EDITOR'S NOTE: The following article by Steve Friess features the important work of Tim Fisher, a NAASCA family member who's appeared previously on our "Stop Child Abuse Now" talk radio shows, most recently on Episode 940 which aired 10/10/2014.
One Survivor's Crusade Reveals a Plague of Errors in Nation's Sex Offender Registries
by Steve Friess
Tim Fisher steps slowly up the driveway, glancing back with mournful eyes a few times toward his sister-in-law across the street, silently pleading for her encouragement. With neat, shoulder-length, salt-and-pepper hair and a mustache, dressed in a plaid button-down shirt and shapeless jeans, Fisher is 49, but in his mind he's the cherub-cheeked boy with the sun-bleached bangs who walked this asphalt hundreds of times, every Saturday for seven years. Today he trembles with the same trepidation that his boyhood self felt.
By the time he reaches the doorstep, he feels a strange, unsettling vulnerability in being shadowed and hidden from street view by a red-tile overhang. This is his decision, his right, he reminds himself. He just drove five hours from his Las Vegas home to this quiet block in Anaheim, California, fruitlessly trying to release his gathering anxiety with cigarette after cigarette as his sister-in-law soothed him with assurances that she was there for him, come what may.
Now he stands there for a bit, under the overhang, immobilized by a kaleidoscopic clutter of memories. He sees the unsuspecting look on his mother's face as the man who lives here, Ernie Schwobeda, drops by to pick him up to do Schwobeda's yard work. Feel blessed , Fisher hears his mother telling him, that a man of God has taken such a personal interest in you. He remembers the sound of the Saturday-morning cartoons, blaring from the TV inside the house he now stands before, which his mom wouldn't have allowed him to watch. He can taste the ice cream and candy he wasn't supposed to be eating—before noon, no less—all of it bribes in exchange for his participation and secrecy. He spots the top of the backyard tree where he hid that one time. Even as Schwobeda yelled furiously for him to return, young Tim only emerged from behind the branches after Schwobeda's wife, Mabel, came home.
It's a lot to take in, and he needs to steady himself now that he's at the door after all of these years. This is the moment he has worked toward for decades, that he has rehearsed countless times in every tone. Angry. Sad. Threatening. Pleading.
By now, he has boiled it down to one loaded question: “Do you remember?”
He rings the bell.
“Have you ever looked up Mike Tyson on the sex offender registry?” Fisher asked me three years ago in a Facebook note. “You should try it.” My highest-profile work at the time was focused on Vegas celebrity, so he knew he could bait me with this tease. Tyson, as anyone who saw the movie The Hangover is well aware, now lives in the Vegas-adjacent city of Henderson, Nevada.
I followed Fisher's advice, hoping for a simple, dishy scandal about the former boxer and convicted rapist. Instead, Fisher dropped me down into the quicksand he had been wading in alone for years.
I would discover, as Fisher knew from countless attempts to rectify the problem and get anyone else to care, that the “system” of sex offender registries is a failure. The mishmash of databases kept by federal, state, and municipal agencies is riddled with inaccuracies and mistakes that often make it impossible for rape victims to know where their assailants are today; for parents of young children to really know whether a sex offender lives up the block; for ex-convict sex offenders trying to live in peace without fear that a bureaucratic snafu will result in an erroneous arrest for noncompliance; and for innocent people who happen to live where sex offenders are mistakenly listed as residing and are harassed, shunned, and sometimes attacked.
Federal guidelines say what information states ought to provide and advise how to keep it up-to-date but only 17 states are certified by the Department of Justice as “substantially compliant.” There are hundreds of sex offender databases, and they're not, for the most part, networked or cross-referenced. When, for instance, Indiana says an offender who committed a crime there has moved to Wyoming, the information sometimes reaches officials there, sometimes doesn't. Likewise, when that offender arrives and registers in Wyoming, sometimes Indiana is told, sometimes not. Sometimes they tell the wrong state.
Keeping these files updated and correct is a gargantuan task of staffing and technological acumen that outpaces the budgets and capabilities of most law enforcement agencies. Rather than provide more budget or streamline the system to minimize errors, state lawmakers either ignore the problems or, in a fit of tough-on-crime pique whenever that is politically expedient, add more rules.
“It really is a medieval system,” says former California state Sen. Tom Ammiano, who, before term limits forced him out of office last year, tried but failed to advance legislation aimed at tackling these problems in his state. “I kept asking how much money we were spending to make these mistakes. I hated being an accomplice to these inaccuracies. But nobody in politics wants to be seen as being soft on sex offenders.”
Several tiny activist groups work to either abolish the sex offender system or make it fairer to convicts, but Fisher is pretty much on his own when it comes to fixing the inaccuracies. He doesn't work full-time, so—to the occasional alarm of his husband and other relatives—he spends most of his waking hours spotting and documenting errors and then trying to persuade the folks who oversee the databases to correct them.
He has a lot to do. Wrong addresses for sexual assault convicts abound. Incorrect physical traits and even mixed-up mug shots are common. Inaccurate lists of charges are not only easy to find but maddening to correct (see above).
All of this is what makes the Mike Tyson example so potent, because anybody on TMZ or Instagram can probably suss out where he is at any given moment. Following Fisher's guidance, I went to the thing commonly referred to as “the sex offender registry,” the National Sex Offender Public Website. There, as Fisher predicted, I found Tyson with three listings—one each for the states of Indiana, Florida, and Nevada. Indiana, where he was found guilty and imprisoned, said his address was unknown. Florida, where he lived for a time after his release, indicated he lived in Arizona. Arizona had no listing at all. Nevada's listing stated that he was “out of compliance,” meaning he had failed to register and was at risk of being arrested by the Nevada State Police.
But Tyson was not out of compliance. The city of Henderson, like many municipalities in the U.S., also has a sex offender registry. There, Tyson was listed exactly right. His correct home address appeared along with a current mug shot (with the facial tattoos he acquired after his conviction in 1992) and the address of a property he owns in Arizona. Which Arizona's registry didn't list.
“Mike Tyson is the most famous sex offender in the country,” Fisher says. “If his listing is this fucked up, what does that say about the rest of the system?”
Perhaps it was just a one-off goof? Wrong. At Fisher's urging, I tried to find an erroneous listing myself. It took about 10 minutes. I randomly went to the list of wanted, noncompliant sex offenders on the site for Nevada's registry and found Bryan Devoin Kirkland, who raped a teenager in Michigan in 1994. Kirkland, I'd learn, had listings in NSOPW in Nevada, Michigan, and Tennessee. The Michigan site said he was compliant. Tennessee gave a Michigan address for Kirkland—but it was different from the one Michigan had. Nevada indicated he had tattoos on both arms and one knee, but Michigan said he had no tattoos.
What is the now-30-something woman who was Kirkland's victim supposed to make of any of that? Should she expect to bump into this guy at the 7-Eleven on her corner? She probably has no idea.
That's not what Congress intended when it passed Megan's Law in 1996, requiring each state to produce a public registry. The law was named after seven-year-old Megan Kanka of Hamilton Township, New Jersey, who was raped and murdered by a neighbor who had two prior convictions for sexually assaulting young girls.
Like most never-abused Americans, much of what I knew of sex offender registries I learned on TV. That is, every year during sweeps week, a news anchor somewhere opens a broadcast with a variation on this lurid question: “Is there a pedophile living on your street?” The answer, invariably, is “Probably,” and the proof is presented as a terrifying map of a residential neighborhood crowded with dots, each signifying the home of someone convicted of a sex crime. Never mind that not all “sex” crimes are alike; some of those dots represent people who were caught peeing in public or guys who, as teenagers, had consensual sex with their just-underage girlfriends. Never mind that local-news producers have no way—and rarely bother to try—to confirm whether the information is accurate.
NSOPW contains more than 800,000 listings of sex offenders, and it's impossible for anyone outside law enforcement to accurately assess how pervasive such inaccuracies are. Add to that the fact that every state has its own registry, as do many counties, cities, and police departments, many of which don't feed into the national registry. In an era when governments have shown themselves to be frequently incompetent at handling complex technological tasks involving millions of records—witness the disastrous rollout of the Obamacare website—can it be a surprise that so many independently operated sex offender registries can't keep highly sensitive information straight?
“You have hundreds of registries…and they all have their own rules and their own way of doing things,” says Andrew Harris, an associate professor of criminology and justice studies at the University of Massachusetts Lowell who in February received a $1 million federal grant for a three-year study into what ails the system. “Part of the goal of having the federal government step in [in 2006] was to instill some uniformity in how the systems were implemented. Yet I can't point to one particular standard that is uniformly implemented across every single state.”
It's easy to see, in as mobile a country as this, why the registry is infested with inaccuracies. Offenders must register within three days of moving to North Dakota, but it's 10 days in neighboring Minnesota. Tennessee requires offenders who visit for more than two days to register, but West Virginia gives itinerants 15 days. Some require registrants to notify states when they move away; others don't. Some, like California, list all offenders—from rapists to prostitutes to men arrested for public urination—while most do not. Some states charge offenders a registration fee.
“This is what frustrates me,” says Vicki Henry, founder of Women Against Registries, a group advocating on behalf of the families of offenders, who are often targeted for vigilante attacks. “In the statutes, it is your responsibility to know what your requirements are and all that. But there's the federal, state, there's the county. It shouldn't be this complicated. It should be simple.”
In the absence of any available national data to identify the dimensions of the problem, it must be illustrated anecdotally. To that end, in January I challenged Fisher to spot current examples of registration mistakes involving as many states as possible within a 48-hour period. He managed to document problems with entries involving 46 states, cases ranging from convicts listed as noncompliant in one state but clear in another to a child rapist listed as “wanted” in Texas who wasn't on the national registry at all. “I shouldn't be able to find these people, and certainly not this easily,” Fisher says. “If they're noncompliant over here and not over there, I shouldn't be the one who figures that out—should I?”
TakePart contacted the offices that manage the statewide sex offender registries in all 50 states. About a quarter responded, almost all to insist their lists were accurate—despite being provided with current, demonstrable examples to the contrary—and to blame discrepancies on faulty information provided by the convicts or other states. The U.S. Department of Justice, which manages NSOPW via its SMART (that's short for Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking) Office likewise blamed mistakes on the states. A SMART Office official, who agreed to answer questions on condition of anonymity, says that it's not the SMART Office's job, its name notwithstanding, to ascertain the accuracy of information. The website is “a pointer system to all of the jurisdictions' public websites,” the official says. “It's not a database. It's not a registry. It's simply a search engine that allows you to search on all the different public websites with one search.”
Administrators of these registries know they're full of mistakes. “Communication between sheriffs and the states and the police departments is very bad,” says Rose Richardson, support manager for Watch Systems, a Louisiana-based tech company whose Offender Watch software is used by jurisdictions in 38 states to manage registries. “They call all the time and complain to us about each other. We have to calm them down and say, ‘OK, we have to call over and work out the problems,' because they can't work it out with each other.”
“They're not really mistakes,” says Patrick Saunders, supervisor of the sex offender registry in Nevada, where, according to data Saunders provided, more than 20 percent of “active offenders” on the site are noncompliant. “The system is dependent on the offender doing what he's required to do by law and then other states communicating between states. If an offender doesn't notify us, we don't know what we don't know.”
Saunders, at least, described ways his staff of 17 try to locate noncompliant offenders—through other law enforcement channels, the Department of Motor Vehicles, and the Social Security Death Index, among others—before they give up and flag them in the FBI's national criminal database as absconding. Most state officials were more similar to Natalie Spires, sex offender registry coordinator for South Carolina, whose opaque two-sentence email reply to a list of 12 questions stated tersely, “If mistakes are found, we have a process in place to first verify and then correct.” They're not doing a very good job; one of the first errors Fisher found during his 48-hour sprint was one involving South Carolina.
Some were more open to confirming there are problems. It would be impossible for Vermont officials to deny it, for instance, because the registry has failed two successive Legislature-mandated accuracy audits. In each, one in 2011 and one in 2014, reviewers found “critical errors” in more than 10 percent of the entries. Vermont won't list addresses of offenders until a “positive audit” is done, to quote the law's nebulous standard. The registry's overseers doubt it can be achieved.
“Given the resources allocated to the registry, the number of individuals on the registry, and the number of different data points that feed into this system, it was and will continue to be challenging to have no errors,” says Jeff Wallin, director of the Vermont Crime Information Center. “It's something to strive for, but it's going to be a real challenge.”
Sgt. Matthew Patterson, who oversees the sex offender investigative unit for the Virginia State Police, also acknowledges that the quest to keep the entries for the 21,500 offenders in the commonwealth accurate is “profound.” In an email, he lists four reasons for inaccuracies, including “the responsible nature of the offender” and “the need for a real-time system” to keep track when offenders change addresses.
Attempts to fix these problems, rare as they are, invariably fail. “Everything is sloppy and not thought out,” says Ammiano, the former California state senator. Ammiano wanted to pare down who ends up on the public registry to leave off the public urinators or the 30-year-old who once, at 17, committed statutory rape by having consensual sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend. Then, he says, registry managers could better focus on keeping records for truly heinous criminals accurate. “It's such a radioactive topic, most of the electeds shy away from it or just use it as great fodder to grandstand on.… I couldn't get the votes for it. People told me they thought it was great policy, but some of them are very craven.”
For more than two decades after Ernie Schwobeda's 1984 conviction, Fisher did his best not to think about the abuse he had suffered. Schwobeda, a volunteer Sunday school instructor at Anaheim's Central Baptist Church and a weapons engineer for Hughes Electronics Corp., began grooming Fisher as his mark when Fisher was seven, telling the boy's mother, Beverly, he would put him to work in his yard and provide a role model of industriousness.
Fisher says he was an introverted, difficult child, embittered by his divorced mother's remarriage and wounded by his bricklayer father's decision to move 500 miles away, for work in Chico, California. In the early 1970s, nobody found it curious or suspicious that a childless 35-year-old man wanted to spend so much time alone with a parishioner's prepubescent boy. And the boy enjoyed the earliest visits with Schwobeda, who let him watch TV and eat candy against his own mother's and stepfather's rules.
A few months into their Saturday routine, though, Schwobeda began to touch Fisher inappropriately. Before long, the man was groping and manipulating the child as soon as the Volkswagen was parked and his garage door rumbled shut. The child knew something was awry, but Schwobeda kept him silent with a balance of bribes and threats. Filled with shame and terror, he kept quiet, although many times he would insist on playing an impromptu “game” of hide-and-seek to stave off Schwobeda's advances. That one time, he remained up a tree in the backyard until Schwobeda's wife came home. “I knew if I could stay hidden long enough, he'd run out of time,” Fisher says.
The abuse continued until Fisher, at 14, told his mother he wished to live with his father in Northern California. Furious, she called Schwobeda, whom she viewed as a father figure to her son, to ask him to talk sense into her son. Instead, Fisher told Schwobeda that he'd tell his mother about their sexual relationship unless Schwobeda advised her to encourage him to move in with his dad. Schwobeda agreed, Fisher moved north to be with his dad and that was the last conversation they ever had.
Fisher nonetheless remained haunted, whiling away his teen years cutting school, drinking, doing drugs, and having risky sexual encounters. By the time he was 18, he decided he needed to report the abuse. His older sister begged him not to, worried that the revelation would crush their mother. “She said it would kill her to know she was putting me in this guy's hands every weekend,” Fisher says. “She asked if I could just forget it and get on with my life. But I couldn't.”
The police investigation yielded a traumatizing discovery: Schwobeda had at least two other victims after Fisher. Police charged him with 47 counts of molestation; he pleaded guilty to nine counts to avoid a trial and was sentenced to two to 12 years in prison.
By the time Schwobeda was released on probation in 1985—after serving nine months—Fisher had moved with a boyfriend to Las Vegas to start anew. But the issue of sexual abuse lingered, most notably because of the coincidence that the man he moved to Vegas with confided to him that he was a convicted sex offender in California and did not intend to register in Nevada. Fisher says he broke up with the guy and called the police, but that event planted the first questions in his mind about those registries and how they were managed.
He recalls feeling racked with guilt over the idea that his failure to speak out sooner gave Schwobeda years to abuse the other boys. But somehow, Fisher says, he managed to largely bury the matter deep in his psyche for the next 23 years.
Sex offender registries, at their conception, were intended as a tool for law enforcement, not the public. California started the first in 1947, but it wasn't until 1994, following the disappearance of 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling of St. Joseph, Minnesota, at the hands of a suspect who had abducted and molested another boy in the same manner, that Congress mandated registries in every state. Wetterling was never found.
Congress passed Megan's Law in 1996, giving states wide discretion in how they administered the public registries. As a result, different states included different crimes and required convicts to register for different lengths of time at different intervals. In subsequent years, the system grew ever more balkanized and confusing for both police trying to enforce it and convicts trying to stay current.
In 2003, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children issued a report claiming that “at least 100,000 sex offenders are noncompliant and no one knows where they are.” Although that figure would be debunked in a 2010 study that showed it had been recklessly compiled, it nonetheless was widely reported and continues to be cited by activists like Fisher. Harris, the UMass Lowell professor, says that moment of outrage might have been productive had it focused on the real culprits, which, to him, are excessively complicated regulations that collide with administrative error and lousy interagency cooperation. Rather than try to figure out whether 100,000 sex offenders had absconded or if instead they were clerically or bureaucratically misplaced in the various conflicting databases, the false “statistic” became another arrow in the quiver of officials leveraging sex-crime fear for political gain. Congress in 2006 passed tougher requirements for ex-convicts and more complex laws for local authorities. The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act is more commonly known as the Adam Walsh Act after the six-year-old Florida boy whose murder in 1981 was instrumental in the formation of the NCMEC. (His father, the activist and TV personality John Walsh, did not reply to requests for comment.)
SORNA demanded that states comply by July 2011 with a list of registration standards, some of which were controversial. Several legislatures balked, for instance, at publicly listing juvenile sex offenders for the rest of their lives. But the biggest stumbling block has been money; states found that the cost of complying far exceeded the federal grant money they would lose as punishment for failing to do so. A 2008 Justice Policy Institute analysis showed that states like Florida would have to spend nearly $30 million on technology, personnel, and court and jail expenses but stood to lose $1.2 million for failing to do so.
As of 2015, only 17 states, three U.S. territories, and some 80 tribes are “substantially” SORNA-compliant. The Department of Justice has decided, given the meager response from the states to the law and its deadlines, to accept partial compliance. “There is not a strict compliance standard,” the SMART official says. “Every state determines what is going to go on their public websites.”
Tim Fisher woke up one night in 2008 in his backyard, crying and trembling uncontrollably. He and his boyfriend of six years, bookkeeper Patrick Ball, had built a nice, stable life for themselves in a modest Las Vegas bungalow with a front stoop sheltered from the busy street by olive trees. Things were good, calm.
And then they weren't. The night he awoke, sweat soaked, to his own screaming sparked a flood of debilitating memories. The phantom scent of Schwobeda's cologne seemed to hang around him. He woke from nightmares in which the white pain of being raped seemed as real as it was when he was a child or in which he gasped for air as if he were once again being forced into oral sex. He couldn't shake the instinct to hide.
Until then, he'd never looked at the sex offender registries that had gone online in the decades since Schwobeda was convicted. When he did, a red-lettered notation sparked a new wave of terror: “WARNING: This registrant may have subsequently relocated.”
“Why wouldn't he be there? Where would he be?” Fisher says today.
Schwobeda was, in fact, properly registered and lived in the same house where he violated Fisher and the others. But the ex-boyfriend, the one Fisher moved to Vegas with in 1985, had conflicting listings. Nevada showed him as compliant, while California said he was missing. Which was correct? If the ex-boyfriend's victims looked him up in California, the state where he was convicted, how would they feel to see the state had lost track of him? Fisher emailed California's registry managers to point them to the Nevada listing. It took months and several more emails to get the two listings reconciled.
Fisher became baffled by what he was discovering about the nation's registries. Early on, he reached out to various national child abuse organizations but found little interest in the problem, so he launched the website Juvenile Justice Now to document his growing list of registry mistakes. He issued a state-by-state report card judging each registry by ease of use, interactivity with NSOPW, and his understanding of its level of accuracy.
Rose Richardson, the executive with Watch Systems, was alarmed to see one of the states deploying Offender Watch software—Ohio—receive an F from Fisher. When she reached out “to get a sense of what he was doing,” he began burying her in lists of errant registry information. “We thought that's great because I don't know anyone else doing this,” she says. “Almost everything he sent me checked out.”
Watch Systems operates America's closest thing to a unified system. The Covington, Louisiana, company has contracts to manage 16 statewide registries and hundreds of smaller ones for police departments and municipalities in 35 states. But, Richardson says, its information is still only as accurate or complete as what various agencies input. What's more, NSOPW draws its information solely from state-level registries, so countless discrepancies arise between NSOPW and what Offender Watch provides to the public.
Richardson was not the first to see Fisher as a useful resource. Nevada's Saunders took note of Fisher's emails, starting with one pointing out that an offender was listed at different addresses by the state and by Vegas police. “He's the only one who has contacted us looking at a large number of offenders,” Saunders says. “Anything that makes our information even more accurate than it is, we're welcome to having that provided to us. When Tim gives us lists of where offenders are, we do verify them.”
Others treat him as a pest. In 2012, he wrote to Washington state to show that offender Daniel Stone Fenn, whom it was listing as “non-compliant,” was in a Pennsylvania prison. The registry operator replied first by telling Fisher to “delete me from your email list.” He explained his work, but the operator insisted that he cease contact. “If the person has absconded, the U.S. Marshal Service is notified and they determine whether or not to pursue,” she wrote.
The SMART official disputes a key premise from which Fisher and Harris operate, that public registries exist to keep victims abreast of offender movements. “Every state has ways for victims to receive information to track their crimes,” the SMART official says. “If they were a victim of that crime, there are separate ways for victims to track their abusers provided by the states.” Victims of violent crime are typically told they can contact the law enforcement agency that arrested their attackers, or the court that convicted him or her, to find out their whereabouts. It's unclear, though, how long that would take, whether someone would be told at all if he or she were to call 20 years after the crime, and what hoops the survivor would need to go through to get answers. Many abuse survivors prefer to avoid such logistical challenges and find it far easier to first go to the relevant public sex offender registries.
The NSOPW, Fisher insists, is the first place a survivor looks “because they can do it whenever they want and they can do it at any time of day without having to actually talk to anyone. So a 14-year-old who has been raped will, at some point later in life, probably use this tool to locate where their attacker is now. Most survivors look at some point.”
Zooming south on Interstate 15 toward Anaheim, I ask Fisher if he thinks his focus on the registries might be unhealthy. His sister-in-law, Sheryl Moses, sitting in the back, admits she and her brother worry because Fisher gets overwhelmed and forgets to sleep or shower for days. I expect Fisher to be defensive, but it's a question he has contemplated. “It really depends on how much I do at a time,” he says in a measured tone that belies the intensity with which he has been chain-smoking for hours. “My therapist says I am putting myself through a form of exposure therapy, that I'm desensitizing myself. That's what I needed to do. I dove in head first and pretty much haven't stopped because these registries are so messed up, and nobody else is doing this.”
Perhaps, but the idea of driving to an abuser's door to confront him is rife with potential emotional and physical hazards. Victim-offender dialogue is a fraught arena, one that criminal justice systems nationwide struggle with, even when it occurs in an official context; many states disallow victims to meet with their attackers in prison, even if both parties agree. What if the offender, surprised by the unannounced confrontation, is still violent or dangerous? What if emotions take over and abuse survivor tries to exact some sort of retaliation on the former tormentor? What if the imagined payoff—the opportunity to unload anger or elicit some contrition—fails? On many levels, it seems inadvisable in most circumstances. When I suggest as much to Fisher, he repeats that he is aware of the pitfalls but feels compelled to do it anyway.
We're quiet for a while, but the naysaying nags at Fisher. Two nights earlier, he says, he was a guest on an Internet radio show hosted by the National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse and got similar pushback when he announced his plan to confront Schwobeda. “Even there, other survivors wanted to know, ‘Why don't you just let it go?' ” he says. “I was shocked that people I know said to me, ‘To what end? Just let it go.' I had one response: ‘Do you forgive a man who raped your child?' ”
The question lingers in the air. We don't speak for the next hour.
It is hard enough to be a registered sex offender when everything is properly listed. In many places, restrictions on how close to schools and parks an offender may live make it difficult to find housing, and alarming criminal histories often sabotage efforts to find work. Almost every month, too, there are news reports somewhere of a registrant being targeted with vigilante violence or property damage. A robust debate continues over whether the registries are a form of perpetual parole and whether anyone is any safer thanks to Megan's Law.
But the abusers and the abused agree on one thing: If the registries exist, they ought to be accurate. As frustrating as it is to folks like Fisher that mistakes are so common, sex offenders with incorrect listings live in fear of being rearrested even when they try their best to keep their information up-to-date and complete.
Brian E. Oliver, 45, for instance, moved to Minnesota in 2012 from St. Louis after years of failing to persuade the Missouri Sex Offender Registry to properly list the offenses he was jailed for. Twice, he says, he succeeded in getting Missouri to stop indicating that he had pleaded guilty in 1995 to charges of forcible rape; he was actually convicted of illicit sex with minors under 12. The listings also incorrectly indicated the age of his victims and the make and model of his car. On each occasion the errors reemerged. In Minnesota, his offense is not among those included on the public registry because it occurred more than 20 years ago. “Every 90 days, I have to go in there and reregister, and that's fine,” says Oliver, who has a doctorate in criminology and lectures on ways to spot adolescent pedophiles. “My whole point is, OK, if I have to do this and I suffer the consequences, the least you can do is make sure the information is correct.”
The city of Chicago came under scrutiny last year after revelations that police turned away hundreds of sex offenders trying to register—and then arrested some of them later for failing to register. Attorney Patrick Morrissey drew attention to the problem by filing lawsuits, including one on behalf of convicted rapist Douglas Montgomery, who had a heart attack within days of arriving in Chicago after his release from prison. Aware he would be out of compliance if he didn't register before Jan. 24, 2011, he had the hospital where he was convalescing call Chicago police to alert them of his location. When he got out of the hospital, police prevented him from registering because he was homeless and lacked the $100 registration fee. He was rearrested months later while living under a bridge and sent back to jail, where he cost the city more than $140 a day. The city has since added staff and created fee waivers for poor offenders.
“The purpose of the registry is to be able to monitor people who have been convicted of certain crimes, to provide some safeguards for some people. Registration is so complicated and complex, these people roam streets through no fault of their own,” Morrissey says. “It's almost a system created to re-incarcerate people. I really didn't truly appreciate how unclear and how muddled this registration process is until I started this work.”
The FBI does regular audits to ensure the accuracy of its sex offenders information, but only law enforcement can access that. Many FBI updates never reach managers of the public registry. Thus, the nation has parallel systems—one for police and one for the public—that primarily don't interact, the SMART official acknowledges. “The way different states handle the privacy and security of their records varies, and so for states to share information in a backdoor database is another step that we're not facilitating,” the SMART official says.
Fisher's original plan was to sit outside Schwobeda's house and wait for him to leave, then follow his attacker and confront him in a parking lot or a restaurant while his sister-in-law filmed it all for YouTube posterity. It left an awful lot to chance—whether Schwobeda would be home, whether he'd go out, how other people would react to what could appear as Fisher haranguing a little old man—and then it didn't matter anyway.
On our first sweep through the neighborhood, Schwobeda and his wife are out front trimming some bushes. Fisher lets out a series of gasps at this unexpected first glimpse of his tormentor in more than 30 years, a slow-motion hyperventilation to go along with our crawling pass by the house. They appear to be a sweet elderly couple in matching green gardening gloves and white T-shirts.
Schwobeda seems to notice. Does he recognize Fisher, whom he hasn't seen since he was a teen? Is he looking because that's what people do when a strange car goes by too slowly? Or, perhaps, is this sort of gawking commonplace because of the sex offender registry, and is he bracing for all-too-familiar threats or epithets?
Fisher, too, is uncertain. He pulls into a nearby Wendy's to regroup. “What should I do?” he asks his sister-in-law. “He was right there. Right there! Wow. Oh wow.” She drapes her arm over his shoulder and rocks him gently but says little.
Suddenly, Fisher stands up. “Let's go,” he says. “Let's do this.”
Minutes later, Moses is across the street straining to see what's happening. A neighbor, annoyed by her presence on the sidewalk in front of his home, heckles her. Everyone knows Schwobeda is a registered sex offender, he says, but to neighbors he's a quiet, harmless old fellow. “Why don't you let the man be?” he asks.
As she considers that, Fisher reaches Schwobeda's door. Since the earlier drive-by, the couple have dropped their garden equipment on the lawn and apparently gone inside. Fisher never finds out why. (Schwobeda didn't return calls for comment.)
Fisher rings the bell. From inside, a small dog yips. Fisher waits. He hears feet shuffle, but nobody approaches the windowless door. He presses the glowing pearl-swirled button again. Some noise comes from a picture window to the right of the door; fingers part a couple of blind slats. The neighbor and Moses see it too. Fisher rings the bell one last time, stands there. The dog yips some more.
He gives up and walks back down the driveway to the car. He has been denied the chance to redeposit his fury and pain on the doorstep of the home where it was born. But as soon as he starts driving away, it's clear that he is elated. He doesn't light a cigarette for a full 15 minutes.
“He's afraid of me,” he says, grinning. “I did what I needed to do. I overcame that initial fear. And I just realized, he doesn't have any power over me anymore. I scare him .”
This is an outcome he had not considered. He pictured screaming, tears, a door slammed in his face. It hadn't dawned on him Schwobeda would cower.
He is lighter and more cheerful. Perhaps it is the adrenaline, or maybe he really has unburdened himself in a way he didn't anticipate. But if his activism has been a tool for venting anger and making sense of those horrific years, what now? If he replaces the taunting mental image of Schwobeda as a menace with one of him as a decrepit, frightened soul, what becomes of Fisher's quest to fix the registries, one error at a time?
“The thing is, I have to keep going,” he says after a few moments reflecting on these questions. “I'm one of the lucky ones. My abuser is listed correctly. I had the choice to walk up to his house and ring his bell. I did that, and, at least right now, I feel so much different.
“So I'll keep sending the emails, keep trying to get one state to communicate with another. If that's a way to turn a bad into a good, I'm halfway there. There's still a lot of work to do.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: We're constantly warning that sexual predators are often lurking in plain sight, and can be found in every community. Here, to prove the point, is a suspect just arrested by LAPD in my own neighborhood. He'd been serving as a coach at my local high school in Highland Park.
Highland Park School Coach Accused of Sex Crimes
The man was a volunteer coach at a high school.
by MIRNA ALFONSO (Patch Staff) April 18, 2015
(On site suspect photo courtesy of Los Angeles Police Department)
A volunteer coach at a Highland Park high school was in custody Friday on suspicion of sexually assaulting current and former students, Los Angeles police reported.
Jaime Jimenez, 46, was arrested about 11:30 p.m. Thursday and was being held on $450,000 bail.
Officer Tony Im said the alleged victims are current and former students.
Jimenez was removed from his post at Franklin High School, 820 N. Avenue 54, Los Angeles Unified School District officials said. They said the LAUSD was cooperating with the Los Angeles Police Department investigation.
Jimenez has coached football since 1998, and investigators believe he “may have victimized former students who are now adults and are urging them to come forward,” according to an LAPD statement.
Anyone with information about the case was urged to contact detectives at LAPD's Northeast Station at (323) 344-5742.
----- UPDATE -----
A volunteer coach at a Los Angeles high school was in custody today on suspicion of sexual assault, authorities said. Jaime Jimenez, 46, was being held on $450,000 bail following his arrest about 11:30 p.m., Thursday, online sheriff's records said.
It was unclear if the alleged assault victim was a student.
Jimenez was removed from his position at Franklin High School, 820 North Avenue 54, in Highland Park according to the Los Angeles Unified School District.
The district was cooperating with the Los Angeles Police Department investigation, officials said.
A district spokeswoman declined to comment further until police release news of the arrest and a call to the detective handling the case was not immediately returned.
Society can't afford cost of child abuse
by Shaheena Haque
Too often, we assume that child abuse occurs in communities other than our own, but child abuse does not discriminate. It transpires across the social, racial, ethnic, educational and financial spectrums. Just because you cannot see it does not mean it is not there. Unfortunately, symptoms of child abuse are also not always easy to recognize, as it is not only physical maltreatment but also emotional abuse that leaves very deeply rooted scars.
Just as adults have basic inherent rights as members of society, children have a right to live a safe childhood. However, the people who should be the force behind protecting these rights for children may also deny them.
A victim of child abuse and neglect has no place to go and no one to protect them. Society often portrays children as its first priority, but its actions tend to gravitate towards the well being of adults rather than focusing primarily on children.
Findings from recent research reveal the long-term impact child abuse and neglect can have on children and communities, and to mitigate these negative effects, society cannot be indifferent towards protecting innocent children.
In this day and age, it is hard to fathom how an organization to prevent cruelty toward animals was formed long before any agency was formed to help the suffering children. It was not until 1962 that battered child syndrome was first documented and child abuse was medically recognized.
As brain scanning has made it possible for scientists to examine and understand what happens in our brains, Adrian Raine, a British neuroscientist, moved to California to study how the brains of violent criminals, including convicted murderers, work.
His studies revealed a similar pattern in the brain waves of these individuals. Almost all of them had reduced activity in their pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain that controls human emotional feelings, and more activity in their amygdala, the part that flares up emotions. Raine's research further revealed that these homicidal individuals were unable to have empathy for others, and at the same time, were very likely to have outbursts of violent temper.
Violent tendencies are widespread among children who are victims of abuse and neglect. Children who are subjected to unimaginable deprivation—left unattended for days in their cribs, beaten and bruised, burned, broken bones, scalded, starved, and sexually abused—can grow up not knowing the presence of a caring adult in their lives.
For the proper development of a human mind, a child needs to formulate a close bond with a mother or caretaker early in life. Abused and neglected children can be deprived of this bond, which may result in high levels of stress hormones in their system. This leads to impaired thinking and damaged emotional development.
The numbness of their minds, due to the chemical imbalance, affects their cognitive development, and they are unable to process complex thoughts, which in turn can lead to “lack of consciousness.” Their cognitive and emotional functioning can be quite different from a child who grew up with a safe bond with a caretaker.
Unfortunately, child abuse can cause lifelong injury and impairment. Victims face poor prospects for success in school. Due to the immense neurological damage inflicted upon them, they face developmental delays, negative self-concept, and impaired capacity to trust others.
Victims of child abuse are much more likely to engage in criminal behavior as adolescents and adults. Over two-thirds of youth arrested for crime have a prior history of abuse and neglect. Studies indicate that close to 90 percent of juvenile delinquents, prostitutes, and hard-core criminals were subjugated to abusive environments.
Furthermore, abused children's thought processes can be deprived of compassion, and they may not have the capacity of feeling their own pain or the pain they inflict on others. As a society, we must recognize this and assist these children before the damage is too great.
The estimated minimal annual cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States totals billions of dollars for an assortment of needs—child welfare, health care, out-of-home care, foster care, apprehension, prosecution, and incarceration of criminals, physical and mental disorders treatment of victims, and substance abuse problems—all related to child maltreatment.
This cost only partially accounts for expenses, as it does not include other costs related to child abuse, such as long-term physical and mental injury, emergency room care, lost of productivity, family reunification services, special education classes, and costs to adjudicate child abuse cases.
Experts and politicians provide a litany of solutions, professing, “It takes a village to raise a child.” For whatever reasons, if a parent is unwilling or unable to take care of his or her children, then it becomes the community's responsibility. If more people from the “village” assist and support children and look after their rights, it would provide a much safer and healthier environment for these children.
In 1983, during his presidency, Ronald Reagan proclaimed the month of April as Child Abuse Prevention Month. While society should not think about the topic for only one month of the year, it is a good reminder for us to take time to reflect on the issue.
Preventing child abuse should be everyone's concern. As citizens of the community, we can enhance the safety of children and strengthen families by being good neighbors. How? Offer to babysit children of stressed parents; help a parent struggling with his or her parenting responsibilities; make a difference in a child's life.
Shaheena Haque is a child abuse prevention advocate and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Should a victim pay for the sex offender's attorney?
by Boz Tchividjian
A couple of years ago, I had the distinct honor of meeting an individual who has literally committed his life to serving the abused and exposing the abusers. David Clohessy is the executive director of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) and has been an influential force in confronting the horrors of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church and other faith communities. He recently contacted me about a very disturbing situation coming out of a civil lawsuit in West Virginia involving a convicted sex offender. We all need to take a minute to become informed about this disturbing case so that we can use our collective voices to bring an end to such judicial decisions that further traumatize victims. – Boz
Imagine a courthouse with two exits. One is used by 95% of those who leave the building. The other is reserved for those who say they were sexually violated as children and have filed civil lawsuits.
At the abuse victims' exit, cashiers collect funds for two court-appointed lawyers, one who decide disputes about discovery, and the other who represents the convicted child molester. Victims must pay half of the fees for both lawyers.
That's no misprint. That's no exaggeration.
In one child sexual abuse cover up case in West Virginia, this bizarre, hurtful and blatantly unfair situation is already happening. And it could spread across the state unless a West Virginia appeals court judge sides with vulnerable kids and wounded adults. He will have a chance to do so on April 22 nd in Charleston, West Virginia.
Please notice that I'm not using words like “accused” and “accusers.” That's because the child molester in this case, Christopher Michael Jensen, has been convicted and was sentenced in 2013 to up to 75 years in prison for sexually violating two boys -ages three and four.
That same year, families of 12 children who reported being abused by Jensen filed a civil suit against the Mormon church. It accuses Mormon officials of “sending emissaries from Salt Lake City to West Virginia to instruct witnesses not to talk with attorneys representing the children suing the church”. The suit also alleges these same church officials of trying “to intimidate the families (by) directing fellow church members to try to convince them to abandon their claims ‘lest they run afoul of church teachings regarding forgiveness,'” according to a newspaper story and the suit.
It is these same Mormon officials who sought benefit from and are exploiting the unfair legal process described above. Specifically, they asked that a “guardian ad litem” be appointed and given wide berth to represent the imprisoned perpetrator. In most jurisdictions, guardian ad litems are appointed to represent minor victims, not convicted sex offenders!
Again, the victims are to pay one-half of each of these guardian ad litem's fees. This basically forces victims to pay each time they want a decision on motions to move the case forward. And it forces them to essentially pay 50% of the defense costs for an already convicted child molester. In monitoring clergy sex abuse and cover up cases for 25 years, we've never seen anything like this.
Two private West Virginia lawyers were tapped for these seemingly unnecessary positions. Before it's all over, they may well earn hundreds of thousands of dollars from taxpayers for these roles.
As the victims allege in their latest court filing, “the result of this procedure is that virtually the entire judicial function has been delegated to (these private attorneys) and when combined with the order on the Guaridian Ad Litem issue, Plaintiffs “are being ordered to pay significant sums of money to get their motions heard and decided in their case involving a church member who sexually abused children.
These type of defensive tactics are not new. We've seen officials in many faith communities use similar tactics in the past. in fact, there is a nickname for this hard-ball approach: the “Triple D” strategy, or “delay, discourage and deter.”
In my opinion, faith community leaders hope that by seeking special treatment like this from police, prosecutors or judges, they will be able to:
Delay disclosures of facts that portray church employees and supervisors in a very negative light,
Discourage victims who are in litigation (maybe even to the point where they'll give up and drop their suits), and
Deter other victims, witnesses and whistleblowers from exposing crimes or cover ups.
Though this type of defensive behavior is nothing new, I've never seen institutional defendants – churches, schools, athletic leagues or other organizations – be as aggressive as what is being done in this West Virginia case. I certainly haven't seen such callous tactics like these used in a case where the criminal actions are so clearly documented.
Sadly, faith communities are not strangers to employing tactics that promote delay, discourage, and deter. Some examples:
Philadelphia Catholic officials, for instance, countersued a victim's parents, claiming that since they let Fr. Terrence Pinkowski take their son on trips, they were partially responsible for the cleric's abuse of the boy.
Chicago archdiocesan staff have been accused,, in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere, of hiring private investigators to dig through victims' trash and public records, looking for incriminating evidence against them.
Officials in several denominations have made “comparative fault” arguments -- that victims and/or their families are partially responsible for the abuse perpetrated by a member of the clergy.
In a civil suit in St. Louis, Archbishop Robert Carlson is accused of asking a family for a $20,000 check given to them by Fr. Joseph Jiang after the priest admitted to the parents that he had molested their daughter.
In most of these cases, the defendants either lost in court or settled the cases. Unfortunately, the defendant (Mormon Church) in the pending Jensen case seems to be winning.
Those who commit and conceal child sex crimes often use whatever legal maneuvers, loopholes and stratagems their clever lawyers can devise while at the same time purporting to be “caring shepherds.” Sometimes they win, sometimes they'll lose.
Those who care about kids must at the very least expose corrupt or callous tactics by those who profess to be “men of God” and who intentionally frighten or discourage child sex abuse victims from exposing criminals in court.
David Clohessy of St. Louis is the director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. He can be reached at SNAPclohessy@aol.com
“Boz” Tchividjian is a former child abuse chief prosecutor and is the founder and executive director of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment). Boz is also an Associate Professor of Law at Liberty University School of Law, and is a published author who speaks and writes extensively on issues related to abuse within the faith community. He is the 3rd-eldest grandchild of the Rev. Billy Graham.
Child abuse - the unseen impact on family members, partners and friends
by Bolton Kemp and Dino Nocivelli
Survivors of childhood abuse often feel that their lives were changed beyond recognition the first time their abuser started to groom and abuse them.
As the vast majority of child abuse survivors do not disclose their abuse for a number of years after the actual assaults, this causes a period of time where they often struggle to manage the emotional impact of the abuse and this then affects their relationships with family members, partners and friends. Often survivors will become disruptive in school and at home while it is also very common to see them start to drink excessively, take illegal drugs or self-harm in an effort to erase their feelings and memories of the abuse.
Below I have noted extracts from some of my current clients (their names have been anonymised for confidentiality, as have their abusers) who have had a number of different relationships affected due to childhood sexual abuse:
Peter's family were practicising Roman Catholics and were parishioners in their local church. Their local priest, Father Steven, presented himself as a good standing member of society and therefore my client's mother had no issue when Father Steven first asked her if Peter, who was still a child at this time, wanted to become an altar server and later on if he wanted to help out at the church. Peter was sexually abused by Father Steven at the church while he was carrying out these roles.
Peter's mother noticed that he had started to misbehave at home and school while his school teachers had told her that he seemed unable to focus on his studies and his effort had decreased substantially. At the same time, Peter's family continued to go to mass every Sunday and his mother even confided in Father Steven about the change in Peter's behaviour as she was struggling to control him and she was becoming increasingly concerned.
When Peter disclosed the abuse to his mother nearly 20 years later, she was devastated and blamed herself for the abuse taking place as she had allowed her son to spend time with Father Steven and had even confided in him private details about her struggles with Peter.
Ben was physically assaulted by his mother as a child. As a result, social services chose a support worker called Kevin to protect Ben from any further abuse from his mother.
Kevin decided to sexually abuse my already vulnerable client for a number of years and the majority of the abuse took place in Ben's family home while his siblings and parents were under the same roof.
Ben decided to run away from home aged 15 in an effort to stop the abuse he was suffering at Kevin's hands and he vowed never to return to the local area. Some of Ben's elder siblings had moved out of the family home by the time the abuse had stopped but they remained in the local area where the abuse took place and this proved as a constant reminder of the abuse.
Ben had nowhere to live and therefore had no option but to live rough on the streets for a number of years and he did not speak to or see his sisters for over 15 years. He only recently made contact with his sisters and the disclosure of the abuse that Ben suffered at the hands of Kevin finally explained Ben's sudden and prolonged disappearance.
A number of my clients are adamant that their children will never be placed at the same risk of childhood sexual abuse as they were. This will often result in them not being allowed to become altar servers or to become members of Scout groups for example. This can however result in children feeling suffocated, especially as they do not know why their father or mother is acting in what appears such a controlling and unreasonable manner.
Stuart was abused by his Scout master Charles as a child. The abuse had a substantial impact on his ability to trust any male in a position of authority and this had proven to be a substantial hurdle throughout his life to date, ranging from teachers and sport coaches to managers in work. When Stuart's son Kyle was born, he promised himself that Kyle would never have to face the same pain and suffering that he was continuing to suffer.
This has proved to be a substantial problem in Stuart and Kyle's relationship. Kyle is unable to take part in any after-school activities such as swimming clubs, football games and most definitely, Scout groups. Kyle does not know why his father is acting in what he thinks is an unreasonable manner as Stuart has not told him about the abuse and he has vowed never to tell his son about what happened, preferring instead to take his secret to the grave.
Stuart also finds it difficult to express his emotions verbally or in terms of acts of affection such as a hug. He has therefore found it very difficult to try and bond with Kyle while Kyle finds Stuart's frequent periods of visible depression and his reliance on alcohol very confusing and worrying.
It is common for child abuse survivors to suffer trust and anger issues as they struggle to deal with the impact of abuse. This often results in them suffering constant relationship difficulties, sometimes resulting in divorce due to their unreasonable behaviour, while sex is often a difficult area as it can trigger flashbacks of the abuse or their abuser.
David was abused by his secondary school teacher Michael between the age of 11 and 13 years old. The abuse was of a particular degrading nature and included buggery. Michael had taken a father role in David's life as his own father had passed away when he was a baby and this aggravated the impact of the abuse. The assaults were David's first ever sexual experiences and Michael was able to manipulate David into feeling as if they were in a relationship and were in fact in love.
As David grew up, he was very sexually confused and this contributed to him having relationship difficulties. David continues to have substantial trust issues in personal relationships to date and is constantly worried that his partners will cheat on him. He finds it difficult to express his emotions and tends to bottle up his feelings, making it very difficult for partners to get close to him. He is also very controlling in respect of sex as only he is able to start sex and he now finds no pleasure from it, finding it purely an act instead of an expression of emotion or love.
The impact of child abuse is often made a lot worse when the abuser was in fact a family member.
Kim was sexually abused by her maternal grandfather Geoff from the age of 7 to 11 years old. He abused her at every possible opportunity and the abuse mainly took place in Kim's family home and Geoff's home.
Kim disclosed the abuse when she was 11 years old and Geoff was convicted of sexual abuse soon after. Kim's parents have found the disclosure of the abuse very difficult to understand and they have also struggled to control Kim's increasingly volatile behaviour and the impact this is having on her siblings. Her siblings are confused as to why Kim has special treatment and why her temper tantrums do not result in the same punishments that they face.
Obtaining compensation for the true impact of child abuse
I am currently acting for these clients to obtain compensation for the pain and suffering that they have suffered as a result of child abuse. I am also trying to claim for family and/or couples therapy, where it is recommended by a psychiatrist, to try to repair or save these relationships. I am looking to claim this from their abusers and/or their employer on a private basis so my clients can choose their therapist and also arrange treatment at a time, date and location that is best for them.
Child Abuse Prevention takes a community
by Robert Defrank
ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Government officials and agencies met at a luncheon to recognize Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Commissioner Ginny Favede spoke about the need for child abuse prevention and the efforts to establish the Belmont County Children's Advocacy Center, a Harmony House satellite, in the area.
"Unfortunately in today's society the need for what each and every one of you do on a daily basis has grown exponentially. Child abuse is rampant. Child abuse is out of control," she said, expressing gratitude to the workers and advocates who combat child abuse and neglect on a daily basis by comforting and treating survivors and working toward the prosecution of abusers. "I simply do not know how you all do what you do every day."
Joel Potts, executive director of the Ohio Job and Family Services Director's Association, was guest speaker at the event. He commended Belmont County for its support from local government, law enforcement, business and community in this vital mission.
"Everybody comes together for the common cause," he said. "Helping create a better world for the children growing up in this community."
He added that only 46 counties in the state have levies addressing these problems.
"It is a very, very difficult thing to do. The fact that Belmont County actually has two separate levies is an indication of the type of confidence that the voters have in leadership in the courthouse and the type of work that occurring in Job and Family Services agencies," he said.
"In Ohio, we rank 50th in the United States for the amount of state support we receive on Welfare," he said. "I feel it's a shame for the State of Ohio, but it really speaks volumes about all of you in Belmont County."
He also related a story from one woman who has been through the foster care system and the experience of growing up in an abusive, drug-addicted family until being placed in protective custody.
"'My mom's need for drugs was more important than me or my sisters,'" he read, noting instances where funds for head lice treatment or diapers for a younger sister were instead spent on drugs. She also related the turmoil that touched her home life. "Instability is the only word I can use to describe life with a drug-dependent parent, including different men in and out of the house, usually the suppliers of the drugs, and violence and fear were common to me."
However, she related that a loving foster family. Today she is studying to be a social worker.
"'I want you to understand how difficult it is to be part of an abusive household, and also with the right care and support that I received with my foster home and through the JFS and family service agency, they do have a chance,'" she said, speaking of the faces behind the numbers and the valuable work that Job and Family Service Agencies do in terms of providing food and medical aid. "'These are not statistics, they are children. They are victims of a living nightmare that no one should have to endure, and they need your help.'"
She thanked DJFS workers for their help and aid, calling them often the only kind faces she saw in her early life.
"'Job and family services has been there for me and my family throughout my life, and I honestly don't know where I would be today without your help.'"
Potts noted the important need for the services their agency provides.
"People often aren't equipped to be parents. They make bad decisions, they make stupid decisions, and frankly, some people are just evil," he said, adding that the workers and advocates who confront these issues deserve both respect and support.
"It is a constant challenge. It is a constant pressure to work under, and unfortunately all too often our budgets do not support this. Our needs will always exceed our resources, and it is important that we work together as communities."
He added that this is particularly important in the plague of drug abuse.
"We are finding kids much younger coming into our system born drug dependent. These cases are going to be a lot more difficult. A lot more challenging."
Judge Mark Costine commended Belmont County for valuing cooperation and the greater good beyond politics.
"This is one of the few counties in the State of Ohiowhere the officials and the leadership throughout the county cooperate and work together to address the needs of kids."
Costine introduced Leslie Vassilaros, executive director of Harmony House, named Child Advocate of the Year. Since her work often involves asking children to break their silence and reveal abuse. Vassilaros related her own story of facing an abusing situation at a young age and feeling unable to speak for many years.
"Today was a day I needed to be authentic to those children I advocate for by sharing my story with you," she said. "This system Belmont County has created to respond to any offer hope to these children is amazing."
Sen. Lou Gentile presented recognition to Vassilaros, adding that he was honored to serve on the Children's Trust Fund in Columbus. A proclamation was also received from the Rep. Jack Cera from the Ohio House of Representatives.
Too many abused children slip through cracks
by Vicki Spriggs
Every April, the nation observes Child Abuse Prevention Month and shines a spotlight on the ongoing epidemic of child abuse and neglect. During this month, the community stands together and takes notice of this issue as we recall the often-forgotten names of our youngest victims.
At Texas CASA , the 151 children who died last year as a result of abuse or neglect have never faded from our thoughts. They, along with the 66,572 confirmed victims of child abuse or neglect in Texas, are the constant shadows driving us in our daily work to improve the lives of children in our state.
As the statewide association of 71 local CASA programs that recruit and train volunteers to speak up in court and represent the best interests of the children and youth in care, Texas CASA has led the way for legislation that reflects the needs of these children. Currently, we are championing four high-priority bills and supporting nearly 40 others aimed at improving outcomes for children in foster care across our state. With the 84th Legislature more than halfway through, we are advocating to ensure that the decisions made during this session have a lasting, direct impact on the lives of the many children in care both now and in the future.
Breaking the cycle of abuse and neglect takes the entire network of child welfare advocates and agencies, and we applaud the strides being made within the Department of Family and Protective Services and Child Protective Services . As part of the sunset process, efforts are being made to create a strategic plan for prevention and early-intervention programs, reduce CPS caseworker turnover, and improve data collection and quality assurance standards.
Additionally, last year, DFPS Commissioner John Specia Jr. formed the Office of Child Safety to address the many tragic child fatalities that have occurred over the last few years. The work of the commissioner and this office in collaborating with stakeholders to implement prevention and intervention strategies has moved us forward in our common goal of reducing the number of child fatalities in Texas.
While the number of child deaths has decreased over the last five years, we believe that even one death is too many. As Marian Wright Edelman said, “If we don't stand up for children, then we don't stand for much.” We — meaning you, me, child welfare advocates, the child welfare system and legislators — must all take responsibility for Texas' children and do what we can to help prevent child abuse. Professionals, such as teachers, doctors, nurses and day-care workers, are mandated to report incidents or suspicion of child abuse or neglect, but still too many children are slipping through the cracks. We need all Texans to be aware, to be concerned, to be active, to be a voice so every child has the safe, loving home he or she deserves.
In Texas, everyone has a duty to report suspected abuse or neglect. Please report any suspicions of abuse or neglect to the CPS hotline at 800-252-5400. If you have the time, I urge you to consider volunteering for an organization such as CASA. Our most vulnerable children need you.
Vicki Spriggs is CEO of Texas CASA, the statewide organization that provides funding, training and technical assistance to the staff, board and volunteers of the 71 local CASA programs that serve abused and neglected children in the foster care system.
The Conversation: Our best response to child abuse may be to just understand
by Cindy Hoedel
Ann Thomas of Olathe is vice president of program administration at the Children's Place, a therapeutic preschool and outpatient treatment center for children under the age of 8 who have experienced abuse neglect or trauma; the organization also offers support groups for parents. Thomas, who earned a master's in social work from the University of Kansas and is a licensed clinical social worker and adjunct professor in play therapy at MidAmerica Nazarene University, also counsels children and parents. Because April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, I wanted to talk to Thomas about the recent debate over whether spanking is OK; how we should respond when we see parents behaving abusively toward a child in public, and how stressed parents can keep their cool. This conversation took place at the Children's Place in Brookside.
The Adrian Peterson story showed that as a society we aren't sure about whether spanking is OK and even what constitutes spanking. Some people say they don't spank, but they might swat a kid on the bottom once to get them to stop doing something. What would you say to help people sort that out?
The law says it is OK to spank your child in a reasonable manner, as determined by others.
Do you think the law should be changed?
(Long pause.) No. I think parents need to be allowed to make choices in how they raise their children.
At the same time, we have to recognize parenting practices have changed. Historically, spanking your children and using punitive discipline was acceptable. But what we have learned is that it's not very effective, and it can have long-term negative impacts on the child's social and emotional growth.
Why isn't spanking effective?
It stops the behavior in the moment, but it doesn't have a teaching impact. It doesn't help the child learn how to act differently the next time. You are not helping the child grow and learn how to communicate with others when there is a problem.
And it conveys the message that violent action is the way to solve a problem. But we have to deal with the history of this practice going back for generations.
Just because that's how we were raised doesn't make it a best practice.
Right. It's the same as car seats and seat belts: We used to let kids ride in cars without car seats, but then we learned it is safer to buckle them in.
In the same way, we've learned more about parenting. We've learned that to be a good parent is stressful, that we have to understand child development and that we have to understand our own emotional health.
What are some misconceptions about child abuse?
Cases where people are mentally ill and hurt their children are what make the news, but that is not what most abuse cases look like.
What do most child abuse cases look like?
It's parents that adore their children, that have a great amount of shame and remorse because in a moment they made a choice they wish they never had made.
Most of the families we see here are incredibly stressed, and I don't know (pause) — I think if most of the rest of us had to live with the stresses some of these families do, we would make some of the same choices. We like to think we would be different, but we can't walk in someone else's shoes. When the electricity is shut off, you are about to lose your job, your child has been asked to leave school and you can't go to work. At some point we all run out of patience.
What is your best advice for parents who adore their children but have done things they regret — hit a child in anger or thrown things?
Forgive yourself. And work to not do it again.
How do you do that?
The No. 1 thing is to come up with a different strategy for the next time you feel that overwhelmed.
Can you give an example?
Next time, I will have them go to their room, and I will walk into the kitchen.
It's not enough to vow to not do it again. You have to have a plan for what you will do instead.
What can people do to support children in the neighborhood whose parents are the type who yell a lot or smack their kids?
Those parents are very stressed, and they need a friend. They need someone to smile at them, sit down next to them and say, “How's your day going?” and get to know them as a person.
Which is the opposite of our instinct, which would be to give volatile people a wide berth.
Right. The caveat is, if we see abuse happen, we have to report it. It's not OK to hurt children, and any abuse you've seen or that you suspect needs to be hotlined.
I've seen people post in social media about feeling conflicted about whether to intervene when they witness a parent screaming at a child in a grocery store. What should a bystander do?
Think about how to change the situation. If the child is being hit, the answer is, call the police.
What if the parent isn't hitting but is yelling or threatening? What is the best response?
Sometimes a “hello.” Because at that moment the parent is “in it,” so to speak. And to realize you are probably not going to get a warm, friendly response back.
But even a comment such as, “It's difficult to bring your kids to Target sometimes.” Or, “I remember my children doing the same thing.” To kind of normalize part of it.
Sometimes when you can sense a situation is going south, if you can just smile at the parent and say, “They test us, don't they?” I've done that in stores. Just an acknowledgment that parenting is really, really hard.
And you don't know what just happened in that woman's life. She may have just found out her dad died. We don't know what that tipping point is in people's lives, and we are just seeing them in one moment of their life and it may not be reflective of their parenting abilities, and that is what we have to be nonjudgmental about.
After healing comes hope
by Becky Andrews
When the abuse began, she was 6 years old. "It may have started sooner, but since I have zero memories of my life from birth to that age, I could be wrong."
Memory suppression is common for victims of sexual abuse. In 2012, popular morning drive radio personality MJ Lucas shared the story of her traumatic childhood publicly. She detailed the experience growing up in Florida with her young parents, both alcoholics, who were not at all equipped to care for themselves much less a small child.
In 1983, April was designated as Child Abuse Awareness Month by then U.S. President Ronald Reagan. That's why, each year, Lucas uses this month to do her part to bring an often blurry, stigmatized topic into focus.
This mission has become a very important part of her healing. "If I grew up in a home where I felt safe to tell my family what was happening to me, the abuse wouldn't have gone on as long as it did. So my goal is to help parents understand what they can do to create that environment."
According to RAINN (Rape Incest Abuse National Network) abusers sometimes tell children that it is the fault of the child that they are abused, shifting the blame away from the abuser, where it belongs, and placing it on the child. Along with this, abusers may threaten or bribe the child into not speaking up; convincing the child that he or she will never be believed.
This is the very reason Lucas did not confide in her grandmother, Popo, and great grandmother, Nana, who adored her. Like most victims of abuse, Lucas believed her abuser.
While she didn't mention the abuse to her Popo until well into adulthood, she credits Popo and Nana with teaching her something that saved her life. Every Sunday, Popo and Nana would drive across town to make sure MJ made it to confirmation classes at church.
"It was life changing, those Sundays in church. I learned that God thought I was worth something. That no matter what He would always be there, for me. He taught me that I didn't have to feel shame. But if I did, He would love me through that." Lucas continues, "Church saved me from myself."
It was during those years of confirmation classes and church activities that her prayers shifted from asking - sometimes begging - God to take her while she slept to thanking Him for another day to heal.
Shortly after her 18th birthday, Lucas shared her story for the first time with a close friend. "When I told him, I felt safe. His family made me feel like I was going to be OK, that this didn't have to define me." Define what, she didn't know. But she did know she wanted a life beyond the neglect and dysfunction she grew up with. Years later, she realized she deserved that kind of life.
The healing began for Lucas after she shared her story for the very first time, but she understands that total healing is a process. "I don't think you are ever fully healed from this. Sometimes the oddest thing will trigger a memory. The difference now is I know how to deal with those feelings in a healthy way."
The reaction of a survivor's friends and family to the disclosure of the abuse also has the potential to trigger immense feelings of guilt, shame and distrust, particularly if those individuals denied that the abuse was taking place, or chose to ignore it, according to experts.
Shortly after her mother passed away in 1996, Lucas made the move to Nashville. After accepting a position with WANT FM 98.9 in 1997, she began work as the morning drive DJ where she still plays classic country tunes as well as hot new music.
"I was stuck in Florida. Moving to Middle Tennessee has been one of the most healing experiences. Just being around new friends in Tennessee helped me rebuild the image of what a healthy family life looks like. I didn't run away from Florida, I ran to a new life and that life just happened to be in Tennessee." she says with laugh.
As heartbreaking as MJ's story is, it's fairly common. According to the National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse, it's conservatively believed that in today's society 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually molested before they are 18 years old - which means 1 in 5 of America's youth, or fully 20-to-25 percent of the population.
The long-term effects of childhood abuse isn't just emotional as Lucas believes repression has exacerbated physical issues she's dealt with over the years including digestive problems and focusing issues. "Thank God for podcasts! My attention span is that of a gnat." Lucas continues, "Through intense PTSD (post traumatic strees disorder) therapy, I found that most of my physical ailments were indirectly related to the abuse."
So why share her story? It's all about awareness and healing for Lucas. "If I didn't think something good would come from this, I don't know if I would be here."
It's not just her unshakable faith that nurses her through tough times of healing. Lucas credits two little furry animals who have been an important piece as well. "Brewster and Truffles, my terrier mix and toy poodle give me unconditional love. They are my children," MJ continues in a doggy voice, "Aren't you my beautiful babies, aren't you? I love you, I do."
As long as she's breathing, Lucas's goal is to use her story for good and show people that abuse doesn't have to define you, that there's life after abuse.
"I want what everyone wants, to have more good days. Sometimes there are bad days and that's OK. Because tomorrow is going to be a good day."
. . .
The following information is transcription from this article's graphics:
What parents can do.
Learn the ABC's of protection.
It's important to create an environment where a child feels safe to come to you about anything, especially abuse of any kind.
1. Abuse is never a child's fault
2. Abuse that has happened should be reported. Children learn to tell a parent or another trusted adult if someone is hurting them and to keep telling until they are believed. One study shows that children tell of their abuse an average of nine times before someone believes them. Parents can help children learn whom they can trust by pointing out the adults who can be trusted. Parents can also teach children the correct names of private body parts. This simple step gives children the vocabulary to tell others what happened to them.
3. You can recognize abuse when it happens. Children learn to trust that feeling that says something isn't right and to tell a parent or other trusted adult when something happens that makes them feel uneasy. Children learn to question if someone is telling them to do what the child doesn't like but says it is because he loves the child. Children learn to tell parents or trusted adult if another person makes them sad or confused or tries to get them to break rules. This can stop the process of grooming by which an abuser lures a child toward danger. A child who questions another's inappropriate behavior can send a message to the offender that this child is not an easy target, but one that will tell what is being done to him/her.
4. There are ways to spot a grooming process. Offenders are willing to spend a great deal of time grooming the family, the child and even the community so they may be seen as a trusted family friend. Children learn that anyone who lets children break rules, gives them alcohol or shows them pornography needs to be reported to parents and other trusted adults
5. Parents or other trusted adults will talk about this subject. Children often try to protect their parents from bad news, so they need to learn they can tell their parents anything. This lesson is conveyed when parents stay involved in their children's activities and talk with them about what is happening in their lives. This is how children learn what can be shared with parents. The more effective safe environment programs include parents in the learning process. This gives the child a clear signal that this subject is not off limits but instead is something to be talked about with family members.
6. Boundaries exist. Learning about personal boundaries can protect children and their knowing boundaries reinforces the teaching to listen to ones instincts. Children who listen to the voice that says, "this doesn't feel right," can protect themselves.
7. Children can stand up for themselves. Children need to be respectful and obey, yet at the same time need to know there are times when it is OK to say no to an adult. Children learn when it is appropriate for them to say, "No, stop doing that." For example, they hear they can say no to someone who makes them uncomfortable, shows them pornography or offers them alcohol.
8. There are ways to explain inappropriate behavior. Children learn how to describe what's happening when someone is doing something that just seems a little weird even though it may not seem wrong. The ability to articulate what has happened to a child enables a child to more easily confide in a parent or other trusted adult. This can alert the adult to a potentially dangerous situation so it can be avoided. This is ultimately the goal of safe environment education.
. . .
What helps MJ during times of stress?
The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis
"And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you."
The Lord's Prayer
"Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.
. . .
While each individual's experiences and reactions are unique, there are some responses to child sexual abuse that are common to many survivors:
Low self-esteem or self-hatred
Survivors may suffer from depression
Guilt, shame and blame
Did you know:
There are over 42 million survivors of sexual abuse in America.
Somewhere between 2/3 and 90 percent of sexual abuse victims never tell
293,000 children and yoth are estimated to be at risk of exploitation.
100,000 are prostituted annually.
90 percent are abused by someone they know, love or trust.
20 percent of child sexual abuse victims are under the age of 8. Most never tell, and some don't recall the abuse.
More than 60 percent of pregnant teens have been sexually abused.
55 percent of girls living on the streets engage in prostitution.
20 percent of prostituted girls are transported across state lines for services.
The average age of entry for girls into prostitution is 12 to 14 years old.
One in 7 children who are regular Internet users receive sexual solicitations online.
1 in 3 is exposed to unwanted sexual material.
1 in 25 receives a request to meet someone in real life that they met online.
Survivor shares story sheds light on 700 new child abuse cases
by Holly Brantley
CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Alarming numbers show 700 new cases of sexual and violent child abuse against children reported across our southeast Missouri towns.
That's according to Beacon Health Center.
Survivors say it happens far too often. That's why one woman is speaking out.
"It's just the most despicable thing," said Rachel Nation, now a 22 year old college student.
Nation publicly shared her story for the first time to shine line and awareness on sexual violence happening right in our back yard.
"I just want people to know there is hope," she said. "The younger they are it just breaks my heart. I was a kid so I didn't know what to do. I just kind of never said anything."
She says sexual abuse started at the hands of her stepfather around age five.
"I knew it was something we weren't supposed to be doing," said Nation. "He would act like he was sleeping."
He would pretend nothing happened.
"The next day would come and he would ask if he did something wrong, and I just didn't say anything," said Nation. "He was the only dad I knew at that time and I didn't know how to speak up."
It stopped when she was 11, but she kept the secret bottled up inside her for almost a decade.
He actually found out, she remembered years later when he found her diary and tried to apologize.
"That didn't go well," remembers Nation.
She says she became distant and scared to start new relationships.
As a teenager she says she would be outgoing and yet closed off all at once.
"I was sad a lot," she said.
Finally she told her mother just over two years ago, 10 years after the abuse had stopped.
Her mother immediately left her father, and soon after Nation filed charges.
He was convicted and now serving time in Farmington Correctional Center.
"The younger they are the more my heart goes out to them," she said. "As an adult I got up there and balled like a child when I testified. It's always hard. But there is hope."
"I did feel like it was my fault for the longest time," said Nation. "There's always somebody to help you. I couldn't have done it without my victim's advocate and my counselors at Beacon Health Center. I did survive all of that and it got so much better after."
At Beacon Health Center, Executive Director, Kim Williams told Heartland News the problem has always been an epidemic and we can't ignore it.
"We can't pretend like it's not happening," said Williams. "We can't turn our eyes away because these are our kids. The help here is free. They need to know there are resources. Children usually only find that safe person and are brave enough to report it once. It's key that that individual goes to an investigator because the sooner the child gets help and everyone gets involved the better."
She says awareness leads to more cases reported but we have to make more progress. She says no child is immune. It can happen to anyone.
"It can happen in any school, any church, any town," said Williams. "There are no boundaries for sexual violence or physical abuse. It's everywhere. Truly everywhere."
Beacon Health Center hears of cases through authorities. No fee is involved. Beacon Health Center is a 501c3.
Each case is provided a forensic interview, an exam, and counseling at no charges.
For more information go to Beacon Health Center's site at: http://www.beaconhealthcenter.com/
Staff At One Local Hospital Undergo Training To Detect Suspected Child Abuse
by Robin Culverwell
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — More than 1,000 victims of child abuse are treated at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children every year. Friday, staff there met to talk about suspected child abuse, part of an effort to meet new state training requirements.
For more than a decade, doctors and nurses and staff at St. Christopher's have been trained in detecting potential cases of abuse and neglect. But new state laws require that those cases be reported to the authorities so they can be investigated, and that puts staff in a potentially awkward position.
“We don't walk in accusing the parent or caregiver that we think they're the perpetrator or offender. It's all about protecting the child and we tell them that it's about the protection of the child,” says nurse practitioner Betsy Grund.
This ongoing training takes place three or four times a year and involves specific cases of abuse.
It gives doctors and nurses a refresher course in looking at young patients from head to toe to catch abuse that might otherwise go unnoticed.
Child abuse is everyone's problem
Abused kids often say, ‘No one ever bothered to ask if I was OK'
by Sally Rummel
You might think that child abuse doesn't happen in the tri-county area, yet Dominic Calhoun, the 4-year-old who died April 11, 2010 at the brutal hands of his mother's boyfriend, has taught us otherwise.
Just last week, the Times announced the arrest of a Tyrone Township couple who have been charged with second-degree felony child abuse of their 16-year-old adopted son.
The lesson for all is that child abuse and neglect takes place all around us and knows no socio-economic, age or gender boundaries.
“It takes a village (to raise a child) and we're all the village,” said Jen Koester, 42, of Fenton, a former social worker who now volunteers at Whaley Children's Center in Flint. Whaley is home to 48 children from all over the state of Michigan who have suffered from profound chronic abuse and neglect.
Koester is working to educate people, to make them aware of the prevalence of child abuse and neglect in this area. “It's happening right here in our own backyard,” she said. “That's the biggest misconception. It does not discriminate, it crosses all lines. My motive is to make people not afraid to get involved. These kids can't do it for themselves. They need us.”
A neighbor of the Tyrone Township couple charged with abuse, Eric and Angela Cocoran said, “I wish I had known, and could have told someone sooner.”
Kevin Roach, CEO of Whaley Children's Center and himself a survivor of child abuse, said there are a number of ways for an individual to get involved, but the first step is to overcome the myth that it's happening “somewhere else.”
“As soon as you realize it can happen in our own particular community, then you can start to pay attention in your community. It's not only kids with bruises and broken bones. Look at behavioral changes like a child who becomes more distant, withdrawn, angry or is not showing up at school, church or sports practice.”
Roach says it takes the willingness of an adult to ask questions beyond the surface level. “So often we don't get involved,” he said. “The number one way to help a child is to get involved, interfere and ask questions. When I talk to kids who have been abused, they tell me, ‘No one ever bothered to ask if I was OK, if I was in trouble.”
The smaller, tight-knit communities of the tri-county area make it easier to get involved, according to Roach. “Usually, you have at least familiarity with a family, or the local resources that might be able to help. You know where that child goes to school, for instance.”
If you happen to see a potential incidence of child abuse in a public setting, it may be hard to determine whether what's taking place is actual abuse, but Roach says it is still best to speak up and do something.
“Saying something like ‘Can I help?' is a way to get involved to diffuse a situation without offending a person's parenting skills,” said Roach. “It can help calm the situation. If there are others around witnessing the same thing, you can find comfort in numbers and approach a store manager or call law enforcement.”
Chief Rick Aro of the Fenton Police Department estimates that he gets about a dozen calls a year, mostly about sexual abuse of a child at the hands of a divorced couple's ex-spouse.
“We don't get a lot of calls about child abuse because most people report it to Child Protective Services,” said Aro. “Calls to the statewide number refer it back out to the county. If it's criminal in nature, they'll call us to investigate.”
PA Rep. Mark Rozzi fights for sexual assault victims
by Chris Sholly
Mark Rozzi has become an advocate of sexual assault victims
A Berks County state representative shared his personal story Thursday as a victim of sexual abuse.
As a result of his experience, Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, said he has been an advocate for victims, pushing legislation to reform statute of limitations laws and to better prevent sexual abuse.
Rozzi was the keynote speaker at the Sexual Assault Resource and Counseling Center's annual dinner at the Lebanon Country Club.
SARCC Executive Director Jenny Murphy-Shifflet said Rozzi was chosen to speak at the dinner because of his tireless efforts on behalf of sexual assault victims.
"I believe his story is important to be told and to be heard by all of us," she said.
At the age of 13, Rozzi was the victim of a parish priest.
"It started off by the McDonald's trips and trips to the horse races, and it always ended up coming back to his room and serving alcohol," Rozzi said.
Rozzi said the priest started showing him pornographic films and magazines, and then the priest took photos of him.
"I didn't know what was going on. I was really very confused," Rozzi recalled.
It finally ended when the priest took both Rozzi and a childhood friend into his room at the same time and tried to rape Rozzi inside a shower. Rozzi said he ran out of the shower with his friend following him out the door. Rozzi and his friend agreed they could never talk about the incidents.
"We tried to bury it from that point on. Unfortunately, I suffer so many consequences, nightmares and mental problems," he said.
In 2009, a close friend, who was also sexually abused by the same priest, committed suicide. In 2010, another childhood friend, who also was raped at age 17, committed suicide.
Rozzi decided to run for office and become a voice for adult victims of child sex abuse.
Rozzi has introduced House Bill 661, which would raise the age for an adult victim of child sex abuse to file a civil claim from 30 to 50 years old, making the civil statute consistent with the criminal statute. Under this proposal, victims who could not file lawsuits against their attackers because of the time limitations would be able to bring a lawsuit, he said.
"It took me 20 years to come forward and share my past. We must empower victims to come forward so that they can heal and help protect others from abuse," Rozzi said.
A few weeks ago, another childhood friend who was sexually abused by the priest also committed suicide, Rozzi said.
"I am beyond the point where I'm settling for anything now," he said of the legislation, which has been stalled in the Judiciary Committee. "I'm tired of them sitting on the (legislation) because of special interests and lobbyists. That's not why we were elected. We were elected to represent the people."
Murphy-Shifflet said 135 people attended the event, the largest number the organization has had at the dinner.
Make it your business to fight child abuse, agencies urge
by Joanne Beck
BATAVIA — There may be a child in your neighborhood who has seemed more withdrawn or who has a suspicious bruise, but you figure it's none of your business.
Anne Bezon of Justice for Children Advocacy Center disagrees. Make it your business, she says.
“As adults we have to be observant. If you see something that's a concern, report it,” she said Thursday. “We used to learn about stranger danger. It's not that guy; it's the uncle, the dad, the stepdad, the coach. Surprises are good but secrets are bad.”
It's a timely reminder given that April is national Child Abuse Prevention Month. Bezon hopes to have a shipment of pinwheels in place around the Center's East Main Street facility next week. A national symbol, each pinwheel represents a child who has been abused.
She wanted to highlight Genesee County agencies that deal with child abuse in some way and invited them to discuss the issue. They included RESTORE Sexual Assault Services, YWCA, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and the Advocacy Center. All of them work in a collaborative effort to ensure the best treatment and care for abused children, she said. They also work with mental health, law enforcement and court-related professionals.
There's child abuse here?
Think it's not a problem? The Advocacy Center has had 76 intakes (children served at the Center) from January to April 1. That's a 44 percent increase from last year's first quarter numbers, Bezon said. She isn't sure as to why: it could mean there are more children being abused or that people are more aware of the Center's work. Staff includes two each of therapists, forensic interviewers and victim advocates.
The cold hard fact is that 90 percent of child victims are abused by someone in or close to the family, she said. And about one in 10 children will be sexually abused before the age of 18.
Rena Mead, senior case manager at YWCA, said that most female victims have children involved, either directly or indirectly. If the child has been abused it's often by the mother's boyfriend versus the child's actual father.
She recalled a case where there were three children, with one of them having a different father. The father of the other two picked on and emotionally abused his non-biological kid.
“Children are highly affected by domestic violence and their surroundings,” Mead said. “That can mean they revert to childish behavior like bedwetting or sleep or illness complaints. They do that sometimes thinking that if they stay home they can protect their mothers.”
National statistics cite 63 percent of children exposed to violence amongst intimate partners have disturbed sleep patterns. The whole experience is scary for kids, Mead said.
“I think one misconception is that kids are sleeping (during the violence) when they're not,” Bezon said.
Mead added that they're more likely shaking with fear in bed. As a course of treatment, she will recommend that they and the victim get counseling. It's far from easy, she said.
A parent who asked to remain anonymous added that she has noticed negative behaviors from her child as a result of influence from the dad after the couple's divorce. Counseling won't work if the child doesn't cooperate in the treatment, she said, which is compounded by the fact the child is retaliating against mom already.
That's not so unusual, Mead said. Children often seem to pick up the traits of either the abuser or victim and carry them on in what she calls a “generational” problem. The lesson to heed is that “you can stop it,” she said.
Ashley Hausfelder of CASA said that not only is child abuse a problem but that people often don't seem to believe it's prevalent here. There were 950 reports to Child Protective Services last year, which indicates those people are wrong, she said.
CASA worked with 59 children in 2014 and has 35 so far this year as the result of Family Court cases. Of those, 95 percent have Individualized Education Plans at school due to one or both parents having substance abuse or mental health issues. Kids working with an advocate are much more likely to pass their exams and less likely be kicked out of school, she said.
What to do ...
Advocacy, support, legal and law enforcement assistance, counseling and empathy are some of the remedies — though not the solutions — for kids who have been abused, they all agreed. The Advocacy Center has a support group for teen girls that have been sexually abused and one for parents and caretakers dealing with a child that has been sexually abused.
YWCA has implemented the You Engaging Success mentoring program to stop the cycle of abuse by helping victims move on with their lives in healthy ways. It offers a component that has been successful in traditional 12-step programs, Executive Director Jeanne Walton said.
“We know that mentoring works,” she said. “We're also seeing some other new things develop with support groups each for victims of domestic violence and children affected by it.”
There is also a workshop next week geared for adults wanting to learn how to be more responsible for children's welfare. Darkness to Light is at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at YWCA, 301 North St.
For Theresa Asmus-Roth of RESTORE, she hopes that people start treating victims of sexual assault the same way they do for other crimes. Stop the blame game and offer support, she said.
About half of her clients are children under the age of 18.
“If we are seriously going to reduce it, we need to examine the way we talk about the crime and the victim,” she said. “Don't put all of the responsibility on the victim.”
Instead of pointing at the victim and asking what she was doing, wearing and drinking, the focus should be on the abuser, Asmus-Roth said. That kind of talk just allows perpetrators and bystanders to escape any responsibility, she said.
Her other message is that children will grow up into adults, and it's vital that they heal at some point to become healthy successful people. Sometimes people do get older and then something triggers them to reliving the abuse. There is help.
“I hope people recognize that they don't need to deal with this alone,” she said. “It's an opportunity for you to go back, get some support and move past the latest thing that's triggered you. It's important for people to know that healing from something like this ... can have a lifelong impact.”
For more information about support groups or other services for the GLOW region, call the Advocacy Center at (585) 344-8576, YWCA at (585) 343-5808 or RESTORE at (800) 527-1757.
To report a “reasonable suspicion” of child abuse, call the state Child Abuse Hotline at (800) 342-3720, the Advocacy Center or your local law enforcement agency.
Heart-Wrenching PSAs Reveal How Child Sexual Abuse Hides in Plain Sight
People who molest kids usually aren't strangers lurking in the bushes.
by Liz Dwyer
(3 videos on site)
W e raise our kids to worry about “stranger danger”: the child molester hanging out at the park who tries to lure a child with a piece of candy or a tale of a lost puppy. But as “Some Things Are Hard to See,” a campaign of gripping PSAs created for DIF Zapopan, a family development nonprofit, reminds us, when it comes to child sexual abuse, the perpetrator is usually someone that a boy or girl already knows.
The ads, which were designed by Publicis México, a Mexico City–based creative agency, focus on situations that children often find themselves in with close relatives. Instead of starring actual people, the videos shows camouflaged silhouettes of kids and adults, and there is no dialogue. Each clip starts out showing a seemingly innocuous setting—and then morphs into awful situations that might make your skin crawl.
The “Hard to See Uncle” clip is set in a bathroom, with a young child who is getting ready to bathe and an inappropriately helpful uncle.
The “Hard to See Grandpa” PSA is set in a little girl's bedroom, where a grandfather inappropriately tucks in his granddaughter.
In the “Hard to See Mom” video, a mother and child are in a living room. It's chilling to see the mom raise her finger, indicating that the kid should be quiet.
Each clip ends with the stat that in Mexico, 80 percent of child sexual abuse cases “are perpetrated by a close relative.” Here in the United States, the statistics are horrifyingly similar: A 2003 National Institute of Justice report found that three out of four adolescents who have been sexually abused were assaulted by someone they knew well.
Last fall, one such situation played out in the tabloids after Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson's mom, June “Mama June” Shannon, allegedly resumed her relationship with her ex-boyfriend, convicted child molester Mark McDaniel. The couple's alleged reunion led Shannon's 20-year-old daughter, Anna “Chickadee” Cardwell—who was concerned over what it might mean for her younger siblings—to come forward and publicly share that McDaniel had sexually abused her when she was eight years old.
So while these PSAs are uncomfortable to watch, it's nothing compared with what child sexual abuse victims such as Cardwell have been through. The videos go on to ask the public to “help us stop this.” Given that one in four girls and one in six boys in America will be a victim of sexual assault before age 18, perhaps these ads will help people open their eyes and see the abusive situations in their midst.
Emotional Abuse: A Quiet and Internal Form of Torture
by Jill Starbuck
The Nurturing Well
“You are completely worthless.” “Why can't you do anything right?” “Relax, I was only teasing.” “If you would just listen to me, then we wouldn't fight all of the time.” “Nobody will ever love you more than I do.” “What's your problem?” “Nice job, but I thought you'd do better than that.” These are just a few examples of emotional abuse—the verbal form. While words can be very harmful, emotional abuse involves more than the verbal form. It also involves attitude and actions.
These attitudes and actions take shape in many ways. Emotional abusers do many things that demean or humiliate others. For instance, they may treat you as a child, making you ask permission to leave the house or spend time with friends. They may withhold money, read your email, or listen to your phone conversations. You no longer feel like an individual because abusers overstep personal boundaries by hovering over you, doubting everything you do, and accusing you for any wrongdoing in your relationship. They give condescending looks when you get excited about something important to you. They make fun of you in front of other people. They downplay your opinions or thoughts, and they never ask how you feel about something. An apology is rarely made, because nothing is ever their fault.
Emotional abuse, like all forms of abuse, is an attempt to control or dominate another person. While all abuse, no matter what form is a tragedy for its victims, emotional abuse can be particularly tragic because its evidence is often internalized, therefore silent. With physical abuse, victims often exhibit physical signs such as broken arms, bruises, black eyes, and others. And no matter how hard to try to hide this evidence, it's still there. Verbal abuse often involves yelling, screaming, or making condescending remarks to blatantly demean or hurt. These forms of abuse can easily overlap into emotional abuse. However, oftentimes, emotional abuse is harder to see on the surface. The abusers are often sneaky about it, throwing little jabs when nobody is looking or listening. They are manipulative and deceitful. Therefore, emotional abuse is often not obvious to the casual observer. Even close family members may miss the signs. Furthermore, the victims may not even realize that the torture they've been receiving is a form of abuse. Instead, they believe their abusers, doubting themselves and feeling unworthy. They cower to the demands of their abusers, believing that life is much easier if they just do what their abusers wish or demand. They begin to believe they are unworthy or that this is just the way it is. It's better than being alone, right? Or is it?
Imagine living a lifetime under emotional abuse. You can never truly be yourself, do what you want to do, or even believe in yourself. Your self-esteem and self-confidence become nonexistent. While you are likely to have some good moments, your overall well-being and happiness is stifled. You find yourself anxious the majority of the time in fear of your abuser's reaction. You feel trapped.
Many times, the victims blame themselves. Or they may make excuses for their abuser, citing a lack of sleep or a stressful job as examples. Many victims are just thankful that they aren't beaten and believe that words really don't hurt. But this is far from the truth. The effects of emotional abuse can last a lifetime.
Keep in mind that emotional abusers are not just spouses. They can be friends, parents, siblings, and others. Check out the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence at www.ncadv.org to learn more about the signs of abuse and how to seek help.
Kids in foster care are struggling
by Robert P. Holloway
When I was a young boy, my parents decided to share their love by fostering children. Two children stayed with us briefly. Then, a 4-year-old girl was sent to us who had experienced numerous forms of abuse. After a year, we adopted her while another family in town adopted her siblings. The adjustment did not come easy, but my parents were certain that with love and discipline, we would be a healthy family.
Unfortunately, my parents were wrong. They weren't prepared to take in a new family member, especially one who was hurt, angry and scared. A social worker offered friendly advice about potential financial resources, but that was about it. We needed professional therapy to help my sister overcome her traumas and help us heal and grow as a family. I did what I could to protect my sister, but at age 12, she was sent to a psychiatric hospital due to severe emotional distress. Her next few years were filled with suicide attempts, hospitalizations, stays at group homes and attempts to reunite with my parents. After many painful years and broken relationships, she moved as far away from her past as possible. She has spent much of her adult life learning to be happy with herself, to be at peace with past mistakes and to not let her past define her.
Decades later and states away, we still have a foster care system that struggles to effectively care for our kids. Placements are changed frequently, eliminating the possibility of trusting relationships, or they're poorly supported, allowing problems to fester and grow into chaos and crisis. Then, kids go to group homes that are understaffed and unsupported. Foster kids never settle in one place or school or with the same therapist. Many in their teens attempt suicide or engage in other dangerous behaviors that cause them to be either hospitalized or incarcerated. By the time they grow up, they have very little experience with stability, family or trust.
We psychiatrists do what we can during these crises to provide stability and avoid injury, suicide and hospitalization. Those of us who work with foster youth have tried to do the best we can within the broken system. However, now I'm wondering if we've made a mistake in trying to work within the system at all.
Recently, it has been proposed that we're relying too much on antipsychotic medications to treat frustration tolerance, as well as more severe symptoms such as hallucinations and bipolar disorder. While electronic health records are becoming more commonplace, doctors still do not have access to all the information needed to safely and effectively prescribe medication.
However, a Treatment Authorization Request system in which all families who use Medi-Cal must have their prescriptions reviewed by the state doesn't address problems within the foster system since it is redundant to the court-authorization process. Instead, it causes delays and interruptions in treatment for kids and families who aren't in foster care.
The “cheap fix” of limiting prescriptions merely limits options for all kids who have Medi-Cal. If we're going to reduce prescribing, let's do it the right way by giving kids and their families the support they need so they don't reach the point of needing prescriptions in the first place. At the same time, when they need a prescription, let's provide better support and communication, not further restrictions.
Robert P. Holloway is president of the California Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and assistant professor of clinical psychiatry and behavioral sciences at USC Keck School of Medicine.
Trauma and poverty impacts the brain
by Jessie Wagoner
Close to 100 individuals learned about the impact of poverty and trauma on the brain at the Sixth Annual SOS Child Abuse Prevention Summit held Tuesday. Frank Kros, president of The Upside Down Organization, executive vice president of The Children's Guild and director of the Nation At-Risk Education Network, was the presenter.
Kros presents training workshops nationwide to parents, educators and child-serving professionals. He covered various topics, including brain-based learning, aggressive and violent behaviors, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and neuroscience of the brain.
Kros began the day defining what constitutes child abuse or child maltreatment. He acknowledged four types of child maltreatment: neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse. Additionally, events that do not involve maltreatment but can be very traumatic to children experiencing them were death of a parent, sibling or caretaker; separation from parents; relocation; and disasters. Kros says that all traumatic events have an impact on the brain.
“Whether that trauma comes from abuse or whether it comes from poverty, it impacts the brain,” Kros said. “What we have learned from neuroscience is the effect on the brain is the same.”
A child's brain can be affected in two big ways when a child experiences trauma. First, the child's stress response system is exaggerated and prolonged, releasing very high levels of cortisol into the system. Second, the child's brain can actually change, resulting in a smaller corpus callossum, smaller hippocampus, larger, more active amygdala and smaller, less active frontal lobes.
“The stress chemical called cortisol gets really high,” Kros said. “When it gets really high, that effects a child's learning ability. The very organ that does our memory-making dies, the cells are killed by that excess stress chemical. When traumatic levels of stress happen, you have damage to your learning ability.”
Many of those in attendance work in local schools as counselors, teachers and social workers. Kros says much is needed to provide an optimal learning environment for children.
“There are a couple of important things that need to happen for children to be able to learn deeply,” Kros said. “First of all, they have to be physically safe, you have to be emotionally safe, you have to be well fed and hydrated, you can't be too hot or too cold and you cannot be in too much pain. Creating safe and welcoming classrooms in schools is our first challenge.”
SOS envisions a community in which every man, woman and child lives without fear of interpersonal violence. The Child Abuse Prevention Summit is held each year in an effort to educate community members about the impact of trauma and ways to prevent abuse.
“We have had a wonderful turnout today,” Connie Cahoone, executive director of SOS said. “Frank is a wonderful presenter; it has been very informative.”
For more information about SOS and the services offered through the organization call 342-1870.
Victims of human trafficking speak at UMKC
I Am A Human Being - Not A Commodity
by Matt DeSarle
KANSAS CITY, MO. —When two criminal justice students at UMKC learned that human trafficking was an issue in their hometown of Kansas City, they decided to do something about it.
Whitney Hill and Sara Zapien assembled a panel on the issue as their senior project.
Thursday night, three victims of sexual assault and human trafficking spoke to a group of approximately 50 people. They shared the raw details of their personal stories inside a dimly lit auditorium at the Miller Nichols Library.
“When we think of human trafficking, we think of the movie Taken," a moderator introduced the issue by dismissing Hollywood imagery. "Trafficking is not always a dramatic scene with a teenager stolen from a bedroom.”
“I was three years old when my molestation started,” the first of three victims on the panel began. “It was a 17-year-old family friend." All the victims talked about how they were groomed for vulnerabilities at an early age.
The second victim talked about how her vulnerability was built by a circle of women who she was surrounded by as a kid. She was teased by older girls. She told the story of how she was raped by a family friend who was also raping his own children. For her protection, this victim will only be identified as J.M.
“I came from a very loving home. I had two siblings, two parents,” J.M. told the crowd which comprised both students and parents alike.
J.M.'s story quickly moved ahead to memories of a confusing scene of drunken men ready to prey on her. “I was taken to ‘house parties,' but they were essentially brothels.”
"I was brought to a home with pornography, a lot of alcohol and handed a red cup of beer.” J.M. remembered trusting someone to take her to a house party near her suburban home outside of Minneapolis.
J.M. recalled how she was lured into trusting the older crowd. "They were college students, they were local lawyers.” She was asked a number of questions by one man in particular; “Where do you live?” “Do you have any pets--what are their names?”
J.M. took a deep breath as she looked up to the skylights inside the library auditorium. J.M. then described her eventual rapist as "a real Romeo. The answers to those questions would later be used against me."
Days later, J.M. said she was thrown in a car and raped at a field near her school. J.M. said that her attackers always would make sure she was not too badly injured or late to school. Her attackers didn't want anyone else in the community to think anything was awry.
"There was always someone in the room, watching. Someone to make sure I was 'okay.' "
J.M. explained how she would “black out” after the attacks. "My father would let me smoke (marijuana) with him in the garage." Therefore, her parents did not suspect that she continued smoking marijuana to dull the pain of being transported and raped.
Like the two speakers before her, the third speaker introduced herself by saying “my story is very different.”
This victim, who will be identified as C.M., didn't know her father. C.M. said that her mother had a severe mental illness. She first remembers being taken advantage of at the age of 8.
“I was cutting because I was trying to deal with the emotional pain, but I had no way to process it.”
C.M. continued telling her story on a handheld microphone. Her voice was difficult to hear from the middle rows of the auditorium. The moderator nudged next to her, whispering, and handing over a better microphone. C.M. is blind because of a disease that forced her to choose between her unborn child and her eyesight. C.M.'s blindness is a side effect of her trafficking experience.
“They're not going to kill you, because you're a commodity,” C.M. spoke up into the microphone.
C.M. continued telling a story of how her plan to escape deteriorated into a living nightmare at the age of 15. That is when she ran away from home. C.M. met an older man who she thought could be her salvation.
“This man was so nice. He became my ‘safe person.' Not my boyfriend, not my man. He was an older gentleman. He was just my ‘safe person.' ''
C.M.'s new "safe place" was in Oklahoma City.
“I thought of the story Willy Wonka and the chocolate factory. I thought I had found my ‘golden ticket.'''
C.M. said that the man later took her out to lunch and bought her a pretty pair of high heel shoes. “He was grooming me.”
C.M. described how she was later brought to a strip club. “We think that strip clubs are OK, that they're legal," C.M. sarcastically asked the crowd. “I was sold for $2,500 dollars inside of a legal business.” From her offender's perspective, she was being shipped to the highest bidder.
C.M. explained how her possessions were taken away, she was locked in closets and urinated on by her attackers. She escaped by hitch-hiking her way to Kansas City, Missouri. She remembers the final destination was a street corner on Independence Avenue.
By her count, C.M. believes that she was arrested 103 times in her lifetime. She spent 17 years on the street around Kansas City. C.M. knows homelessness and addiction.
“Sometimes people say ‘you prosecute animals,' and I say ‘no, animals don't do this,” Cynthia Cordes said after three women shared their stories. Cordes is a former prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice. She has prosecuted more human-trafficking cases than any other assistant U.S. attorney in the country.
Cordes remembered working cases nationwide and her colleagues saying how Kansas City was "the mecca" of human trafficking. But she said there is nothing unique about Kansas City that makes it higher-risk for human trafficking. "If it's here in Kansas City, it's everywhere in the United States."
The lone man on the panel, Russ Tuttle of The Stop Trafficking Project urged his fellow men to stop consuming pornography. "Men, we are the problem," Tuttle said. He discussed how the growing supply of pornography degrades and dehumanizes women because men become desensitized to it. "It never goes far enough," Tuttle said.
All the victims said that their stories are much different. However, one characteristic of the criminals they faced is the same.
“They all have a radar; a radar for our meekest and our weakest. They know how to manipulate and how to groom. They are the children who fell through the cracks. No one reported them as missing because there was nowhere to be missing from,” Cordes cautioned everyone in the audience.
All the panelists agreed that parents have to go beyond monitoring their children's internet activities. Parents were urged to power down internet access in their home while they're asleep. Tuttle said that for every new app that a child is using, there's a new program designed to help hide his or her digital footprint. Tuttle talked about how his organization tested how vulnerable kids who use Periscope are. They found that strangers are watching children who live-stream themselves with Periscope, asking for the children to do different things for the camera. J.M. pleaded that parents "be parents, not friends" of their children.
After the forum, Hill and Zapien reacted to the real-life senior project: If you or someone you know is a victim of sex trafficking and human trafficking, there are resources available in Kansas City. The phone number to the MOCSA Abuse Hotline is (816) 531-0233. MOCSA stands for the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault. Exodus Cry is a faith-based support organization in Grandview, Missouri. Its phone number is (816) 398-7490. The hotline for the National Human Trafficking Resource Center is also 1-888-373-7888.
Maryland delegate says he was raped as a child
(Video on site)
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WUSA9) -- Maryland State Delegate C.T. Wilson revealed for the first time during a committee testimony that he'd been repeatedly raped by his adoptive father between the ages of nine and 15.
Many people knew that Wilson, of Charles County, had it rough growing up as a foster child. But until his testimony during a state senate committee on March 18, they didn't know how rough.
"I went from what was a difficult life to a downright hell," Wilson told his colleagues.
It was not a spotlight Wilson sought, he said Wednesday in a follow up interview with WUSA9
"I could have gone the rest of my life without talking about this," Wilson said.
The former Army combat medic who went on to become a prosecutor and politician said he decided to reveal his secret in order to lead the way for others who were hesitating to testify on a child sexual abuse legal reform bill.
It was heart wrenching decision. Wilson describes a life of suffering in the wake of abuse and says at age 43, he is still unable to sleep because "my mind doesn't want to go there."
"I'm left with just me," Wilson explained.
Wilson wants Maryland to remove the age limitation for victims of child sexual abuse to sue their abusers. Currently victims over the age of 25 may not bring suit.
"I want my legacy to be more than this. That's why I've avoided a lot of it," Wilson said. "But I guess letting others know they are not alone in their pain and suffering --- I guess it's worth it."
The bill is opposed most notably by Maryland's Catholic Archdiocese. The measure appears to be headed for defeat.
Regardless of the outcome, it appears Wilson's reach has extended far beyond the hearing room.
How everyone can prevent child abuse
by DeeDee Stiepan
ROCHESTER, Minn. – How do we prevent child abuse? It's a complicated question. But according to Alison Feigh with the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, the answer can be simple.
Feigh was in Rochester Tuesday night speaking to an audience at University of Minnesota, Rochester about Safety Education for both kids and adults.
She says it's important to make sure kids know at a young age what's right and what's wrong. She suggests planning monthly family safety meetings where you decide on “family safety rules,” then let kids know if anyone tries to break one of those rules, they need to speak to a trusted adult.
Statistics show that 93% of kids being abused know the person abusing them. This is where parents need to be alert and look for warning signs in the people your kids hang out with. One being, if someone shows extreme interest in your child and likes the child more than you, that's a red flag.
“Whenever we're at the airport, there are signs that say ‘if you see something; say something'. We need to be doing the same thing when it comes to our kids,” Freigh explains. “It's not as difficult as it might seem to prevent, but it is a whole bunch of things that need to be working together,” she adds.
10th Marine Regiment takes a stand against child abuse
by Cpt. Krista James
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - According to Child Help, a non-profit charity that aids victims of child abuse, every year more than three million reports of child abuse are made in the United States alone involving more than 6 million children. On average, between four and seven children, 70 percent of whom are two years of age or younger, are lost every day to child abuse and neglect.
There is a prevalence of physical, sexual and emotional abuse at 59.6 percent, followed by physical and emotional neglect at 24.7 percent. In 2012, state agencies identified an estimated 1,640 children who died as a result of abuse and neglect.
Marines and sailors with 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division held a child abuse prevention symposium for National Child Abuse Prevention month at the base theatre aboard Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, April 13, 2015.
The symposium educated the unit on signs of child abuse, reporting child abuse, dealing with child abuse as an adult and informed them on various resources for prevention such as the Family Advocacy Program, Community Counseling Center and the Onslow County Partnership for Children.
“Child abuse awareness month is something that doesn't get near the amount of exposure it can because it's embarrassing. It's embarrassing that people will abuse small children, many times their own children,” said Col. Clifford J. Weinstein, commanding officer of 10th Marines. “Many people probably know people or were abused themselves as small children, and it has an impact on you for the rest of your life.”
Brad McGuire, a special agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, said that being raised in a nourishing home is imperative to positive development in any child's life.
“When these kids are developing as children, that's a very crucial time period and if they don't get the love, nourishment and support that they need as a child, then they're going to have tons of problems when they grow up,” McGuire said.
During his opening remarks, Weinstein said that he hopes the Marines and sailors keep their minds open and take to heart what is being said because protecting people is what they do as service members.
“We can protect the most valuable resource we have in this country, without them, just like without you, this country cannot succeed and cannot continue to be the greatest country on this planet,” said Weinstein. “That's why you joined the Marine Corps, right? To take care of and help people who can't help themselves; to protect our nation. Well, this is part of that.”
Following Weinstein's opening remarks, two guests speakers shared their personal experiences with child abuse, hoping to show the Marines and sailors that being a victim of child abuse is something that they can overcome.
“The beauty of my story is that's who I used to be. That's who I used to be and I don't forget it, but I take great pride in not forgetting because that's what it took for me to be here in front of you today; to tell you that it doesn't have to define you, you can be an overcomer and [not to be] afraid to deal with the pain,” said retired U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Tina Bryant.
She continued to say that their destiny isn't defined by where they've been, but by being willing to take the first step in overcoming it.
“I do not stand before you today as a victim, because I am not a victim. I'm a survivor,” said Gayloyce Willis, a prevention and education specialist with the Family Advocacy Program. “Everything that happened to me happened to me for a reason. That reason is that so I can be the person standing before you today to tell you that you can overcome it if you allow yourself to acknowledge it in a safe place, move beyond it and get some help.”
After the guests speakers shared their experiences, representatives from the Community Counseling Center, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Consolidated Human Services, Onslow County Partnership for Children, Family Advocacy Program and New Parent Support, gathered on stage for the question and answer portion of the symposium.
During the Q and A, the representatives were asked why it is important to report any suspicion of child abuse.
“Children need someone to be a guardian angel and to stand up for them in the mist of their [situations]. Abuse is a community problem and the way to deal with it and re-address it is community response. No one person can do it on their own, it takes a community. Everybody needs to be involved,” Willis said.
After the final questions, Weinstein gave his closing remarks for the symposium.
“This is a mindset that can make or break the future of this nation, make or break the effectiveness of the citizens that grow up in this country. It can make or break how safe you feel when you, or if you are, a parent to let your children go outside and play,” said Weinstein. “You can change things if you learn the tools, see the signs and are willing to be part of that.”
For more information on child abuse prevention, go to childhelp.org, militaryonesource.mil, childwelfare.gov, preventchildabuse.org and mccslejeune-newriver.com/fap.
Sending a message about abuse
by LORI COMSTOCK
Shirts on a clothesline fluttered in the breeze on the Newton town square on Wednesday to send a message: Stop domestic violence.
April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Child Abuse Prevention Month, and contains Crime Victim Rights Week. In the town square of Newton Wednesday, 75 people — including members of DASI, the Sussex County Prosecutor's Office, the Newton Police Department and Ginnie's House Children's Advocacy Center — partnered to spread awareness of sexual assault.
To honor victims and survivors, the clothesline displayed shirts decorated by survivors in an effort to “air out” their experiences.
“There is no shame, and victims are entitled to our empathy and support,” Sussex County Prosecutor Francis Koch said. “This event allows those individuals to air out their assaults and be assured that there are people here for them.”
Koch, as county prosecutor, concentrates on various crimes, including child and domestic violence. He has pictures of sexual abuse victims hanging in his office.
“I consider what these victims go through as very important, and we all hope to one day eradicate sexual assault entirely,” Koch said.
Allison Blake, commissioner of the state Department of Children and Families, presented Gov. Chris Christie's proclamation for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Through tears, DASI Executive Director Jamie Bernard fervently wished that every survivor knew that he or she is not alone and that there is help available.
“It is incumbent on all of us to make this world a safer place, both emotionally and physically, on survivors and, of course, to do anything we possibly can to prevent these heinous crimes,” Bernard said.
Among the services offered by DASI — an acronym for Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault Intervention Services — are a helpline and counseling.
Ginnie Littell, founder of Ginnie's House, praised the joint awareness effort.
“All the local agencies came together and helped each other out to develop this event. No man is an island,” she said. “No one can do this alone, and we have everyone on our side.”
A facility typically closed to the public to promote a safe zone to the children, Ginnie's House was open for a guided tour, where each room had a purpose. One room allows local law enforcement to review videos and investigations of child abuse cases. The medical room collects evidence and gives children medical evaluations. To set children at ease, forensic nurse Pat Lynch has a private area for medical exams, complete with a stuffed Kermit the Frog.
Lynch, who is also the coordinator for the Sexual Assault Response Team in Sussex County, gathers evidence from adults and children to add to a sexual abuse case.
“We are the only child abuse center in New Jersey that has our very own physicians,” she said. “We are very fortunate.”
Rhona Beadle, executive director of Ginnie's House, said that the event helped spread awareness to as many local facilities as possible.
“The more we educate a community, the easier it is to educate a jury.”
PTSD in Adults Caused by Trauma and Domestic Violence During Childhood
by Ankur Sinha
Research has shown that Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in adults can be caused due to a traumatic experience or witnessing domestic violence during their childhood. In the Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2012, approximately 6.3 million allegations of maltreatment towards children were reported to Child Protective Services (CPS) agencies. With the month of April being designated as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, people across the U.S. spread awareness as these numbers are an ugly reminder of the violence endured by children.
It has been determined that when a child witnesses domestic violence, the experience is intense enough to cause PTSD. This occurrence of PTSD can also take place when the child reaches adulthood. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that in homes where violence among partners takes place even when a child is not physically assaulted, they witness 68 to 80 percent of such domestic attacks. Along with violence against the significant other, there is 45 to 60 percent chance of child abuse. The CDC has attributed domestic violence to poor quality of life and premature death among children who are exposed to an upbringing surrounded by violence. Also, the CDC has classified domestic violence as a risk factor to the more common causes of deaths that take place every year in the U.S.
The multitude of domestic violence that victims are exposed to ranges from threats, chronic yelling and arguing, controlling behavior, intimidation, to threats involving weapons, physical threats, threats of suicide or murder, further extending to serious injuries, and fatal assaults. Domestic violence has many forms and always exhibits the destructive tones of control and power. Offenders compulsively and commonly grasp for a replacement of control which they themselves lack. All intimate relationships with behavior patterns that display forcible control of one partner by the other, can be a foreshadowing or signal of abuse. Exposing children to this not only runs the risk of firsthand victimization, but it also affects them in the long-term. Children in danger of this are inevitably emotionally scarred.
Victims are not completely defined by the horrific acts they once experienced. Many grow up to live an overall happy, fulfilled, and passionate lives. While survivors are adaptable, it would not be accurate to call them unbreakable. When children witness or are victims of domestic violence, it gets imprinted into their brain permanently. While growing up, they may experience occurrences of bed wetting, insomnia, and learning difficulties including problems with developing motor, verbal, and cognitive skills. This could lead to self-harm, aggression, anxiety, antisocial behavior, low self-worth, and depression.
While years of therapies, group sessions, psychologists, meditation, and yoga may be comforting, it does not fix the permanent emotional damage. The uncontrollable crying, recurring nightmares, the impulse to go silent and freeze without any warning, and the rage in many adults can be a result of PTSD due to traumatic experiences or witnessing domestic violence during their childhood. The issue of PTSD is bound to continue even after the person has resolved the issue with his or her parents and shares an extremely loving and caring relationship with them after growing up. The problem is that in their sub-conscious mind, the memories of trauma and domestic violence are still very vivid. Today, many adults struggle and fight with these aspects of PTSD with hopes of getting some normalcy or closure. Sadly, it eventually makes them feel as if they are beyond repair and will never be normal again.
Many are working to spread awareness about domestic violence to help people understand some of the psychological probabilities resulting in guilt, excessive worry, fear of abandonment or harm, sadness, compulsive lying, emotional distancing, low frustration tolerance, poor judgment, inability to experience guilt or empathy, fear about their future, and shame about the past. The young parents and working adults from the present generation need to be made aware that even a single act of domestic violence and traumatic experience can lead the child to suffer from PTSD in his or her life.
#NoMoreVictimBlaming in sexual abuse cases
by Bolt Burdon Kemp and Dino Nocivelli
Victim blaming is often seen in sexual abuse cases. Survivors of abuse often state they did not report the sexual abuse they suffered because they were worried society would blame them for “allowing” the abuse to take place. A recent example of this is the case of Stuart Kerner.
Judge accuses child of enticing an adult to commit a sexual offence
Stuart Kerner was forty two years old at the time of the offences and he was the deputy head of Bexleyheath Academy in south east London where the victim was a pupil. For the purposes of this blog only, I shall call the victim Sophie. Sophie was 16 years old when Kerner took Sophie's virginity on a yoga mat in the school storeroom and he continued to have sexual intercourse with her over a number of months.
Kerner was convicted in January 2015 of having sex with a child while in a position of trust as a teacher. It was the comments of Judge Joanna Greenberg however that have caused me considerable anger and concern. When sentencing Kerner, she told Kerner that:
“ there is no evidence you encouraged her in any way……………..there is no evidence you groomed her. If anything, it was she who groomed you”.
Sophie was later labelled by Judge Greenberg as being “ intelligent and manipulative” .
I am at a loss to understand how anyone, let alone someone such as a judge, could ever blame a 16 year old pupil of “leading on” an adult teacher to commit sexual assaults. How can a victim ever be blamed for the failings of someone who held a position of authority, power and trust over them?
It is comments such as those by Judge Greenberg that frequently deter victims of sexual abuse from disclosing the abuse that they suffered. Survivors of child abuse often worry that people will blame them for the abuse and it is likely this case would have deterred many coming forward. Sophie admitted the same herself a few weeks after the trial concluded:
“ I wish the trial had never gone ahead. I regret it more than the affair.”
It is important to remember three key issues:
It is never a victim's fault for abuse taking place.
Abusers will often manipulate matters to make victims comply with their demands.
Abusers often use their position of power, trust and authority to commit sexual crimes against children and those who are more vulnerable than them.
I therefore ask you to retweet this blog and to help spread the tweet #NoMoreVictimBlaming so other victims of sexual abuse can feel safe in disclosing the abuse they suffered and confident that they will be believed and that they will not be blamed for the assaults they have suffered.
Lawsuit: Pittsburgh Public Schools should have known officer was abusing boys
by Brian Bowling
Pittsburgh Public Schools and two former school officials should have noticed that former school police officer Robert Lellock was repeatedly taking male students out of classes to sexually assault them in a janitor's closet, one Lellock's victims claims in a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday.
“They were charged with the welfare and protection of the children entrusted to them, and they failed these children repeatedly and systematically by turning a blind eye to the obvious signs of abuse being perpetrated by defendant Lellock,” the lawsuit says.
The Tribune-Review doesn't name the victims of sexual assaults.
The man, now 29, says that Lellock, 46, of Beltzhoover took him out of class more than two dozen times in the 1998-99 school year at Arthur J. Rooney Middle School in Brighton Heights. He did the same with up to 21 other boys that same year, the lawsuit says.
“Not a single teacher reported him, or even questioned him. Not a single teacher made an inquiry to the office,” the lawsuit says. “This speaks of a failure of training and policy of an unbelievable and conscience shocking level.”
Pennsylvania law gives the victims of child sexual abuse until their 30th birthday to file civil lawsuits over the assaults.
Lawyers for the man waited to file the lawsuit to give him the best chance of winning the case, said Robert Peirce, one of his lawyers.
“We wanted to make sure that it was fully researched and that our client was prepared to proceed considering how traumatically these events have impacted his life,” he said.
He is suing Lellock, the school district, former superintendent Dale Frederick and former principal Ronald Zangaro.
An Allegheny County jury convicted Lellock in 2013 on 13 charges, including endangering the welfare of children, corrupting minors and indecent assault. He is serving a sentence of 32 to 64 years in state prison.
There was no phone listing for Zangaro. Frederick and Ira Weiss, the district's solicitor, declined comment.
“We'll certainly review it and take appropriate action,” Weiss said.
A federal judge in March 2014 dismissed the district and everyone else except Lellock from another victim's lawsuit. The judge ruled that the victim failed to show that the school officials were aware of what Lellock was doing and allowed it to continue.
In the lawsuit filed Wednesday, the victim claims that Lellock wasn't authorized to remove students from class and that should have led teachers and administrators to look into what he was doing.
Lellock worked in the district from 1990 until the school board suspended him with pay in July 2012 and accepted his resignation two months later.
The district said it first investigated Lellock in 1999, prompted by an incident it characterized as involving “nonsexual interactions” with a student. Lellock was suspended for 20 days. No wrongdoing was found.
Pittsburgh police also investigated and filed no charges.
A student's accusations made to school officials in July 2012 led police to three other victims, each of whom independently recalled Lellock taking him to the janitor's closet.
Police say San Diego man sent pornography to teenage girl from Fayette
by Liz Zemba
A San Diego man who told police he had an out-of-body experience with a teenage girl is accused of using an online video game and social networking sites to send pornographic photos to the girl.
Manuel Rodriguez Jr., 26, also known as Manny, PepeVillaZap and Manny6468, is charged by state police at Uniontown with dissemination of explicit sexual material to a minor, unlawful contact with a minor, criminal use of a communication facility and corruption of minors.
In an affidavit of probable cause, Trooper Nathaniel Lieberum said Rodriguez met the then-14-year-old girl online in 2013 while playing Grand Theft Auto on Xbox. Rodriguez told police the girl said she was 19, so he sent her pornographic pictures that appeared on her Instagram account.
The Tribune-Review does not identify victims of sex crimes.
Rodriguez told police he believed the two had a spiritual connection that manifested itself in an out-of-body experience on his birthday in 2014. The two, during a phone conversation, laid down to meditate until they both saw a blue light.
“The light turned to purple, and they came out of their bodies, and came together,” said Lieberum in the affidavit. “They became one being of energy.”
Rodriguez learned a short time later the girl had recently turned 15, having grown suspicious because her other friends on social media were young, police said. He told police although he confirmed she was a minor, he did not end the relationship.
“At this point, he loved her and could not be without her,” said Lieberum in the affidavit. “He knew in the eyes and law of man it was wrong, but continued to tag her in pornographic pictures.”
The girl told police the two communicated via several online social networks and the phone, even when Rodriguez learned in 2014 she was just 14. When the girl's father told Rodriguez to stop contacting her, Rodriguez refused, instead devising “a secret code” so she would know who was sending messages, police said.
Charges were filed with North Union District Judge Wendy Dennis. Rodriguez is wanted on an arrest warrant.
Summit looks at childhood trauma's long-term impact
by Ana B. Ibarra
Where children grow up matters.
The environment to which people are exposed in their childhood plays a significant role in their adult life, according to health leaders who presented at the 12th annual Children's Summit of Merced County.
Wednesday's summit gathered local health and education leaders, as well as community members interested in learning more about how people can work together to improve the lives of children.
Keynote speaker Dr. Dayna Long, a pediatrician at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland, discussed the importance of assessing all factors of health. Education, gender, income, culture and housing, for example, all have a direct relation to children's health.
“When you see a person that's had a rough life, they just look so much older than expected,” Long said.
This can be explained by the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) study, an investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente Health, which suggests that adults have physical manifestations of their childhood experiences, Long explained.
According to the study, traumatic events, which may include emotional, physical and sexual abuse or household dysfunction, can shorten a victim's lifetime by up to 20 years. While the study has been around since the late 1990s, the information presented by Long was new to many at the summit – made clear by a show of hands.
More recent studies have revealed that, in California, two-thirds of adults have experienced at least one example of childhood trauma. According to Long, these experiences can translate into toxic stress.
Toxic stress is defined as prolonged, continuous stress that builds in the absence of protective relationships with parents or other family members who might provide comfort or understanding.
And childhood stress can change the brain architecture and alter hormonal systems, Long said, “so that you're impulsive and fidgety.”
“Someone might say something to you, and you just snap at them,” Long said.
Toxic stress also could be a risk factor for poor quality of life such as homelessness and crime, and for chronic illnesses such as obesity, depression and heart disease.
The first step to addressing this issue is learning to identify it. Long suggested that health care providers and county health leaders begin by incorporating screening for trauma.
Also present at the summit was Jessica Mindnich, the director of research at Children Now, a national research and advocacy organization for children's well-being. Mindnich presented data from the latest score card, in which information on education, health and well being is provided for each county.
The 2014-15 score card showed that 36 percent of children in Merced County live in poverty and only 44 percent of families can afford basic living expenses.
The data show that 93 percent of children in Merced County have health insurance for the entire year, slightly above the state's average. “That means that 7 percent of kids don't have insurance and are probably not up to date on immunizations,” Mindnich said.
CRICKET Center Provides Critical Service In Worcester As It's ‘Only Child Advocacy Center In The County'
OCEAN CITY – April is Child Abuse Awareness Month as the CRICKET Center is gearing up for its second annual Walk to Help the Fight Against Child Abuse.
The Children's Resource Intervention Center, Kids Empowerment Team (CRICKET) Center is a 501c3 non-profit organization modeled after the National Child Advocacy Center and is one out of two accredited center's by the National Children's Alliance on the Eastern Shore.
The mission of the CRICKET Center is to provide a comprehensive, culturally competent, multidisciplinary team approach to the investigation, prosecution and treatment of child physical and sexual abuse in a child-friendly environment.
Walking into the CRICKET Center children are provided the opportunity to make their own handprint tile.
“It is a good way for kids to have a good memory before they leave, but more importantly when they come down the hall they see they aren't the first child to come here,” CRICKET Center Executive Director Wendy Myers said. “Children are not able to help themselves. We have to advocate for them. There are many studies that illustrate children who are abused will not result in a positive outcome because of that, meaning just not prosecution but therapy, and other issues that happen later on in life, such as higher risks of teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, suicide, and jail time. If we take care of our kids, then they will be happier adults.”
Myers explained the CRICKET Center is the Child Advocacy Center for Worcester County.
“We investigate and prosecute all cases of child abuse in the county. We are the only Child Advocacy Center in the county. We are the only ones that do what we do, and we are the only ones that partner with the agencies who provide our services,” she said.
The CRICKET Center partners to investigate and prosecute child abuse in Worcester County with Atlantic General Hospital, Life Crisis, Inc., local law enforcement agencies, the Board of Education, Department of Social Services and the State's Attorney Office.
The collaborative team response enhances the investigative process, facilitates the prosecution of those who commit these crimes in Worcester County, minimizes the trauma of abuse for the child victim and the non-offending family members, prevents further victimization and promotes emotional healing for the child victim and family.
The CRICKET Center provides a 24-hour response, on-site forensic medical exams by a SAFE (Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner) nurse, on-site therapist, on-site forensic interviewers, on-site family advocate, community education on child abuse, comprehensive assessment and investigation of child neglect, physical, sexual, and mental abuse, and the prosecution of offenders when warranted by the evidence. All services are provided free of charge to families.
“We opened our doors here in 2009 but prior to that we worked out of two rooms next door to the Atlantic Health Center, so we would get a call and then the team would converge,” Myers explained of the previous operation. “The way it used to be and the way it is in a lot of places still is the child will have to talk to Child Protective Services worker probably at school and go back to class, then go sit in the emergency room and wait, and perhaps then go sit at the States Attorney Office in a waiting room with a big desk and a stranger, and then often times kids are taken to the police department to provide a statement to a police officer.”
In Fiscal Year 2014, the CRICKET Center handled 98 cases of child sexual abuse, 460 hours of trauma therapy, 37 sex offenders were identified, 13 individuals were arrested for producing/distributing child pornography and 149 years of sentenced jail time for child sex offenders were given.
Being a non-profit organization and charging no fees for their services, the CRICKET Center relies on donations and grants.
To help raise funds, the organization is planning the second annual Walk for Kids to Help the Fight Against Child Abuse on Sunday, April 26.
“Hooters sponsors the walk, and they provide everything. They are extraordinarily generous to us and a great partner to have,” Myers said. “We raised over $5,000 last year, so this year we are hoping to exceed that. We are half way to our goal already.”
Registration begins at 11 a.m. at Hooters on the Boardwalk. The walk begins at noon. The registration fee is $25. Entrants will receive a commemorative token and are invited to attend a reception at Hooters on the Boardwalk from 1-3 p.m. including assortment of food/soft drinks, happy hour prices for alcoholic beverages and raffles.
Entrants raising more than $75 will receive a commemorative token and an event T-shirt. Prizes will be awarded to top fundraisers.
Prizes for registered groups will be awarded based on the total amount raised by the group and awarded in the group with the most funds raised and turned in before/on day of the walk.
For a youth group, including sport groups, classes, scouts, religious, etc., a pizza party will be awarded to include pizza, soda and cookies.
For an adult group, a bushel of medium sized crabs, paper products and soda will be awarded.
A young individual in first place will receive two passes to Jolly Roger, four passes to Old Pro Golf and a $20 McDonalds gift card.
An adult in first place will receive a wine basket with an assortment of goodies and a gift certificate to BJ's on the Water.
Register by mail or online at www.thecricketcenter.com. For more information contact Myers at 410-641-0097 or email@example.com
The next upcoming event is the 2015 Pig & Jig BBQ Festival located at Snow Hill Auto Body on Route 113 on Friday, May 29, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday, May 30, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The event includes professional and amateur BBQ competitions, food and craft vendors, amusements, live music from some of the best bands around, and much more.
This year the event is partnering with the CRICKET Center, which is assisting in the planning and execution of the event and in return will receive 50 percent of the proceeds with the other 50 percent going to local schools.
For more information visit www.pigandajog.org
The CRICKET Center's annual event at Seacrets, “Jamaican a Difference ‘Mon”, will be held Oct. 16 this year with silent auction and raffles, hors d'oeuvres and an open bar. Live entertainment will be provided by the band When Worlds Collide. All proceeds benefit the CRICKET Center.
“We have had great success with that event. It is our largest fundraising event every year. It is so nice to relax … it is just a really fun night,” Myers said.
Positive evidence for parent time with teens
by ANNE MICHAUD
Which do you think would make the most difference in a child's life: spending time with parents as a kid or as a teenager?
The answer may surprise you. Our culture places a strong emphasis on parenting children when they're young. We obsess to the extent that even working mothers today spend as much time with their children as at-home mothers did in the early 1970s, about 14 hours a week. Fathers' time has nearly tripled, from 2.6 hours a week in 1965 to 7.2 hours in 2010.
But parents who want to make the most of this time investment would be wise to apply it during the teen years, according to a study published this month in the Journal of Marriage and Family. It's the first large-scale study of its kind, conducted with more than 1,500 families over several years by researchers from the University of Toronto, Bowling Green State University and the University of Maryland.
The sheer amount of time mothers spend with kids ages 3 through 11, the study says, has virtually no relationship to behavioral health, emotional well-being or academic performance. Instead, it's the quality of time that counts -- reading together, doing homework, playing sports, going on family excursions.
But with adolescents ages 12 to 18, more time with Mom correlated strongly with reduced delinquent behavior -- bullying others, cheating, lying or arguing too much.
What's more, additional "family time" -- mothers and fathers together in activities with children -- resulted in better behavioral health and less risk-taking through substance abuse and sex. And the kids got better math scores.
I wouldn't have guessed that about the math, but the rest confirms something I've felt intuitively: Teenagers need their parents. It's a stressful time of life. As I've written before, the teen years are parents' last, best chance to matter.
Melissa Milkie, one of the study's authors and a sociologist at the University of Toronto, explained in an email, "It may be that time is more scarce, freely chosen and meaningful for teens, and when they do spend time with Mom or both parents, it helps an adolescent feel like they are important to the parents."
The study also erodes the sacred ideology about intensive mothering -- at least for kids 3 to 11 -- that has inflamed our culture's "mommy wars" over the past two decades.
Amy Hsin of Queens College, another sociologist researching parent time, said she hopes to debunk the idea that mothers' employment has a negative effect on children because it reduces the amount of maternal time kids need. A study she published in October in the journal Demography came to the same conclusion as Milkie's: It's the quality of time together, not sheer quantity, that counts.
If parent time matters more in the teen years, how does one design a work-family life that's balanced? In a famous piece for The Atlantic Monthly, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All," Anne-Marie Slaughter explained why she left her high-powered foreign policy job at the State Department when her oldest son was struggling in middle school. Her hours as a Princeton University professor are less punishing. I admire her choice -- but most women don't have such a wealth of options.
I asked Milkie about this. "A better way than restructuring careers over the life course might be to demand more from workplaces -- more sane hours, etc.," she wrote.
Could that happen? It's a great idea, but I'm skeptical that it's a priority for my generation. Perhaps the teens we're spending time with now will find a way to bring those family values to work.
CBS4 Investigation: TSA Screeners At DIA Manipulated System To Grope Men's Genitals
by Brian Maass
DENVER (CBS4) – A CBS4 investigation has learned that two Transportation Security Administration screeners at Denver International Airport have been fired after they were discovered manipulating passenger screening systems to allow a male TSA employee to fondle the genital areas of attractive male passengers.
It happened roughly a dozen times, according to information gathered by CBS4.
According to law enforcement reports obtained during the CBS4 investigation, a male TSA screener told a female colleague in 2014 that he “gropes” male passengers who come through the screening area at DIA.
“He related that when a male he finds attractive comes to be screened by the scanning machine he will alert another TSA screener to indicate to the scanning computer that the party being screened is a female. When the screener does this, the scanning machine will indicate an anomaly in the genital area and this allows (the male TSA screener) to conduct a pat-down search of that area.”
Although the TSA learned of the accusation on Nov. 18, 2014 via an anonymous tip from one of the agency's own employees, reports show that it would be nearly three months before anything was done.
On Feb. 9 TSA security supervisor Chris Higgins watched the screening area, observing the employees. “At about 0925 he observed (the male TSA screener) appear to give a signal to another screener … (the second female screener) was responsible for the touchscreen system that controls whether or not the scanning machine alerts to gender- specific anomalies, according to a law enforcement report obtained by CBS4.
DOCUMENT: Read The Police Report
According to the report, the TSA investigator then watched a male passenger enter the scanner at DIA “and observed (the female TSA agent) press the screening button for a female. The scanner alerted to an anomaly, and Higgins observed (the male TSA screener) conduct a pat down of the passenger's front groin and buttocks area with the palm of his hands, which is contradictory to TSA searching policy.”
Higgins later interviewed the female TSA agent who was an accomplice in the groping conspiracy. She “admitted that she has done this for (the male TSA officer) at least 10 other times. She knew that doing so would allow (the male TSA officer) to perform a pat down on a male passenger that (the male TSA screener) found attractive,” reported Higgins.
The TSA said the male passenger who they saw being fondled was flying on Southwest Airlines and the agency has videotape of the incident. CBS4 has requested the tape but it was not immediately released. TSA has said it could not identify the male passenger who was groped and the agency says there have been no other complaints about the serial groping.
Merced group, churches team to shed light on child abuse
by Ana B. Ibarra
Local groups are working together to spread the word on preventing child mistreatment and promoting well-being in keeping with Child Abuse Awareness Month in April.
ACE Overcomers, a program that aims to help teens and adults overcome the effects of adverse childhood experiences, has teamed with several churches to shed light on the issue.
Life-size blue silhouettes, representing the life journey of those affected by child abuse, can be found at Merced City Hall, Gateway Community Church, Creekside Evangelical Church, First Baptist Church and Yosemite Church, among other locations.
Dave Lockridge, executive director of ACE Overcomers, explained that each silhouette tells a victim's story. The goal, he said, is to create awareness by sharing these stories with the public and to create consciousness about the nature and extent of child abuse.
Abuse can be categorized as emotional, physical and sexual, and it can be manifested in the form of neglect, including emotional and medical neglect.
According to information from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 679,000 children in the United States were victims of mistreatment in 2013. Self-reported data showed that about 1 in 10 children and youths experienced at least one form of child abuse in the past year. It is estimated that 1,400 children in the country die each year as a result of abuse and neglect.
Merced County's Child Welfare Services reported that in 2014 there were ongoing cases of child abuse or neglect for 1,219 children. In addition to the ongoing cases, the department received an additional 2,371 allegations of abuse or neglect. Because there is often more than one child in a family, Child Welfare Services had face-to-face contact with 4,821 children during investigations. Department officials said allegations were substantiated for 615 children.
Every example of child abuse, Lockridge said, can lead to physical and emotional problems in adult life. A difficult childhood, for example, can result in poor self-image, nervousness, anxiety and depression. Child abuse also has been linked to chronic diseases, impaired brain development, obesity and other medical conditions.
The Central Valley is a hotspot for childhood trauma, especially because of the financial upheaval that creates stress in many families, Lockridge said. When parents lose jobs, they feel pressured and this tension can be passed along to children.
“The stress that mom and dad are under can directly affect a child's school performance, attention span and health,” he said.
ACE Overcomers teamed with churches because of their role in the community. When people are in trouble, their church is one of the first places they turn, Lockridge said.
Several of these churches will participate in Blue Sunday, a child abuse awareness campaign in which churches around the nation take time during their service to pray for victims of child abuse.
ACE Overcomers is also working to help educate church leaders on the effects of child abuse and on ways they can help make a difference.
This is the first year Merced will participate in the Blue Sunday initiative. Lockridge said this year will serve as a trial run. He hopes that in the future, he can help organize fundraising events to give back to groups that work with abused children.
Really? Rapists get parental rights?
by Rekha Basu
Iowa has some good laws to protect victims. When an offender is released from jail or prison, for example, his or her victim is supposed to be informed. Someone who has been enticed into commercial sexual activity is entitled to restitution. And anyone who violates a no-contact order must be arrested.
But there's at least one law that we — along with a minority of other states — don't have, whose absence is astounding enough to have been mocked on the comedic Daily Show last week. If a woman has been raped, gotten pregnant from it, and opted to keep the child, her rapist can claim parental rights.
Imagine this: You make the grueling decision to have the baby. You struggle to separate her from the traumatic act that conceived her, and give her a loving, secure home. And then the perpetrator is back in your life, getting to share decisions on how she's raised, her schooling, religion, allowance, everything. You can never escape him.
Even if he doesn't fill her ears bad-mouthing you, or show violent tendencies toward other women, he has power. If you try to move away — 150 miles or more — a court can change the custody order to give him greater rights. He may try to use custody as a bargaining chip: If he backs off that, you must back off seeking criminal charges.
Nationally, a rape survivor named Shauna Prewitt spent two years fighting her rapist's custody bid, and ultimately became a lawyer because of it. A federal bill, "Rape Survivor Child Custody Act," sponsored by U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, says between 25,000 and 32,000 women nationally become pregnant through rape every year, and an estimated one-third of them opt to raise the child. That means there are potentially 10,000 custody battles involving rapists every year.
Forcing a rape survivor to continue interacting with the rapist can be traumatic and "severely negatively impact her ability to raise a healthy child," the bill says.
But Iowa legislators have yet to persuade enough members of that. House File 100, sponsored by Rep. Megan Jones, R-Sioux Rapids, tried to this year, but never moved out of the House Judiciary Committee. It would have added as a grounds for termination of parental rights a sexual-abuse conviction resulting in conception of the child. There was no companion bill in the Senate. Jones said she had stumbled onto the issue through a national website, but didn't know of Iowa-specific cases.
Around the country, bills to this end have won bipartisan support — rare for anything these days — as pro-life advocates have joined forces with advocates for sexual-assault survivors.
The impact of the bill could be limited because it requires sexual-assault convictions. Both Rep. Marti Anderson, D-Des Moines, and Beth Barnhill, director of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, say most rape victims don't report it. Barnhill said even for those who do, "it's dropped at every stage" — arrest, charging, prosecution, conviction. Anderson points out that victims who do report may have waited, or may not have gotten timely examinations, or have something in their background that compromises them as witnesses.
There were 562 convictions for all kinds of sex offenses in Iowa in 2014, but 2,964 adult sex-abuse victims were served by Iowa's Victim Service agencies. A 2012 study on The Costs of Sexual Violence in Iowa done for the Iowa Department of Public Health estimated that in 2009, there were roughly 600 rape-related pregnancies leading to 230 live births, along with 300 abortions, and 70 miscarriages.
Barnhill and Anderson look to other states that have laws that don't require convictions, but require the victim to persuade a custody judge there is clear and convincing evidence of a rape. That standard is the most common one for most other kinds of parental rights termination, and was upheld in a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, according to the federal bill. The bill estimates less than 5 percent of rapes result in criminal convictions.
Jones said she will consider changing the bill and reintroducing it next year, and Anderson says she would co-sponsor it. The federal bill would offer financial incentives to states that passed laws allowing the mother of a child conceived through rape to seek court-ordered termination of the rapist's parental rights. It uses the "clear and convincing evidence" standard. But it never got a hearing. Wasserman Schultz has attributed the opposition to the expenditure of $5 million a year, over five years, in incentives.
That's not a lot to spend if it would result in states taking rapists out of contention for co-parenting. Because it's hard to imagine much that's more sickening than the prospect of your rapist raising your child.
Young boys break silence on sex abuse
by Katharine Child
Boys under 12 are 10 times more likely to report sexual abuse than girls, according to a Wits University study that followed children from birth to the age of 20.
The study, Birth to Twenty, tracked children born in 1990. Most of them were born in Soweto; others were brought up in Eldorado Park and elsewhere in the south of Johannesburg.
Writing in this month's edition of the SA Medical Journal, the researchers report on the sexual behaviour of the children when they reached their teens.
They note that during the study many boys reported that they had been raped.
It seems there is "an unrecognised high incidence of abuse of young boys", said the report's author, Linda Richter, of the Human Sciences Research Council.
Teddy Bear Clinic director Shaheda Omar said: "The fact that boys are as vulnerable to abuse as young girls is becoming recognised.
"We see it all the time but boys are often reluctant to break the silence because of ideas such as that boys can't be sissies or 'boys don't cry'."
Operation Bobbi Bear founder Jackie Branfield said children were never abused by strangers.
"It is always someone known to them," she said. "Paedophiles hang around at boys' football clubs, lifesaving clubs and Scout halls."
She said it was difficult for anyone to report abuse when the police asked girls as young as four questions such as: "Why didn't you run away?"
It is much harder for boys to report abuse because they are seen as strong enough to get away from the abuser or fight back, she explained.
"Girls are forgiven for not fighting back."
Branfield said that last year she worked with an adult male victim of rape but could not convince him to report the crime. He was too ashamed to admit what had happened and that he was not strong enough to fight off the rapist.
Former Childline director Joan van Niekerk said boys were abused as much as girls but society was not open to them reporting abuse.
"Boys are not reporting sexual abuse and therefore do not receive services. Our services are not boy friendly and boy children are often mocked for disclosure."
Disabled girls vulnerable to abuse by carers and partners due to isolation and incapacity
Disabled girls and women are vulnerable to abuse by carers and partners because of their isolation and physical incapacity, new research says.
In some cases the abuse took place in special education institutions, the British Sociological Association's annual conference in Glasgow was told today.
Dr Sarah Woodin, of the University of Leeds, and Dr Sonali Shah, of the University of Glasgow, carried out research with 45 physically disabled or deaf women in the UK who had been abused. The project was part of a large EU-funded international study.
"There was evidence from some of the women's narratives that perpetrators exploited the fact the women were reliant on them because they were responsible for providing their personal support and giving them their medication," Dr Woodin told the conference.
"Women had limited knowledge of possible sources of support, and links to outside assistance were easily severed. Perpetrators acted to limit contact with others who might help.
"While in the majority of cases perpetrators were intimate partners, especially in early adulthood, there was evidence of institutional violence in special education institutions by care staff,"
The researchers said that one woman, Lucy, told them that she had been raped at a college for people with learning difficulties that she attended in her late teens. The rapist also attended the college.
"There's a rapist out there, who raped several people," Lucy, now aged 48 and from Leeds, told them. "I was raped when I was just coming up to my 18th birthday and he physically and mentally abused me. I hated it. It also happened not just to me, it happened to four, three other people [at the college]."
Malika, 41, from Edinburgh, told the researchers that, over time, her intimate partner started to become jealous and exercise control over her. "At one point, he locked me in the flat and wouldn't let me out. He would be pursuing me and harassing me and trying to make me feel guilty."
Malika had been brought up in a residential school for disabled children in the 1980s and gave the researchers examples of paid care staff exploiting their power and not respecting the privacy of the young people. "A male staff member would barge into your room and take off the duvet, but he never dared to harm us or anything. That would not be at all tolerated today- it was just the characteristic of these kind of people, that they just feel that it's part of their work."
Elma, 39, from Leeds, told the researchers that her disability made her an easy target for perpetrators of financial abuse. "Men they can see a disabled woman and think she's an easy touch and I've had that a lot through the years. It's like they see a vulnerability and they might as well see pound signs."
Another woman, Adele, 34, and from Leeds, told the researchers how she experienced abuse from her carer and sexual partner over almost a decade: "He would purposefully give me the strongest painkillers when my friends were coming, and they couldn't come then because I was asleep. He would cancel care shifts, he would then say that I'd cancelled them."
Dr Shah said that Adele had been "groomed and sexually abused by her adult male carer when she was a young teenager. Although this must have been seen by parents and medical professionals who were in regular contact with Adele, it was allowed to continue for a decade. One can question how such obvious paedophilia was allowed to continue for so long and whether it would have gone unreported if the survivor was not disabled."
Dr Woodin told the conference that: "According to the disabled women in the sample, experiencing violence encompassed physical and sexual violence, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, control, isolation or economic coercion.
"Physical violence was seen in terms of being hit and beaten, psychological or emotional violence involved being verbally attacked, physically isolated from others and being conditioned to feel worthless by the perpetrator saying and doing things to purposely lower the woman's self-esteem and confidence.
"Sometimes this was connected to their impairment, other times it was not. In the majority of cases the perpetrators were intimate partners, and the abuse took place in their private homes. However there was also evidence of institutional violence, in special education institutions, by care staff, which would warrant further research and investigation."
The research also looked at some of the barriers that disabled women encountered when reporting abuse, such as a lack of interpreters for deaf women which could delay their giving statements to the police.
"Deaf women faced particular problems reporting abuse due to small and close social networks that meant interpreters often knew the people involved or in some instances agencies relied on perpetrators and family members to translate," said Dr Woodin.
"This study suggests that disabled women are also more likely than non-disabled women to encounter barriers from professional support services, including the criminal justice system." However specialist support services and disabled people's organisations could be the key to a "new life", she said.
Stopping child abuse: 'You are the voice of a child'
by Carol Ferguson
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - The public is urged to report any suspicions of child abuse, as Kern County highlights Child Abuse Prevention Month.
It happens just as public attention has been drawn to a well-viewed video of a man seen hitting a young boy in a downtown Bakersfield store. Experts say it's critical that people like neighbors and bystanders report incidents, so those situations can be investigated.
"Don't sit back. You are the voice of a child. You may save that child's life," Kern County Human Services Director Dena Murphy said. "There have been improvements in having fewer child deaths, but last year alone we had 18,000 reports of child abuse or neglect."
One of this year's reports of suspected child abuse came in the video of a man hitting a young boy in the Vest Market on April 9. The store owner told Eyewitness News when he became aware of the incident, he sent his store surveillance video to friends, and they posted it on social media.
By the next day, Bakersfield Police had seen the video, investigated, and identified 23-year-old Justin Whittington as the man with the boy. Whittington now faces charges of child endangerment.
"I saw that video, and it was disturbing," Kern County Network for Children Executive Director Tom Corson said. "Obviously, in the heat of the moment -- anger -- a parent lashed out at a child."
The video shows the man slap the boy, who then falls to the floor. Corson said getting the video out was the right thing for the bystanders in the store to do.
"I'm really proud of our community (for) getting the information to the proper channels to make sure there was intervention in that home to make sure that child was safe."
Bakersfield Police reported the boy was checked by medical personnel. Eyewitness News has been told Whittington is the boy's father, and the child is now in protective custody.
The child abuse experts say little kids are the most at risk.
"A lot of these children that are abused or neglected in this county are under the age of five," Corson said. "They go unseen, so it's up to the community as a whole to step up to the plate and protect these children."
Dena Murphy says the very young kids are not someplace like a school, where signs of abuse could be spotted. So, it's more important for relatives, neighbors or bystanders to speak up.
"It will be individuals who are among the family home who can bring awareness to these little children, who can't speak for themselves," Murphy says. The Human Services Director also notes the two child-abuse deaths last year in Kern County were both infants -- not likely to be seen outside the home.
The first death was a one-month-old boy in February, followed by a 3-month-old girl who died in October. The Human Services Department also says there were 10 "near fatal" cases that resulted from child abuse in Kern last year. Those are cases where a child spent 24 hours or more in hospital intensive care. Again, those cases are most often among kids under four.
DHS says Kern gets an average of 2,000 referrals of suspected child abuse every month, and about 1,400 of those lead to investigations. They stress, the public needs to report what they think may have happened to a child, or what they've seen. Then, experts will determine if it's child abuse.
"I'd report, if I saw someone abusing someone," Bakersfield resident Crystal Williams told Eyewitness News. She's concerned, and thinks there are probably a lot more cases that never get investigated.
But, another woman worries about getting involved.
"If you're sure that that's really what happened, that it's child abuse," the woman said -- she didn't want to give her name. "Because sometimes you might think that it is, and it's really not."
But, the experts say -- let their staff figure that out. Calls that come in, will be reviewed, and workers will determine how to proceed.
Corson urges the public to call the Department of Human Services hot line at (661) 631-6011, or to call 911. DHS spokeswoman Heidi Carter-Escudero says it's important to call 911 if you're worried about a child's immediate safety. If you call the hot line, Carter-Escudero says it's important to provide as much information as possible.
"You're the eyes, ears and voice of a child who could be abused," she said.
"Anybody who sees, whether it's child abuse or spousal abuse, or man hitting woman, or woman hitting man -- any of that should be reported," Bakersfield resident Donna Kyles said. "All I'm looking at is protecting somebody's life."
Child abuse victim and foster child says CASA saved her life
by Kelsey Perkins
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. -- 27-year-old year old Lauren Mueller spoke at a breakfast hosted by CASA Tuesday morning to share her lifelong struggle with child abuse and the foster care system.
Mueller was recently appointed Colorado CASA State Coordinator, and with her new role she is fighting to help children who went through the same hardships that she did.
She grew up sexually, physically, and mentally abused by her mother and others around her. She and her sister were in and out of six foster families throughout their childhood.
"Having to change schools all the time, not really knowing who I could trust or go to and not having a consistent adult in my life really made me grow up quickly,” said Mueller.
She does have one positive memory of foster care, and that was having a CASA volunteer.
"She stood up for me and was a consistent presence in my life,” said Mueller. “She showed me what love meant.”
A CASA is a Court Appointed Special Advocate whom monitors children's foster care and child abuse cases for the courts.
"Case workers have huge caseloads and a CASA just has one,” said CASA's Janet Rowland. “That CASA is able to see that child every month sometimes every week. They're able to talk to the teacher, go to the parent teacher conferences, and talk to the therapists.”
Mueller says her CASA was the first one to ever say she loved her.
"I didn't believe her,” said Mueller. “I was waiting for her to hit me or leave."
Mueller says she refuses to be another foster child statistic. At 27 she asked her former foster family to adopt her and just graduated college on a full scholarship.
"I was so proud but I was also so sad for all the foster kids who will never have that opportunity,” said Mueller. “Partly because no one ever tells them that they can."
She says her CASA Stephanie saved her life - but not many foster kids get to say the same.
"Many foster children end up having children before they're ready,” said Mueller. “They end up on state or federal assistance. They end up in jail or prison; they end up addicted to drugs or alcohol. None of that has happened to me and I think it's because someone gave me the option."
A large part of CASA is volunteers and donations and they need your help in order to keep working to change children's lives, like they did Mueller's.
CASA is hosting an orientation on April 20th at 5:30 p.m. for anyone that wants to learn more about CASA, volunteer, or learn how to help. To reserve your spot, call 970-242-4191 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
FBI looking for man in child sex abuse investigation
by Robin Brown
(Picture on site)
The FBI reached out on Tusday as part of a national effort to identify a "John Doe" agents believe has critical information for an ongoing child sexual exploitation investigation.
"This is a national push," said Amy J. Thoreson, spokeswoman for the FBI Baltimore. "However, someone in our area may have information or recognize the john doe."
The man – identified only as John Doe 29 – first came to the attention of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in January 2008, the FBI said.
The man is believed to have information about the identity of a victimized child, the agency said in a statement.
He is described as 30-45 years old, with dark hair and a tan complexion.
In addition to his photo, investigators for the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children released enhanced images of a distinctive ring he wears on his left ring finger, one of the victim's blue and white Nike brand tennis shoes with hook-and-loop closure and the area where the photos were taken.
The background where the images were taken. Additionally, the individual is seen wearing a white, black, and red shirt with what appears to be a design and/or writing on the sleeves.
Authorities say there is no evidence that he has any connection to Maryland, D.C. or Virginia, saying, "there are no specific details linking the man to a particular state or region of the United States, and both his identity and whereabouts are currently unknown."
The effort to identify the man is part of the FBI's Operation Rescue Me and Endangered Child Alert Program initiatives, both partnerships of the agency and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to identify victims shown in child exploitation materials including pornography.
The FBI added, however, that there are no charges against the man, wanted only for questioning.
Anyone with information is asked to give tips at https://tips.fbi.gov/ or on the FBI's toll-free tip line at (800) CALL-FBI or (800) 225-5324.
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
What to teach your child about sexual abuse
by Jerry Carino
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Krav Maga Worldwide, a leading self-defense organization, offers parents tips:
Begin talking to them as young as 2 years old. This may seem very early, but children younger than 12 are most at risk at 4. Even if they can't speak well, children at this age are busy figuring out the world. And they certainly understand and remember a lot more than adults usually realize.
Share the only instances when their private parts can be seen and touched. An age-appropriate concept for a young child to understand is that nobody — including a parent or caregiver — should see or touch their private parts (what a swimming suit covers up) — unless they're keeping them clean, safe or healthy.
Talk openly about sexuality and sexual abuse to teach your child that these topics do not need to be “secret.” Abusers will sometimes tell a child that the abuse should be kept a secret. Let your child know that if someone is touching him or her or talking to him or her in ways that make him or her uncomfortable or scared, that it should not stay a secret.
Inform your child about the tricks used by sexual predators. Tricks such as continued accidental touching, or an emergency trick where the predator tricks the child into thinking there is an emergency and the child must go with the predator.
Teach children that they must trust their inner voice. Especially “that yucky feeling.” We all have that feeling inside that tells us what feels right and what feels wrong or uncomfortable. Many children who have been sexually abused describe a feeling of discomfort as having a “yucky” feeling inside. You must teach your children to trust or honor their inner voices or that “yucky” feeling.
Teach your child that they have the right to say NO! As the majority of child abuse is based on coercion rather than force, teaching your child to say NO strongly and forcefully really can make a big difference in many situations.
For additional information, visit: www.kravmaga.com
More than 31,000 web pages found with child sex abuse images as paedophiles turn to image sharing sites and bitcoin
by Lizzie Dearden
More than 31,000 web pages containing child sex abuse images have been found by a UK watchdog warning that paedophiles are using bitcoin in efforts to cover their tracks.
Popular image hosting websites used by the public to share holiday snaps and other pictures are being abused by criminals distributing the material, researchers found.
Many victims appeared to be younger than 10 and some photos and videos involved rape, bestiality and sadism, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) said in its annual report.
Chief executive Susie Hargreaves that while the online industry was “stepping up” efforts to block and remove images, many companies did not recognise there was a problem, or were too slow to respond.
“It is not good enough for those companies to allow the burden of responsibility to fall on a socially responsible few,” she added.
“This year will ensure they have nowhere to hide as we will be targeting them for the benefit of all internet users and victims of sexual abuse.”
Google, Twitter, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple and large internet providers are among the 117 companies and groups funding the IWF and helping its efforts to remove the images.
The 31,266 URLs found hosting pictures and videos of children being sexually abused in 2014 as a 137 per cent increase on the total in 2013, although the IWF put that rise down to improved search methods.
It comes after the regulator was given new powers to seek out criminal content in the wake of the murders of 12-year-old Tia Sharp and April Jones, five, by men found to have viewed child abuse images.
The IWF said that just 0.3% of imagery found in 2014 was hosted in the UK, compared with 18 per cent back in 1996.
Most of the images identified were hosted in North America and Europe, and in 45 countries in total.
Of the 95 UK-based web pages removed last year, almost 90 per cent contained images of children appearing to be aged 10 or under.
Emma Hardy, the IWF's director of external relations, said the group had 74,000 reports from the public last year and was now able to proactively search for child abuse images but the figure was the tip of the iceberg.
“I think there's still a huge amount out there,” she added. “We've got a long way to go until we see the peak of this problem.”
The IWF found many legitimate websites, mainly image hosting services, were being abused by criminals distributing child sexual abuse imagery.
The number of URLs removed from hosting sites, which allow people to create a shareable link directly to an image, rose from 5,594 in 2013 to 19,710 in 2014.
Meanwhile, online file hosting services saw 5,582 URLs removed because they were hosting child sex abuse images in 2014, compared with 1,400 in 2013.
Around 12 per cent of the pages found to contain the material were classed as “commercial” and the most prolific of those sites are now accepting bitcoin.
The virtual currency enables people to pay from their computer or phone in encrypted transactions independent of any bank that could be used to trace paedophiles.
The IWF said it was working with the world's largest bitcoin exchanges to share intelligence and prevent the use of the currency on child sex abuse sites.
It alerts law enforcement agencies and hotlines abroad when it discovers foreign-based sites with child sexual abuse images and “repeatedly chases” them until they are removed.
Writing in the IWF report, Home Secretary Theresa May said: “The IWF plays a vital role in combating child sexual abuse and protecting children from these despicable crimes.
"Its introduction of proactive searching across the internet has vastly increased the number of abuse images being removed from circulation."
Barbara Walters Calls Mary Kay Letourneau's Child Rape Of Vili Fualaau A 'Relationship'
by Barbara Herman
In breathless promos leading up to Barbara Walters' Friday interview with 53-year-old Mary Kay Letourneau and her 31-year-old husband, Vili Fualaau, Walters and other ABC anchors, including Lara Spencer, called the former schoolteacher's rape of the then-12-year-old Fualaau a "relationship" and an "affair." Why the euphemisms, and does that do a disservice to victims of sexual abuse?
"Women pedophiles are rare," Columbia University professor of psychiatry Dr. Rami Kaminski told International Business Times. "There is a tendency to see women as having more interest in relationships. We may not think of this relationship as sexual, like we would if it were a man and a 12-year-old student. Because Letourneau's a woman and she continued to be loyal to him, he to her, it's put in a different bracket."
Kaminski added that it seemed as if the media "didn't know how to handle it."
During the special, which aired as part of ABC's "American Scandal, Investigation Discovery" series, Walters sat down with the pair on the eve of their 10th wedding anniversary. The veteran TV journalist seemed to try to normalize the relationship that began as the sexual molestation of Fualaau, a sixth grader at the time, by the married 34-year-old Letourneau, who also had four children.
Fualaau had first been her student in the second grade. The troubled child, who some say was neglected at home, ended up in her class again in sixth grade. When things started to look suspicious, a friend of Letourneau's husband tipped off police about her contact with her student. In 1997, Letourneau pleaded guilty to two counts of felony second-degree rape of a child, which ultimately landed her in prison for 7 1/2 years and on a registry for sexual offenders.
Spencer and Walters, however, sounded like they were promoting a special about a celebrity marriage rather than a marriage that originated with child rape. They're not alone: Entertainment Tonight was rumored to have paid $750,000 for the rights to film their wedding, Us Weekly reported.
"Mary Kay Letourneau made shocking headlines almost 20 years ago, when she had an affair with then-13-year-old student Vili Fualaau," announced ABC's Lara Spencer. In a separate story, Us Weekly also characterized the relationship as "an affair." “She served 7 1/2 years for her relationship with him,” explained Walters, adding later, “You can see what he was attracted to.”
"And they're still together," Spencer marveled. “There are people still shocked and disgusted, but they've been married 10 years," said Walters. "They have two teenage daughters who are unfazed. They seem to be OK.”
Apparently, Walters' viewers are supposed to be unfazed and OK about it as well -- although she also at times characterized what happened to Fualaau as "child rape."
Initially, Letourneau's plea agreement called for six months in prison -- and no contact with Fualaau ever again. Within a month of getting out of prison, Letourneau met up with Fualaau and became pregnant with their second daughter, whom she had in prison. (Letourneau had gotten pregnant with her first child with Fualaau before her first arrest and had the baby while she was out on bail.) Judge Linda Lau sentenced her to an additional seven years for violating the conditions of her plea agreement.
"The reason the media is using this lingo is that, for one, he's no longer a 12-year-old boy. It's something that she's exonerated of by time," said Kaminski. And regarding the longevity of the marriage, he said, "It makes it seem like she loves him, and the sexual exploitation of him, like her commitment to him."
But Kaminski explained that although a 12-year-old can have an interest in sex, there's a reason it's a crime for an adult to become involved with a child. "It's the exploitation of a minor, a preteen, who could in no way have a mature response to her."
When asked about the long-term effects on children who have been sexually abused by adults, Kaminski, who has treated many such survivors, says, "They often feel that they have been used. They feel that they did something to invite it. We have enough ways that we don't forgive ourselves, that for an adult to add to the repertoire of self-loathing -- it's horrible and despicable. Yes, Letourneau paid a price by going to prison. But if you do what she did, you don't really love the person.” Letourneau has expressed a desire to be taken off the sexual offender registry so that she can begin teaching again, reports Time magazine.
In 2002, Fualaau sued the Highline School District and Des Moines Police Department for negligence for not recognizing the damaging sexual contact between him and his teacher, arguing that it led to ridicule, depression, alcoholism and difficulty finding a job. A jury rejected his claim, and his case was dismissed.
His feelings don't seem to have entirely gone away. In the Walters interview, Fualaau said, “There's a feeling of hopelessness. Like you can't do anything. Like nobody understands you. You can't talk to anyone. I wish I had had a little bit better guidance through everything. It was really confusing to me."
‘Free-range' family again in spotlight after police pick up children
by Brigid Schulte and Donna St. George
A familiar debate over how much freedom parents should give their children ignited Monday with the news that a Montgomery County couple had, for the third time, tangled with Child Protective Services for allowing their youngsters to take a walk on their own.
A couple of months after Danielle and Alexander Meitiv were found responsible for “unsubstantiated neglect” for letting Rafi, 10, and Dvora, 6, walk home from a park close to where they live in downtown Silver Spring, they gave the children permission to do it again.
Responding to a call from a citizen, police collected the children and took them to CPS in Montgomery where, 5 1 / 2 anxious hours later, they were reunited with their parents.
The chain of events has again electrified parents, parent educators and lawmakers, but the debate has shifted from overwhelming support for the Meitivs and outrage at county officials to support mixed with some wariness over which side went too far this time.
The police and CPS for turning the children's walk home from a park into an hours-long ordeal? Or the Meitivs, who knew CPS would be watching them closely for at least the next five years and chose to let their children walk alone again?
“I feel [county officials] are just going to the extreme with this,” said Patti Cancellier, education director of the Parenting Encouragement Program in Kensington, Md. “The law is not 100 percent clear here. Perhaps they're trying to make an example of this family. It seems to me they could have gotten better results without scaring the parents and the children half to death.”
But some parents thought it was the Meitivs who went too far.
“What they did was terrible,” said Elizabeth Hernandez, a stay-at-home mother in Alexandria, Va. “They received an alert. That means don't do it again. And they did it again? Unbelievable.”
In Montgomery, CPS officials have said they are guided in part by a state law that says children younger than 8 must be left with a reliable person who is at least 13. But the law refers only to enclosed spaces such as buildings or cars, and makes no mention of children outside, in a park or on a walk.
City officials question whether police and CPS had handled the case correctly in failing to notify the Meitivs for two hours that their children were in custody.
“This is a ‘What were they thinking?' moment,” Marc Elrich (D-At Large), chairman of the Montgomery County Council's Public Safety Committee, said of the police failure to notify the parents. He also questioned whether this was the best use of police time. As a child, Elrich walked more than a mile on his own to school and farther to a ballfield. “All of our parents would have been in jail,” he said.
Council President George L. Leventhal (D-At Large) noted that he was concerned about the “timeline of events.”
“As the father of two sons, I can relate to the feeling of concern you get when your child doesn't check in as expected,” he said.
Danielle Meitiv said they were panicked when they didn't hear anything from the children, who were expected home at 6 p.m., until CPS called at 8. The children were released to their parents at 10:30 pm after the parents signed papers agreeing not to leave the children unattended.
“They were both scared they would never see us again. They were scared they were being taken away from us. I was scared of that, too,” Danielle said in an interview with a Washington Post reporter. “This is surreal. I can't believe that anyone who claims to care about children would put children through this.”
On Sunday evening, the Meitivs were on their way home from visiting relatives in Ithaca, N.Y., Danielle Meitiv said. The children were getting restless and the weather was beautiful, so the parents decided to drop them off at Ellsworth Park.
The children were familiar with the area, Danielle Meitiv said. The park is next to a library they frequent, she said, and the children have played there many times.
Danielle said the children decided to leave the park shortly before 5 p.m. and were within a few blocks of their Woodside home when they were stopped by police. Rafi told the police they were not lost, she said, but the officer insisted on taking the children home.
According to the Montgomery police report, police received an anonymous call about unattended children and found them in a parking garage on Fenton Street where a “homeless subject” was “eyeing the children.”
The police officer notified CPS at 5:16 pm. At 6:10, he called another CPS employee. At 6:41, the officer was told a CPS decision had yet to be made. So at 7:18, the officer decided to take the children to the CPS offices in Rockville.
One child had to use the bathroom, the report noted, and had to wait through the 20-minute drive to CPS before being allowed to go. The children also were hungry, and the report notes that the officer brought out his personal lunch to share, but took it away after the children said they had food allergies.
CPS and the police's Special Victims Investigation Division are continuing to investigate, police officials said.
CPS officials would not answer direct questions, but issued a statement Monday afternoon: “Protecting children is the agency's number one priority. We are required to follow up on all calls to Child Protective Services and will continue to work in the best interest of all children.”
In December, the Meitivs allowed their children to walk home from Woodside Park, another park about a mile from their home. After a two-month investigation, CPS found the Meitivs responsible for “unsubstantiated neglect,” when insufficient or contradictory information keeps investigators from either making a report that neglect is “indicated” or finding it is “ruled out.”
The Meitivs said they are appealing the finding. Currently, CPS said it would keep a file open on the Meitivs for five years.
That event, called by some “The Walk Heard Around the World,” sparked heated debate about child safety, parenting standards and independence that reverberated on social media and in communities around the globe.
Danielle is a climate-science consultant and Alexander is a physicist at the National Institutes of Health. They support “free-range” parenting, with its ideas that children learn to be self-reliant by progressively testing limits, making choices and exploring their surroundings without hovering adults. They've said they feel that they are being “bullied” by the government, and those who've anonymously called police and CPS on them, to accept a style of parenting they “strongly disagree with.”
Russell Max Simon, who also lives in the Woodside neighborhood, started Empower Kids Maryland to support childhood independence and freedom to roam after the Meitivs' December run-in with the law. He said that he and other free-range parents started a petition on Change.org to address Maryland's unattended-children laws, and that people have been contacting his organization and asking to donate to a defense fund for the Meitivs.
“I commend the bravery of the Meitivs for continuing to parent the way they think they should parent,” he said. “Anyone who stands up and says that we've gone too far on this issue risks becoming a target. And that's what's happened to them.”
On the day they received word of the unsubstantiated-neglect finding, Danielle Meitiv said she would continue to allow her children to play on their own. She appeared to change her mind after the incident Sunday.
“The only people who have threatened or abducted my children were the people in CPS and the police, so I do not believe random people are a threat,” said told NBC's Today.com. “But I signed the safety plan and I'm not going to violate it. I'm certainly not going to risk them taking my kids again. We're going to have to fight this in a different way.”
World marks one year since Nigerian girls' abduction
by Jane Onyanga-Omara
Events are taking place around the world to mark one year since Boko Haram militants abducted nearly 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria, sparking global outrage.
The girls were kidnapped from their school in Chibok, in the northeast of the country, leading millions around the world to call for their return as the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag exploded on social media.
A number of girls later escaped the militants, who often force those abducted to convert to Islam and fight or work as sex slaves, but 219 remain missing.
A march and vigil will be held in the Nigerian capital of Abuja on Tuesday, with 219 girls taking part to represent each of the missing.
"On this first anniversary of your captivity, I write to you a message of solidarity, love and hope," Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai — shot in 2012 by Taliban militants opposed to the education of girls — wrote in an open letter.
Boko Haram, whose attacks on schools have forced thousands out of education, loosely translates as 'Western education is forbidden' in the Hausa language that is spoken by about 40 million people in the area of Nigeria where the group is based, in other parts of the country and in neighboring Niger.
Malala, 17, expressed her view that Nigerian leaders and the international community had not done enough to help the girls.
"I'm one of the millions of people around the world who keep you and your families foremost in our thoughts and prayers," she said. "We cannot imagine the full extent of the horrors you have endured but please know this — we will never forget you.
"We will always stand with you, today and every day we call on the Nigerian authorities and the international community to do more to bring you home. We will not rest until you have been reunited with your families."
New Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who was elected last month, has vowed to rid the nation of Boko Haram after previous President Goodluck Jonathan failed to defeat the insurgents, who want to create an Islamic state.
Amnesty International says at least 2,000 women and girls have been abducted by the extremists since the beginning of 2014.
A United Nations Children's Fund report published on Monday said an estimated 800,000 children have been forced from their homes by Boko Haram.
Last year, the group killed an estimated 10,000 people and forced about 1.5 million to flee for southern Nigeria and neighboring countries.
"Sickening" Fla. spring break gang rape video found
by CBS News
PANAMA CITY, Fla. - Two college students have been charged with sexually attacking a woman on a crowded Florida beach filled with spring break revelers who apparently did nothing to stop it, authorities said.
Delonte' Martistee, 22, and Ryan Austin Calhoun, 23, were arrested Friday and charged with sexual battery by multiple perpetrators, according to the Bay County Sheriff's Office.
CBS affiliate WCTV in Tallahassee reports both men are students at Troy University in Alabama, and that Martistee was a former member of the Troy track team. Both men have been suspended from the school.
The attack, recorded on a cellphone video, happened sometime March 10-12 in Panama City, Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen said at a news conference. Authorities learned of the assault when police in Troy, Alabama, discovered the video while investigating a shooting.
McKeithen described the recording as the "most disgusting, sickening thing" he had ever seen. Several men can be seen surrounding an incapacitated woman on a beach chair.
"This is happening in broad daylight with hundreds of people seeing and hearing what is happening, and they are more concerned about spilling their beer than somebody being raped," he said. The sheriff said he expected investigators will make additional arrests.
The victim told police that she thought she had been drugged at the time, and she did not remember the incident well enough to report it.
"She knows something happened, but she doesn't know what happened," McKeithen said.
Martistee and Calhoun were being taken Friday to Panama City for a court hearing. It was unclear Saturday whether they had defense attorneys.
A woman talks about being abused as a child
by Jerry Carino
For nine years, Sylvia Peterson sought answers to weighty questions about child abuse and society.
She sought them to help herself — a survivor of abuse — and others.
She found them the hard way.
Her 2014 book, “Laura and Me,” chronicles her visits with Laura McCollum, one of only a handful of women in the country considered to be a violent serial sexual predator.
“I was molested when I was 7 years old by my grandfather, and I was hoping I could take her apart brick by brick and understand why people do that to children,” Peterson, who lives in Washington state, said via phone last week. “Until I understood, I was dead set against any sort of forgiveness for him and for my parents, who should have protected me.”
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and Peterson is unusually qualified to address this cultural plague. A nurse for 35 years, she is now a chaplain and an advocate for people who have been sexually abused as children.
McCollum, who has had more than a hundred child victims, is currently incarcerated for repeatedly raping an 18-month-old girl, and was herself the victim of horrific abuse as a child.
The big question — why does this happen?
“I started seeing her in 2002, and if I thought she would blurt out the answer quickly, that didn't happen,” Peterson said. “She didn't exactly know the answer. She had been sexually abused beginning at an age much younger than I until she was emancipated from her foster home at age 18.
“I wanted to know why it happened, and I wanted to know how I could heal,” Peterson said. “I wanted to know what we could do that would help other people heal, and how could our society keep from creating more pedophiles?”
That wasn't all.
“I had one question that was even bigger than that,” she added. “How could a loving God stand by and watch an innocent child be molested?”
The 236-page book, published last year by Xulon Press and available through Amazon.com, explores their journey to the answers. It was rocky.
“As she began to tell me about her crimes, it was so traumatic for me to hear what she did,” Peterson said. “There were times when I would go back to my car, and I couldn't remember how to drive home. I had to remind myself that I was an adult, and I was safe today. Then I would drive home and go to bed with my clothes on.”
As she heard more about McCollum's own background, Peterson said, “I began to develop a tiny bit of compassion for this woman. I was able to take that, then, and transfer it to my grandfather.”
At one point, they both wrote letters to their molesters. It was a step toward forgiveness that helped put Peterson on a path to healing.
“She took the place of my grandpa,” Peterson said. “I told her, ‘I don't feel kindly toward you, but I choose to forgive you even though you don't deserve it.' Then we switched roles. It was an extremely powerful experience for both of us.”
For Sylvia Peterson's tips on healing from abuse, visit app.com/health.
SYLVIA PETERSON'S TIPS ON PREVENTING CHILD ABUSE
The most important thing is for their caregivers and adults to pay attention. Look at your children when they're taking a bath. Ask them where they got that bruise. Check for scratches, especially in areas where no one should be touching because they're covered in clothes. When you do laundry, check for what things were spilled on their clothes.
Kids and their caregivers need to get down on the floor and play. Young children who can't tell you what happened might act it out with a drawing or plastic figurines.
Kids need to be supervised all the time. If you leave your children with a babysitter or you leave them with a daycare center, do a surprise visit. If the child is very vocal and terrified about being left with someone, it may not just be separation anxiety from you. There's probably a good reason. I can't tell you how many times I begged my parents not to send me to those grandparents all by myself. They said, “That's your grandparents.”
If you meet someone who says, “Your kids are so cute, I would take care of them four days a week for free,” a red flag needs to go up. Nobody babysits small children for free because they think it's wonderful, and they want to do it four days a week. It's hard work. If somebody is too eager to do things with your children without you present, that should be a red flag.
The last thing I feel really strongly about is our culture. We're making sex offenders faster than we can lock them up. I wouldn't want Laura to be released, partially because I believe she would re-offend. She would be so sexually triggered by our lives out here today ... on the evening news, in newspapers, magazines at the grocery store, movies, commercials. We need to take a stand about that. We need to make responsible use of our shopping dollars and quit supporting the industries that are feeding the sexual predators who are harming our children. We all express horror when the person next door abuses their child, but we don't want to do anything about the culture that encouraged them.
SYLVIA PETERSON'S TIPS TO HEALING FROM ABUSE
We need to make a choice to heal. I'm convinced some people really don't want to get up from their psychological wheelchair.
We need to be willing to admit what happened to us. We don't heal from things we refuse to identify. Denying the truth of abuse blocks healing.
We need to quit trying to understand. Understanding is a justification for our pain. Healing is a restoration of our heart. They are not the same.
We need to stop blaming our abusers for the choices we make as adults. It's not Grandpa Ed's fault that I'm 40 pounds overweight. He's not stuffing Twinkies into me today. I have to take responsibility for what I did with that pain.
At some point, we need to forgive. It is like a fishing expedition where we're the fish, and the hook goes through our lower lip. Unless we're willing to forgive and get loose from that line, we're going to be dragged all over the place.
We need to make a decision to walk in the healing. Sometimes we do all the right things and we think, “I don't feel any different. I'm not healing at all.” I don't need anyone to teach me how to maintain that wheelchair. I need someone to show me how to walk. So I believe mentorship is a critical part of learning how to live in our healing. Find a healthy person of your own gender, meet with them and have them teach you how to respond to life.
Know the Signs of Child Abuse
All adults must play role in protecting kids from harm, doctor says.
MONDAY, April 13, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- A report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds in the United States, and more than 1,600 children die each year from abuse or neglect, an expert says.
Child abuse survivors can suffer long-term physical, emotional and psychological problems, said Dr. Mary Jones, a child advocacy physician with the Loyola University Health System in Maywood, Ill.
"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," Jones said in a Loyola news release.
Child abuse can be physical, sexual or emotional, and also includes neglect. Most victims experience a combination of these types. Recognizing the signs of abuse is the first step in helping an abused child.
"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.
Warning signs include: sudden changes in a child's behavior or school performance; always being watchful; not receiving help for health problems brought to the parents' attention or lack of adult supervision. Being overly eager to please, overly responsible, or coming to school early and not wanting to go home can also be red flags, Jones said.
You should report suspected abuse or neglect, Jones said. If you believe a child is being abused, contact your local police or the department of child and family services.
It's also important to take steps to prevent child abuse by helping families with limited resources or other challenges, she noted.
"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," Jones said.
This means building protective factors in families, she said. With knowledge of child development and age-appropriate expectations, parental resilience and concrete family supports, "we can reduce or eliminate the risk of maltreatment," she added.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about child abuse.
Reports of child sex offences in Bolton more than double in three years
by Andrew Bardsley
THE number of sexual offences recorded against children in Bolton has more than doubled in the past three years, new figures reveal.
Statistics show there were 325 sexual offences against children recorded in Bolton from March 1 last year to February 28 this year.
This compares with 198 offences recorded between March 1 in 2013 to February 28 in 2014, and 139 offences between March 1 in 2012 to February 28 in 2013.
The figures, which were obtained by The Bolton News using the Freedom of Information Act, show an increase of 133 per cent over the past three years.
The Home Office's definition of sexual offences includes rape, attempted rape, sexual exposure and voyeurism.
Police chiefs have said the increase in offences reported shows that victims are more confident to come forward and report crimes, especially in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal, as well as other high profile convictions including former TV weatherman Fred Talbot and former DJ Ray Teret.
It is unclear how many of the offences included in the figures related to historic offences, but police say reports of historical cases of child sexual abuse have increased dramatically since these cases.
Ch Supt Shaun Donnellan, Bolton's most senior police officer, said the figures show that there is more trust in the reporting system.
He said: "I can say to people in Bolton that children are not in more risk than in the last three years.
"We have the Jimmy Savile effect, where people are more confident to come forward, and we provide better care to people who are brave enough to come forward.
"There is more trust in the process now — people are much more confident."
An investigation by Stockport MP Ann Coffey last year revealed that child sex exploitation had risen in Bolton by 21 per cent the previous year, with police investigating 91 separate cases.
Police and crime commissioner Tony Lloyd, who commissioned the investigation, said the figures revealed by The Bolton News show more victims are having the bravery to come forward.
He said: "High profile convictions such as Ray Teret and Fred Talbot, as well as the many less well known cases, have shown victims and the public that all cases will be properly investigated and police will pursue offenders to bring them, where possible, before our courts.
“We all have a role to play in protecting our children and young people.
"In Bolton, the increasingly effective partnership between the police, Bolton Council, the NHS, schools, voluntary organisations, other agencies and the community is there to identify, safeguard and support victims of child sexual exploitation and target those who prey on the vulnerable.
“There is a still a way to go and there are still many victims suffering in silence.
"In Bolton we remain committed to listening to and supporting victims and survivors and encouraging people to speak out.
"By working together we can offer better safeguards against child abuse."
Det Ch Supt Vanessa Jardine, who is in charge of Greater Manchester Police's sex crime unit, added: "Over the past three years we have seen an overall increase in reports of sexual offences against both children and adults.
"This does not necessarily indicate a rise in offences, rather a rise in the number of victims coming forward.
"There have been significant improvements in the way that police record such crimes and an increased awareness by victims in regards to offences which may have been committed against them.
"It is this increased awareness that can encourage people to have the confidence to come forward, and report both historic and current incidents of abuse.
"I believe that these rises in cases reported are a direct result of that increased confidence and understanding rather than an increase of offences actually being committed."
Child sex abuse inquiry: Rockhampton priest 'raped me well over 100 times', witness says
by William Rollo and Marlina Whop
A witness at a child sex abuse inquiry says she was raped "well over 100 times" by a priest at St Joseph's Neerkol Orphanage Rockhampton in central Queensland.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has heard the treatment of children at the orphanage was "vicious and sadistic", while an earlier inquiry found hundreds of children were sexually abused, beaten and forced into hard labour there.
The inquiry has begun hearings into how the Sisters of Mercy, the Rockhampton diocese and the state government responded to complaints made by former residents of St Joseph's Neerkol Orphanage.
The orphanage has already been the subject of several police and government investigations, and a 1999 inquiry led by former Queensland governor Leneen Forde.
After the so-called Forde Inquiry, the Queensland government at the time offered ex gratia payments of up to $40,000 to people as long as they dropped other legal action against the state.
Over the next two weeks, the royal commission will hear evidence from 18 witnesses, with 13 being former residents of the orphanage, who say they were abused by priests, workers, and nuns there from 1940 to 1975.
Abuse started on Christmas Eve
A witness, known as AYB, today told how she was abused by a former priest at the orphanage, Father Reginald Basil Durham.
She said the abuse started when she was 11 years old and Father Durham came to the family home on Christmas Eve to drop off some presents.
AYB said she was under the house with Father Durham when he said he deserved a kiss from brining her presents.
"Father Durham then kissed me using his tongue and fondled my breasts and told me that I was his special little girl," she said.
"He was a smoker and the taste was horrible.
"He told me it was to be 'our secret' and I was not to tell anyone.
"I could hear his heart beating.
"Father Durham had sexually abused and raped me well over 100 times.
"I felt so powerless, so robotic. He had so much power over me.
"I believed that I did not have choices. It was almost like being enslaved."
She said Father Durham would sometimes take her down to an old toilet block.
AYB said she was forced to rub his body and Father Durhan raped her — which he said was to prepare her for when she had a baby.
"Even today there are times when I experience nightmares and call out in my sleep 'go away, stop and don't touch me'," she said.
"I am doing this so we can claim our lives back to try and live out the rest of our lives with courage and peace and without the demons from the past dominating our memories with shame, guilt and regret."
Second witness raped, badly beaten
Former resident Mary Adams was sent to Neerkol when she was just nine months old.
She told the inquiry that she was sexually abused by two priests.
"I had become hysterical, crying, trying to push him off me," she said.
"All I could focus on was the crosses on his shirt, so I yelled at him, 'Father, you are committing a mortal sin'."
Ms Adams, 64, also broke down as she addressed the hard punishments dished out by nuns.
Sobbing at times, Ms Adams told the hearing she was punched, slapped, and pulled by her hair by one sister.
She said on another occasion she was flogged with a skipping rope so hard she struggled to walk for days.
"I had welts on my body for days after," she said.
Children too scared to tell their stories of abuse
Counsel assisting the royal commission Sophie David SC told the hearing in her opening address that one former resident of the orphanage had described the treatment by the sisters as "vicious and sadistic".
She said at the time, the children were too scared to tell their stories because they were afraid of harsh punishmog adent.
Ms David said the age of children at the orphanage ranged from newborns to 15-year-olds.
The number of children residents at Neerkol varied from 150 to 500, depending on the year.
The Sisters of Mercy staffed, supervised and operated Neerkol from 1885 until it had no further child residents in 1978.
The inquiry heard there was serious sexual, physical and emotional abuse of children.
In one case, a former resident will give evidence that he was sexually abused by a priest, beaten with instruments and flogged with a whip.
Ms David said from 1993, long after the orphanage closed, former residents came forward to the church and the Queensland Police to report allegations of sexual abuse.
She said as a result there were criminal proceedings in respect of Father Durham, now deceased, and a former employee of the orphanage, Kevin Baker.
The court heard Queensland Police charged Father Durham on February 6, 1997 with 40 sexual offences against five former residents of the orphanage and a former member of his parish.
On February 15, 1999, Father Durham pleaded guilty to six counts of indecently dealing with a former resident, identified by the inquiry as AYB.
All other charges were discontinued and he was sentenced to 18 months in prison, with a recommendation for release on parole after a period of four months.
The hearing was told that on March 31, 1998, Mr Baker, who was an employee of the orphanage as well as being a former resident, was committed for trial on 69 mainly sexual offences, related to 12 former residents.
He was never convicted of any offence.
The inquiry was told today that former residents had complained about Father Durham as one of the main perpetrators.
Mark Bunting, from support group Lotus Place, said the horrific ordeals of the victims would be painful to recall.
"For a lot of people, their childhood memories they've tried to forget, it's going to be quite difficult to relive those stories," he said.
"It wasn't just sexual, there was a lot of physical and emotional abuse, so for a lot of people it'll be very painful."
Bishop who denied abuse claims to appear at inquiry
Former Rockhampton bishop Brian Heenan is also expected to appear at the inquiry next week.
In 1996, Bishop Heenan outraged the victims of Neerkol by denying their claims about abuse by priests and mistreatment at the orphanage.
But in 1997, he was forced to apologise.
"I regret having expressed my reaction the way I did - I recognise now that they were not accurate," Bishop Heenan said at the time.
In a 2003 statement to ABC TV's 7.30 Report, Bishop Heenan said he had "acted at all times with honesty and integrity".
In June 2003, a Catholic Church tribunal found the bishop had not seriously violated the church's principles.
From the Editors
Why The Elkhart Truth must report on cases of child abuse
A recent onslaught of stories about child abuse prompted Assistant Managing Editor Anne Christnovich to outline The Elkhart Truth's policy on covering these horrific stories.
by Anne Christnovich
Reporters come across a lot of difficult stories, sometimes in the course of a single week. Covering tragic accidents, senseless crime and the general heartbreak of bad things happening to good people is not something we eagerly do, but we accept it as part of the job.
Nothing, however, is worse than reporting on crimes against children.
Unfortunately, this has been all too frequent as the Elkhart County Prosecutor's Office wades through a backlog of cases.
The onslaught of these stories has prompted a lot of people to send us letters, phone calls and messages on social media asking why we report on this subject in the way we do.
We hope this letter will answer some of those questions — let's start with the “why?”
Well, because we must.
These cases are already horrifying, but the expectation that a child or family should bear it alone is unacceptable. If we avoid this kind of reporting, it doesn't mean the abuse is not happening. The reporting ensures our society can't sweep it under a rug simply because it's difficult to talk about.
It's also an issue of public safety. We're obligated to report if these serious accusations result in a conviction. An amazing woman named Erika Monroe is living proof of why it is important to make the accusations public. Her rapist, Robert Quinn, was a serial one. He kidnapped and raped her in 1988, and by the time Quinn's DNA was matched to evidence from her 27-year-old case, Quinn had been convicted of child molestation in 2005 and rape, child molesting and criminal confinement in 2013.
Monroe's case is exceptional for a lot of reasons, not least of which because she wanted to talk to us and let us print her full name. Our policy has evolved over the years, but one constant has been to omit the names of victims unless we had permission to use them. More recently, we've trained our staff to write and edit to make sure the identity of a victim can't be deduced by connecting the details. We omit specific time frames, ages or relationships to protect that.
CAPS advocates — who make it their job to protect victims — took a look at our policy a few weeks ago and agreed it was responsible and appropriate.
Of course it's one thing to write a straightforward report of an arrest, but it's another to decide how much detail to include. We've been asked why it isn't enough to blanket most actions as "inappropriate touching" instead of spelling out that a victim was “forced to have oral sex” or “was raped.”
“There is no need for the reader to be subjected to such descriptions,” someone wrote in a letter to the editor published in the April 8 edition.
We argue it's extremely important to be specific about these accusations. Using vague, more “palatable” terms creates two serious problems: First, it leaves room for ambiguity when our job is to provide fact-based clarity about the severity of the charges the accused faces. Second, softer language could trivialize what the victim has been through.
To be clear: We do not take license to shock for the sake of shock. Our policy demands we use only clinical or legal terms, and even then only for the purpose of showing the severity of the situation.
That April 8 letter included a few more common questions we've been getting.
“... What about readers not expecting to find such explicit material in their newspaper? What about younger readers/children who are reading the newspaper? And what about readers who may know the victim, but may not know or want to know the graphic details?”
I could answer those questions in a strictly journalistic sense, but Monroe said it better than I could:
If no one talks about it, “eventually (victims) start feeling like it was their fault,” she said. “We're not trying to make kids feel like it's their fault, but to not allow them to talk about it makes them feel like it's something to be ashamed of. I dealt with that all my life.”
No one expects such explicit acts to happen where they live. No one expects such an explicit thing will to happen to them or someone they know and love. But we can't ignore it because it's uncomfortable to think about and difficult to talk about.
We aren't going to tell you how to talk to your kids, should they read in the news or find out about this cruel part of the world some other way. As parents and adults in this community, however, it's on all our shoulders to help younger people learn about this reality appropriately, both for their safety and to position them to help others.
If you're a parent or guardian and you need to raise this subject with your child, now is the time. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and advocates at CAPS say the best thing we can do as a community is talk about abuse and learn about prevention and recognizing the signs. CAPS has some fantastic resources to help, and we intend to report more on that soon.
In the meantime, we hope this has been helpful. If not, please reach out to us and let's continue the conversation. It's the least we can do.
Victims of abuse find their voice
by Patti Singer
Naomi Wood drove from Albany so she could tell her story where people understood and where hearing it might make someone else feel less isolated, ashamed or guilty.
"I'm an incest survivor," the 38-year-old said during the ninth annual Speak Out Rochester at Hochstein School of Music & Dance.
The event was sponsored by Prevent Child Abuse New York and organized locally by advocate Melanie Blow of Rochester. It provided an opportunity for survivors of any form of child abuse, domestic violence or rape to let others know they weren't the only ones this happened to. Speak Out is held in April, designated as National Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Wood, who came to Speak Out Rochester last year after researching support groups on the Internet, is organizing a similar event in two weeks for the Capital District. She told about a dozen people of being abused by her older brother and wondering what it would be like to have grown up, as she put it, normal.
"What would I be if I hadn't been sexually abused?" she said. "What kind of person would I be? People say 'you wouldn't be the person you are today.' Who says that I wouldn't the same person but without all the trauma that's attached to it."
Wood later said there is stigma to being a survivor, which can lead to feelings of being responsible. She said developing the confidence to speak out gives others a voice. "The person next to you goes 'Oh my God, me, too.' "
Michele Fitch, 47, of Penfield, advocates for victims of domestic violence and child abuse. She said that partner abuse often includes abuse of a child, and she echoed the theme of speaking up for those who can't.
"We have been through what you are feeling, what you are going through," she said.
Blow talked about being abused by her father and an uncle, and how seeing a family photo triggered memories.
"That picture was a symbol of abuse in society," the 37-year-old Rochester woman said. "Everyone was smiling. Everyone was looking straight ahead." She said no one may be looking to see what's going on behind the scenes.
Other speakers talked about the need for children to set their own boundaries and have their feelings respected in their contact with adults. Some said that pushing kids into hugging or being close to someone, even when there is no abuse, means a child might be confused about speaking up if something is wrong.
An estimated 20 percent of children will experience some form of maltreatment at some point in their lives, according to data reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Blow said she hoped the opportunity to share an experience or listen to someone else's would help people heal.
"I hope they feel stronger, I hope they feel healthier," she said. "I hope they learn they're not alone."
That's Men: Male rape victims suffer mentally, physically and silently
In a study of 40 men, 19 had attempted suicide after they were raped, says Padraig O'Morain
by Padraig O'Morain
Rape is a crime that is not much spoken about, even though its effects can be devastating and long lasting. Even the victims do not speak out.
The extent of the problem is outlined in the Psychologist by authors Michelle Lowe of the University of Bolton and Bob Balfour of Survivors West Yorkshire.
It is a devastating and hidden problem and I can't see the situation changing for the better in any significant way.
“Historically, sexual crimes against males were considered impossible or, at best, rare,” the authors write. A legacy of that attitude can be seen in a 2005 study in the UK which found that of 40 men who had been raped, only five reported the crime to the police. Four of the five claimed the police were negative in their dealings with them. Only one complaint resulted in a conviction.
What I thought particularly notable was that only 14 men out of the 40 sought medical help after the rape, and of these only five disclosed that they had received their injuries in the course of a rape.
“This means that most male rape survivors do not receive testing for sexually transmitted diseases that they may have contracted during their rape,” the authors note.
It gets worse. Of the 40 men, 19 had attempted suicide after they were raped.
Boys who are sexually abused are 10 times more likely to have the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder than boys who are not, according to an Australian study.
Both men and women who are raped experience blaming of the victim by elements in society. But in the case of men, there is also a tendency to blame themselves because they failed to prevent the rape. Men also blame themselves for their psychological suffering after the rape, because they believe they should be strong enough to handle it.
These imagined failures become a source of shame and make men even less likely to seek help, for fear others will blame them or ridicule them.
Add to all this the fact that sexual abuse is often repeated and, in the case of a child, could go on for years, and one can appreciate how devastating the effects can be.
“The problems men experience after sexual abuse can manifest in all areas of their lives, in interpersonal relationships, parenting, employment, and social and leisure activities, and at different points throughout the lifespan,” the authors note.
The women's movement was the driver behind the greater public awareness of the rape of women. It has been argued that the attention given to women in this regard has left male victims isolated. On the other hand, without the activism of the women's movement, rape and sexual assault would have an even lower priority than they have now.
As time goes on, we are hearing more of the stories of male victims of sexual abuse. These are almost always stories related to abuse in institutions. We hear relatively little about adult men who are raped by other men.
It is difficult to know what it is that will help these men to come forward given that they carry a burden of shame. I was about to write “irrational” shame. But the shame derives from long-standing cultural attitudes to men, about how they should be strong and able to fight off aggression and how they should be able to “man up” and get over violent incidents. In fact, those cultural attitudes are irrational. That doesn't stop the shame from feeling real and from keeping many men locked in a prison of isolation or, worse, suffering from sexually transmitted diseases as a result of rape.
Somehow, services have to reach out to these men because their sense of shame and their beliefs about manhood will stop them from reaching out to the services that exist.
In an era in which services continue to suffer cutbacks, I am pessimistic this is going to happen.
Rape Crisis Network Ireland: rcni.ie -- Dublin Rape Crisis Centre: drcc.ie
Padraig O'Morain is a counsellor accredited by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. His latest book is "Mindfulness on the Go." His mindfulness newsletter is free by email: email@example.com
Child abuse prevention losing ground
by Judy Putnam
LANSING – Charisse Tuell was a severely stressed-out mom when she walked into a local child abuse prevention office six years ago seeking a break. She left her infant in a respite child care program for more than two hours but never even made it out of the building — instead falling asleep on a sofa in the office's family lounge.
"You're just in this cycle of being overwhelmed and over tired but not willing to take a break from a child because you feel guilty,'' she said.
Today, Tuell, 28, is a much more confident mom of Lila, 6, and Liam, 2. She works for Child Abuse Prevention Division of the Child and Family Charities in Lansing, the same agency that she credits with helping her gain parental skills. She now helps parents whose children have been removed for abuse or neglect learn the tools they need to cope, such as taking care of yourself so you can take care of your kids.
April is a key time to fund the kind of local child abuse prevention efforts that helped Tuell. Not only is it Child Abuse Prevention Month, it's tax time — Michigan offers a check-off on the state tax form to donate to the Children's Trust Fund, which offers grants to local agencies working to prevent abuse and neglect.
Child abuse and neglect is a huge problem locally and across the state and, frankly, we're not doing all we can as a state, community or individuals to prevent it. Far from it.
Here are the statistics:
• The rate of confirmed child maltreatment victims of escalated by almost one-third between 2006 and 2013, according to Kids Count in Michigan, from 11.4 victims per 1,000 kids to 14.9 victims per 1,000. (Full disclosure, I used to work for the Kids Count in Michigan organization at the Michigan League for Public Policy.)
• Nearly one in every 10 children lives in a household investigated for abuse and neglect.
• There were 31,000 confirmed victims of child abuse and neglect in Michigan last year, according to the Department of Human Services.
Yet funding for prevention continues to decline.
For example, volunteer donations on the tax form once generated large amounts for child abuse and prevention — as much as $1.2 million in donations in 1987 when it was on the front page of the Michigan income tax form. Through the years, it's been taken off, restored, then added to a schedule along with eight other charities such as Alzheimer's, Special Olympics and the United Way Fund. Last year, it generated just under $80,000 for the Children's Trust Fund.
The Children's Trust Fund does not receive general fund state dollars, instead using trust investments, federal funds and donations raised through the tax form, a special license plate and a big charity auction, named after Pam Posthumus, the late wife of former Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus. The 13th annual event is May 13. The auction generates about $500,000 year.
Still, despite the efforts, grants from the Children's Trust Fund have fallen from $3.6 million in 2006 to $2.3 million this year, according to the House Fiscal Agency.
And prevention programs funded with state dollars have been cut. Funding for prevention programs fell from $57 million in 2006 to $41 million in 2013, according to the Michigan League for Public Policy. To make matters worse, the Legislature and governor cut programs since 2011 that help struggling families hold it together, including food assistance, cash assistance, the child care subsidy and the Earned Income Tax Credit.
There's a strong connection between poverty and neglect, and the effects of abuse and neglect don't end at childhood. Children who suffer abuse and neglect are at higher risk for substance abuse, addictions, depression, suicide, job loss, disease and early death.
Charisse Tuell, who was married at the time but since divorced, said she didn't understand how to be a good mother when she had her first child. Having the support of others through a parents group and learning coping techniques made all the difference, she said.
"To hear that there were other people having the same issues was eye-opening. Some of these things are just the stresses of life and having a family,'' she said.
What you can do to prevent child abuse and neglect:
• Donate through your Michigan tax form.
• Attend or donate to the Pam Posthumus Signature Auction, May 13. Call 373-4320 for more information.
• Report suspected abuse and neglect to a 24-hour hotline: 855-444-3911.
• Join local and statewide awareness efforts at an 11 a.m. April 23 rally at the Capitol.
Stopping child abuse still eludes Great Falls advocates
by Kristen Cates
It's been a long six years for Lisa Goff and the Court Appointed Special Advocates for children in Cascade County.
Since 2009, the number of new cases of children entering the legal system because of abuse and neglect and in need of a court-appointed guardian has increased more than 150 percent. It's to the point CASA-CAN, which trains and provides volunteer guardians ad litem to children in need of care in the justice system, is having to ask local attorneys to take on cases.
"We've had no break," Goff said. "Honest to God, right now it's bothering me the cases we can't serve."
Statistics provided by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services Child and Family Services Division show that the number of calls across the state to report child abuse remains high as do the number of substantiated cases.
Those numbers aren't as high as they were in 2011 and 2012, when the death of toddler October Perez in Great Falls brought significant attention to the issue of child abuse and whether it was being underreported and/or cases were not being thoroughly investigated by the CFSD.
However, the department's data does show the number of kids remaining in care of the state continues to increase, contributing to Goff's problems.
"Because there are so many cases, it's taking longer to resolve them," Goff said. "Our goal is to make sure kids are safe and the long-term goal is to break the cycle of abuse."
Carrie Galvez, director of the Great Falls Children's Receiving Home, isn't seeing much relief either. What was once supposed to be a temporary, emergency housing shelter for young children has turned somewhat into foster care. For the last several years, the shelter has housed a minimum of 10 children up to its maximum of 14 on an almost daily basis.
"You look at our community and see so much good and you don't want to see the flipside of it," Galvez said.
Last year, Goff said 57 percent of the cases CASA-CAN handled for youth in need of care were meth-related, which she said can slow down the process of reunification if that's possible. She said it can take up to 18 months for one of those cases to be resolved.
Galvez said she doesn't have any hard and fast numbers, but believes there is an uptick in meth use that is affecting the number of kids she's caring for, too, and the length of time they are spending in her care because of a lack of enough foster care providers in Great Falls.
Last year, CASA-CAN had 266 new cases. In 2009, there were 98 and Goff said that seemed like a lot. Each year, Goff has tried to steadily increase the number of guardians available for cases. But people can't just sign up and volunteer. They go through 35 hours of training, and it does require a lot of time on the guardian's part to meet with the kids, case workers, families and appear before judges to represent the best interests of the child.
Attorneys can do the job of representing children in court, but Goff said they haven't necessarily invested the same amount of time with the kids.
"(Judges) know guardians have a better understanding of the case," Goff said. "We've worked really hard for the last 10 to 12 years to build up a strong program."
Right now there are 88 guardians ad litem volunteering with CASA-CAN. The more experienced guardians are carrying two and maybe even three cases, while they try to keep the newer guardians with just one family. Ideally, Goff said she'd like to have 120 guardians.
Galvez said there has been talk of trying to find a bigger home or a place to house more children, but there would be a significant cost to doing that. And Galvez said ideally, she'd like to work herself out of business.
"I don't ever want to be looked at as a facility that just warehouses kids," she said.
Goff said the program does make a lasting impact. Her faith in the program locally comes mostly from anecdotal experience and the knowledge that less than 10 percent of the cases they handle are repeated cases of children in need of care.
"I really see that the kids are not falling through the cracks because they have people speaking for them," she said. "I believe it in it. Otherwise I wouldn't be stressing myself out about it."
Toyland on wheels: Man decorates pickup to call attention to child abuse
by Rodger Mullen
Mickey Mouse grins his goofy grin on the bed of Robert Harrison's Ford F-150 pickup. Scooby-Doo awaits a Scooby snack.
The Simpsons - Homer, Bart, Lisa and Marge - stand together in a semi-circle. Captain America wields his mighty shield.
It's a regular cartoon paradise on the bed of Harrison's truck. Also on the hood and roof.
More than 500 little plastic toys are glued to the vehicle, making it an attraction wherever Harrison drives. Invariably, people stop to look at or photograph the truck or at least slow down when they're driving by.
For Harrison, though, the whimsical display has a serious purpose.
"Something told me to put them up there for missing and abused children," he said. "I don't want people to forget about them."
Harrison, 60, is a Fayetteville native. He works as a landscaper and in the kitchen of a church.
About a year ago, Harrison said, he started collecting plastic toys and affixing them to his truck. At first it was just a whim, but eventually he decided to make the toys a statement about the issue of abused and missing children.
Harrison said he has a personal reason for the display - he said he was abused as a child.
"I think there should be a no-tolerance law, no plea bargains, nothing (for child abusers)," Harrison said.
"If we don't take care of our children, there's something wrong," he said.
Eventually, Harrison said he wants to get signs for the side of his truck bringing attention to his cause. For now, though, he just has the toys.
And they get plenty of attention on their own, even if people don't know Harrison's reason for putting them there.
"People take pictures all day long, everywhere I go," he said. "They say, 'You bring a smile to my face. I was in a bad mood until I saw your truck.' Some people laugh at it, but when you laugh, you're happy."
Harrison said he buys the toys at discount stores and has found some in the trash. Some people have given him toys to add to his collection.
That collection includes a couple of Mr. Potato Heads, a Santa Claus or two, Fred Flintstone and the "Toy Story" gang. There's a set of oversized chattering teeth and a gumball machine.
"I got King Kong up there, inside a cage," Harrison said, pointing to the roof.
Once he glues them to his truck, they stay, although he admits a few have been pried off.
"I drove all the way to Rocky Mount in the rain and none of them came off," he said. "I went through the car wash and none of them came off."
Of course, gluing plastic toys to a truck takes a toll on the vehicle's finish. Harrison is philosophical about any damage done to his 15-year-old truck.
"You don't live but one time," he said. "One day, this truck will be in the junkyard and I'll be dead and gone."
Know these 30 signs of child abuse
by Dee Kerry deHaas
Medical providers, among other professionals who care for children, are required to report “reasonable cause to suspect” that a child has been or is likely to be abused or neglected.
Due to the death of an infant in Maine last year who had a previous broken bone and bruising, LD 1523 was written. This bill became law and mandates reporting to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services if children younger than 6 months or those unable to walk on their own exhibit evidence of a bone fracture, substantial or multiple bruises, subdural hematoma, burns, poisoning or injury resulting in bleeding, swelling or impairment of an organ.
The risk for not reporting a possible abuse includes a potential fine and lawsuit. Mandated reporters are protected by law and cannot be fined or sued for reporting.
Worse than a fine or lawsuit would be the knowledge that failing to take action contributed to a child's further injury or death.
There are many indicators of abuse, both physical and behavioral, that all people should be cognizant of. These signs aren't proof of abuse, but they may indicate an adult should explore what is happening in the child's life.
Unexplained bruises and welts that may be clustered or that reflect the shape of the item used to inflict pain; they may regularly appear after an absence, such as a weekend or vacation.
Unexplained burns, such as from a cigar, cigarette, electric burner or iron; or rope burns, especially on the arms, legs, neck or torso; infected burns might indicate a delay in treatment.
Bald patches on the scalp
Child feels deserving of punishment
Child shows behavioral extremes of aggressiveness or withdrawal
Child is wary of adult contact, and afraid of parents or frightened to go home
Child reports injury by parents
Extreme fatigue or listlessness
Physical or medical needs that have been ignored
Begging or stealing food
Arriving early at school or staying late; falling asleep in school
Child says there's no caretaker
Difficulty walking or sitting, or pain or itching in genital area
Venereal disease or pregnancy
Torn, stained or bloody underclothing
Unwilling to change for gym class
Withdrawal, fantasy or infantile behavior
Unusual sexual behavior or knowledge
Runs away from home
Reports sexual abuse by a caretaker
Biting, rocking or sucking (potential habit disorders)
Antisocial or destructive behavior (potential conduct disorders)
Sleep disorders, speech disorders, inhibition of play
Hysteria, obsession, compulsion, phobias, hypochondria
Shows extremes of compliant and passive to aggressive and demanding behavior
Physical, emotional or mental developmental lags
Learn more about indicators that can often present if a child is being abused or neglected at a conference May 1-3 in Portland featuring national expert Dr. Robert Sege and a panel of community leaders.
To view the agenda, visit the conference website: On the Path to Well-Being: Adversity, Poverty and Resilience.
Dee Kerry deHaas is executive director of the Maine chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.