From the Department of Homeland Security
Continuing to Combat Violence Against Women: Sharing Resources Across the Department
by Maria Odom and Brian DeVallance
Every day, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plays a role in combating domestic violence and sexual assault, and seeks to be a productive partner in working to prevent violence against women. In conjunction with National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, today the DHS Council on Combating Violence Against Women released a comprehensive DHS Resource Guide which provides summaries and links to programs, initiatives, training materials, and services that can be leveraged by communities across the country to combat these types of heinous crimes.
Created in 2012, the DHS Council on Combating Violence Against Women coordinates the Department's efforts to stop sexual assault and other crimes. The Council provides a unique forum that brings together experts in all fields across the Department to identify we can further improve our ability to combat violence against women in the communities we serve.
The DHS Resource Guide: Combating Violence Against Women includes an overview of immigration relief and support services for victims, information on our victim-centered investigations, and opportunities for the public to engage directly with the Department on these issues.
In addition to these resources, the DHS Council on Combating Violence Against Women hosts quarterly teleconferences to educate and inform the community on the Department's ongoing efforts to combat violence against women. We have hosted teleconferences to share information about the DHS Blue Campaign efforts to raise awareness on human trafficking, the U.S. Coast Guard's Special Victims Counsel program which protects the rights of women in sexual assault cases, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' work to provide protections for victims, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection's joint efforts to protect, and in many cases, to rescue women from violence.
Continued community engagement and partnerships are vital to ensuring the success of the Department's efforts on this important issue. As the Council's co-chairs, we look forward to building on these efforts and advancing our work to protect victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and other crimes.
For more information on the DHS Council on Combating Violence Against Women, contact VAWA@hq.dhs.gov.
Engaging Education Stakeholders to Raise Awareness of Human Trafficking
Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Blue Campaign, the unified voice for the Department's efforts to combat human trafficking, held its semi-annual stakeholder engagement alongside the Department of Education. The event brought together federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, schools, and private industry partners to raise awareness of human trafficking in middle schools, high schools, and colleges, and to identify opportunities for collaboration in our shared anti-human trafficking efforts.
During the morning session, representatives from President Lincoln's Cottage and FAIR Girls participated in a constructive dialogue on human trafficking prevention efforts in middle schools and high schools. During the afternoon session, representatives from the University of Oklahoma, Pennsylvania State University, and George Mason University participated in a panel discussion focused on how academic research is advancing the effort to combat modern-day slavery, and how college and university students are working to prevent human trafficking in unique ways.
We were also joined by U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp who highlighted the importance of raising awareness and working together to combat this terrible crime. Sen. Heitkamp has been a vocal advocate and leader in Congress on working to combat human trafficking.
Over the past year, the Blue Campaign has increased its outreach to the education community – including middle schools, high schools, and colleges – because we know the important role that schools play in educating communities about this issue, while also recognizing that students themselves may be vulnerable to human trafficking.
Today's event highlighted the importance of continued partnerships between DHS and our community of stakeholders to enhance our individual and collective abilities to identify and support victims, investigate cases, and bring those who commit and enable the crime of human trafficking to justice. Our work is far from over.
For more information on human trafficking tools for school administrators and staff, visit http://www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign/share-resources.
I encourage you to visit www.dhs.gov/bluecampaign to learn more, get involved, and join us in the fight against human trafficking.
'One with Courage' initiative protects Utah children, families from abuse
by Sean Reyes
We often limit the meaning of the word "courage" to the bravery of those on our front lines. Our soldiers, police officers, firefighters and other agents are certainly courageous as they stand up and fight to keep us safe from harm.
But in today's world, we must expand our definition of "courage" to include the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger and fear. It is critical to consider those who push stigma and discomfort aside to talk about tough issues that are often left in the shadows. Courageous people make it possible for the most vulnerable among us to find protection from harm.
Child sexual abuse is a crime of silence that thrives because not only the perpetrators, but often the victims, do not share their dark secrets. Sadly, many of these situations are based on trusted relationships, and the threat of exposure ignites instinctive reflexes to preserve familiar surroundings, even when they are damaging and destructive.
The Attorney General's Office houses and administers the Utah Children's Justice Center (CJC) Program, dedicated to helping local communities respond to allegations of child abuse in ways that are effective and efficient and that minimize trauma for the child. Each of the 22 centers in Utah is a child-focused, facility-based program in which representatives from law enforcement, child protection, prosecution, mental health, medical services and victim advocacy work together to conduct interviews and make team decisions about investigation, prosecution and treatment of child abuse cases. In an average year, Utah's CJCs conduct 4,500 interviews, handle 5,500 cases and serve as many as 15,000 people.
Keeping families safe is a top priority in our office. In addition to our statewide CJCs, there are 36 Child Protection Division assistant attorneys general and the necessary staff to ensure safe living environments for children in every county throughout Utah. We work in tandem with our partners at DCFS and many of our attorneys work cases at all hours of the day and night to seek judicial protection for children who are in imminent danger of abuse or neglect, while also respecting parental and family rights.
Our office also administers the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC), a statewide multi-jurisdictional task force that investigates and prosecutes people who use the Internet to exploit children. ICAC includes 32 affiliate law enforcement agencies, 80 officers and three full-time prosecutors. In addition, our SECURE Strike Force investigates and prosecutes human trafficking threats that often include children.
We are honored to team with our state's Division of Child and Family Services to launch One with Courage Utah. This initiative asks each of us, no matter our situation, to have courage. Courage is necessary for a child victim to speak up. Courage is necessary for a survivor to remember and share a story. Courage is necessary for an adult to listen and act to help a child. Courage is necessary for every one of us to vigilantly build awareness and engage in an open dialogue about child sexual abuse.
Alarming statistics show that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted before they reach the age of 18. Perpetrators often consist of family members, friends and acquaintances. It is estimated that over 90 percent of child sexual assault victims know their abusers. And most of these children do not disclose abuse until adulthood, if ever.
It is time for each of us to be One with Courage. You are invited to find out more about the unique role Children's Justice Centers play in providing comprehensive, coordinated and compassionate services to child victims of abuse. We welcome you to find out more about the Children's Justice Center Program and our partnerships with counties throughout Utah. We are privileged to be part of the response that is designed to bring justice and healing to the children who come through our doors.
Most importantly, One with Courage Utah is a compilation of experiences by people living in Utah meant to inspire the courage required to take action against abuse. Action includes starting a dialogue about this issue, equipping ourselves with the facts, or volunteering at a local Children's Justice Center.
Please take a minute to learn how to join the fight at onewithcourageutah.org.
I'm One with Courage. Are you?
Connecticut awarded $1,305,846 for family violence victims and support providers
by Leslie Lake
NORWALK -- Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) formula grants totaling $1,305,846 have been awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to support Connecticut domestic violence victims and organizations.
$13.5 million has been awarded to 56 Connecticut domestic violence coalitions to expand and enhance statewide and territorial responses to domestic violence victims and organizations with an emphasis on systems reform, public policy, training and technical assistance, prevention, and public awareness. Grantees will each receive awards of $241,000.
One of the beneficiaries of the funding will be Norwalk and Stamford-based Domestic Violence Crisis Center (DVCC) which serves clients in Norwalk, Darien, New Canaan, Weston, Westport, and Wilton.
"This is part of the federal funding that goes to state domestic violence coalitions," said DVCC media advocate Kathy Lake.
DVCC is the only domestic violence agency serving the cities and towns of Stamford, Norwalk, Westport, New Canaan, Darien, Wilton and Weston and is part of an 18 member statewide coalition, the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV).
The services provided by DVCC include: Court and legal services; counseling; SafeHouses; Housing, economic and educational advocacy; children's services; medical advocacy; 24-hour hotline; PeaceWorks prevention and education programs; adult training and workshops; and multilingual services.
Family Violence Prevention and Services Act formula grants are awarded to every state and territory and more than 200 Tribes. These funds reach almost 1,600 domestic violence shelters and over 1,300 non-residential service sites, providing both a safe haven and an array of supportive services to intervene in and prevent abuse. Each year, FVPSA-funded programs serve over 1.3 million victims and their dependents and respond to 2.7 million crisis calls.
"These programs provide a lifeline to millions of women, children and men each year," stated Marylouise Kelley, director of ACF's Family Violence Prevention and Services Program. "Every day, survivors across the country find the courage to escape an abusive relationship."
According to the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) 10 percent of the funds appropriated by Congress for FVPSA formula grants are allocated for the Coalitions. Each Coalition receives an equal share of the funding.
"ACF is proud to be partnering with communities to identify solutions and support services addressing the traumatic impact of domestic violence," said Bill Bentley, associate commissioner of the FYSB. "Domestic violence coalitions, local domestic violence programs, tribes, and culturally specific community based organizations are all an integral part of any coordinated response to domestic violence."
A total of $94.5 million has been awarded to 56 states and territories to fund and manage local domestic violence programs. State and territorial formula grants make up 70 percent of FVPSA.
Pentagon grapples with assault cases
by The Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- It's not against the law or military regulations to choose not to sit with someone in the dining hall or to unfriend them on Facebook, but in the traumatic aftermath of a sexual assault, a victim could interpret those moves as retaliation.
In these days when a tweet or Instagram photo can be wielded as weapons, the Pentagon is struggling to define retaliation and rein in bullying or other behavior that victims perceive as vengeful.
At the same time, military leaders are expanding efforts to better train their lower- and midlevel commanders to detect and deal with retaliation, while also insuring that other, more innocent actions are not misinterpreted by assault victims.
On Friday, the Pentagon released a deeper analysis of the sexual assault survey data made public last December.
That report acknowledges the difficulties in gathering data about retaliation, including problems with how some of the survey questions may have been misinterpreted and that incidents of retaliation may have been over counted.
It's a thorny problem for the military, in the aftermath of a RAND study that concluded that about 60 percent of sexual assault victims believe they have faced retaliation from commanders or peers. Members of Congress are demanding swift steps to protect whistle-blowers, including sexual assault victims who have been wronged as a result of their reports or complaints.
Pentagon leaders said the survey questions need to reflect what legally constitutes retaliation, which includes taking action to discourage someone from going forward with an assault complaint. But they also acknowledged that often victims believe they are being retaliated against if peers no longer invite them to parties or if they are disciplined for illegal drug or alcohol use in connection with the assault.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter unveiled four new initiatives to focus training more directly on the differences in assaults on men and women and increased efforts to prevent retaliation.
The survey showed that unwanted sexual contact against men usually involves multiple assailants on more than one occasion, happens during work hours at their duty station and is more often described by the victim as hazing or an effort to humiliate them. Incidents described by women are usually after work hours, off the base and often involve alcohol use by either the victim or the perpetrator.
Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, director of the Pentagon's sexual assault prevention program, said the military services are working to get better information about the assaults and retaliation so they can improve training.
Sexual assault is such a heinous crime, Snow said, that a victim may easily interpret any action by a superior -- even a transfer to give the victim time to heal -- as a reprisal.
Last December, the RAND survey estimated that 62 percent of sexual assault victims believed they faced some type of professional retaliation, social ostracism, adverse administrative action or punishment.
But defense and military officials involved in sexual assault response and reporting now say the questions may have inadvertently included innocent actions by commanders seeking to protect the victim or other social practices that were not designed to persuade a victim not to press forward with criminal proceedings. RAND has since dropped its estimate, saying that about 57 percent of assault victims believe they faced retaliation.
According to survey data, many of the women said the retaliation came in the form of social backlash from co-workers or other service members.
Snow and Galbreath said the military must understand what exactly that is, and whether they can determine if the social reaction is designed to deter a victim from pursuing legal action -- which would more clearly be retaliation.
Officials also agreed that if victims believed he or she were being targeted or unfairly punished, then those concerns must be addressed. They said commanders need to find ways to detect those problems and stop them, either by taking action against perpetrators or making it known throughout the unit that social ostracism is not acceptable, and by communicating better with victims.
One challenge is to do that without violating the privacy of a victim. Often a lower-level commander may not be aware of a sexual assault case, and could inadvertently discipline someone for failing to show up for duty, when they may have been seeking health care or other assistance.
In other cases, a commander may try to transfer assault victims to get them the help they need, give them time to heal or get them away from a bad situation. But victims may see that as professional retaliation if it stalls their military career or puts them in a less desirable job or location. But officials said commanders need more training so they can better handle those situations.
Last December, the Pentagon reported that there were a bit more than 6,100 victims of reported sexual assaults in 2014, an increase of about 11 percent. And an anonymous survey of service members showed that about 19,000 troops said they were victims of some type of unwanted sexual contact, down from about 26,000 in a 2012 survey.
Victim of sexual abuse will speak at RDAP's Gala
by Kamie Stephen
Marilyn Van Derbur Atler seemed to have everything: A loving family, a beautiful home and eventually the title of Miss America.
Not everything is as it seemed, though. Her life wasn't anything close to perfect.
When she was 5, her father began sexually abusing her. It continued until she was 18.
In 1958, while attending the University of Colorado, she was crowned Miss America. She ended up graduating from the university with a Bachelor of Arts degree and Phi Beta Kappa honors. She also kept her past a secret as she entered into a career as a motivational speaker.
Since then, Van Derbur Atler has been the host of numerous network television specials and has produced more than 20 films.
As she got older, her life began to get more difficult. Watching her daughter grow up reminded her of the nightmares of her past. She ended up in a psychiatric ward at age 50, pleading with her therapists to find a woman who had survived a similar ordeal so she would have someone to connect with. They couldn't find anyone.
When Van Derbur Atler finally began to cope and return to a sense of normalcy, she went to Kempe National Center to explore the creation of an adult survivor program. Her family contributed $250,000 to fund the program, but she was to remain anonymous.
Again, things took a turn just as the program was getting started, when a reporter found out that Van Derbur Atler was an incest survivor. The next morning, she was on the front page of The Denver Post.
The following weeks brought thousands of men and women who came forward in the greater Denver area to help and support her. To handle the massive amounts of people, she established the Survivor United Network, which helped up to 500 people a week at no cost.
Van Derbur Atler is still a motivational speaker, now sharing the story of her healing process and raising awareness for sexual abuse and it's long-term effects.
On Thursday, May 7, she'll be sharing her story in North Platte at the Rape and Domestic Abuse Program Gala. The gala will be from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Quality Inn and Suites. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased by contacting RDAP at 532-0624.
“We are thrilled to have her because she is a very powerful, talented speaker with a very powerful story,” said Melanie O'Brien, RDAP's board chair. “We hope her message will make an impact on people who have dealt with similar issues in their families.”
O'Brien went on to say that Van Derbur Atler's book, “Miss America by Day,” has been a resource for many social service organizations including RDAP for years, so they decided to reach out to her. Van Derbur Atler will be signing and selling copies of her book at the event.
“She also stays as long as people want to talk to her,” said O'Brien.
As long as someone needs her to listen, Van Derbur Atler sticks around, allowing people who may have stayed silent for years to share their stories.
RDAP offers emergency shelter and food, support and education to women and men who are victims of sexual assault or domestic violence. The program is primarily funded by grants but fundraising events like the gala are critical to making sure RDAP can continue to operate.
Protecting kids by protecting families
by Kevin Robinson
"I signed up for school," Krista Bill announced, and a round of cheers erupted around her.
It was the topper on a string of good news. Bill had bought a car and was close to landing a job. The only potential stumbling block was that Bill would need someone to care for her infant son once school started in the fall.
The dozen or so social workers surrounding Bill at a conference table knew the last thing the 22-year-old mother needed was another stumble. Bill already had a daughter placed into permanent foster care and had just recently regained custody of her 10-month-old son. The team was determined to do whatever it took to ensure the pair wasn't separated again.
Bill and her son are one of the thousands of Florida families receiving counseling and services because of choices that led to adverse encounters with the Department of Children and Families or the criminal justice system. In the past three years, the DCF has begun altering its practices to place more emphasis on getting these families the service and counseling they need to get back on track and stay there.
"We do find that parents want to be good parents," said Kellie Sweat Darnell, DCF northwest regional director. "They don't wake up in the morning and choose to hurt their children. ... It's not that someone is a bad parent (if they come into contact with DCF), there's something that's keeping them from being the parent that they want to be."
Asking the right questions
The DCF fell under intense outward and inward scrutiny after the 2011 death of Nubia Barahona, a 10-year-old Miami girl who was routinely tortured by her foster parents and eventually found dead and doused in chemicals inside a trash bag. For years, various extended family members and neighbors had expressed concerns about Nubia and her twin brother's well-being, but the DCF never found significant cause to intervene.
When the worst-case scenario came to pass, Nubia's death was held up as the greatest failing of a broken system.
Since then, DCF officials have sought ways to be more proactive in stemming cases of abuse and neglect. Sweat Darnell said the problem ultimately came down to having a system that was designed to investigate individual allegations of abuse, but not the ancillary circumstances that led to them.
"What we realized after a long history of this practice, is we were missing a lot of factors and dynamics within a family that really help us predict if that child is in a state of danger," Sweat Darnell said.
The question became not just, 'Is this child safe right now?' but also, 'Is this parent going to be able keep this child safe throughout the duration of their young life?'
"There's no one cause, there's no one factor that makes a parent abuse their child," said DaMonica Rivas, DCF Northwest Region Communications director. "There's often several underlying factors. There's the cycle of abuse, there's poverty, there's mental health issues, there's substance abuse issues. So trying to get to the root cause of the parent's issues — get the services in place to help the parent and get the services in place to help the children deal with the trauma they've suffered — can eventually help put an end to the cycle of abuse."
Treating the root
The Families First Network is the local service arm of the DCF.
"We go in, and we make sure there is a service delivery system for families that come to DCF's attention," said Shawn Salamida, director of the FFN.
The organization — a program of the Lakeview Center — manages foster placements and helps coordinate services for troubled families through a host of partner agencies such as Guardian Ad Litem, the Early Learning Coalition, the Community Drug and Alcohol Council and many more.
"We want to see kids be able to stay with their families whenever it's safely possible for them to do so, so we provide a lot of service to those families where the child may be removed for their own safety."
So why are children removed from their homes? It's rarely the shocking, sensational violence we see in headlines or nightly news.
"Substance abuse is the most common thing we see," Salamida said. "Domestic violence. Inadequate supervision. (Parent's) inability to pay for their (child's) basic needs ... 75 to 80 percent of the time it's neglect. Folks have to work and leave their kids at home. Get evicted and have no place to stay. Lose their job and can't afford to feed their kids. If a family is homeless for whatever reason, we don't want a child coming into foster care because their family is homeless. We want to see if we can find that family someplace to live, help them get some support in finding income and getting jobs. We would rather do that than have a child go into foster care."
Sweat Darnell said even in severe cases, the best way to stop abuse and neglect is to cure the reasons why people abuse.
"Our current practices allow us to be much more specific in the types of intervention and support that families need," Sweat Darnell said. "Before when we looked at an incident, let's use physical abuse as an example, a common approach to respond to that was that parent had to take parenting classes, they probably needed an anger management class, and we weren't really getting down to what was driving this behavior."
In the case of Krista Bill, her impending childcare dilemma could have put her out of compliance with court orders or forced her to forgo her continued education. Together, Bill's team was able to pool their available programs, resources and contacts and help Bill find a suitable daycare.
Margot Doelker, early childhood court specialist for FFN, said removing obstacles gives families the tools they need to build success.
"We try to get in early and change the trajectory of the family," Doelker said. "Truthfully, we can divert a family from coming deeper into the services."
Bill had issues with substance abuse, and when she was 18 her daughter was placed into the care of another family member. She temporarily lost custody of her son last year, but regained custody in November after committing herself to turning her life around.
"Now it's a little different because I know how it feels to lose a child ... I've been working hard. I still go to RISE (Resiliency Increasing Skills and Education program) and talk about the problems I'm having. Sometimes you just need someone to talk to...They made me quit blaming everybody and look at myself and fix myself."
The team helping Bill work through her issues is composed of members of Guardian Ad Litem, the Early Learning Coalition, Lakeview Center, DCF, the Community Drug and Alcohol Council RISE program and several other organizations.
The group was organized through the Early Childhood Court, a fast-track judicial program designed for parents who have had children under the age of 5 enter foster care. The court's goal is to reunite parents and children as quickly as possible (provided it's safe to do so) or expedite the process of finding a child a permanent foster home if their parent continues to exhibit unsafe behaviors.
In weekly meetings called staffings, the team assigned to a family's case reviews what services could be beneficial to the individual members of the household, as well as attempt to head off developing problems before they become roadblocks.
Bill said she had a strong network of supporting family, friends and professionals to help her, and Sweat Darnell said that ultimately it takes everyone pitching in to keep families safe.
"A lot of parents are really struggling. A lot feel isolated and they don't have anyone to talk to. That can really build up the stress they are already experiencing and they don't know how to cope, so it gets too big for them to handle. I think everyone in the community can reach out to someone else in the community, be an ear for them to listen to, be a support if they feel they're getting stressed and something is about to happen. Having those natural supports — people in the community that they can call on — is an indicator of a family that is going to be able to turn the ship around."
Panel addresses abuse problems
by Sherry Blakeley
Negative life events such as abuse and homelessness can cause serious mental health problems, a panel of local professionals told an audience at Beloit Public Library recently.
The Women's Fund of the Stateline Community Foundation hosted the event, which is the first of three scheduled to cover issues important to Beloit women and girls.
“Because the Women's Fund maintains regular contact with service providers helping women and girls, we make it our job to share what we have learned,” said Sandra Kincaid, co-chair of the Women's Fund. “We want to become a reliable resource for corporations and philanthropies to direct their attention to worthy organizations in the community.”
Karen White, a licensed mental health therapist at Beloit Health System, described the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) psychological test. It checks for 10 types of childhood trauma including abuse, family dysfunction and neglect.
“Child trauma takes an enormous toll on individuals. It takes an economic toll as well in productivity loss, health care and criminal justice system costs and other areas,” White said.
“When the ACE study was first done, women were 50 percent more likely than men to have experienced five or more ACEs. These underlie adult problems with serious depression and anxiety, and make women more vulnerable to becoming victims of rape,” she said.
She said childhood trauma damages the developing brain and that awareness and early intervention could help counter the negatives of ACEs.
“We need changes in our system so that re-traumatization does not happen,” White said. “A major shift is needed, from ‘What is wrong with you?' to ‘What has happened to you?'”
Robin Stuht, licensed professional counselor, spoke next. Stuht has been the Homeless Liaison/Educational Counsel for the School District of Beloit since 2005. She has worked with youth for over 20 years and is the producer of the documentary 16:49 about the plights of local youth without homes.
“There are so many mental health issues that arise out of homelessness. Each and every teen has her or his own story,” Stuht said.
She introduced two young women who spoke about their abusive families and how they ended up homeless. Helped by Stuht and other adults, both are on their way to turning around their lives.
“I am going to go on and make something of myself,” one woman said. The other recently graduated high school and will start college in the fall.
Amanda Isunzu, MSW, APSW, is the Trauma Informed Care Advocate at Beloit Domestic Violence Survivor Center, a position funded by a grant from the Women's Fund. Isunzu counsels victims of domestic violence. She also worked as the Bilingual Advocate for the Sexual Assault Recovery Program and a mental health counselor for Family Services Counseling Program.
She said that women and children are brutalized in homes, the children being affected, even if they are not being directly abused, but instead witness mental and physical violence directed at their mothers.
“The abuser needs all the attention and drains the spouse's energy so the children end up feeling neglected,” she said.
Domestic abuse can lead to a wide range of mental health problems ranging from sleep disorders to suicide attempts.
“The shelter works with many organizations throughout the community to help those who seek help with many different issues,” Isunzu said.
She added that understanding oneself can make offered help more effective.
“Before you help others, you need to understand what's inside of yourself first. Learn about your own biases,” Isunzu said.
“Nationally we are all in a state of crisis as far as mental health issues in our communities,” Stuht said. “Here in Beloit we have a lot of poverty that makes matters worse.”
She said that becoming an adult mentor for a child can help.
“Be that mentor, that adult who is willing to listen. We need many more of you.”
“All of you can consider where you can make a difference in someone's life,” she said.
Kids take a stand against child abuse and neglect
by Kate Allt
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The works of art on display for the next two weeks at Randy Bacon Studio are for much more than decoration. The art, created by Springfield elementary students, is standing up against child abuse and neglect.
"They told us that the artwork was for charity," said Caleb Pardue, a fifth-grader at Robberson Community School. "They're going to be sold and they're going to be going to the charity for abused and neglected kids."
The artwork is part of Children Taking a Stand, which began in 2008. That was the year Juli Nelson read an article about the horrible abuse of a local child. When she took the story to her faith community, a little boy said he wanted to sell lemonade to help kids who get hurt.
The non-profit has evolved through the years into a school-based art program. Through the art they create, kids are empowered to be part of the solution to a very serious problem.
“Because children are the ones being hurt, children deserve to rise up on behalf of their own, to be empowered to be part of the solution to this persistent and horrendous problem," Nelson said.
"It's important for us because I don't think anyone in this school is abused and we don't know how it feels, so other kids, we want them to have the experience we have," said Robberson fourth-grader Olivia Attyberry.
"I think it's important because a lot of people notice [this is happening] and they don't do anything, they don't even try to find a way that they can help," added Mattie King, a Robberson fifth-grader. "And I think it's just teaching us that if we start earlier, then we can do much more."
Not only does the artwork give back, but it also creates a conversation and educates kids on what to do if they ever find themselves or their friends in a dangerous situation.
"We talk about what child abuse is and how the kids need to be safe and if they're feeling unsafe or there's other kids out in Springfield who are unsafe, it's just helping them and just putting awareness out," said Daphne Mack, School Counselor at Robberson Community School.
Last year's art auction raised $6,000 for the Child Advocacy Center, the Victim Center and CASA of Southwest Missouri. This year, the goal is $10,000, which will take the help of the entire community.
"If there are children in our community who are being hurt, even if we personally haven't experienced it, or our children haven't experienced it, it should matter to us," Nelson said. "It's our problem too."
The show is open to the public starting at 6:30 p.m. at Randy Bacon Studio on College Street.
If you can't make it tonight, all the artwork will be on display for another two weeks.
You can also make a donation to Children Taking a Stand through Community Partnership of the Ozarks.
Thai police dig up graves at jungle camp, rights groups say trafficking is 'out of control'
by The Associated Press
PADANG BESAR, Thailand – Thai police officials have trekked into mountains with shovels to dig up shallow graves after the grim discovery of an abandoned jungle camp that has cast a new spotlight on the human trafficking networks operating in Thailand.
Police Gen. Jarumporn Suramanee says at least five corpses were found by Saturday afternoon as efforts continue to dig up about 30 gravesites scattered around a camp tucked in a forested area of southern Thailand.
The cause of the deaths is not immediately clear. But the discovery of the hidden mountain camp is a sharp reminder that trafficking continues in Thailand despite repeated assurances by authorities that they are addressing the root causes.
Human Rights Watch says discovery highlights that the trafficking situation in Thailand is "out of control."
For Survivors of Sexual Assault, Self Comes First
by Tanya Morshed
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but we need more than a month to address a violent act that occurs every 107 seconds in the United States, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN).
Let's think on that for a moment. In the time it takes you to microwave a bag of popcorn, someone is being sexually assaulted. Usually--80 percent of the time, RAINN reports--that victim is under age 30. And often--44 percent of the time-- victims are under age 18.
During the 2014 launch of the It's On Us initiative against college campus sexual assault, President Barack Obama called sexual assault "an affront to our basic humanity." No question.
In my 14 years of work with survivors of sexual assault I have found that, in the land of the free, many children and adults live in internal cages, trapped in traumatic reactions and enslaved by the assault's continuous attack on their psyche, emotions, physiology and spirit.
I have seen how abuse shatters a victim's sense of self. If a child is abused, there can be deeper ramifications.
We begin to develop our sense of self when we are children, and during that time we are most influenced by our external environments and people to tell us who we are and should be.
Sexual assault can rupture healthy development of safety, security, worth, trust, love, empowerment, control and self-perception. For instance, a child who is sexually assaulted can internalize the message that his or her only value is to be used by others for their needs and then grow up to be an adult focused on meeting others' need to feel worthwhile and useful.
Since sexual assault is an interpersonal trauma, survivors sometimes seek reparative experiences through relationships, but many times the relationships become more disempowering.
For example, I worked with a female adult who was repeatedly sexually assaulted by her father during childhood. (All case scenarios have been modified to protect client confidentiality and privacy.) During her teens and young adulthood, she tried to have control over her body and males by flirting and attracting men. She then rejected them, which made her feel in control and powerful, but sometimes this approach brought on aggressive sexual advances that then made her feel like a victim. Unfortunately, these cycles left her feeling more empty and angry. What she avoided facing was the internal lack of power and control she struggled with constantly.
From my experience, the most devastating impact of sexual assault is on a person's relationship with self.
Seeking corrective experiences outside of one's self misses the deep healing that needs to occur in the places of fear, anger, pain, void and powerlessness.
When people are able to comfort and soothe themselves they can find freedom from a cycle of self-punishment and depending on externals to fulfill their emotional needs. If not, they often keep seeking it through cutting, substances, sex, stealing, shopping or food. It's helpful to receive support from others, but depending solely on it limits one's ability to self-nurture and feel empowered.
Internal work can be challenging because it knocks on the door of the defenses we use to protect ourselves, like avoidance, repression, denial, projection, rationalization. That's why I say that therapy is not for the crazy but the courageous. Of course, therapy is not the only way to heal, but it's often an effective way.
It's important to acknowledge the courage and resiliency it takes survivors to live each day. Compassionately validate that their trauma does not define them, they define their trauma and that they have the power to liberate themselves.
Not at Fault
A defining moment for a young boy I worked with in therapy was when he said he knew he was not at fault for being sexually assaulted and that he is good. With this understanding, he felt less vulnerable to others taking advantage of him because he wouldn't need their approval and acceptance to define him as good.
On a broader scale, how can we help contribute to prevention, increase chances of youth having brighter futures and foster safer environments?
I believe the answer lies through empowering our youth to develop their connection to intuition, engage in the process of self-discovery and giving them permission to self-protect and have a voice.
Through introspection, a female teen who had been sexually abused by her brother chose to stop talking to friends who were persistently negative because being with them sabotaged her efforts to make safe and healthy choices. She developed the ability to listen and act on her internal voice that told her what was right for her evolution. She said she realized she will always be growing and understanding herself better, and that learning from her struggles has deepened her ability to differentiate who she is from who others say she is. She strengthened her courage so she could be more assertive and stand up for herself, which allowed her to express and experience self-love.
Self- love is the kind of love that no one can take away and is always there for you. If you are a survivor, remember, you are worthy of love, including from yourself.
Tanya Morshed, LCSW, has 14 years of experience as a clinical social worker supporting victims and survivors of trauma in diverse populations and settings.
Program creating success stories to prevent child abuse
Preventing child abuse and neglect
by Alyson Bruner
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - When you become a teen parent, no one is checking in on you to ask, "How are you doing today?" However, Healthy Families' Home Visitation Program at Cornerstones of Care provides at-risk parents with in-home education and parenting support.
The program works with parents to promote healthy child growth and development, positive parent-child interaction and family stability.
Cornerstones' Healthy Families Home Visitation Program, an affiliate of Healthy Families America, is the first program in Missouri to be accredited by Prevent Child Abuse America (PCA America).
"Parents want to be good parents, and as parents, we have all had many questions when it comes to raising a child," said Jim Hmurovich, president and chief executive officer of PCA America.
Number of incidents reported by county (Feb. 2015):
Clay County Feb. 2015 data: 184 child abuse or neglect reports in Clay County (involving 253 children) which compared to Feb. 2014 is a 34.31 percent increase (this does not reflect if they were substantiated or not, but just the total number of reports), according to the Children's Division monthly management report.
Jackson County Feb. 2015 data: 637 child abuse or neglect reports in Jackson County (involving 906 children) which compared to Feb. 2014 is a 14.98 percent increase (this does not reflect if they were substantiated or not, but just the total number of reports). In Feb. 2015 alone, 35 children in Jackson County experienced first-time removal out of their homes into foster care.
To learn more information about Healthy Families' Home Visitation Program at Cornerstones of Care visit https://www.cornerstonesofcare.org/
Final batch of secret priest files made public in Los Angeles 8 years after $660M settlement
by The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES – A final batch of clergy sex abuse files is being released in Los Angeles eight years after a record-setting $660 million court settlement was reached with the Roman Catholic archdiocese.
Nearly 2,400 pages from confidential records kept on 11 priests were made public Friday.
The release brings to 205 the number of clergy files that have been unsealed in Los Angeles following the 2007 deal that settled more than 500 civil claims.
Attorneys fought for years to keep the files secret even though the settlement called for their release.
The Associated Press and Los Angeles Times intervened to prevent the church from redacting key portions of the files.
The last 11 files were kept on priests who belonged to the Carmellite, Servite and Redemptorist religious orders and worked in Los Angeles
Milwaukee is hub of sex trafficking trade; doctors being trained to identify & help victims
by Beverly Taylor
MILWAUKEE (WITI) — An effort is being made in the medical community to break the paralyzing effect of sex trafficking in what is known as the hub of the trade: Milwaukee. Victims can be so afraid of their trafficker that they do not seek help or never seem to get the opportunity to do so. Some doctors are trying to change that.
Sex trafficking victims are trapped in a web of force, fraud, coercion, deception and threats. For victims, opportunities to escape may seem few and far between. The answer could lie with their doctors, if those doctors know how to spot the signs their patient is trapped in that web.
A team of medical researchers led by Dr. Angela Rabbitt, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin and a child abuse prevention pediatrician at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, is bringing to light the doctor's role when it comes to helping sex trafficking victims.
“First of all, medical providers need to educate themselves on what a victim of trafficking looks like. We know from research that victims of trafficking, about 50% of them will see a medical provider at some point during their victimization. And we know from interviews with them that sometimes that is one of the only periods of time when they're separated from their trafficker. So medical providers are in a unique position to take advantage of that and screen for trafficking and provide services to victims,” Dr. Rabbitt said.
Sex trafficking survivor Laura Johnson was forced into the trade at age 14 and did not break free until she was 17.
“There was no questions ever asked as far as was I ever being trafficked at any point when I was being trafficked,” Johnson said.
Johnson even had a baby during that time, but she says no one asked if she was sexually abused even though she was underage.
The problem is doctors are not aware of the power they possess. As part of research highlighted in the Journal Pediatrics, Dr. Rabbitt's team surveyed medical providers and found that many did not know the definition of sex trafficking. Many thought victims were brought to the U.S. from other countries and forced into sex trafficking. But the fact is — 80% of child sex trafficking victims in Milwaukee County were born in Wisconsin.
Rabbitt says more than 95% of the surveyed doctors recognized that they needed more education and they really wanted to recieve that.
Rabbitt says doctors have to open the door of communication so the patient can walk through. She usually starts by asking the adult accompanying the child to leave the room. She then tells the patient she will ask some questions, and invites the patient to share whatever they would like. She tells her patients she may be able to help them, but lets them know that she has to report any abuse.
“Teenagers that maybe are homeless, that don't have a place to stay or who are looking for food or money to buy things that they need — one way that they do that is by having sex with someone or doing sexual things with someone in order to get what they need,” Rabbitt said.
Rabbitt asks her patients general questions about school and home. If she feels there is a risk, she will ask more sensitive questions. If a patient tells her they are being trafficked, she tells them she will report it, but she also tells them she'll do everything she can to help keep them safe. She also tells them they are brave for divulging this information.
Johnson says she wishes the doctors she came in contact with would have had that conversation with her.
“I probably would have gotten the help and the escape route out of being trafficked way before 17,” Johnson said.
Rabbitt says there are efforts underway at the Medical College of Wisconsin to teach aspiring doctors the best way to ask these questions, and how to recognize when these questions should be asked of their patients.
UN accused of 'reckless disregard' for allegations of peacekeeper child abuse
US diplomat James Wasserstrom says case of Anders Kompass, who exposed allegations of sex abuse by French forces, shows UN turns on whistleblowers
by Sandra Laville and Angelique Chrisafis
The United Nations is guilty of “reckless disregard for serious allegations of wrongdoing” in its treatment of a whistleblower who disclosed details of alleged child abuse by French peacekeepers in Africa, according to a former staff member.
James Wasserstrom, a veteran US diplomat who was sacked and arrested by UN police when he exposed suspicions of corruption by senior officials in Kosovo, said the case of Anders Kompass revealed how the organisation turned on the whistleblower rather than dealing with the wrongdoing he had revealed.
Kompass, director of field operations at the office of the high commissioner for human rights in Geneva, has been suspended for passing to prosecutors in Paris an unredacted internal UN report detailing allegations of the sexual exploitation of boys in the Central African Republic by French peacekeepers.
When the Guardian revealed details of the allegations this week, the French authorities admitted publicly for the first time that they had begun an investigation after receiving the report last July. It details accounts from children as young as eight and nine of serious sexual abuse at a centre for internally displaced people in the capital Bangui.
At the time, the French troops stationed there were part of their country's peacekeeping mission run independently of the new UN operation Minusca. The UN had commissioned the report following claims on the grounds of sexual misconduct. It was completed in June last year but not passed on until Kompass leaked it directly to the French.
On Thursday, the French president, François Hollande, vowed to pursue the allegations vigorously. “If some soldiers have behaved badly, I will show no mercy,” he said. French judicial authorities said more than a dozen soldiers were under investigation.
Wasserstrom won a landmark case against the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, that was later overturned by the organisation's appeals tribunal. He said the Kompass case seemed to offer further evidence of the organisation's “reckless disregard for very serious allegations of wrongdoing in order to go after the whistleblower”.
He said: “Over and over and over again, the UN goes into denial, into dismissal and into coverup, and then tries to retaliate against the whistleblower.
“The fact that the French authorities have decided to take these allegations seriously underlines this.”
Wasserstrom was one of nine signatories to a letter from former whistleblowers to the UN secretary general published earlier this month.
While working for the UN mission in Kosovo in 2009, he was sacked and detained by UN police after revealing suspicions about corruption within senior ranks of the UN mission.
The UN dispute tribunal – a body set up in 2009 to improve the system of internal justice – condemned the organisation for an “unauthorised and unwarranted” investigation into Wasserstrom, ruled that the its ethics office had failed to protect him and that its mechanism for dealing with whistleblowers was “fundamentally flawed”. But the findings were overturned when the secretary general applied to the appeals tribunal.
“Without proper whistleblower protection, wrongdoing at the United Nations, be it sexual exploitation, abuse of power, fraud or corruption, will not be reported and will continue to go unchecked. There will be no accountability. This can only damage the UN's moral standing and ultimately its legitimacy,” the letter said.
This week, the UN in New York stood by its actions. In a statement, it said the leak of internal documents did not constitute whistleblowing but was a “a serious breach of protocol”.
“Any issue of sex abuse is a serious issue,” the statement said. “At the same time, there are concerns we have about the protection of witnesses and victims.”
Kompass, a Swedish citizen, faces dismissal after more than 30 years working in the humanitarian field. His government said on Thursday it was “worrisome” if Kompass had been suspended for sharing information about sexual abuse of children on an international mission.
Anders Ronquist, legal chief of Sweden's foreign ministry, said: “The UN must have zero tolerance toward sexual abuse of children and ensure that suspicions of such abuse are investigated.”
The treatment of Kompass was carried out with the knowledge of the high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, according to communications seen by the Guardian. He was the author of the Zeid report on preventing sexual exploitation by peacekeepers commissioned a decade ago after a scandal involving UN troops in Congo.
In France, the claims against more than a dozen soldiers who were part of the peacekeeping mission in CAR continue to cause shockwaves.
The report contains interviews with six children who disclose sexual abuse predominantly at the hands of French peacekeepers. Some children indicated that several of their friends were also being sexually exploited.
The interviews were carried out by an official from the OHCHR justice section and a member of Unicef between May and June last year. The children, who are aged between eight/nine and 15, disclosed abuse dating back to December 2013. Entitled “Sexual abuse on children by international armed forces”, it is stamped confidential on every page.
The allegations include claims that Chadian soldiers, who are part of the peacekeeping mission, were also involved in abuse.
The children all talk of being abused in return for food rations handed out by the soldiers. One interview details how two nine-year-old children were sexually exploited together by two French soldiers.
One of the children tells the interviewers: “One was short and smoking a lot, the other was thin and not smoking. They asked us what we wanted. We answered that we were hungry. The short man told us to first put his bangala [penis] out of his pants.
“The bangala of the thin one was for my friend,” the child said. “Their bangala were straight in front of us, at the level of our mouths.”
The child goes on to describe how he and his friend were told to carry out a sex act on both soldiers before being given three packs of military food rations and some money.
Another nine-year-old child described how he went to ask for food from the French military at the IDP camp at M'Poko airport.
He says the soldier told him to carry out a sex act on him first. The report states: “He [the child] had friends who had done it already, he knew what he had to do. Once done, the military gave a military food portion and some food. X said the military had forbidden him to tell anything about him to anybody and that if he would do so he would beat him.”
A French judicial source revealed that a number of French soldiers accused of the abuse had been identified from the descriptions provided by the children.
In Bangui on Thursday, the mother of one child told Associated Press her son was just nine when he was assaulted by French soldiers. Her family had fled to the airport on the first day of the sectarian clashes in December 2013 and she and her son are still living there.
“The children were vulnerable because they were hungry and their parents had nothing to give them, so the children were forced to ask the soldiers for food,” she said.
“They took advantage of the children forcing them to perform oral sex and also sodomising them,” she said. “The moaning of children in the area often started around 10 pm or 11 pm.”
Another resident said other abused children ranged in age from 10-13.
“In exchange for cookies, the soldiers demanded oral sex,” she said, recounting what the children told her. “Afterwards, they were given bottles of water. They even sodomised the children.”
Figures obtained by the Government Accountability Project (GAP), which supports whistleblowers, reveal that the UN ethics office had received 447 approaches until July 2014 from those alleging they have faced retaliation for exposing wrongdoing.
They completed reviews into between 113 and 135 of these cases, identifying prima facie cases of retaliation in 14, and ultimately establishing there had been retaliation in just four cases.
New legislation aimed at streamlining child abuse complaints
by Cheryl Hagen
Doctors, nurses and law enforcement officials who report child abuse to the state hotline may find the system moving faster than ever if new legislation aimed at streamlining the process is approved in Albany.
The State Senate is expected to consider a measure that would allow the State Child Abuse hotline to immediately refer complaints filed by mandated reporters directly to local Child Protective Services Departments. Currently, those complaints are screened by hotline officials, who make a determination whether to forward the report to local C-P-S officials.
"This legislation was introduced in response to a murder of a 3-year-old boy from Sullivan County by the name of Christopher Gardner," says State Senator Tim Kennedy. "Two phone calls were made to the state's child abuse hotline reporting abuse to Christopher that were never investigated, including one of those reports from a mandated reporter. After his death, prosecutors said there wasn't an inch on the boy's body that didn't have a bruise or a burn. His mother and her friend were ultimately sentenced to life behind bars for their role in his death."
"There's absolutely no downside to this legislation, "says Kennedy, one of the bill's sponsors. "This is going to make the system more efficient and effective. It's going to streamline the system. These are mandated reporters, law enforcement personnel, medical personnel, that recognize abuse when they see it and are mandated by law to report that abuse. It is the bureaucratic system that unfortunately slows down the process that we are working to streamline with this legislation."
Kennedy is optimistic the bill has the momentum to make make it through the Senate and Assembly and reach the governor's desk.
Preventing Child Abuse
by David Kenney
PEARL, MS (Mississippi News Now) - The statistics are heartbreaking and staggering. Nine-month-old Corey Kees, and 23 month old Elijah McGee both of Jackson, among the three toddlers and infants killed in Jackson so far this year. In all the cases, parents were arrested and charged with abuse.
Jennifer Weaver of the Children's Advocacy Center says while their job is counseling and interviewing children of suspected abuse, they also refer parents to classes and other resources that can help break the cycle of child abuse.
"The primary thing they work with them is coping skills and how to deal with stressful situations," said Weaver. "If you don't know how to cope, you don't know how to deal with stress, that's something that's going to make the situation worse because you don't know how to take care of the child."
Several of the parents arrested in the cases from this year.are young, maybe too young to accept the responsibility of parenthood.
"It's very upsetting, it's upsetting because there is always an option an alternative," added Weaver. "There's someone who can help and these kids can't defend themselves."
If someone you know would benefit from a parenting class, Families First For Mississippi provides free classes in Hinds County on a regular basis.
To get more information, you can call 601-366-6405.
Multi-state operation rescues 6 missing, exploited children
by Nakia Cooper
AUSTIN -- A recent multi-state, multi-agency Crimes Against Children Patrol Operation resulted in the rescue of six missing or exploited children. The patrol initiative, which was conducted April 14 through 16, included participants from nine states and two municipalities, Texas Department of Public Safety officials announced.
“DPS is committed to pursuing the criminals who target and exploit innocent children, and this multi-agency patrol effort to detect and rescue endangered children is the first of its kind,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “Because of this focused patrol operation, our local and state partners were able to rescue six children from possibly dangerous and deplorable circumstances. We are extremely proud of these efforts by our law enforcement officers to protect our most valuable and vulnerable resource – our children.”
Coordinated by Texas DPS, the three-day operation focused on increasing awareness among uniformed law enforcement officers and communities in an effort to identify and rescue missing, exploited or at-risk children. In addition to rescuing six children, participating officers in the areas of operation also rescued one adult victim, made four initial arrests, launched three investigations of sex crimes against children and two of human trafficking. DPS troopers recovered one child.
Participating agencies included Texas DPS, Austin Police Department, Arizona Department of Public Safety, Arkansas State Police, Louisiana State Police, Georgia Department of Public Safety, Ohio State Highway Patrol, South Dakota Highway Patrol, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Utah Highway Patrol and Durham (England) Constabulary. The United States Marshals Service and Federal Bureau of Investigation also provided support when needed.
The operation also coincided with International Child Abuse Prevention Month in April, observed by communities and organizations to raise awareness of child abuse, and neglect and to educate the public on prevention.
This patrol initiative is an extension of DPS' ongoing Interdiction for the Protection of Children (IPC) program, which was created to rescue and protect children and apprehend criminal predators. Launched in 2009, the IPC program is designed to teach troopers and other law enforcement officers how to recognize indicators of missing, exploited and at-risk children who do not exhibit obvious signs of abuse. Before the creation of the DPS Interdiction for the Protection of Children program, uniformed officers historically were not trained to recognize characteristics and indicators of an endangered or missing child.
Since 2009, the IPC program has been responsible for recovering more than 160 children and conducting more than 50 criminal investigations. IPC has also been responsible for uncovering crimes affecting children and arresting the perpetrators in instances involving possession of child pornography, sexual assault of a child, human trafficking/commercial sexual exploitation of children, violation of registered sex offender requirements and enticing a child.
Local officials aim to help sex trafficking survivors
by Nicole Hovatter
W ILLMAR — Human trafficking does not just happen in faraway places, local advocates say. Children in west central Minnesota are being targeted by human traffickers, who frequent places like malls, shelters, parks and bus stops, looking for vulnerable or runaway youth.
The first step to eradicating the trafficking and helping the survivors is educating the community about the issue, Safe Harbor Regional Navigator Jennifer Fox said during a sex trafficking training session hosted earlier this month in conjunction with Lutheran Social Service and Safe Avenues. The presentation was aimed at professionals working in a variety of capacities with youth.
“The first step to coordinating a community response to the issue is educating people that sex trafficking doesn't just happen in big cities or other faraway places, but happens in Minnesota and even in the local area,” Fox said.
The state of Minnesota has a total of seven regional navigators through the Department of Health who coordinate resources for sexually exploited youth. Fox serves the west central Minnesota area and works with the Heartland Girls' Ranch to provide services.
Minor sex trafficking is one form of child sexual exploitation, which can include things like survival sex, exotic dancing and pornography. Commercial sexual exploitation happens when a juvenile is involved in the sex industry. It becomes sex trafficking when a third party is involved, someone who benefits from the exploitation of youth.
The Heartland Girls' Ranch, a facility in Benson, provides long-term care for girls struggling with emotional challenges. Some of the girls at the ranch are sex trafficking survivors struggling with the emotional scars of being sexually exploited.
While the facility focuses on providing resources to youth, staff members analyze data regarding all types of potential sex trafficking. For a recent training presentation, staff at the facility compiled data regarding a search for commercial sex in west central Minnesota.
During a period of seven days, 64 escort ads for the St. Cloud area were found online. Facility staff said they also found six advertised escort companies servicing the Willmar area.
As the Safe Harbor regional navigator, Fox carries out the mission of the Safe Harbor Law. Rather than punishing survivors, the Safe Harbor Law aims to provide resources for sexually exploited youth. Fox said the law also shifts the blame onto the sex traffickers themselves and those who are buying sex from minors.
“We have kids who are being abused and raped all the time and we need to help them,” Fox said.
Hayley King, who works at the Heartland Girls' Ranch as a youth advocate and mentor, explained the various elements of sexual exploitation to local professionals during the recent training.
Children can be recruited by anyone, from peers and trusted adults to drug dealers and gangs, King said.
She explained that all children may be at-risk for sex trafficking, but especially those who have experienced past sexual abuse or have dealt with issues such as poverty or low self-esteem. She said that many of the girls at the ranch were sexually abused earlier in life.
King said that pimps use psychological manipulation to recruit their victims, which is often more powerful than physical force. There are a variety of reasons that it is hard for victims to get help, including shame, stigma and isolation.
“The kids I work with feel like things they do are their fault because they did bad things. They don't feel like they deserve to have a good life,” King said.
A group of local leaders across multiple agencies is working to combat sex trafficking of all sexually exploited people and has formed the West Central Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force. The newly formed task force's mission is “to prevent, intervene and eradicate human trafficking,”
One of the group's aims is to educate parents, youth, law enforcement, schools and many other groups about sex trafficking and its warning signs.
The indicators range from things like physical trauma and drug dependency to evidence of controlling relationships. The group seeks participation from professionals from a variety of career fields to identify these types of sex trafficking indicators. Community members should also be on the lookout for these warning signs, King said.
Victims of human trafficking and those who suspect that a child they know is being victimized are urged to get help and can call 911 if the victim is in immediate danger or the Day One hotline for shelter and services in your area: 1-866-223-1111.
Fox, the Safe Harbors regional navigator for the west central region, can also be contacted at 320-843-4815. Those interested in having their agency participate in training about identifying and preventing sex trafficking are also encouraged to contact Fox.
Pediatrics group advises doctors on how to spot child abuse
by HealthDay News
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has just released new guidance to help primary care doctors recognize the signs of child abuse.
"Minor injuries in children are incredibly common, and most are not the result of abuse or neglect," report lead author Dr. Cindy Christian, past chair of the AAP Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect, said in an agency news release.
"But sadly we also know how common it is for physicians to miss cases of child physical abuse. When these injuries are not correctly identified, children often return for medical care later with more severe or even fatal injuries," she explained.
Each year in the United States, more than 650,000 children suffer abuse and more than 1,500 die from abuse or neglect, according to the AAP. Survivors often suffer long-term physical and mental health problems.
Examples of possible cases of abuse include multiple fractures or fractures in infants who are not crawling or walking and have no known medical conditions. The report also offers advice about head injury in infants, which could be caused by shaking or blunt impact.
Identifying abuse-related injuries in infants and toddlers can be especially difficult, the report authors noted.
Along with guidance on identifying abuse-related injuries, the report also outlines how doctors can protect children from abuse.
The report was released April 27 in Pediatrics online.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about child abuse.
R.I. task force developing protocols on handling sex-trafficking cases
by Amanda Milkovits
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — There was a time, just over a decade ago, when no sex-trafficking cases were prosecuted in Rhode Island. That's changed.
The crime has "exploded" in Rhode Island, according to law enforcement and victims' advocates. New cases arrive each week at the U.S. Attorney's Office, and in the last two and a half years, Hasbro Children's Hospital has seen 45 children who are victims of sex trafficking. Ages of girls being trafficked in Rhode Island range from 13 to 16, with a few younger, being sold for sex by young men or older, experienced pimps.
And those are the cases that doctors, prosecutors, police and clinicians know about.
While sex trafficking isn't new in Rhode Island, the collaboration among local, state and federal agencies is fairly recent — and it's the reason that Rhode Island is seeing more cases.
This May, Rhode Island will have its first blueprint of protocols on how to handle sex-trafficking cases. Day One hosted a conference on Wednesday before a group of clinicians, educators, advocates and law enforcement to discuss the progress of a statewide trafficking task force.
The work started in December 2013, when Day One, which aims to prevent sexual abuse and violence and support those affected, formed the task force to combat human trafficking.
Those represented included law enforcement, the state Department of Children, Youth and Families, the U.S. Attorney's Office, the state attorney general, Homeland Security, and the Lawrence A. Aubin Sr. Child Protection Center at Hasbro Children's Hospital to develop a plan for prevention, intervention, education and outreach.
They've learned from other agencies that work with survivors, such as My Life, My Choice and Support to End Exploitation Now, and are developing a program to have survivors serve as mentors.
State Police Detective Heather Donahue, who has investigated several trafficking cases, said troopers are being trained to recognize potential trafficking situations — such as two gang members driving an underage girl to the casinos. They know that youths and women are being sold for sex online and trafficked up and down the Route 95 corridor to hotels, residences and casinos from Boston to Rhode Island and on to Connecticut.
Providence police, which had the first sex-trafficking case in Rhode Island, are now also targeting sex buyers. The police have posted their own ads on Backpage.com and arrest the men who arrive for "dates" at the hotels. The police want to push the customers out of the city, said Providence Detective Capt. Michael E. Correia, the way they used a city ordinance to close the massage parlors operating as brothels.
"We need to go after the demand," said Day One executive director Peg Langhammer. "There's a huge market. We're talking about middle-class white men who are the demand."
The task force was criticized by a member of COYOTE, a group founded in 1973 to legalize prostitution and which was instrumental in making indoor prostitution legal in Rhode Island for years until the state law was amended in 2009.
Gina Robinson, who also goes by Bella, told the group that sex workers should have been part of the task force. She said they weren't being exploited — most women were prostituting themselves to support their families and youths were doing the same to survive on the streets, she said. Targeting the sex buyers would just lead to violence against women, Robinson said.
Langhammer strongly disagreed. Other survivors have told her that few willingly sell themselves for sex. Most had gotten into that life because they were trafficked as children, Langhammer said.
The hard part is getting them out.
That's where the task force is still figuring out the details. Police, clinicians, prosecution and hospital staff can mobilize help within an hour of discovering a sex-trafficking case. However, helping children and adults, mostly female, to recover requires long-term help with mental and physical health care, family support, housing and general stability.
"The issue of after-care [for youths] is so huge, it's bigger than for adults," said Dr. Amy Goldberg, of Hasbro's Child Protection Center. "I start thinking about it the minute you call me."
U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha said this was the greatest priority. Police and prosecutors need the victims to be safe — and off the streets — so they can help build a solid case to convict the traffickers, he said.
The task force and the audience members had their own stories of survivors who struggled in the aftermath. Some returned to the streets or the pimps. Some recruited other girls. A few ended up in the Training School on other charges.
Still, Correia said later, the protocols were a start -- because they can't wait for the system to be perfect before taking action to help victims.
Discrimination against male sex crime victims?
by Avantika Mehta
Two years ago, 13-year old Amaan (name changed) was sexually assaulted by three seniors behind his school. The three boys were later convicted of unnatural sexual offenses.
But since the Delhi Victim Compensation Scheme classified the crime merely as “child abuse” and not rape, the boy was provided with just Rs. 50,000 as compensation.
Now, a petition seeking enhancement of the compensation provided to Amaan has been filed at the Delhi High Court, which could change the way in which sexual assaults against men and young boys are viewed by legal authorities.
The matter will come up for hearing before a bench headed by Sanjiv Khanna on Thursday.
The petition, filed by the boy's family through NGO iProBono, says Amaan's case is one among thousands in which the Delhi Victim Compensation Scheme had “effectively discriminated” against male-child victims of sexual assault by not recognizing penetrative assault on them as “rape” and clubbing it as merely “child abuse”.
This “vague and arbitrary and irrational” classification, it says, “discriminates between male victims and female victims as females are entitled to a compensation of Rs. 3 lakhs under the head of rape whereas a male victims will only be entitled to Rs. 50,000 under the head of child abuse.”
The petition further goes on to plead that the high court declares the provisions of the Delhi Victims Compensation Scheme, 2011 as unconstitutional in its application to child victims of sexual assault.
It seeks directions to the state government to “reformulate” the provision of the scheme dealing with compensation. In a survey on child sexual abuses in 2007, the Indian government had found that around 57.3% of the victims were boys.
Recently, Delhi-based Centre for Civil Society had found that of the 18% of adult men who claim to have been forced into sex, 16% claimed that the perpetrators were female.
However, the Indian law does not recognise rape of a man, for which the much-debated provision of unnatural sex of Section 377 IPC is the only legal recourse for those penetrated in a penile manner.
For those who are assaulted in a non-penile manner, no recourse exists.
“As far as boys are concerned, we are really not looking at the trauma they face at the hand of assaulters. It is high time we did,” HAQ's co-director and founder Bharti Ali said.
End The Shame Game: 3 Ways To Help Your Child Heal From Sexual Abuse
by Eirliani Abdul Rahman
Shame is a difficult emotion to deal with any time, but nowhere is it more debilitating than in the context of child sexual abuse.
It is not uncommon for abusers to tell their victims that they - the children -- were somehow at fault for the abuse. Your child may have been led to believe that his/her "nasty" or "seductive" behaviour caused the abuse. In many cases, child victims develop negative thoughts, attributing blame to themselves, which may perpetuate symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression.
One survivor, in her early 30s, told me: "When I realised what was happening, that's when I wanted to kill myself. I cried a lot and prayed a lot." She had just turned 12.
So, how can you help as a parent? Here are three things you can do to help your child to recover from the cycle of self-blame and shame.
Offer unconditional support
Research has shown that support from a non-offending parent is one of the most important factors in a child's recovery post-abuse. Your child may feel guilty or ashamed because they made no attempt to stop the abuse and/or because they may have experienced physical pleasure. As a parent, you should emphasise to your child that they are not to blame. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the abuse, it is the responsibility of the adult never to abuse a child. Do not let your child think that sexual exploitation of children, in any form, is acceptable.
Be attentive and show your concern
Children who are ashamed of their abuse history may view themselves as "damaged goods". They often try to make sense of what had happened via causal explanations. In the case of sexual abuse, your child may choose to internalise verbal and non-verbal messages -- for example, that their being "seductive" led to the abuse. This is especially so in the case of incest, when your child was abused by someone they trusted and even loved. It is therefore crucial that you respond attentively and lovingly to your child's disclosure of the abuse.
Should you react negatively by denying that the abuse had taken place and/or ignore it, you may exacerbate the feelings of guilt and shame in your child. Reactions to child victims' disclosures have been shown to affect whether the transient shame associated with the revelation dissipates, or persists in the years ahead. Open and loving communication with your child is therefore important. Listen to your child, and try to ensure a safe and supportive home environment for them.
Do not create a culture of secrecy
Do not cloak the abuse in silence. Address the issue. If your child wants to talk, let them. Often to protect themselves and their children, parents adopt a mantle of silence, which will likely maintain the sense of shame in the victim. If left unchecked, your child's negative thinking may become ingrained and automatic, resulting in low self-esteem and even self-hatred. Your child's shame-inducing thoughts and beliefs may result in avoidant and isolating behaviour. This may reinforce your child's belief that they are of little worth. In the long-run, your child may accept poor treatment from others, including peers and even romantic partners. Each negative experience may serve to reinforce your child's existing feeling of inferiority.
In India, where to speak up on child sexual abuse is taboo, your efforts as a parent to constantly reassure your child that they are loved, and are not to blame, will help them tremendously in the path of healing. Encourage your child to engage in positive self-talk. Healing, even from something as dire as this, is possible.
Be there for your child.
French Troops Accused Of Child Abuse In Central African Republic
by Angela Charlton
PARIS (AP) — French prosecutors and military authorities are investigating accusations that French soldiers in Central African Republic sexually abused children they were sent to protect.
The French probes follow an initial United Nations investigation into the allegations a year ago — all of which were kept secret until a report in the Guardian newspaper Wednesday pushed officials to publicly acknowledge them.
A U.N. worker leaked information about the U.N. investigation to French authorities last year, the U.N. Secretary-General's office said in a statement. That worker, identified by the Swedish government as Swede Anders Kompass, has been suspended and is now under internal investigation.
Central African Republic has seen unprecedented violence between Christians and Muslims since late 2013. At least 5,000 people have been killed, and about 1 million are displaced internally or have fled the country. France sent troops in late 2013 and the U.N. set up a 12,000-strong peacekeeping force in September last year.
In spring 2014, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the country's capital, Bangui, carried out a probe prompted by "serious allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse of children by French military personnel," the U.N. Secretary-General's office said Wednesday.
The alleged abuse took place before the U.N. force took over. The U.N. investigation has now been passed on to French authorities, said a spokesman for the U.N. human rights office in Geneva, Rupert Colville.
The French government was informed of the accusations in late July 2014, the Defense Ministry said in a statement. Military authorities and the Paris prosecutor's office opened a preliminary investigation and investigators went to Central African Republic in August.
Central African children told UNICEF and other U.N. officials in Central African Republic of sexual assaults by French soldiers around the M'Poko airport between December 2013 and June 2014, the French Defense Ministry said.
About 16 French soldiers were accused of abusing 10 boys, between eight and 15 years old, according to Paula Donovan of activist group AIDS-Free World. Some children were given small meals in exchange, she said. Donovan, whose group is investigating abuses by peacekeepers, says she has seen internal U.N. documents about the initial probe into the Central African allegations.
She told The Associated Press that U.N. officials heard testimony from the first boy May 5, followed by others over several weeks until the last testimony June 24.
It is unclear where the children are now, or the alleged perpetrators.
If the accusations are proven true, the French Defense Ministry said it would ensure "the strictest sanctions against those responsible for what would be an intolerable attack on the values of a soldier."
The U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, was the author of a lengthy report on preventing sexual exploitation by peacekeepers that the global body commissioned a decade ago after a scandal involving U.N. troops in Congo.
Known as the Zeid Report, it recommended among other things that allegations of abuse be followed by a professional investigation and that U.N. member states should pledge to prosecute their soldiers as if the crime had been committed in their own country.
The allegations are especially damning for France, which sees itself as a model of human rights, and has thousands of troops around former colonies in Africa sent to protect civilian populations in conflict zones.
French President Francois Hollande and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met in Paris on Wednesday night but refused to take questions from reporters afterward and didn't say anything about the alleged abuse in a brief public statement.
The U.N. Secretary-General's office said that the leak of the internal documents did not constitute "whistleblowing" but was a "serious breach of protocol."
"Any issue of sex abuse is a serious issue," the deputy spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, Farhan Haq, told reporters Wednesday in New York. "At the same time, there are concerns we have about the protection of witnesses and victims."
Sweden's government said it was "worrisome" if Kompass was suspended for sharing information about sexual abuse of children on an international mission. Anders Ronquist, legal chief of Sweden's Foreign Ministry, said in a statement, "The U.N. must have zero tolerance toward sexual abuse of children and ensure that suspicions of such abuse are investigated."
State's Attorney, CASA sets initiative to educate about child abuse
by Gloria Casas
C ASA Kane County and the Kane County State's Attorney's office unveiled a podcast which helps educate on what to do if child abuse or neglect is suspected.
The podcast's release coincides with Child Abuse Prevention Month and is available on CASA's website. It is part of a large community outreach initiative that includes sending out information packets to Illinois State Mandated Reporters.
The goal of the initiative is to get everyone in the community more aware about reporting child abuse and neglect to protect children, said Amy Girardot, the Director of Advocate Supervision for CASA.
A state Mandated Reporter includes medical or school personnel as well as those in the field of social work, mental health, law enforcement, coroner's office, child care and clergy. Under the law, failure to report signs of suspected abuse can have serious civil and criminal liability, Kane County State's Attorney Joseph McMahon said in the podcast.
Everyone has a moral responsibility to report child abuse or neglect, but as a mandated reporter "you are required by law to immediately report suspected child abuse," said Lark Cowart, chief of the juvenile bureau of the Kane County State's Attorney. She also participated in the podcast.
Child abuse or neglect reports should be made to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, McMahon said in the podcast. The number is 1-800-25-ABUSE. Calls can also be made to local police, he said. Mandated Reporters can receive online training to learn what is child abuse or neglect.
While companies, schools or institutions may have policies regarding reporting child abuse or neglect, a Mandated Reporter must contact DCFS directly to fulfill their legal obligation, McMahon said.
"The important message is that people make the report and make the report immediately," McMahon said.
One of the things people should remember is not to interview the child who discloses any sort of abuse or neglect, Cowart said. DCFS investigators and police go through intensive training for victim sensitive and forensic interviewing, she said.
In an effort to get more information, the wrong type of questions can get asked which later can hurt a criminal case or send the wrong message to the child, McMahon said.
Following a report, DCFS assigns an investigator who conducts a preliminary review. If the investigator finds there is abuse or neglect, the report is listed as "indicated" and a safety plan is put in place as the case goes to court, McMahon said. If it is unfounded, the matter is closed. There is no penalty if someone makes a report and it is unfounded, he said.
"I think most parents love their children," Girardot said. "They don't wake up and say 'I want to hurt my child today.' Some parents don't have the knowledge or the resources or in some cases, the cognitive ability to understand ways to safely and effectively parent."
Parents are given time to fix the problem or undergo counseling or parenting classes, she said. There is also parent coaching available, she said. Everyone's goal is to get the child back safety to their parent because that's where they do best, she said.
Last year, 40 percent of cases referred to CASA ended with reunification of the family, Girardot said.
Drop in child abuse referrals during the summer
BAKERSFIELD, CA.-With less than a month until school is out, summer is right around the corner. And local agencies say that means people need to take an even more active role in reporting child abuse as calls tend to drop during the summer.
According to the 2014 Kern County CPS statistical report, there were more than 4,300 child emergency response referrals for investigation from March until May. That number dropped during the summer months, with more than 3,600 referrals from June to August.
CPS says that may be because fewer people are watching children during the summer, which means abuse could go unnoticed or unreported.
When 4-month old Stepfon Jones Jr. was found dead, family members were in shock. Child Protective Services says children under five are most vulnerable to abuse. Yet, that vulnerability increases for school-age children during the summer when teachers and others required to report abuse aren't found.
Summer can also be a particularly stressful time for parents who are around their children more. The Bakersfield Police Department urges any parent who may be reaching a breaking point to reach out and ask for help.
Parents, family members and friends should take action and speak up for those who can't protect themselves.
If you suspect child abuse, call the CPS hotline at 631-6011. All the information is confidential.
Survivors of sexual abuse help others break the silence
by Nkoyo Iyamba
SALT LAKE CITY — Survivors of sexual abuse want to show other victims that they're not alone.
Siblings Ben Glade and Annaka Vimahi hope to encourage other survivors to talk about their abuse. Both said their psychologist abused them when Glade was 5 years old and Vimahi was 9 years old.
The two started a blog detailing their story and have launched Survivors Are to give a face or faces to the very personal childhood trauma they both experienced.
“We always knew we wanted to do something, and we got a huge response to that,” said Vimahi. “Mostly privately, people opening up to us.”
Glade said their first blog was their own personal story of childhood sexual abuse.
“The blog provides an additional space where people can feel safe,” said Glade. “We have therapy, we have the police, we have different avenues for healing.”
The siblings want survivors of child sex abuse to know that “survivors are everywhere; they are just your average everyday person,” said Vimahi.
Both said survivors have different progressions of healing and need resources.
“We can be a news reporter, a CEO, and there's a lot of schooling and training for how to do those things,” said Glade. “But the identity of a survivor is a very isolated identity that not a lot of people are comfortable being.”
Glade said as survivors work to accept that identity through community support and most of all dialogue, then that identity can unite survivors and family members of survivors.
“We have to bring it out into the open and get comfortable about talking about being survivors,” said Vimahi. “And that part of the healing process, which takes away the shame."
Another sibling group also launched a child sexual abuse awareness campaign Tuesday.
Deondra and Desirae Brown of the musical group The 5 Browns say it takes a lot of courage for child victims to report abuse. On the state campaign website One With Courage Utah, the siblings discuss the abuse suffered at the hands of “a man we trusted, a man we loved, a man who should've been our protector — our father.”
“Now you know our story,” the Brown siblings profess in the online campaign video, as they urged others to help victims tell their stories.
“In Utah, thousands of children are sexually abused every year but only a handful will speak up. It's never too late to come forward or take a stand for those who can't.”
Deondra and Desirae Brown also encouraged adults to learn the signs of abuse and to report abuse when it is suspected.
The awareness video campaign launch was in conjunction with the Utah Attorney General's Children's Justice Center (CJC), Utah's Department of Human Services' Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) and local survivors. Attorney General Sean Reyes introduced the campaign at the Megaplex Theatres at Jordan Commons in Sandy Tuesday morning.
A press release from Reyes' office said that the ‘One With Courage Utah' campaign is a local movement created in correlation with a national initiative to raise awareness about child sexual abuse while highlighting the unique role of Children's Justice Centers in bringing partner agencies together and providing services.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted before they reach the age of 18. Perpetrators often consist of family members, friends and acquaintances. It is estimated that over 90 percent of child sexual assault victims know their perpetrators, and most of these children do not disclose abuse until adulthood, if ever.
“Child sexual abuse is a crime of silence that thrives because not only the perpetrator, but oftentimes the victim, and even the victim's loved ones, do not want to share their dark secrets,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes. “It is time for all of us to be One With Courage.”
Child crisis program hopes to expand to all CMPD divisions
by David Perlmutt
The Mecklenburg County agency that assists Charlotte-Mecklenburg police with children who are mistreated or witness violence requested new money to continue expanding the community policing program to each of CMPD's 13 divisions.
The request for nearly $470,000 came at Tuesday's public policy workshop – a prelude to the recommended budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 that County Manager Dena Diorio will unveil in late May.
Child Development-Community Policing, a division of the county's Provided Services Organization, places mental health professionals on call 24 hours a day to respond to police calls involving child victims or children who witness violence or other trauma.
The program sends mental health professionals to cases where children may be traumatized and also trains officers in crisis intervention.
Connie Mele, director of provided services, said CD-CP would use the money to fund six new mental health positions that would be assigned to CMPD's Independence, North, Central and South divisions.
“It will allow us to be one of the first departments in the country that has a police-mental health collaboration that places a focus on children,” Mele told commissioners.
Since 1996, the agency has partnered with CMPD and Yale University to build a program that tries to reestablish safety and security for children in the wake of violent events. It is similar to a program in New Haven, Conn., created by the Yale Child Study Center and the police department.
The program's goals are to increase a police officer's ability to identify a child exposed to violence, and to increase coordinated services focused on children and their families.
Critical to Charlotte-Mecklenburg's program, police officers play a central role in the intervention, capitalizing on their roles as representatives of control and authority in the face of trauma and violence.
The hope is that officers and clinicians calm a traumatized child, interrupting a path that frequently leads to increased risk of psychiatric problems, academic failure and encounters with the law.
The work of the Charlotte and New Haven teams have received widespread acclaim. They are working with the International Association of Chiefs of Police to improve police responses to children exposed to violence.
The U.S. Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention recently named Charlotte-Mecklenburg as the Southeast training center for the National Center for Children Exposed to Violence.
In the current fiscal year, CD-CP added staffing to the Hickory Grove and University City divisions and trained more than 150 officers.
Commissioners' Chairman Trevor Fuller said the new positions need to be funded.
“Our most important job is protecting our children ... and by funding those positions we can better protect children everywhere in Mecklenburg County,” Fuller said. “It's a response time issue. And we want to make sure that certain divisions are not perceived as not being a part of this program. We want all divisions to take part.”
One With Courage Utah battles child sex abuse
by Pamela Manson
Sandy • At first, Gabriel Roca kept quiet about being sexually abused by a brother's friend because he feared his parents would get mad at him.
Ciera Pekarcik, who was being victimized on school grounds by a close friend, also was afraid to say anything right away. And Deondra Brown wishes someone near her had known how to spot abuse when she and her sister were suffering at the hands of her father.
The three, now adults, were among the survivors of child sexual abuse who on Tuesday helped the state Attorney General's Children Justice Centers (CJC) program and the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) launch One With Courage Utah.
This local campaign — done in conjunction with a national initiative — is designed to raise awareness about child sexual abuse and provide adults with the tools they need to keep Utah's children safe.
Among the statistics cited at a news conference held at the Megaplex Theatres at Jordon Commons were that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before age 18, but only one in 10 will let someone know about it.
"Many call this the crime of silence because so many do not report what happened," Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said.
He praised the survivors for their courage in sharing their stories and urged the public to stand united against sex abuse.
Child sexual abuse cases in Utah are handled at 22 CJC centers in the state where representatives from law enforcement, child protection, medical and mental health services and victim advocacy work together to prosecute perpetrators and treat the children.
The One With Courage Utah campaign includes public service announcements featuring the survivors, including Deondra and Desirae Brown of the piano group The 5 Browns, who played at the news conference. Their father, Keith Brown, is serving 10 years to life in prison.
Pekarcik, who was Miss Utah 2013, and Roca, a health specialist for Mountainland Head Start, both eventually told their parents about the abuse and were believed — something that doesn't always happen.
"They were very supportive," Roca said of his mother and father.
Janae Moss, who founded the Parent Advisory Council last year, said the organization is supporting One With Courage Utah. She tearfully talked about the severe abuse a relative had suffered as a child and how the family was able to get her help.
"We can make a difference," Moss said.
Capitol Notebook: Tomblin touts sexual abuse law
On Tuesday, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin had a ceremonial bill-signing event where he signed Erin Merryn's Law (HB 2527), which had passed the state Legislature unanimously.
The law creates a State Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children, which will make recommendations to adopt and implement policies, including training for school personnel on child sexual abuse and age-appropriate awareness curriculum for students. The governor was accompanied by lawmakers, child sexual abuse survivors and child advocates who gathered in support of the bill's passage. Governor Tomblin also signed a proclamation commemorating April as Child Abuse Prevention Month in West Virginia.
Lead sponsor of the bill, Delegate Amanda Pasdon, stated, “Protecting and supporting our children and families is a top priority for me. We each must do our part to protect our future and our most valuable asset — our children.”
“I applaud lawmakers for their unified stance on this bill, which has the potential to make a difference in the lives of thousands of West Virginia children,” said Emily Chittenden-Laird, executive director of the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network. “The importance of knowing what to do if a child tells you they have been — or are being — sexually abused cannot be understated. We need look no further than our own communities to know that child sexual abuse happens, it's often where you least expect it, and adults can and should take steps to protect a child if they suspect something is wrong.”
National statistics state that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted by their 18th birthday. Eighty-five percent of these children delay disclosing that the abuse is happening for at least a year, with some never telling. Last year Child Advocacy Centers served 2,863 West Virginia children, 75 percent of whom were alleged victims of child sexual abuse. Both from a statistical and anecdotal perspective, it is clear that child sexual abuse is underreported by both children and the adults who they tell.
Child sexual abuse survivor and Charleston resident Crystal Good said West Virginians need proper education on responding to abuse.
“I was 5 when my abuse started. The signs of my abuse were present, but no one asked the necessary questions, so the abuse continued. I disclosed to my family doctor and the school counselor, and neither reported. When I was 12, I was taught at school that what was happening to me wasn't OK, but nobody told me what to do about it.
“If we're going to change the systems and protect children, we need accountability. Erin Merryn's Law will take away fear and disbelief and replace it with education and protective action.”
Child advocates are praising the Legislature and governor's action.
“It is time for our state to take bold action to protect our children,” stated Jim McKay, State Coordinator of Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia. “By joining with other states who have passed Erin Merryn's Law, West Virginia can begin taking the steps necessary to prepare teachers and others who work with children in helping prevent child sexual abuse and responding more effectively in the unfortunate event when it occurs.”
Twenty states have passed Erin Merryn's Law, and an additional 21 states have introduced the bill this year.
Erin Merryn's Law is named after Erin Merryn, a survivor of child sexual abuse and nationally recognized child advocate. After receiving her Bachelor's Degree in Social Work, Erin has made it her mission to pass legislation in all 50 states.
Former state Delegate Mike Manypenny has opened an early campaign account to run for Congress in northern West Virginia.
On Monday, the Democrat filed paperwork to start raising money to run in the 1st Congressional District.
Republican Congressman David McKinley first won the seat in 2010. If McKinley opts to run for governor, the decision would result in an open congressional race.
Manypenny first won a seat in the House of Delegates in 2008. The former Grafton lawmaker lost his seat in the 2014 general election to Republican Delegate Amy Summers.
Manypenny is the second person to open a campaign account in recent weeks with the intention of running for Congress. Ken Reed, who previously ran and lost to current Congressman Alex Mooney in last year's primary election, filed his pre-candidacy on April 17.
Attorney General Patrick Morrisey issued some tips on Tuesday for consumers who are looking to help survivors of a devastating earthquake in Nepal on April 25.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the earthquake in Nepal over the weekend,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “West Virginians are known to be very charitable and giving to others during times of need or crisis. However, some unseemly people may try to take advantage of that kindness. Our Office urges consumers to do some research on anyone who says he or she is collecting relief money prior to donating. We all want to make sure the money is actually going to those who need it the most.”
After a natural disaster or other emergency, many charities look to ramp up efforts to collect money, food, or supplies to help those affected. Unfortunately, this is also a time that scammers look to prey on those willing to give their money to a legitimate cause.
Consumers who wish to make donations should follow these tips to ensure they are donating to a reputable agency and that their personal, identifiable information will not be stolen:
• If approached by an unfamiliar charitable organization, gather as much information as you can about the agency, including a contact name, address, phone number, and website, and verify that the entity is legitimate.
• If a donation request is for a local chapter of an organization, verify that they are authorized to solicit funds on behalf of the parent organization.
• Don't respond to e-mail or social media solicitations for donations, especially if they come from a charity you don't recognize. In some cases, the e-mail may appear to be from a legitimate organization, but links will take you to a bogus site.
• Be careful of causes that spread only through social media. It's easy to be moved to action by a sad story or a touching photo, but giving blindly to a cause is never a good idea. Take the time to investigate the groups behind the pleas for help. While personal fundraising sites like GoFundMe.com do provide some safeguards to prevent fraud, it's nearly impossible to verify every campaign.
• Be cautious of organizations that are formed after a natural disaster or tragedy but do not have the framework in place to provide help or respond.
• If you would like to make a donation, find out how your donation will be used to help.
People who wish to make charitable donations can verify the legitimacy of an organization in a number of ways, including:
• Check with the Secretary of State's office to see if the charity is registered to solicit donations in West Virginia;
• Research the charity on websites such as charitynavigator.org or guidestar.org; or
• Call the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division to see if the charity has ever been reported.
If you believe you have been scammed by a fraudulent charity, call the Attorney General's Office Consumer Protection Division by calling 800-368-8808 or the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304-267-0239. To file a report online, go to MailScanner has detected a possible fraud attempt from “wvago.us7.list-manage1.com” claiming to be www.wvago.gov.
Reflecting on the human cost of abuse and its prevention
by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Throughout the weeks of April, our Commonwealth, along with the rest of the country, has been focused on National Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month.
Here in Pennsylvania, our people have come through a very difficult decade on this issue. But the abuse problem is much wider than any one state, profession or demographic group. It cuts through every level of society. Child abuse is an ugly crime; abusing children sexually compounds the evil. Every year we see many thousands of cases of child sexual abuse across the country in a full range of institutions, public and private, religious and secular.
In response, Pennsylvania legislators have passed 20 new laws aimed at preventing child abuse and providing better support for survivors. In doing so, they've offered a model for the nation. We owe them our gratitude for their good work. And it's important to stress that as a Catholic community, we too are committed — just as everyone should be — to ensuring safe environments for children and young people.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has a zero tolerance policy for clergy, lay employees and volunteers who engage in sexual misconduct with children. If an accusation of this nature is made, we take immediate action by reporting the matter to law enforcement and cooperating with authorities fully in the course of their work.
We're committed to educating all those who work with children, as well as the children in our schools and parish religious education programs, so they can recognize signs of abuse and make a report.
As we come to the end of April, it's worth highlighting some key archdiocesan statistics:
* More than 280 designated Safe Environment Coordinators are now working in our parishes, schools and youth ministries to ensure compliance with state laws and archdiocesan safety policies.
* More than 92,000 adults have received training to recognize, respond and report child abuse since 2003.
* Nearly 30,000 adults have received mandatory reporter training.
* More than 100,000 children have received age-appropriate abuse prevention education.
* The archdiocese has invested more than $2.4 million in education and training aimed at preventing and reporting sexual abuse since 2006.
In addition, the archdiocesan Victim Assistance Program offers compassionate and substantial assistance to individuals and families every year. During the 2013-14 fiscal year alone, the Church in Philadelphia dedicated more than $1.6 million to various modes of assistance including counseling, medication, and vocational support for survivors and their families.
To put it simply: The Philadelphia Catholic community is, and will remain, fully committed to helping survivors of childhood sexual abuse and their families heal, no matter who committed the crime against them or when the crime occurred.
Evil actions in the past can't be erased and shouldn't be forgotten. Over the decades sexual abuse has wounded hundreds of innocent lives, both within and outside the Church in Pennsylvania. But the sins of the past need not determine the present or future.
The Catholic Church in the Greater Philadelphia region is dedicated to protecting our young people and families from sexual predators and the suffering they cause — now and always.
Bullying leads to worse mental health problems than childhood maltreatment
A new study by researchers at the University of Warwick in the UK has suggested that children are adversely affected more in later life by bullying than maltreatment from adults.
The study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry , is scheduled to be presented today at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in San Diego, CA.
For the study, the researchers analyzed data taken from the US-based Great Smoky Mountain Study and the UK-based Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC study).
Associations between childhood maltreatment, bullying and long-term mental health problems have already been established. For the study, the researchers wanted to find out whether the long-term adverse effects of bullying were due to joint exposure to bullying and maltreatment or whether bullying has its own unique consequences.
Led by Prof. Dieter Wolke, the researchers examined data from 4,026 participants of the ALSPAC study, looking for reports of maltreatment between the ages of 8 weeks and 8.6 years, bullying at ages 8, 10 and 13, and mental health outcomes at the age of 18.
For the 1,273 participants of the Great Smoky Mountain Study, the researchers assessed reports of maltreatment and bullying from 9-16 years and mental health outcomes from 19-25 years of age.
The researchers looked out for adverse mental health outcomes such as anxiety, depression and suicidal tendencies. Maltreatment was defined as physical, emotional or sexual abuse or severe maladaptive parenting.
In the ALSPAC study, 29.7% of the children reported only experiencing bullying, 8.5% reported maltreatment only and 7% reported experiencing both bullying and maltreatment. In the Great Smoky Mountain Study, 16.3% of the children reported only experiencing bullying, 15% reported maltreatment only and 9.8% reported experiencing both bullying and maltreatment.
"Our results showed those who were bullied were more likely to suffer from mental health problems than those who were maltreated," states Prof. Wolke. "Being both bullied and maltreated also increased the risk of overall mental health problems, anxiety and depression in both groups."
The study was limited by a reliance on self-reporting and the possibility of bias, with all reports of maltreatment reported by the mothers of the children through questionnaires. Unmeasured confounding factors may also have influenced the findings.
Further studies demonstrate the extent of the consequences of bullying
This study was not the only research presented at the PAS annual meeting investigating the area of bullying. A series of other studies have found that high school students who are bullied are more likely to report serious depression, consider suicide and carry weapons to school.
"Teens can be the victim of face-to-face bullying in school, electronic bullying outside of the classroom and dating violence," says senior investigator Dr. Andrew Adesman of Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, NY. "Each of these experiences are associated with a range of serious adverse consequences."
All three studies in this series utilized data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collected for its 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System - a questionnaire of teenagers in grades 9-12 issued every 2 years in all 50 states.
"The CDC reports that 11% of high school students experience dating violence, and 20% report being bullied," says principal investigator Alexis Tchaconas. "Greater prevention efforts are needed to protect the mental health and physical well-being of our teens."
"Being bullied is not a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up; it has serious long-term consequences," concludes Prof. Wolke. "It is important for schools, health services and other agencies to work together to reduce bullying and the adverse effects related to it."
Last September, Medical News Today ran a Spotlight feature on the adult health consequences of childhood bullying. Victims of bullying are not only at risk of poorer outcomes for psychological health in adulthood, but physical health, cognitive functioning and quality of life as well.
Do not delay; children's lives depend on child-abuse reporting
by Willis-Knighton Health System
It's hard to imagine someone intentionally hurting a child, yet nearly a million children are abused every year just in the United States alone. And these are only the reported incidents of child abuse — many more cases are unreported and undetected, often because children are afraid to tell somebody who can help.
Most of the time, kids know their abusers and the abuse occurs in the home. This makes it difficult for kids to speak up. They may feel trapped by the affection they feel for their abusers or fearful of the power the abusers have over them — so they stay silent. That's why it's especially important to be able to recognize the signs of child abuse.
WHAT IS CHILD ABUSE?
Child abuse happens when a parent or other adult causes serious physical or emotional harm to a child.
In the United States, the laws defining what constitutes child abuse vary from state to state, but generally speaking, child abuse can take forms including physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect and abandonment and emotional or psychological abuse.
When people think of child abuse, their first thought probably is of physical abuse such as striking, kicking or shaking a child. Physical abuse also can include holding a child under water, tying up a child, intentionally burning a child or scalding a child with hot water, throwing an object at a child or using an object to beat a child and starving a child or failing to provide a child with food.
Abusive head trauma, or shaken baby syndrome, is a specific form of physical abuse. It's the leading cause of death in child-abuse cases in the U.S. Most incidents last just a few seconds, but that's enough time to cause brain damage or even kill a baby.
Sexual abuse happens when a child is raped or forced to commit a sexual act. But it's also any sort of sexual contact with a child or any behavior that is meant to sexually arouse the abuser. So, in addition to having sex with a child, fondling a child's genitals or making a child touch someone else's genitals, sexual abuse also includes making a child pose or perform for pornographic pictures or videos, telling a child dirty jokes or stories and showing a child pornographic material.
Sexual abuse also includes forcing a child to undress and “flashing” a child or showing them one's genitals.
Neglect is any action — or inaction — on the part of a caregiver that causes a child physical or emotional harm. For example, withholding food, warmth in cold weather or proper housing is considered neglectful. Basically, anything that interferes with a child's growth and development constitutes neglect. This also includes failing to provide medical care when a child is injured or sick, locking a child in a closet or room and placing a child in a dangerous situation that could lead to physical injury or death.
Abandonment is a type of neglect. This occurs when a child is left alone for extended periods of time or suffers serious harm because no one was looking after him or her.
Emotional abuse or psychological abuse is a pattern of behavior that has negative effects on a child's emotional development and sense of self worth. Ignoring a child or withholding love, support or guidance is considered emotional abuse. So is threatening, terrorizing, belittling or constantly criticizing a child.
The use of alcohol, tobacco or illicit drugs can hinder a caregiver's judgment and put a child in danger, leading to things like neglect or physical abuse. But in some states, substance abuse also is considered a form of child abuse on its own.
Examples of child abuse due to a substance abuse problem in the house include allowing a child to drink alcohol or take illegal drugs; manufacturing, ingesting or distributing illegal drugs in the presence of a child; and exposing a fetus to illegal drugs or other substances while pregnant.
PROFILE OF AN ABUSER
It would be simpler if all child abusers followed a pattern and were easy to recognize. The truth is that child abusers come from all walks of life. They can be parents, other family members, teachers, coaches and family friends. Virtually anyone who has access to a child is in a position to mistreat the child. Fortunately, the vast majority of people don't.
SIGNS OF ABUSE
It's sometimes difficult to tell the difference between the ordinary scrapes and scratches of childhood and a physical sign of child abuse. Multiple bruises or those that keep coming back, black eyes and broken bones are certainly red flags, but other signs — like a child's emotional health — are also telling.
Kids who are abused might be sad or angry, perhaps contemplating suicide or becoming bullies and having problems managing their anger and other emotions.
They might have trouble with relationships and trust, act out and engage in risky behavior, abuse drugs or alcohol or be sexually promiscuous.
IF YOU SUSPECT ABUSE
Once you suspect child abuse, you need to act to protect the child from further possible harm. It doesn't matter if you're wrong; it's better to be wrong than sorry.
It is your responsibility to contact your local child protective services agency, police, hospital or emergency hotline. If necessary, you may remain anonymous. The child's safety is the immediate issue; you could save his or her life by removing the child from a dangerous situation as soon as possible.
Pediatricians recommend that children who are suspected abuse victims be brought to a hospital, where the initial diagnosis can be made and treatment can be given. Psychological help also is strongly recommended. Without it, children who have been abused may suffer emotional problems or repeat the pattern of abuse with their own kids.
BREAK THE SILENCE
While not all suspicions and accusations of child abuse turn out to be true, all deserve serious attention and immediate action. Child abuse can rob kids of the joy of growing up and affect them negatively for years to come.
But abuse doesn't have to ruin a child's life, as long as it's stopped and dealt with. So take any accusations of abuse seriously until you know for sure whether or not they're true.
If you suspect child abuse or neglect, please make a report by calling the Child Protective Services hotline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 800-252-5400 or by calling local law enforcement.
The Children's Advocacy Center, Parent's Anonymous and CASA have teamed up for a candlelight vigil for Child Abuse Prevention Month, honoring all who have been affected by child abuse and domestic violence. Candles will be lit at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Children's Park in Tyler.
The Parenting Puzzle is provided by the Children's Advocacy Center of Smith County Inc. For more information, call 903-533-1880 or visit www.cacsmithcounty.org
Pediatric Nurses: On The Front Lines In Dealing With Child Abuse
In 2014, more than 65,000 reports of child abuse were filed with Texas Child Protective Services (CPS).
This comes as no surprise to Kathryn Sanders, a clinical assistant professor of nursing at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing.
From the day she started working as a pediatric nurse 20 years ago, Sanders says she was regularly confronted with cases of child abuse, either in the form of physical abuse, or neglect, which can include not providing children with the food or medications they need.
“One of the worst cases I ever saw was an infant who had been crawling on the floor and put something in his mouth,” Sanders recalls. “It turned out to be his mother's crack cocaine.”
Whether they are working in hospital emergency rooms or serving as school nurses, nurses are often on the front lines of dealing with child abuse. Sanders has filed reports with CPS, talked to investigators during the course of their investigations, and even testified in court when charges were brought against the parents.
Part of Sanders' job now as a faculty member at the Texas A&M College of Nursing is to train future nurses how to recognize the signs and symptoms of child abuse, which can often be very subtle. Clues that there might be abuse going on include children who regularly have headaches or stomach aches caused by stress, children who display bruises in uncommon sites and children who become more withdrawn when a certain person comes into the room.
“Early identification is where nurses can really make a difference and hopefully get some early interventions to the family,” Sanders says.
But Sanders says nurses who deal with child abuse on a daily basis – such as those who work in pediatric hospitals – should have additional training on top of what they receive during their pediatric rotation in nursing school.
“These nurses really need a lot more understanding of the forensic side of child abuse,” she says.
Child sex abuse a statewide problem
by Kevin Kearney
WAYNE COUNTY - Child predator arrests are dramatically increasing due in large part to more victims coming forward, officials said.
The State Office of the Attorney General reported Friday a 778 percent increase in child predator arrests between 2012 and 2014, jumping from 19 arrests to 165.
The prevalence of child sexual abuse is difficult to determine because it is often not reported. Officials agree the number of incidents are far greater than what is reported to authorities.
Local statistics could not be obtained by Friday afternoon, but officials said they believe there also has been an increase in reported cases in Wayne County, namely because more victims are coming forward.
"I do believe there is an increase in these types of arrests due to our society being more comfortable with reporting these types of crimes," Wayne County District Attorney Janine Edwards said.
One in five girls is a victim of child sex abuse, and one in 20 boys is a victim, according to national statistics.
Child sex abuse is not restricted to physical contact - it could include abuse such as exposure, voyeurism or child pornography.
In many cases victims are hesitant to report the crimes because the perpetrators are family members or other people in a position of trust, officials said.
Young victims often are confused as to what is happening and why they are being taken advantage of by someone who is supposed to be caring for and loving them, said Michele Minor Wolf, executive director of Honesdale-based Victims' Intervention Program (VIP).
She noted that in 90 percent of sexual assault cases the child knows the perpetrator.
"Very rarely is it a case of a stranger sexual assault," she said.
"Additionally, many victims are threatened to not tell for fear that other family members will be hurt," Minor Wolf said.
Also, in cases where parents are the perpetrators, young victims often don't know who to turn to, Minor Wolf said.
Edwards pointed to two recent criminal cases that illustrate the problem of adults victimizing children.
Defendants Gary F. Kroll, 33, and David S. Teeter, 49, were recently given lengthy prison sentences in separate cases in which they raped children as young as 4 years old.
The district attorney credited the young victims for coming forward and offering testimony that led to the convictions.
"The arrest cannot come without the report. So the credit, in my opinion, goes to those strong people who stand up to these monsters and tell their story," Edwards said.
There have also been cases in which children who have been sexually abused turn into predators themselves, officials said.
"Often when children are abusing other children they are imitating something that has happened to them," Minor Wolf said.
Those young perpetrators are classified as "sexually reactive" because they are reacting to something that has happened to them, Minor Wolf said.
Steps are being taken to address child sexual abuse, officials said.
"Our system of justice and law enforcement is much better equipped now to react to the reports of those who were victims of child sexual predators," Edwards said. "We have children's advocacy centers and expert investigators specifically trained to deal with these reporters and these crimes."
Minor Wolf stressed that perpetrators need to be held accountable.
"They need to be locked up and society needs to not turn their heads to this," said the VIP executive director. "In jail, sex offenders are hated. Other inmates have no tolerance for sex offenders – so it begs the question as to why is it not more unacceptable in society."
Minor Wolf added, "Additionally, victims need to be believed from the onset of a disclosure. Victim-blaming still occurs a lot and this keeps folks from coming forward."
Child sex-abuse survivor explores healing
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."
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.
A report of childhood sexual abuse is made. What happens next?
National Children's Alliance director discusses the importance of reporting abuse as a part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month
by Jonathan F. McVerry
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.— Penn State's Network on Child Protection and Well-Being and the Children's Advocacy Center of Centre County hosted an event on April 21 acknowledging National Child Abuse Prevention month. A panel of national and local experts convened in the Ruth Pike Auditorium to discuss what happens once a report of child abuse is made.
When a child steps forward and reports abuse, we can step up and help by having the courage and knowledge to take action. Teresa Huizar, executive director of the National Children's Alliance, said 20 years ago she often met teachers and officials who did not know what to do or what happened next after abuse or neglect was reported. She wanted to create a better response.
Huizar works hard to eliminate the reluctance individuals may have when a report should be made. First, she wants people to know that reporting a situation is almost always better than not reporting one. She has heard from many adult survivors who wished someone had had the courage to make a report. Huizar acknowledged, “It takes courage for survivors to report and for reporters to say something. When children are heard and adults believe their stories, then the healing process can begin.”
Even though the public's awareness of child abuse and neglect has improved over the past 20 years, roadblocks still remain. Many individuals do not know what happens after a report is made. What will happen to the child? What are the ongoing responsibilities for the reporter? Will making a report ruin lives?
Everyone in a community is responsible to report situations or suspicions of child abuse. It is important for reporters to know that it is not their responsibility to substantiate the abuse. If you suspect a child is experiencing neglect or abuse, call ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313 to file a report. Reports can be done anonymously.
“You do not make the decision about whether it's abuse,” Jennie Noll, network director and professor of human development and family studies. “You make the call and a well-trained team of professionals will take it from there. Our community is very well equipped and resourced to handle these situations.”
Nearly 2.4 million children have gone through U.S. children's advocacy centers. There are 770 centers across the nation, and that number is growing. Kristina Taylor-Porter is the director of the Children's Advocacy Center of Centre County, which opened in 2014. The CAC provides a compassionate approach to ensure that the child's voice is heard by bringing together the professionals needed to identify, intervene and treat child abuse.
Taylor-Porter outlined a number of system improvements that have made the reporting process efficient and straightforward for all parties, which has been integral in keeping children safe. Social services and law enforcement agencies participate in a child-centered environment. The CAC offers a friendly, comfortable and highly supportive environment for the child. The more than 350 children who have come through the center since it opened last year are approached in a developmentally appropriate level, and are in a physical space that is warm and welcoming. Everything is “focused on the child." In the past, children were often brought to law enforcement agencies. “Have you ever walked into a police station? It can be very intimidating for adults, let alone children,” Taylor-Porter said.
To further enhance services to the public, there are now more CACs than ever before. Prior to the creation of the center in the county, children and their families had to travel nearly two hours to the nearest CAC for consultation or treatment. “There was a gap in services for us in Centre County,” said Anne Ard, event speaker and director of the Centre County Women's Resource Center. We needed to look at the family unit as a whole and help address their needs. “If you're worried you're not going to be able to feed your kids, you're not going to prioritize going to a CAC to get an exam when it is four hours roundtrip.”
Approaches in interviewing children have improved dramatically. Perhaps the most important role of the CAC is limiting the amount of times a child must retell his or her abuse story. It had been reported that children could retell their story between seven and 21 times, according to Taylor-Porter. Today, child protection professionals can monitor a single interview from another room while a child shares what happened once. This not only helps legal professionals conduct an investigation, it also helps by not re-traumatizing the child.
Another improvement in child abuse prevention is education. Speaker Teresa Smith, coordinator of outreach and training at the Northeast Regional Children's Advocacy Center, said expanding educational opportunities at the undergraduate and graduate levels is key to preparing students for professional roles in child abuse protection and prevention. Penn State is making plans to offer an interdisciplinary minor in child maltreatment and advocacy studies that may be available this fall.
“I am excited about the minor and the training of the next generation,” she said. “I am happy that there are more opportunities for education and training today.”
To learn more about child maltreatment and advocacy, visit the Network on Child Protection and Well-Being and Child Advocacy Center of Centre County websites for more information.
Domestic violence survivor encourages others to get help
by Megan Brantley
A newly released report on crime by the TBI highlights some startling statistics about domestic violence.
This comes just after two local and deadly domestic cases.
The Partnership for Families, Children and Adults in Chattanooga receives nearly 10,000 calls a year for domestic violence, some wanting information of signs and services, others reaching out for help. They service nearly 1,200 people a year in domestic abuse relationships.
"It was abusive pretty much from the beginning. There was physical abuse, but there was a lot of the mental abuse," said Mara, a victim of domestic violence. "He would tell me you won't like it out there. You would just get eaten alive." "I couldn't make it on my own. I couldn't be loved. I deserved to be in that situation and deserved to be abused. I really believed it then."
It was a toxic relationship that Mara says she didn't even know she was in, until she began working at the partnership and read the signs of domestic abuse. That's when she knew something needed to be done.
"I don't even know where the courage came from. It almost came out of nowhere," said Mara.
But leaving didn't make the problem go away. "He would show up at my house all hours of the night, banging on my doors and windows," said Mara.
It wasn't until law enforcement got involved that the harassment ended.
It's a decision she's never regretted, saying she doesn't know where her life would be if she hadn't left. "I don't know. I don't know if I'd even be alive", said Mara.
Regina McDevitt with The Partnership says not every story ends up a success. She says many victims are too afraid of what would happen, if they did leave. "When you've been told enough times you can't leave, you can't get out, no one is going to love you, no one is going to care for you," said McDevitt. And at the end of the day, the abusee often times still loves the abuser. "This is the person they've had children with. They have a relationship with and nobody wants that to end. but they want that abuse to end."
We found out from the TBI that 51% of crimes against people in Tennessee are from domestic abuse.
McDevitt says there is hope for anyone in an abusive relationship and anyone thinking to leave needs to have a safety plan in place, and doesn't need to go through with the plan alone.
"I know the situation seems so hopeless and it gets really scary but there is hope and on the other side of it you can be happy. You can be really happy," said McDevitt.
In an Abusive Relationship?
Signs of an abusive relationship include:
· Physical Abuse
· Verbal Abuse
· Isolation from Family and Friends
· Abusive and Intimidating Behavior
· Controlling Behavior
· Controlling Finances
· Extreme Jealousy
· Using Humiliation
Tips on Leaving:
Let people you trust know about the abuse.
Leave money, important documents, and clothes with someone you trust.
Determine who will let you stay with.
Keep the hotline number nearby (423) 755-2700.
Get an emergency cell phone to call 911.
Be internet safe. Change passwords and block abuser from social networking sites
Avoid letting your abuser know you are planning to leave.
Practice how to get out of your home safely.
Teach your children how to call 911 and have a code word for when they should call.
If you want help, or if you have questions about domestic abuse or services offered by The Partnership, you can call their 24-hour hotline at (423) 755-2700. Or visit their website by clicking here.
Miss America and Safe Horizon "Put The Nail In It" to end domestic violence
Miss America 2015 Kira Kazantsev and Safe Horizon, the nation's leading victim assistance organization, have partnered on a campaign to reinforce a simple, yet impactful concept - it's time to put the nail in domestic violence. The "Put the Nail in It" campaign will launch on Tuesday, April 28, 2015, at the 20th Annual Champion Awards: Leading the Way to benefit Safe Horizon at The Grand Hyatt in New York City.
By painting the left ring fingernail purple -- the color of the anti-domestic violence movement -- guests at the Awards will be showing the world their vow to help spread awareness around this social problem and to show support for Safe Horizon and the survivors it serves. In addition to painting their left ring fingernail purple, individuals can also show their support by spreading the word on social media with #putthenailinit, or most importantly, by donating at safehorizon.org, to help victims safely become survivors.
The voice of this campaign is Miss America 2015 Kira Kazantsev, who will receive the Voice of Empowerment Award in recognition of her work in bringing awareness to domestic violence. The award is a tribute to Kira's tireless efforts as a volunteer and a Leader on the Horizon member at Safe Horizon and her love and courage for victims and survivors making sure they are not blamed but helped. Kira will be joined by fellow honoree and actor Alan Cumming, who will receive the Humanitarian Award in recognition of his work in bringing awareness to child abuse through his book, "Not My Father's Son." Kira and Alan will also be joined by Tamron Hall and other soon-to-be announced New York icons, along with everyday New Yorkers.
The event will begin with a cocktail reception and silent auction at 6:00pm followed by a dinner and the Awards presentation at 7:00pm. In addition, the Corporate Leadership Award will be presented to Verizon and will be accepted by Nancy Clark, CMO of Verizon Wireless. Verizon has advanced the domestic violence conversation in the communities it serves as well as within its own community, and the company strongly believes in investing in organizations that provide empowerment resources and care for victims of domestic violence.
About Safe Horizon
Safe Horizon envisions a society free of family and community violence. Safe Horizon is the largest victims' services agency in the United States, touching the lives of more than 250,000 children, adults, and families affected by crime and abuse throughout New York City each year. Safe Horizon offers assistance to victims through 57 program locations, including shelter, in-person counseling, legal services, and more. Since 1978, Safe Horizon has provided victims of domestic violence, child abuse, human trafficking, rape and sexual assault, as well as homeless youth and families of homicide victims, with a wide range of comprehensive support. Safe Horizon's programs also partner with governmental and other community agencies to offer additional assistance, including finding resources for those living outside New York City. Safe Horizon also advocates for policies on a local, state, and national level on behalf of those affected by violence and abuse. For more information on Safe Horizon, visit www.safehorizon.org
Our Children Are Not For Sale: Fighting Human Trafficking with Awareness
by Enika Fluellen
Children are being bought and sold right in our backyards. People assume sex and labor trafficking is only happening in other countries, but it has become a major criminal act and form of modern- day slavery in the United States. Los Angeles is in the top three of the ten worst child sex trafficking areas in California. Yet, most communities still fail to identify traffickers and exploited children.
Our children are being abused, and taken advantage of, and left helpless, homeless, and afraid. I think this billion dollar industry has been overlooked in the communities that are most affected by it. I question it being overlooked due to the lackluster efforts to inform those who have critical relationships with children. Parents, foster care, group homes, schools, health care facilities, and youth programs should all have a front row seat when it comes to saving our children but they are misinformed, unaware, and have been provided limited funding. Every day in Los Angeles County minors, mostly Black and Latino, are sold by gang members, boyfriends, and sexual predators in poor neighborhoods such as Long Beach, Compton, Watts, Lynwood, and Van Nuys, just to name a few.
As a social worker in the Masters program at USC, I am specially trained in child welfare and I have a long-standing involvement with at-risk youth. I've taken the opportunity to immerse myself in different communities. During that process I was a witness to young girls no more than 16 years-old walking the streets on Long Beach Boulevard, or what they call the “track.” After an hour passed, I counted 10 girls getting into cars and returning 15 to 20 minutes later, some in poor physical condition.
In several neighborhoods, I interviewed organizations and residents who mostly were unaware sex trafficking was in their neighborhood, or even what trafficking was. They were confused by the names “trafficking” and “trafficker.” When I changed the label to prostitution and pimp, they understood. The residents in that community made assumptions. “These girls want to be out here in the streets. They are prostitutes,” said a man who owns a local business in Compton. But there is no such thing as a child prostitute. The state of California says that a minor is too young to consent to sex. This way of thinking, that paints the child as the perpetrator, allows traffickers and buyers to take away the human rights of children.
The more I worked with this population of at-risk youth, the more I realized a few things. The sex trade lures in vulnerable minors and runaways, promising them lots of money, love, a place to live, modeling careers, and employment for immigrants. According to the District Attorney's office, 120 minors are sold for sex annually in L.A. County. We can assume the numbers are higher, because there is difficulty in identifying traffickers and victims. This is due in part to minors being moved by their trafficker to different locations, and website advertisement hiding the solicitation of minors by advertising them as adult escorts.
I thought it was necessary to bring awareness to this issue and any legislation that will work with under-represented communities to save children in danger. As a social worker, I always say “If we want to address the problem, we need to know there is a problem, and the options we have to fix it.” The key to combating trafficking is twofold; one prosecuting sellers, buyers and all who are involved. Second, we need to create a platform for experts and survivors to educate the public, as their experience and expertise can shape training programs for intervention and prevention.
To start the conversation, I coordinated a Human Trafficking Awareness Symposium at USC, held March 29 , 2015. The audience heard from experts like Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, head of the LAPD Human Trafficking unit Lt. Andre Dawson II, organizations such as CAST (The Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking) and Field Rep. Sabiha Kahn, from the Office of Dianne Feinstein who explained the S.140 Combat Human Trafficking Bill. This bill supports victims and mandates training and awareness. I am supportive of legislation that states a clear agenda, and allows people an opportunity to actively get involved.
Because there is a lack of awareness, victims are unaware of the resources they can receive, and families and caregivers lack the ability to prevent their child or someone else's from this life. Victims and their families are losing everything during their experience, and survivors go untreated for long term mental and physical trauma such as depression, PTSD, drug and alcohol addiction, forced abortion, STD's, and physical scars from branding.
Experts from the U.S Department of Justice tell us that 300,000 children are at risk of being trafficked and 30,000 die each year; within that number 80 percent are under the age of 24, and some as young as six. Children who are rescued and fortunate enough to escape need help, so it is important for businesses, families, communities, and political officials to understand what these victims need.
Human Trafficking awareness and training saves lives. So I urge you to visit a training session in your community, drop in a symposium like the one recently at USC, and stay informed on legislation such as S.140.
You can also click here to see what you can do to help.
Human Trafficking is not just a political fight; it is our fight. There is a need for social change, and to take a stand. Now is the time to make these criminals aware that our children are not for sale.
Masters of Social Work Candidate 2017
University of Southern California
School of Social Work
Bullying May Leave Worse Mental Scars Than Child Abuse
by Anne Harding
Being bullied during childhood may have even graver consequences for mental health in adulthood than being neglected or sexually abused, according to the first-ever study to tease out the effects of peer abuse from childhood maltreatment.
Children in the study who had been bullied by their peers, but didn't suffer maltreatment from family members, were more likely to have depression and anxiety in adulthood than children who experienced child abuse but weren't bullied, according to researchers from the United .States. and United Kingdom.
One in 3 children worldwide reports being bullied, Dieter Wolke, a professor of psychology at the University of Warwick in Coventry, England, and his colleagues note in their report, published today (April 28) in the journal Lancet Psychology. Studies have shown that victims of bullying have impaired stress responses and high levels of inflammation, as well as worse health and less workplace success as adults, the researchers said.
In the new study, Wolke and his colleagues looked at data on 4,026 children from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) in the United Kingdom and 1,420 children participating in the Great Smoky Mountains Study in the United States. The ill effects of any type of child maltreatment — including sexual abuse, physical abuse and neglect — on mental health and physical health are well-documented. So the researchers wanted to know whether victims of bullying were at risk of mental health problems because they may have also experienced maltreatment, or whether being bullied itself was linked with greater risk of mental health problems.
In the U.K. study, investigators looked at whether children were maltreated between ages 8 weeks and 8.6 years, based on parent reporting. Tand then the children themselvesreported whether they were bullied at ages 8, 10 and 13. In the U.S. study, children and their parents participated in annual interviews when the children were 9 to 16 years old. The researchers followed up when study participants were from 18 up to 25 years old, and assessed them for depression, anxiety, and self-harm and suicidality.
In the U.S. study, the children who had been maltreated but not bullied were four times more likely to have depression during young adulthood than their peers who had not been abused or bullied. However, the children who had been bullied, but not maltreated, were almost four times more likely to have mental health problems than the children who were maltreated (but not bullied). [11 New Warning Signs Help Spot Mental Illness in Children]
Similarly, in the U.K. study, the children who experienced only bullying were 1.6 times more likely than those who experienced only maltreatment to have mental health problems, anxiety, depression or to have attempted to harm themselves.
Bullying may be more scarring than child maltreatment because while society recognizes child abuse as a serious problem, and supports its victims, people just don't see bullying the same way, Wolke said. "There're still people out there who think that bullying is a normal rite of passage — you go through and toughen up, etc.," he said.
But bullying leaves people with poor self-esteem and a lasting sense of distrust of other people, he told Live Science. "Being socially excluded and being a social outcast is about the worst stress that we can experience, more than other pains."
Although people are becoming more aware of how harmful bullying can be, efforts in the United .States. to tackle the problem are spotty, said William Copeland, an associate professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, who helped conduct the study. "I think it's often the case that children that are bullied are not always supported in that, and told to deal with it themselves," Copeland said.
And in fact, this lack of support and validation could further exacerbate the harmful consequences of bullying, he said.
"If someone's maltreated, we tend to validate them, to tell them that it's not their fault," he said. "With bullying, it's sometimes the case that the response is a lot less supportive, more of a shrug."
Nevertheless, most people who are victims of child abuse or of bullying by peers go on to be healthy adults, and Copeland and his colleagues want to find out why. "We really want to better understand how to predict resilience in the face of these challenges," he said.
Still, he said, "The best thing we can do is try to prevent these things from happening in the first place."
Better Training, Communication in Reporting Child Abuse
by Lolita Lopez
Better training and communication were among the recommendations made at a meeting Monday on the state of child abuse in Los Angeles County.
The meeting comes in the wake of the death of Gabriel Fernandez that ignited the push to revamp the child welfare system in the county. Gabriel, 8, died after being tortured and abused allegedly by his mother and her boyfriend while under the guidance of the county child welfare system.
The year he died, 19 children died at the hands of a parent or caregiver, more than the year before, according to a review by the Inter-Agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect.
"We are a large county with a lot of departments and we need to figure out a way of how to communicate better," said Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, a co-chair of the panel whose office has made changes recommended by a blue ribbon commission following Gabriel's death. "We assigned just one prosecutor to handle a case from beginning to end."
Deanne Tilton Durfee, the executive director of ICAN, said one of the 12 recommendations is to establish training so law enforcement can better detect child abuse.
"You talk to the children even if the child is not at the house at the time," Durfee said. "You find that child and you talk to that child in a safe place."
That take-a-second-look mentality is being applied to physicians. Work has already started with the newly formed Office of Child Protection that oversees multiple agencies to discuss best practices, including treatment.
"Basically do a convening for medical professionals in LA County regarding psychotropic medication with children ages 0-5," said Fesia Davenport, the interim director for the Office of Child Protection.
But tracking abuse cases remains an issue. For example, if a young child with an injury goes to a hospital, Durfee said there is no system to record what care was given and what happened next.
"We want all hospitals to advise us on how many child abuse reports they've made with children under 3," Durfee said.
Another recommendation was to create countywide guidelines to follow domestic abuse cases and, at times, link them to cases of child abuse and neglect because more young people are becoming the abusers.
"There's a 20 percent increase in juvenile offenders while the adults are decreasing by 6 percent," Durfee said.
There is also a disparity with the data reported to a state index that is used to clear a person to become a caregiver to a child. Durfee said thousands of cases of abuse are not reported.
A time table has not been set as to when these recommendations will become reality.
Child abuse is everybody's problem
by June Turner
Child abuse in Nashville is your problem, my problem and our community's problem.
Children in our community suffer each day from sexual, physical and emotional abuse, as well as neglect.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and provides a reminder to all of us that it is an adult's responsibility to keep children safe.
The Nashville Children's Alliance (NCA) provides services when there are allegations of sexual or severe physical abuse to children.
The NCA works every day with the Department of Children's Services, the Metropolitan Police Department and the Office of the District Attorney General to provide a multidisciplinary team approach to child abuse in Davidson County.
This is no easy task because no two children are the same — they come from different, traumatizing incidents and require specialized treatment that works for them, not just what works for one.
In 2014 our team reviewed 1,323 cases of alleged sexual and severe physical abuse, with nearly 600 children going through the forensic interview process.
But we are not alone in this work. The NCA, Sexual Assault Center, Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee, Our Kids, Magdalene, Family and Children's Services, and the Tennessee Chapter of Children's Advocacy Centers formed the Nashville Child Protection Coalition.
This collaboration of nonprofit organizations shares a common vision to see all children in Nashville grow up healthy and whole. The goal of the Coalition is to diminish the incidence and impact of child sexual abuse by teaching 5 percent of the adult population in Nashville how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.
In order to train this percentage of the adult population of Nashville, which equates to 24,514 adults, the Coalition coordinates efforts to bring Stewards of Children training to Nashville businesses, organizations and community groups in order to shift the societal perspective on child sexual abuse and make prevention part of the culture.
Our children are the future of our community, and to help Nashville continue to thrive and grow, we need to protect the future of our city and provide a path for them.
June Turner is the CEO for the Nashville Children's Alliance. The Alliance has worked with children ages 3-17 and their families since 1992 to help them navigate the process of dealing with severe physical and sexual abuse cases.
Child abuse statistics
• Child sexual abuse is likely the most prevalent health problem children face with the most serious array of consequences.
• About one in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.
• About 90 percent of children who are victims of sexual abuse know their abuser.
• Only 10 percent of sexually abused children are abused by a stranger.
Statistics from Darkness to Light
Child Abuse Warning Signs Highlighted In New Report, Physicians Urged To Be Vigilant
New research by the American Academy of Pediatrics highlighted the importance of recognizing child abuse at its earliest stages
by Rebekah Marcarelli
New research by the American Academy of Pediatrics highlighted the importance of recognizing child abuse at its earliest stages.
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Maltreatment and abuse can lead to toxic stress in children, leading to health problems down the road. These struggles can range from permanent physical disability to mental health issues. This new report could help teach pediatricians to identify the clues of abuse to prevent as much long-term damage as possible.
Child abuse can be extremely difficult to identify, especially in younger children and babies. Small injuries in these children are often mistakenly chalked up to accidental or self-inflicted trauma as well as disease; many of these victims soon return with additional injuries.
The clinical report identifies signs of abuse as: a vague explanation for an injury; a denial of a clear injury; an explanation inconsistent with the observed injury pattern; a delay in seeking medical care after the injury was sustained; inconsistent reports of the cause of injury from different witnesses. Physicians are also urged to consider the possibility of abuse if they observe: injuries to multiple organ systems; a number of injuries in different stages of healing; patterned injuries; injuries to unusual locations such as the face or upper arms; severe unexplained injuries; or any signs of injury in pre-ambulatory infants.
The report also asks physicians to watch out for head trauma in infants as well as skeletal injuries, and brain inflammation. These warning signs can be identified through techniques such as skeletal surveys and brain imaging. The researchers also noted pediatricians are mandated to report suspected abuse to Child Protective Services (CPS), and transferring a child to another health facility does not relieve them of these duties. Children with suspicious injuries may need to be hospitalized for evaluation and treatment.
The findings were published in a recent edition of the journal Pediatrics. See the full report HERE.
The Conversation: Our best response to child abuse may be to just understand
by CINDY HOEDEL
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Ann Thomas of Olathe is vice president of program administration at the Children's Place, a therapeutic preschool and outpatient treatment center for children younger than 8 years of age 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. I recently talked to Thomas about the 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.
CH: News coverage of American football player, Adrian Peterson's child abuse 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?
AT: The law says it is OK to spank your child in a reasonable manner, as determined by others.
CH: Do you think the law should be changed?
AT: (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.
CH: Why isn't spanking effective?
AT: 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.
CH: Just because that's how we were raised doesn't make it a best practice.
AT: 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.
CH: What are some misconceptions about child abuse?
AT: 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.
CH: What do most child abuse cases look like?
AT: 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.
CH: 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?
AT: Forgive yourself. And work to not do it again.
CH: How do you do that?
AT: The No. 1 thing is to come up with a different strategy for the next time you feel that overwhelmed.
CH: Can you give an example?
AT: 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.
CH: What can people do to support children in the neighborhood whose parents are the type who yell a lot or smack their kids?
AT: 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.
CH: Which is the opposite of our instinct, which would be to give volatile people a wide berth.
AT: 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.
CH: 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?
AT: Think about how to change the situation. If the child is being hit, the answer is, call the police.
CH: What if the parent isn't hitting but is yelling or threatening? What is the best response?
AT: 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.
We need to be aware of the child abuse going on around us
by Tammy Langley
April, the designated month for child abuse awareness, is coming to an end. Tragically, the horrors of violence, sexual assault, neglect or emotional cruelty is not. In the midst of this somber reality, some people succumb to fear or indifference; others rise to join forces and say, “It shouldn't hurt to be a child.” One such force in our community is the Nampa Family Justice Center (NFJC).
The NFJC opened in 2005. Its mission is to provide services to victims of family violence and sexual assault throughout Canyon County. In 2009, the NFJC became an accredited member of the National Children's Alliance as a Children's Advocacy Center. Ongoing services provided for children include: counseling, small groups, foster care wellness exams, medical/forensic interviews and the opportunity to attend Camp Hope Idaho. Significantly, 1,715 new child intakes and 2,527 ongoing services were offered in 2014.
While statistics can and should reflect the sustainability of any organization, it is important to recognize what Dr. Seuss wrote years ago: “A person's a person, no matter how small.” Every child deserves to be loved, nurtured and protected.
Corporal Angela Weekes, instrumental in the grassroots formation of the NFJC, shared these thoughts about child abuse: “Preventing and reporting child abuse is a community effort. Most child abuse is inflicted by someone the child knows and often loves. Children need to be reassured the abuse is not their fault. They don't often lie about the abuse and they deserve to be believed when they are courageous enough to report. Raising healthy children in our society is all our responsibility.”
Jeannie Strohmeyer, Client Service Coordinator at the NFJC, takes this call to action seriously. “Child abuse happens every day in our community … it is ‘my' responsibility to be aware and do something.”
They are not alone in their determination to make a difference in the life of a child. Consider these words by Laurie Beth Jones, author and life coach: “Every word we speak, every action we take, has an effect on the totality of humanity. No one can escape that privilege — or that responsibility.”
Marie, an 8-year-old survivor, left paraplegic after suffering abuse at 8 months, recently wrote a thank-you letter posted on a blog run by Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. Her words reflect what every child desires: “I wish that you keep doing what you do to make the world a better place and to make kids feel protected. I also wish that no matter how big or small the case is you will at least try and help the kids.”
Our children need us. We should not passively accept or overlook the devastation and crippling effects of child abuse, which include major social issues like drug and alcohol dependence, mental illness, sexual promiscuity and crime. Become active by getting involved in something uncomfortable and help create safety in our homes, neighborhoods, schools and cities. “It's not an easy task,” states NFJC Executive Director, Criselda DeLaCruz-Valdez. “We need to stand up and say something, not turn the other way when we see abuse happening.”
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it's not.” (Dr. Seuss)
If you suspect a child is being abused, it's critical to get him/her the help they need. Report child abuse and neglect 24 hours a day to the Idaho Central Intake Unit 1-855-552-5437.
For further information, contact the Nampa Family Justice Center at 475-5700.
Youths evaluated for sexual abuse at risk for revictimization online
Survey shows many vulnerable teens engage in sexting, are solicited online and meet in person with someone they first met online
by The American Academy of Pediatrics
SAN DIEGO - Many suspected victims of child sexual abuse are sharing sexually explicit photos and videos via their cell phones and social media, and are receiving online sexual solicitations, according to a study to be presented Tuesday, April 28 at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in San Diego.
Previous research has shown that youths with a history of sexual victimization may be at increased risk for online sexual solicitations, leading to revictimization.
Researchers, led by Corey Rood, MD, sought to describe the prevalence of "sexting" (sending or receiving sexually suggestive messages or nude or nearly nude photos or videos), online sexual solicitations, and offline, in-person meetings with people first met online among adolescents seen for suspected sexual abuse/assault.
Study participants were recruited from youths ages 12-17 years who were evaluated at the Child Advocacy Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital for suspected child sexual abuse or acute sexual assault from May 1, 2014, to Feb. 1, 2015. Youths in Child Protective Services custody, those with severe developmental delay or gross motor impairment, and those who did not speak English were excluded.
One hundred and fifty teens completed an anonymous computerized survey that included 40 questions asking about their experiences with sending or receiving nude or nearly nude photos or videos via cell phone, sexually suggestive text-only messaging, online sexual solicitations and offline first-time meetings with people met online.
Of the 16 possible experiences asked about in the survey, less than a quarter of teens replied that they had been exposed to none of them. "Incredibly, 39 percent have experienced five or more, and 18 percent have experienced 10 or more exposures," said Dr. Rood, child abuse pediatrics fellow, Center for Family Safety and Healing, Nationwide Children's Hospital.
Results also showed:
About 10 percent of those younger than 14 years, and 28 percent of those age 14 and older have sent a sext picture or video of themselves.
Nearly 23 percent of those under age 14, and 57 percent of those age 14 and older have received a sext picture or video of another person.
About 11 percent of those under age 14, and 47 percent of those age 14 and older have been solicited online for personal sexual information.
About 24 percent of those under age 14, and 55 percent of those 14 and older have been solicited online to do a sexual act.
The above results were similar for males and females and across races and ethnicities.
In addition, more than 43 percent of all teens surveyed met someone younger than age 18 in person after meeting them online, and 24 percent met with someone age 18 or older.
"Adolescents with a history of offline sexual victimization may demonstrate increased sexting activity and be at increased risk of online sexual solicitations making them vulnerable to revictimization," Dr. Rood said. "It is imperative that we understand these electronic activities in this population as they may warrant unique prevention and intervention strategies."
Dr. Rood will present "Prevalence of Sexting, Online Solicitations, and Offline Meetings Among Adolescents With Suspected Sexual Abuse" from 11:30-11:45 a.m. PT Tuesday, April 28. To view the study abstract, go to http://www.abstracts2view.com/pas/view.php?nu=PAS15L1_4540.8
Mother found guilty of killing missing daughter
by Matthew Casey
PHOENIX — Jurors on Monday convicted Jerice Hunter of abusing and killing her 5-year-old daughter, Jhessye Shockley, in what was the culmination of a missing-persons case that began in September 2012 with the Glendale mother's arrest.
Jury members also determined there were aggravating factors in the case that would merit a harsher penalty for Hunter when she is sentenced June 5. At minimum, Hunter faces a term of 35 years to life for Jhessye's death.
The case was handed to jurors last week, and they deliberated for the equivalent of two-and-a-half days before reaching the verdict about whether Hunter murdered Jhessye, who was reported missing in October 2011. Deliberation lasted just less than four hours Monday morning before jurors notified Superior Court Judge Rose Mroz, who dismissed a member of the panel for medical reasons earlier in the day, about reaching a decision.
Onlookers said Hunter appeared stoic as the verdict was read, but her mother, Shirley Johnson, erupted, howling that Jhessye "is not dead" before being ousted from the courtroom.
Hunter has been jailed for more than 960 days and maintained her innocence the entire time.
As jurors returned to the deliberation room to decide any aggravating factors, Johnson reiterated her belief to reporters outside the Maricopa County Superior courthouse that Jhessye is alive. The girl's body has never been found.
"That baby is not dead," Johnson said. "I don't mean to yell, but I'm disturbed that they reduced this baby to the grave so they can take her off the national (missing persons) registry so they don't have to look for her no more because she is black. I'm telling you the truth. If she was blonde hair, blue eyes, that baby would be all over, still on the national registry."
Police spent days scouring the area near 45th and Glendale avenues where Jhessye was reported missing.
Neighbors and community members who had never met the family stood on street corners passing out fliers and they knocked on doors. All were puzzled over how the girl might have disappeared.
But then police announced they believed Hunter, who had served time in a California prison for abusing her older children, disposed of her daughter's body in a Tempe trash bin before she reported the 5-year-old missing.
Police later said they suspected that the waste management system had taken Jhessye's body to the Butterfield Station Landfill in Mobile, and they spent weeks going through trash in hopes of finding her remains. More than 280 people from more than 13 agencies sifted through roughly 9,500 tons of compressed garbage.
But authorities did not recover Jhessye's body or any evidence linked to the case despite weeks of searching.
Prosecutors stuck to the same narrative throughout their weeks presenting the case: that Hunter, 41, tried to make herself the victim after she killed Jhessye, stuffed her body in a suitcase and had a neighbor drive her to Tempe, where she donned plastic gloves before dumping the girl's body into a garbage bin.
Throughout the trial, prosecutors told jurors that:
• Hunter, according to her cousin, had never bonded with Jhessye, who missed more than two weeks of school before Hunter reported her missing.
• Hunter's daughter told the court that she saw Jhessye with black goo coming out of her eyes and that the girl was barely able to walk while living in Hunter's bedroom closet.
• Hunter's neighbor said she seemed calmer after ditching the suitcase and never completed her original plans in Tempe, which was to sell clothing to get money for food.
• Forensic analysis showed that a large stain found underneath the carpet in Hunter's closet is "most probably Jhessye's."
Defense attorney Candice Shoemaker called just two witnesses and took less than a day to present Hunter's defense. Shoemaker has argued since the trial's outset that the state's case is circumstantial and sought to remind jurors of two key facts:
• Jhessye's kindergarten teacher told jurors that the girl showed no outward signs of abuse.
• Hunter has spent more than two years in jail awaiting trial on a case in which jurors have not been presented with definitive proof that Jhessye is dead. A protected witness gave detailed and emotional testimony that, on the day Hunter reported her daughter missing, the witness saw a woman put Jhessye in a dark-colored Chevy Malibu near 45th and Glendale avenues before driving away.
When asked what message she wanted to give her daughter Monday, Johnson said she would tell her to, " Hold on, sister."
"You a soldier. Hold on," Johnson said. "God knows the truth. That baby is not dead."
Behind the lines of a war on children
by Carlos Gieseken
Throughout Escambia and Santa Rosa counties there are closed doors hiding unspeakable acts of violence, neglect and rape against children.
Overwhelmingly, the perpetrators are the parents, step-parents, caregivers and sometimes siblings of those children. They are the people the children trust; the only family they know.
In most cases, the victims are between 0 and 6 years old. They are small and curious and at an age when life is full of wonder and exploration. Every new experience, large or small, shapes their world view. So when abuse comes, whether violent, sexual or through neglect, it is another experience that forms what they see as a norm of everyday life.
The sad reality is that over the last 10 years, the abuse has become more frequent — and more horrific.
In 2014, one out of 14 children in Escambia County was involved in an allegation of abuse according to the Department of Children and Families. In Santa Rosa County, it was one out of 25. Between the two counties, one out of 19 children is involved in child abuse.
That's a huge jump from just 10 years ago.
In 2004, one out of every 25 children in the two counties were involved in a child abuse allegation. Anecdotally, caseworkers and medical providers say the complexity and severity of the abuse is increasing. Children as young as a few months old sustain broken bones, third-degree burns and blunt force trauma above the neck.
In 2014, there were 5,876 children reported as victims in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, enough to fill the seats of Blue Wahoos stadium in Community Maritime Park, with an additional 800 left standing outside.
It takes a dedicated, equal force to combat this epidemic and to find short- and long-term solutions. That's where advocacy centers like the Gulf Coast Kid's House, in Escambia County, and the Santa Rosa Kids' House, in Santa Rosa County, come into play.
Multiple agencies are housed under one roof so a child only has to go to a single location for medical exams, interviews, depositions and therapy.
Law enforcement, case workers, therapists and prosecutors work in close proximity. The result is more efficient information sharing, a dramatic decrease in the time it takes to investigate cases and an increase in prosecution rates.
Most importantly, the children don't have to tell their stories over and over again, re-living the abuse each time.
Abusers come from all walks of life
Causes of child abuse vary widely and can include alcohol and drug usage, past abuse, social and economic pressure, immaturity, poor anger management and a lack of parenting skills. There's no one definer that sets a child abuser apart from those who won't cross that line.
"You don't have to be dumb or lower-life to do it," said Keith Ann Campbell, executive director of the Santa Rosa Kids' House in Milton. "You can be really smart, the most intelligent men and women do that with their kids and just don't think there's anything wrong with it."
"If you ask any of the therapists here," said Stacey Kostevicki, executive director of the Gulf Coast Kid's House in Pensacola, "abuse is all about the power and control you can exert over your victim."
Over the next week, the Pensacola News Journal will publish a series of stories that examine the causes, symptoms and effects of child abuse in our area. Reporters will examine the short- and long-term effects of abuse as it tears individuals and families apart. The numbers do not lie: No matter where you live in Escambia or Santa Rosa counties, child abuse may very well live next door.
Reporting: The primary weapon against child abuse
It's a natural inclination to not want to get involved in someone else's family business, particularly the disciplining of their children. The fear of reporting what maybe isn't really abuse or the guilt that "we" are the cause of a child being taken away from a family can stop many from reporting abuse.
But in the state of Florida, the Protection of Vulnerable Persons law puts that responsibility squarely on the shoulders of every adult who witnesses abuse. Signed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2012, it says failure to report an incident could result in a third degree felony charge, five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Although difficult to enforce, it underscores the under-reporting of abuse that is too often the status quo.
"In the South, people tend to be polite," Kostevicki said. "Reporting a family is helping a family. It's not hurting them."
It's the age of the children who are most abused that prompts the largest need for greater reporting by neighbors or family members. Those 6 and under haven't developed articulate speech and can't tell others what is happening to them.
"They are the ones not visible in the community unless you are in pre-K," Kostevicki said. "It will have to come from a concerned neighbor or family member."
Whenever possible, case workers and law enforcement seek to reunite children who have been removed from their parents as a result of a child abuse claim. They will work to remove the stressors that cause the parent to strike the child, or work on anger management.
In Florida, reports can be submitted confidentially to the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-962-2873, online at https://reportabuse.def.statel.fl.us or by fax at 1-800-914-0004. Staff assess the provided information and determine if it meets statutory criteria for the Department of Children and Families to conduct an investigation.
Warning signs of abuse
Viewed as the most comprehensive child abuse law in the nation, the Protection of Vulnerable Persons law also requires teachers in grades one through 12 to receive training for identifying signs of abuse.
Injuries to the back and the ear are often, but not always, signs of abuse, medical providers say. Changes in behavior such as becoming withdrawn, not eating, not bathing and being fearful around a specific family member are other signs.
"It's any kind of change in behavior," said Kelly MacLeod, development and outreach coordinator at the Gulf Coast Kid's House. "A very gregarious child who all of a sudden is withdrawn. Any extreme change."
Parents will say, once the child has disclosed abuse, that there were many warning signs the parent didn't pick up on in retrospect.
"You think it's them becoming teenagers and all of a sudden they become impossible," Kostevicki said. "But sometimes it's because of abuse."
A victim's pain doesn't end when the abuse stops.
According to the Children's Bureau, an office of the Administration for Children & Families in Washington, D.C., child abuse can result in depression, anxiety and high-risk behaviors that can make a person more likely to turn to substance abuse. Impaired brain development, poor health and cognitive difficulties are among other long-term effects.
Survivors of abuse will grow up to have their own families and even successful businesses. All the while they will struggle with daily triggers that bring back horrible memories. Victims interviewed by the Pensacola News Journal say they coped with depression and suicidal thoughts for years after the abuse stopped.
Others never quite escape the grasp of the abuse, their warped sense of parenthood negatively affecting how they raise their own children, even if the abuse is not repeated on to them.
There is also a larger economic effect, both in worker productivity and in the strain on human services.
According to a 2011 study conducted by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control with the RTI International Public Health Economics Program, the estimated average lifetime cost per victim of child abuse is $210,012 in 2010 dollars, or $228,356 in 2015 dollars after adjusting for inflation.
The average estimated lifetime cost in lost productivity per child killed by abuse is just under $1.4 million dollars, after adjusting for inflation.
"Compared with other health problems, the burden of child maltreatment is substantial," the study concluded, "indicating the importance of prevention efforts to address the high prevalence of child maltreatment."
Experts Talk About Protecting Our Kids from Online Predators
by Frederick Lane
On New Year's Day in 2002, Alicia Kozakiewicz was lured away from her family home by Scott Tyree, a man who had corresponded with the 13-year-old girl for a year in a Yahoo chat room. Over the course of several days, Kozakiewicz was held captive and assaulted by Tyree, who broadcast the attack over live streaming video. She was rescued by the FBI after an anonymous tip led agents to Tyree's Virginia home.
On Thursday, Kozakiewicz brought her dramatic story to the 2015 RSA Security Conference in San Francisco, where she joined several other speakers for a panel entitled "Into the Woods: Protecting Our Youth from the Wolves of Cyberspace." She currently heads The Alicia Project, an advocacy group aimed at educating the public about sexual exploitation, online predators, and abduction.
"In order to keep up with my friendships, I got a screen name and began talking to my friends from school, who introduced me to their friends, and their friends, and their friends, until I was really in a realm of people I didn't know all that well, but we felt very connected because it could be traced back to that one person," Kozakiewicz told the audience.
The session was moderated by Sandra Toms, Vice President at RSA and Curator of the RSA Conference. Joining Kozakiewicz on stage was Sharon Cooper, a developmental and forensic pediatrician who evaluates and treats children who have been victims of various types of abuse; Michael Osborn, Chief of the Violent Crimes Against Children Unit for the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Lance Spitzner, Training Director for SANS Securing The Human.
The overwhelming consensus among the panelists is that effective communication by parents and other trusted adults with children about their online activities is crucial to preventing potential problems. Cooper also emphasized the fact that children typically do not have the emotional maturity necessary to cope with feelings of shame or guilt if naked photos of them wind up online, which makes them vulnerable to manipulation or extortion by predators.
Two Major Threats
The FBI has seen two significant trends in this area, Osborn said. The first is the increased use of remote wiping technology by criminals in an attempt to impede law enforcement investigations. In some instances, that is combined with increasingly sophisticated encryption technology.
The second disturbing development is the growth in sextortion cases, in which predators obtain nude photos of potential victims and then use those photos to extort more explicit photos or sexual contact. In some instances, victims supply the photos that are used for sextortion when they share nude photos of themselves, Osborn said. In other cases, the predators obtain the photos using a variety of techniques, including malware, social engineering (persuading or duping victims into sharing photos), or by lurking in chat rooms to strike up conversations with impressionable teens and tweens like Kozakiewicz.
"Grooming is a term we might hear a lot these days, but it's so, so simple," Kozakiewicz said. "All it is, is being a child's friend. And that's what he did to me. He made believe that he was my friend. And he made me think things and feel things about myself that kids don't feel every single day of their lives. He made me feel beautiful and important and special and unique. And told me what I wanted to hear versus what I needed to hear."
The Most Harmful Kind of Parent
by Gerald Schoenewolf, Ph.D.
Over the years I have often been asked what is the most harmful thing a parent can do to a child. There are many harmful things a parent can do, too many to point out. It is easier to focus on the kind of parent that does most harm.
The most harmful parents are the parents who have a narcissistic need to think of themselves as great parents. Because of this need, they are unable to look at their parenting in an objective way. And they are unable to hear their children's complaints about their parenting.
Such parents indoctrinate their children from an early age to think of their parents in only the most positive ways. Any other kind of thinking is considered family treason. If any of their children develop behavioral problems, they see such problems as an accusation of their parenting. Their response is, “Why did am I so unlucky as to have this bad seed?” Not for a moment do they ever consider that anything they did might have had an effect on their children.
One family with which I became acquainted had two daughters. The oldest daughter could do nothing wrong. The youngest daughter could do nothing right. Both parents lamented the troublesome nature of their youngest daughter. To both of them, she was a thorn in their sides and an embarrassment to the family. As Mary (the name I'll give to the youngest daughter) grew up, she was always being compared unfavorably to her older sister. “Why can't you be more like your sister?” She was constantly being looked at in a negative way. If she told a joke, they laughed at her, not with her, and treated her as if she were stupid to say such a thing.
When she was a preteen, her father, who was a wealthy real estate tycoon, took her on a business trip with him. She was flattered to be brought along, because he had always favored her older sister. He insisted they share the same hotel room, telling her they were family. When she was taking a shower, he walked in and said she shouldn't be shy around him because he was her father. That night he insisted she sleep in the queen-sized bed with him, and in the middle of the night he began touching her and telling her it was all right because they were family.
When she mentioned this event to her mother, the mother treated the daughter as if she were just being a trouble-maker as usual. “Why would your father do something like that? He's a powerful man. He could have any woman he wanted, but he has always been totally loyal to me. I want you to apologize for what you just said.” Mary had to repress this incident and she grew up to be a child who doubted her perceptions of things. She remained attached to her father and continued to idealize him as the rest of the family did. But her idealization of her father, her mother and her older sister kept her in a one-down position. Her relationships with men were a disaster as were her relationships with women friends. She distrusted everybody and would sooner or later find a reason to reject them (symbolically rejecting her family).
The mother in this family was a writer who once wrote an article for a parenting magazine. The article was called, “How I learned to Adapt to My ADHD Daughter,” and she stated that she was motivated to write the article to help other mothers with similar children. The father was almost revered in the extended family and among friends for his business acumen and his happy-go-lucky personality. Neither parent gave a thought to the emotional or sexual abuse they had shown their youngest. Both continued to firmly believe that they had been great parents, and that their youngest daughter was simply genetically damaged and it was their unfortunate lot in life to adapt to her (be sympathetic to her “wiles”). But their sympathy (a pretense of caring) only made her worse.
Incidentally, the oldest daughter in this family ended up becoming a narcissistic parent like her parents, She had been raised to feel that she could do no wrong and hence she did not think she could do anything wrong as a parent. Sometimes this kind of parenting is passed on from generation to generation.
Narcissistic personalities can only see things one way–their way. And they are very good at finding extremely viable reasons for their way. You are either with them or against them. If you are with them, you can share their glory, if you're against them and tell them what they don't want to hear, you will get their wrath. The queen in the children's story, “Snow White,” is an example of a narcissistic personality. The mirror had to tell her she was the fairest in the land, and when it told her Snow White was the fairest, she punished Snow White by having her taken to the forest to die.
Beneath their narcissism is a bubble of unconscious inferiority and rage, which they protect against through the development of the rigid covering of the superior personality that cannot be contradicted.
Narcissistic parents will go to doctor after doctor until they find one who tells them what they want to hear. The problem is never with them or their parenting. It is always traced to some external cause, some genetic source, a hostile teacher, or a faulty vaccination. This is not to say that genetics or other factors do not play a part in development. But they don't play the entire part. Parenting must always be considered. With narcissists it almost never is.
I call this kind of parent the most harmful because they do the most harm while seeming to have all the right intentions. The emotional abuse that such parents do to their children is hard for the children to detect. Therefore, it is all the more disastrous.
Underground child porn trade moving toward youngest victims
Data from the Canadian Centre for Child Protection shows imagery involving victims aged newborn to 8 years represents largest, fastest-growing category of child porn.
by Bob Cribb
WINNIPEG—Sexualized images of children under the age of 9, most depicting explicit sexual acts, represent the largest and fastest-growing category in Canada's underground child pornography trade, according to exclusive data obtained by the Star from the Canadian Centre for Child Protection.
And their abusers, say experts, are overwhelmingly family and friends.
Cypertip.ca, a national, non-profit tip line run by the centre that gathers and investigates alleged child pornography online, last year catalogued more than 15,000 images from the Internet of children up to 8 years old, according to the data.
Those images accounted for 56 per cent of the 26,886 inventory of images Cybertip.ca analysts documented last year, a seven per cent jump from 2012-2013.
Even more disturbing, the data shows 73 per cent of the images of young victims depicted sex acts that included “bondage” and “torture.” That figure was up 12 per cent over the previous year.
“It continues to shock me,” says Signy Arnason, director of Cybertip.ca. “If your deviance is pedophilia, it's not hard to imagine that people want to dig deeper into those trenches and seek out deeper and darker content and material to satisfy their sexual deviance as time progresses.”
The data marks the first time that the age category from newborn to 8 accounted for more than half of the material Cybertip.ca analyzes. Images of children in older age categories dropped or held steady from the previous year.
“If there is an increase in the interest in young children as an erotic potential for people out there, that causes a very serious concern, because the lower the age, the more severe the pedophilia,” said Dr. John Bradford, a forensic psychiatry professor at the University of Ottawa who specializes in sexual deviation.
“It's a whole other level of severity and concern. It's more pathological. And we know it increases the harm ratio and risk of re-offence. All of that are very significant red flags.”
Arnason says that while teens and tweens are often exploited by strangers who lure them online and groom them, the youngest victims are typically abused by those they know well.
“When you're abusing very, very young children, somebody has to have access to that child and needs time alone with them, so it's likely a family member or someone close within the family,” she says.
The average age of child pornography victims was about 12 when Paul Gillespie ran the Toronto Police Service's child exploitation squad a decade ago.
Today, the average age of victims he sees has dropped to age 5 or below, says Gillespie, who is now president of the Kids Internet Safety Alliance, which trains police and prosecutors around the world in investigating child exploitation.
“The appetite (for younger children) is identical everywhere,” says Gillespie. “It's hard to believe there could be more heightened levels of depravity, but there is.”
There were 622 Canadians charged with child pornography in 2013, up from 442 in 2009, according to Statistics Canada.
“This is a societal need to do better than we're doing. I can never understand why the average citizen doesn't throw up when they hear this stuff. . . Once you see one of these photos your life is never the same again.”
Catherine Chabbert, one of eight Cybertip.ca analysts who review complaints from the public before forwarding potentially illegal material to police, says many of the images depict children too young to even communicate the abuse.
In some cases, she has seen unknown children literally grow up before her eyes — from children to young adults — in a sequence of explicit images.
“A lot of the progressive abuse happens in a timeline,” she says. “I've seen timelines of a child with a collage of those images starting off when a child was an infant until they're 14 years old. . . . Sometimes it's still occurring because they haven't found the offender or the victim. It's a scary thing to know and to keep with you.”
Stephen Sauer has been an analyst at the Cybertip.ca offices in Winnipeg for the past decade.
In some cases, images of the increasingly young are customized to the wishes and appetites of those who consume them, he says.
“Typically, individuals are requesting images from offenders and offenders will create those images on the spot,” he says. “They might be asking for a certain type of abuse and there's a close community where individuals are sharing this type of images.”
State child abuse laws need attention, changes and how each case is handled.
by Jay Powell
C.A.A.R.E. is primarily run by students based out of Central High School, but the group's message has reached lawmakers at the State Capitol, spawned other C.A.A.R.E. groups across the nation and continues to raise awareness where it is needed most, the judicial system.
Three laws C.A.A.R.E. hopes to pass in the future include — having child abuse taught by a school resource officer, requiring an SRO officer to be present during a DCS interview and establishing a child abuse registry similar to a sex offender registry.
Cooper is a long-time C.A.A.R.E. supporter and serves on its board of directors. He says the unbelievable amount of cases that come through his office are evidence enough that something in the system needs to be reworked.
“The numbers are astronomical and that's what you have to remind yourself when you hear stories of DCS making a mistake. Everybody wants to come down on them and you have to keep in mind their caseloads are huge,” Cooper says. “As a prosecutor, cases involving children are some of the most difficult ones that you'll encounter.”
One of the more shocking things about child abuse cases, he says, is how rarely people seem to care about them compared to other types of cases. He cited the Aguilar case last week as one example.
“It seems like nowadays, people will get worked up about a lot of things, everything from trees to dogs. We get calls like crazy, but nobody seems to get worked up about cases involving children,” Cooper says. “This week is a good example, in that we had a three-month-old baby that was killed and I think there was one person that came to court on behalf of the child and that was his great-grandmother.”
One change Cooper said he and other district attorneys across the state have advocated is to the current reckless endangerment laws, specifically the “actual harm doctrine.” The law currently states that if a child is neglected, placed in harm's way or subject to unfit living conditions, if no evidence of the child having received physical harm can be proven, the parents can't be charged with a crime, Cooper says.
Just because a child hasn't physically been harmed yet doesn't mean its health and well being are not still in danger, he says.
“It's for those cases where a three-year-old is found walking alone in the neighborhood, or out in the street and the parents are either asleep, at a bar or something like that. The way the law in Tennessee is currently structured, you can't charge a parent with abuse and neglect unless the child is actually harmed,” Cooper says.
“In those cases, fortunately, law enforcement usually gets there in time to save the kid before they actually get hit by a car or get hurt some other way, which is great, but on the other hand, because the child is not hurt, there's not a crime that's been committed by the parent.”
When asked what he believes has delayed the law from passing the committee, Cooper said he doesn't yet know the details, although he thinks it could be money-driven, because more incarcerated criminals means more state dollars.
“Every time a bill is passed, the first thing they do is ask what it will cost the state? And usually when you are enacting a new crime or changing a law to add a crime there will be some costs, because you will have people arrested and going through the court system that wouldn't have before,” Cooper says.
“I intend to look back and see what exactly happened to it and what were the issues that caused it not to pass.”
Assistant District Attorney Kyle Dodd says he also doesn't understand why the bill did not pass the committee because of the increasing number of cases each year and those that get dismissed for this reason. To him, steps like these are what legislators should be taking, and if it is a case of money, then he considers it “money well spent.”
“As an elected official, you would assume you would get a lot of mileage out of saying, ‘Look what I passed, look what I voted for,' but that hasn't happened yet and I couldn't begin to tell you why,” Dodd says.
“I know that changing the law is not something that can be done with a snap of the finger, I understand all of that, but I don't see what the downside is and I don't understand for the life of me why every politician wouldn't be falling all over themselves to write that bill.”
Dodd worked with Cooper on the Aguilar case. He has worked on several child abuse cases in the past but says Aguilar's was the first one involving a murder.
It's cases like these that he says affect him the most. Like Cooper, the biggest thing he notices is how few people show up to support the child. Having groups like C.A.A.R.E. fighting to give the child a voice is something he says goes beyond the legal system, but also gives the child a voice that will hopefully one day right the wrongs that they, and the state's lawmakers, feel need to be addressed immediately and with an earnest passion.
“A lot of the times the cases don't upset you, but the child abuse cases do, even in the cases where it's not nearly as severe as in this Aguilar case,” Dodd says. “As far as C.A.A.R.E. goes, it's nice to know that there are people that are interested and people that care, even in instances where, sadly, we see cases where there is nobody in the child's family speaking for the child.
“It seems like nobody cares what happens to that kid or what happens to that case. It's nice to know a group like C.A.A.R.E. exists and there are people that care about these kids even in some sad instances where their families do not.”
New Program Targets Domestic Abuse 'Hot Spots' in Mpls.
by Beth McDonough
There's a new effort to target domestic abuse "hot spots" in Minneapolis, in response to officers being called back to the same homes.
On occasion, Roxxanne O'Brien said officers have visited her home.
"Yes, I've called police many times," she said.
Those phone calls were fueled by fear, O'Brien said. Not only has she been hurt, she admits she's hurt others too.
"We're gonna lash out at people who are around us, sometimes the ones we love the most."
It's that kind of persistent volatility that Minneapolis police are pursuing with a fresh mindset.
They're starting on the North side, targeting specific neighborhoods where statistics show the most 9-1-1 calls of family violence originate: Fremont and Lowry, Folwell, 36th and Penn, Penn and Lowry, 26th and Emerson and 26th and Penn.
During a six year period, from 2007 to 2013, there were nearly 18,000 calls from those areas. More than 600 of them came from homes near 36th and Penn Avenue N.
Instead of arriving alone as they did in the past, officers will now show up with an anti-abuse advocate trained in crisis intervention. Those advocates will meet the victim where they are, mentally and physically.
The new approach isn't just about the adults, according to Commander Bruce Folkens.
"When these kids witness violence, we want to intervene in that and help these kids so that doesn't become normal," he said.
It's about closing the gap on people too afraid to file a report and hold an abuser accountable. It's also about curtailing the cruelty inside from spreading outside, in the form of other crimes.
O'Brien understands why victims can be hesitant to come forward.
"When people call police, it's our last resort; sometimes police come and make it worse," she said.
Or better, according to Shaquille Dixon.
"It might save someone," Dixon said.
Cmdr. Folkens calls it proactive policing.
"We want to be on the front end of the problem-solving rather than come in after the fact."
A $125,000 federal grant is funding the pilot program. If the program demonstrates results, it could expand citywide.
The Minneapolis Police Department is working with the Domestic Abuse Project for the program. Find out more about the Domestic Abuse Project here.
Officer reunited with newborn he found in dumpster in 1989
by The Associated Press
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — An officer who found an abandoned newborn in a garbage dumpster was reunited with the now 25-year-old man he helped save.
Santa Ana police officer Michael Buelna and Robin Barton met recently in an emotional reunion, KABC-TV reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/1PJ1yHs).
"I hoped that someday I would see him again," Buelna said.
Buelna was on duty in November 1989 when he heard a faint sound coming from a trash bin. Buelna started shifting through the trash and discovered a baby, his umbilical cord still attached. The child was just four hours old and weighed 4 pounds, 2 ounces.
"He still had all the mucus and stuff, and all the trash and gravel was sticking to him," Buelna said. "I tried to give him a tiny little bit of breath, and he reacted a little bit."
Buelna wanted to adopt the boy, but another Orange County family stepped in first. They named him Robin Barton.
Officers released a sketch of Barton's 19-year-old biological mother, later identified as Sarina Diaz, to the public. She was arrested and later sentenced to three years in prison for child endangerment and attempted murder.
Barton said he was "blessed with a great family" who raised him. In their meeting with Buelna, Barton's adoptive father, Daniel Fernandez, expressed his gratitude toward the officer.
"I had the opportunity to shake his hand and look in his eyes and say, 'Thank you for saving his life,' " Fernandez said.
KCBS-TV reports that news of the reunion led Barton's biological father to come forward. The two met Sunday, and Barton learned from Marcos Meza that his biological mother moved to Mexico after serving her sentence and wants to see him.
Meza said he had an affair with Barton's 19-year-old biological mother and only found out Barton had been abandoned in a dumpster when police questioned him. Meza said he has been searching for his son for years.
"It's a dream" to meet his son, he said.
Barton said he hopes that meeting his biological mother will also provide closure. "I'm not angry or upset with her, and I forgive her because she was a young woman in a very compromising position," he said.
After a decade of terror, Cleveland captives on their scars — and futures
by Susan Page
CLEVELAND — Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, freed two years ago after being imprisoned and abused by Ariel Castro for a decade, believe there undoubtedly are other young women being held captive today in similarly desperate circumstances.
"Stay strong and stay positive, and never give up hope," Berry urges them, just in case they can hear her words. During their own captivity, they spent hours watching television, heartened when they saw news about their families' appeals and vigils after they had disappeared without a trace.
"Know you're going to have some hard times," DeJesus adds, "but you can get through it."
In an interview with USA TODAY, what is remarkable about the pair are not the scars from their unspeakable ordeal – though there are scars, physical and psychological – but their resilience. Berry giggles. DeJesus sneaks a cigarette. When a midday storm erupts, they erupt in laughter as gusts of wind off the Cuyahoga River turn their umbrellas inside-out and they are pelted by rainfall.
Their 321-page book, published Monday by Viking, is titled Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland . The third young woman imprisoned with them, Michelle Knight, last year wrote her own memoir, Finding Me , but Berry and DeJesus have never before detailed in public what happened to them.
For Berry, it began the day before her 17th birthday when she accepted the offer of a ride from a schoolmate's father. She would be 27 and the mother of a 6-year-old daughter by her rapist before she would smash through a door panel to win their freedom. A year after Berry's abduction, DeJesus was just 14 years old when Castro convinced her to get in his car to help find his daughter, a friend of hers.
She would spend most of her teenage years chained first in his basement and then in a small upstairs bedroom where no sunlight could get through the boarded-up windows. They often subsisted on once-a-day meals of cold fast food.
They weren't set on writing a book when they were rescued, but eventually they grew frustrated by the accounts and assumptions of others.
"I felt like there were so many people telling our story, what they thought was our story, and I just felt like maybe our voices weren't heard," Berry says. "I definitely wanted to tell my side. I think Gina, too, right?" She turns to her friend.
"I also wanted to talk to people to, like, tell them to watch out and be aware," DeJesus says. "I think we were just tired of people talking, trying to tell our stories, and they had no idea, no clue, what we went through."
THE FIRST DAY
Writing the book meant reliving the story.
The hardest part for Berry was remembering that first day — questioning herself for getting in his car, for not realizing what he had in mind, for finding herself in his basement and helpless as he ordered her to drop her pants. She had kept a diary, written in a series of small journals and on scraps of paper. That helped provide a wealth of dates and detail for the book, written with Washington Post reporters Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan.
"I haven't talked about it, and I kind of just wanted to forget about all that and never talk about it again," she says. "But then of course when we talked about it with Mary and Kevin, it was just, it was just – it took me back there." When recalling some of those memories, "we had boxes and boxes of tissues for those days."
The two young women refer to the ramshackle residence at 2207 Seymour Avenue, now demolished, as "the house." Over two hours of conversation, neither ever says their kidnapper's name; he is just "him."
Castro was manipulative, shrewd and careful, initially keeping the young women separated and setting one against the other. Berry and DeJesus became friendly only toward the end of their captivity, and better friends after they were free. Relations with Knight still seem strained. A Lifetime TV movie based on her story, Cleveland Abduction , is slated to air Saturday, four days before the second anniversary of their freedom.
By every account, Castro was a brute, taunting DeJesus as a "dumbass" and beating Knight until she miscarried several times. He used all three as sex slaves, blaming his behavior on abuse he said he suffered as a child. Berry devised a code in her diary to track the number of times he raped her each day. "4X" is the notation at the top of some those early days' entries, "5X" on others.
When she became pregnant and was going into labor, he dragged a small plastic swimming pool from the attic to her bedroom, apparently to protect the mattress. Later, when he showed kindness and affection toward their daughter, Berry found her feelings toward him becoming more complicated. Even today, she struggles to make sense of that.
"I don't want anybody to ever think, 'Oh, how could you care for him after everything he did to you guys?' because I'm still confused to this day about that," Berry says. "There will always be this hate for him and for everything that he did. But when Jocelyn came, I just saw a different side to him. I saw him as a father to her. So it made me feel a different way toward him. ...
"I didn't want to feel like that," she adds. "That kind of made me feel, why do you feel that way? What are you doing?"
DeJesus' feelings toward Castro are simpler. "I can't stand him," she says. She is sorry that he committed suicide in jail, one month after being sentenced to serve life plus 1,000 years, because "I wanted him ... to suffer, the way he did us, what he put us through."
'THE WORLD KNEW'
When they were freed, Berry wanted two things: A headstone for the grave of her mother and a birth certificate for her daughter.
Her mother, Louwana Miller, had died during her captivity, in March 2006, still pressing the police and the public not to stop trying to find her. Her daughter, Jocelyn Jade Berry, was born nine months later, on Christmas Day. Berry believes she was conceived the morning after her mother died. The baby gave all three captives hope.
"For Jocelyn, I felt like finally the world knew about her," Berry says with a mother's open pride. "She was a person now. She wasn't a secret anymore. So for her to get her certificate, that was a big day." But Berry listed only her name on the birth certificate, not that of the father.
Both women have celebrated birthdays this month. Berry turned 29, DeJesus 25. Over a decade of terror and tedium, they lost the years when their friends and classmates were finishing high school, getting married, starting jobs. Those are fundamentals of life that they still are sorting out. Both now live with family members in Cleveland — Berry with her sister's family, DeJesus with her parents.
Since breaking free, Berry has gotten seven tattoos, most recently a large colorful flower that spreads on her left shoulder. DeJesus is thinking about whether to get a first, small butterfly tattoo on her wrist, in part to cover scars from the chains that bound her for so long.
That contrast mirrors their personalities. Berry, blond and sporting a pink sweater set and pants, is a fast talker with a confident manner. DeJesus, whose dark hair cascades onto her shoulders, is more likely to pause before she speaks, measuring her words.
When she finds herself remembering the difficult details of her captivity, DeJesus says she will "find a place to just put it like we always did," to compartmentalize it in her mind so she can move on.
For Berry, the sight of a box from Georgio's Pizza – the place where Castro frequently brought food home for them – or the sound of the Spanish music he listened to can trigger a flood of bad memories and a day of depression. A few days earlier, for the first time since she had been freed, she had found herself at the McDonald's where Castro had been arrested. "I had a funny feeling; I don't know what it was," she says. "Two years later, I still feel that."
Both have trouble trusting anyone they didn't know before their abduction, and they are sometimes uncomfortable when people recognize them on the street and want to talk or take a picture with them.
"I don't allow a lot of outsiders in," Berry says. "I stay with the people I know because I just feel more comfortable that way. You just never know, why do they want to be in your life, you know what I mean?"
"I feel like it's hard to trust," DeJesus agrees.
At the moment, though, they could be 20-something friends anywhere, sketching dreams about their futures. Both would like to earn their high school diplomas, to marry, to raise families, to have careers. Doing what? Before being abducted, Berry had thought about a career in the fashion field, though now she's considering psychology. For now, her focus is on Jocelyn, who started school last fall and is doing well, she says.
"I wanted to design my own clothes," DeJesus recalls.
"We should do that together!" Berry says, and they laugh.