County and ask that anyone interested in setting up a child abuse prevention council, contact them at 317-775-6439.
Those who suspect abuse should call DCS' Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-800-5556.
Program aims to mobilize thousands against child sexual abuse
by Charles Oliver
Two and a half hours.
That's all the time it could take to learn how to spot child sexual abuse. That's all the time it could take to learn how to prevent child sexual abuse.
Two and a half hours is all it takes to complete Darkness to Light's “Stewards of Children” training.
“It's a documentary-based training,” said Dalton Public Schools social worker Jackie Taylor, who has not only gone through the training but is also trained as a facilitator in the program. “They show a video, which is extremely powerful, with victims telling their stories intertwined with experts in the field providing information on what you can do to prevent sexual abuse. The video is very powerful and very well put together. It spoke to me as an educator. It spoke to me as a social worker, and it spoke to me as a parent.”
The Family Support Council, a Dalton-based agency that works to prevent child abuse and neglect, has received funding from an anonymous donor to provide free Stewards of Children training to 4,300 people in Whitfield and Murray counties during the next two years.
“The adults in this community want to protect children, but don't always know how,” said Holly Rice, executive director of the Family Support Council.
Officials say the ultimate goal is to get 5 percent of the adults in both counties — about 1,449 in Murray and 3,666 in Whitfield — trained in the program.
“Based on Malcolm Gladwell's book, ‘The Tipping Point,' our goal of training over 4,300 individuals is based on the theory that if you influence 5 percent of any given population to think and act a certain way, you can ignite social change,” Rice said.
The Georgia Center for Child Advocacy has adopted the program and is working with counties across the state to get at least 5 percent of their adult populations trained in the program.
Rice said the training will focus on five core groups: schools and educators, faith centers, groups serving children and youth, youth sports organizations and parents.
Local school systems have already started planning on how to deliver the program to teachers, administrators and other staff members.
Officials say the program will clearly benefit mandated reporters, those in professions such as health care and education who are required to report suspected abuse. And for many of these individuals, the training can count towards continuing education requirements they are to maintain.
But they also want to take the training out into the general community.
“Any adult who has children or who has regular communication with children should have this information,” said Tracie Hogan, a social worker with Whitfield County Schools who has gone through the program.
Bruce Kenemer, court appointed special advocate program director at the Family Support Council, says that he is particularly interested in getting the training out into churches and other faith-based organizations.
Taylor says that because the program focuses on prevention of child sexual abuse parents will find it helpful.
“We know that 90 percent of sexual abuse comes from someone known by the child's family. We can't just emphasize ‘stranger danger' because that's a small part of the problem,” she said. “The problem is family members. The problem is friends. The problem is people at church. And parents need to know what to tell their children, and they need to know what to look for. One of the things this program talks about is the difference between likeability and trustability. Just because someone seems like a nice guy or a nice girl doesn't mean they aren't going to abuse children.”
Mary Smith, child abuse prevention program manager at the Family Support Council, says that often people can see signs of sexual abuse, behavior that strikes them as unusual or maybe even makes them uncomfortable, but don't quite know how to react.
“This program teaches you not only to recognize it, to spot it, but also how to react when you do see it,” she said.
According to data provided by the Family Support Council, a survey of more than 1,300 educators who have received the training found that 93 percent said they believed it made them better able to spot child sexual abuse and more willing to intervene if they spotted suspicious behavior.
Those who are interested in taking part in the training or scheduling the training for a group can contact the Family Support Council at (706) 272-7919.
Philadelphia mom discarded quadriplegic son with cerebral palsy in the woods and left to visit her boyfriend: police
by Tobias Salinger
A Philadelphia mom allegedly ditched her disabled son in a wooded area inside a local park before skipping town to visit her boyfriend, according to authorities.
A passerby in Cobbs Creek Park discovered the 21-year-old man, a nonverbal quadriplegic who also has cerebral palsy, lying near an empty wheelchair with a Bible on his chest on Friday night after he was abandoned for five days without any provisions, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
The unidentified alleged victim is receiving treatment for a cut on his back, dehydration, malnutrition and exposure at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and is in stable condition following the 9 p.m. rescue, WCAU-TV reported.
Authorities announced on Saturday that they've issued a warrant for the arrest of the victim's mother, Nyia Parler, 41, according to the TV station. Parler is accused of leaving her son on a pile of leaves in the park on Monday morning before going to see her boyfriend in Maryland, according to the Inquirer.
Police believe she's still in Maryland, and they're hoping to collar her on charges of aggravated assault, simple assault, reckless endangerment, neglect of a care of a dependent person, unlawful restraint, kidnapping and false imprisonment, the TV station reported.
Authorities contacted Parler after her son didn't attend school on Monday morning and she allegedly fibbed to family members and cops that he had come with her to Maryland, according to the TV station.
“This kid's obviously a fighter," Philadelphia Police Lt. John Walker told the Inquirer. "It's just unbelievable how we found him out there. . . . It's absolutely heartbreaking to see another human, especially a mother, can treat someone like that.”
Law enforcement officials in Maryland have been working with Philly cops on the investigation, and they've prepared to arrest Parler, according to the newspaper.
A representative for the Montgomery County Police Department declined a request for comment on her arrest status early Sunday morning, and officials at the Philadelphia Police Department didn't immediately return a request for the information.
Sexual abuse survivors need greater access to psychological care under Medicare, groups say
by Norman Hermant
Counselling has been a welcome resource for Bob O'Toole.
It has been 60 years since he was sexually abused at Marist Brothers school in the Newcastle suburb of Hamilton, but even now it is never out of his mind.
"It does hang around ... memories of difficult times will come back to you," he said.
In recent years, Mr O'Toole finally started seeing a psychological counsellor — as he prepared for his appearance at the Royal Commission into the Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
"Going to counselling just keeps me on a level playing field, to be able to deal with my own issues. And also, I guess, debrief a bit," he said.
Mr O'Toole is getting the help he needs but the royal commission, in its recent hearings on a national redress scheme, said many other abuse survivors are not.
The commission estimates 65,000 people abused in institutional settings would be eligible for psychological care under a national redress scheme.
It estimates the combined cost of that care would be $358 million.
Groups like Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA) said that does not include survivors of more than two-thirds of abuse believed to take place outside of institutions.
Up to 5,000 abuse survivors a year call ASCA's professional support line.
"We know from many of those callers that they haven't been able to access or afford counselling," ACSA president Dr Cathy Kezelman said.
"And when they do, often that counselling isn't from someone who's appropriately trained."
Counselling 'a bit like taking antibiotics'
Abuse survivors seeking psychological counselling under Medicare have to be referred by a GP, and they are limited to 10 counselling sessions a year.
The Australian Psychological Society's Louise Roufeil said measures like those limit access.
"The danger is in providing expectations of care, but then not being able to deliver a sufficient dose," she said.
"It's a bit like taking antibiotics. If you don't take the whole course, it doesn't work."
In its submission to the royal commission on a redress scheme, the Federal Government said awareness of current services can be improved, but it said little about expanding access.
In a statement to the ABC, the Department of Health said: "The Commonwealth will consider any recommendations the Commission has when the final report is received."
That report is not expected until June or July.
The Government's reservations concern Simon Cole, an abuse survivor who has suffered with depression and now works as a solicitor representing other abuse survivors.
He has had regular counselling sessions for the last 18 years.
"I think without counselling my life would be very different at the moment," he said.
"I'd probably be living on the margins, and struggling a lot more than I am at the moment."
It Follows: The Long-Lasting Effects of Abuse and Trauma
by Wendy Salazar
The effects of abuse and/or trauma can be extremely long-lasting and may permeate every aspect of one's life. This is especially true for individuals who experienced traumatic events in childhood that may have occurred on an ongoing basis.
A learned helplessness can lead many of these individuals to remain in the role of victim, feeling that they have no control over what happens in their lives. Part of this sense of powerlessness stems from the fact they endured abusive situations during a time when they were utterly dependent on others for their well-being. When a parental figure, caregiver, or other adult abuses a young child, the child is unable to prevent the abuse from occurring and may come to believe that he or she has no control over anything . (This same type of feeling can also occur with prisoners who depend on their captors for all of their needs.)
In addition to learned helplessness, many victims of trauma may also experience feelings of shame and guilt. Young children often believe that they are somehow to blame for their abuse, perhaps even that they may have done something to deserve it. In many cases, perpetrators may actively reinforce this message in an attempt to justify their actions. This can lead to intense feelings of shame for victims and can seriously affect their sense of self-esteem and self-worth. (Similarly, individuals who have experienced abusive relationships may feel as though they are unworthy of love and that the only partners they can attract are those who will mistreat them in some way.)
Individuals who experience abuse often internalize it; that is, the abuse may continue to be felt and compounded even when it is no longer outwardly occurring. This may take the form of negative self-talk and self-criticism or various forms of self-punishment.
A majority of people I've worked with in my psychotherapy practice who were abused in childhood have internalized their abuser and continue to berate themselves on a regular basis. One was verbally abused by both of her parents while growing up. Even after the death of her parents many years later, she continues to put herself down with negative self-talk and harsh inner criticism. She can seemingly never do anything good enough to please or love herself, just as she was never able to figure out how to please her parents. The outer tormentors she once had have become an inner one—one even more punitive than her parents ever were.
Working through traumatic issues of this nature usually requires the assistance of an empathetic other, ideally a therapist who can help the individual become more aware of the ways in which the abuser has become internalized. This can require considerable patience and understanding, as people who experienced trauma often struggle with trust issues and unexpressed anger and rage. Their sense of betrayal can be quite strong if someone they loved and depended on caused them harm. This is especially true if the abuse occurred at a young age, when the child may have been unable to voice any painful emotions. Years later, their emotions can still feel dangerous to express.
A licensed therapist can help a person who experienced trauma or abuse to release emotions that have remained pent-up for a long time. Victims of trauma or abuse can then begin the journey to discover the self-love and other aspects of themselves that they may have left behind. This journey can be a long and arduous one, but the prospect of reconnecting with the peace and joy inherent in one's true nature makes it all the more worthwhile.
Let's Talk About It: 'In our family, we talk about consent'
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. While many people may recognize it, most will simply gloss over the month, not giving it a second thought, because they don't believe sexual assault could ever happen to them or someone they love. Hopefully it never will, but statistically speaking, there is a very high chance it could.
by Kelsey Ingvartsen
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. While many people may recognize it, most will simply gloss over the month, not giving it a second thought, because they don't believe sexual assault could ever happen to them or someone they love. Hopefully it never will, but statistically speaking, there is a very high chance it could.
There are numerous pretty unsettling statistics regarding sexual assault, such as:
· 1 in 3 American women will be sexually abused during their lifetime.
· Approximately 1.8 million adolescents in the United States have been the victims of sexual assault.
· 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18.
· An estimated 60% of perpetrators of sexual abuse are known to the child but are not family members, such as family friends, babysitters, child care providers, neighbors. About 30% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are family members. Only about 10% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are strangers to the child.
· Approximately 30% of sexual assault cases are reported to authorities. (Statistics collected from www.woar.org/resources/sexual-assault-statistics.php and www.nsopw.gov/en/Education/FactsStatistics)
These victims are our children, our sisters and our mothers. Even more terrifying, these perpetrators are people we know, people we trust and invite into our homes. As a parent it scares me enough to want to withdraw from society, become a hermit and shut my family away from the world. But let's face it; that just isn't possible. As parents we may not be able to shut the world out to protect our children, but that doesn't mean we can't be proactive.
When I first became a parent, when I was handed that tiny baby wrapped in a blanket and he looked at me with those big eyes so full of innocence and wonder, I understood it was my job to help guide this little human through the world and protect him where I could. It was a pretty overwhelming feeling; as a parent there are so many things you have to worry about. Did he brush his teeth? Are all the outlets covered? What is this rash? What is he putting in his sister's hair?! While some things are small and easily avoided, we talk to our kids about big dangers, too, like fire safety, what to do in emergencies, to stay away from strangers, what to do if they get lost, and on and on. In our family we also talk about our bodies. We talk about consent.
The biggest thing I can do for my children to prevent them from becoming a sexual assault statistic is to arm them with knowledge. Knowledge is power. It is never too early to start talking to your kids about consent. This doesn't mean sitting them down and having an in-depth conversation about the birds and the bees. There are very age-appropriate ways to educate kids. It starts with teaching them actual anatomically correct terms for their body parts. It may seem awkward first, but using correct terminology quickly becomes second nature. Reducing shame from the beginning opens doors for crucial conversations at later times.
It is also important not to encourage or force children to show affection to others, including family members, if they do not feel comfortable doing so. Children should have control over their bodies and be able to protect their own physical privacy. As parents, when we force them to give hugs and kisses we are reinforcing the idea that children must give physical affection, even when they are uncomfortable. Predators are very aware of this; it is part of a deceptive technique known as “grooming.” Teaching children, when they are young, that it is OK to say “no” to physical touch helps them develop into confident, cautious young adults.
Furthermore, it is extremely beneficial to discuss the dangers of sexual assault with our daughters, when they reach high school and college. There are ads and classes directed toward women, revealing what we can do to help prevent an attack, such as not walk alone at night, carry mace or a whistle, not leave drinks unattended, and more. But these precautions do not address the problem.
While it is always important to be proactive, it is also just as important to address the root of the problem. We need to have more conversations with our sons, brothers, fathers and other males in our life about respect. It is just as important to reiterate to them that “no means NO.” This message should be reinforced when boys are young; it is as simple as teaching them that our bodies are our own, and if a person does not want that kind of attention, they need to respect that.
As parents, it is also very important to be aware of the language that we use around our boys. If they hear us shaming women, such as labeling them as “sluts” or “tramps,” or degrading women for wearing skirts that are “too short,” our boys will start to think and talk that way as well. However, they need to know that it is not OK to alter a drink, or prey on a lone woman in any other way. As much as a parent does not like to consider that their child could be a victim, we also do not want to raise child who could be a perpetrator.
Sexual assault is a grim subject and one that we may not want to talk about out in the open; but as it is one of the most underreported crimes that has lifelong impacts on its many victims, this is a crucial topic to discuss. It is never too early, and if you have not discussed it with your children yet, it is never too late. If you are not a parent, be a reliable person in a child's life, so they can ask those embarrassing questions. Discussing this topic early and often can ease our discomfort as parents. Furthermore, early discussion empowers our children with knowledge to attempt to prevent sexual assault and reduce some of these statistics.
For more information about sexual assault, including additional statistics, helpful discussion tips with children, and recognizing signs of potential sexual assault, visit www.nsopw.gov. If you, or someone you know, is a victim of sexual assault and needs assistance, contact RAVE's 24-hour crisis and support lineat 1-800-720-7233 (SAFE).
Kelsey Ingvartsen is a local parent and doula who helps support and empower women. Relief After Violent Encounter – Ionia/Montcalm, Inc. offers free and confidential services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence and to victims of homelessness.
Child abuse and maltreatment costing Ala. billions
by Rebecca Burylo
Each year, 9,000 children fall victim to child abuse or neglect in Alabama and it's costing the state billions of dollars in services, according to new research conducted and released by the College of Human Environmental Sciences at the University of Alabama.
This week, for Child Abuse Prevention Month, members of the Alabama Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention stood outside the Alabama State House during a conference where they released a report titled, "The Cost of Child Maltreatment to the Alabama Economy."
The report outlines areas of abuse and the costs associated with each for 2013. A report had not been conducted in eight years, according to Sallye Longshore, executive director of ADCANP.
Child maltreatment cost the state $2.3 billion in 2013 in order to help with the child welfare system, special education, juvenile delinquency, mental health care and others.
"The cost of child maltreatment to Alabama is staggering," Longshore said. "This report reinforces the stance that we must do more to prevent child abuse and neglect before it can occur."
Longshore stressed the need for education and protective factors that can work to prevent child maltreatment and promote optimal child development.
Anita Archie serves as the board chair for ADCANP. She said the department is a separate state agency and sorely underfunded. The department receives only part of its funds from the state's General Fund budget. The rest comes from grants, the Children's Trust Fund and community-based abuse prevention groups.
In 2013, the ADCANP's budget was $7 million. The department received $500,000 from the state's Education Trust Fund and the General Fund, leaving a large deficit in funding child maltreatment prevention.
To Archie, the costs are not a sign to cut programs, but rather the need to raise funds and increase prevention.
"When you start cutting the programs and the service to help make productive citizens, you're not solving the problem, you're continuing the problem," Archie said. "I see a lot of young people in the audience today and we want you to be great, we want you to be great leaders in this state, but what we want to do is give you that chance and that's what we do with these programs."
Child abuse can look different for each family.
"What does child abuse look like?" Archie asked. "Child abuse looks like shaken baby syndrome or a fight with a father who has a young child whose young himself and he doesn't know how to cope, or a person who has been incarcerated and has kids or wants to have kids and comes back out and they don't know what to do ... that's what it looks like."
Longshore broke child abuse and maltreatment down into different categories. It can range from not putting a child to bed in a safe sleep environment to "mother and daddy fussing and yelling all night and a child doesn't get any sleep and is impaired when he or she goes to school the next day," she said.
"There's not only physical abuse, but there's emotional abuse, there's sexual abuse and so there's all sorts of areas," Longshore said.
The study was conducted by Milla Boschung, Ph.D. the associate dean for Research and Outreach at the College of Human Environmental Sciences at UA. She is sure the economic impact is actually more.
"The full impact could be two to three times that amount, if costs on families and communities as well as indirect impacts are included," Boschung said.
The bottom line, according to Archie and Longshore, is that they cannot do more with less.
"We don't want any of these children ever to suffer, but we know every day you read about one or you hear about incidences and some are non-intentional, some are just neglect or lack of education and some are when they lose control, but whatever the reason we just want to spread the word and be a resource," Longshore said.
BY THE NUMBERS
Childhood mental health Care:
$8,488,808 to $16,977,617
Child welfare system:
Law enforcement intervention:
Childhood medical costs:
Adult mental health and health care:
Lost worker productivity of victims:
Lost worker productivity due to mortality:
Compiled by the University of Alabama's College of Human Environmental Sciences for the Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention
Senator working to correct errors on child abuse registry
by Joanne Young
In August, Lincoln Sen. Colby Coash sent a question to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
How many youths have been placed on the department's central registry of child abuse and neglect because they are considered offenders?
The answer surprised him, and the ages of some of those youths stunned him further.
Between 1985 and 2013, nine of those placed on the registry were infants. Nine were toddlers, 10 more were preschoolers and nine were kindergarten age.
In total, 128 children 12 and younger and 2,227 aged 13 to 18 were on the registry as of Sept. 15.
"It was unbelievable to me that any child just a few months old can be listed as a perpetrator of an abuse or a crime," Coash said.
He set to work crafting a bill (LB292) that would ensure no child 11 or younger would be put on the registry and that all minors on the registry would get a mandatory hearing to consider expunging the record within six months of turning 19.
The bill advanced to a second round of consideration Friday on a 28-0 vote.
"Branding a child as a child abuser on the basis of his or her juvenile adjudication is directly at odds with the spirit of Nebraska's juvenile code," Coash said.
The proposed mandatory hearing wouldn't guarantee a youth's name would be expunged, he said. It would just give them an opportunity to explain the circumstance.
The state's child abuse registry contains records of individuals who the department or the courts find responsible for abuse and neglect of a child or vulnerable adult.
The registry is used for pre-employment and volunteer background checks, license approvals for child care and youth programs, approvals for placement of children in foster care or adoption and to collect statistical data.
HHS staff told Coash many mistakes had been made over the years in placing children on the registry, and they are working diligently to remove many of the records.
HHS spokeswoman Kathie Osterman said some minors, for example those who are parents and abuse their children or those who abuse other, usually younger, children, should be on the registry.
But some of them are there because of data entry errors of birth dates, or the listing of a child rather than a parent with the same name. Some are there because a statute was misinterpreted.
The department supported the bill at its hearing and is reviewing all of the cases involving minors, Osterman said.
Coash said no review of those records had been required in the past, and without his inquiry last summer, all those infants, toddlers and preschoolers would still be on the registry. All children 4 and younger were removed from the registry as of January.
"We can protect ourselves from future lawsuits by placing more oversight on this registry," he said.
Omaha Sen. Bob Krist and other senators commended Coash for his work on the issue.
"This is why we are here, to apply the oversight in government and correct the wrongs that need to be corrected," Krist said.
These kids frequently find themselves in bad situations through no fault of their own, Coash said. And sometimes those bad situations result in them doing bad things, as well.
"But being put on the abuse registry is a big deal, and there needs to be protections for children, so their rights are protected and their futures can remain bright," he said.
Children don't have the resources to address this, he said.
"Someday those children become adults and something that was part of their past is going to come back to haunt them and they won't even know it until they try to get a job or apply for a license to be a dental hygienist," he said.
Ohio coroner: Politicians need to fix child abuse problem
by Deborah Dixon
HAMILTON COUNTY, Ohio -- The beating and starvation death of toddler Glenara Bates is the last straw for the Hamilton County Coroner.
Now Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco wants some powerful people to see Glenara's face and other faces of children killed by abuse or neglect.
Some of the images are graphic, but to Dr. Sammarco, there is a message behind the children's lifeless eyes.
The letter from the Hamilton County Coroner includes pictures of dead children. Including 2-year-old James Livesay, who was stomped to death by his mother's boyfriend in 2012.
"I want them to see his cute face... blue eyes staring at the ceiling... lifeless,” said Dr. Sammarco. “That's what I want them to see.”
Eight months earlier, the boy was hospitalized from a beating. His mother was allowed to take him home after promising boyfriend Anthony Pierson would never be there. She lied.
"Look at the bruising over the eyelid, look at his face,” said Dr. Sammarco. “I don't understand how anyone can do this to a baby.”
Dr. Sammarco wants some of the most powerful people in America to see the battered bodies of children she saw on tables here at the morgue.
"I'm sending this to every U.S. senator, congressman, the president, the vice president,” said Dr. Sammarco.
Photos will include the beaten, emaciated, bitten body of 2-year-old Glenara Bates. The child's mother and father face a possible death sentence if convicted.
“The system is broken,” the letter will say, her 28-year-old mother received government assistance for her children. She's pregnant with her eighth.
According to court records, the child's mother said she did not want to work.
"If you have children assisted by taxpayers, the primary responsibility is taking care of children,” said Dr. Sammarco.
Dr. Sammarco says too often that isn't happening.
"Fix it. It's your job. Fix it find a solution,” said Dr. Sammarco, to public officials. “It isn't working.”
Parents offered tips to protect kids from sexual abuse
by Anne-Gerard Flynn
LONGMEADOW - A trainer from the Enough Abuse Campaign is offering sexual abuse prevention training for parents and professionals on Monday, April 13.
Jennifer Falcone will speak at Storrs Library on 693 Longmeadow St. from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
"I really aim for the session to be empowering, not scary or depressing. I want parents to leave feeling they are in a better place to protect their kids," Falcone said. "Many parents I have spoken to have just decided they can never leave their children alone. Or, they do the opposite and pretend it will never happen to their kids. They also have no idea that there are things they can do to prevent sexual abuse from happening."
Falcone said her session will cover several areas.
"First I provide general facts about childhood sexual abuse because there are still a lot of myths around sexual abuse," Falcone said.
"Next we talk about how to decrease opportunities for victimization. Then, we cover talking about sexual abuse both with kids and adults. We go over what to look for signs that an adult could be a risk to a child or that a child is at risk. Finally we talk about taking action to protect kids."
According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse.
Falcone, a mother of two and master's of social work candidate at Springfield College, became aware, when her children entered elementary school, that there is no required state training for teachers in the prevention of sexual abuse. Teachers are among those required to report any suspected abuse of a child under 18. Some states, like Vermont, have enacted laws that require "school boards to ensure that adults employed in the schools in their districts receive orientation on the prevention, identification, and reporting of child sexual abuse and sexual violence."
National organizations, like Darkness to Light, work to train adults in the area of prevention. This summer, the South Carolina based nonprofit some will give sexual abuse prevention training to some 10,000 employees of the South Carolina Department of Education. Last year, the nonprofit brought its Stewards of Children prevention training program to the Greater Holyoke YMCA.
Falcone said she has been working with Dr. Stephen C. Boos, medical director of Baystate Health's Baystate Family Advocacy Center.
"I have been working with him for the past few years as well as with some other colleagues to create a movement to raise awareness that prevention is often possible," Falcone said. "The more work I have done in the field, the more I have realized that there is so much incredible fear around this topic."
Falcone acknowledges that sexual abuse and its prevention are not easy topics to address with children.
"The most important thing to remember is that as adults, we are responsible for the well-being of kids. We must do the right thing, even when it is the hard thing," Falcone said.
Some tips Falcone offers in terms of preventing sexual abuse:
Ask schools and youth serving organizations (churches, sports leagues, etc.) what they are doing to prevent child sexual abuse. Most are still doing very little or nothing. Advocate for more to be done.
Talk to your kids about body safety, including safe/unsafe touch. It's uncomfortable, but so is talking to them about strangers. We just have to do it.
If you notice an adult violating boundaries with kids (tickling a child that doesn't want to be tickled, touching in a way that doesn't seem right...even if it's not overtly sexual, etc.) speak up! It could be grooming behavior. Tell the adult you are uncomfortable with what you see. Tell other adults if this is in a professional setting.
Watch out for one-on-one situations - where one adult is left alone with one child. This is when most sexual abuse occurs.
Registration is required for the April 13th program by calling the library at (413) 565-4182.
Falcone and a colleague will give a similar program on May 5 at 6:30 p.m. at the East Longmeadow Library.
Support after sexual assault through a child's eyes
SASS, A Safe Place work to protect youth
by Suzanne Laurent
GREENLAND — The entire community needs to be involved in making sure its most vulnerable are kept safe.
That was the message at the fourth annual Kids Are Our Business Breakfast: Beyond the Classroom event Friday morning at the Portsmouth Country Club hosted by Sexual Assault Support Services and A Safe Place.
“We are striving to expand,” said Kathy Beebe, executive director of both organizations that serve Rockingham and Strafford counties.
Beebe shared the news that SASS and A Safe Place will merge into one organization July 1. SASS recently celebrated its 35th year of serving the Seacoast community. A Safe Place has been helping victims of domestic abuse in Portsmouth, Rochester and Salem for more than 34 years.
The annual event highlighted the Safe Kids Strong Teens K-12 violence prevention education program offered by SASS and A Safe Place aimed to keep kids safe from sexual abuse, bullying, sexual harassment and teen dating violence.
In 2014, more than 11,000 kids in 36 schools in Rockingham and Strafford counties participated in the program. “But there are 40,000 kids in the Seacoast area we need to reach,” Beebe said.
This year's program led the audience through the "Life of Milo." Milo is a composite 8-year-old boy created from real-life cases. The event presenters followed Milo from the time of disclosure, to the interviews, the support and the court proceedings that may follow.
"The idea is to bring awareness to our child abuse prevention education programs," said Debra Altschiller, event coordinator for SASS and A Safe Place. "The message is that children need to know this is not normal behavior, long before they realize it as an adult. If a child feels scared, confused or hurt, they need to tell a trusted adult."
Erica Skoglund, one of three SASS educators, used one of the puppets brought to schools that are used in skits to help younger children express their feelings.
The puppet played Milo who first approaches his guidance counselor about going on a camping trip with his best friend Alex. He reveals that he is nervous because sometimes when Alex's 19-year-old brother Ben gives him a ride home from play dates, Ben inappropriately touches him and makes Milo do the same to Ben.
That sets the wheels in motion for the guidance counselor, played by Meredith Jacques, who is a school counselor for the Somersworth School District.
She said when this happens she notifies the principal, the school resource officer, the state Division of Children, Youth & Families in Concord, and Milo's parents. She also gives them information about SASS and the hotline number.
“At this point, Milo may feel like a huge burden has been lifted from his chest,” Jacques said. “My office will be Milo's safe place.”
After the breakfast, Jacques said she is currently seeing four to five children in her office weekly with issues of sexual or domestic abuse.
“This is just too many,” she said.
Using a pole with a ribbon marker that had SASS in turquoise and A Safe Place in purple intertwined, the audience followed Milo's journey as the marker moved along the panel of experts that explained in great detail how the case would be handled at each step.
Panel guests included Jacques; detective Eric Chandler of the Somersworth Police Department; Caitlin Miller, director of the Strafford County Child Advocate Center; and Katie Newbegin, a family worker and investigator with DCYF.
Chandler said that the process would be the same for both Rockingham and Strafford counties. All of the panelists shared how they work together with SASS and A Safe Place throughout the investigation.
Feelings that Milo may be having along the way were also recognized. He knows his best friend had to be removed from his home for his safety. The two families may have been friends and now there is tension while the investigation is taking place.
Milo would actually be taken into the courtroom before the hearing to get a good look at it from the judge's chair. His family would be encouraged to fill up the courtroom to help support him during his testimony.
The event was sponsored by Sprague Energy, Liberty Mutual, Opus Advisors and Great Oak Title Services.
Sexual abuse allegations made against former Biddeford police officer
by Beth Brogan
BIDDEFORD, Maine — Two men have accused a former Biddeford police officer of sexually abusing them as boys more than a decade ago . Attorney Walter McKee said Thursday that his firm is conducting a civil investigation of allegations of sexual abuse by a retired Biddeford police officer and the police department.
McKee represents Matthew Lauzon, now of Massachusetts, who in March made public accusations that he was sexually abused as a child by then-Biddeford Police officer Stephen Dodd.
In an email to the Bangor Daily News on Thursday, McKee said he is aware of an ongoing investigation by the attorney general's office, but could provide no additional details.
In an email to the Bangor Daily News on Thursday, Timothy Feeley, spokesman for the attorney general's office, wrote, “We cannot comment on any ‘civil investigation' undertaken and promoted by private legal counsel; nor can we comment on any suggestion that there is a criminal investigation.”
Similarly, Biddeford Police Chief Roger P. Beaupre said in an emailed release Thursday afternoon, “The city of Biddeford cannot confirm or deny that the attorney general's office has undertaken in the past or currently is conducting a criminal investigation. The city of Biddeford also cannot comment on personnel matters involving current or former employees. Finally, the city of Biddeford will not comment on any private investigations being performed by lawyers engaged by outside parties.”
The Courier newspaper reported in March that Lauzon has filed a complaint with the attorney general's office and requested an investigation into an officer who has since retired and is now living in Florida. Lauzon told The Courier that he first told the Biddeford Police Department last fall that he was sexually abused by the man nearly 20 years ago.
Another man, Rick Alexander of South Portland, told WMTW-TV, Portland's ABC affiliate, in an interview aired Thursday that he was first sexually assaulted by the Biddeford officer behind his aunt's house, in handcuffs. Alexander said he also filed a complaint with the attorney general's office in 2002.
“We don't want to interfere in any way with the attorney general's office's criminal investigation of Dodd and any others officers of the Biddeford police who have abused children,” McKee wrote in the release. “What is becoming apparent though from recent news stories and based on our own preliminary investigation is that these were not isolated incidents and they occurred over the course of many years and we want to find out how it was all happening without any action being taken to keep Dodd and any others from continually abusing boys for so many years.”
Sexual assault counselors say many CSCs go underreported
by Antonio Coleman
CADILLAC — “Shirley” was 17 years old when she ran away from home to escape years of sexual abuse inflicted by her father.
“He would always tell me that I was nothing or that no one would believe me,” she said. “For years, I lived my life feeling that I was worthless.”
Shirley is being identified by a pseudonym. The Cadillac News has a policy of not identifying the survivors of criminal sexual assaults.
Shirley's story is one counselors at agencies such as OASIS and Healing Private Wounds say they hear often.
Stories like Shirley's also have led advocates to place a number of small flags in the ground at the city park.
The flags promote the NO MORE campaign, a national movement to raise public awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault. Across the windows of OASIS, people have created signs demanding no more “blame,” “excuses,” “violence” and “shame.”
Still, OASIS Executive Director Sally Repeck said the number of flags doesn't reflect the actual number of sexual assaults that go unreported to police.
“Sexual assault is one of the most under-reported crimes in the community,” Repeck said. “If you look at how many flags should have been out there, we figure four times the number of assaults happened, but (the survivors) didn't go to law enforcement.“
A total of 15 criminal sexual conduct crimes were reported within the first nine months of 2014, according to the Uniform Crime Report provided by the Cadillac Police Department.
Criminal sexual conduct offenses in the report were listed by degree. In 2013, a total of 34 criminal sexual conduct crimes were reported to police. In 2012, 35 were reported.
It wasn't until age 45 that Shirley said she made the decision to finally share her story with her husband. But Shirley never shared the story of her father's sexual abuse with police.
Public perception that places blame on the victim and the close relationship between the victim and the perpetrator are two of the biggest challenges for those who've suffered from sexual assault, Repeck said, who added that these obstacles can lead abuse survivors to go years without reporting the crime.
Sexual assault survivor “Leana” said she spent years hiding the sexual abuse of her stepfather from her family. Leana is also being identified by a nickname.
“I was torn between knowing what was going on at home was wrong and not wanting to tell my father because I didn't want to see the sadness on his face,” Leana said.
The abuse at home left her unable to recollect years of birthdays, holidays and family memories, she said.
“I can't even remember when the abuse first started, because throughout the years, I'd learned to block so much of my childhood from my memory,” she said.
It wasn't until she confided in a friend on social media that her life would finally change.
“One day I was talking to my friend on Myspace and I just told her that something was going on at home,” she said. “She told me to tell my father.”
Leana and her father immediately contacted the police. Leana said she sat in the courtroom with her head down as she recounted the memories of sexual abuse by her stepfather.
A jury eventually found Leana's stepfather guilty of multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct. But each day she said she lives with anxiety over whether her stepfather will attempt to contact her again.
“Even to this day, I think about if he will ever walk into my job one day or show up at my home,” she said. “I've thought about just picking up and moving.”
Counselor Angela Cook-Hoekwater said every victim's story and background are different. However, she said many of the abuse survivors she has counseled are those who have experienced abuse at an early age.
“About 40 percent of our caseload are children under 18 that have been abused,” Cook-Hoekwater said.
In 2014, OASIS treated 150 children and a similar number of adults.
Leana, who said many of her childhood memories were filled with sexual abuse, said she is now working toward recovery through counseling. She said she considers herself more than a sexual assault survivor; she considers herself a warrior.
“These experiences may have taken my childhood, but it hasn't changed who I am,” she said. “No one can ever take that from me.”
Some child-abuse reports won't be probed immediately
by Mary Jo Pitzl
The state's child-welfare agency, at the direction of its new chief, has stopped assigning lower-priority cases of child abuse and neglect for investigation.
The policy shift echoes a practice that threw the system into turmoil nearly 1 1/2 years ago.
The discovery of the practice by investigator Greg McKay prompted sweeping changes to the child-welfare system and catapulted McKay into the Department of Child Services' top job.
Lawmakers, state officials and law enforcement reacted with shock to McKay's findings in November 2013. Many, including McKay, noted state law requires 100 percent of such reports to be investigated.
But in an April 1 memo, McKay said a heavy workload makes it necessary to set aside some cases.
"My first priority is to stop assigning cases which we all agree cannot be served due to overwhelming demands," McKay wrote. "... This insurmountable volume and accompanying liability of unassigned reports should be owned by the Department, not the already decimated field force."
His office clarified that the cases will be assigned and investigated eventually, but the delay is needed to relieve pressure on already overburdened caseworkers.
Instead, supervisors — and, more broadly, the agency — will monitor the unassigned cases, spokesman Doug Nick said.
Nick said assignment of lower-priority cases will happen when supervisors deem it best. In the meantime, the supervisors will monitor these cases, but how that works is unclear.
Until the April 1 memo, the department's stated policy required a response on lower-priority cases within three days in some instances and seven days for others. It is unclear whether that policy is still in place, and there are no details on how unassigned cases will be monitored or accounted for.
"It's incumbent on the department to take on this role," Nick said. "We don't want to just foist this off on the caseworker."
The new policy appears similar to the practice McKay criticized in November 2013, when he blew the whistle on a Child Protective Services practice of designating low-priority cases "not investigated" to cope with a heavy workload.
"This is clearly an attempt by CPS to lessen the already overburdened investigative arm of the agency," McKay wrote to then-Gov. Jan Brewer in November 2013. "It accomplishes two goals; reduce investigator caseload and reduce the number of unassigned reports. This medicine is truly worse than the disease."
His discovery, as head of a unit that investigated criminal cases, prompted Brewer to call for an overhaul of the state's child-welfare operation, creating the Department of Child Services and making it a Cabinet-level state agency.
McKay was not available Thursday to discuss his decision. But later in the memo, he rebuffs suggestions that the new approach is similar to the maligned "not investigate" process.
"In the end, we must physically assess all children reported to the department and we will accomplish this based on the vulnerability of the children and on time," he wrote.
State law requires all reports of abuse and neglect get a "prompt and thorough investigation."
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, who was closely involved in the creation of DCS, said he believes McKay wants to allow complaints involving alleged criminal conduct to be handed over to the agency's Office of Child Welfare Investigations. Their review could clear a case, making it unnecessary to assign it to a caseworker, Montgomery said.
He bases his interpretation on his conversations with McKay, as well as those with former agency director Charles Flanagan, during last year's work on establishing the new department.
McKay's approach is a logical triage in a system that is flooded with abuse and neglect reports of varying severity, Nick said. The agency received 1,045 reports a week to its child-abuse hotline, according to the most recent statistics available. They cover the six-month period ending Sept. 1, 2014.
Nick said the previous director, Flanagan, had a policy of ensuring every report was assigned by 3 p.m. on Fridays, a move that Nick said stressed out caseworkers by giving them "an impossible workload."
But Flanagan, whom Gov. Doug Ducey fired in February and replaced with McKay, said he ended the practice of leaving cases unassigned last year "because it is NI (not investigated) by another name."
The only difference, Flanagan said, is that the new practice is being done in the open, and not hidden.
Assigning all cases brings greater transparency to the admittedly heavy workload the agency faces, Flanagan said.
"It allows them to be and stay in the mix to be investigated directly, rather than hiding in the unassigned pile unaddressed," he wrote in an e-mail in response to a query from The Arizona Republic.
Flanagan also cautioned that low-priority cases that linger without an investigation can blow up into more serious problems, something he saw as he directed a complete review last year of all 6,600 "not investigated" files. In several dozen cases, children had to be removed from their homes due to dangerous situations that might have been averted if caseworkers had seen the children when earlier reports came in.
Rep. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, said she would need a better understanding of the triage process McKay is following before commenting in detail. But she questioned how cases could be tracked if they weren't assigned, and she reiterated concerns that setting aside lower-priority cases could allow small problems to fester into a crisis.
"Knowing as we know, and as Greg McKay has pointed out, cases that are not tended to immediately tend to become higher priority," she said.
Brophy McGee co-chairs a legislative committee assigned to oversee the agency's operations. A bill to extend that committee through 2016 is now on Ducey's desk awaiting action.
Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix, said the plan "sounds like NI to me."
"I don't think it's acceptable," said McCune Davis, who also sits on the oversight committee. "But I'm waiting for Greg McKay to do what he said he'd do in the oversight committee: produce a plan that will keep kids safe."
For its part, Ducey's office expressed "complete confidence" in McKay's direction.
"Given his reputation for blowing the whistle on problems within the agency over the years, no one has a better understanding than Greg McKay of what it takes to ensure cases don't slip through the cracks," Ducey's office wrote in a statement after The Republic sought comment on the move.
Cuts, bruises would be felony child abuse under bill protecting kids who can't speak for themselves
by Aimee Green
Oregon lawmakers are vetting a bill that would make it a felony to cut or bruise children and elderly people -- even if they can't say that their wounds hurt them because they're too young to speak or so old that their minds are clouded with dementia.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is hashing out details of how the bill would be written into law, but more refining needs to be done, committee chairman Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, said during a work session Thursday.
Prosecutors have urged lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 526 -- which would no longer require assault victims to articulate that their cuts or bruises were painful or hindered their ability to move or function in order to secure felony assault or criminal mistreatment convictions.
Prosecutors say the requirement is a problem when victims are young children, older children who can't describe their injuries because of autism or other conditions, or domestic violence victims who are unwilling to speak out against their abusers.
Last month, prosecutors, police and a Portland pediatrician descended on Salem to ask the Senate Judiciary Committee to pass the bill. It would amend the definition of "physical injury" to mean "physical trauma" -- including "fractures, cuts, punctures, bruises, burns or other wounds." The change would make it similar to the definition for animals who are abused.
John Troncoso, a lieutenant with the Keizer Police Department, said the new law would make a "huge" difference in some cases because police and prosecutors wouldn't have to rely on victims' "subjective" statements to prove they suffered a "physical injury."
"We can see bruises, we can see scrapes," Troncoso said. "We can photograph those. We can document those. Many times, people don't want to describe those to us because they've been threatened not to talk to us. Sometimes the children are too young to talk."
Prosecutors showed committee members photos of a 16-month-old Tillamook County boy who suffered purple, black, green, yellow and red bruises across his buttocks and the back of one of his thighs. A jury convicted the toddler's 22-year-old babysitter of felony first-degree criminal mistreatment, but the Oregon Court of Appeals in 2012 overturned the conviction.
"No one can look at those photos and not instantly think 'This child was injured,'" said Kevin Barton, a Washington County senior deputy district attorney.
Supporters of the bill point to what they see as a gaping hole in the law: If the boy had been old enough to say the bruises caused him "substantial pain" or hindered his ability to move, the conviction would have stood, they say.
At last month's hearing, however, the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association took issue with the proposed definition of "physical trauma" as too broad, saying some people with certain medical conditions bruise easily. Lobbyist Gail Meyer said that even "a little nick" in the skin could result in a defendant's felony conviction.
One proposed amendment to the bill would allow the bill to apply only to "vulnerable persons" -- chiefly, children under 18, seniors 65 or older and people with developmental disabilities. But Meyer said Thursday that amendment also is too broad because 17-year-olds and 67-year-olds can usually speak up for themselves just fine.
Another proposed amendment would include domestic violence victims in the bill.
The bill's chief sponsors are Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson, D-Gresham; Sen. Jackie Winters, R-Salem; and Rep. Carla Piluso, D-Gresham.
A new date for another work session has not yet been set.
Do you know the signs of child abuse?
by Kendro Majors
It's often called a hidden epidemic and it's prevalent, tearing down children and families, but local agencies are working to help raise awareness and give victims the tools to fight child abuse.
In Covington County, there were 275 reports of child abuse last year, which includes sexual, physical and neglect. Of those, 81 reports were deemed to have sufficient evidence to advance with prosecution or to place children in foster homes.
Some 130 children were affected by these reports.
“Neglect is the largest number of those reports,” said Covington County DHR Director Lesa Syler. “A lot of it has to do with the drug activity in this county. Drug abuse leads to child abuse and neglect.”
Syler said oftentimes parents may manufacture drugs in the company of children or their drug use may cause them to be violent toward the children.
Other times, children go without meals because their parents are high on drugs and aren't capable of providing meals for them.
“I always use this example,” she said. “We had three little girls who would get themselves up for school because they thought their mom was sick.”
Syler said the girls went to school and Drug Task Force agents acted on a tip, and they were able to determine that the girls had been neglected.
Syler said the children were placed in foster care outside of the county.
“That's why we beg for local foster parents,” she said. “We try to provide as much normalcy for the children as possible.”
Syler said there's a huge myth that DHR doesn't allow spanking.
“Corporal punishment is a legal means of discipline,” she said. “Typical spanking isn't what you're seeing when it's prosecuted. So many people say they can't spank their child. That's simply not true.”
Still, parents who beat their children or use excessive means of punishment are being prosecuted.
“When we have a child with bruises from the back to the legs,” she said. “That's inappropriate and abusive.”
Syler said not all reported cases are abuse, but there is protocol in place for social workers to follow.
“When we receive a complaint, we must investigate,” she said. “You can look at the number and see that every complaint is not a case.”
Syler said social workers and law enforcement work together to investigate the cases.
Some red flags include:
• if a child discloses or makes statements that cause alarm;
• a child whose everyday, basic needs are not met. They don't have food, or their clothing is unsuitable for the weather, or they have marks that are consistent with abuse.
Syler said sometimes children don't know that abuse is unacceptable.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Grace Jeter, who prosecutes child abuse cases in the county, said this week that there were 16 cases disposed of in 2014 and 18 in 2013.
Jeter, who deals a lot with child sex abuse, said there isn't necessarily a real definitive sign to child sex abuse.
“It really depends on the child, depends on their age and who the abuser is to them,” she said. “It's usually someone the child knows, trusts and loves.”
Jeter said a red flag is if there is a dramatic change in the child.
“If he or she acts very different,” she said. “Or if a child begins wetting the bed or older children become promiscuous or are afraid of men.”
Still, Jeter said there's no “A-B-C-D mold.”
Jeter said she sees more girls than boys who have been sexually abused, but there isn't a huge discrepancy in those numbers.
Jeter said often adults don't understand how children can continue to interact with their abusers.
“One aspect is because the molester is someone they trust,” she said. “They don't like it, but they often still love that person and don't want to get them in trouble. That's not how adults think about things.”
Jeter said when a child is sexually abused their bodies and minds are subject to things they aren't mature enough to handle.
“Their bodies heal up a lot quicker than their minds,” she said.
Many parents are unsure how to handle child abuse or many family, friends and neighbors are unsure when and how to report instances.
Jeter said that when a child discloses sex abuse, a parent should contact DHR or local law enforcement.
Then the process will begin to try to take care of the child's needs and put them on a path to healing.
Syler said it's important for people to understand that if they have a child with possible abuse issues that they should contact DHR.
“We don't want them to think that they have to prove it,” she said. “We will investigate it.”
The newly opened Child Advocacy Center will play a vital role in helping children and families cope with the abuse. The entire process will be housed in the CAC, with a goal of making a difficult situation as comfortable as possible.
“Parents understandably don't know what to do,” Jeter said. “Parents, too, need some help. They often feel guilty or think they should have known.”
Jeter said children who are abused often try to protect themselves, but also try to protect their parents.
“They don't want to see Momma upset,” she said. “So, sometimes they don't talk about it. Sometimes children forget about it because it's not on the surface.”
However, Jeter said she's only seen one instance of child completely burying her feelings.
“There was a child who was molested by someone very close to her,” she said. “Her defense mechanism has blocked out all memory of this person.”
Jeter said that's why counseling is so important.
“It's usually all underneath,” she said. “At some point they will talk about it.”
Children do have to testify in cases that go to trial for sex abuse, which Jeter said almost always go to trial.
The reason, Jeter said, is that child sex abuse cases carry stiff sentences and if offenders are released from prison they are forever labeled as a sex offender.
Jeter said she works with the children by taking them to the courtroom and explaining where they will sit when they take the stand, where the judge sits, and more.
“I also reassure them that the defendant won't be close to them or be able to speak to them,” she said. “Sometimes little kids want me to be closer to them when I'm talking to them. We try to make it as comfortable as it can be for them.”
Child abuse isn't only a problem in Covington County. The U.S. has one of the worst records among industrialized nations, with between four and seven children losing their lives to child abuse and neglect each day.
Nationwide, a report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds.
To report child abuse, call DHR at 334-427-7900.
CASA's new podcast explains how and when to report child abuse
by Gloria Casas
The Kane County Child Advocacy Center and CASA released a podcast this week explaining what constitutes abuse and how mandated reporters are legally required to report it.
"When you have that feeling inside that there is a problem, you make the call," said Lark Cowart, bureau chief of Kane County's juvenile division.
The Advocacy Center partnered with CASA to develop a pod cast featuring Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon and Cowart explaining the legal responsibility of mandated reporters. Under the law, everyone who works with children are mandated reporters and are required to contact the Department of Children and Family Services if they have any suspicion of child abuse.
The list of mandated reporters includes police officers, doctors, clergy and anyone involved with a school, from janitors to volunteers. There is training available on various websites, however, mandated reporters are not required to take training, McMahon said.
"All of us can speak up whether we are a mandated reporter or not," McMahon said.
Anyone who suspects child abuse should call 1-800-25ABUSE.
You don't need first-hand knowledge of the abuse nor do you have to provide your name, Cowart said. If the report is unfounded, there is no penalty for the person who made the report, she said.
There is an institutional resistance to reporting child abuse, McMahon said. People often do not want to report abuse because they know the family involved or can't believe it is actually happening, he said. However, abuse is widespread and it is everyone's responsibility to protect children, he said.
If a child shares information with a mandated reporter and a report is not made to DCFS, it sends a bad message to the child that the conduct is somehow OK, McMahon said. The message that should be sent is someone will speak up for the child, he said.
The pod cast is available on CASA's website, said Gloria Bunce, CASA executive director. A CASA volunteer produced the video. It is part of an ongoing community education outreach started two years ago.
Everyone needs to have a heightened awareness that child abuse is taking place and not turn away but report it, Bunce said.
Paternos push child sexual abuse prevention program
by Debra Pinkerton
HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Sue Paterno and her son Scott were in Harrisburg on Thursday to push for a program that's aimed at preventing child sexual abuse.
Sue Paterno paid nearly $220,000 for a pilot program that trains faculty at colleges and universities to identify predators and take action. The state's 14 universities took part in the program.
Frank Lentz works at Dixon University Center in Harrisburg and participated in the training.
“They taught us appropriate triggers that would show abuse, that would help us identify abuse,” he said.
Sue says she pushed for the program because of something her late husband wrote.
“When Joe was going to bed the night before he went to the hospital for the last time, he was writing,” she said.
Sue says she didn't look at his note until three months after he died.
“It's so hard to read,” Scott Paterno said. “The good side of the scandal to him and the silver lining in all of this was hopefully this will raise awareness on the subject of child sexual victimization.”
Sue hopes colleges and universities nationwide adopt the program.
“You have thousands and thousands of kids coming to an environment where their parents are dropping them off in a place they believe is safe, and they have every right to expect it safe, and this is an additional resource to help that be the case,” Scott Paterno said.
Champions for children
Conference to focus on child abuse experiences, prevention
by Ruth Campbell
Educating people about child abuse, its long-term implications and how it can be prevented is the focus of the day-long Champions for Children conference, scheduled for 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday at Asbury Methodist Church and the MCM Elegante Hotel.
Harmony Home Children's Advocacy Center is spearheading the conference in conjunction with the First 5 program at University of Texas of the Permian Basin. It will feature Olympic swimmer Margaret Hoelzer, economist Ray Perryman, author and activist Jenna Quinn.
A panel of adult abuse survivors from a variety of backgrounds will talk about their experiences from 2 to 3 p.m. Friday.
Hoelzer, who speaks at 8:30 a.m. Friday at Asbury Methodist, will talk about her experience as an abuse survivor, how it happened and where she is now. Quinn also is a survivor and got Jenna's law passed in Texas, which mandates teachers, parents and students be made aware of the signs of child sexual abuse.
Economist Ray Perryman will talk about the economic effects of child abuse at noon Friday at the MCM Elegante, Community Resource Director Richard Acosta said.
“I think going to be a really helpful, solid day of learning,” Malm said.
About 200 people are currently registered for the conference including child welfare professionals, faith-based organizations, people from the school district and parents. There was a similar conference six or seven years ago called Justice for Children that was aimed primarily at child welfare workers, law enforcement and people usually involved in the legal side of child abuse, she said.
This one is meant to have a broader appeal. “This is aimed at the community and the community is made up of all kinds of folks. It's the community, that when we put our heads together, will be able to deal with this issue,” Malm said.
Other topics will include the impact of abuse on the education setting, designer drugs, gun safety in the home, early childhood intervention, minimizing online dangers and the importance of after-school hours, a program flyer said.
Planning for the conference started about six months ago when organizers began lining up speakers. She said the event has been made possible by a number of people and organizations.
“It's all come together really nicely, almost magically with the help of a whole lot of people,” Malm said.
Harmony Home, which is 22 years old, is a children's advocacy center whose mission is to “help break the silence and heal the hurt of child abuse,” she said. It mainly works with children who have been victims of some form of abuse.
Its model allows children to tell their story just once in a recording instead of having to repeat it multiple times to various authorities. It came about from a family court judge in Huntsville, Ala., who was dismayed realizing that this was happening and came up with the idea of an advocacy center.
“We have forensic interviewers,” Malm said. “It's non-leading (and) developmentally appropriate. It's recorded and that way (the child) tells their story one time.”
She added that the interviews are conducted gently. “Our goal is not to traumatize the child, but to help them to tell their story and feel better at the end of it.”
Harmony Home doesn't do anything until a report is made. “We are directed as to what we can in the Texas Family Code. It allows us to be part of the investigation,” Malm said.
Asbury Methodist Church is located at 4001 E. University Blvd. and the MCM Elegante is at 5200 E. University Blvd. Registration for the conference has closed, but for more information, call 333-5233.
Agencies meet for child abuse conference in Biloxi
by Asha Staples
BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - During the month of April, you may see a lot of people wearing the color blue for National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Wednesday, dozens of agencies from across the state gathered at the IP Casino Resort and Spa in Biloxi to be a part of the three day One Loud Voice conference that helps cross train those who deal with children who have been a victim to abuse.
"We're all here to protect the child, so we're going to have sessions on how to respond on victim advocacy and investigating cases. Just a plethora of topics that are related to the investigation and treatment of cases where a child has been abused," said Karla Tye, Executive Director of the Children's Advocacy Centers of Mississippi.
Tye says because many agencies get involved when a child is victim to abuse, they want to make sure they can be the voice to the many children who are afraid or don't know how to speak out.
To help paint a better picture of what it takes to help those in need, Darlene Ellison came from Dallas, TX, to share her story of being a victim and married to someone who she later found out was a sex offender.
"I started talking about it probably a year after it happened in mine and my children's lives. Really to show my children how to take the elephant out of the room and show them that it wasn't about them or their last name or anything that any of us had done," Ellison said.
Ellison says talking about the issue is the first step to both protecting and helping victims heal.
"The hope is that in leading a conference like this, as an opening keynote, that we can remind people of the prevention aspect and remind them that child abuse knows no socioeconomic status, no race, no gender, and that we're all about prevention," Ellison said.
Ellison has been traveling across the country for years sharing her story, and she says there are two points that she hopes those listening can take away from her testimony.
"The inside out rule. That's when we have to work with children and talk to them at a very young age. Then, my other message in doing keynotes in these conferences is to remind the very people who have chosen this profession, the very people who have chosen to give their lives to this industry, they are making a huge difference in the battle against child abuse," Ellison said.
For more information about child abuse and how you can report child or vulnerable adult abuse or neglect, you can visit http://www.mdhs.state.ms.us/.
2 arrested in twisted, gruesome child abuse case; Corpse, starved teen and sick infant found
by The Associated Press
LAS VEGAS – Two people have been arrested in what authorities describe as a twisted, gruesome case of abuse involving a child's corpse hidden in a broken-down car, a starved baby living on water and a sheltered teenager impregnated by her stepfather.
Jondrew Lachaux, 39, and Kellie Phillips, 38, turned themselves in after the three children were discovered, North Las Vegas police said.
The two face child abuse charges. Lachaux is also charged with concealing evidence after the toddler's badly decomposed body was found in the garage.
According to court documents, the man and woman took five of their children on a trip to Oakland, California, eight months ago. The couple left behind two daughters — a teen and a sickly 3-year-old toddler — in their suburban Las Vegas home because the rental vehicle was full.
The teen is Phillips' biological child and Lachaux's stepdaughter.
Authorities say Lachaux reportedly impregnated the teen, who gave birth at home without any medical care to a now 4-month-old girl.
She struggled to care for herself while pregnant and her 3-year-old sister who had medical problems while they were home alone. But the teen said she was too scared to call for help even after the food and medication left by their mother ran out.
"The totality of evidence is leading investigators to believe she was almost a prisoner in her home," police Sgt. Chrissie Coon said. "Fugitives can psychologically confine their victims without physically being present."
The case first unraveled on April 1.
The teen was seen at McCarran International Airport with a very sick baby. The infant was hospitalized in extremely critical condition for severe malnutrition and hypothermia from surviving on watered-down baby formula.
In an interview with police, the teenager described abuse at home in detail, claiming Lachaux raped her without her mother knowing.
For the last five years, the family had lived in North Las Vegas, but the group of children rarely went outside and was homeschooled. The teen told police she has had braces on from five years ago but hasn't seen a dentist since.
In late March, she said her stepfather came home to hide her sister's corpse and then kicked her out of the house in fear that her mother would find out about the pregnancy. She survived for a few days homeless in public places, including at the airport and on the Las Vegas Strip.
The teen said the 3-year-old sister apparently had trouble breathing and died about a month ago. She called her parents for two weeks before Lachaux called back to learn of the death.
Lachaux and the teen apparently hid the badly decomposed body in the back seat of a broken-down Mercedes in the garage. The corpse was leaking fluids but was concealed in a box surrounded by blankets, plastic bags and pizza boxes, according to court records.
The coroner's office said it has not yet positively identified the body or the cause of death.
The teen is now being held in juvenile detention on a child abuse charge.
The other five children -- ages 1, 3, 4, 7, 8 and 9 -- were found with Phillips in good health and have been put in protective custody.
Preventing Child Abuse is Everyone's Responsibility
by Amaani Lyle -- DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, April 9, 2015 – The Defense Department observes April as the Month of the Military Child, and also recognizes this time of year as it pertains to a more sobering topic: National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
In a recent DoD news interview, Barbara Thompson -- director of DoD's Office of Family Readiness -- stressed that anyone aware of red flags and potential cases of abuse has an obligation to bring the concerns to light.
Learning how to support parents, identify risks and mitigate those risks are critical elements in child abuse prevention, she added.
“We have a role, each and every one of us, to support children's health and safety,” Thompson said. “Parenting is one of the hardest jobs and responsibilities that we'll ever have, and the one that also has the most love.”
Multipronged Approach to Prevent Abuse
DoD has taken a multipronged approach to help parents provide a safe, healthy, nurturing environment for their children, Thompson said. Through military treatment facilities, she added, perinatal nurses and doctors can support military families' unique needs. Pediatricians are among the most trusted sources of information for parents, she noted.
Thompson also discussed the New Parent Support Program, in which parents can seek help through family advocacy and even in-home visits to reinforce safety and help them avoid risks of neglect or abuse.
“You're moving every two to three years,” she said. “You're away from your extended family, or service members are deployed, which means we now have a stay-at-home parent who's by himself or herself, and we want to make sure the resources are available to strengthen their parenting skills.”
The National Center for Telehealth and Technology's website offers tips and tools to help military and veteran parents during different stages of their children's growth and development, Thomson said.
Military OneSource offers confidential, nonmedical counseling that helps parents learn communication skills to better identify and understand behavioral changes in their children, particularly those in the toddler stages, she added.
‘The Terrific Twos'
“[That phase] is sometimes called ‘The Terrible Twos,' but I like to call it ‘The Terrific Twos,' because children's budding personalities are developing,” she said, acknowledging that “it can be challenging when they're saying ‘no' to you all the time.”
But parents equipped with skills to offset children's challenging behaviors often develop confidence and openness to additional resources that will foster long-term readiness and flexibility in reacting to their child's unique personality, Thompson said.
“Children are very different,” she pointed out, “so what works for one of your children will not necessarily work for another one.”
Parents who return from deployments with visible or invisible injuries may particularly benefit from DoD and Military OneSource resources tailored to their specific needs, Thompson said.
Evidence Supports Protective Factors
Research and empirical evidence indicate that certain protective factors buffer and mitigate risks military families could experience, and working with schools, pediatricians, chaplains and child development staff members is key to keeping those avenues of communication open, Thompson said.
“We want to make sure that … parents are aware how important it is to foment a nurturing, attached relationship with their young children … and manage expectations from both the child's perspective as well as their perspective,” she said. “We know [having this information] reduces the risk of committing abuse, because you have these tools to help you catch yourself before it happens.”
Officials are seeking to eradicate the stigma behind identifying and reporting child abuse, Thompson said, and to promote communities' greater familiarity with the National Child Abuse Hotline and other resources designed to help parents who may be struggling with appropriate nurturing and disciplinary roles with their children.
“Each one of us has to take a stand to protect not only military children, but all children,” Thompson said.
Kentucky sees increase in child abuse victims
by Norton Health Care
Going into early April, many Kentuckians would like a top ranking, but not for this. Kentucky is among the top 10 worst states in the nation for the number of children who are abused and neglected, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services "Child Maltreatment 2013" report.
Kentucky ranked 10th in the number of child abuse victims. That is worse than the ranking from 2012, which was 13th.
On the bright side, Kentucky has seen a decrease in the number of child deaths because of child abuse and an improvement in ranking.
2012 deaths — 26 — Ranking 18th
2012 death rate — 2.55 — Ranking 15th
2013 deaths — 23 — Ranking 22nd
2013 death rate — 2.27 — Ranking 17th
Numbers from "Child Maltreatment 2013" report
"We treat so many issues as public health concerns: childhood obesity, Type 1 diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer," said Stephen P. Wright, M.D., medical director of Kosair Children's Hospital and chair of the Partnership to Eliminate Child Abuse. With more than 1,800 children abused in this country every day, why isn't child abuse viewed as a public health issue?
"As something that is 100 percent preventable," Wright said, "why aren't we doing everything we can to stop it?"
Strides have been made in Kentucky over the past several years, with the passage of House Bills 157 and 285, which required training for medical professionals and those who work with children, respectively. The training helps these individuals spot the early signs of child abuse that can lead to death.
"This is everyone's concern — not just professionals who deal with children," said Erin Frazier, M.D., pediatrician with Kosair Children's Hospital and U of L Physicians and a board member for Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky. "There is something each and every person can do to prevent abuse."
In recognition of April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, what can you do?
If you're a parent, and you feel yourself about to lose control, step away. Listen to your favorite song, take a few deep breaths or call a friend.
Keep a list of friends' or family members' phone numbers to call for support if you are feeling frustrated or angry.
Everyone can learn the TEN-4 bruising rule: Children under age 4 should not have bruising on the torso, ears or neck. Infants who are not mobile should never have any bruises. If you see these bruises, there is a good chance the child is being abused, and you can do something before it's too late.
If you know a parent who may need a break, offer to babysit so mom or dad can have an hour or two to themselves.
Offer to run an errand for a neighbor with small children who has difficulty getting out of the house. A small gesture like that can greatly reduce stress for the parent.
If you see someone about to raise their hand to a child, ask them if they need any assistance. Sometimes the situation just needs an interruption.
More ideas are available at DontHurtChildren.com.
In Kentucky, the number to call to report suspected child abuse is (877) KY-SAFE1 (597-2331). In Indiana, call (800) 800-5556. The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline, (800) 422-4453, offers professional crisis counselors who can provide intervention, information and referrals to emergency, social service and support resources. Calls are confidential.
The "Child Maltreatment 2013" report is available from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Children's Bureau at www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/child-maltreatment-2013.
Strategies can help stem child abuse
by Trevor Storrs and Abbe Hensley
Nobody likes to think about it. The mere thought of child abuse and its prevalence makes us cringe. Yet abuse and neglect are all around and often invisible to the outsider. According to the Kids Count Data Center, Alaska's rate of abuse and neglect is consistently among the highest in the nation.
Every year, thousands of children suffer from some form of maltreatment. In 2012, just fewer than 3,000 cases of abuse and neglect were substantiated by the state's Office of Children's Services. That represents only reported and substantiated cases. The number of unreported cases may be much higher.
We are not helpless in the face of this appalling fact. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, a nationwide effort to raise public awareness about and take effective steps to prevent child abuse and neglect.
We are using Child Abuse Prevention Month to promote one of the tools that is most effective at preventing abuse: parent resiliency. Extensive research has found that five factors are key to safe, stable and nurturing environments free of neglect and abuse. When these factors are present, they function like a protective shield keeping families safe and healthy.
There's no question that being a parent is stressful. The stress can come from all directions. A baby who won't stop crying. Moving to a new community. Losing your job. A rocky relationship. Substance abuse. Those are just some of the stressors that can cause a parent to snap.
We can never rid the world of stressors, but we can help people cope with them. Researchers in the field have concluded that how a parent responds to stressors is much more important than the stressor itself, in terms of how it affects families. If parents can manage stress and function well in the face of challenges, adversity and trauma, the whole family will weather the situation far better. That ability to manage stress is called resilience.
When parents are resilient, when they can manage their reactions to stressors in their lives, they feel better and can provide more nurturing attention to their child. Children who receive nurturing attention and develop secure emotional attachments with their parents are better equipped to develop their own internal resilience in the face of stress.
Some people seem like they're just born resilient, while others learn it from their own parents. Still others have never developed strong coping skills. The fact is, even parents who normally cope really well are human. Sometimes they lose it too.
The good news is that friends, relatives, neighbors and the community at large can help stressed-out parents become more resilient. Here's how:
• Use humor — laughter is one of the best de-stressors around.
• Talk to friends about your own issues or struggles with kids. Knowing others face the same challenges can help put them in perspective.
• If a parent you know appears to have reached overload levels, offer to care for the children for an hour or two to give the parent a breather. Even a little free time can be very therapeutic.
• If a relative seems overwhelmed, remind him of positive times you have shared or that he's recounted. “Hey, remember that fishing trip with the kids last summer and what fun they had camping?” Reliving good memories can have a downright visceral effect in diffusing stress.
Parent resilience is one of the five “protective factors,” so called because when they are present, families are much better able to cope with ordinary and not-so-ordinary challenges of daily life. In addition to parent resilience, the factors are having social connections, having concrete support in times of need, knowledge of parenting and child development and children with social and emotional competence.
Both the Alaska Children's Trust and Best Beginnings have more information on their websites — alaskachildrenstrust.org and bestbeginningsalaska.org.
Trevor Storrs is executive director of the Alaska Children's Trust. Abbe Hensley is executive director of Best Beginnings.
S. Mountain YMCA Presents ‘Kids Matter' Free Training on Child Sexual Abuse
We see it too often on the front page of the newspaper and now it even headlines the evening news – the nationally recognized research indicates the tragedy of Child Sexual Abuse is scarring children. Did you know that 1 in 10 children are sexually abused before their 18th birthday?
This crime against our most vulnerable is even harder to understand when you realize that 90% of victims know their abuser. While the recent allegation within our own South Orange/Maplewood community brings this issue home in a startling way, the reality is, it is happening to many other children in our neighborhoods and families.
The problem of child sexual abuse is complicated and multi-faceted. One of the most proactive and practical approaches to diminishing child sexual abuse
is to educate responsible adults in our community by providing tools to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.
In our community, we know that KIDS MATTER. The South Mountain YMCA, in partnership with the volunteers of Y TOGETHERHOOD, South Orange Rotary, Maplewood South Orange Kiwanis and Assemblyman John McKeon, invite EVERY member of our community to join us in taking a step to eliminate this tragedy and make a difference in the life of a child.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and the South Mountain YMCA is offering a FREE, evidence-based training on April 12, 2015 at The Woodland at 60 Woodland Road, in Maplewood.
We will also be providing a FREE interactive Mad Science show (for children ages 3 and above) in a separate room of The Woodlands under YMCA qualified and trained staff, to help facilitate your attendance at the Stewards of Children training.
Please consider joining us for this important initiative and share with others.
Here is a link directly to the registration page for your convenience – www.metroymcas.org/ preventnow Please click on this a brief podcast with volunteers discussing the format and intention of the training.
A flier is linked HERE with all information and online registration.
Victims right to report historic sexual abuse: experts
by Royce Millar and Henrietta Cook
Victims of childhood abuse are right to air their concerns and expect accountability from institutions they attended, even if the abuse occurred decades ago and may seem minor by the standards of the time.
That is the strong consensus among experts concerned that too many adults have suffered for years from sexual and other abuse left unaddressed from childhood.
Dr Cathy Kezelman AM, president of Adults Surviving Child Abuse, said adults were often reluctant to raise concerns about incidents in their childhood because of feelings of shame and concerns about how they might be judged.
"I think its important to understand that survivors themselves often struggle to name sexual abuse for what it is. They often minimise what happened to them as one of their coping mechanisms."
Dr Kezelman said there was no "hierarchy of trauma". "You can't sit outside someone's trauma and judge whether it has impacted or not impacted someone.
"Obviously there are different time and places. However there are still accountabilities and responsibilities for behaviours that occurred and have affected people decades later."
Dr Kezelman said that when concerns are raised with them, schools and other institutions concerned should openly acknowledge to the wider school community that complaints exist that need to be addressed.
"Survivors, knowing that other survivors have come forward, also then find the courage to come forward and seek help," she said.
Bernie Geary, the principal commissioner for the Commision for Victorian-based Children and Young People said the key question for victims is "what is harmful?".
He said that as a student of the Marist Brothers in Preston in the 1950s students lived in constant fear of "physical assault".
"Kids were assaulted. There was big men and they had power over children. Of course these things have an effect. It's what's harmful that matters."
He said victims of sexual and other assault were right to raise such issues, even if incidents took place decades before.
University of Sydney Professor of socio-legal research and policy Judy Cashmore AO said sexual abuse issues were now much more talked about than ever in the past, with the Royal Commission opening the way for the airing of long standing problems.
"One of reason it is being talked about more is that people are getting to a certain age and saying 'I realise now what happened then was abusive and that it actually harmed me. I want to take some control over my life and take some action about it.' "
Dr Cashmore said victims were often also concerned that perpetrators may have continued to abuse children, unchecked.
She rejected the notion that the Royal Commission and public airing of abuse allegations might lead to vexatious and trivial claims. She said research showed that those who report 20 or 30 years after the abusive incidents were much more likely to allege serious rather than minor offences. But she said abuse does not necessarily involve direct sexual or physical contact.
"It is a matter of whether the person felt threatened; if you're feeling very vulnerable, then it threatens your feelings of control; of who can be trusted in the world. That can have quite long term consequences, even if you don't feel physically harmed."
Dr Cashmore said that abuse victims often wanted recognition of the harm that had been caused from the institutions they attended.
Orange County leaders want action on child abuse
by Kate Santich
S oaring rates of child abuse in Orange County are driving officials to investigate the reasons behind the violence and expand services to at-risk families, leaders announced Tuesday.
The county had more than 13,800 reports of child abuse last year — the second-highest in the state, though it ranks only fifth in overall population. In the first three months of this year, eight children have died of suspected abuse or neglect, three of those believed to be homicides at the hands of their caregivers.
"Something has got to happen in this community," said longtime child-welfare advocate Dick Batchelor at a news conference releasing the latest statistics. "We can't have that many children being abused. We can't have that many children being killed."
State officials said statistics for other Central Florida counties were not immediately available.
Mayor Teresa Jacobs called for the Orange County Domestic Violence Commission, launched in 2013, to expand its focus to investigate child abuse. Its previous work, she noted, already has led to scores of recommendations and proposed legislation now being considered by lawmakers. Because the two problems often intersect, she said, it made sense to combine the effort. Several speakers agreed.
"As a judge, I saw this in domestic-violence court far too often," said Orange-Osceola Circuit Court Judge Alice Blackwell, who co-chairs the commission with Batchelor. "Children may be victimized or threatened as a way of punishing and controlling the adult victim of domestic violence. And children may be injured unintentionally when acts of violence occur in their presence."
One mother, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said her now-ex-husband beat and controlled her for five years before she managed to escape. The final straw, the 25-year-old said, was when her batterer turned his rage on their son, days before the toddler's second birthday.
"He left bruises all over his little body," she said. "After the abuse, my son actually started showing a lot of anger. He wouldn't even talk about his dad. He would say, 'He's not my father.'"
The boy and his older sister are now in treatment for their trauma.
Experts noted that even children who are not directly injured by the violence can have long-term problems.
"Studies have found that children who witness domestic violence tend to become more aggressive and fearful," Blackwell said. "They often suffer anxiety, depression and other trauma-related symptoms."
The aftermath very often extends into adulthood. William D'Aiuto, who leads the Central Florida region for the state's Department of Children and Families, said adult survivors are more likely than their peers to become addicted to drugs and alcohol, end up in prison or homeless and suffer mental illness rooted in trauma.
To counter the problem, Jacobs said all residents need to report suspected abuse.
"I grew up in a time when child abuse was somebody else's business. You didn't get involved," Jacobs said. "But I am calling on every citizen in Orange County … to make it your mission to get involved. If you see it, you have an obligation to report it. This problem hurts everyone who looks the other way."
Failure to report such abuse to the state hotline (1-800-962-2873) or law-enforcement became a felony in Florida in 2012.
Although the leaders didn't outline how they plan to tackle the issue — that will be the work of the commission — one factor likely to be scrutinized is a lack of affordable day care in a community where nearly half of families live near the federal poverty line.
Marie Martinez, operations manager of Orlando's Howard Phillips Center for Children & Families, where child-abuse victims are treated and counseled, noted that the county no longer has a "crisis nursery" as it did until 2009. There, overwhelmed parents could bring their children for a short respite — no questions asked.
Similarly, there is no longer any free child care available in the county, and the waiting list for subsidized care is at 7,000 names and growing, she said.
"What's happening is that parents are no longer taking their kids to child care, and especially for our families living in motels, that can be a pressure cooker," Martinez said. "You've got everybody living in one room, parents who are trying to work a minimum-wage job for as many hours as they can get, maybe getting very little sleep, and one child is crying and another is sick and a third is hungry. Those parents need some release valve, and those children need a safe haven."
The commission is supposed to hold its initial meeting late this month. Specifics have not been announced.
Victims demand changes to new child sex abuse inquiry
Home Office decision to exclude survivors of child sexual abuse from the advisory panel is 'dangerous step backwards' says new letter to Theresa May
by David Barrett
The Government's child sex abuse inquiry is facing further turmoil after survivors and campaigners condemned the new set-up as “discriminatory”.
In a letter delivered to the Home Office more than 500 signatories voiced their strong objections to a decision by Theresa May, the Home Secretary, to exclude survivors from the inquiry panel.
Mrs May went back to the drawing board last month after a series of false starts and set up a new four-strong panel to hear the inquiry alongside Justice Lowell Goddard, a senior New Zealand judge.
Unlike the first panel, it did not include any adult victims of sexual abuse and a separate victims and survivors consultative panel is due to be created to advise the main inquiry.
In the new letter, child protection campaigners said it was a “dangerous step backwards” which needed “rectifying”.
“Many adult victims of rape will also be impacted by this discriminatory measure,” said the letter.
“It appears to say to disclosed survivors that they are not good enough, that they are not competent enough and too damaged to take part in any assessment of what has happened.”
It went on: “If the inquiry panel cannot be trusted by those who have been abused then its findings will never be accepted.
“If the inquiry panel does not include survivors every other measure such as the proposed victims and survivors consultative panel and the online blog will not only appear to be tokenistic but will be tokenistic.”
It was signed by a number of abuse survivors and professionals in child protection including Jim Gamble, the former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, the police body which tackles online child sex abuse.
The letter went on: “If this inquiry is to go ahead ?as currently proposed, the elimination of disclosed abuse survivors from full membership of the panel on the grounds of lack of ‘objectivity' is a dangerous step backwards and needs rectifying.”
It proposed giving the victims panel the power to elect two new members to join the main inquiry panel “to represent the views of survivors”.
The inquiry will examine claims that children suffered organised sexual abuse by groups which centred on Westminster and other British institutions incluing the BBC and the Church.
The first two people selected to be the abuse inquiry's chairman - Baroness Butler-Sloss, a former senior judge, and Dame Fiona Woolf, a prominent City lawyer – had to step down following accusations that they were too close to the establishment to be independent.
It emerged last month that Scotland Yard is being investigated over claims that it covered up child sex abuse because of the involvement of influential MPs and police officers.
Minors most prevalent sexual assault victims
by Chris Balusik
CHILLICOTHE – Considering who the majority of victims of reported sexual abuse in southern Ohio are, it seemed only appropriate that a child would be the first to strut his stuff at the annual Take a Walk in Her Shoes event Tuesday at Ohio University-Chillicothe.
That's because out of the 154 sexual abuse survivors in 2014 from the 15 counties serviced by Adena Health System's Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program and Southern Ohio Sexual Assault Survivor Advocates, 55 percent were minors.
"Before I started this (SANE coordinating) position, I always thought that the victims we were going to service were going to be mostly adults and that we might, occasionally, get children," said Julie Fairchild, who shares coordinator duties with Jamie Myers. "It was surprising for me to realize the high prevalence of children that it effects."
That, in turn, affects how to best serve victims for the dozen nurse examiners and the SOSA volunteers who work with victims following abusive situations.
"The language barrier and the understanding of children (make it different)," Fairchild said. "Adults can kind of comprehend what's happened to them while children don't understand at all. We provide for them and we refer them to different agencies. The Child Protection Center does follow-up and counseling."
Now in its sixth year, the Take a Walk in Her Shoes — which has primarily men and children strutting their stuff wearing high heels or other women's shoes — serves as the largest local sexual assault awareness event of the year.
Stacey Saunders-Adams said it not only reminds area residents of the prevalence of sexual assault in southern Ohio but also of the need for more SOSA volunteers to provide emotional support to victims during sexual assault exams.
That effort can be difficult because becoming a volunteer does take the dedication to complete the training and be available when a need arises.
"We're desperate," Saunders-Adams said. "We provided 24-hour-per-day coverage when the program first started, now we're down to maybe a few nights per week."
And though the 2014 numbers of reported abuse victims might be down slightly from previous years, Saunders-Adams said, the figures are probably misleading as the number of times sexual assault is overlaid with such things as human trafficking and opioid abuse, the odds are that many cases go unreported.
"While the numbers are going down, I don't think it's something we can necessarily celebrate," she said.
People interested in learning more about becoming a SOSA survivor advocate can email SOSA@adena.org.
Pa. bill would add computer techs to mandated reporters
by Myles Snyder
HARRISBURG — Computer technicians who find child pornography would be required to report it under legislation introduced in the Pennsylvania legislature.
Sen. Rob Teplitz, a Democrat representing Dauphin and Perry counties, said his proposal, Senate Bill 583, would add computer technicians to the list of mandated child-abuse reporters.
Under the measure, techs who find child pornography on a computer while doing their jobs would have to report it to the Department of Human Services child abuse reporting hotline. The bill is currently in the Senate Aging and Youth Committee.
Teplitz said he introduced two other bills to strengthen Pennsylvania's laws on sexual assault and abuse.
Senate Bill 582 would raise the age for an adult victim of child sex abuse to file a civil claim from 30 years old to 50 years old.
Senate Bill 302 would require every law enforcement agency involved in the investigation of a sexual assault case to give written notice to Pennsylvania State Police the number of cases in its possession that have not been submitted to a laboratory for testing.
Rolling Stone case hinders assault reporting, victim advocate says
by Allison M. Roberts
In November, Rolling Stone magazine published a story — “A Rape on Campus” — about a University of Virginia student who claimed she was gang raped at a fraternity house.
The story was later discredited and retracted because editors felt that the author, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, wrote a story that wasn't true.
Getting sexual assault victims to come forward and report an assault is already difficult, but when stories like this surface, it makes that even more difficult, said Mary Jones, sexual assault victim advocate with the YWCA of Central Virginia.
“There is a preconceived notion that women do lie about sexual assault and that many women falsely make rape allegations,” Jones said. “It's already bad in people's minds so something like this is just going to make it worse.”
Jones works with a number of victims in the Dan River Region and surrounding counties. She has worked with a number of people who didn't want to come forward initially because they feared people wouldn't believe them.
There is one victim Jones is working with who is being called a liar by the friends of her accused attacker. Another victim — a school-aged child — is being homeschooled because people don't believe the story about the attack and calling it a lie.
“Something like [publication of the article] this goes out into the community and people hear it and they feel like that's what other people are doing,” Jones said. “It can hinder people who have actually been abused from coming forward because they'll think no one believes them. That part bothers me a lot.”
In 2014, there were 249 victims in Danville, Halifax and Pittsylvania counties who sought the services offered by Jones' office. Currently, there are 47 children and 13 adults receiving those services.
The ages of those victims range from 3 months old to 73 years old, and 60 percent of the children who were abused received the abuse by a family member. Those numbers from Jones are much larger than the number of forcible rapes and other forcible sexual offenses reported to local law enforcement — Danville had 32 in 2013 and Pittsylvania County had 64.
With April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Jones is working to help the public understand this widespread issue.
Saturday, Haven of the Dan River Region will host its Walk to End Domestic Violence. Registration begins at 9 a.m. on the Danville courthouse steps. The walk will begin at 10 a.m. and finish at Ballou Park.
The proceeds from the walk will go toward helping victims of domestic violence.
Jones will be at the walk on Saturday passing out information about another event she is working on.
April 29 is Denim Day, an international campaign that began in 1999 after the Italian Supreme Court overturned a rape conviction because the victim was wearing jeans.
The idea behind Denim Day, Jones explained, is for people to wear jeans “to show solidarity with survivors of sexual assault and state that a person's clothing choice is never an invitation for rape.”
For more information or to register for the Haven walk, call (434) 797-9889 or visit the Haven of the Dan River Region Facebook page.
For more information about Denim Day, contact Mary Jones at (434) 710-2174 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Child abuse awareness campaign begins
by Darren Whitehead and Anastasiya Bolton
DENVER - The Colorado Department of Human Services launched its new statewide public awareness campaign Tuesday to combat child abuse and neglect.
The campaign features TV and Internet ads, and promotion of CDHS' child abuse hotline. The hotline number is 1-800-CO-4-KIDS (264-5437).
A main reason for the campaign is that CDHS says that more than 50 percent of Colorado adults say they have personally met a child they suspected was a victim of abuse or neglect, but fewer than half of those adults know the proper steps to take to report the suspected abuse.
In 2013, 9Wants To Know and the Denver Post launched the "Failed to Death" investigation, featuring more than 70 children who had died while their cases were in the hands of various county departments of human services. 9Wants To Know uncovered there was no single number people could call to report abuse, which made reporting difficult. What if you didn't know the county where the child resided? What if you couldn't find the right number to call? Some counties didn't even have a person answering the phone.
"Today is an exciting day," said Julie Krow, deputy executive director of Community Partnerships for the Colorado Department of Human Services, "because we're rolling out a state-wide hotline, it's something that we never had before. It's a huge monumental step forward for kids in Colorado."
CDHS and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper admit more needs to be done to protect kids.
The agency asked the legislature for about $6.1 million dollars to fund additional case workers. According to the fiscal note, the agency wants 100 positions total, with 85 case workers, 11.5 supervisors and 3.5 case workers.
"Counties will be required to pay a 10 percent match to receive the funding," Krow said.
Unless they are exempt from this requirement.
"We knew we needed additional case workers, but we also needed to do some things to modernize our system," Krow said. "Once we've done that we'll see where we are. We may come back and ask for more. Not certain about that yet."
Krow said part of the funding for the crisis line will go to updating the agency's case management system that dates back to 1980s.
The money also paid for additional call takers, their training and certification.
CDHS says the campaign is part of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper's "Keeping Kids Safe and Families Healthy" child welfare plan.
"I think the most important thing is we don't accept where we are, that we are committed to improving this," Gov. Hickenlooper said. "You can only measure yourself against other states, and we're not the top, we've got a ways to go. Having a hotline like this, having more staff and more training, so they don't have quite so many cases to carry, this should make significant improvements in our outcome."
Learn more about the program here: https://sites.google.com/a/state.co.us/cdhs-dcw/reportchildabuse
Colorado Office of Children, Youth & Families: https://sites.google.com/a/state.co.us/cdhs-dcw/reportchildabuse
Bella Vista Boy's Death Caused By Rape And Chronic Child Abuse, Prosecutor Says
by Zuzanna Sitek
BENTON COUNTY (KFSM) – The death of a 6-year-old boy in Bella Vista was caused by injuries related to rape and chronic child abuse, according to the Benton County prosecutor.
Maurice Isaiah Torres' biological parents, Mauricio Alejandro Torres, 45, and Cathy Lynn Torres, 43, were arrested Monday (April 6) and are facing charges of capital murder, rape and first-degree battery in connection to his death, Prosecutor Nathan Smith said.
On Sunday, March 29 at approximately 11:33 p.m., Cathy Torres placed a 911 call from her home on Cresswell Circle in Bella Vista saying her son had stopped breathing, according to a probable cause affidavit released on Tuesday (April 7).
When emergency medical personnel from the Bella Vista Fire Department arrived at the house they found the boy unresponsive and lying on his back on the living room floor, the affidavit states. Before leaving the Torres' home to take Maurice Isaiah Torres, who goes by Isaiah, to Mercy Hospital in Bella Vista, the medics noticed numerous lacerations and severe bruising on the child and notified the Bella Vista Police Department about the situation, according to the affidavit.
When the child arrived at the hospital doctors attempted lifesaving treatment, but were unable to revive him and Isaiah was pronounced dead at the hospital at 12:23 a.m. on Monday, March 30, according to the affidavit.
The firefighters who responded to the 911 call told police that when they asked Mauricio and Cathy Torres about what happened to their son, the parents told them they had just returned from a camping trip and were unaware of any event or medical history that would have caused Isaiah's condition, the affidavit states.
When the firefighters put Isaiah on a cot to take him into the ambulance they noticed heavy bruising and puncture wounds all over his body, according to the affidavit.
Upon closer inspection, police found cuts on Isaiah's head, knees and upper feet, as well as multiple wounds on his back and major bruising on his right side, the affidavit states. As doctors told police Isaiah also had signs of blunt trauma to his head, trunk and arms and legs, as well as multiple superficial lacerations and bruises, a nurse notified them that blood had been found in the boy's rectum, according to the affidavit.
Doctors told police that Mauricio Torres attributed the injuries to Isaiah's back to a chemical burn in that past and that he had been treated for the injuries at Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock, the affidavit states.
Officers took the entire Torres family to the police department where Mauricio and Cathy were separated, according to the affidavit.
In her interview, Cathy Torres told police the family had gone on an overnight camping trip to Hollister, Missouri and arrived home around 10 p.m. on March 29, the affidavit states. She said Isaiah had complained of a stomachache earlier that day, but fell asleep on the drive home after taking some Pepto-Bismol and appeared normal when the family got home, according to the affidavit. Torres told officers she also gave Isaiah some green tea before he went to bed because his stomach was still hurting and when she returned moments later, he wasn't breathing, the affidavit states.
When a detective confronted Cathy Torres stating the injuries on Isaiah's body appeared to be a result of child abuse, Cathy denied causing the injuries, but when asked if her husband caused them she stated “I didn't do it, let's say that,” according to the affidavit. When confronted about Isaiah's nose appearing to have been broken, she replied that it had always been a little crooked, the affidavit states.
Cathy Torres told detectives that she and Mauricio rarely spank the kids and that her husband is loving with the children, according to the affidavit.
In his interview, Mauricio Torres confirmed that the family arrived home from their trip late Sunday night and that Isaiah had complained of a stomachache, had diarrhea and vomited a small amount, the affidavit states. Mauricio also told detectives he had trouble waking Isaiah up after the ride home and that Cathy had helped him take a shower before putting him to bed, according to the affidavit. Mauricio said he asked Cathy about whether they should take Isaiah to the emergency room, but Cathy said the hospital wouldn't admit him for just a stomachache, the affidavit states.
When detectives confronted Mauricio about the injuries on Isaiah's body, he denied any knowledge of them and stated that police will have to ask his wife about that, according to the affidavit.
After taking a break, detectives said Mauricio was worried about the possibility that Cathy had cut a deal with police to blame him for Isaiah's death and told officers that whenever he asked about the child's injuries Cathy told him he fell, the affidavit states. Mauricio went on to tell detectives that he had never witnessed Cathy doing anything to Isaiah and that she knows he wouldn't betray her, according to the affidavit.
On the morning of March 30, the boy's sisters, ages 6 and 8, who also lived in the Bella Vista home, were taken by DHS to the Children's Advocacy Center in Little Flock so that they could be interviewed regarding the circumstance of Isaiah's death, the affidavit states.
The children told interviewers that Isaiah had a stomachache the day they returned from the camping trip and Mauricio had to carry their brother into the house when they arrived home, according to the affidavit. The sisters helped undress Isaiah so that he could take a bath and when Mauricio carried him into the shower, Isaiah fell, the affidavit states. The girls said Isaiah was acting strange and was not really awake when Cathy put him to bed after the shower, according to the affidavit.
On March 30, The Bella Vista Police Department conducted a search of the Torres' home after obtaining a search warrant. Inside they discovered what appeared to be blood spatter on the walls, floor and ceiling of the master bedroom and attached bathroom, the affidavit states. Officers also found what appeared to be blood spatter on two 15 pound dumbbells found next to the bathtub, a fire poker tool on the floor by the bed, vomit on the bed and a stethoscope, according to the affidavit.
During an interview on March 31, Cathy Torres told detectives the only time she had not been with Isaiah between Friday, March 27 and Sunday, March 29 was when she went to Lowe's for 45 minutes around 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, the affidavit states.
Cathy then acknowledged seeing her husband inflict injuries on Isaiah in the past, including hitting the child with a belt, an extension cord and his knuckles, according to the affidavit. She also admitted to seeing Isaiah bleed as a result of some of these incidents, the affidavit states. Cathy stated that when Mauricio would spank Isaiah he would threaten to hit him again if he cried because he had to learn to be a man, according to the affidavit. She then told detectives that she knows it's her fault for what happened to Isaiah because she didn't stop her husband from hurting him, the affidavit states.
Detectives conducted another interview with Cathy Torres on April 1, during which she told them Mauricio hurt Isaiah, but denied knowing about the child being raped despite autopsy findings, the affidavit states. She also told detectives she's scared of her husband and shouldn't have let fear take control of her life, according to the affidavit.
Cathy told detectives the first time she had seen Mauricio hit Isaiah was around January after Christmas, according to the affidavit. She then described two incidents, one involving an electrical cord and another involving Mauricio's knuckles, where Isaiah bled and her husband told him to take a shower, the affidavit states. Cathy stated that after making him take a shower, Mauricio would put Neosporin on Isaiah's injuries, according to the affidavit.
According to Cathy, when her husband would come home from work, their daughters would tattle on Isaiah so Mauricio would gather everyone for a discussion in the bedroom to tell them what they were supposed to do, the affidavit states. Mauricio would then send Cathy and the girls out of the room so that he could spank Isaiah, according to the affidavit.
On April 3, the Bella Vista and Bentonville Police Departments searched a camper trailer used by the Torres family during their trip to Hollister, Missouri, according to the affidavit. Inside they found a large circle of what appeared to be blood on one of the mattresses after it had been flipped over to hide the stain, as well as other areas of suspected blood spatter throughout the camper, the affidavit states.
On March 31, the Arkansas State Medical Examiner conducted an autopsy on Isaiah and ruled his manner of death was homicide, according to the affidavit. The cause of death was acute peritonitis due to rectal trauma, which occurred within 24 hours of Isaiah's death, the affidavit states. The medical examiner's office also noted multiple healing, healed and acute blunt force injuries to Isaiah's head, trunk and arms and legs and said the child had suffered repeated, significant abusive injuries, according to the affidavit.
To read the probable cause affidavit from police, click here.
Benton County Prosecutor Nathan Smith said it's too early to determine whether he plans to seek the death penalty in this case.
On Tuesday (April 7), Benton County Circuit Judge Brad Karren ordered Cathy and Mauricio Torres be held without bond at the Benton County Detention Center, upholding the no-bail request made by Smith.
The couple is scheduled to appear in court on May 18.
Smith said all of the Torres children had been home-schooled and the affidavit shows Isaiah and his six-year-old sister shared the same birthday.
The Samaritan Community Center in Rogers and Springdale also released a statement after learning about Isaiah's death. According to the center's Director of Community Relations, Isaiah, his mother and his two sisters had been volunteers there for over three years. Their volunteer efforts were part of a large group of families volunteering as part of Cathy's employer's community outreach program, according to the statement.
“We are absolutely heartbroken to hear of Isaiah's death and our thoughts and prayers are with his two sisters,” said Executive Director Debbie Rambo. “Our staff has discussed the family's volunteer efforts with the Bella Vista Police Department as part of their investigation into his death with no unusual or significant information being disclosed.”
The Health Care Hiring website lists a Maurice A. Torres as a Medicaid provider in Arkansas. The address listed on the website matches the address listed for Mauricio Torres in the probable cause affidavit. His specialties listed on the website include adolescent and children mental health and ambulatory health care facilities.
Statewide campaign encourages reporting child abuse, neglect
by Michelle San Miguel
PUEBLO, Colo. -- The majority of people who report suspected child abuse and neglect are mandated by the state to do so, but a new statewide campaign aims to get more people to call.
The Colorado Department of Health and Human Services launched a campaign this month featuring TV ads and billboards to raise awareness about reporting child abuse.
Karen Pietrolungo, whose daughter died of suspected child abuse on Aug. 27, hopes the campaign prevents other kids from falling victim.
Pietrolungo's 2-year-old daughter, Chassie, died from injuries she sustained after falling down a flight of stairs while under the care of foster parents Sarah and Paul Finn. Police also suspect that child abuse contributed to her injuries.
"She had bruises to her eyes, her face, her nose. And her back and buttocks. And she had a head injury. And she was in a coma," Pietrolungo said.
Coloradans are encouraged to call a toll-free hotline number at 1-844-CO-4-KIDS to report abuse. The call is routed to the county where the child lives. Once the county receives the call, a team of three to eight case workers meet to decide how they should respond to the call, said Lee Hodge, child welfare program administrator for the Pueblo County Department of Social Services.
According to the state, 72 percent of the reports of suspected child abuse and neglect were made by mandatory reporters, such as physicians and firefighters, between 2013-2014. Family members account for 16 percent of the calls and the general public consisted of 12 percent of the calls.
State statistics provided by the state Department of Health and Human Services indicate the most common reason for not reporting child abuse and neglect is because people said they didn't know enough about the situation. But Hodge encourages people to call social services and let them decide.
"It's entirely possible that there are kids that are out there that are being harmed or being left alone and not able to care for themselves that we're not able to assess and we're not able to reach out to those families and help those families," Hodge said.
Pietrolungo hopes people make the call -- in honor of her little girl.
Sarah and Paul Finn are due back in court later this month.
Taking steps to help children feel valued
by Kathleen Riggs
When a child hears words like: “Great job! You have worked hard and it paid off!” that young person may want to work even harder.
When a child hears words like: “Shut up! Who said you could say anything?” a child may not even try to speak up next time.
When a youth is given a caring touch or pat on the shoulder or a hug that says someone cares, the young person may feel good about who she is and think good thoughts about herself.
When a youth is yanked by the shirt or arm and told to sit down and shut up, he may feel he has done something wrong even though he hasn't.
Each of these interactions can impact how a young person feels about himself/herself and is known as positive or negative self-esteem. Self-esteem is based on how much or the degree to which a person feels accepted and valued by friends, parents, other adults, etc.
According to preventchildabuse.org , about 27 percent of all reported child abuse is considered emotional abuse. But how can we, as caring adults, recognize emotional maltreatment of a child and what steps can be taken to protect a child and prevent future?
Consider the possibility of emotional maltreatment when the child:
•Shows extremes in behavior, such as overly compliant or demanding behavior, extreme passivity or aggression
•Is either inappropriately adult (parenting other children, for example) or inappropriately infantile (frequently rocking or head-banging, for example)
•Is delayed in physical or emotional development
•Has attempted suicide
•Reports a lack of attachment to the parent
Consider the possibility of emotional maltreatment when the parent or other adult caregiver:
•Constantly blames, belittles, or berates the child
•Is unconcerned about the child and refuses to consider offers of help for the child's school problems
•Overtly rejects the child
Many times, extenuating circumstances create stress within marriages and families. Children are easy targets but caring family members, communities, neighbors and faith-based leaders can step in and offer assistance. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services offers 20 ways interested persons can offer assistance to families and individuals appearing to be near crisis so children don't get caught in the middle. The entire list can be found in an article titled “20 Ways You Can Help Prevent Child Abuse” on their website: childrensadvocacycenter.org. Here are just a few highlights from that site.
•Be a friend to a parent. Listen. Sometimes just being able to express anger and frustrations helps ease tensions.
•Praise and encourage children you know. Mean words can make a child feel worthless, ugly and unloved, and the hurt can last a lifetime. So, be positive.
•Be a mentor. Help a pregnant teen learn parenting skills.
•Understand which children are most likely to be abused. Children who are most likely to be abused are children who are mentally slow, premature, unwanted, stubborn, inquisitive, demanding, or have a disability.
Helping children and youth feel valued is part of building a healthy self-esteem. Parents, teachers, relatives, friends and neighbors all play key roles in preventing various types of child abuse — especially emotional abuse — by practicing positive reinforcement. Be actively aware of children and families in your neighborhood. Be the one to make a positive difference in the life of a child.
Kathleen Riggs is the Utah State University Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Professor for Iron County. Questions or comments may be sent to email@example.com or call 435-586-8132 .
Recognizing and preventing child abuse
Every 10 seconds a report is made concerning a child being abused. Child abuse can lead to life-long physical, emotional and psychological conditions. Each year in the U.S., more than 1,600 children die from abuse or neglect. April is National Child Abuse Awareness Month and Loyola University Health System is working with physicians, nurses, parents and communities to help bring awareness to this preventable childhood danger.
"The trauma of abuse or neglect of a child can have life-long consequences. The physical wounds heal but research is showing that the effects on a child's social, emotional and future physical health is far more damaging than we once thought," said Mary E. Jones, MD, child advocacy physician at Loyola University Health System.
Child abuse is divided into four types: physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse and emotional maltreatment. Most children suffer from a combination of these types. The first step to helping an abused child is to recognize the signs.
"One of the major challenges in knowing when a child is suffering maltreatment is that the child rarely discloses to anyone that the abuse is occurring," Jones said.
Here are a few signs that a child might be dealing with abuse:
•Shows sudden changes in behavior or school performance
•Has not received help for physical or medical problems brought to the parents' attention
•Is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen
•Lacks adult supervision
•Is overly compliant, an overachiever or too responsible
•Comes to school early, stays late and does not want to go home
More important than awareness is prevention when it comes to keeping children safe from abuse.
"All families can use a little help and families with limited resources or those with other challenges have an even greater need. When families have access to resources that offer information, support and guidance that help them meet the challenges of parenting we have a greater chance of keeping children safe while fostering the well-being of the entire family," Jones said.
Here are a few ways you can help:
1.Be a nurturing parent. Your child needs to know he or she is loved and special from you.
2.Help a friend, neighbor or relative. Parenting is hard and a 24/7 job. By offering to help you can relieve stress and help a parent to refocus.
3.Take a Parent Time Out. Dealing with lots of issues or when a child is crying uncontrollably can cause parents to feel out of control. If you feel yourself starting to lose control or overwhelmed take a time out for yourself. Make sure your child is in a safe location and remove yourself for a few minutes to calm down.
4.Help out. Get involved in community efforts to prevent child abuse such as ensuring there are free resources for parents and kids in local libraries, schools and other community areas.
5.Monitor your child's television, video and Internet use. Children are influenced by what they see. Make sure they aren't watching violent TV shows or playing violent games. Also, it's easy for predators to disguise themselves online so set limits and make sure you know what your child is doing while playing games or just spending time on the Internet.
6.Report suspected abuse or neglect. If you believe a child has been or may be harmed, contact your local police department or the department of child and family services.
"Children are our most valuable resources and will shape the future of our community. We all must play a role in ensuring their social and emotional well-being. When we focus on building protective factors in families, such as nurturing, knowledge of child development and age-appropriate expectations, parental resilience and concrete family supports, we can reduce or eliminate the risk of maltreatment. Children are then able grow up in safe, stable and nurturing environments," said Jones.
The Benefits of Children Growing Up With Pets
by Dr. Gail Gross
My very dear friend is a horse whisperer, who has helped many children with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) heal. One day while having lunch together, I asked her to explain to me why animals, and horses in particular, help children with PTSD recover. She explained to me that children of abuse and domestic violence, as well as children who have physical and emotional challenges, respond to horses (and other animals) because they intuitively recognize that they can trust them.
Children who are emotionally and physically injured and abused have no voice, and often are emotionally and physically paralyzed, unable to express themselves. These children are frozen, and yet, as they sit astride a big, powerful horse, they learn to trust once again, relax and surrender to the movement of their new ally. A horse neither judges nor criticizes, but loves unconditionally. And not only does he respond with nonverbal cues, such as sound, nuzzling, and picking up his ears, but he is also honest, and will not let your child get away with anything -- no deception, no deceit. Further, because a child burdened with either physical or emotional challenges or abuse is often cloaked in dishonesty, he may encounter for the first time, a friend whom he can count on to not let him down.
When a horse carries your child, who feels small and powerless, his very movement relaxes your child and restores control through action. And when riding his horse, your child can find a safe place of unconditional acceptance and love with his best friend and therapist... his horse.
The history of mankind's initial connection with domesticated animals has long been debated, but a discovery in Israel of a man buried with his arms around a wolf-pup dating back 12,000 years, may be evidence of just how long ago humans discovered the benefits of having pets. Today, many families love their pets and consider their pets to be members of their own families. Whether you choose a cat, a dog, a horse, or a rabbit, the benefits to raising children in a home with pets are great.
Here are some benefits to adding a pet to your family:
1. Pets give unconditional love. They are non-judgmental, and, especially for only children, lonely children, or children who have sibling rivalry or emotional distress, a pet gives them someone to talk to. A pet can comfort, give support, and listen to a child's troubles without judgment or consequence. And, when playing, a pet can become your child's partner and best buddy.
2. A pet can teach a child that he doesn't have to take out his anger or fear on others. Some children become bullies and if they don't have a safe place to share their truest emotions, they may project those emotions onto other children. Because a pet will love your child no matter what he says, a pet gives him a confidant, a safe place in which to verbally pour out his fears and his anger.
3. A pet can teach empathy. Caring for a pet that is so dependent on you teaches empathy. Your child learns to read your pet's needs: is he hungry? Does he need to go outside? Maybe the pet is scared of the wind, rain or snow and needs to be comforted. Moreover, empathy is the one skill that can be taught and a skill that bullies often lack.
4. A pet can teach confidence and responsibility. Children can gain confidence by having the responsibility of caring for a pet. Children as young as three years old can manage simple tasks such as filling the pet's water and food bowls. As your child gets older, he can groom and walk the pet.
5. Animals can help socialize children and increase verbal skills. You've likely seen even little kids who are still learning to talk attempting to chatter away with pets. In this way, pets give not only social and emotional support but also cognitive language skill support to children. A pet's simple presence provides verbal stimulus to help your child practice talking and socializing with another being.
6. Pets (and animals in general) can be very therapeutic for children. Studies have shown how pets can help lower blood pressure, speed up recovery time, and reduce stress and anxiety. We see this with troubled children and Autistic children, and, as my horse whisperer friend has, with children who experience PTSD: when they are with animals they can immediately relate because they sense the animals are unconditional in their love and affection.
Trusted adults make a difference when SouthCoast kids go missing
by Auditi Guha
It is every parent's worst nightmare when a child doesn't return home.
When her 16-year-old daughter disappeared after heading out to catch the bus on March 2, Maria Pavao of New Bedford said she feared the worst. For 15 harrowing days, she called the police, the media and rallied the community, praying for her daughter Amanda's safe return.
On a Tuesday afternoon last month, 16 days after she went missing, Maria got a call from Detective Christopher Cotter, rushed to the police station, and was reunited with her daughter.
Police Chief David A. Provencher said he is pleased there was a positive outcome in this case and warned parents to remain vigilant.
“Contact police if you feel your child is at risk. Get the information out there. Do everything you can to help them come home safely,” he said.
A junior at Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational-Technical High School, Amanda turned herself in to School Resource Officer Leanne Fisher around 3:30 p.m. that Tuesday.
Working in schools for eight years, Fisher said she tries to be visible and talks with students regularly.
“Kids don't like to follow rules, but we talk to them about consequences when they don't,” she said. “I try to teach them about handling stressful situations.”
The high school has faced about one missing child every couple of years and in most cases, the students come back, said Voc-Tech Principal Linda Enos.
“Naturally we are worried every time an underage child goes missing,” she said. “We are not faced with it very often, but when it does happen it causes a lot of tension and worrying.”
It helps to have a lot of resources, after-school activity, and a tight-knit community. When students work in shop and talk casually for instance, teachers listen and help out if they hear or spot problems and “it makes a difference,” Enos said.
Jimmy Owens, director of guidance and pupil services at Voc-Tech, said the school has a re-entry program for dropouts or runaways to help them regain their footing and catch up. This includes academic coaching, counseling, meeting with parents or guardians and other support services.
“Overall, we try to address the social, emotional issues so that (the problem) does not recur,” he said. “My goal is to have someone in school they can trust and reach out to.”
In Amanda's case, that person was Fisher.
Having an officer in school has helped prevent problems in the past, Enos said. They wear uniforms, are visible, and are always around, whether at lunchtime in the cafeteria or at the bus when kids are leaving.
A day after Amanda contacted her, Fisher was recognized by the school for her good work and given a standing ovation.
“It's awkward because I'm just doing my job,” Fisher said.
It is important for youth and teens to have a trusted adult either at home, school, church, or a community organization so they can speak with someone when something is bothering them, said Gail Fortes, executive director of YWCA Southeastern Massachusetts, who dealt with a missing child once in an afterschool program.
“Some youth run away from home because they do not feel supported, valued, understood, listened to and loved at home. Some also run away with a boyfriend/girlfriend because they are not allowed to see each other,” Fortes said. “These runaways often get kidnapped. Runaways and missing children are very vulnerable to people that will exploit them for sex trafficking, abuse, and exploitation. The children/teens are looking for love and validation and often they find it in the wrong places.”
Fortes remembered a 10-year-old boy who was referred to a Y program after he was found to be a repeat runaway.
“He used to run away from his foster homes because he felt he that no one wanted him and he felt unloved and had no stability or anyone at home that cared about him. Every time he was upset or angry about something he would run away. He did not care about himself anymore and had really low self worth and self esteem,” she said.
Michelle Loranger, executive director at the Bristol County Children's Advocacy Center, said there are two categories of runaway youth: those who have faced some family discord and are acting out, or those in the child welfare system who don't have a connection with family members and seek what they think is a better deal.
Many of the latter end up in sex trafficking or human trafficking situations because it is easy for preying adults to manipulate them, Loranger said.
“There are many different reasons for which an adolescent will choose to leave the home and go missing,” she said. “There are usually a lot of signs.”
These range from anger and unusual behavior to kids threatening to run away. The solution, Loranger said, is communication.
“Communication is really key. If that's a problem, seek help from someone the child is comfortable with or with a therapist,” she said. “You have to assess what's at the root of the problem and see what resonates with the child.”
The center has the tools to assist families going through issues such as missing children and can direct them to the right resources.
Not all happy endings
Pavao's story had a happy ending, but for many families it can be an endless wait.
There are 59 children missing in Massachusetts this week, including one from New Bedford, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's database online.
Last year the FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC) recorded 466,949 entries for missing children younger than 18.
With better laws, training, technology and public awareness, the recovery rate of missing children has jumped from 62 percent in 1990 to more than 97 percent today and more long-term missing children are being recovered, according to the NCMEC website.
It all started with one missing child and his concerned parents.
When 6-year-old Adam Walsh was abducted from a Florida shopping mall in 1981, his parents were shocked to find there was no coordinated effort among law enforcement or any national organizations to help find him.
Adam was later found brutally murdered and his parents, John and Revé Walsh, established the Adam Walsh Outreach Center for Missing Children in Florida to serve as a national resource for families with missing children.
As the national movement grew, Congress enacted the Missing Children's Act in 1982, which jumpstarted the FBI's NCIC. The NCMEC opened in 1984 and the Walsh Outreach Center merged with it in 1990.
The YWCA's Fortes said she understands how traumatic the experience can be for families of missing children.
“This must be so hard for parents,” she said. “I think that families and adults in general have to be aware of what is going on with their child and take time to talk with them and really listen to what they are saying and not saying; know who their friends are and be aware of signs that something is wrong.”
Foster Children "Bill of Rights" Passed
by Dave Dahl
llinois foster children would benefit from their own Bill of Rights, under a bill that a state House committee has passed. The bill has 27 rights.
This is good for Illinois, James McIntyre told the committee, because it gets us in compliance with federal statutes saying that each state needs to have a set Bill of Rights for their kids. Right now, we have guidelines, and each (providing) agency has (its) own set of rights. McIntyre is a co-founder of the Illinois chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America.
We're getting children access to it, said the sponsor, State Rep. Litesa Wallace (D-Rockford), and putting it all in one concise place.
Another lawmaker was concerned about enforcement in case somebody does not follow the rules.
The rights for a foster child:
(1) To live in a safe, healthy, and comfortable home where he or she is treated with respect.
(2) To be free from physical, sexual, emotional, or other abuse, or corporal punishment.
(3) To receive adequate and healthy food, adequate clothing, and, for youth in group homes, an allowance.
(4) To receive medical, dental, vision, and mental health services.
(5) To be free of the administration of medication or chemical substances, unless authorized by a physician.
(6) To contact family members, unless prohibited by court order, and social workers, attorneys, foster youth advocates and supporters, court appointed special advocates (CASAs), and probation officers.
(7) To visit and contact brothers and sisters, unless prohibited by court order. (8) To contact the Advocacy Office for Children and Families established under the Children and Family Services Act or the Department of Children and Family Services? Office of the Inspector General regarding violations of rights, to speak to representatives of these offices confidentially, and to be free from threats or punishment for making complaints.
(9) To make and receive confidential telephone calls and send and receive unopened mail, unless prohibited by court order.
(10) To attend religious services and activities of his or her choice.
(11) To maintain an emancipation bank account and manage personal income, consistent with the child's age and developmental level, unless prohibited by the case plan.
(12) To not be locked in a room, building, or facility premises, unless placed in a secure child care facility licensed by the Department of Children and Family Services under the Child Care Act of 1969.
(13) To attend school and participate in extracurricular, cultural and personal enrichment activities, consistent with the child's age and developmental level, with minimal disruptions to school attendance and educational stability.
(14) To work and develop job skills at an age-appropriate level, consistent with State law.
(15) To have social contacts with people outside of the foster care system, including teachers, church members, mentors, and friends.
(16) If he or she meets age requirements, to attend services and programs operated by the Department of Children and Family Services or any other appropriate State agency that aim to help current and former foster youth achieve self-sufficiency prior to and after leaving foster care.
(17) To attend court hearings and speak to the judge.
(18) To have storage space for private use.
(19) To be involved in the development of his or her own case plan and plan for permanent placement.
(20) To review his or her own case plan and plan for permanent placement, if he or she is 12 years of age or older and in a permanent placement, and to receive information about his or her out-of-home placement and case plan, including being told of changes to the case plan.
(21) To be free from unreasonable searches of personal belongings.
(22) To the confidentiality of all juvenile court records consistent with existing law.
(23) To have fair and equal access to all available services, placement, care, treatment, and benefits, and to not be subjected to discrimination or harassment on the basis of actual or perceived race, ethnic group identification, ancestry, national origin, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, mental or physical disability, or HIV status.
(24) To have caregivers and child welfare personnel who have received instruction on cultural competency and sensitivity relating to, and best practices for, providing adequate care to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth in out-of-home care.
(25) At 16 years of age or older, to have access to existing information regarding the educational options available, including, but not limited to, the coursework necessary for vocational and postsecondary educational programs, and information regarding financial aid for postsecondary education.
(26) To have access to age-appropriate, medically accurate information about reproductive health care, the prevention of unplanned pregnancy, and the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections at 12 years of age or older.
(27) To receive a copy of this Act and have it fully explained to the child or adult when he or she is placed in the care of the Department of Children and Family Services.
New federal child sexual exploitation charges lodged against Bay Area man as authorities seek help identifying hundreds of victims
OAKLAND, Calif. – A grand jury handed down a superseding indictment Thursday containing new child sexual exploitation charges against a Bay Area man whom investigators now suspect obtained sexually explicit images of more than 300 underage victims from across the U.S. and around the world.
Blake Robert Johnston, 41, of Martinez, was originally charged in October 2014 with traveling to another state with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor. The seven-count superseding indictment issued Thursday includes a charge of transporting a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity; one count of online coercion and sexual exploitation involving a second underage female; two counts of production of child pornography pertaining to two additional minor victims; and charges stemming from the possession and distribution of child pornography. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California.
The latest charges are the result of a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Martinez Police Department, with additional assistance provided by the Contra Costa District Attorney's Office and the police department in Salem, Oregon. Given the existence of victims overseas, HSI is also working closely with its attaché offices in multiple foreign countries and with authorities in Australia, Ireland and the United Kingdom.
Following Johnston's arrest, HSI special agents seized multiple cell phones, computers, and digital storage devices belonging to the defendant. Forensic analysis of those devices, which is ongoing, has led to the positive identification of 31 possible underage victims in 12 states and overseas, including three minor females who allegedly had physical contact with the defendant.
Based on the analysis of Johnston's devices, investigators now estimate there could be more than 300 other potential underage victims in this case, both domestically and worldwide. HSI is working closely with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) in an effort to identify the minors whose images have been encountered during the investigation, but authorities say most of the victims are not in existing databases.
“We're appealing to anyone who has awareness about this defendant's activities or his past contacts to come forward,” said Tatum King, acting special agent in charge for HSI San Francisco. “Those leads could be vital to helping us put together the pieces of this puzzle and most important, to ensuring that any underage victims receive the assistance and support they may need.”
Based on forensics examinations, investigators believe the defendant used multiple mobile applications to communicate with his underage contacts, including Kik, Skype, Omegle, ooVoo and Facebook, and employed a variety of user names, such as “sivaston,” “deadleafecho,” “moonage_daydream,” and “lethal.loyal.” Anyone with information related to this case is urged to call HSI's national toll-free tip line – 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (1-866-347-2423) – or the Martinez Police Department's tip line at 925-372-3457.
Johnston is scheduled for his next district court appearance April 7. He has been held without bond in federal custody since October 17, 2014, when he appeared following the original federal criminal complaint.
Is it possible to recover from rape and sexual abuse? Yes and No
by Laura K Kerr, Ph.D
When she was twenty-two years old, philosopher Karyn L. Freedman was viciously raped at knifepoint. She narrowly escaped being murdered and her body disposed, perhaps never to be found. In her memoir, One Hour in Paris, Freedman recounted her efforts to heal from this horrifying ordeal . Nearly 25 years have passed since she was raped, but she has yet fully recovered and doubts she ever will. Even after years of therapy, support group meetings, and educating rape survivors in Africa about the effects of trauma, Freedman claimed:
“The biological truth of my trauma is anchored in me, but it lives there like a parasite. And as I move in and out of recovery I am reminded that however much work I do, healing from a traumatic experience is never complete. This is one of the most significant facts about psychological trauma. It is permanent. The psychological damage that results from the experience of terrorizing life events over which we have no control is profound. It sticks around for life. It is a chronic condition, which makes recovery from traumatic events an ongoing process.”
Freedman's continued struggle is common. Susan J. Brison, also a philosopher and also brutally raped in France as an adult, wrote the following about the lingering impact of her rape:
“People ask me if I'm recovered now, and I reply that it depends on what that means. If they mean, ‘am I back to where I was before the attack'? I have to say, no, and I never will be. I am not the same person who set off, singing, on that sunny Fourth of July in the French countryside. I left her — and her trust, her innocence, her joie de vivre — in a rocky creek bed at the bottom of a ravine. I had to in order to survive. I now have my own understanding of what a friend described to me as a Jewish custom of giving those who have outlived a brush with death new names. The trauma has changed me forever, and if I insist too often that my friends and family acknowledge it, that's because I'm afraid they don't know who I am.”
Although I have never been raped as an adult, I was sexually abused as a child. I spent years nostalgically imagining the person I might have been had I not been abused, and went through periods haunted by nightmares and flashbacks that kept me reliving my twisted fate. Still, I consider myself lucky. I have managed to escape sexual revictimization as an adult, which happens with appalling regularity to women with histories like mine.
Yet like Freedman's and Brison's rapes, the impact of sexual abuse persists. Sometimes I fail to see the secureness of my present life because of the protracted shadow of fear that is cast by all forms of sexual violence. Something startles me and I am reminded that safety can be eclipsed in a moment. Even now, I am prone to dissociate the felt sense of my body when I am overwhelmed by fear. I learned to escape in my head conditions that were inescapable in my environment. Some habits are near impossible to break.
It has taken me a long time to honor these survival responses and acknowledge that sexual violence is not something I, or anyone else, fully recovers from, although this is not a reason to give up on recovery. Survivors can and do become strong again — sometimes stronger than they ever imagined — and often graced with an awareness of the fragile nature of life that deepens their capacity for compassion.
But the process of healing from sexual violence is slow, painful, and expensive. And because I have worked hard for a peaceful mind and body, I am protective of them. I have a low tolerance of toxic attitudes and behaviors that might upend my recovery. But I am also quick to stand up to injustices that impact others, and I have witnessed this trait in people like myself who are committed to healing their wounds of violence and abuse. Unintentionally, we become warriors of the heart — the would-be Bodhisattvas and protectors of those less fortunate and vulnerable — those we imagine are like we were before we reclaimed our right to dignity and self-preservation, and those we imagine could become victims like we once were.
Not everyone likes the justice-seeking aspect of recovering survivors of sexual violence and other abuses. Anyone who needs to exert power over another, needs someone capable of being a victim. Furthermore, the psychological complexes and interpersonal dynamics that lead to subjugation extend well beyond the predator-prey dynamics of sexual violence.
I once had a supervisor describe my penchant to protect others as a “Joan of Arc” complex. This observation followed after I asked her to stop calling my clients names like “bitch,” “putz,” and “schmuck.” Shortly after my objections, I was removed from my position. Had I avoided the work of recovery, I might have lacked the courage to defend my clients, especially given what I sensed (and heard) about this person's penchant for bullying. Had I not taken the time to address how sexual violence had led to certain defensive behaviors and beliefs in me, I might have continued my early life habit of silencing my objections to perceived wrongs, since this submissive style of defense had protected me. But it's no way to live, even if the consequence of standing up to injustice is more injustice. The price of dignity can be great, but the price of submitting to injustice is greater.
In large part, although often unconscious, the commitment to heal is a sustained effort at avoiding becoming a victim again. And the changes we make in our efforts to ensure future safety and integrity also lead to resisting abuses of power in all aspects of our lives.
Knowledge is a powerful way to defend against further subjugation. In One Hour In Paris, Freedman shared an extensive knowledge of PTSD, the history of the DSM, and the treatment of psychological trauma. Obviously, I share her desire to know everything I can about healing. Every textbook I have read on the treatment of trauma has been with double vision: one eye on how to maintain my own recovery, the other eye on how to help others with their's. Having fallen victim once, some of us arm ourselves with knowledge to fail-safe our recovery, but also to ensure we never fall victim again.
One outcome of this unanticipated expertise is a nuanced understanding of the consequences of unrestrained power that includes knowing how to heal from subjugation and avoid further victimization. This is valuable wisdom, and a largely untapped resource. The wisdom of recovery can enlighten efforts at creating a society centered on safety, respect, and fairness.
Because of the insights gained through recovery, I believe the commitment to heal is a generous act, even though the process means focusing intently on oneself. Individual efforts to heal become the groundwork for equality and respect in relationships, families, communities, work environments, and societies. Healing society really does begin with healing its members.
Granted, as Freedman and Brison shared, even after an extended period of recovery, suffering still happens. No one ever completely gets over being a victim of a sexual predator. Still, with time and effort the reactions can be managed. In the process, the survivor often gains a stronger spirit, greater integrity, and better self-care that together foster a deep caring for others. As Brison also wrote:
“But if recovery means being able to incorporate this awful knowledge into my life and carry on, then, yes, I'm recovered. I don't wake each day with a start, thinking: ‘this can't have happened to me!” It happened. I have no guarantee that it won't happen again, although my self-defense classes have given me the confidence to move about in the world and to go for longer and longer walks—with my two big dogs. Sometimes I even manage to enjoy myself. And I no longer cringe when I see a woman jogging alone on the country road where I live, though I may still have a slight urge to rush out and protect her, to tell her to come inside where she'll be safe. But I catch myself, like a mother learning to let go, and cheer her on, thinking, may she always be so carefree, so at home in her world. She has every right to be.”
In what follows, I discuss some of the reactions, beliefs, and emotions that interfere with seeking help following sexual violence, and thus getting the process of recovery started. I have found for myself, and for others I have had the honor to support in recovery, that it is difficult to accept the extent of the damage caused by sexual violence. The tendency is to believe that if you can avoid thinking about the rape or abuse, its impact will fade away. Furthermore, shame, no matter how undeserved, keeps women from seeking help. Taking a trauma-informed perspective can help overcome these obstacles to beginning recovery.
Initial Steps Towards Healing
After sexual violence, most women want to forget what happened, and return to the lives they led prior to the assault. The survivor desires to be the person she was before, and avoid perceiving herself as irrevocably damaged by the rape or sexual abuse. Confusion, humiliation, and hurt are common, and contribute to self-doubt and silence.
Consequently, women often choose a course of action that will protect them from the imagined judgment of others, including avoiding seeking help. And who can blame us? Throughout history, women have been held responsible for the sexual violence perpetrated against them. Remaining silent just may be an archetypal defense response to the anticipated judgment and shaming that across the millennia have been the common response to sexually violated women (along with forced prostitution, stoning to death, and abandonment).
Freedman's literal cry for help led to the police's immediate involvement, and eventually the successful prosecution and imprisonment of the man who raped her. (Brison's rapist was also prosecuted and imprisoned.) Freedman's family was supportive and protective of her following the rape. However, like many women, Freedman initially shied from telling many about the rape, and instead told people she had been mugged. She also sought only limited professional support following her rape:
“outside of a couple of sessions with a psychologist when I first returned home from Paris (attended at the behest of my parents), I had made no serious effort to come to terms with the experience. I believed — wrongly, as it turns out — that the best way to deal with the trauma of that night was to distance myself from it.”
No one can anticipate the impact sexual violence is going to have, although anticipation isn't usually needed, since reactions to sexual violence appear rather quickly. In his book, The Trauma Model, psychiatrist Colin Ross gave the following composite description of typical reactions to rape:
“She has nightmares of being chased and murdered, which she never had before. She has repeated intrusive recollections of the rape, sometimes including details she could not previously recall. She is tense, keyed up, anxious and fearful much of the time. She scans the environment for detail and has an extreme startle response to stimuli that previously would not have affected her….
“Because of the nightmares, she loses a lot of sleep. As well, she avoids the nightmares by staying up late. The resulting fatigue begins to affect her concentration and performance at work. She will not let her boyfriend, with whom she previously had frequent, mutually satisfying sexual relations, touch her. When he tries to touch her, she experiences fearful hyperarousal and has to take a shower. She takes at least three showers a day in order to get rid of the dirt on her body and she can still feel the rapist's semen on her. She develops other psychosomatic symptoms including vaginal pain, painful periods, muscle and joint pains, and diarrhea and nausea.
“… exhausted from lack of sleep, and overwhelmed with traumatic anxiety, she begins to drink in the evenings and uses alcohol to go to sleep. She becomes tired, drained of energy, overwhelmed and despondent. She has many negative cognitions about herself, men and life in general.”
When these reactions are ignored, over time they become the ‘new norm' as the person she was before the rape, and the woman's prior way of being in her body and the world, begin to recede.
Freedman suffered many of the reactions Ross described. Finding herself living alone six years after the rape — a relationship ended due to problems with intimacy she believed the rape caused — Freedman's reactions were exacerbated and became unavoidable:
“I had minor convulsions at the slightest unexpected noise, anything from the ringing of a telephone to the slamming shut of a book. My ability to fall and stay asleep, which had been a struggle since the rape, became seriously compromised. I would lie in bed for hours listening to the pounding of my own heart and trying to close off my mind to the unwanted images that flew threw it. These intrusive thoughts are a form of traumatic flashback, although since I wasn't actually thinking (or writing or talking) about the rape at that time in my life, these images weren't usually about me or Robert [the rapist] or the knife grazing lines on my breasts. Instead, the intrusive thoughts were centered on my friends and family, and every possible variation that my mind could configure on each one's violent and imminent demise. In quick, successive flashes, I would imagine one sister or the other trampled by the crush of an uncontrollable mob, or my grandmother's head ripped off by a bus whizzing past her, or a friend flattened to death by a crashing plane. At the time, alcohol was the only thing that gave me some temporary relief from these tormenting thoughts….”
At one point, almost eight years after the rape, Freedman visited a psychiatrist who put her on clonazepam, a medication used to treat insomnia and panic attacks. Freedman never disclosed to her psychiatrist that she had been raped. It also seems her psychiatrist never asked if she had a history of trauma:
“By the spring of 1998 I had finally had enough. I decided that I needed to get some help. I went to see a psychiatrist, which is how I first ended up on clonazepam. Remarkably, I saw this doctor once a month for about a year, and not once in that time did I mention to her that I had been raped or almost killed. At the time I wasn't even aware of this omission (I realized it only after I went back to see her following a long hiatus). It wasn't that I had entirely blocked out any memory of the rape, but by this point I had assumed that it was long behind me, and I simply did not connect my wretched inner life with the aftermath of that traumatic experience. The event of August 1, 1990, had fallen off my radar even though I was living it out every day.”
Because many women avoid support, or get the wrong kind of support, or lack appropriate support and services, it's vital they are told how sexual violence impacts the body and mind. This information is best received as close as possible to the time of the rape or sexual abuse. Knowing what to expect can decrease self-judgment, especially the belief that I should be over this already , which commonly creeps in, along with thoughts of self-blame. Such beliefs contribute to a self-persecuting spiral that increases the likelihood of substance abuse/dependency, along with debilitating low self-worth. Furthermore, substance abuse and low self-worth increase the likelihood of sexual revictimization.
Awareness of common reactions to a traumatic event can also help create a healthy distance from body sensations, thoughts, and feelings triggered by reminders of the trauma, including overwhelming fear that is much like the fear felt during the assault. Knowing these reactions can help disentangle disorienting and often frightening traumatic reminders from the ‘going on with ordinary life' part of the self — that ‘old' self who existed before the rape and who the survivor initially desires to become again — or for those sexually abused when young, who they hope to one day become.
Knowledge of natural reactions to traumatic situations is a resource that helps dampen their impact. Like it or not, sexual violence splits a person's psyche such that when triggered by reminders of the assault, defense reactions are activated and override efforts to get on with ordinary life — including sleeping, working, meeting goals, playing, enjoying intimacy, and the like. This splitting between defense reactions and ‘ordinary life' is a natural response to threat and overwhelming fear.
Trauma memories are not like regular memories, and the body and mind react to them differently.When sexual assault happens, the body (including the brain) instinctively organizes for survival, and triggers defense responses, such as fight, flight, freeze, submit, or a cry for help. This instinctual drive for survival overrides critically thinking about what is happening, in part because thinking about a threat while it's happening can slow down survival responses. Instead, energy is diverted away from the frontal lobes — the area of the brain responsible for higher order cognitive processes, which includes creating coherent narratives of events. Without the frontal lobes fully functioning, there is no way to integrate overwhelming sensory information into a coherent, meaningful account of the trauma. Instead, emotional reactions are split-off from sensory memories, muscle memories, perceptions, and thoughts also registered at the time of the traumatic event. Thus, survival comes at a price: fragmented memories in search of integration haunt trauma survivors long after danger has passed.
Traumatic reminders feel intrusive, whether these reminders are images, emotions, or body sensations. This is the startle response Freedman wrote about, and the panic attacks too. Yet there is also that other part of the self — the one that has relationships, holds a job, sets goals — but the capacity to express this part of the self is continuously overwhelmed by reminders of the attack or abuse. Healing is about regaining the ability to live from that ‘ordinary life' part of the self — or for the survivor of child sexual abuse, establishing a sense of ‘ordinary life' that feels safe and life-affirming — without overwhelming defense responses getting activated at inopportune times.
All of us continuously and unconsciously scan for the presence of danger, a process neuroscientist Stephen Porges called neuroception . However, following sexual violence, this natural unconscious process starts to hypervigilantly register potential signs of threat, often to the point of being overwhelmed, going numb, or dissociating. Having experienced the worst, the unconscious mind becomes primed to expect the worst.
The triggered defense responses, such as the desire to fight or flee that weren't possible at the time of the assault, are once again truncated by overwhelming fear. Thus, the survivor's own body and mind begin to feel like they are trapped in inescapable horror, regardless that the threat has long passed. Consequently, despite best intentions and well-laid plans, getting on with ordinary life is exceedingly difficult following rape or any form of sexual violence. We aren't physiologically built to experience something as threatening and overwhelming as rape and sexual abuse and then get on with life as if nothing happened.
Getting back to ‘ordinary life' begins with being aware of limiting beliefs, overwhelming emotions, and disruptive sensations as defense reactions, and then creating conditions that increase feelings of body safety, emotional safety, and safety in the environment. Some possible reactions to sexual violence include:
Physical aches and pains
Suicidal thoughts and feelings
A heightened startle response
Irritability, easily angered
Fear of intimacy
Feelings of mistrust and betrayal
Sexual promiscuity or risk-taking behavior
Feeling numb, shut down, dissociating
Feelings of low self-worth
An inability to feel safe alone
Catastrophic and morbid thinking
Foreshortened sense of the future
Self-medicating (e.g, alcohol or other substances) to get to sleep or to control anxiety
Overwhelming fear and panic attacks
Feeling alienated from other people or foreign to them
Living split — a self presented to the world that hides the part of self that feels vulnerable and ashamed
Self-silencing around the sexual violence because of feelings of shame
Some of these reactions may seem to contradict each other. Contradiction is the nature of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, which alternatively involves avoidance of reminders of the traumatic event and preoccupation with them. Reminders may be either real or symbolic, such as Freedman imagining the catastrophic death of family members. The body reacts to both in the same way — as potential threats.
All of these reactions are the body's and psyche's natural efforts at self-preservation and protection from further threats. They are signs of suffering and signs of the need for support. They are not symptoms of a disease or evidence of weak character.
When survivors know the body's natural reactions to traumatic events, they may be less likely to think there is something wrong with them, and more likely to see such changes as having to do with what happened to them. Unfortunately, however, it is highly probably that all survivors of sexual violence will experience at least some of these reactions.
(Visit this blog post for ways to increase a felt sense of safety.)
The Power Of Shame
The hardest part about healing from sexual violence may be overcoming the shame that keeps women and girls silent in their suffering. Shame increases the likelihood that traumatic stress reactions will go unaddressed and instead become the ‘new norm,' as ‘ordinary life' becomes increasingly difficult.
For those of us sexually abused as children, silence is typically how we tried to stay safe — or we were led to believe silence would keep us safe. Shame is also a natural reaction to submitting to sexual violence, which initiates a spiral into low self-worth and blaming one's own body for failing to protect from the abuse or for failing to hide the reactions to abuse (when of course the blame belonged to another). For those of us sexually abused when young, the splitting of self between defense responses and efforts to get on with ordinary life can become complex and entrenched if the abuse was chronic. And unfortunately, after a history of childhood sexual abuse, it typically takes many years to learn how to live peacefully and safely within one's mind, body, and relationships and without shame.
Adult survivors of sexual violence are also at risk of becoming entrenched in traumatic defense responses that are exacerbated by feelings of shame. Even when a woman knows she is not to blame — and many doubt themselves — she can feel profoundly humiliated by sexual violence.
Most women, if not all, are aware of societal perceptions of women as irrevocably damaged by sexual violence. Even worse, in some Muslim countries such as Pakistan, Somalia, and Afghanistan, the failure to “resist rape” can lead to a woman's death. In countries where men are prosecuted for rape, there are still age-old distinctions between the madonna and the whore that were initiated by patriarchal religions thousands of year ago, but continue to influence our collective unconscious and how women are perceived and judged. Women who are raped and sexually abused are regularly judged as at least partially at fault for their victimization. No wonder so many of us stay silent about sexual violence.
In her memoir, Freedman writes the following about how societal attitudes keep women in shame and silence:
“Whether to go public with her story is one of the toughest decisions a rape survivor ever faces…the vulnerability, the shame, the embarrassment, and the inescapable feeling that she should have been able to prevent herself from being attacked, and then some—all reinforced by the myth that, so long as you are careful, the world is a safe place. Rape intersects with multiple taboos—sex, violence, and trauma—and its savage intrusion on our sexuality crosses the boundary into that which is most personal and private. For all these reasons, it is simply not socially acceptable for a woman to speak out about her experience as a rape survivor. This taboo is more deeply ingrained in cultural norms in certain parts of the world, like south-central and eastern Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, where the survivor's shame extends to her entire family, often permanently, and where the consequences for women who publicly identify as rape survivors can be disastrous, even fatal.”
The taboos that silence survivors of sexual violence also interfere with recovery. Although silence may feel as if it protects from further harm or judgment, it erodes the mind, body, and spirit. When the survivor remains silent, the self hidden deep within may eventually become unidentifiable — or unreachable — even by herself.
To know ourselves, and fully recover, we must story our lives, and share our stories with others. Especially when there has been sexual violence, we must pull together the unintegrated bits of memory, and make ourselves and our stories whole again. However, storying trauma doesn't require retelling every bit of the rape or sexual abuse, or even remembering everything that happened. The need to know everything beyond a fraction of doubt is the mindset of the courtroom, not the healing attitude of recovery. Rather, in recovery, we need the experience of what psychiatrist Daniel Siegel called “feeling felt” by another, sharing what we feel and having our feelings validated. Without this experience of “feeling felt,” we further fall victim to our sense of selves as shameful.
But the taboo surrounding sexual violence is real, and telling others about sexual violence can be compromising, even dangerous for some women. Fortunately, there are anonymous resources such as RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, and Pandora's Project. Eventually, though, most women need professional support and the company of other survivors.
Like Freedman, I started my recovery work with a therapist, then took part in a group dedicated to survivors, and finally began helping others with their recoveries. In areas in the West where therapists and mental health services are accessible, this approach to treatment is common and I believe a good one. There are also specific modalities, such as EMDR and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, that are exceptional at treating traumatic reactions to sexual violence. The eventual goal of therapy is mindful awareness of how defense responses get triggered and learning how not to be overwhelmed by them. Recovery also involves ceasing to be afraid of one's memories of what happened.
Treatment is most successful when joined with personal efforts at creating safety and peace in daily life. For me, this has included yoga, Buddhism, art classes, self-defense classes, journaling, exercising regularly, and deep connections with people I love and trust (especially my husband). Of course, everyone has unique ways of creating safety and peace, yet all need to make them priorities in their lives.
Recovery also involves feeling part of society without the fear of further violence, or fear of retribution for protecting oneself. Survivors share this aspect of recovery perhaps with all women. None of us really feel safe when rape and sexual abuse occur with regularity and impunity as they do today. Can any women feel safe when nearly 20 percent of women in the US are raped in their lifetimes and 1 in 5 girls in the US are sexual abused before the age of eighteen? In many countries these percentages are much higher.
Sometimes I go weeks without my fear being triggered, which I feel is quite an accomplishment since I live in a densely populated city. I tend to enjoy these periods like an extended vacation. I know eventually I will read or hear that a woman's been assaulted somewhere near where I live, or I will personally be sexually harassed. The old fear will be rekindled, although it is muted these days. Still, I am holding out for the possibility of full recovery, and I am waiting on society for the safe environment I need and deserve to get there.
Colorado launches child abuse prevention campaign to publicize hotline
by Jennifer Brown
Lawmakers are arguing over how many new child protection caseworkers Colorado can afford as the state kicks off a public-awareness campaign to encourage the public to report abuse and neglect.
Starting this week, Coloradans will begin seeing the toll-free hotline number — 1-844-CO-4-KIDS — in newspaper ads, on television and radio, on billboards and on top of pumps at gas stations. The campaign officially launches Tuesday on the Capitol steps, where a swarm of child advocates wearing blue for child- abuse prevention month is expected to gather.
The majority of people who report child abuse and neglect in Colorado are required by law to do so, and that's something child welfare officials want to change.
Nearly three-quarters of all calls to county child welfare departments concerning suspected abuse are from mandatory reporters — doctors, teachers, coaches and others required by state law to report any suspicion of abuse. In other states, that number is closer to half, causing Colorado officials to worry that the general public here is less likely to report abuse.
The hotline number has been live since Jan. 1 and, although not widely advertised, was spread by child advocates and county child welfare officials. In the first three months of this year, it received more than 54,000 calls, more than 7,000 of which were referred to caseworkers for investigation.
Lawmakers are arguing over how many new child protection caseworkers Colorado can afford as the state kicks off a public-awareness campaign to encourage the public to report abuse and neglect.
Starting this week, Coloradans will begin seeing the toll-free hotline number — 1-844-CO-4-KIDS — in newspaper ads, on television and radio, on billboards and on top of pumps at gas stations. The campaign officially launches Tuesday on the Capitol steps, where a swarm of child advocates wearing blue for child- abuse prevention month is expected to gather.
The majority of people who report child abuse and neglect in Colorado are required by law to do so, and that's something child welfare officials want to change.
Nearly three-quarters of all calls to county child welfare departments concerning suspected abuse are from mandatory reporters — doctors, teachers, coaches and others required by state law to report any suspicion of abuse. In other states, that number is closer to half, causing Colorado officials to worry that the general public here is less likely to report abuse.
The hotline number has been live since Jan. 1 and, although not widely advertised, was spread by child advocates and county child welfare officials. In the first three months of this year, it received more than 54,000 calls, more than 7,000 of which were referred to caseworkers for investigation.
Stopping child abuse requires adult effort
by Anjani Amladi
Child abuse is much more pervasive in our society than most people imagine. Although the natural reaction is to avoid an issue that makes us so uncomfortable, treating child abuse in this manner does us and our children a great disservice.
The most important lesson my internal medicine preceptor taught me during my third-year medical school clerkship was, “The eyes do not see what the mind does not know.” My goal here is to help you “see” what child abuse looks like in order to prevent, recognize and report this unconscionable act.
While knowing what to do after a child has been harmed is vital to the intervention and healing process, knowing how to prevent a possible event from occurring is even more important.
Preventing child abuse
Here are the top 10 safety rules for parents and children:
1. Talk to children about sexual abuse early, keeping their age and level of understanding in mind.
2. Teach children that they have “private areas” nobody is allowed to touch.
3. Explain to children that they can say “no” to an adult and do not have to do anything that makes them uncomfortable.
4. Teach children not to accept gifts from, give personal information to or get in a car with a stranger, and to tell someone immediately if they are approached by someone they do not know.
5. Be sure that a child knows how to call 911 if there is an emergency.
6. Teach children to never meet in person anyone they met online.
7. Encourage open communication with children, and teach them to come to you if they have problems.
8. Teach your children that you will always believe them if they tell you they are being hurt or touched by someone — no matter who that someone may be.
9. Be careful when selecting child-care providers; always check references.
10. Teach children that it is never OK to answer the door when they are home alone, or to tell anyone on the phone that they are home alone.
Signs of physical abuse
Bruises, welts, lacerations or abrasions.
Sprains or broken bones.
Burns or bite marks.
Injury in the shape of an object, such as a belt, hand or iron.
Explanations for an injury that are not consistent with physical findings, or an explanation that keeps changing.
Lack of medical attention soon after an injury.
A child who tries to hide injuries.
A child who is reluctant to go home or has fear of caregivers.
Signs of sexual abuse
Genital pain or itching, or a sexually transmitted disease.
Torn, stained or bloody clothing.
Difficulty sitting or walking.
Advanced sexual knowledge or sexual behavior inappropriate for age level.
Sudden personality or behavioral changes, like hurting oneself, drinking or doing drugs.
Signs of neglect
Clothing that does not fit or is inappropriate for the weather.
Lack of medical or dental care.
A child who is constantly hungry and may beg or steal food.
What should you do if a child tells you he or she has been abused?
The most important step is to remain calm, as difficult as that might be. Children rarely lie about being abused, so believe what they are telling you. Avoid interrogating children; let them explain to you what happened in their own words. Immediately let children know they did the right thing by telling you, and be sure to emphasize that the abuse was not their fault.
After a child has disclosed the abuse, make a report to the police, local child protective services agency or a child abuse hotline. It is imperative that this be done after the child is able to his or her story. Assure the child that he or she will be protected, and that no harm will result from having told the truth.
Also, obtain counseling services for the child and for the family. It is important that the child have an advocate, but it is also important for a counselor to help families process the trauma.
Where to report potential child abuse:
Children's Advocacy Center
1710 Mulberry St.
Scranton, PA 18510
National Child Abuse Hotline
The Commonwealth Medical College, along with the Children's Advocacy Center of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Lackawanna County Medical Society and Luzerne County Medical Society, will host the third annual Keystone Symposium on “Child Abuse — Recognizing & Reporting” on Saturday at the Radisson at Lackawanna Station hotel in Scranton from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The symposium will provide strategies for health professionals and students to recognize and report child abuse. As of 2015, licensed health professionals in Pennsylvania must receive continuing education credits for license renewal. For more information about the symposium, contact Gloria Colosimo at TCMC, 570-504-9074 or CME@tcmc.edu.
PAUL J. MACKAREY, P.T., D.H.Sc., O.C.S., is a doctor in health sciences specializing in orthopedic and sports physical therapy. He is in private practice and an associate professor of clinical medicine at the Commonwealth Medical College. His column appears every Monday. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
ANJANI AMLADI, a fourth-year medical student at the Commonwealth Medical College in Scranton, is the guest author for today's column. She was raised in San Ramon, California, and earned a Bachelor of Science in biological sciences at the University of California at Davis. She plans to become a psychiatry resident and specialize in child/adolescent psychiatry. She is the recipient of the 2014/15 TCMC Healthcare Journalism Award presented by Dr. Paul Mackarey.
KAREN ARSCOTT, D.O., associate clinical professor in clinical sciences at the Commonwealth Medical College, was medical reviewer for this column.
In the Churchyard, Crosses and Memories of Fallen Children
by Jackie Snow
NEW YORK — At St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery in Manhattan, somewhere between 60 to 70 bamboo crosses with t-shirts hanging off of them decorated the yard during this year's Holy Week.
They were small, only about knee high, but it makes sense for them to be so short. The crosses represented a child under 11 who was injured or killed by guns since Easter last year.
The installation only covers a sliver of the more than 700 children killed in that time span who are listed at the Gun Violence Archive. The Rev. Winnie Varghese, the church's rector, used the archive to pull the names and stories of the victims with details of their lives and death to put on the shirts.
“You couldn't walk around if it was all of them,” Varghese said.
There was a shirt for the six siblings killed by their grandfather in Florida last September. There was one for 3-year-old Quinton Gibson Jr. who found his mother's loaded handgun and shot himself in Alabama. A shirt that simply said “Taken too soon” was also displayed.
Varghese and her congregants helped make the shirts and then put up the crosses on Palm Sunday, which she said was a sober affair after a more lighthearted procession where the congregation walked to a nearby church and sang together.
Holy Week, Varghese said, is a time when it makes sense for a church to draw attention to gun violence. It's when Christians think about the physicality of Jesus and how easy it was for even him to be killed. Creating a physical memorial brings the gun violence problem into focus when congregants are already thinking of the frailty of life.
It's also a time where Christians are reminded Jesus was put to death under the Roman Empire, which Varghese compares to the collusion of the government with the gun industry that allows thousands of people every year to be killed.
“Guns are good for the gun industry,” she said. “No one else.”
The similarities Varghese sees don't stop there. During Easter services, Varghese tells the story of Jesus's betrayal by Judas. She said that parallel, in particular, is easy.
“How many children will we betray to this industry?” she said. “If 700 children were killed by any other way it would be considered an epidemic.”
This is not St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery first time taking a stand on a social justice issue. For Easter last year, they put up about 25 crosses for people killed by gun violence in New York state. Last December, the church hung a banner that reads "Black Lives Matter.” It's still there.
The neighborhood has responded positively. Signs explaining the installation are strung up along the length of the church's fence and many people walking by stopping to read and look at the yard and sometimes, to take photos. Varghese said neighborhood tours have incorporated the project into their trips. Two police officers came in and thanked her for her efforts to bring attention to gun violence.
“They are the ones who have to show up when kids die,” she said.
The crosses are situated between graves that are hundreds of years old — St. Mark's, an Episcopal church, is the oldest continuous space of worship in New York City.
It's a haunting tribute, but Varghese said she doesn't think its a beautiful project, but a provocative one. She said it's important to critique culture from the gospel, which is often more radical than society would tolerate.
“I hope it would encourage other churches to use their spaces,” she said.
As of Sunday, the day after the crosses came down, there are already more than 3,000 deaths listed by the Gun Violence Archive in 2015. Varghese will have plenty of names to pick for next year's tribute.
Volunteers may be saddled with costs of child abuse clearances
by Naomi Creason
For those looking to volunteer to work with children, odds are, it won't be free.
School districts, as well as nonprofits, are looking at their options when it comes to paying for the costs of clearances and background checks for employees and volunteers, and a large number of organizations are looking at placing those costs at the feet of the person volunteering.
For some nonprofits, such as youth athletic leagues, there is no other way around it.
Doug Marsico, president of the Upper Allen Baseball Association, said the association has players ranging in age from 5 to 16 years old, who make up 41 teams.
“You figure you have four people — a manager and about three coaches — per team … and that's about 170 parents and coaches,” he said.
Marsico said in the past, head coaches received the child abuse clearance and criminal background check, and the association went through a third-party service that cost about $8 a person.
Marsico is not looking at that kind of cost this year. The Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance and the Pennsylvania Access to Criminal History background check each cost $10 to process, and Marsico said paying for that for every volunteer just isn't possible for the association.
“We're a good size organization. You look at about 170 people and you multiply that by $20, and that's $3,400, let alone the few that need FBI checks,” Marsico said. “For nonprofits, it's a lot of money.”
“It would be nice if there were ways for nonprofits to have the costs defrayed, but it doesn't seem like there's a difference there,” said Jon Fetterman, vice president of the North Middleton Athletic Association.
In addition to the child abuse history clearance and the state police background check, some volunteers and employees may also have to apply for a federal criminal history through the FBI. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, those who need an FBI background check are those looking for a paid position with children and those who have lived outside of Pennsylvania in the last 10 years.
That federal check is more involved and requires a fingerprint. There are only a few print site locations that will work with the check, and in Cumberland County, those are located at UPS Stores in Carlisle and Mechanicsburg. There are no locations in Perry County, according to the state's listing.
Because that check is based on a fingerprinting process, it will also cost more than the state's clearances. The department said an FBI criminal background check will cost $27.50 through the Department of Human Services for positions outside of a school setting, such as a group home, church or youth sports organization. For those volunteering for a school or school-related function, the FBI check will cost $28.75.
The law says volunteers are responsible for paying the cost of the required clearances, but agencies may choose to pay for them.
There are some exemptions for fees. Those looking to volunteer with an affiliate of Big Brothers of America, Big Sisters of America, a rape crisis center or domestic violence shelter do not have to pay for the state clearances.
Laura Masgalas, the Sexual Assault/Rape Crisis Service program manager at Carlisle YWCA, said while the state clearances are free for their volunteers, the FBI clearance is not. She said employees are required to have the FBI clearance, but only volunteers that fall into the requirements will need an FBI clearance.
For those who need it, however, she said the YWCA does set aside a couple hundred dollars to pay for those clearances.
Other organizations like the Fresh Air Fund, which transports New York City children to host families in 13 states on the East Coast, pay for the clearances needed in the respective states — as well as to meet their own demands for their host families.
“I think it's very important,” said Jenny Morgenthau, executive director of the Fresh Air Fund. “Hopefully it's a deterrent for some people from even applying.”
Like the Upper Allen Baseball Association, the North Middleton Athletic Association will also require clearances from its head and assistant coaches for its 13 teams.
With it being a little smaller than Upper Allen, Fetterman said it's possible the association could help with the costs volunteers face with the clearances. To do so, the association would have to approach fundraising differently.
“We have to raise more money, get more sponsors, get more help,” he said. “It shouldn't cost a couple hundred dollars to help your child's team.”
He noted, however, that the association hasn't yet had the clearance discussion with parents, and the association doesn't know how many parents will need only the state clearances and who will need an FBI clearance.
“We don't know if we have 50 people who need that or three people who need that,” he said.
Some of those costs, Fetterman said, can be offset by the change to the Small Games of Chance law that required organizations such as the VFW and American Legion to donate more of their event funds to the community.
“That has been extremely positive for us,” he said. “We're getting more money that way than we have (in the past).”
Fetterman said the association also opted for a higher registration fee instead of committing to another meat raffle or candy sale. He noted that the concession stand is also important to his and other youth baseball associations.
“We have a pretty strong concession stand, focusing on fundraising. Getting people to frequent it is important,” he said.
Marsico isn't concerned about parents being unwilling to volunteer because of the cost, although those who have to get an FBI background check will look at a total bill closer to $50.
“I think everybody knows why it's there,” Marsico said. “The law was enacted to protect kids. The people paying only $20 don't have a problem with it.”
Fetterman said he doesn't think the cost will prevent parents, either, but it is a concern given the cost of gear. In addition to the cost to volunteer, parents must also pay for T-shirts, hats, bats, gloves and other gear.
“There are lots of things that parents just fund for baseball,” he said.
Morgenthau said the background checks were welcomed by the volunteers in the Fresh Air Fund who help provide summer visits for 4,000 children each year.
“I think the volunteers liked it,” she said. “When we started it (checks), we phased it in with random background checks. I think it made them feel safe.”
Biker group provides safety, security for child abuse victims
by Donna Thornton
Among the many people who kept the courtroom filled during last month's capital murder trial, a few stood out, especially a group of biker-jacketed men who attended most days of the two-week trial.
These men, are members of Bikers Against Child Abuse, an international organization that works to support children who have been victims of various kinds of abuse.
The group members go by nicknames — “Blind Dog” and “Taz” were the most faithful in attendance at the trial of Joyce Hardin Garrard, an Etowah County grandmother found guilty of capital murder in the death of her 9-year-old granddaughter, Savannah Hardin.
In this case, they attended because they had heard about the case and wanted to lend support to the prosecution.
In cases with a surviving victim of child abuse, Blind Dog said, the groups stands ready to do much more.
He and the other members attending the trial are part of the Hurricane Creek Chapter, based in Holly Pond. He said the group teams with law enforcement agencies and district attorneys offices to help child abuse victims in a variety of ways.
Blind Dog said there have been cases where perpetrators will try to intimidate child victims of abuse by driving by their homes or through other methods. “If that happens, they can call us and we'll be there to stand guard,” he said.
“We're there to be between the child and the abuser,” he said.
In cases where the bikers are involved, he said, they have a ceremony to adopt the child into the organization. The children get nicknames, just like the bikers, and they get a sense that someone strong and imposing is on their side.
“We're uglier than the perpetrators,” Taz said, jokingly.
The mission of the group is very serious, and in Etowah County last month, it was appreciated. Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin and members of the district attorney's staff took time to talk to the bikers about their work on behalf of child victims. Entrekin thanked them for attending the trial.
Blind Dog said members are available to accompany children to court appearances so they'll feel they have protection in settings where they may have to see their abuser.
The organization was founded in 1995, he said, by John Paul “Chief” Lilly, a biker and a licensed clinical social worker and registered play therapist/supervisor. According to information provided about the group, Lilly saw there were shortcomings and limitations in the system's ability to keep children safe and to keep them feeling safe as they negotiate the process of bringing their abusers to justice.
Blind Dog said BACA works to provide the support the system cannot.
And if that means standing in a child abuse victim's yard around-the-clock, he said, the bikers will be there.
After BACA makes an initial visit with a child, two members are assigned to be the child and his or her family's primary contact, remaining in close contact and supporting the child based on his or her needs, whether it be providing a physical presence at the home, visiting at school or helping with therapy needs.
The organization is a nonprofit, and maintains a therapy fund for children who need assistance.
For more information about Bikers Against Child Abuse, visit www.bacaworld.org.
Time for the Senate to break the impasse over human trafficking bill
If ever there were a piece of legislation that should be able to sail through the fractious, politically polarized Congress, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act would seem to be it. Introduced by Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, the bill has 33 co-sponsors, 12 of them Democrats, including California's Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Who could be against the bill's hallmark feature, the creation of a fund to benefit victims of domestic trafficking, financed by assessments on the traffickers themselves?
But no. The bill got stopped in its tracks when Senate Democrats belatedly noticed that the victims' fund would be covered by the restrictions of the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of federal money for abortions. That has ignited a nasty fight, with Democrats accusing Republicans of overreaching by refusing abortion services to trafficked girls and women, and Republicans accusing Democrats of trying to undermine a long-established law.
This page has never approved of the Hyde Amendment, and we have no desire to see its restrictions imposed on this bill or any other, for that matter. But the Hyde Amendment has been the law for many years. A fight over whether a fraction of the projected millions of dollars in aid to victims of trafficking and hunters of traffickers can be used on abortion services seems fruitless, and the bill should not be derailed by such a fight.
Human trafficking is the reprehensible act of forcing or even enslaving people into labor or sex. Anyone under 18 who is recruited into a commercial sex act is automatically considered to be a victim of trafficking.
It's difficult to know exactly how many trafficking victims there are in the U.S., but advocates say that tens of thousands of people — mostly women, girls, boys, runaways and transgender youths — are preyed upon by sex traffickers.
The bill would provide funds to assist victims and help them get restitution in some cases. It would also provide grants for anti-trafficking law enforcement units and funding for task forces to investigate child trafficking offenses. It would support advocacy centers that focus on child victims of human trafficking. And it would create a Human Trafficking Advisory Council composed of survivors to make policy recommendations to the federal government, as well as a Cyber Crimes Center to provide assistance to investigations of cyber-related crimes.
The bill ramps up penalties for offenders, assessing them a new $5,000 fine. Among those who would have to pay are the trafficking victim's customers — the johns — if they knew or should have known that the victim was a minor or that the victim had been coerced into sex. This is not an expansion of the law. It had already been established by the courts that such johns could be prosecuted as traffickers, and the bill adds language to the law to clarify that.
There's nothing wrong with making convicted traffickers pay fines into a fund to aid victims of trafficking. But this bill veers off course when it extends those penalties to other criminals who are not engaged in trafficking.
For instance, the bill would levy the $5,000 fine on people found guilty of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and creating or selling child pornography. Those are all serious crimes that carry penalties; sexual abuse offenders, as a matter of fact, are already ordered to pay restitution. But to call those people human traffickers is an unnecessary broadening of the definition.
The bill would also fine people who are convicted of illegally bringing people into the country and harboring them. Sure, that could be someone smuggling 10 people across the border and holding them against their will for labor or sex. But it could just as easily be someone helping two friends across the border — a violation of law but hardly human trafficking.
In the end, it's unlikely that the U.S. will arrest its way out human trafficking any more than it will arrest its way out of the drug trade. That's why Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) are offering an amendment to the bill that would concentrate on prevention services and assistance to runaways and homeless youths, who are particularly vulnerable to traffickers. That would be a good addition to this bill.
Sold by their mothers: Shining a light on the child sex trade in Cambodia
by Lisa Cohen, CNN
The CNN Freedom Project wants to amplify the voices of the victims of modern-day slavery, highlight success stories and help unravel the tangle of criminal enterprises trading in human life.
(CNN)When Kieu was 12, her mother asked her to take a job. But not just any job. Kieu was first examined by a doctor, who issued her a "certificate of virginity." She was then delivered to a hotel, where a man raped her for two days.
In 2013, the Freedom Project went to Cambodia with Oscar-winning actress and UNODC Goodwill Ambassador against Human Trafficking, Mira Sorvino. The result was "Every Day in Cambodia: A CNN Freedom Project Documentary," which looked at child sex trafficking in the country.
In Svay Pak, a notorious child sex trafficking hub in Phnom Penh, Sorvino met Kieu, who was then around 14 years old. She had been rescued from sex trafficking by Agape International Missions (AIM), a non-profit for trafficked and at risk children and teenagers.
Kieu told of how she had been sold aged 12 by her mother to a Khmer man of "maybe more than 50" who had three children of his own, Sorvino explained in her Cambodia journal: "The price set in advance for her virginity: $1,500, though she was ultimately only given $1,000, of which she had to give $400 to the woman who brought her to the man. Her mother used the money to pay down a debt and for food for the fish they raise under their floating house -- their primary income source.
"Beforehand, Kieu said, 'I did not know what the job was and whether it was good for me. I had no idea what to expect. But now I know the job was not good for me.' After she lost her virginity to the man, she felt 'very heartbroken.' Her mother supposedly felt bad too, but still sent her to work in a brothel. Kieu said she did not want to go, but had to. She said, 'They held me like I was in prison.'"
She was kept there for three days, raped by three to six men a day. When she returned home, her mother sent her away for stints in two other brothels, including one 400 kilometers away on the Thai border. When she learned her mother was planning to sell her again, this time for a six-month stretch, she realized she needed to flee her home.
Read her full story here
Her story is all too common in Svay Pak; she was just one of the girls whose stories were told in the film. Fast forward to 2015 and "Everyday in Cambodia" was named "outstanding documentary" by the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation, winning a Gracie Allen award.
Sorvino says the film has raised awareness of the issue of child sex trafficking in Svay Pak and Cambodia, helping to raise funds for AIM to build a school that, when completed, will offer hope for more than 1,000 children in the region.
"Primary and especially secondary education is extremely important in preventing trafficking," she says. "It allows children to develop critical thinking skills to be able to defend themselves from traffickers and to have the skills that will enable them to have gainful employment to be able to support their families in other ways than being sexually exploited."
AIM also now works with an "incorruptible" police SWAT team to raid brothels where children are working.
But Sorvino adds that it's not just about helping the victims. "The demand side really needs to be addressed," she says. "If people weren't trying to buy child sex it wouldn't be being sold."
Watch the video above to find out more.
More from the CNN Freedom Project.
Faces of prostitution, sex trafficking in US; 4 P's of recovery
by Carin Miller
CEDAR CITY – Tears flowed freely in the Southern Utah University Starlight Room in Cedar City Thursday night as slides showing the progressive deterioration of girls involved in the sex trade over a five-year period flashed across the screen. The room was packed from wall to wall, with standing room only for latecomers, as expert Senior Assistant Attorney General of Colorado Janet Drake presented a small glimpse of human trafficking for slave labor, but mostly focused on trafficking for sex and prostitution.
The hour-and-a-half lecture and discussion was sponsored by the SUU Center for Women and Families and the Canyon Creek Women's Crisis Center as part of The Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics & Public Service's “Politicalpalooza” series, as Director Eric Kirby called it.
Prostitution and sex trafficking
The biggest difference between prostitution and sex trafficking, Drake said, is any of the added elements of force, fraud and coercion. Some women say they have entered into a mutual agreement and like the freedom and the money, she said, but many more are in exploitive relationships with a man who is typically controlling them through the basic necessities of life – shelter, food and clothing – or through physical violence and fear; and sometimes both.
Teenage runaways are the highest targeted group for recruitment, Drake said, and many times they are recruited by another teenage girl who has been in the life for a period of time. Often these girls are noticed by recruiters wandering on their own and offered a meal, then a safe place to sleep, and before they know it they are caught up in a world they never anticipated.
Many of these woman are forced to take up to 40 customers in a day to meet the demands of their “pimp,” Drake said. If they do not meet their quota they are reprimanded through a variety of tactics including withholding of food and shelter and beatings.
In one real-life Colorado case that Drake gave as an example, the “pimp” used a Rottweiler to keep his women in line; and if they would break from the prescribed behavior in any way, he would sic the dog on them. They learned all of this from a juvenile who had been reported as missing. When law enforcement found her, she was committing commercial sex acts. Drake said:
She described that he had a handgun, and he had a Rottweiler in the apartment that he would sic on her to teach her what she needed to do. And she had a notebook that was full of rules; and he told her exactly what to say when somebody called in response to one of the ads; and she had to say the script exactly; and she used to get it confused, because she was high all the time; and so she wrote it down, because she didn't want to mess it up, because she always was beaten up if she did it wrong.
One out of six chronic runaways are lured into the lifestyle, Drake said. A chronic runaway is defined as a juvenile who has been reported as a runaway four or more times.
Many of the runaways are already running from something troubling in their lives, Drake said, so they tell law enforcement that they are with their boyfriend, or that they are choosing the lifestyle of sex for cash.
During the slideshow including progressive images over a 5-year timespan of women who claimed to have been voluntarily choosing to sell themselves, Drake said the photos were compiled by a colleague of hers to show how drastically these victims of the sex industry age in such a short time.
Each photo was a mug shot, because the women – using the term “women” loosely, because many of them were young girls – had been arrested for their trade. As each new image of the same individual would appear on the slide, the changes were so dramatic that most of them were unrecognizable by the time the final snapshot was revealed.
The results were astonishing.
Four P's for recovery
There is hope through the “Four P's,” a system of recovery established by the United Nations, Drake said. The Four P's stand for prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership, she said, placing the largest emphasis on partnerships.
“Honestly, I think partnership is the most critical,” Drake said. “We cannot fight human trafficking alone.”
Commercial sex operations take place in the middle of sleepy-town communities, on ranches where there are few neighbors to monitor traffic, in apartments and basically anywhere that everyday people live, Drake said. It is important to report any suspected activity, and there are both state and national hotlines to facilitate identification of this specific type of criminal activity.
SUU criminal justice major Maria Voeks said she was shocked to learn so many kids are involved, because in her mind they were always older people.
Her friend Makayla Mortensen said that when she thought about sex trafficking, she envisioned a scenario similar to that in the movie “Taken,” and believed it was mostly something that happened in other countries, not in the United States.
Breaking down these types of media-hyped, sensationalized ideas and getting the reality across to the public was one of the predominant goals of planning the lecture, Kirby said. With the minimal time available for the event the discussion could not cover both sex trafficking and slave labor, he said, but he hopes to plan another human trafficking lecture in the future on indentured servitude that still takes place in the U.S.
Drake's presentation was the second in an ongoing series of four planned by The Leavitt Center to tackle some of the more difficult topics from immigration reform to the lengths one would go for their freedom. The next “Politicalpalooza” lecture, “The Global Role of Pacific Islanders,” will be held at noon on Thursday in the Sharwan Smith Student Center Living Room.
Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault | 801-200-3443
National Human Trafficking Resource Center | 1-888-373-7888
Operation Underground Railroad:
Text alerts | Text “Update” to 51555
Canyon Creek Women's Crisis Center | Rape & Sexual Assault Hotline | (435) 867-6149
SUU Center for Women and Families | (435) 865-8752