Mistrial declared in murder of 6-year-old Etan Patz
A judge in New York State Supreme court called a mistrial in the trial of a man who confessed to killing 6-year-old Etan Patz.
Pedro Hernandez, 54, a disabled factory worker confessed in 2012 to killing Etan in 1979. The defense claims that the confession was the result of Hernandez's mental incapacities exacerbated by several hours of police questioning.
The mistrial declared on Friday comes after the jury deliberated for 18 days, since April 15, and three times notified Justice Maxwell Wiley that it was unable to reach a verdict. After the first two messages Wiley ordered the jury to continue deliberating.
Etan, who was Jewish, went missing on May 25, 1979, in the SoHo area of New York City after walking to a bus stop by himself for the first time. He was among the first missing children to have his face pictured on a milk carton. His body and personal effects were never found.
Jose Ramos, 68, a convicted pedophile who served a 20-year prison sentence for molesting a young boy, was declared responsible for Etan's death in a 2004 civil case.
Following the declaration of a mistrial, the prosecution immediately requested a second trial. Hernandez will remain in jail while awaiting the second trial.
Eleven jury members were in favor of conviction and one wanted to acquit Hernandez, jurors said following the trial.
“We are frustrated and very disappointed the jury has been unable to make a decision. The long ordeal is not over,” said Stanley Patz, Etan's father.
Study: bullying has effects later in life
(CNN)- Bullying can be defined by many things. It's teasing, name-calling, stereotyping, fighting, exclusion, spreading rumors, public shaming and aggressive intimidation. It can be in person and online. But it can no longer be considered a rite of passage that strengthens character, new research suggests.
Adolescents who are bullied by their peers actually suffer from worse long-term mental health effects than children who are maltreated by adults, based on a study published last week in The Lancet Psychiatry.
The findings were a surprise to Dr. Dieter Wolke and his team that led the study, who expected the two groups to be similarly affected. However, because children tend to spend more time with their peers, it stands to reason that if they have negative relationships with one another, the effects could be severe and long-lasting, he said. They also found that children maltreated by adults were more likely to be bullied.
The researchers discovered that children who were bullied are more likely to suffer anxiety, depression and consider self-harm and suicide later in life.
While all children face conflict, disagreements between friends can usually be resolved in some way. But the repetitive nature of bullying is what can cause such harm, Wolke said.
"Bullying is comparable to a scenario for a caged animal," he said. "The classroom is a place where you're with people you didn't choose to be with, and you can't escape them if something negative happens."
Children can internalize the harmful effects of bullying, which creates stress-related issues such as anxiety and depression, or they can externalize it by turning from a victim to a bully themselves. Either way, the result has a painful impact.
The study also concluded with a call to action, suggesting that while the government has justifiably focused on addressing maltreatment and abuse in the home, they should also consider bullying as a serious problem that requires schools, health services and communities to prevent, respond to or stop this abusive culture from forming.
"It's a community problem," Wolke said. "Physicians don't ask about bullying. Health professionals, educators and legislation could provide parents with medical and social resources. We all need to be trained to ask about peer relationships."
Division and misunderstanding are some of the motivations behind bullying because they highlight differences. If children don't understand those differences, they can form negative associations, said Johanna Eager, director for the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's Welcoming Schools program.
Programs such as Welcoming Schools, for kindergarten through fifth grade, and Not in Our School, a movement for kindergarten through high school, want to help teachers, parents and children to stop a culture of bullying from taking hold in a school or community.
They offer lesson plans, staff training and speakers for schools, as well as events for parents.
Welcoming Schools is focused on helping children embrace diversity and overcome stereotypes at a young age. It's the best place to start to prevent damaging habits that could turn into bullying by middle school or high school.
The lesson plans aim to help teachers and students by encouraging that our differences are positive aspects rather than negatives, whether it be in appearance, gender or religion, Eager said. They are also designed to help teachers lead discussions and answer tough questions that might come up.
Teachable moments present themselves in these classrooms daily, and Welcoming Schools offers resources to navigate those difficult moments. If they are prepared, teachers can address it and following up with a question.
They cover questions from "Why do you think it's wrong for a boy to wear pink?" and "What does it mean to be gay or lesbian?" to "Would you be an ally or a bystander if someone was picking on your friend?" and "Why does it hurt when someone says this?"
Welcoming Schools is present in more than 30 states, working with about 500 schools and 115 districts.
Not in Our School has the same mission to create identity-safe school climates that encourage acceptance. They want to help build empathy in students and encourage them to become "upstanders" rather than bystanders.
Their lesson plans and videos, viewed by schools across the country, include teaching students about how to safely intervene in a situation, reach out to a trusted adult, befriend a bullied child or be an activist against bullying. While the role of teachers, counselors and resource officers will always be important, peer-to-peer relationships make a big difference, said Becki Cohn-Vargas, director of Not in Our Schools.
These positive practices can help build self-esteem and don't focus on punishing bullies because the emphasis is on restorative justice: repairing harm and helping children and teens to change their aggressive behavior.
But it can't be up to the schools alone.
"What's really important is getting the public and the medical world to recognize bullying for what it is -- a serious issue," Cohn-Vargas said.
#IWishMyTeacherKnew shares students' heartbreak, hopes
Bullying, the study suggests, is a global issue. It is particularly prevalent in countries where there are rigid class divisions between higher and lower income families, Wolke said.
Dr. Tracy Vaillancourt, a University of Ottawa professor and Canada Research Chair for Children's Mental Health and Violence Prevention, believes that defining bullying can help in how we address it. Look at it as a behavior that causes harm, rather than normal adolescent behavior, she said.
Role models should also keep a close eye on their own behavior, she said. Sometimes, adults can say or do things in front of their children that mimic aggressive behavior, such gossiping, demeaning others, encouraging their children to hit back or allowing sibling rivalry to escalate into something more harmful.
Parents, beware of bullying on sites you've never seen
"We tend to admire power," Vaillancourt said. "But we also tend to abuse power, because we don't talk about achieving power in an appropriate way. Bullying is part of the human condition, but that doesn't make it right. We should be taking care of each other. "
The study compared young adults in the United States and the United Kingdom who were maltreated and bullied in childhood. Data was collected from two separate studies, comparing 4,026 participants from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children in the UK and 1,273 participants from the Great Smoky Mountain Study in the U.S.
The UK data looked at maltreatment from the ages of 8 weeks to 8.6 years, bullying at ages 8, 10 and 13 and the mental health effects at age 18. The U.S. study presented data on bullying and maltreatment between the ages of 9 and 16, and the mental health effects from ages 19 to 25.
Child abuse an epidemic in our region
by William D'Aiuto
April was recognized nationally as Child Abuse Prevention Month. It's troublesome to fathom that we commit a month to this cause. Nevertheless, the ugly truth is that child abuse is a widespread epidemic that needs to be quarantined.
The statistics are staggering and elimination of this behavior needs emphasizing. There have been 15 child deaths in Marion, Citrus, Sumter, Lake and Hernando counties alone reported to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) in the first four months of this year. Unfortunately, this number will likely increase.
Last year, 27 children in these counties lost their lives too soon. Of those 27, nearly one-fourth died as a result of abuse. In 2014, DCF investigated 11,677 cases of alleged abuse and/or neglect of children in those five counties. To clarify, that is 11,677 cases too many. Undoubtedly, parents and caregivers have a responsibility to ensure their kids are free from abuse, neglect or any maltreatment. Research shows that smart and nurturing relationships, along with stimulating and stable environments, improve brain development and child wellbeing. On the other hand, neglectful or abusive experiences and unstable or stressful environments increase the odds of poor childhood outcomes. Furthermore, the abuse and neglect of children can cause severe, costly and lifelong problems affecting all of society, including physical and mental health problems, trouble in school and criminal mischief.
In addition, research shows that parents and caregivers who know how to seek help in times of trepidation are more resilient and better able to provide safe environments for their children.
Undoubtedly individuals, businesses, schools, media and faith-based and community organizations must lead the cause and take action to support the physical, social, emotional and educational development of all children. By working together, we can improve prevention and recovery efforts and change the path of the lives of vulnerable children and families.
Certainly we can do this in many ways, from supporting and mentoring a young struggling mother, to fostering or adopting a child who needs a home, to teaching adults how to exercise patience with young children. Together we can identify at-risk children before they reach the child welfare system and help provide the support and opportunities they need to grow up healthy and strong.
Finally, to echo the sentiments of our secretary, Mike Carroll, Child Abuse Prevention Month is a reminder that we all must be advocates for children. No one person or organization can do it alone. This past month reminds us who and what it takes to protect children — and that is all of us working together to protect the light in every child.
William D'Aiuto lives in Ocala and is regional managing director for the Florida Department of Children and Families.
‘An Open Secret' Shines Light on Child Sex Abuse in Hollywood
by Daniel Nussbaum
(Trailer on site)
An Open Secret , directed by Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Amy Berg, examines the prevalence of child sex abuse amongst the bright lights and allure of the Hollywood entertainment industry.
According to Deadline, the film focuses on interviews and testimony from sex abuse victims, including former child stars Corey Feldman and Todd Bridges. It will also reportedly examine sex abuse accusations leveled at various high-level entertainment executives, including talent managers Marty Weiss, Michael Harrah, and Bob Villard, who represented a young Leonardo DiCaprio before pleading no contest to felony charges of committing a lewd act on a child in 2005.
The film is, expectedly, not without controversy. One of the victims included in the film is Michael Egan, who withdrew several sex abuse lawsuits against X-Men director Bryan Singer and other Hollywood executives last year. Last month, Egan reportedly pleaded guilty to investment fraud in North Carolina and could face up to five years in prison.
In a statement, executive producer Gabe Hoffman defended Egan's inclusion in the film, saying the scope of his involvement extends only to accusations made against Marc Collins-Rector, the Digital Entertainment Network (DEN) founder who pleaded guilty in 2004 to luring five minors across state lines for sex.
“In the film, Egan does not discuss any of the allegations made in the lawsuits filed on his behalf in 2014,” Hoffman said. “Those lawsuits, subsequently withdrawn, were filed well after, and completely independently from, his participation in An Open Secret .”
“Clearly, Egan has experience great difficulties in his life following the sexual abuse he suffered while a teenager at DEN,” Hoffman added. “We applaud Mike's courage to appear in the film, and decry any efforts to use these unrelated difficulties to undermine the film's credibility and deflect from the issue of child sexual abuse in Hollywood portrayed in the film.”
Berg, the director, is no stranger to controversial filmmaking. She scored an Oscar nomination in 2007 for her film Deliver Us From Evil , about disgraced Catholic priest Father Oliver O'Grady, and also directed the BAFTA-nominated documentary West of Memphis , about the legal case against the West Memphis Three.
An Open Secret will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival later this month, before getting a limited theatrical release in 20 cities beginning June 5.
Travis Co. Sees Rise In Child Sexual Abuse Cases
by Nadia Galindo
Sexual abuse of children is more common than many may think.
"Absolutely we've seen an increase in cases," said Amanda Van Hoozer, director of program services at the Center for Child Protection.
The Center for Child Protection in Travis County conducted 796 forensic interviews with children in 2014. Of those interviews, 65 percent were for sexual abuse cases and 90 percent knew their offender.
The Center for Child Protection conducted the forensic interviews with the two children who came forward and reported a six-year-old girl being sexually abused by a bus driver. The allegations initiated an investigation that led to the arrest of 61-year-old Leon Young this week. He is now charged with aggravated sexual assault.
Van Hoozer said children usually make an outcry to an adult but experts believe many cases go unreported.
"Specifically with child sexual abuse it's very private, its very secret, so you don't have very many instances where someone witnesses, but it certainly does happen," Van Hoozer said.
That's why parents are encouraged to have a conversation about inappropriate touching with their children.
Van Hoozer say, "Parents should talk to their kids from the time that they are itty bity in an age appropriate way."
Also look for signs that something isn't right.
According to the Center for Child Protection website signs include:
-Changes in behavior
Steps to prevent abuse include:
-Listen to your child
-Know who is in contact with your child
-Avoid one adult/one child situations
-Monitor your child's internet and cell phone use
-Offer and ask for help
-Educate your child
-Give your child permission to say "no"
You can report child abuse by calling the Texas abuse hotline at 1-800-252-5400.
Surviving and Thriving: Sexual abuse survivor looks to spread awareness
by Mike Gibson
When Rhonda Stinnett first saw the news of a recent court case — wherein a Blount County man was sentenced to probation after the alleged physical and sexual abuse of three young children — she felt sick.
Then she felt anger, and then, finally, resolve. Armed with that resolve, she feels moved to share her own experience, in hopes that other children will be spared from the pain she endured.
“Something inside me just clicked,” says Stinnett. “I could not sit back any longer and not try to do something to help victims of childhood sexual abuse.”
Stinnett knows, because she was a victim herself. Growing up in what she describes as a “Ward and June Cleaver 2.0 household,” she nonetheless was targeted at the age of 3 by a close family friend who took advantage of her vulnerability and naivete.
“My abuser told me that if I told anybody, it would mess up everything, all the relationships,” says Stinnett. “And I believed him. So I kept the secret.”
Stinnett was sexually abused by the man for 10 years. “I spent a lot of my childhood being fearful because of it,” she says.
Then, at age 13, the abuse abruptly came to an end. “I thought it might be because I was getting older,” Stinnett says. “But now I fear it was because he found someone else.
“And that's hard for me to carry — the thought that if I had only spoken up ...”
Guilt was but one element of the extensive emotional fallout from her experience. “It's not something you just get over,” Stinnett says. “You can't just have someone say some kind words and get better.
“Every so often, some other aspect of it will pop up, and I will go back and seek therapy again.”
Stinnett began therapy at age 29, “as a birthday gift to myself.” It was at that time that she finally began to come to grips with her abuse. A year later, she came out and told her parents and sibling.
“I needed to let go of it all,” she says. “My parents did not know. It was hard for them to hear. They couldn't understand, at first, why I hadn't felt like I could tell them about it before.”
Now happily married with three grown children of her own, Stinnett says her husband — Gary Stinnett, a youth pastor at First Baptist Church in Maryville — learned of her experience early in their marriage.
Gary Stinnett says now that, despite his initial feelings of sadness and anger, “It enabled me to understand some things better.
“I began to look back on some of her traits, things I'd seen about her ever since we dated, and I could say, that makes sense now,” the youth pastor says. “It's been a work in progress. But a lot of the credit goes to her spirituality.”
Gary Stinnett is referring to his wife's decision, some years ago, to let go of the grief and anger lingering from her decade of abuse. “It was kind of a God moment for me,” she says.
“At one point, I really felt like I need to go to (her abuser) face to face,” she says. “Then I prayed about it, and God gave me the forgiveness I needed. He took away the anger and guilt, and I no longer needed anything from this person.”
Still, Stinnett says she felt an instinct to protect her own children, and other children who might find themselves trapped in an abusive circumstance.
She'll be speaking at upcoming events through New Hope-Blount County Children's Advocacy Center in Maryville, and she says she'd like to “become more of an advocate” against childhood sexual abuse.
New Hope is a full-service child advocacy center, providing a number of services — therapy, medical exams, forensic interviews — for area children who have been referred as potential victims of sexual or severe physical abuse.
According to Executive Director Tabitha Damron, New Hope served 450 children in 2014. That was 100 more than the agency saw the year before.
“Our community needs to focus on prevention, and Rhonda's story is the perfect segue into our efforts to educate people.”
One of New Hope's outreach programs is the Stewards of Children education program. Damron says the program, which offers training in how to spot and respond to abusive situations.
“Our goal is to train at least 5 percent of the population,” Damron says. “Because research shows that level of education can really effect change in a community as to how it reacts to child abuse.”
The Stewards of Children program involves two-hour training sessions, led by a facilitator. New Hope stages public trainings several times throughout the year.
And Damron says the agency will schedule free sessions for businesses, churches and civic groups that request it, as well. “If you can get 10 or 15 people together, we'll come out and train you.”
Damron says Stinnett came through her ordeal better than many victims, primarily because she came from a strong, loving family.
But other victims suffer lifelong problems as a result of their abuse — emotional issues, depression, alcoholism, suicidal inclinations.
“It affects everything about the development of your brain and your body,” Damron says. “The long-term cost can be huge.
“This is a topic we have to begin talking about. People want to believe it isn't happening. But it is happening, and it's happening in Blount County.”
Stinnett agrees. “When I was a child, it was something that just wasn't talked about,” she says. “We didn't talk about it. We didn't have the education in school.
“But we need to quit whispering about it in the corner now. If I had had someone telling me, at some point in my childhood, that it was OK, that I could talk about what was happening ... it might have made all the difference.”
In quest for healing, an advocate is forged for victims of sexual abuse
When entrepreneur Matt Lauzon raised allegations against a former Biddeford police officer on social media, he never expected the groundswell he'd unleash.
by Gillian Graham
BIDDEFORD — Again and again it happened: blue lights flashing through the windows of the living room where Matt Lauzon played video games with his friends. He was 13 or 14 at the time, and the lights were a constant reminder that he was being watched by the police officer he says abused him.
Racked with fear, he says he kept the abuse secret for more than a decade until he realized he couldn't help other abuse survivors without first being open about what had happened to him.
“I feel guilt and shame that I didn't speak up sooner and that (the police officer) has never been convicted,” said Lauzon, who is now 30 and a tech entrepreneur in Boston.
When he finally went to police about 15 years after he says he was abused, Lauzon found himself leading a push for prosecution that has caused him many tears and sleepless nights. That overwhelming emotion is worth it, he says, because “at the end of the day, the most important thing is helping people heal.”
Four months after bringing his allegations to authorities and growing frustrated by the pace of the investigation, Lauzon in March began posting on social media his allegations of sexual abuse at the hands of a police officer while growing up in Biddeford. Lauzon now stands at the center of a scandal that has rocked the city and prompted other alleged victims of two now-retired police officers to come forward. They, like him, are questioning why the officers were never charged.
The public outcry has also led city officials – frustrated by a law that restricts them from talking about ongoing investigations – to push for emergency legislation that would allow them to talk about the allegations that former police officer Stephen Dodd sexually abused Lauzon in the late 1990s.
Dodd was investigated but not charged after similar allegations, involving a different alleged victim, emerged in 2002. After that investigation, Dodd retired from law enforcement at the age of 46 and moved to Florida, where he apparently still lives. His attorney, Gene Libby, has not responded to repeated requests for comment. A second former police officer, Norman Gaudette, was investigated after allegations by different victims surfaced in the early 1990s. He, too, was not charged. Attempts to reach Gaudette for comment have been unsuccessful.
Lauzon, who is the founder of a business networking startup in Boston, is using his social media following to demand a thorough investigation and the suspension of Police Chief Roger Beaupre, who has held that job for 34 years and was in charge during the time when Lauzon says he was abused. His steady stream of Facebook posts about his frustration and outrage at the slow pace of the investigation has rallied supporters from across the country, most of whom he's never met.
Lauzon listens thoughtfully when people share their stories with him, maintaining constant eye contact. He occasionally breaks down in tears and is often effusive in his praise of the courage of abuse survivors and their supporters. That gentle approach stands in stark contrast to the aggressive – and at times combative – presence he uses online to demand answers from city and state officials.
Lauzon said he never expected to hear from more than 100 abuse victims after sharing his story. Many of them tell him he is the first person they've told about their abuse, he said.
“With social media came a really powerful connection that was healing,” Lauzon said.
But Lauzon's frequent Facebook posts and emails about the investigation have caused headaches for police and city officials, who say they can't respond to his claims that they looked the other way or that they have not investigated his allegations. Lauzon sends at least one email to city officials every day and frequently posts on the police department's Facebook page. He has also shared a video he recorded of himself confronting another man he says sexually abused him.
Biddeford's city attorney has twice sent letters to Lauzon's attorney, Walter McKee, asking Lauzon to stop calling and emailing city officials because McKee has begun his own investigation and has threatened to sue the city. Beaupre blocked Lauzon on Facebook after he repeatedly tagged the chief in posts about the abuse allegations.
Bob Mills, one of two Biddeford city councilors who have spoken publicly in support of Lauzon, said Lauzon deserves credit for speaking out about his allegations and forcing the issue with city officials.
“He had the courage to come forward because for many, many years people kept this under wraps,” Mills said. “It took someone with courage to bring this to light.”
THE FIRST TIME
Lauzon grew up in a house tucked away on a quiet dead-end street within walking distance of Biddeford High School. A few blocks away are the Little League fields where he once pitched for his team, a memory that is now entwined with his story of being sexually abused for the first time.
Lauzon was raised with two brothers by their parents, Michael, a mailman who coached youth sports, and Debbie, who worked as secretary for a doctor's office. Michael Lauzon died unexpectedly eight years ago when Matt was a sophomore in college. In a blog posted on the anniversary of his father's death, Lauzon said his father taught him to “Pick your battles … and once you have, fight like hell for what you believe in.”
Debbie Lauzon, who still lives in the home where she raised her children, did not reply to a reporter's requests for an interview. She often posts supportive messages on her son's Facebook posts and was by his side last week as he confronted city officials.
Matt Lauzon said he was around 13 when he was abused by a convicted sex offender he met while walking home from his job cleaning a local bank. The man approached him and complimented his pitching during Little League games, Lauzon said. They ended up going back to the man's house, where Lauzon said he was sexually abused.
A few weeks later, Biddeford detectives went to the Lauzon house because they heard the boy might have had contact with Michael McKeown, the registered sex offender Lauzon now says abused him. Ashamed and afraid, he said he told them nothing had happened. (McKeown last week told the Portland Press Herald he did not abuse Lauzon but had a consensual encounter with Lauzon after the younger man had turned 18.)
Shortly after meeting with the detectives, Lauzon said he received a note through an online instant messaging service from Dodd, then a police sergeant, offering to help the teen. Lauzon says he does not know how Dodd obtained his instant messaging account or learned about his conversation with the detectives.
“I felt a sense of relief, as I had regretted not talking to the two detectives and it felt like this was a chance to talk to an officer I could trust,” Lauzon said.
Instead, Lauzon alleges, Dodd abused him during multiple encounters in cars and the woods. After Lauzon cut off contact with Dodd, the officer would park near Lauzon's home and flash his lights to intimidate the teen, Lauzon said. The Press Herald has left messages on the voice mail of a cellphone number that Dodd was using as recently as 2011; they were not returned.
For more than a decade, Lauzon never told anyone about what happened.
After graduating from Biddeford High School in 2003, Lauzon attended Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. In 2006, while still in college, he founded the jewelry website Gemvara, which amassed $51 million in venture funding by 2012, when Lauzon stepped down as CEO to focus on other projects.
Lauzon then founded Dunwello, a website for reviews of professionals that launched last year. He raised nearly $2 million in seed funding for that venture. Lauzon, now the CEO of Dunwello, was named to Inc. Magazine's 2011 “30 Under 30? list and Business Week's “Top Entrepreneurs Under the Age of 25.” He lives in Boston but visits Maine frequently.
Bob Hower, a Boston business associate and friend who came to Maine to support Lauzon during last week's City Council meeting, said Lauzon is considered a leader in the startup community in Boston. Lauzon is “an incredibly honest and trustworthy guy,” said Hower, a Dunwello investor.
“He is a leader because he is authentic, he inspires people, he motivates people, he is action-oriented,” Hower said during the meeting. “You guys are really fortunate to have Matt and these other courageous people in this town because they're going to make a difference.”
While he found success in his career, Lauzon said the abuse weighed heavily on him. His turning point in confronting the allegations came after reading an article in The Guardian by tech entrepreneur Ruzana Bashir, who wrote about being molested as a child. Lauzon contacted Bashir, and they ended up speaking by phone. Bashir encouraged him to report the abuse, and Lauzon contacted Maine State Police, which sent his information to Biddeford police.
In late October, Lauzon sat down for an interview with a Biddeford detective, who then forwarded the complaint to the Attorney General's Office for investigation. It was the last time he has spoken face to face with an investigator. The Attorney General's Office confirmed this month that it is investigating allegations that a former Biddeford police officer sexually abused a teenage boy in the late 1990s but would say nothing else about the investigation.
“There needs to be a fair and objective investigation,” Lauzon said. “I simply do not believe that's happened.”
‘PILLAR OF HOPE'
As frustrated as Lauzon is with the investigation, he said he remains hopeful that something good will come out of the public outcry in Biddeford. On Saturday, Lauzon spoke at a forum hosted by Sen. David Dutremble, D-Biddeford, designed to give alleged sex abuse victims a chance to share their stories. This week, the pair will meet with Gov. Paul LePage.
“I believe the more awareness we bring publicly about sexual abuse, the more we will help survivors heal and prevent young women and men from being abused,” Lauzon said. “I believe if we speak more openly about abuse that survivors will feel less alone and realize they can achieve whatever their definition of success is.”
Melissa Bednarowski, a former city councilor in Biddeford, said she spoke publicly about her experience with sexual abuse for the first time last week because of Lauzon's influence. She calls him a “pillar of hope for victims.”
“He's a beacon of positive energy and positive light and proof you can succeed and get past the victimization,” she said. “He shows you can speak your truth once you have your confidence. We don't often see that because often victims never feel comfortable enough to come forward.”
Lauzon said he is still caught off guard by the emotional weight of hearing from sex abuse victims who have never before spoken about what they endured.
It's heartbreaking, he says, but also gives him strength and hope that sexual abuse survivors can come together to demand justice and change.
“I can tell you this has been absolute torture,” Lauzon told city officials last week as he spoke publicly for the first time about the allegations.”I hope you understand what it is like to have people call you up and say don't give up because they are on the verge of suicide and you're giving me hope.”
During the meeting, a young man Lauzon had never met stepped to speak. As the man described being abused and implored city officials to take action, Lauzon was overcome by emotion. In the hallway, he sobbed in his mother's arms before composing himself enough to address the council.
“I absolutely lost it a few minutes ago and I didn't think that would happen tonight,” Lauzon said, his voice shaky.
For four minutes, his voice growing more forceful as he continued, Lauzon described the intimidation he and other victims feel and challenged city officials to do right by victims.
“It is unfortunate to me that it's been over six months, and after I've spent a lot of time and resources, that I still have no idea where things stand,” he said. “I feel a sense of duty to keep going.”
Helping the children of the Hibbing Catholic community
by Dr Chad Scott
The sexual misconduct by a member of the clergy may cause the children associated with this community to go through a period of readjustment. What we do as adults can significantly help the children during this difficult time.
Without support, children often experience varying levels of avoidance and denial, which can prevent the utilization of healthy coping strategies. In some cases this can lead to mental and physical difficulties that can impact a variety of areas in a child's life.
Providing meaningful information to children in language that they can easily understand is crucial. Let them know that the vast majority of clergy, teachers and others in positions of authority are trustworthy, and that schools and churches are overwhelmingly safe places. They also need to understand that a small number of people in positions of authority do inappropriate things to children, and that it is important to let a parent or guardian know if he or she ever experiences such an incident.
There are a multitude of reactions that a child may have in the aftermath of a traumatic event. Some of the more common reactions include sleep problems, feeling sad or worried, guilt feelings, anger and aggression, feeling sick, being preoccupied with the event, social withdrawal and concentration problems to name just a few. Another frequently seen reaction that is more common in younger children is developmental regression, such as increased clinging, crying or soiling their clothes.
Telling a child that the way they are reacting is normal allows them to feel normal in an otherwise abnormal situation with a few exceptions.
Not all children will be able to cope effectively and that their reactions to the event may need to be evaluated by a professional. These include any behavior or emotional state that significantly interferes with daily functioning. Professional interventions need to be sought out immediately if thoughts of suicide or self-injurious behaviors, such as cutting oneself, are found to be present.
The local crisis hotline can be contacted 24-hours per day by calling 1-800-450-2273. Contact 911 immediately if a child ever appears to be in imminent danger of suicide. Never leave a suicidal person alone without first consulting a mental health professional.
In talking with their child or observing their behavior, a parent may become suspicious that their child may be a victim of sexual abuse. No one symptom or behavior universally signals sexual abuse. A consultation with a mental health professional is recommended if there are any extreme changes in a child's behavior, such as significant regression in development, hypersexuality or significantly withdrawing from others.
The police need to be contacted immediately if at any time a child discloses that they were a victim of abuse — no exceptions. Children who are sexually abused can recover from their experiences and lead satisfying lives, and early intervention can help enormously.
One of the most important things that a parent or guardian can do during this time is to encourage, not force, their child to talk about their related thoughts and feelings as often as they want to talk. Give your child your full attention and try to be as nonjudgmental as possible in your responses. Do not express frustration with your child or try to “solve” all of their concerns. Providing reassurance, helping with labeling emotions and clarifying misconceptions are very beneficial during this readjustment period.
Processing their emotions over time will help them to regain a sense of normalcy. That amount of time is unique for each child. This process can be sped up by having the child stay involved in activities and household chores.
For more information about childhood sexual abuse and prevention checkout the National Sexual Violence Resource Center's website at www.nsvrc.org or contact them by phone at 1-877-739-3895. The Range Mental Health Center as well as the St. Louis County Health and Human Services division can also provide valuable information.
Chad Scott, Ph.D. is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor with the Range Mental Health Center and Instructor with the Department of Psychology at Bemidji State University
FBI says UK man accused of rape might have more victims
by The Associated Press
EUGENE, Ore. – A man from Wales accused of traveling to Oregon to rape a 10-year-old girl he met through an online chat program has previously traveled to other states in the United States, and there might be other victims, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said.
The FBI said in a statement that it's working with local law enforcement agencies in Oregon and across the country to identify other possible victims of Gareth Vincent Hall after his arrest earlier this week.
Hall, 22, is jailed in Eugene on three counts of first-degree rape, two counts of first-degree sodomy and one count of first-degree kidnapping after allegedly traveling to the city last month and taking the girl to a hotel. Hall's public defender has not returned a phone message from The Associated Press seeking comment.
Hall and the girl spoke for two months before meeting in early April, Eugene police said. Hall allegedly picked the girl up in a rental car. The girl sneaked out of the house to go with Hall, who was in Eugene for about four days before returning to the United Kingdom, police said.
The Lane County District Attorney's office issued an arrest warrant for Hall on April 30. Less than a week later, Hall was arrested at an airport in Chicago. Authorities said he was on his way to meet someone else, but they haven't said if the person was a girl.
Hall, of Caernarfon, Wales, worked as a lifeguard before his arrest. However, the county council of the Hall's home region said in a statement that Hall had been on suspension from his job since October because of a criminal investigation by North Wales Police. The statement was provided to The Eugene Register-Guard (http://is.gd/kMO335) by the BBC.
The Gwynedd county council is a government authority in Wales and operates the center where Hall worked at the pool. The council declined to discuss the investigation.
"Whilst it would not be appropriate for us to comment on the details of the ongoing North Wales Police investigation at this stage, we can confirm that all relevant child protection procedures have been followed by the Council in the management of this case," the statement said. "Whilst we are aware of separate allegations relating to this individual that have recently appeared on U.S. online news websites, it would not be appropriate for us to comment on their contents at this stage."
Video shows man attacking pre-teen in her house
SAN JOSE – Parents of a San Jose pre-teen have released video that shows a man following their 13-year-old daughter into their house before attacking her.
Tuesday around 4 p.m. a man followed the young girl as she walked from school to her house in the 4000 block of Rio Vista Avenue.
The family's surveillance video shows a man following the girl across the street before stepping out of camera range.
The pre-teen said the man forced his way into the house and started to attack her. She was able to fight him off and the man ran off.
The young girl wasn't hurt in the attack.
He fled the residence and was last seen heading east, police said.The suspect is described as a white man between the ages of 25 and 30, weighing 155 pounds with a medium height, thin build, beard, tan complexion and dark shaggy hair, police said.
San Jose police think that this same man is responsible for another attack that happened on April 2.
In that attack, a man followed a 28-year-old woman into a public restroom at Mitsuwa Marketplace, a Japanese grocery store at 675 Saratoga Ave.
He attempted to sexually assault the woman in the restroom and fled before police arrived shortly before 1 p.m., police said.
He also had a smartphone and was seen with white earbuds in his ears, police said.
The suspect had a “weird” alcohol or cologne scent, according to police.
He may have been riding a light-blue 10-speed bicycle as well.
Related video -- (10 min video from a news broadcast which features a crime analyst)
Criminal charges usually reserved for more severe child abuse cases
by Steve Zucker
Although child abuse cases are far from rare in Northern Michigan, the number of cases that rise to the level of criminal charges being issued are fairly small.
Both Emmet County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Linderman and Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney Allen Telgenhof said each of their offices typically handles only a handful of criminal child abuse cases each year.
The child abuse statute is broken down into four degrees which are based on the seriousness of injury to the child or potential risk he or she faces, and whether the defendant's act was negligent or intentional.
First degree child abuse, which involves intentionally causing serious physical or mental harm to a child is a felony punishable by up to life in prison.
Second degree child abuse involves a person's omission or reckless act that causes serious harm to a child or an intentional act that is likely to cause serious harm or is cruel, even if the child is not actually harmed. It is punishable by up to 10 years for the first offense or 20 years for the second or subsequent offense.
Third degree child abuse intentionally causing physical harm to a child, or committing an act that poses an unreasonable risk of harm or injury to a child, and the act results in physical harm to a child. The charge is a two-year felony.
Fourth degree child abuse involves a omission or reckless act causing physical harm to a child or intentionally doing something that poses an unreasonable risk of harm or injury to a child, regardless of whether physical harm results. The charge is a one-year misdemeanor.
Both Linderman and Telgenhof said although there are many child abuse cases that are handled through Child Protective Services and/or the probate court system, yet only a handful of them — usually the most severe cases — are turned over to be considered for criminal prosecution. The reason for that, Telgenhof explained, is that the system has a much greater focus on rehabilitation, with counseling, oversight, and other types of services and trying to keep families together as much as possible. The focus is on what's best for the child, both men said.
"They (the department of human services) take a look at how severe injuries are. They look at the family unit. Is it salvageable? Is it a first time-around bruise on a child? If you have responsible parents you can work with, it's better to work into where they are getting services to ensure the child is safe," Linderman said. "I don't get them (the cases submitted for possible criminal charges) unless someone thinks the situation rises to that level."
Both Telgenhof and Linderman said often — but not always — the most severe cases of child abuse involve a defendant who is caring for a child but is not a child's biological parent. For example, a step-parent, a boyfriend or another un-related caregiver.
"It's often someone who's not invested in the child," Telgenhof said.
Drug and alcohol abuse is often a factor in child abuse cases as well, both men noted.
"A lot of these children are in homes where there are drugs present," Telgenhof said. "There are direct dangers, such as needles lying around the house, and indirect dangers such as how are they able to care for their child when they are high on drugs."
Although there may only be a handful of cases each year that rise to the level of someone being charged with child abuse, what is far more common, are cases involving sexual abuse of children. Those types of cases fall under the criminal sexual conduct laws, not the child abuse statute, but prosecutors say often some of the same factors can play a role in the cases.
Unfortunately, both prosecutors' offices handle many more of these sorts of cases each year.
Specifically, Telgenhof said, the element of the perpetrator being a person other than a biological parent who is caring for the victim child is also very common in child sexual abuse cases.
That's why both men caution, to use care in choosing with whom you leave your children and to be on the lookout for unexplained bruises or children who become scared or reluctant to be left with a certain person.
'Fracture' prints, not fingerprints, help solve child abuse cases
Much like a finger leaves its own unique print to help identify a person, researchers are now discovering that skull fractures leave certain signatures that can help investigators better determine what caused the injury.
Implications from the Michigan State University research could help with the determination of truth in child abuse cases, potentially resulting in very different outcomes.
Until now, multiple skull fractures meant several points of impact to the head and often were thought to suggest child abuse.
Roger Haut, a University Distinguished Professor in biomechanics, and Todd Fenton, a forensic anthropologist, have now proven this theory false. They've found that a single blow to the head not only causes one fracture, but may also cause several, unconnected fractures in the skull. Additionally, they've discovered that not all fractures start at the point of impact - some actually may begin in a remote location and travel back toward the impact site.
The team's findings were recently presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.
"It's a bit like smashing raw hamburger into a patty on the grill," Haut said. "When you press down on the meat to flatten it, all the edges crack. That's what can happen when a head injury occurs."
Because piglet skulls have similar mechanical properties as infant human skulls - meaning they bend and break in similar ways - Haut and Fenton used the already deceased specimens in their research and found they were able to classify the different fracture patterns with a high degree of accuracy.
"Our impact scenarios on the piglet skulls gave us about an 82 percent accuracy rate, while on the older skulls, it improved to about 95 percent," Fenton said.
To help them get to this level of accuracy, both researchers teamed up with Anil Jain, a University Distinguished Professor in computer science and engineering at MSU, to develop a mathematical algorithm to help classify the fractures.
"A major issue in child death cases is you never really know what happened," Haut said. "The prosecutor may have one idea, the medical examiner another, and the defendant a completely different scenario."
Fenton and Haut's close relationship with medical examiners often results in them being called upon in certain, hard-to-determine cases. They've used this new knowledge to help solve these cases, but both are also looking to use Jain's algorithm in an online resource that will provide even more assistance to investigators.
The team is currently developing a database, or Fracture Printing Interface, that will allow forensic anthropologists and investigators to upload human fracture patterns from different abuse cases and help them determine what most likely caused an injury.
"We will never know with 100 percent probability what happened in many of these cases, but this interface will give us a higher chance of figuring that out," Haut said.
Explore further: AAP advises doctors on how to identify child abuse
Child Advocacy Center opens to help child victims of sex abuse
When a young innocent child is the victim of a sexual crime, it takes great courage to tell someone about the painful ordeal. In the past, the forensic process often resulted in the young victim having to recount the horrific incident to countless investigators and child welfare workers, causing them even more trauma.
The victims and their families were often sent from one agency to another, from the police department to the hospital to children's social services to the therapist's office.
Starting this month, young victims in Delaware County are now served in one safe place, the Delaware County Children's Advocacy Center (DCCAC). The center is a neutral, child-friendly setting where the team of law enforcement officers and social service professionals can coordinate their response to child-sex-abuse cases.
The new Center, at 100 W. Sixth St., Media, is operated by Family Support Line, an agency that has been serving young victims of sexual abuse for 25 years, providing abuse prevention programs and therapy sessions for the victims and their families.
“We wanted to follow the national model for a Children's Advocacy Center to bring together all the disciplines that need to be involved in a report of child sexual abuse,” said Pat Kosinski, Family Support Line director. “The end goal is to stop the abuse and start the healing.”
Kosinski reported the alarming projection that in Delaware County, the children who may be sexually abused by the time they are 18 would fill the Wells Fargo Center.
“We now provide a skilled forensic interviewer who will meet with the child in one room while the full team can observe from a separate room,” Kosinski said. “Counselors and advocates are available to the family and there are follow-up case review meetings to allow all team members to coordinate their efforts.”
The Delaware County CAC is the result of two years of collaborative planning among several agencies. Family Support Line is supported by partnerships with Delaware County Council, the county offices of Children and Youth Services and Behavioral Health, the District Attorney's Office, the Delaware County Police Chiefs' Association, and other donors.
Through March, the county Office of Children and Youth Services (CYS) and the Office of Behavioral Health (OBH) provided $200,500 in funding to make the CAC a reality.
“As the father of three children, I feel strongly about the need to protect children from these horrific crimes,” said County Councilman Michael Culp. “I am pleased that County Council and our Human Service offices can support this coordinated and comprehensive approach to help every child victim. The focus here is on healing for each child and their family.”
Kosinski explained that child advocacy centers (CACs) provide a safe, neutral location where law enforcement and child protective service investigators can conduct and observe forensic interviews with children who are alleged victims of crimes. The CAC is also a place where the child and non-offending family members receive support, crisis intervention and referrals for mental health and medical treatment.
“The goal is to reduce the trauma to child victims by bringing all the disciplines together,” she said.
The multi-disciplinary teams are made up of law enforcement officers, child protective service personnel, prosecutors, lawyers, advocates, mental health therapists and medical personnel.
A specially trained forensic interviewer meets with the child in one room, equipped with video cameras, while the team can observe from a different room. Interviews are recorded reducing the number of times the child needs to be interviewed. The process is accredited by the National Children's Alliance.
Information gathered in the forensic interview is used to help make decisions about protection, prosecution and treatment.
District Attorney Jack Whelan said it has been shown that CACs have resulted in more pleas for the prosecution and longer sentences for the perpetrators.
“We already instruct local police departments that specially trained people should interview child victims. The new center will use a skilled forensic interviewer and the process will be less traumatic for the child,” Whelan said. “This provides a more coordinated and comprehensive approach to investigating the cases and prosecuting the child predators. Anything that helps us stop abuse is of benefit to our children and our families.”
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey has strongly supported the creation of CACs across the nation. In late April 2015, the Senate passed the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which Senator Toomey staunchly supported and co-sponsored. This bill ensures that a portion of the funds confiscated from perpetrators of crimes are used those funds to set up CACs.
“It is great news that Delaware County is opening a Child Advocacy Center,” said Sen. Toomey.
“I have had the opportunity to tour some of Pennsylvania's Child Advocacy Centers and have seen the important work they do helping abused children begin the healing process.”
For information about the Delaware County Child Advocacy Center call 610-268-9145.
Sex trafficking survivors open up for FAIR Girls
by Deborah Alfarone
WASHINGTON – Sex trafficking is a close to $10 billion business. And statistics show that the average age of a young person when they're first trafficked is just 13 years old. One organization is trying to put an end to this pervasive crime, which is happening right in our area.
FAIR Girls empowers and supports survivors in the DC area, and all over the country. Andrea Powell is its founder, "Almost all the girls that we serve, which is over 100 American girls a year, were sold on websites all over the city so not only is the problem pervasive but it's right in our face."
In fact, the FBI lists DC as the 14 th busiest city for sex trafficking in the country.
Powell is a force of nature, often working around the clock to help new victims who contact the non-profit. FAIR Girls held its annual gala called 'Pearls With A Purpose' at the Long View Gallery in Northwest D.C.
Thursday night, to raise money and awareness to fight this issue. A packed room listened to speakers, including survivor Stacey Jewell Lewis who is now a playwright, and a survivor named Ashleigh who is now a college sophomore and aspiring makeup artist.
Stacey says she was trafficked when she was 19, and forced to live a life of prostitution. She says she kept her story to herself for more than a decade, and learned how to tell her story after seeing spoken word artists bare their souls.
She says all survivors need a chance, "They actually made it through this, they are strong beautiful individuals who deserve a chance."
Among the speakers were model and actress Alessia Sushko. Sushko came to New York from Saint Petersburg, Russia with just $350 dollars in her pocket. She says she worked hard and persevered tough times until she could support herself.
She shared that there were many times she wanted to give up, but she put her fear aside and kept pressing on. She spoke to empower female survivors and inspire them to put their fear aside and know that they are worth it.
Also speaking at the event was Victoria's Secret model Elsa Hosk. Hosk is a supporter of FAIR Girls and read a powerful poem written by a survivor named Ashley.
Lastly, businesswoman Deb Conver took the stage. She is a member of FAIR Girls Board. WUSA9 Reporter and Anchor Debra Alfarone was the evening's emcee.
If you want to learn more about FAIR Girls, click here: www.fairgirls.org
If you suspect someone you know is a victim of sex trafficking, call the National Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
IST Students Present Research On Sex Trafficking To Homeland Security Officials
by Caitlyn Edgell
Four undergraduate IST students presented their two-year study on human trafficking to Homeland Security officials in Washington, D.C. Penn State was one of only three universities in the country to present its findings on this modern form of human slavery. The team was made up of seniors Jesse Altmire and Aubree Biggs, and juniors Andrea Forster and Addie Jackson. Dr. Peter Forster, Dr. Nick Giacobe, and Dr. Ed Glantz were the group's supervisors.
Over the last two years, the team worked on developing methods to better identify sex trafficking while simultaneously raising awareness. It turned its attention this year to online sex trafficking, and used data from Backpage.com, a Craigslist of sorts, to analyze potential sexual advertisements.
In large part due to the team's studies, the Department of Homeland Security named Penn State a pilot school along with George Mason and the University of Oklahoma in its Blue Campaign, an effort to curb human trafficking.
Its origins lie in a request from the Pennsylvania Criminal Intelligence Center of the Pennsylvania State Police to help better understand sex trafficking in the commonwealth. Although it's not a widely known issue, Backpage has generated $31.4 million dollars annually in online sexual services from this modern form of human slavery.
To combat the problem, the team developed a tool that automates the process of collecting data from Backpage in an attempt to prohibit the viewing of child pornography.
“This tool allows analysts to retrieve groups of classifieds sharing common attributes like phone number and location,” Altmire said.
The tool essentially pools data to pinpoint specific sites that could host criminal activity. It allowed the researchers to analyze around 500,000 advertisements on Backpage.
“This research project is the epitome of what we do in IST, which is to use technology to better understand information,” Forster said in a press release. “But in this case, that only takes you so far; you need to introduce the human factor to begin to delve into this issue.”
In 2014, Pennsylvania was recognized as the most improved state in human sex trafficking legislation. In most instances, victims don't receive proper care. Altmire believes the most important way to end this problem is by increasing public awareness.
That's when the Department of Homeland Security came calling, and asked Penn State's College of IST to be a pilot school in its Blue Campaign. In addition to working to decrease the crime, the Blue Campaign also strives to train law enforcement officials to protect victims and punish perpetrators.
The undergraduate student team presented its findings to law enforcement, volunteers, and government officials at a Blue Campaign event at the Department of Homeland Security.
“The audience was very positive about the presentation and a number of organizations and groups expressed interest in accessing our data, receiving our tool, and learning more about our methodology,” Altmire said.
Now, IST students are working on a collaboration with the College of Communications to raise awareness of sex trafficking in the State College community. It's a beneficial process not just to the victims, but to the researchers as well.
“When I came to college I really wanted to be able to do something that I thought made an actual difference,” Altmire said in a press release. “To be able to go out and do research and build tools and technologies to aid law enforcement in combating this problem really means a lot to me.”
Local organization offers safe haven for sex trafficking victims
by Josh Cascio
TAMPA (FOX 13) -- Inside the walls of a home in a nondescript Tampa Bay neighborhood, there is warmth, there is love and there is hope.
"The girls that are going to come here typically have been abused sexually since they were 2, 3, 4 years old," said Selah Freedom CEO Elizabeth Fisher.
Selah Freedom is a local organization that helps survivors of sex trafficking. They victims live inside the home, which was gifted to the organization, and feels like home in every way.
"So often people think ‘I'm going to go to some halfway home, some junkie place' and we've created this home to have dignity," said Fisher.
Connie Rose understands more than most what it's like to be in the world of sex trafficking.
"I'm a survivor of 14 years of incest, about four years of sex trafficking. My dad was a serial sex offender, who also happened to be my pimp," she said.
She said this place will offer survivors things they've never had.
"Hope. Knowing who they are, and really showing them they were created to be more than what their past has been," Rose said.
"One girl in our program, she said it's so amazing to wake up in the morning- to get up at 5 a.m. and not turn tricks to go to a hotel," said Fisher
The house will hold up to eight women for about four weeks at a time.
To donate, log on to selahfreedom.com
New bill aims to end child sex trafficking in Georgia
by Irisha Jones
COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Georgia is home to the city named the capital of sexual exploitation in the U.S., and this week Governor Nathan Deal is taking a step to crack down on human trafficking and child slavery.
Governor Nathan Deal and human trafficking rescue groups both agree something needs to be done stop the issue, but they disagree on how to fix the problem.
Governor Deal wants to put the business of human traffickers taking advantage of children to an end.
"The legislature thought that this was an appropriate thing to do and I agree. The sex trafficking issue is one that our state continues to wrestle with," said Deal.
The legislation signed Tuesday, also known as Rachel's-Safe Harbor Law, cracks down on sexual exploitation of children by making adult entertainments such as strip clubs pay $5,000 annually if they are convicted of this crime and $2,000 for traffickers if the victim was 18 years and older.
Governor Deal says the state is constantly trying to fight this issue.
"Last year we had a legislation that requires the posting of noticing for individuals who want to get out sex trade or trapped in it," said Governor Deal.
Bishop Outreach, a nationwide human trafficking rescue organization, doesn't necessarily know if this will make the crime go away.
"We have to break the cycle of how human trafficking works, not only in the United States but globally. The only way to do it is to have key specialists who work with victims to be able to keep them safe and rehabilitate them," said Garry Marino of Bishop Outreach.
Lawmakers have said the money will be put in a fund to help kids forced into prostitution.
"I'm skeptical in a sense you're going to tax adult facilities, is that money going to be used for the rehabilitation of victims of human trafficking and will a system be put in place or does it become a revolving door," said Marino.
Under the new law, sexually exploited children will be treated as victims and not criminals.
Atlanta's underground market for sex trafficking is pretty lucrative, bringing in more than $290,000 compared to a city like Washington that does not even bring in half that figure.
Studies say Atlanta pimps make an average of $33,000 a week which is almost three times that of pimps in San Diego or Dallas.
In January 2014, Columbus had it own case of sex trafficking, where a 15-year-old went missing for over month. Thankfully, she was returned to her family.
Mayor of Columbus Teresa Tomlinson has stated in a previous interview Columbus does not have a sex trafficking issue in reference to kids being kidnapped and sold into the sex trade, and that is according to information she received from investigators. She acknowledges there is sex trafficking in our area, involving minors being forced into prostitution.
Family service agency helps individuals navigate tough times
by Tony Doris
WEST PALM BEACH — Bill Friedman excelled at a top liberal arts college, became a voracious reader and took to writing poetry.
Along the way, though, life's challenges presented themselves and he found himself living in a group home run by Alpert Jewish Family & Children's Service, a West Palm Beach social service agency that caters to everyone from children to victims of domestic abuse, mental health patients, parents mourning the loss of adult children, suicide survivors and Holocaust survivors.
For Bill, 72, a client for many years, the agency's counseling, psychiatric and other services have helped. With the agency's oversight he moved from the group home to relatively independent living, in an apartment run by Levine Jewish Residential and family Service, an Alpert partner agency that provides supported living for adults with special needs.
He does well enough to take an occasional trip to London or Paris with a care coordinator, who also helped him publish his first book of poetry, “Hearts and Minds,” which is available in hardcover through Amazon.com.
Alpert Jewish Family & Children's Services, tucked away at the end of Corporate Way off 45th Street, runs 29 programs and services, for Jews and non-Jews, throughout the community. An independent nonprofit, it is a partner agency of the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County, which helps support it.
Elaine Rotenberg, clinical director, says the agency helps the affluent and indigent. The fact that some clients have private insurance helps the agency assist more of those who don't.
The idea of running so many programs at once is to be able to provide “a seamless network of services” tailored to the various needs of each client, she said. The agency's motto: “We strengthen our communities by helping people during challenging times.”
“We always prefer for someone to use our services before it is a crisis,” Rotenberg says. “We're not a crisis facility per se, but we do want to help people who are hitting bumps in the road figure out what services they need.”
Of the more than 100 Jewish Family & Children's Service agencies in the U.S., the West Palm Beach operation is the ninth or 10th largest, with a budget of about $12 million. The agency, which has 200 employees, fields about 7,000 calls a year and has been serving the community for 41 years. And it serves many outside the community, because about 20 percent of its clients are children or parents of out-of-state people. “We deal a lot with families from up North.”
Among its services:
A domestic abuse program.
A survivors of suicide program.
A program for parents mourning adult children.
Caregiver support groups.
Education workshops for parents, to help them deal with holidays and sibling rivalry, for example.
“Honoring Life” cultural competency training, to instruct health care providers who serve Holocaust survivors, who can be sensitive to the sight of medical uniforms or bright lights, for example, because of horrors they experienced.
Sometimes a call comes from someone who needs uncomplicated help finding a resource, says CEO Jenni Frumer. “Other times, they're calling because they don't always know what they need but they know they're in pain.”
Someone could be calling about themselves, or about concern for a child or elderly relative, she said.
“We need to be here for one another, because there are very few public services to speak of in Florida. There are long wait lists for disability services and for older adults,” she said. “The buck stops with us.”
State agencies, child abuse survivors promote ‘One with Courage' campaign
by Jeff Lowe
IRON COUNTY – One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted before they reach the age of 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Perpetrators are often family members, friends, or acquaintances, as it is estimated that more than 90 percent of child sexual assault victims know their perpetrators, and most of these children do not disclose abuse until adulthood, if ever at all.
In order to combat this scourge, on April 28, the Utah Attorney General's Children's Justice Center Program announced an initiative, in collaboration with Utah's Department of Human Services Division of Child and Family Services entitled “One with Courage Utah.”
At the presentation of the program, DCFS Director Brent Platt introduced local survivors including Deondra and Desirae Brown of The 5 Browns who offered their support for the campaign. The presentation concluded with a moving musical performance by the Brown sisters. The participants challenged all, no matter individual circumstances, to be “One with Courage” when it comes to talking about child sexual abuse.
One With Courage Utah is a local campaign 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.
The Iron County Children's Justice Center in Cedar City has been in operation for 13 years and currently serves victims and families in Iron, Beaver and Kane Counties, said Director Stephanie Furnival, Iron County Children's Justice Center.
Furnival attended the April 28 presentation in Salt Lake City and said courage is necessary for child victims to come forward and for adults to start a dialogue, learn the signs, and report abuse when it is suspected.
“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. It is time for all of us to be One with Courage,” said Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes in a statement released by the Office of the Utah Attorney General.
The Attorney General's Office houses and administers the Utah Children's Justice Center Program, dedicated to helping local communities respond to allegations of child abuse in ways that are effective, 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.
Children's Justice Centers handle approximately 5,500 cases and serve more than 13,000 people annually. Of all the cases that come to the CJCs, almost 80 percent involve sexual abuse.
“We're at 237 cases a year right now (in Iron County),” Furnival said. “We had 237 primary victims and we served 288 secondary victims just last year alone. From 2013 to 2014 we had a 24 percent increase in cases in Iron County.”
On May 16, Northwestern Mutual Financial Network (Northwestern) is sponsoring a 5K/Quarter Marathon Fun Run to benefit the Children's Justice Center of Iron County. The Fun Run will start at 8 a.m., and the race route will begin at the Iron County CJC. For more information or to receive a registration form, contact the Iron County Children's Justice Center at (435) 867-4275 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
You can also register at https://www.raceentry.com/race-reviews/iron-county-children-justice-center-run-for-the-kids
The Fun Run is a fundraiser for the CJC, and Northwestern is looking for additional sponsors for the race. Funds will help pay for expenses involved in operating the CJC and in serving victims and families.
Should reporting child abuse be compulsory? Experts give their views
A new law could make it a criminal offence for social workers not to report suspicions of abuse. Child protection experts look at the pros and cons
by David Niven and Kieran A File
Before the general election campaign got into full swing, David Cameron announced proposals that would make it a criminal offence for social workers, teachers and others not to report suspicions of child abuse. This would amount to a law of “wilful neglect”.
In a packed room at a recent conference of the British Association for the Study and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (Baspcan) in Edinburgh, hundreds of social care professionals demonstrated how split the community is over this issue. Introducing mandatory reporting in the UK would be “a huge mistake”, according to Dr Jill McLeigh, a clinical assistant professor at Colorado University. She pointed to evidence from the US, which has had mandatory reporting laws since the 1960s.
“Just because you have a mandatory reporting law doesn't mean people are going to report,” she argued. “In the United States we know that there's a gross underreporting of child abuse and neglect. We know that there are a lot of people who intentionally practise civil disobedience who don't report because they're concerned about the harm that will cause to the child.”
McLeigh also highlighted a large number of grey areas in mandatory reporting. She says: “How do you prove that someone was aware?
You have situations all the time where horrible things end up happening to children and it turns out people were aware of [them] but they didn't feel that they had proof or they didn't have enough information.”
“How do you define neglect, and how do you educate everybody on the appropriate definition of neglect and get everyone to agree?”
For McLeigh, a public health approach that involves further investment in resources and education of the public as opposed to kneejerk policy changes, is where child abuse prevention strategy should be directed.
“It is very easy for a politicians to stand up and say ‘I care about children and because I care about the safety and wellbeing of children I have passed this law which means these people are required to report',” she says. “It does not require any additional effort to actually prevent the child abuse and neglect and it takes the focus off preventing child abuse and neglect because it is a reactive policy.”
However, the introduction of mandatory reporting laws does have support from the legal profession as a preventative strategy, particularly in relation to identifying perpetrators and stopping instances of child abuse.
Peter Garsden, president of the UK's Association of Child Abuse Lawyers, is in favour of a change to legislation on the grounds that it will help encourage whistleblowers to come forward in cases where they might otherwise not for fear of losing their jobs. Many countries around the globe have reporting laws and there is strong evidence from some that it is an effective support in identifying children at risk.
“The impetus is not to prosecute anybody but to encourage people to pass on information,” Garsden says. “The people we're trying to protect are not those in charge but those at the bottom of the pile who hear disclosures and don't know where to go.”
“My version of mandatory reporting is a reporting facility that goes outside of the organisation. It bypasses the line manager and goes to an independent organisation to a local authority designated officer.”
Many conference delegates were concerned that the law would encompass the whole community but Garsden emphasised that he was only in favour of it applying to professionals who directly work with children.
Ben Mathews, associate professor at Queensland University of Technology, said he had studied 10 years of data from Australia, where some counties have mandatory reporting, and other countries. He concluded that there were more benefits than not where reporting was compulsory.
Whatever the outcome of the UK's general election, this is not an issue that is going to go away. The decision whether to trust those working with children under existing arrangements or impose statutory compulsions is going to be debated for months, if not longer.
The Woefully Distorted Federal Policies on Child Abuse
by Eric Pianin
Here's something just in from the world of grossly distorted government policy:
Every year, roughly 680,000 children are reported victims of neglect or abuse by their parents in this country – a tragic statistic reflective of troubling societal, psychological and economic problems. Even worse, 1,520 children died from maltreatment in 2013, nearly 80 percent of them at the hands of their own parents.
Federal and state authorities over the years have developed a large and costly system for reporting and investigating maltreatment, removing endangered children from their homes, and preventing and treating problems of parents and children.
But as a new study touted on Wednesday by the Brookings Institution concludes, the federal government provides states with far more money to support kids once they have been removed from their homes and placed in foster care than it provides for prevention and treatment programs to keep the kids out of foster homes in the first place.
And the disparity is startling.
Two of the largest grant programs in Title IV-B of the Social Security Act provide states with funding totaling around $650 million annually for “front end” services designed to prevent or treat parent and child problems that contribute to abuse and neglect. They address problems such as substance abuse, family violence and mental health issues.
Yet another series of programs in Title IV-E of the Social Security law provides states with open-ended funding that totaled about $6.9 billion in 2014. Those funds pay almost exclusively for out-of-home care for children from poor families, along with the administrative and training expenses associated with foster care, adoption, and guardianship.
That's a 10 to 1 disparity in funding for the two efforts – one to try to hold families together and the other to move children out of their homes and into foster care.
“Congress has the opportunity to change the funding formula under Title IV of the Social Security Act so that states have the flexibility to put money where it will be most effective at keeping at-risk children safe, ensuring that they have a permanent home, and promoting their well-being,” wrote Ron Haskins, Lawrence M. Berger and Janet Currie, the authors of the study.
In their policy brief, “Can States Improve Children's Health by Preventing Abuse and Neglect,” Haskins, a Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at Brookings, Currie of Princeton University and Berger of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, write that revising the grant programs could improve the welfare of children who are at risk of abuse or neglect.
This is something else that lawmakers might consider later this year when they begin to focus on disability insurance and other programs within the Social Security law.
Missouri lawmakers OK interventions in child-on-child abuse
The Missouri Senate on Wednesday approved the measure 33-1. The House earlier approved it 140-13.
The bill would let the Children's Division notify local offices to investigate complaints of juveniles with problem sexual behaviors. It also would require training of staff at licensed child care facilities in safe-sleep practices for infants; tht measure is inspired by the death of an infant who was napping at a day care center.
The bill would also require child care centers and preschools to disclose to parents who request that information whether any children there are not up-to-date on their vaccinations.
Special care given to child abuse victims
by Maki Somosot
While testifying in court may not be easy, victims or witnesses of violent crimes who have to face an alleged attacker may sometimes require special treatment, particularly children, local crime enforcement officials said.
According to state law, victims or witnesses can testify via closed-circuit television in a separate room if they are under age 18 or severely developmentally disabled.
Even then, a judge must decide based on expert testimony that the individual is likely to suffer "serious emotional distress" or is unable to "reasonably communicate" with the court or jury.
Testifying outside of court is often the exception to the rule, Terrebonne Assistant District Attorney Jason Dagate said. If safety is of particular concern, the District Attorney's Office can provide additional security for the victims and witnesses.
Dagate said the downtown Houma courthouse is not equipped with a closed-circuit room but can obtain taped testimony through the Terrebonne Children's Advocacy Center.
This is in contrast to the Lafourche courthouse where, for the first time later this year, three young aggravated rape victims will testify via closed-circuit, Lafourche First Assistant District Attorney Kristine Russell said.
For the most part, underage victims who can testify outside of court may not necessarily have the capacity to make an informed decision, said Terrebonne Assistant District Attorney Bud Barnes, who specializes in child and juvenile sex abuse cases.
Bolstered by a social push to crack down on these crimes, legislative acceptance of videotaped testimony as evidence for child sex victims eventually came around in the mid-2000s, Barnes said. He uses a combination of video evidence and direct testimony in his trials to ensure the jury "knows who we're talking about."
PUTTING THE CHILD AT EASE
The child's account presents the strongest possible evidence for a prosecutor, as there is often a lack of direct physical evidence of the abuse, Barnes said. If a child testifies, the prosecutor has to make sure the victim remains comfortable throughout the trial preparations.
At the start of the process, the child will undergo a videotaped forensic interview at the Terrebonne Children's Advocacy Center where he or she will receive extensive one-on-one counseling before and after the trial, the center's Executive Director Bernadette Pickett said. A service black Labrador is used for animal-loving victims who may be reluctant to speak at first.
During his first few meetings with the victim, Barnes may talk about familiar subjects like school or family before gradually moving onto the topic of the abuse. While he does not dwell on the abuse or ask overly specific questions, Barnes said he also prepares the child for the possibility of being cross-examined by the defense.
Leading up to the trial, Barnes will ensure that the child is well-acquainted with the layout and potential courtroom audience, he added. At the trial, he strategically positions himself so the victim does not have to see the defendant during cross-examination.
If a child refuses to testify at the last minute, which has only happened once so far, he said the only alternative to a trial would be to offer a plea deal, which would take into account the victim's interests as well as the community's.
"There's got to be accountability," Barnes said. "Because closure for victims is significantly helped by the feeling that somebody believed me and he got held accountable."
"After I've discussed the deal with the victim's family, I remove everybody from the room and speak with the victim one-on-one insofar as resolution," he said. "I make it very general. I make sure to let them know, whether it's Daddy and little Sally, they're not the decision-maker in this. I am. And I tell them, I wouldn't be a very good decision-maker if I didn't talk to you, would I? And they'll usually understand that."
Russell concurred, adding that the sex offender registry requirement in sexual abuse sentences is designed to help with public safety.
BIKERS AGAINST CHILD ABUSE
To help child victims rebuild their confidence and self-esteem after sexual trauma, children's agencies in Terrebonne and Lafourche will often refer them to the local chapter of the worldwide nonprofit organization Bikers Against Child Abuse, or BACA.
Founded in 1995, the group empowers children between ages 3 to 17 to testify in court. Its members, many of whom are professionally trained on working with kids, refer to themselves as "keepers of the children."
"We empower children by using what the public sees the biker world as: big, ugly, hairy guys," said Rock, who has served as president of the Houma-based Bayou Region Chapter since the start of the year. The chapter has up to 50 members and supporters, he added.
In line with the bikers' protocol, Rock prefers to use a public alias given the confidentiality of their work. The kids themselves are always given an alias, and up to 90 percent of the biker group's members do not even know the children's real names, he added.
"When we first meet these kids, they look at us like, ‘Who are these guys?'" Rock said. "But we sit down on our knees, we get to their level, we tell them we're here with you and that we'll back you up. If we need to stay out on your front yard all day long and follow the school bus, we'll do that. We're not going to let anything happen to you."
"We don't tell them what to do — they come to us," Rock added. "It doesn't sound like much, but those little things go a long way. It gives them a choice."
Regardless of temperament, Rock finds that the majority of children are "empowered" to speak out against their alleged attacker in the courtroom, which he refers to as a "pay day" for the primarily volunteer-run organization.
"I remember last year, a girl had to walk in front of the bad guy, who was sitting on a bench, on her way out to the bathroom," Rock said. "She stuck her tongue out, put up her middle finger and walked out of the courtroom, proud as a peacock."
Once court proceedings are over, Rock said, Bikers Against Child Abuse members will begin to "wean themselves off" the child to allow him or her to become independent but continue monitoring their progress from afar.
"Once a BACA kid, always a BACA kid," he said.
Russell said that the apparent increase in child sex crimes over the last decade is borne of a common public misconception.
"The numbers are not getting higher. It's because children are getting braver in coming forward," she added. "They're getting more comfortable in sharing with each other, sharing it on social media. It makes it OK for them to say enough's enough."
Russell pointed to a greater need for communities to provide child victims with support before, during and after the legal process.
"We can't change the way the justice system works. We can't change the trial process. But there has to be a process by which the jury and judge listen to the victim," she said. "We also want to make sure we're protecting our children with continued counseling."
Local Attorney Weighs In On State Child Abuse Laws Following Foster Care Allegations
by Whitney Delbridge
Lynchburg, VA - ABC 13 has been staying on top of a story we first broke last week, after 50-year-old Gary Paul Smith was convicted of molesting two foster children that had been placed in his home.
Those close to the case say there are still two foster children left in the home Smith shared with his wife, in addition to several adopted children.
ABC 13 asked the Lynchburg Human Services Director if her office had any plans to remove their foster children still living in the home, and she said no.
One local family attorney says that is not necessarily unusual. In fact, removing a child from a home - even when there is an abuse or neglect investigation going on - is usually the last resort.
Attorney Sarah Bell could not speak to the specifics of this case, but she says the law requires all other options to be explored first - which includes limiting or barring contact between the offender and the child.
If the offender is no longer living in the home, as is the case with Gary Smith, social services may have a hard time proving that there's enough of a threat still present to remove the child.
"The court's coming at it from a perspective where they're hearing everything, and these cases by their nature are confidential. So, folks really don't know the whole story, " Bell said.
According to Bell, this is where a guardian ad litem comes in.
That person serves as an appointed advocate for the child to communicate directly with the court on any concerns the child may have about being in a home.
Bell says anytime an abuse or neglect allegation goes to court, all children involved will be appointed a guardian ad litem.
After trying several times to reach the state Department of Social Services, they have not been available for comment.
Boomer Health: We all have responsibility in protecting children
by Bart Klika
I remember feeling helpless, but, man, I had been there before. Watching a 20-something father trying to convince his screaming and kicking daughter that it was time to leave the park reminded me of the countless times I have been faced with a similar dilemma. As a bystander, I wanted to help, but how? Should I go talk to the dad? Should I ignore the situation altogether – after all, shouldn't I mind my own darn business? In the end, I smiled at the father and said, “I have been there before.”
If you are like me, you continually find yourself in situations in which you feel a desire to support a parent but just don't know how. Maybe you have children or grandchildren of your own, maybe you teach a Sunday school class, maybe you volunteer in a classroom. Regardless, we have all be in situations where we wanted to help but just didn't know how. Parenting, under the best of circumstances, is challenging. We all need support in this journey we call parenting.
After all, the stressors facing children and families today are real and carry lasting consequences. Mental health problems, substance use, intimate partner violence, divorce and child abuse exact a toll on the biological systems of the body, and can alter brain development and functioning. The prolonged activation of the body's stress response system due to stress and adversity in childhood is now being linked to some of the leading physical health morbidities in the United States.
The "Adverse Childhood Experiences Study" by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examined the relationship between adversities in childhood and health functioning in adulthood in more than 17,000 patients through Kaiser Permanente, an HMO in San Diego. Surprising to some, the researchers found that as the number of adversities in childhood increased, so, too, did the risk for health problems in adulthood, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke to name a few. The good news? Major childhood adversities are preventable when communities mobilize to create safe and nurturing environments for all children.
One of the most socially taboo, secret and debilitating adversities that a child can endure is sexual abuse. When talking about sexual abuse, I am talking about any sexual activity between an adult and a minor.
For years, the national response to the prevention of child sexual abuse has been to teach children skills to “just say no” to inappropriate or unwanted sexual contact with others. These “run-and-tell” strategies necessarily arm children with the skills and language needed to protect themselves from harm and to identify trusted adults with whom they can disclose past sexual violations. Unfortunately, these strategies send the message to children that it is their own responsibility to protect themselves from perpetrators of sexual violence. The prevention of child sexual abuse is an adult responsibility – we all have a role to play in the prevention of child sexual abuse.
Now, you might be thinking, “It is one thing to smile at a dad on the playground, but it is a whole different ballgame to think about preventing or responding to a suspected case of child sexual abuse.” Fortunately, there are simple, easy ways that you can become a partner in prevention to ensure that all children experience safe, stable, and nurturing relationships and environments.
• Learn the facts. When we learn the facts, we are able to debunk myths and better protect our children. For example, most cases (upward of 90 percent) of child sexual abuse occur with someone that the family knows and trusts.
• Minimize opportunity. To prevent child sexual abuse, we need to identify and alter the setting where children are placed at highest risk. Minimize (not necessarily eliminate) situations where adults and children are one on one. Strive to have all adult-child interactions be observable and interruptable.
• Talk about it. Sexual abuse thrives in an environment of secrecy. Talking with children about their bodies helps them understand that their bodies are special and private. We must teach children the correct anatomical language for their body parts and facilitate open conversations about body boundaries.
• Recognize the signs. The signs and symptoms of child sexual abuse are not always physical. Some children may experience a loss of appetite, become sad and withdrawn, or may try to avoid people or situations where the abuse was occurring. While these signs do not mean that sexual abuse is occurring for a child, they become an opportunity to have a conversation with a child about what is going on in his or her life.
• React responsibly. If a child discloses that he or she experienced sexual abuse, remain calm. Tell that child that you believe them and that you will do whatever you can to make sure that no more abuse will occur. Report any suspected child sexual abuse to the child abuse hotline: 1-866-820-5437.
The tips above are drawn from a child sexual abuse curriculum called "Darkness to Light: Stewards of Children." This two-hour, evidence-informed curriculum teaches individuals, agencies and communities the steps necessary to safeguard our children from child sexual abuse. If you are interested in more information about "Darkness to Light," visit d2l.org. For information on how to host a training for your agency, organization, business, congregation or any other setting, contact the Missoula Child Sexual Abuse Prevention team at missoulaCSAPT@gmail.com .
The prevention of child sexual abuse requires a coordinated community effort whereby adults take responsibility for the protection of our children. Child sexual abuse is preventable and we all have a role to play. Become a partner in prevention.
Healthy Romantic Relationships Play A Huge Role In Helping Child Abuse Survivors Cope
by Lisa Rapaport
(Reuters Health) - Child abuse survivors who find stable romantic relationships as adults may also find that these relationships help protect against depression, a study suggests.
Researchers followed a group of 485 young adults in Rochester, New York, for 12 years to see how exposure to neglect or maltreatment during childhood would influence their ability to have satisfying relationships with intimate partners and their susceptibility to depression.
"In our sample, we do not find evidence that maltreatment reduces the likelihood that an individual will be in a stable, satisfying intimate partner relationship," lead study author Kimberly Henry, a researcher in psychology and public health at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, said by email.
Henry and colleagues used records from Child Protective Services to identify 99 participants who had been abused before the age of 18 and compared their experiences to a group of 386 people who weren't maltreated.
At the start of the study, participants were about 25 years old on average.
Those who were abused as children were more likely to be black, have a mother who became a parent before age 19, and live in a poor neighborhood with a higher arrest rate.
For 12 years, participants completed questionnaires about the status and quality of their relationships, their mental health, and their children.
While abuse survivors were more likely to be depressed, a history of maltreatment didn't impact whether they were in a committed relationship or their level of satisfaction with the relationship.
Both survivors and non-survivors were less likely to experience depression when they were in a stable, satisfying relationship. Participants who became parents and had solid relationships with intimate partners were also less likely to be depressed.
The duration of the relationship needed to have this effect didn't matter for people who were abused as children.
However, people who didn't experience maltreatment needed longer relationships to be protected against depression.
One limitation of the study is its reliance on the questionnaires about depression symptoms, rather than diagnosis by a clinician, to identify participants with mental health difficulties, the researchers wrote in the Journal of Adolescent Health. They also don't know if symptoms of depression might have influenced the relationship, rather than the other way around.
The study also doesn't address the age at which children were first exposed to abuse or trauma, or whether it was a single incident or an ongoing problem, said Debra Kaysen, a professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle. And it doesn't identify people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is common after abuse and can go hand in hand with depression.
While most people exposed to abuse or trauma recover naturally with time, the study does offer fresh insight into one factor that might contribute to their long-term mental health, said Kaysen, who wasn't involved in the study.
"One of the things that the trauma field has been trying to figure out is what makes people resilient," Kaysen said. "Most folks get better, but for the folks that don't, this study suggests that a stable relationship can make a difference."
"Now the question is how can we identify the folks who are going to have trouble before it develops," Kaysen added. Abuse and trauma in childhood can lead to drug and alcohol abuse later in life, teen pregnancy, and other difficulties, she said.
"If we could identify a child before all of those other problems developed, then we would only have to treat one thing instead of all of those other things that we might be able to prevent with intervention."
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/1ACugkL Journal of Adolescent Health, online April 22, 2015.
Health care providers to be scrutinised at child abuse royal commission
by Thomas Oriti
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Some of the most respected hospitals in Australia will be put under the microscope at the latest public hearing of the child abuse royal commission.
The inquiry in Sydney is expected to hear from former patients who were molested by medical staff and volunteers in New South Wales and Victoria.
Representatives from the hospitals and their governing bodies will be called to give evidence in what could be one of the most disturbing cases so far.
Thomas Oriti reports.
THOMAS ORITI: They're supposed to be places where children feel safe but the royal commission is about to expose a dark side to the history of some of the nation's hospitals.
MERRILYN WALTON: Patients' voices have traditionally been excluded from looking at regulatory operations, and their voice is an important one. Their experience can teach us an awful lot.
Merrilyn Walton is a professor of medical education and patient safety at the University of Sydney. She was also the first health care complaints commissioner in New South Wales from 1993 to 2000.
MERRILYN WALTON: There's still some fear of retribution, there's still the "closed club" about mandatory reporting. So I think what this does is exposes the extreme vulnerability of children to the extent that the system needs to pay attention to that. And if they don't have the existing mechanisms in place, then they should put them in.
So what I hope will happen is that when a complaint is made on behalf of a child, for example, that more attention is paid to that, because historically, it's been quite easy to dismiss their voice, easy to discredit, easy not to substantiate. So in those cases we need to be more attentive, more careful, more diligent.
THOMAS ORITI: The inquiry will hear from nine victims who were abused in private medical practices and public hospitals.
The alleged perpetrators include a psychologist who worked at Sydney's Royal North Shore Hospital in the 1960s and 20 years later, a volunteer at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne.
But the commission will begin with evidence from a number of survivors who'd reported abuse to the Health Care Complaints Commission about one particular medical practitioner in New South Wales.
Professor Walton says she's confident the HCCC is doing its job properly.
MERRILYN WALTON: When I was the director of the complaints unit and the health care complaints commissioner there was no evidence of wanting to conceal complaints or not investigate complaints that should be investigated. Indeed, it was the opposite.
THOMAS ORITI: Not everyone's convinced.
Carolyn DeWaegeneire complained to the HCCC in 2007 about the former doctor Graeme Reeves, who worked on the New South Wales far south coast. He was eventually jailed after the district court found he'd unnecessarily removed her genitals.
Ms DeWaegeneire has criticised the way the HCCC handled her case as an adult patient and she fears the response could be even worse for children.
CAROLYN DEWAEGENEIRE: It's the easiest thing to just put a blanket over the top and shove it under the 'not to be disturbed' drawer at the bottom at the back of the file. It's so easy.
Just ignore it and get rid of it and don't forget that a little one person cannot, on their own, fight.
THOMAS ORITI: The HCCC declined AM's request for comment but a parliamentary committee found it had improved its operations after the initial complaints about Graeme Reeves. Commissioner Kieran Pehm will be called to give evidence.
Representatives from the New South Wales Medical Council and the state's Health Department will also appear, but they declined to be interviewed.
And in a statement, the CEO of the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, Professor Christine Kilpatrick, guaranteed that the revered institution was safe.
STATEMENT FROM CHRISTINE KILPATRICK: We are compliant with every legislated safeguard, including working with children checks and mandatory reporting, and go beyond mandated regulation, with comprehensive policies, procedures and strict codes of conduct.
THOMAS ORITI: The hearing begins this morning.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Thomas Oriti reporting there.
10-year-old rape victim denied abortion
by Polly Davis
The girl is 10 years old, 22 weeks pregnant with the child of the stepfather who raped and impregnated her even after he was reported to social services. And she's the subject of a fierce debate among adults over the moral, legal, physical, and psychological implications of whether she should carry the child to term or be allowed an abortion. The girl lives in Paraguay, reports the Guardian, which bans abortion except in the case of a threat to the mother's health, and the government has thus far denied the girl's mother's request to grant an abortion. "Right now, there is no reason to interrupt the pregnancy," says a public health rep, adding that "given the stage of the pregnancy, it's even more dangerous for the girl" to abort.
The facts of the case: The child's mother reported the stepfather's sexual abuse in January 2014, and authorities took no action. They did, however, arrest the mother when she brought the girl to the hospital with a swollen belly late last month and the pregnancy was discovered, reports CNN. The stepfather is on the run. "That girl is now alone," says a feminist activist, and "the Paraguayan state has a clear responsibility for that." Amnesty International is among other groups that have jumped in, claiming that the girl's age alone should trigger an exception. "The physical and psychological impact of forcing this young girl to continue with an unwanted pregnancy is tantamount to torture," says a rep. But, counters the government rep, "She has no complications at all. If any complication appears, we will proceed based on that." (An 11-year-old girl in Chile two years ago caused a similar debate.)
Alleged child abuse exams skyrocket in the New River Valley
Nearly 100 exams were performed in 2014, and the numbers remain high
by Chris Hurst
PULASKI, Va. -- If you've thought there's been an inordinate amount of child abuse cases in the news recently, you'd be right. In the New River Valley, there's a battle going on to identify and charge those responsible.
At the New River Valley Medical Center in Montgomery County, forensic nurse April Bennett has a new tool to help in the growing fight against child abuse. Ultraviolet lights with special goggles that illuminate what a child might not be able to say; how and where they were hurt.
"It's to help us to see body fluids and bruising that we may not be able to see with our eyes," she says.
And in the year the hospital has had it, they've needed to use it. A lot. Exams for suspected child abuse were up nearly six times last year, 92 of them at the NRV Medical Center. Through the first four months of this year, the rate has remained high with more than 20 exams.
"Until we can find a way to prevent it, and I don't know if we can do that, then no I don't see it stopping," she says.
"I don't know if we'll ever get a handle on this issue. Even one event is one too many," says Pulaski Police detective Sergeant Jill Niece.
Niece takes the abuse exams and looks if there's charges to be filed. Often times there are. Pulaski County has the second highest child abuse rate in the commonwealth.
"Most of the cases I've worked, people are unemployed," she says. "Substance abuse is I think in 99% of them. That is probably the biggest factor I've seen is substance abuse."
Ellen Mitchell runs Safe Haven in Pulaski, where through a court order, parents can see their children one hour, every other week. But she tells WDBJ7, sometimes the parent has no interest.
"They'll say, 'Look. I don't want to go through this. I don't really want to see my child anyway. I'm just here because I was ordered to be here by the court and I have to pay child support,'" she recalls.
At the hospital, in the past year all children who get an exam get a bag with gifts to help them cope with the stress and trauma. A teddy bear and playing cards, but also a pair of pants in case their clothes turn into evidence.
They also get a card from the group that makes them. It says, "You are kind. You are smart. You are loved. Never forget this!"
Child abuse prevention House Bill 2234 headed to law
by Raymond Rendleman
The Oregon Senate last week held a committee hearing that recommended passage of a bill aimed to help improve the ability of Child Abuse Intervention Centers, including the Children's Center in Oregon City, to pay for child-abuse assessments.
Children's Center Executive Director Barbara Peschiera told lawmakers that the legislation would save lives by boosting the ability of centers across the state to see every child, regardless of their families' ability to pay.
“House Bill 2234 is a smart solution that will provide stability across a critical public health system,” Peschiera said. “It removes the patchwork nature of alternative-fee agreements.”
It seems likely that the legislation will get the governor's signature and become law. Sponsored by Rep. Brent Barton (D-Oregon City), the bill got unanimous approval by an Oregon House vote on March 12.
Currently billing codes that relate to the specialized forensic interview and medical assessment are not funded in Oregon, and centers write off 46 percent of their bills submitted to private insurance providers. Plus, Obamacare's 12 percent increase in patients insured through Medicaid, which requires a 76 percent write-off rate, has challenged CAICs.
HB 2234 requires that the Oregon Health Authority and health benefit plans cover the medical child abuse assessment services provided by a community assessment center and related services (such as forensic interviews and mental health treatment) and that payments are proportionate to the scope and intensity of the services provided.
Child maltreatment impacts children of all ages, gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. In Oregon, 10,630 victims of child abuse were confirmed, and more than 64,000 reports of abuse were made in 2013.
CAICs were created to minimize trauma for child abuse victims by using a multidisciplinary team approach with partner agencies to respond to concerns of abuse in each community. They are designed to provide services based on each child's needs, in a neutral, child-focused environment, and to be a resource for the child and their caregivers.
How child abuse hotlines hurt the very children they're trying to protect
Anonymous callers make unsubstantiated accusations all the time. Once CPS gets involved, families get trapped.
by Dale Margolin Cecka
Dale Margolin Cecka is Professor of Law and Director of the Jeanette Lipman Family Law Clinic at University of Richmond.
The recent media obsession with “free range” parenting has illuminated a policy issue which rarely affects parents who debate free range parenting: the exploitation of child abuse reporting hotlines.
Each year, about 3.4 million calls are made to these state-run phone lines. Tragically, only a fraction of these calls are made by trained professionals reporting actual abuse or neglect. The others are made, often anonymously, by people who don't know what constitutes abuse (or, more nefariously, by those who want to punish the parent). But because child protective service agencies are required to act, these calls can result in innocent parents losing their kids, tangling families in a complicated system.
Some people, like teachers or doctors, are required to call a hotline if they suspect a child is being abused or neglected. These “ mandated reporters ,” who place approximately 60 percent of all hotline calls, receive extensive training on how to identify abuse. Anonymous callers, in contrast, make an allegation and then hang up the phone. This is troubling for several reasons.
For one thing, the public is not trained to identify actual signs of neglect, abuse or maltreatment. As a result, people who think they are being good Samaritans may mistakenly call a family to the attention of the authorities. One family in Arizona was living in an unpainted house with unfinished flooring, but they had a certificate of habitability from the county. A passerby made an anonymous report, which led to CPS banging on their door with armed police officers. The officials had a 40-minuted stand-off with the parents in front of the children, and eventually searched the entire house, even though they had no warrant or court order. False reporting, often during divorce and custody battles, also occurs and is very difficult to deter. A study of anonymous public reports found that nationally, only 1.5 percent of all reports are both anonymous and substantiated.
Unfortunately, once a call comes in, parents aren't given the benefit of the doubt. CPS agencies are required by law to investigate every call. Although parents are not required by law to let them in, a refusal sometimes has devastating consequences.
In Michigan, parents left their younger children home for a night under the care of their older siblings, who were 17 and 16. An anonymous report was made. The police came to the home. The 17-year-old refused to let the police in the house because they did not have a warrant. He was threatened with arrest if he did not cooperate, and the police eventually threw him in jail. CPS took the younger children from the home. The family's pastor bailed the 17-year-old out of jail at 3 in the morning. The other children were not returned home until two days later, after the neglect allegations were unsubstantiated in court.
These hotline practices can result in unnecessary trauma to parents and children. In Texas, a family had lost their apartment after the father lost his job as a welder. They were living temporarily in a spacious storage shed, which had air conditioning and a refrigerator, because they felt that the local homeless shelter was unsafe. A passerby made a call, a caseworker appeared at the shed, and the state immediately took custody of the children without offering any preventive services. A court hearing was not set for two months. During those two months, the parents were only allowed to visit their children for less than an hour a day.
Hotline practices also disproportionately affect poor people of color. Many studies show the disparate treatment of minorities and impoverished families in the child welfare system. Black children are twice as likely to be reported as white children, while minority parents are more likely to receive higher levels of state intervention following a report.
Unnecessary investigation of families diverts resources from an already overburdened system. There are half a million children in foster care and approximately 6.2 million children receive CPS investigations each year.
It's not even clear that reporting by lay people, particularly anonymously, has done any good. Over the past 20 years, the nation has experienced drastic declines in both sexual and physical abuse. But anonymous reporting has played no role in the steep declines. In fact, the percentage of anonymous reports are down slightly since the 1990s. The Justice Department contends that authorities now know about the majority of serious youth victimizations. This is because of better violence and maltreatment prevention, increased incarceration of offenders, improvements in our mental health system, cultural changes, and more self-reporting by youth.
Given these facts, it's time for the elimination of anonymous reporting by the public to child abuse hotlines. (Anonymity, of course, is different than confidentiality. All hotline calls are, and should be, confidential. This means that a caller provides his or her name, but Child Protective Services will only release the caller's identification under very specific circumstances usually requiring a court order.)
The criminal justice system does not permit lay people to make completely anonymous reports. Even programs such as Crime Stoppers assign callers ID numbers. Before arresting or detaining anyone on the basis of any anonymous tip, police must also corroborate aspects of the allegation made by the confidential caller. CPS has an opposite mandate: It must visit a home after an anonymous call, if the allegations meet the legal definition of “abuse” or “neglect.”
Neglect should come to CPS's attention, but professionals who work with children are better positioned to assess the adequacy of a child's care and the need for services. The public should never be allowed to call a hotline, make an allegation and hang up the phone without providing any context or any information about the reporter to the operator.
Our Kids: Awareness and Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse
by Jennifer Penale
JOPLIN, MO.--- According to numbers from the Children's Center of Southwest Missouri, in our 12 county area alone- 1,018 children were reportedly sexually abused last year. 362 of them were boys. Meanwhile, the number of girls was 656. Before the age of 18, one of every six boys becomes a victim of this crime. And one of every four girls will be sexually abused.
Advocates at the Children's Center see the hurt these kids experience first hand. Every day, every night, workers see a new victim ranging in age infants to 18-year-old. Most children are identified and taken to them by law enforcement or Children's Division. A child who arrives at the center is interviewed by a trained counselor, physically examined by a trained nurse, and most importantly, given an immeasurable amount of support to restore hope that had been replaced with fear.
"If indeed they are going to wake up in the morning, or if this may be their last day, their last night, is a pretty scary thing. And to think that's a child. That's our most vulnerable citizens," said Vickie Dudley, Children's Center Executive Director.
Every child at the center is immediately referred to a psychologist regardless of their family financial standing. Workers say emotional and mental health is key for these kids to lead a better life. I caught up with a woman who knows that all too well. Sexually abused as a little girl, she is now helping empower the hundreds of children going through what she once did.
Strong, courageous, determined. This is how you could describe Miranda Murdock. But, for a long time the Children's Center volunteer felt everything but.
"I went on even throughout my teenage years feeling like I was different than everybody else, feeling like something was wrong with me. I almost took the identity of, I'm something to be ashamed of, and it really affected who I became," said Miranda Murdock,
This feeling of shame started when the 34-year-old was only 5.
"I was sexually abused by my moms boyfriend at the time," said Murdock "He was my babysitter when my mom would go to work. And so when she would leave, I knew that that's what was going to happen."
Murdock's not sure how long it went on. It only ended when her mother and the perpetrator broke up. She kept it a secret and finally broke the silence at age 28.
"I just felt lighter. I just felt like I was going to be okay. And that, that is not who I was. That that was something that happened to me, but that's not who I am. And there's just so much freedom in just that alone," she said.
Now her mission is to raise awareness of this senseless crime and to empower kids.
"They just need to know that there are sick people, there are sick people in this world. And that they need help and that when they tell someone, it helps that person get the help they need," said Murdock.
Murdock wants parents, and anybody really, to just talk about this issue no matter how difficult it is.
"You know these are bad touches. You know that what is happening to you isn't right. But, if someone could have just talked to me about 'hey, if this happens to you, you can come and tell me' or 'it's okay to talk about it," Murdock explained.
This month, the mom of two will train to be part of "Stewards of Children." The certification will allow her to train teachers on how to identify if a child is potentially being sexually abused and how to talk to and help their students.
"This happens in every type of neighborhood, this happens in every type of family. I have so many friends that this happened to, that have never told anybody," said Murdock.
Hear are tips to help prevent child sexual abuse: Know that child abusers are often close to the family and often go out of their way to access your child and appear trustworthy. Minimize one on one situations- 80% of cases happen in isolation. Talk to kids about bodies, sex and boundaries.
Children's Center Forensic Interviewer Jeannie Stuart encourages you to look for signs. Including abnormalities in the genital area, behavioral changes, sexual behavior or language. She urges caretakers to react responsibly if their child tells them they are being abused.
"A parent is crying, or upset or angry because of something they've told them. A lot of times children will internalize that and they will blame themselves for what has happened. And so if you can remain calm, that's probably the best thing to do. Reassure that child that they have done nothing wrong, that it's not their fault that this has happened to them, and then seek professional guidance," said Jeannie Stuart, Children's Center Forensic Interviewer.
If you suspect a child is a victim, don't hesitate to call the Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 800-392-3738.
Child sues foster parent, welfare provider over alleged sexual abuse
Boy alleges foster parent sexually abused him
by Dawn Brooks
BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. -- A foster child has filed a lawsuit against his foster parent and child welfare providers, Kids in Distress Inc., and ChildNet, Inc., alleging that he was sexually abused by his foster parent and that the private child welfare agencies did not conduct the proper background checks prior to the fostering.
The child, only identified as R.S., said his foster father, John Michael McGuigan, who had a history of child molestation, sexually abused him.
According to Howard Talenfeld, the Fort Lauderdale child abuse attorney representing R.S, at the age of 49 and unmarried, McGuigan requested to receive a foster care license in May 2008, but incomplete background checks weren't performed.
McGuigan has been arrested on charges of cocaine possession and investigated for lewd and lascivious acts after a minor male reported that McGuigan had shown him pornographic pictures of a child and asked him to perform sex acts.
"Required, common-sense precautions that would have protected this child from this accused child molester weren't taken," Talenfeld said. "Mandatory requests to local law enforcement agencies would have revealed Mr. McGuigan was a threat to children he came in contact with. It's not comprehensible that Kids In Distress would place this boy and other children in Mr. McGuigan's care. This is another example of the state's failed experiment in child protection privatization."
Among foster children McGuigan has had in his care was a 7-year-old Margate boy, Gabriel Myers. Myers hung himself in the home of another foster family in 2009.
"Gabriel's deteriorating condition and McGuigan's parenting were ‘red flags' that should have alerted Kids In Distress and ChildNet that there was something wrong in the home," Talenfeld said.
Myers' death prompted an investigation that ended in recommendation of systematic improvements in Florida's foster care system.
According to Talenfeld, after a report that was made through the Florida Abuse Hotline that a former foster child of McGuigan's was sexually abused, R.S. was removed from the home.
A subsequent report received by the Department of Children and Families through the hotline disclosed allegations that R.S. had also been sexually abused by McGuigan.
The lawsuit alleges negligence by Kids In Distress, Inc. and ChildNet, Inc., for failing to ensure the health, safety and well-being of all children in the state who are cared for by family foster homes in Broward County, as well as battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress by McGuigan
New Georgia law extends time child sex assault victims can sue perpetrator
by Walter C. Jones
ATLANTA | The victims of childhood sexual abuse got a big extension Tuesday to the period in which they can sue their perpetrator.
State Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, introduced the legislation because of a case in his district in which adults accused a martial arts teacher of abusing them when they were young.
Their accusations came after the criminal and civil statute of limitations expired, but they raised an alarm, they said, because he might post a danger to his current students.
“The courthouse doors are now unlocked. For too long, our laws protected pedophiles and the institutions that harbored them,” Spencer said. “The Hidden Predator Act will reverse this and empower the victims to confront their perpetrators and their accomplices in the court room.”
Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law House Bill 17, which pushes back the limit on lawsuits from age 23 to two years starting at the time the victim discovers the crime, which is sometimes in middle age.
Psychologists supporting the new law say many victims can't initially remember the offense because they block it out for years.
Often, it only comes to mind during counseling or when the victims' own children reach the age of the occurrence.
The judge can dismiss a suit by concluding the victim had reason to have earlier known about the crime.
Beyond the extension for future victims, the new law provides an opportunity during the next two years for previous victims, who uncovered their abuse before 2013, to sue their abusers.
Hempfield student, 11, sent explicit photo to 7 children
by The Tribune-Review
State police in Greensburg are investigating an 11-year-old girl who allegedly sent an explicit photograph of herself to seven other children.
All of the children involved attend Harrold Middle School in the Hempfield Area School District, according to Superintendent Barbara Marin.
Police said the girl sent the photo to two boys and five girls, ages 11 to 13.
Marin said the text was sent outside school hours last month. The mother of a recipient saw the text and urged her daughter to go to the school guidance counsellor.
“When it came to the attention of the principal we turned it over to the school police officer, who in turn turned it over to the state police,” Marin said.
An investigation is ongoing, the police report said.
This is the second state police investigation in two weeks involving sexting in the Hempfield Area School District. A 14-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy were charged last week with transmitting sexually explicit images.
The district recently held anti-sexting informational forums for both students and parents and has included warnings about the practice in the school curriculum, Marin said.
“My advice to parents is to monitor their students' usage of the phone and to try to instill in them the seriousness of something like this,” she said.
Father accused of abducting 14-month-old daughter
by The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Police are searching for a man accused of abducting his 14-monthold daughter from her grandmother's home in Los Angeles.
Officials say 29-year-old Randy Green entered the home in the Leimert Park neighborhood Tuesday afternoon and took the girl.
A restraining order bars Green from approaching his daughter or the child's mother.
Green is believed to be driving a 2004 BMW with California plates. His last known address is in Moreno Valley.
Investigators are asking for the public's help in locating Green and the girl.
Awareness Brings Prevention
by Sarah Schuch
BURTON, MI – The stories vary: Forced off the street at gun point. Trafficked by family members and sold to others. Pimped out by a man who she thought loved her.
But one thing is the same. They were all violated, abused, beaten and forced into a life they never wanted.
On Monday, May 4, a group of woman spoke out against human trafficking at Faith Tabernacle church at a forum hosted by State Sen. Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan.
"It's really eye-opening, I think. (Human trafficking) is next door and they're not seeing it," Emmons said.
Another human trafficking forum will be held Monday from 7-9 p.m. at the Shekinah Christian Church at 4600 Scio Church Road in Ann Arbor.
For Malynda Hughes, telling her story is a way to show people what is happening in Michigan and across the country.
"Awareness brings prevention," said Hughes, 40, of Lapeer County. "(I speak out) so other children would get the opportunities I didn't."
Emmons is pushing for stronger legislation in the state of Michigan to help prevent human trafficking.
Michigan's proximity to the Canadian border and waterways increases the likelihood of trafficking in the state, according to information from The Hope Project handed on out at Monday's event.
Human trafficking is a problem many people are blind to, Hughes said. Until Hughes was well into her adult years, she didn't even know there was a name for what was done to her.
Now, She wants to be a voice for others. Hughes said she wants to bring awareness to the program in Michigan.
Michigan ranks fifth in the nation in human trafficking, according to a pamphlet Emmons put together and passed out Monday.
Pimps prey on victims as young as 12 to 14 years old. One study estimates as many as 325,000 children in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico are at risk each year for becoming victims of sexual exploitation, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's website.
Emmons isn't alone in her fight against human trafficking.
U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D- Bloomfield Twp., recently proposed legislation that would train health care professionals to know what to look for, and is pushing a bill that would create a pilot program for a medical school to create best practices for intervention of human trafficking victims.
A 2013 Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking report found that trafficking is a serious and growing problem in Michigan, Peters said in April.
During a July 2013 FBI investigation, more than 150 traffickers were arrested in a nationwide sweep. The operation made several busts in metro Detroit and one in Flint, where two 17-year-old girls were rescued and one trafficker was arrested.
Emotions ran high on Monday as four survivors told their stories. They all work toward a common goal – to end human trafficking in this state and across the country.
No matter the story or the circumstances, it's going to take the community coming together to make a difference, Emmons said.
If anyone suspects an issue with human trafficking they are encouraged to call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.
"It's in every part of the state," Emmons said. "There's more to do. But it will take all of us."
Emmons wants to push for more advanced cyber forensics teams and wants to advance the Institute of Human Trafficking Education.
Here are tips given Monday to help identify child victims.
They may be a victim if the child:
Has unexplained absences from school and is truant.
Demonstrates an inability to attend school on a regular bases.
Chronically runs away from home.
Refers to frequent travel to other cities.
Exhibits physical trauma, withdrawn behavior, depression or fear.
Lacks control over his or her schedule or identification documents.
Is hungry, malnourished or inappropriately dressed.
Shows signs of drug addiction.
Demonstrates a sudden change in attire, behavior or material possessions (has expensive items).
Makes references to sexual situations that are beyond age-specific norms.
Engages in promiscuous behavior and may be labeled "fast" by peers.
For more information on human trafficking and how you can help, visit Muskegon-based The Hope Project's website.
For more information on Sen. Peters' proposed bill and other indicators of what to look for, click here.
Sheldon Kennedy brings message of hope
by Laura Finney
Former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy brought a message of hope to the YRAP gala, Saturday night.
Hope for people and organizations helping children and adults who have suffered from childhood abuse, and hope for those who are survivors.
“There is hope, there is a way out, there is a way to get your life back,” he said.
Kennedy is a survivor childhood sexual abuse and an advocate for its prevention. He wrote the book Why I Didn't Say Anything and helped create the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre.
When children suffer through a traumatic experience, it affects how the brain develops, explained Kennedy. And the result is mental illness.
“I'm left with mental health issues,” he said. “I need to pay attention to where I'm at on a daily basis.”
He has spent the past 18 years working as a positive force of change.
“I think when we first started talking about this issue, it was invisible,” he said.
But they have come a long way.
He said it used to feel like pushing a ball uphill. But now it's changing.
“We've got the ball over the hill,” he explained. “Now, it's about creating focus.”
At his advocacy centre, they have about 120 staff, including the Calgary Police child abuse unit, Child and family services workers, pediatricians, phsycoloigsts, staff from the Crown Prosecutor office and the RCMP.
By working together, changing legislation and sharing information, the centre has been able to do in days and weeks what used to take months and years, said Kennedy.
One of the best ways to paint the picture of child abuse is through good data, he said as he listed some of the stats from the centre.
In 21 months, they conducted 2,800 investigations, and the highest percentage of children they saw were between four and seven years old.
93 per cent of victims were abused by someone they know and in almost half the cases, it was by a parent or caregiver.
And one third of the victims showed signs of three or more mental health issues, such as addiction, self-harm or suicidal thoughts.
But often these issues are dealt with later on in a victim's life.
“There was a time in life when the most common place for me was in the back of a police car, in mental health hospitals or in treatment centers,” he said. “That's where I ended up and nobody ever asked me what had happened to me. We always wanted to work the outer layer of the onion. We always wanted to fix the addiction or we wanted to fix Sheldon from being in jail.”
Kennedy added that he had the opportunity to go to some of the best centres, but could only imagine where kids and families, who don't have those systems, end up.
“I know where they end up. They end up on our streets, they end up in our prisons and they end up dead.”
The systems tend to separate issues into separate silos, explained Kennedy, like child abuse, mental illness and homelessness.
But those need to be broken down, he said, and added workers need to look upstream and reach children before it's too late.
“We do 150 investigations a month, and I think for us, we have an opportunity to turn 150 kids lives around every month in our city,” he said.
Kennedy said victims often have scars that last a lifetime. They can feel guilt, shame and they can feel alone.
“I try to say the feelings that are happening with people that are suffering are normal. It's normal,” he said. “The reality is there's hope and there is a way out of it.”
One thing victims have to do is accept what has happened.
“And we have to understand the impact of what has happened to us and what we are left with,” he said.
“This is a journey, it takes a long time. It's progress not perfection.”
Child abuse has become major health problem in Manatee
by RICHARD DYMOND
MANATEE -- Calls reporting child abuse have drastically trended upward in Manatee County over the last four years, causing concern for social workers, law enforcement, educators, doctors and mental health providers.
Children who are abused suffer physically and mentally.
The consequences are seen in both the short-term and in the long-term and require a full spectrum of resources.
In the first three months of 2015, 1,126 hotline calls have been made about possible child abuse in Manatee, Maj. Connie Shingledecker of the Manatee County Sheriff's Office reported last week.
That's an average of 375 calls per month and if it stays on that pace it will break a record for average calls per month for abuse, set in 2014.
Last year, the average calls per month was 354, a total of 4,242 calls, Shingledecker said.
Equally alarming are the number of children who were removed from their homes after the abuse call was investigated.
In 2014, 387 Manatee County children were removed from their homes for either neglect, threatened harm or domestic violence, Shingledecker said.
A total of 137 children have been removed from their homes in the first three months of 2015, Shingledecker said. If that pace remains, it will top 500 for the year, a new all-time high.
When authorities say abuse, what do they mean?
Child maltreatment is a broad category and many people don't realize how many areas it goes into, Shingledecker said.
Shingledecker knows because she is the leader of the sheriff's office's team, which has been in place for 18 years, that handles investigations of child abuse in Manatee for the Florida Department of Children and Families.
Manatee is one of only six counties in Florida where a law enforcement agency handles the DCF investigations, Shingledecker said
Shingledecker's memory is scarred by cases, including several where children have placed calls to 911 while their parent or caregiver was passed out on the floor with a needle in their arm -- a form of abuse called neglect, Shingledecker said.
To reverse the rising trend, Shingledecker said they have
to raise awareness about the problems.
"When we have support systems, family and friends, they need to be aware of what is happening and they need to try to get the parent or caregiver some help," she said. "I would tell everyone that if they know someone who is not taking care of their child they need to report it so we can get that person help on the front end before something tragic happens."
Otherwise, Shingledecker said, they are putting a child's life at risk.
Child mistreatment includes all types of abuse and neglect of a child under the age of 18 by a parent, caregiver, or other person in a custodial role, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Physical, sexual, emotional abuse and neglect are the four most common types of abuse.
Physical abuse is the use of intentional physical force, such as hitting, kicking, shaking, burning or other shows of force against a child.
Sexual abuse involves fondling, rape, and exposing a child to other sexual activities.
Emotional abuse refers to behaviors that harm a child's self-worth or emotional well-being. Examples include name calling, shaming, rejection, withholding love and threatening.
Neglect is the failure to meet a child's basic needs, including housing, food, clothing, education and access to medical care.
Shingledecker is quick to point out that corporal punishment is legal in Florida, but there is a difference between spanking and physical abuse.
Shingledecker spanked her daughter, now 30, on the rear end for misbehaving. That is not a crime.
"Discipline is given in a controlled manner," Shingledecker said. "It's not someone screaming, spit coming from their mouth, saying to a child, 'You little so and so, I'm going to kill you,'" Shingledecker said. "That's pure anger and someone in that state can not control the force they use."
Parents must have a plan to control their tempers, said Donna Marks, a licensed clinical social worker at Biblical Counseling Center, 825 Fourth St. W., Suite 1-B, Palmetto.
"Count to 10, take a deep breath, even take your own time out," Marks said. "Parents think they have to take care of an issue right now. They don't. Parents can always delay the consequences."
Shingledecker is adamant that friends, family and even neighbors bear a responsibility to report possible child abuse to 911 or by calling 1-800-96-ABUSE.
School officials, law enforcement, social workers and others are "mandatory reporters" and can be charged with a felony for failure to report, Shingledecker said.
But ordinary citizens can also be charged if they know abuse has taken place and they do nothing, she said.
"The children who have this kind of abuse directed at them grow up to be filled with trauma and often repeat the cycle with their own children," Shingledecker said. "It becomes a learned behavior and by perpetuating it you are teaching your own children to use violence."
Everyone has a seat at the table
Manatee Glens staff psychiatrist Dr. Robert Boxley has been practicing for 30 years. He works with children who have been abused and neglected.
"Thirty years ago we never asked a person during the initial interview for a counseling session, 'We're you ever abused?' " Boxley said last week. "Now, we do. It may not be the first questions. But it comes up."
Each person is different in how he or she reacts to abuse and how it affects them in the future.
"Some are forthcoming the instant I see them," Boxley said. "Others withhold. Sometimes they tell me everything at the first meeting. Sometimes they have to feel safe and it takes many meetings."
The affects of abuse are serious in the short and long term, Boxley said.
Abuse affects school performance, socialization and communication.
"Their self-esteem and emotional growth are affected," Boxley said. "You see kids who become very depressed. You see tweens and teens perhaps use drugs and alcohol earlier. You see pregnancies that emerge from having been in that situation."
The signs of abuse are difficult sometimes to spot, Boxley said.
"Physical abuse is perhaps the easiest because you can look for bruising which is often seen in a school setting," Boxley said. "Emotional abuse is much more difficult to identify. You need to be more intimate with the child."
One of the difficulties is that children who are not abused also exhibit signs of depression and do poorly in school, Boxley said.
"Often the abused child will have headaches and stomach aches but other kids who are not being abused have the same thing," Boxley said.
Marks, who formerly worked at Manatee Glens, is a certified rapid resolution therapist, touted to help resolve some abuse issues in as few as three or four sessions. The talk therapy involves trying to remove the emotional intensity, Marks said.
"Our minds confuse similar with same," Marks said. "Children may have flashbacks to the abuse. Instead of being stuck in a loop that reconnects the child to the emotional event during those certain moments, we can help children reframe those moments so they don't have the same emotional reactivity."
The Rand study in England followed children who had been abused from the 1940s and 1950s. Forty years later the study showed that these children have a lot more instances of heart disease, cancer, auto immune disorders and earn less during the course of their working lives than someone who isn't abused, Boxley said.
"I think everyone has a kind of responsibility in this," Boxley said. "If you think something is going on with your neighbor, part of you says, 'It's their business.' But I think we have to overcome the taboo of not getting in someone's business. When our son or our daughter marries someone who has been abused and they are not financially successful it becomes our business. We have a seat at the table."
Child Abuse A Growing Problem in Abilene
by Victor Sotelo
Child abuse has become such a pervasive issue in the Abilene community that Abilene Chief of Police Stan Standridge is calling on the public to help combat the issue.
Since September of last year, Standridge says the Child Protective Services office has received 1,260 intakes and confirmed 314 cases of abuse or neglect.
In April alone, 36 children were forensically interviewed at the Child Advocacy Center. Ten of those children were under the age of 5.
Almost half of the children interviewed at the CAC in April were there on allegations of sexual abuse. In all of those cases, Standridge says the child knew the perpetrator.
About 90% of abusers reported during the month of April were men, and the abuse is happening across all demographics.
Monica Reid with the Regional Victim Crisis Center says people need to be more aware of the warning signs of abuse.
Emotional signs include changes in behavior, like anger or denial. A child abuse victim may also become suddenly fearful of situations or people or may become withdrawn.
Reid says to spot symptoms of abuse, it's crucial to know how children communicate. For instance, a child victim may talk about bodies or interactions, rather than talking directly about something they have experienced. A child may also act like the incident happened to someone else or may open up to an adult other than a parent.
APD and RVCC encourage citizens to use the hashtag #1is2many to help raise awareness of the issue of child abuse in Abilene.
Resources for child abuse victims:
Regional Victim Crisis Center
Child Advocacy Center-Abilene
Child Protective Services-Abilene
Emotional child abuse stories taught us to speak up
by Kimberly Blair
The past few months have been an emotional roller coaster for most of us "news" staffers in the Pensacola News Journal, as we reported and wrote the eight days of stories on child abuse.
I can't tell you how many times I've seen someone tear up or even breakdown crying as they learned about or wrote about the horrifying stories in our community.
We're hardened news types, you know.
Those of us who have been in the biz long enough have seen and reported on many horrific and sad stories.
But there's something about the magnitude of the child abuse problem in our community and country that is simply unsettling. To sit here and know, right now, there are dozens, perhaps hundreds of children in our community being beaten, belittled, starved, or tortured is hard to swallow.
Especially so, knowing that the only salvation for most of these children hinges on someone not turning a blind eye but speaking up on their behalf and reporting the abuse, or suspected abuse.
Every one of us kept one thing in mind as we wrote stories, or helped pull together photos or video or statistical graphs (thank you Lani, Mike and Jazzy and all of our photographers), and that was maybe our work will help spur someone to speak up and save a child from their nightmare.
I know I have spoken up on behalf of a child several times, and it's not easy, but it was necessary.
Once a young woman was leaving Cordova Mall dangling a baby less than a year old from one of his arms. She was screaming at him to stop crying while she struck him so hard he'd swing out and back again into another whack, over and over again. His woeful screams sent chills through my body.
She literally threw him by one arm into the back seat of her SUV and began pounding on him.
I ran over and asked her to stop and told her that's no way to treat a baby. She seemed startled and embarrassed and stopped the beating, but was also angry at me that I got into her business.
Twice I've seen parents forcing their barefooted toddlers to walk on hot sand or concrete at Pensacola Beach on searing summer days. The parents or caregiver were wearing sandals or flip-flops, seemingly unconcerned that the kids who were screaming at the top of their lungs, jumping up and down were in serious pain.
I've seen these parents yank their kids' arms and yell at them to keep walking and "shut up!"
One child looked like as if he were going to pass out, with sweat pouring down his face.
In both cases, I approached these parents and said the sand is scorching the child's feet and is too hot to walk on. I told them to take off their shoes and feel the ground. I also asked if they needed help carrying their beach supplies while they carry their child.
In both cases, the parents seemed like they didn't care, so much so, I finally had to threaten to call a deputy, only to be told "mind your own business." The "sheriff" word, however, did spur them to pick up their child.
I'm sorry, when it comes to abuse, I won't mind my business.
I hope neither will you.
Detective explains child abuse
by Sarah Brown
Although April's Child Abuse Prevention month has passed, the reality continues on. Detectives such as Taylor Jackson are aware of the problem 365 days out of the year.
Jackson is the sex crimes detective at the Lebanon Police Department, a post he's held for about four months, following three years on patrol at LPD, and three years at Sweet Home Police Department prior to that.
“This gives me the opportunity to be a voice for the kids that may or may not be able to talk,” Jackson said.
While Jackson was a patrol officer, he would see the start of child abuse cases that were transferred to the sex crimes detective, at which point he'd lose track of how they ended up, he said. He started developing a desire to see the cases to the very end.
One case in particular sealed the decision for him to seek the detective position. It involved a 17-month-old boy last year.
“He came into the hospital and had multiple contusions all over his face and body,” Jackson said. “They did some X-rays and found he had a shattered collar bone.”
During the medical exam, the boy remained silent and showed no reaction, except his body would freeze when laid down, he said. He was completely without emotion.
“What had happened was that the (mother's) boyfriend had been abusing him so badly, that he had ingrained it in his head not to cry,” Jackson said. “That takes a lot of abuse to get a 17-month-old not to cry over a broken collar bone, especially with doctors poking at it.”
Ultimately, the abuser was convicted and the mother was educated and relocated with her child.
Normal isn't so normal
There is no typical day for Jackson.
Much of what's involved in his work includes being on the phone, conducting interviews at hospitals, writing case reports and helping patrol officers with domestic cases.
The detective also is part of a multi-disciplinary team that gets together every week to discuss cases and try to figure out what they can do for families. The group consists of case workers, detectives, court-appointed advocates and staff from the ABC House.
“We present all of our cases that have to do with any kind of child abuse or anything,” Jackson said.
Instead of just focusing on how to put "the bad guy" in jail, they also discuss what they can do to help the family, he said. The team tries to provide resources for the families, including educating them about abuse.
“A lot of times when we have a family that's been through a traumatic event like that, that's normal to them,” Jackson said.
Oftentimes, kids are surprised to hear that the abuse is not normal behavior in most homes, he added.
“We see that pretty often, where it's been passed through generations and it's been normalized,” Jackson explained.
So Jackson tries to educate what a proper punishment might be like, such as having to lay one's head down on a table for a period of time for calling their brother a bad name.
“Any type of physical injury that's being inflicted on you and leaving injuries is not okay,” Jackson said. “In the state of Oregon it's legal to spank your child, but when you cross that line to the point where you're leaving injuries, that's a crime, that's abuse.”
The community's responsibility
In 2014, Lebanon had 31 convictions of a parent or gaurdian charged with a crime against a child.
“That doesn't sound like a lot, but when you break the numbers down, you're talking over two a month,” Jackson said. “When you break it down like that, it's high.”
The abuse usually comes from someone directly related to the child, such as a relative, friend or someone else close to the family, he said. And rarely is that abuser “just a really bad person.”
“I think for the most part about 99 percent of the people we deal with are genuinely good people; they just make bad decisions,” Jackson said.
Often those people were raised with abuse when they were growing up, he explained.
“You have parents that pass that behavior down to children, because it's been so normalized that that's their life,” Jackson said.
So educating the community about child abuse is meant to help break the cycle, he said. Part of being human is taking care of children.
“Whether our own children or the community's children, that's everyone's responsibility,” Jackson said. “Children are our number-one resource, and as a community we need to take care of them.”
Jackson believes there is hope, despite Linn County ranking in the top three counties with domestic and child abuse cases in the state. He's particularly encouraged when he sees the number of participants at Walk a Mile for a Child increase every year.
“That shows a positive trend, and it shows how much the community is jumping in and taking an active role,” Jackson said. “Seeing the community rally against this is nice.”
Jackson encourages people to report
When someone suspects a child might possibly be abused, they're often afraid to say something because they don't want to unnecessarily accuse people or break families up, Jackson said.
But Jackson encourages the public to not hestitate to report their suspicions.
“They're kids, we have to protect them,” he said. “We don't arrest people on accusations; we're going to investigate it.”
In fact, the investigation can often be a long process. The police cannot rush in and split up a family without first getting some background information and evidence, he explained.
“If we get a report of a kid with an injury, we're gonna investigate and do everything we can to determine if it was accidental, negligent, or caused by someone,” Jackson said.
Multiple agencies work together to help determine what's going on in the family, and they try to develop a “safety plan,” such as asking that the child stay with a grandparent or other guardian during the investigation.
“It's a tough topic to talk about, especially when you know it's gonna rip apart families and have that ripple effect,” Jackson said. “But imagine how much harder it is for that child to go through that. If you were that kid and had that happen to you, would you want someone to talk?”
People who call in with a suspected child abuse case can report anonymously. If anyone suspects a child is being abused, please call Detective Jackson at 541-258-4357.
Signs of suspected abuse
Hitting or pinching hard enough to leave a mark which does not go away right away
Burning with a cigarette, lighter, iron, stove top burner or other instrument which leaves an injury
Biting hard enough to leave a mark or break the skin
Choking, pinching, kicking or pushing into walls or objects
Failure to provide basic needs and care dependent upon the age of a child. Basic needs are described as food, shelter, clothing, education, medical care and supervision.
When a parent or gaurdian calls a child names that are really mean
Telling a child they are stupid, worthless or a mistake
Making fun of a child until it hurts them
Telling a child they are never good enough and can't do anything right
For more information, contact the ABC House 541-926-2203, or visit abchouse.org.
Police saw Rotherham child sex abuse victims as prostitutes, says PCC
Officers failed to act 10 years ago when reports warned about extent of problem because they did not understand what grooming was, says Alan Billings
by The Press Association
Nothing was done about child sexual exploitation in South Yorkshire because the girls involved were seen as prostitutes, a police commissioner has said.
Alan Billings, police and crime commissioner for the local force, said “it all went wrong” because police did not understand what grooming was or that it was child abuse.
Billings was speaking after reports revealed that police were warned 10 years ago about the extent of the problem in South Yorkshire but did nothing about it.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: “I don't think any of us at that time understood what grooming was and that this was grooming.
“I think we saw these girls not as victims but as troublesome young people out of control and willing participants. We saw it as child prostitution rather than child abuse, and I think that was broadly accepted and that's why it all went wrong.”
Billings said police were prioritising burglary and car theft because of public demands at the time.
He added that the problem was a cultural issue, which went beyond South Yorkshire police.
A report by Prof Alexis Jay published last August revealed that at least 1,400 children were raped, trafficked and groomed in Rotherham.
A further review by Louise Casey, published this year, led to the mass resignation of the council's ruling Labour cabinet. The communities secretary, Eric Pickles, ordered government-appointed commissioners to take over the running of the council.
Reports written by Dr Angie Heal in 2003 and 2006 have been made public following a freedom of information request by the Star newspaper in Sheffield.
The Star revealed that Heal provided police with the names of suspected offenders in 2003 but said nothing was done with the information. Heal, who worked for South Yorkshire police at the time, uncovered evidence of child exploitation while working on a report about crack cocaine.
She told the Star: “I had never come across this issue of organised child abuse in this kind of way.”
Her report notes a number of missed opportunities to catch offenders. An 18-year-old woman was charged with theft after she reported being raped by a well-known heroin dealer but was never questioned about the rape.
Police took seven months to contact a man who offered his house as an observation post after noticing significant numbers of teenage girls attending his neighbour's home.
The 2006 report claimed abuse was continuing across South Yorkshire, particularly in Sheffield and Rotherham. Heal noted a lack of police response and said victims were reluctant to come forward to give information to the police.
She told the Star she submitted updates every six months after an initial report in 2002 but no action appeared to be taken.
South Yorkshire police is subject to an ongoing independent investigation by the IPCC and Billings recently announced a county-wide inspection after allegations about child sex exploitation in Sheffield.
A police spokeswoman said: “The chief constable understands and accepts this inspection is necessary to gain an understanding of past issues across the county and allow the force to begin the process of rebuilding public confidence.
“South Yorkshire police has made significant progress in tackling child sexual exploitation but we understand more needs to be done. There has been a significant increase in the number of police officers and staff dedicated to tackling child sexual exploitation and we are absolutely committed to achieving justice, stopping the harm and preventing future offending.”
The spokeswoman said there were ongoing investigations into historic allegations and a number of arrests had been made.
Hope in the darkness
For 18 years, local nonprofit works steadfastly to prevent child abuse and help victims recover
by Haley Collins
One day, a young woman came to Juliette's House to thank us for helping her. She had first been here years ago as a sexually abused child.
“Juliette's House helped me begin the first stage of truly being healed! ... Thank you so much for everything that you do. Your impact is changing lives, and it provides hope in the darkness.”
All of us in the community need to work together to “provide hope in the darkness” by preventing child abuse and supporting victims in recovery. Almost daily, we read and hear about child abuse and neglect. It is difficult to understand how many people in our community do not respect the rights of children.
We want to believe child abusers are recognizable monsters, easy to spot, and therefore easy to avoid. But they hide themselves among us, and they often are those we least suspect.
Statistics show that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18. Nationally, more than 1,700 children died from abuse or neglect in 2013, and 70 percent of those fatalities were children younger than age 5. Also in 2013, child abuse intervention centers across the United States helped more than 290,000 children:
- 62 percent involved sexual abuse.
- 38 percent were younger than 5.
- 90 percent knew their perpetrator.
In Oregon alone, 5,538 children were served by the 20 centers in our 36 counties. Almost half these children were younger than age 6.
A child, maybe 8 years old, ran up to one of our facilitators at a Safe Kids workshop and said “Oh! Juliette's House. I've been there twice. That's the place where you go and they make you feel better.”
While we feel gratified to learn we made her feel better, there is no satisfaction to realize she's been here twice.
Juliette's House was established in 1997 in response to the need for compassionate assessment, treatment and support of children and families who may have been impacted by child abuse and neglect. The goal was to minimize the child's trauma by bringing the various agencies and professionals involved in a case to the child in one child-focused, home-like location.
Our organization makes investigation, treatment and follow-up more successful for the child and the child's family. As an independent, nonprofit agency, Juliette's House still works in close collaboration with law enforcement, child protective services at the Oregon Department of Human Services, the district attorney's office, counselors and mental health providers, schools and other partners involved in child protection and safety. We serve Yamhill, Polk and Tillamook counties, all free of charge.
When a child arrives at Juliette's House, we greet the child, family members and investigators. We offer refreshments and snacks, and invite the child to choose a stuffed toy and a blanket or quilt to take home. We hope to help the child feel safe and relaxed as well as making the process as comfortable as possible for the entire family. During this assessment process, which may take as long as three or four hours, we explain everything that will happen.
We perform a medical examination, evaluating the overall health of the child. The examiner looks for signs of abuse, documents any physical evidence, reassures the child and answers the child's questions or concerns. To gather reliable, uncontaminated statements, specially trained interviewers speak with the child, taking into consideration the child's age, well-being, circumstances and readiness to talk.
The exam and interview are critical. Findings are reported to law enforcement and child protective services. Our key partners in criminal justice, health and human services, and mental health counseling depend on our work as they investigate allegations, prosecute offenders and guide the child and family through the healing process. We help the family connect with counseling and community resources such as food or housing assistance — whatever the family needs.
To prevent abuse in the first place, we also offer Safe Kids and Safe Touch workshops as often as possible.
In schools, Safe Kids facilitators use materials developed by the National Child Assault Prevention project. They conduct guided discussions and role-playing about bullying, stranger awareness and inappropriate touch. They clearly identify people children can go to for help. They urge kids to keep mentioning troubling situations until a trusted adult intervenes. After the workshop, children can meet one-on-one with workshop facilitators. Sometimes, children disclose issues at home or other problems requiring follow-up. We report any allegations of abuse or neglect to Child Protective Services or appropriate police: city, county or state.
During one such discussion, helping a youngster who had been abused by a relative turned into an opportunity to also help her mother, who had to deal with a sensitive situation regarding a family member. The mother had “handled it” but came to understand that her child was not really out of danger. Even if the offender left her child alone, other children could be at risk if he turned his attention elsewhere. The child had done the right thing, the mother did the right thing, an arrest was made and the offender was held accountable.
Our Safe Touch family support groups meet regularly. Facilitators share how to engage in age-appropriate interactions to promote the development of healthy family relationships. We offer information on all forms of abuse. Together, parents and children learn how to avoid dangerous situations and ways to maintain open communication about safe — and unsafe — touch.
A boy in one of the family groups told us he really liked Juliette's House. He said it was fun to be here, and he was learning how to get rid of the bad feelings about what had happened to him.
Abuse is not only a children's issue. The impact of abuse during childhood is not easily diminished with the mere passing of time. Survivors both young and old can recover, but it requires the support of the community as well as compassionate care by those with a deep understanding of the unique challenges presented by child abuse.
We want to thank our working partners and the general community for supporting our work over the years. Every day, individuals and organizations respond compassionately to children and families affected by child abuse. It takes all of us, making a collaborative effort, to stop or prevent child abuse and neglect — to provide hope in the darkness.
How you can help
Here are some ways you can keep children safe in our community:
- Talk to your own children about safe touch and appropriate relationships.
- Listen when a child tells you about being hurt in some way. Assure the child that telling was the right thing to do, and get help for the child.
- Invest time, energy or money in an organization promoting child safety or assisting victims of abuse.
- Mobilize your religious group, service club, professional organization or other community group to help kids in any way they can.
'Making sure victims' voices are heard'
by Virginia Combs
Last week, representatives of Radford/Floyd Victim Witness, the Commonwealth Attorney's Office, Sheriff's Office, Women's Resource Center and Children's Trust of the New River Valley participated in a program to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Virginia Crime Victims' Bill of Rights. The event on Wednesday in the Floyd County courtroom took place during Crime Victims Rights' Week, April 19-25, which was designated as part of a resolution by the local Board of Supervisors.
The goal was to make the public more aware of how crimes affect not only the victims but also the community and to provide information to victims.
Victim Witness Coordinator Teresa McKensie works every day with victims, and she told the group that in her job “it's about making sure victims' voices are heard.” Sometimes, she said, victims need “a shoulder to lean on”. At other times, they may require help in getting financial restitution through the Compensation Fund, available for medical expenses, travel to and from the hospital or other costs. Radford/Floyd Victim Witness keeps victims updated on their cases, conducts jury tours, and sits with them during protective order hearings and trials.
McKensie said in Floyd County, “there are a lot of victims of breaking and entering, sexual assault and domestic violence.”
Chris Durner, a sexual assault advocate with the Women's Resource Center, said the Center provides a 24-hour hotline that allows victims to talk to a person. The Center also provides emergency housing for women and children and also men (in a separate location), offers counseling for victims, visits schools with educational programs, and works with other offices and agencies in a team approach. All services at the Center are free and provided as long as are needed.
Laura Guilliams, a forensic interviewer with Children's Trust, located in Roanoke and the New River Valley, works with children in a developmentally appropriate setting. Rather than children being interviewed in a police department or Social Services office, they are taken to a child-friendly environment “so they can tell their story of any abuse allegations”. As a forensic interviewer, she is trained to ask questions appropriate to a child's development, she explained. Guilliams is also trained to interview adults with cognitive delays.
Children's Trust “is a great program,” said local Sheriff's Office investigator Brian Craig, who in his work with Investigation of Crimes Against Children has had an opportunity to see it in action. The interviews conducted by Children's Trust, “seem to have a minimal impact on children. They don't realize they are being interviewed.” Children's Trust saw 294 children in its Roanoke and Christiansburg locations in FY2014. It is part of the Child Abuse Review Team in Floyd County.
Working for victims' rights is a team effort, said Floyd County's commonwealth's attorney, Eric Branscom. “Part of it is keeping victims from being victimized by the process.”
Serving as a backdrop for the program in Floyd April 22 were t-shirts that had been designed by survivors, their friends and families. With messages and illustrations, the t-shirts – known as the Clothesline Project (in which Virginia Tech, Radford University and the Women's Resource Center participate) - depict their experiences and hope for the future. The colors of the T-shirts represent the type of violence women have experienced: white for those who died as a result of violence; yellow or beige for women who have been battered or assaulted; red, pink, or orange for those raped or sexually assaulted; blue or green for survivors of incest or child sexual abuse; purple or lavender for women attacked because of their sexual orientation; and black for women handicapped by violence.
Why we need to talk about student sexual assault
Mandatory consent workshops should be introduced for all first-year students
by Laura Harmon
In Ireland, like in many countries, we haven't got the best track record when it comes to sex education. There are also many issues to be tackled in our society when it comes to sexual violence. As the nation begins to come to terms with and address the history of child abuse that occurred here, we should also turn our attentions to how adults treat one another.
In 2013, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) published the Say Something Study – the first study of third-level students' experiences in Ireland on harassment, stalking, violence and sexual assault. Over 2,750 students of all genders responded. The study was supported by Cosc – the National Office for the Prevention of Sexual, Domestic and Gender-Based Violence – and the Department of Justice and Equality.
The study found 16 per cent of respondents experienced some form of unwanted sexual experience during their time as a student at their current higher education institution.
One in five women who responded experienced some form of unwanted sexual experience, with 11 per cent experiencing unwanted sexual contact. Seven per cent of men who responded had some form of unwanted sexual experience. Five per cent of women students were survivors of rape, compared with less than 1 per cent of men.
Less than 3 per cent of respondents to the Say Something Study who had an unwanted sexual experience reported it to college officials or to the Garda Síochána. Some common reasons given included a fear they would be blamed, shame or embarrassment and not wanting friends or family to find out. Some 51 per cent of the women surveyed discussed sexual violence with their friends, but only 38 per cent of men did.
The largest proportion of survivors of unwanted sexual experiences identified the perpetrator as an acquaintance. Trinity College Dublin Students' Union surveyed over 1,000 students in December 2014. They found one in four women and 5 per cent of men who responded had an unwanted sexual experience during their time as a student.
The survey revealed a worrying lack of awareness about sexual consent campaigns, with only 31 per cent of women and 32 per cent of men saying they had heard of any consent campaigns before.
A recent survey of 333 students in University College Cork found that one in seven respondents had been sexually assaulted. This survey was carried out by a new student-led campaign called Know Offence. The aims of the campaign are to dispel myths around sexual violence and provide information on support services.
None of all of this is unique to Ireland. A study conducted by the National Union of Students in the UK in 2010 found that one in seven women had experienced serious physical or sexual assault during their time as a student.
The 2007 Campus Sexual Assault (CSA) study funded by the US department of justice found one in five women respondents and 6 per cent of men were survivors of attempted or completed sexual assault during their time in college.
In September 2014, President Barack Obama launched the “It's On Us” campaign. The campaign resulted from the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, which published a report in April 2014 outlining how colleges can prevent and address campus sexual assault.
Some recommendations include the need for colleges to conduct systematic surveys; the need for bystander intervention to be promoted to encourage witnesses to step in when misconduct arises; and for colleges to identify trained people who can provide emergency and ongoing support. The administration also published a sample reporting and confidentiality protocol, as well as best practice for the formulation of sexual misconduct policies.
So what could be done in Ireland to help address these issues?
Ireland could follow the lead of Oxford and Cambridge by introducing mandatory consent workshops for all first-year students. USI is working with stakeholders to develop a consent campaign for students to be rolled out in this September.
The Government could produce standardised protocols for higher education institutions on reporting and support procedures.
Ultimately, comprehensive sex education needs to include awareness of the importance of consent. This should be introduced to the curriculum from primary school and reinforced all the way through Ireland's education system.
We need to talk more openly. Gone should be the days where survivors of sexual assault are stigmatised. We need to steer clear of campaigns with messages that lend themselves to “victim-blaming”. To reduce and tackle sexual assault, we need a whole-of-society approach.
Laura Harmon is president of the Union of Students in Ireland.
Group looking for new ideas to stop child abuse
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) – A federal commission is looking for new methods that could be used to help stop deadly child abuse.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/1GwwnZg) reports the panel of presidential and congressional appointees met last week in Memphis to discuss ideas that might add more protections for vulnerable children.
Chris Newlin, executive director of the National Children's Advocacy Center, said one new idea would be to pull the addresses of newborns and see if police have responded to domestic violence or animal control calls at those locations. He said a multidisciplinary team could review cases that raise red flags and begin to work to prevent abuse before it happens.
The newspaper reports that idea might have helped 3-year-old Dakota Arndt, who was allegedly beaten to death by his mother's boyfriend.
Nova Scotia's child abuse registry could grow under amendments
Child and Family Services Act changes to be debated in the fall
by CBC News
It'll be easier to add the names of people who abuse children to Nova Scotia's child abuse registry when the province's Child and Family Services Act is overhauled next fall.
Under the current system some abuser's names are only added if the province knows the name of the victim.
Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard says that doesn't make sense.
"If you're for instance a pedophile and you commit all your crimes outside of the country, just because we don't know the nature of the child, or their relationship, anything to do with the name of the child doesn't mean they shouldn't be on the registry when they come to Canada," she said.
Bernard says the change was not sparked by the arrest and conviction of Fenwick MacIntosh for the sexual abuse of a child in Nepal. The former Nova Scotia businessman was convicted of 14 sex abuse charges in 2010 but those convictions were thrown out by the Supreme Court of Canada because of the length of time it took to complete the court case.
Criminals who take advantage of children could also find themselves on Nova Scotia's child abuse registry.
"Generally the way it stands now with the child abuse registry, the crime has to be committed against the child. This change would also encompass if you use a child in the commission of a crime. For instance if you use them to sell drugs or smuggle or anything like that," she said.
Bernard says it's one more way the province will try to better protect children.
The minister introduced the amendments at Province House last week.
The changes are expected to be debated in the fall.
French minister calls on soldiers who sexually abused children to come clean
Jean-Yves Le Drian says peacekeepers who raped homeless children in Central African Republic have ‘sullied our flag', as investigation continues
by Angelique Chrisafis
The French defence minister has appealed for any French peacekeeping soldiers guilty of raping or sexually assaulting children in the Central African Republic to come forward and give themselves up.
Jean-Yves Le Drian told Le Journal de Dimanche that he had felt “disgust” and “betrayal” when he received a leaked UN report in July last year alleging that French soldiers dispatched to the country to restore order after a 2013 coup had raped and sexually assaulted starving and homeless children in exchange for food.
Le Drian said: “If someone has sullied our flag – because that's what it is – he must say so right now, because it's a betrayal of comrades, the image of France and the army's mission.”
He added: “When a French soldier is on a mission, he is France.” He said: “If one of them has committed such acts, they must immediately give themselves in.”
The Guardian revealed last week that a senior United Nations aid worker had been suspended for disclosing to prosecutors an internal report on the sexual abuse of children by French peacekeeping troops in the CAR.
The alleged abuse took place as French peacekeeping troops were supposed to be protecting civilians at a centre for displaced people near the airport of the capital Bangui, between December 2013 — when the French military operation began — and June 2014.
UN rights investigators conducted an investigation into the abuse allegations in the spring of 2014, and Anders Kompass, a Swedish senior UN official, later passed the report to French authorities because he felt his superiors had failed to take action.
The Guardian revealed that French authorities sent a letter of thanks to Kompass for the information.
The French defence minister Le Drian told Le Journal du Dimanche that he immediately gave the report to French court prosecutors, adding that an internal army investigation into the matter was conducted and finished in August.
“Naturally, it is available to the courts that are tasked with conducting the judicial inquiry,” he said.
Asked why the investigation opened by French prosecutors was still not finished nine months after the ministry received the leaked report, Le Drian said it was a “complex investigation”.
“Since the alleged events, most soldiers have left that theatre of operations, but that must not stop the courts from doing their job swiftly,” he said.
Teenage mom throws 1-year-old boy off bridge, then jumps
by Tobias Salinger
A 19-year-old mom tossed her 1-year-old son from an eastern Pennsylvania bridge and then jumped off herself on Sunday afternoon, authorities said.
Police miraculously rescued the mom and her child after witnesses on the Hamilton St. Bridge above the Lehigh River in Allentown alerted them, The Morning Call of Allentown reported.
Both the baby and his mom, neither of whom have been identified, are in serious condition following the 52-foot fall, but they're expected to survive, Allentown Police Capt. William Reinik told WFMZ-TV.
Investigators are examining the incident as an attempted murder-suicide, but they haven't filed any charges as of Sunday night, Reinik noted, according to WCAU-TV.
The woman pulled her baby out of his stroller and threw him over the railing at about 1:45 p.m., police told the local newspaper.
The mother then took her own leap but landed in shallow water and staggered to the shore, WCAU reported.
Police found the mom when they arrived on the scene moments later, but the baby had already floated 700 yards towards the town of Bethlehem, reports the local paper.
Officers plucked the child out of the water and performed CPR, according to The Morning Call.
The pair are currently receiving treatment at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest, the publication reported.