National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

child abuse trauma prevention, intervention & recovery


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EDITOR'S NOTE: Every day we bring you articles from local newspapers, web sites and other sources that constitute but a small percentage of the information available to those who are interested in the issues of child abuse and recovery from it.

We present articles such as this simply as a convenience to our readership ...
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Here are a few recent stories related to the kinds of issues we cover on the web site. They'll represent a small percentage of the information available to us, the public, as we fight to provide meaningful recovery services and help for those who've suffered child abuse. We'll add to and update this page regularly.

We'll also present stories about the criminals and criminal acts that impact our communities all across the nation. The few we place on this page are the tip of the iceberg, and we ask you to check your local newspapers and law enforcement sites. Stay aware. Every extra set of "eyes and ears" makes a big difference.
Recent News - News from other times

May, 2015 - Week 2
MJ Goyings
Many, many thanks to our very own "MJ" for
providing us the majority of the daily research
that appears on the LACP and NAASCA web sites.
Ms. Goyings is a Registered Nurse and lives in Ohio.

New York

Want to stop sex abuse? Child Advocacy Center of Cayuga County's says 'Stop the silence'

by Samantha House

AUBURN | Ask parents why they don't talk about sexual abuse with their children, and they'll give you plenty of reasons.

Talking about sex gives kids ideas, they contend. Childhood is a time for innocence, not inappropriate discussions, they argue. Why scare them, parents reason, when there's no way my children could ever be sexually abused?

Connie Smith and Rhonda Zahn, of the Child Advocacy Center of Cayuga County, encounter those reluctant attitudes frequently among parents.

They respond with facts.

One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they reach their 18th birthday, according to Department of Justice estimates . About one out of every seven American youths who peruse the Internet receive unwanted sexual requests. And according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, those adolescent victims are significantly more likely to wrangle with depression, to lean on drugs and alcohol, to consider ending their own lives.

Ignoring sex abuse, the advocates explain, doesn't make the problem disappear. It leaves children ill-equipped to deal with reality.

"It goes back to the quote from one of our trainings," Stanford-Zahn said. "A sexual predator, a convicted child molester, said, 'Show me a kid that doesn't know about sex and I'll show you my next victim.'"

Nodding solemnly, Smith agreed.

"Kids are naturally curious about that," she said of sex. "If we don't give them the right information, there's people out there that are only too willing to do that."

That's why the Child Advocacy Center is working hard to ensure Cayuga County's children are not shielded from the facts about sex and sexual abuse. Implementing a positive, realistic program, the CAC teaches children ranging from preschoolers to high school seniors about healthy relationships, giving others space and the danger of keeping secrets.

And that approach, the advocates believe, will help keep kids safe.

"Find your voice"

When Connie Smith enters a school to teach her youngest pupils, she is well aware of the statistics.

As education coordinator for both the CAC and Sexual Assault Victims Advocate Resources, Smith knows chances are unfortunately high that at least a few of the children she meets face being sexually victimized. But Smith doesn't let that grim likelihood color her demeanor when she teaches her young audiences.

The curriculum created by Smith was on display on April 15 when Smith stopped by Casey Park Elementary School.

With a cart carrying puppets Mooster the moose and Munchee the monkey in tow, Smith entered the Auburn school's library. That's when about a dozen kindergartners and first-graders — all participants in Booker T. Washington Community Center's after-school program — burst into the room.

The children vied to claim spots as close to Smith as possible on the colorful rug, their eyes fixed on the puppets perched on her hands.

After meeting with Smith multiple times over the past few months, the students were excited to see another presentation from the puppets who serve as "The SAVAR Safety Squad." But Smith quickly corralled the squirming children into a relative calm with a question.

"Raise your hand if you remember a safety rule that we talked about before," she said. "What do you remember?"

After some giggles, the children responded.

"Never keep secrets," a boy stated confidently.

"I love that," she said. "We're going to talk about that in a minute. Never keep secrets."

The children proceeded to blurt out any rules they could think of, telling Smith to look both ways before crossing roads and to strap on a helmet before climbing onto a bike. When Smith prompted them further — hoping to hear at least one more of her rules — the children responded.

"We need space," a girl said shyly.

"Keep your hands to yourself," another boy agreed.

Smith nodded her approval and with proceeded to reteach her rules — safety messages she believes will help prevent the children from becoming victims or perpetrators of sexual abuse.

The fact that the kindergartners and first-graders remembered some of the rules is the outcome Smith hoped for.

"I want it to become, overtime, automatic. They recognize it, they know what it is, they know what to do," Smith said after the presentation. "That's why the repetition is so important."

Kizzy Mitchell, BTW's psychiatric coordinator, said there's an important reason why her organization always welcomes Smith to speak with BTW's children: If advocates don't teach children about sexual abuse, it's likely no one else will.

"A lot of parents don't talk about it — tell them the truth, the warnings signs," Mitchell said. "I'm glad (Smith's) embedded it in them when they're little."

Repetition is a strategy Smith employs with all her charges, regardless of age.

Speaking inside one of CAC's colorful Auburn rooms a few weeks later, Smith and Zahn, executive director of the center, explained how their curriculum changes as children age.

When interacting with children ranging from preschoolers to second-graders, Smith uses Mooster and Munchee to encourage children to recognize safe adults, take care of their bodies, give others space and never keep secrets.

As children move up in elementary school, she starts to places a higher emphasis on the fact that not all adults are trustworthy.

"At third- and fourth-grade levels, the puppets stop, and I start to focus on, 'Adults are supposed to keep kids safe. Most adults are good at it, but not all of them,'" Smith said.

She tells the children that some adults make "the bad choice to touch kids." From there, she ensures the children identity multiple adults they can speak to if anyone — including family members — make them feel unsafe.

This is a particularly vital lesson, considering 95 percent of the children sexually abused in Cayuga County are victimized by a family member.

When she meets with sixth- and seventh-graders, Smith discusses sexual harassment. The topic is one the preteens are already acquainted with. When Smith asks for examples, they point to naked photos sent between cellphones.

Smith is most candid with high school students who, as almost-adults, already know sex, sexting and rape exist.

But Smith doesn't just inform teenagers. She encourages them to participate in the fight against abuse — to speak out against violence.

And at Auburn High School, about 400 students recently practiced what Smith and others have long been preaching.

The sunny morning of April 29, the school's juniors and seniors filed into the auditorium for a rally meant to amp up the student body for Take Back the Night, Cayuga County's annual march against domestic and sexual violence. The event was organized by Smith and Amy Cox, a health teacher at AHS.

The students were the stars of the show.

Celina Rescott sang Katy Perry's "By The Grace of God," and Lindsey Lupo shared a list of words that explain how bullied students feel. "We shouldn't let being afraid of something stand in the way of doing the right thing," Lupo advised.

Dancing in front of artwork created by Katherine Budelmann, Absolute Dance students danced out their feelings about bullying. Dave Moskov, coach of AHS' football coach, paced across the stage as he gave students a pep talk, encouraging them to prepare for the "moment of truth" — moments Moskov hopes his students will stick up for victims of abuse.

"Be the person that says 'not happening here,'" he said. "Be a person who can step up."

The students responded to the performances with applause, whipping out their smartphones to take videos when their peers danced and sang. When Deputy Jeremy Caster, of the Oswego County Sheriff's Office, spoke to them about his experience as a survivor of child sexual abuse, they seemed entranced.

"Don't look at yourself as a victim," Caster implored the students. "You're a survivor."

When Caster stopped speaking, the room exploded into cheers. One teenager was the first to jump to his feet — his face colored by emotion as he gave Caster a standing ovation. His peers followed his example.

Smith and Zahn watched from the sidelines, smiling in awe.

"These kids are going to stand up to abuse," Smith said confidently. "And they'll be safer because of it."

"It's always been a secret"

Much has changed since the 1960s, when efforts to stem violence against women first gained traction.

When the first rape crisis centers sprouted up across the nation in the 1970s, Zahn said the relationship between advocates and law enforcement was tense.

"There was a day rape crisis programs were in conflict with police because the mindset was that rape crisis programs were created to protect victims from the police," she said.

Luckily, Stanford-Zahn said that antagonistic relationships has softened over the past decade — particularly locally.

Victims who seek services at CAC and SAVAR are given a primer on how the criminal justice system works. When asked, advocates also accompany victims who opt to meet with police.

In addition to using the CAC's colorful, kid friendly center to interview children who have been sexually abused, Zahn said police often reach out to advocates when they encounter a victim or family they believe would benefit from working with CAC or SAVAR.

"The police know that were are a service that has accountability," she said.

Another attitude evolution has added muscle to the fight: Sexual abuse is now viewed by health officials as a public health problem.

"That's a shift," Smith said. "Instead of a societal issue or a moral issue, it's being looked at as what it is — a public health problem, because it's so widespread."

This attitude has particularly been embraced by the Auburn Enlarged City School District. Smith praised the district's progressive attitude, stating officials welcome her into every school and reach out the CAC when a student is sexually abused.

Camille Johnson, Auburn's assistant superintendent for student services, said the district has embraced the advocacy center's educational mission in the hopes of both informing students and giving them the confidence to speak up if they are subjected to abuse.

"We need to empower our youth through awareness and educational programs so we can prevent child sexual abuse," Johnson said. "If we're able to save one child with a presentation, it's far worth it."

But one major roadblock remains: the general public.

Sex abuse, particularly the sexual abuse of children, is so repugnant that most people would rather avoid the topic. Despite data proving otherwise, many people still believe sex crimes are a rare tragedy that will never darken their family's lives.

"It's always been a secret, right? It's always been something that wasn't talked about," Smith said. "And by not talking about it openly and keeping it a secret, it helps it to continue like anything that's not brought out into the light. That's why to teach the kids not to keep secrets is really important, that it's not safe or healthy."

That's one of the lessons Smith hopes to teach the county's adults, too.

Because if Cayuga County can transform into a place where victims don't feel forced to suffer in silence, a place where the grooming behaviors of offenders are readily recognized, it will make it that much harder for offenders to hunt.

"If I was a predator and I was in a community where people were talking about this and had knowledge and kids were being taught from preschool on up," Smith said, "I'd move on down the road."



New victims served

165 children (110 females, 55 males)

Age of victims at first contact with center

0 to 6 years: 67

7 to 12 years: 49

12 to 18 years: 49

Relationship of alleged offender to victim

Parent: 25

Stepparent: 1

Other relative: 35

Parent's boyfriend/girlfriend: 15

Other known person: 88

Unknown: 11

Age of alleged offenders

Under 13: 14

13 to 17: 16

18 and older: 86

Unknown: 15

Types of abuse reported

Sexual abuse: 155

Physical abuse: 21

Neglect: 9

Witness to violence: 1

Drug endangerment: 3

Other: 8


New victims served

152 (109 females, 43 males)

Age of victims at first contact with center

0 to 6 years: 51

7 to 12 years: 42

12 to 18 years: 57

Relationship of alleged offender to victim

Parent: 24

Stepparent: 4

Other relative: 40

Parent's boyfriend/girlfriend: 8

Other known person: 50

Unknown: 15

Age of alleged offenders

Under 13: 8

13 to 17: 18

18 and older: 75

Unknown: 25

Types of abuse reported

Sexual abuse: 141

Physical abuse: 10

Neglect: 6

Witness to violence: 0

Drug endangerment: 0

Other: 8


New victims served

157 (107 females, 50 males)

Age of victims at first contact with center

0 to 6 years: 63

7 to 12 years: 41

12 to 18 years: 53

Relationship of alleged offender to victim

Parent: 45

Stepparent: 3

Other relative: 33

Parent's boyfriend/girlfriend: 21

Other known person: 35

Unknown: 17

Age of alleged offenders

Under 13: 11

13 to 17: 14

18 and older: 84

Unknown: 30

Types of abuse reported

Sexual abuse: 151

Physical abuse: 21

Neglect: 13

Witness to violence: 0

Drug endangerment: 4

Other: 4

To learn more

For more information about the Child Advocacy Center of Cayuga County, visit To report suspected child abuse, call 1-800-342-3720. To contact Cayuga County's rape/crisis hotline, call (315) 252-2112.


Washington D.C.

Survey finds decline in school bullying

WASHINGTON -- Nearly 1 in 4 surveyed U.S. students say they have been bullied in school. That's an improvement, but the prevalence reinforces just how difficult the problem is to solve.

The survey from 2013 found that 22 percent of students age 12 to 18 said they were bullied. That's a 6 percentage point decline from two years earlier when 28 percent of students said they'd been bullied. It's the lowest level since the National Center for Education Statistics began surveying students on bullying in 2005, the Education Department said Friday when announcing the results.

Educators and researchers praised the decline, but said the large numbers of students still reporting that they are victims reflects that the issue is difficult to understand and address, particularly in a world of rampant online social media where malicious statements can be made anonymously and shared quickly and broadly.

Among respondents, 9 percent of girls and 5 percent of boys said they'd experienced cyberbullying either in school or outside of school. Unwanted text messages were the most common way students said they were cyberbullied followed by hurtful information posted on the Internet.

Overall, bullying can be physical, verbal or relational - such as leaving someone out on purpose.

Respondents said the being made fun of, called names or being insulted was the most common way they were bullied at school. Being the subject of rumors or threatened with harm was also common.

Much of the effort in schools to tackle bullying has focused on helping victims understand they should come forward and will get support and educating bullies about how their actions affect others, said G. A. Buie, a longtime school administrator in Kansas and president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

"Our biggest goal is we have to give students a voice as they battle this bullying behavior," Buie said.

Buie said one of the greatest challenges is that bullying behavior by certain individuals doesn't typically stop after one meeting with an administrator.

"I hope that it stops," Buie said. "The reality is it's a learned behavior from kids, and they are probably going to target someone else or go back and target the individual again."

Bullied students are more likely to struggle in school, skip class, abuse drugs and commit suicide, the department said research has found.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan praised the news of an overall decline but with a caveat: "Even though we've come a long way over the past few years in educating the public about the health and educational impacts that bullying can have on students, we still have more work to do to ensure the safety of our nation's children."

Among the survey findings:

- About a quarter, or 24 percent, of girls said they were bullied, compared to 20 percent of boys.

- A higher percentage of white students - 24 percent - said they were bullied than black, Hispanic or Asian students. Twenty percent of black students said they were bullied compared to 19 percent of Hispanic students and 9 percent of Asian students.

Shelley Hymel, a researcher at the University of British Columbia who has studied bullying globally, said the findings are fairly consistent with other research. Still, she said, the rates are too high.

"It seems we should be able to do better than that," Hymel said.

Parents should talk to their kids about reporting bullying and not participating - in school or online - because of how hurtful it is, said Katherine Cowan, a spokeswoman for the National Association of School Psychologists. Parents can also take other steps, such as limiting the amount of time their children are online and having them use computers while around adults, Cowan said. It's also important to look for clues that a child might be a victim.

"They need to able to open up a conversation with their children about it if they notice their behavior seems to be changing, or they seem to be more stressed out or more anxious or less willing to go to school or their social patterns change in some way," Cowan said.

The survey is from the School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey. It is a nationally representative sample.



Fatal child abuse cases highlight risks when the boyfriend moves in

by McKenzie Romero

SALT LAKE CITY — Kenzie Rose LaBuy was just learning to walk when she died.

The curious 14-month-old was still teaching her small legs to support her, bobbing up and down from frequent tumbles as she padded around the Ogden hotel room where she was living with her mother and two brothers.

Kenzie died in that hotel room last August after the man her family had moved in with attacked her in a fit of frustrated rage, violently squeezing and punching her. A medical examiner determined that her small body had succumbed to extensive internal injury.

The baby's mother, Kaci Rupert, shut down after that. In the almost nine months since her daughter's death, she has done little to process her grief and guilt, she admits, burying it deep and avoiding any news about the aggravated murder charge to which her boyfriend eventually pleaded guilty.

Asked if it was a mistake to leave her children almost daily in the care of a man she had known for only a matter of weeks, Rupert struggles to answer.

"Yeah, it probably was," she says quietly. "I do have to admit to myself that I was trying to make the best decision I could, but it was a mistake."

Rupert's boyfriend, Adam Joseph Barney, was sentenced to up to life in prison on Wednesday for Kenzie's death.

The conclusion to Barney's case came just two days after a Layton toddler died from a similarly brutal attack, allegedly at the hands of his mother's boyfriend who became upset about potty training the boy. Two-year-old James "JJ" Sieger was taken off life support Monday as disturbing details of his death made headlines worldwide.

And Tuesday, the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole ruled that Nathan and Stephanie Sloop, convicted of torturing and murdering the woman's 4-year-old son and then gruesomely disfiguring and hiding his body, will not be granted parole hearings until 2055. Ethan Stacy was abused, scalded, beaten and overmedicated after arriving at the home of his mother and her fiance in 2010.

The back-to-back cases highlight a warning that Cassie Selim, an abuse prevention advocate, is trying to carry to blended families in Utah: Stresses of bringing a new person into a home, sometimes with little or no vetting, can escalate to deadly encounters.

Over the past five years, romantic partners of parents have been responsible for 6 percent of physical and sexual child abuse in Utah — affecting almost 4,000 children, most of whom were under 5 years old — according to the Department of Human Services. An additional 6 percent of abuse was perpetrated by stepparents.

While the majority of child abuse is committed by a biological family member, Selim fears abuse by a caretaker who is not the child's parent is more likely to be violent, making up a small but potentially deadly subset in recent years.

"The trending in Utah appears to be … when there is a fatality and these extreme levels of abuse, it seems that there are these non-biological caregivers involved," said Selim, an administrator over Human Services' prevention program.

Eight Utah children, between 1 and 4 years old, died at the hands of a parent's romantic partner in the past five years. The trend is holding steady, she said, with no apparent spikes or declines, but with new deaths occurring every year.

A common thread in the deaths, Selim says, is a heightened level of stress and responsibility that emerges as boyfriends or girlfriends take on parenting roles for children they have recently met.

"Not only are you trying to create this new relationship with all the stresses of the world, but all of a sudden you're a parent to children, and you don't know what they've been through," she said. "A (boyfriend or girlfriend) is not a baby sitter."

With planning and respect, Selim says new couples can have positive conversations about gradually adjusting responsibilities in the home rather than expecting a partner, especially one without any parenting experience, to become a full-time caretaker.

Making choices

Rupert admits she was relying heavily on Barney to watch the kids so she could work and save up money for an apartment. Rupert had left her previous boyfriend, Kenzie's father, and met Barney through church and the Ogden homeless shelter where she was staying.

"That's when I ran into Adam, and for me it was a gift from God, a person who was a church member and who the boys got along with. I needed someone to take care of the children so that I could get back to work," she said. "I didn't have any other options that I could see."

Rupert insists that in the time they were together, Barney and the children seemed happy together.

"I knew it wasn't ideal. I didn't like being in the hotel, but at least I could afford a roof. Maybe I just had on these rose-colored glasses, but everything seemed to be heading in the right direction," Rupert said. "He was better with the kids than I was. They were so happy all the time."

At the time of his arrest, Barney told detectives that Kenzie's crying, the older children's behavior and the messy hotel room had driven him to lash out at the little girl.

Police are investigating a similar motive in JJ Sieger's death.

Joshua Schoenenberger, JJ's mother's boyfriend, reportedly became infuriated when the toddler soiled his diaper. Schoenenberger smeared feces on the boy's face before taking him to a bathroom in the home. As Schoenenberger held him by the waist at eye level and talked to him, the boy suddenly urinated and defecated.

Schoenenberger told police he squeezed the boy's stomach tightly before dropping him to the tile floor and stepping on him. Investigators believe Schoenenberger had hit the boy in the past, including with his mother present.

Both Schoenenberger and JJ's mother, Jasmine Bridgeman, were arrested. They are currently in custody at Davis County Jail, where he is being held without bail and her bail is set at $20,000. Charges have not yet been filed.

Are there warning signs?

When introducing a boyfriend or girlfriend into their children's' lives, parents should check for criminal histories, Selim said. Past offenses don't have to mean an end to a relationship, but they warrant a conversation, she says.

"Parents need to know who they are bringing into their children's lives," Selim said. "They check out teachers, they check out day cares. They really do their research on schools and things like that. Do your research on the person you're getting involved with before it's too late."

Schoenenberger has several prior drug-related convictions, according to court records. In February, he was charged with felony drug possession after police found him in possession of heroin outside a Wal-Mart in 2014. He also has a case pending where he was charged in Millard County with felony drug distribution in November.

Barney had been charged and pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct just three months before moving in with Rupert and her children. An assault charge was dismissed at the time.

Selim also hopes friends and relatives will watch for warning signs of stress in blended families — such as short tempers, financial problems, isolation and changes in the child's hygiene or care — as tensions may prove to be a forerunner before any abuse occurs.

"Predominately, people don't ask for help. In our culture, generally we're very proud when we're in that first stage of stress and we don't want to ask for help, and the other side of that is our culture is thinking we shouldn't interfere," Selim said. "When that happens, we're not helping when we could and preventing abuse."

Simple things like respectfully offering to babysit or take a child to a medical appointment, helping with house or yard work, or offering a small gift or loan can greatly alleviate a family's stress.

The state's child abuse prevention and resource website, , provides tips for identifying abuse and warning signs, intervention strategies, and resources for families that need support, including some specific to blended families.

Many services for families are free, Selim emphasizes. She hopes to dispel the myth that asking for help automatically leads to children being taken from their homes.

After Kenzie's death, Rupert allowed her two young sons to be placed with a foster family, where they were eventually adopted. Her priority became ensuring that, no matter what, her children were safe.

"It's the life I wanted for them," Rupert said. "I was so crushed that I couldn't be a mom. After watching them healing and speaking with this family, and seeing just how safe they were, I realized two things. All I had prayed for was I wanted them to be safe. I thought I had found that with Adam. … But this family is everything I had wanted, and they're safe. The other thing is that … if they stayed with me, this was going to hang over their heads."


Accomplishments Under The Leadership Of Atrorney General Holder

On his first day as Attorney General, Eric Holder promised the Department's top priority — and its chief responsibility — would be protecting the security, rights and interests of the American people. Five years later, together with the extraordinary men and women who serve at the Department of Justice, that promise has been fulfilled and under Attorney General Holder the Department will continue its important work on behalf of all Americans.

Here you will find some of the Justice Department's top accomplishments under the leadership of Attorney General Holder.

Terrorism and National Security | Violent Crime | Financial Fraud | Protecting Vulnerable Populations | Transparency | Protecting the Environment



‘Past doesn't define us'

by Sally Asher

ENID - Okla. -- The fifth annual “Forget Me Not” luncheon for Garfield County Child Advocacy Council heard Friday from child abuse survivor Rae Rice at Oakwood Country Club.

Rice, a manager for state government affairs for OG&E, said he had not shared his story in such a public setting.

The key to moving past child abuse, he said, is to stop being victims.

“It's not enough to be a survivor,” he said, adding that cancer patients who beat cancer are survivors. “But in child advocacy, it's not enough to be a survivor. I don't want to go through my life having survived child abuse.

“Our challenge is to be overcomers. The thing is, our past doesn't define us.”

Rice's story of abuse began when his parents divorced and his biological father waived his parental rights, so his mother remarried to keep her four children fed and sheltered.

His mother married Jack Rice, who adopted Rae and his siblings. Rae said he realizes now that going from being a bachelor to a husband to having responsibility for four children under the age of 6 probably was a difficult situation.

“I'm not making excuses for Mr. Rice,” he said. “I've had to deal with forgiveness toward him. I've thought about changing my name back to my old birth name, but that's a lot of water under the bridge.”

Most of the abuse he suffered was at Mr. Rice's hand, Rae said.

“I guess the child abuse started when I was 6 or 7 years old,” he said. “I was never sexually molested or anything, but I was physically beaten, whipped, kicked, bloodied.”

He recounted stories of being beaten with closed fists and kicked. The family went to a counselor who told Rae to express his feelings and not bottle them up.

During a “knock-down, drag-out” fight between his mother and stepfather, Rae, who was 8 or 9 at the time, ran in to defend his mother.

“He was beating my mother and I managed to get around him from behind,” he said. “On my tippy toes, the best I could, I put him in a choke hold. He slumped to the ground. I thought I'd killed him.

“I hadn't, but that was quite a scare for a young child. He literally picked me up and kicked me out the door. I landed on the concrete porch and bloodied my knee. “You can still see the scar to this day.”

Rae visited foster homes twice before his mother divorced Rice, but she remarried three more times and the abuse continued.

“It wasn't just physical abuse,” he said. “My mom's next husband was mad at my brother and I. He had us go out in the backyard and dig our own graves.

“That will mess with a kid's mind.”

Rae has worked to forgive his mother, his biological father and his abusive step-fathers, he said.

“If I hold on to the bitterness and the hurt, all it's doing is hurting me,” he said. “Mr. Rice is dead. All my stepdads are dead.”

As a young adult, Rae said he didn't see himself as a father.

“After all the things I'd experienced as a child, as a young adult, I didn't want kids,” he said. “I was afraid I would repeat the cycle. I didn't want any part of that.

“The girl I was dating wanted 12 kids,” he laughed. “We talked about it. We ended up getting married and I said, ‘OK, we will have one.'”

After the first child, he said his wife dialed back her expectations and settled for six children.

“As the Lord gave us kids, we ended up with four,” he said.

Rae said his relationship with Jesus Christ made the biggest difference in his life.

“He walked with me through some really tough times,” he said. “I'm not saying Christians don't have difficult times in their lives, but my faith gave me perspective on how to deal with those circumstances.”

Rae was able to move past his circumstances and said if he hadn't, his life would be completely different.

“I wouldn't be married to a Godly woman, I wouldn't have four beautiful kids, or be Gramps,” he said. “I wouldn't have an education or a wonderful career with OG&E.”

Rae thanked luncheon attendees for advocating for abused children in Garfield County.

“We all have hope, and you are living examples of that hope,” he said. “You are making investments in these kids' lives. The investments you are making in the lives of these children may be one of the best investments you ever make, and it will have returns that beat OG&E's stock returns.”

Every kid is worth it, he said.

“I am an overcomer,” he said. “Thank you for helping those in your community be overcomers.”



Reducing the risk of abuse in youth sports

by Chuck Wielgus

There are many reasons why a child should participate in sports. Sports teach important life lessons including goal-setting, teamwork and self-confidence, in addition to the great exercise it provides.

Unfortunately, competitive sports can also be a high-risk environment for misconduct, including physical and sexual abuse. These types of abuse can also have long-term damaging effects on a child's psychological well-being.

The Center for Disease Control reports that by the age of 18 one in four girls and one in six boys have experienced some form of sexual abuse. These are frightening numbers, and we should all feel an obligation to help eradicate this blight from our society.

We've made progress but there's more to do.

Colleges and universities, public and private high schools, parks and recreation departments, YMCAs and youth-serving entities now require everything from background checks to coaching certifications to safety training.

More recently, organizations, including USA Swimming, provide personal responsibility training that covers topics such as coach/athlete relationships, sexual harassment and abuse, and appropriate behavioral boundaries between adults and minors.

These are necessary steps to protect our children from the dangers of abuse and sexual assault.

One victim is one too many. Youth-serving organizations are embracing ever-widening roles and accepting social responsibilities far beyond what might have been imagined 10 years ago.

For the past five years, USA Swimming has worked to increase awareness to reduce the risk for abuse in the sport through the Safe Sport Program. While we are fortunate to provide wonderful memories and life lessons for our 400,000 members, it's a heartbreaking truth that victims of abuse often have the opposite experience.

As part of our tireless efforts to reduce the risk for abuse and create a safe environment in swimming, we've learned a great deal and we continue to evolve.

USA Swimming has banned more than 100 members for violations of the organization's code of conduct, and we publicly make that list available on our website. We have also established SwimAssist, a resource program that provides professional counseling and support services for members who have been victims of sexual abuse.

Even on a personal level, I now talk about abuse-related news stories with my two daughters. As a result, I believe they are much more aware and safer from potentially dangerous situations.

Educational efforts that help both young people and adults to recognize inappropriate behaviors are critically important. It is also essential that people feel empowered and safe to speak up and report questionable behavior when they see it.

Recently, I received a letter from a mother. Her daughter was receiving inappropriate text messages from her coach, and this led to an intervention through our Safe Sport program that stopped the situation before it escalated to something far worse. Safe Sport and other programs work because it is a partnership between the national office, clubs, coaches, parents and athletes. We need to keep raising awareness to reduce the risks.

Chuck Wielgus has been the executive director of USA Swimming since 1997, and the CEO of the USA Swimming Foundation since its inception in 2004.



Let's Talk About It: When domestic violence happens later in life

Domestic violence isn't ageist. Seniors are just as susceptible as their younger generations to encounter abuse at the hands of an intimate partner. The only difference is, the public is much less likely to hear about it.


Domestic violence isn't ageist. Seniors are just as susceptible as their younger generations to encounter abuse at the hands of an intimate partner. The only difference is, the public is much less likely to hear about it.

The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) reports that 90 percent of the abuse of elders occurs by family members, most often spouses, partners or adult children. However, studies estimate that roughly only 1 in every 14 cases of elder abuse is reported to police.

The NCEA and offer several reasons why the vast majority of elder abuse flies under the radar. They say seniors may stay silent because:

- They grew up and married in a time when domestic abuse was more tolerated and ignored.

- Their values or culture may be different from younger generations — orders of protection or divorce may not be options they even consider.

- They have lived with the abuse for so many years that their self-esteem has suffered as a result, which could mean abuse has become “normal.” Or, they feel a sense of shame and guilt for letting it continue for as long as it has.

- They feel a sense of duty to take care of their aging partner, preventing them from reporting their partner to police for fear of what may happen.

- They are financially dependent on their partner.

- They may be afraid to live alone after being with their partner for so many years, or may be afraid they will be institutionalized in a nursing home.

- They may not have a support network of family or friends nearby.

- They may have a lack of information about types of domestic violence and what their alternatives may be.

What can someone do who's concerned about an older family member?

First, learn the signs of domestic violence, such as isolation, mysterious injuries, missing appointments and depression, just to name a few.

Then, talk to seniors who may be at risk. Just by listening, an outsider may be their lifeline. Finally, offer other options for support, such as calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 800-799-SAFE, or RAVE's crisis and support hotline at 800-720-7233 (SAFE), where advocates are available 24 hours a day to listen and provide help.

Relief After Violent Encounter – Ionia/ Montcalm, Inc. (RAVE) offers free and confidential services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence as well as victims of homelessness. For more information, visit



Florida boy, 3, shoots 1-year-old sister in the face outside preschool

by Jason Silverstein

A 3-year-old Florida boy shot his 1-year-old sister in the face with a handgun outside a Venice preschool Friday afternoon, police said.

The girl's condition is unknown but she is expected to survive, a Sarasota County Sheriff's Office dispatcher told the Daily News.

“It could have been much, much worse,” the dispatcher said.

The apparent accident happened outside the Sonshine Learning Center, a faith-based school in Venice for children five and younger, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported.

The boy fired the small-caliber once as he and his sister were alone in the parking. It's unclear how he got ahold of the gun or if the mother, who hasn't been identified, is licensed to own it. Police are still investigating to see if any criminal charges could result from the shooting.



Police chiefs recommit to collaboration on child sexual abuse cases through CACDC

The police chiefs and agency heads from Denton County's 34 law enforcement jurisdictions stood together Tuesday with the Children's Advocacy Center for Denton County (CACDC) and recommit to collaborating to provide justice and healing for child victims of sexual abuse on Interagency Agreement Signing Day.

Leaders from all Denton County law enforcement agencies, Denton County District Attorney Paul Johnson, supervisory staff from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and the coordinator of the Denton County Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners were present at the Children's Advocacy Center for Denton County for the presentation.

Dan Leal, executive director of the Children's Advocacy Center for Denton County said multidisciplinary partnerships are essential to the agency's mission.

“Our multidisciplinary team is the heartbeat of our agency,” he said. “Denton County's precious children are counting on us to communicate and collaborate. Our team approach increases the likelihood that justice will be served in child sexual abuse cases, and helps advance healing for victims and their families.”

As the population of Denton County grows the community is facing an alarming and important reality. The number of children and families impacted by severe child abuse is also rising. The Children's Advocacy Center for Denton County serves as the primary resource for child victims of abuse and their non-offending family members.

The center serves as a central location where Denton's most vulnerable child abuse victims can receive free forensic interviews, counseling, medical examinations, court preparation and other services. The center also features dedicated office and meeting space for Child Protective Services, law enforcement agencies and the district attorney; the goal being to promote the kind of interagency team collaboration that facilitates the successful prosecution of child sexual abuse cases.

To learn more about the CACDC visit

About the Children's Advocacy Center for Denton County

Established in 1997, the Children's Advocacy Center for Denton County is a 501(c)3 agency whose mission is “to provide justice and healing to abused children through interagency collaboration and community education.” The center provides a safe, child-friendly environment for children who are suspected of being sexually or physically abused. In 2014, the Center conducted 757 forensic interviews of abused children, helped bring 62 adult perpetrators to justice, and provided more than 10,000 free therapy services.

Learn how to get involved at or call 972-317-2818.

To report child abuse call 800-252-5400.


Be careful with ‘child abuse' label

by Lenore Skenazy

Here's the case: A few years back, a mom left her son in the car for what everyone agrees was less than 10 minutes on a not-broiling day to run an errand.

The toddler slept through the whole “ordeal,” but the mom was found guilty of neglect, even upon appeal, when the three appellate judges ruled that they didn't have to list the “parade of horribles” that could have happened to the child.

Which is, of course, fantasy as policy. Just because the judges could imagine a kidnapping or a carjacking or a big bad wolf doesn't mean that these are at all likely. They aren't. As the Washington Post recently confirmed, “there's never been a safer time to be a kid in America.”

What's more, when I was researching crime stats for my own book, I found that if for some reason you wanted your kid to be abducted by a stranger, the amount of time you'd have to leave him outside, unattended, for this to be statistically likely to happen is several hundred thousand years.

Not 10 minutes. So to accuse parents of negligence for not acting as if a far-fetched, rare danger is imminent all the time, well, you could arrest me because I have knives in my kitchen. What if my children threw them at each other? What if they stuffed them in a pillow and had a deadly pillow fight?

Here's how the wonderful legal scholar David Pimentel, a professor at Ohio Northern University's law school, explained what is up:

“A thorough investigation showed that in all other respects she was a good mother, and not a threat to the health and safety of any of her four children, so the investigation was closed and all criminal charges dropped. But because the incident was confirmed, she was labeled a child abuser and included on New Jersey's child abuse central registry. ...

“If the N.J. Supreme Court upholds the lower court, child-left-in-car cases in New Jersey will be very straightforward. ... It will be virtually automatic that the parent will be branded as a ‘child abuser' for the rest of his or her life.”

A child abuser! Even though the far more dangerous thing parents do every day is drive their kids anywhere. That's the No. 1 way kids die — as car passengers. So, as one of my clever friends put it, “if leaving a kid in a car a few minutes on a cool day is child abuse, driving him to the store is attempted murder.”

To label all parents as “negligent” because they let their kids wait in the car during an errand is just like labeling the Meitivs in Maryland “negligent” for letting their kids go outside unsupervised.

Fantasy cannot be the basis for policy. If it is, any made-up idea can be used as rationale to lock folks up or put them on a list.

Lenore Skenazy is author of the book and blog “Free-Range Kids.”



Domestic violence survivors speak out

by Therresa Worthington

At least 66,000 adults and children in the U.S. in 2013 were affected by domestic violence, according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

The staff and volunteers at the DOVE Center see the repercussions of violence and abuse firsthand while acting as the first line of defense for victims.

They work together to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even through holidays or weekends.

A woman, who is a former victim, said she doesn't want another woman to ever be treated like she had been. She came to Utah battered and looking for safety from domestic violence.

The woman asked not to be identified for safety reasons.

“I went to DOVE to work on healing,” she said.

She didn't use the emergency shelter or long-term services of the Erin Kimball Foundation, but she did get help in counseling, the woman said.

And it worked.

“It helped with my fears and empowered me,” she said.

She said that when being abused, a person's self worth and confidence is “damaged,” and he/she can begin to feel like they are nothing.

She began volunteering for the center as she strove to mend the scars and feelings, and took part in a series of training sessions — a move which she says was vital in her recovery as a survivor of domestic violence.

“I think it's important that survivors are not alone and have people” around them who care, she said.

She said she remembers one victim who was on a downward spiral to the point of having suicidal tendencies and destructive behaviors. Once she and other DOVE Center staff and volunteers started working with the person, it took just 30 days to see a major difference.

Sarah Leoni is another DOVE Center survivor, who also became a volunteer to give back.

“In fact, most of us are survivors,” she said

Leoni said she still struggles with post traumatic stress syndrome from the abuse, but the center helped her with counseling as well as living in a healthier way, free from the violence.

“They have been super helpful and empathetic,” she said.

She also went through training as a volunteer, she said.

“It's very informative and helped me understand the deeper psychological and social aspects of the (violence),” she said.

Both women agree the work they now take part in is necessary and their presence as former victims who understand makes what they offer, even if it is just listening, better than someone who has never experienced something similar in their lives.

What the DOVE Center does “is vital to the mental health of survivors and for society knowing what's out there so people can get out of unhealthy situations,” Leoni said.

DOVE has a shelter where women, with or without children, can stay for up to 30 days while they get back on their feet or can move on, said Adel Pincock, community advocacy coordinator for the center.

They are provided food and access to resources from food stamps and Medicaid to aid in finding a home, job hunting, counseling and clothing.

They are also helped with getting protective orders, applying for emergency medical assistance when violence leads to time at the hospital and provide “advocacy during police interviews and court proceedings,” according to .

When a victim, or victims, of domestic violence can't stay at the shelter and be safe, DOVE staff works with other organizations throughout the U.S. to get them to safety.

Advocates and counselors are also in the community whenever they can to educate the public about abuse and the resources available to free someone from violence.

The DOVE Center deals with men and women alike, though they are not yet set up to offer short-term housing for men, Pincock said.

However, counseling and other help is available.

“This isn't a women's rights issue, it's a human rights issue,” said Teri Koenig, president of the Board of Directors for the DOVE Center.

No one deserves to be a victim of violence and DOVE is there so everyone can have a safe place, Anne said.

The Spectrum & Daily News, 275 E. St. George Blvd., has taken this as a challenge and are hosting a barbecue and bake sale for the DOVE Center 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday.

Proceeds will benefit DOVE Center.

If You Go

• What: BBQ with burgers, hot dogs, chips, tamales, beans and rice

• Where: The Spectrum, 275 E. St. George Blvd.

• When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Friday

• Why: To benefit the DOVE Center



HomeAid to build residential facility for Youth For Tomorrow

HomeAid of Northern Virginia will soon begin a major building project of a 5,000-square-foot residential facility for Youth For Tomorrow, a nonprofit organization based in Bristow that helps young children and teens who face homelessness and are survivors of sex trafficking.

The new home will provide a safe and secure housing environment for these children and young adults. The construction will result in an estimated $700,000 investment in the community and through its Builder Captain, Stanley Martin Homes and trade partners. HomeAid will obtain significant cost savings off the total retail construction costs, according to a news release.

The savings will allow Youth for Tomorrow to invest more money in the programs and services that will make a lasting difference in the lives of the young people in its care.



Child abuse must be exposed

by Sarah Hudson Pierce

Shreveport attorney, Louis Avallone, recently wrote “as a nation, we seem to be increasingly agnostic, apathetic, about doing what is ‘right' for fear of being considered politically incorrect, or otherwise offending another.”

When one in 10 children are being abused I don't understand how we can possibly turn our backs and sweep it under the rug. It's not enough to say “let sleeping dogs lie” or “I don't want to know about it.”

Unless you've experienced child abuse you cannot possibly comprehend the trauma, the dread of even going to sleep, in fear of being either physically or sexually abused.

My sister, Alice, and I lived in a church run orphanage, during the 1960s. We witnessed and experienced horrendous child abuse. For years Alice continued to wake up screaming in the night after her ordeal at the home.

My abuse was less frequent because I dared to report a housemother for unmercifully beating a 10-year-old girl.

Only God could have given me that raw courage to take action.

It took me 36 years to finally locate one of the sexually abused victims who had been removed from the home, in hopes of keeping her mouth shut. I constantly searched for her, because I knew she needed to talk, because they wouldn't tell us where she was.

In June of 2001 I sat down in my recliner and said “I've got to find Sonja!”

I think I knew that would be the day.

With only two calls to directory assistance, for the state of Texas, I was given two numbers for her maiden name. The first knew nothing but gave me his mother's phone number. She asked for the names of her siblings and recognized a sister's name on her genealogy site.

Before the end of the day I had Sonja on the phone where she lived in Hawaii. She excitedly recognized my voice.

She needed to talk.

I asked her to write her story for a book I was compiling. She was the reason behind the book even though many came forward to tell their stories.

In 2010 we published that book written by these children (many in their 50s and 60s) because they wanted to finally be heard. In June we also had a reunion and a book signing in Tulsa, where I first saw Sonja, after 45 years.

We were interviewed by two television stations who were adamant that our stories needed to be told.

Also I told my story to the Aha Moment Tour that came through Shreveport in May 2013. I was grateful to set up an interview for Sonja Bilbrey-Alamia to tell her story, on the last day of that tour at Salem, Oregon, which is right where she now lives.

The orphanage has moved from Turley to Claremore, Oklahoma, and changed their name. They also home schooled the children, making it increasingly difficult to report the abuse. In 2003 one little girl was repeatedly raped and sodomized by a house parent.

She was unable to report the abuse until she returned home. The man will be in prison until 2018. His name can be found in the Claremore, Oklahoma, court records.

As I write I continue to question why anyone would not want child abused exposed. If we don't protect children, who will?

Sarah Hudson Pierce is an author who lives near Mooringsport.


United Kingdom

Jimmy Savile effect behind 50 per cent hike in serious sex crime reporting in Essex

by The Essex Chronicle

SERIOUS sexual offences reported to Essex Police have rocketed by more than 50 per cent in the wake of the Jimmy Savile paedophile scandal.

Since the investigation into the DJ began in October 2012, some 3,395 serious sexual crimes, including rape, sexual assault of a child, trafficking for sexual exploitation and indecent assault, have been recorded across the county by the Essex Police and Crime Commissioner.

Essex Police and Crime Commissioner Nick Alston said: "There have been significant increases in recorded violent crime and serious sexual offences in Essex, and these increases are reflected in figures for all of England.

"It is clear that there has been increased reporting of serious sexual offences to police forces in the aftermath of the Jimmy Savile and other high-profile sexual abuse cases."

Adult survivors of child sexual abuse make up around 29 per cent of the caseload of Rape Crisis Centres in Essex, with the numbers seeking help growing.

In the 12 months up to and including March, there have been 1,926 serious sexual offences reported in Essex, 457 more than the same time the 12 months previous.

Maldon, which has one of the lowest crime rates in Essex, experienced a 91.3 per cent increase in cases of serious sexual crime with 44 reported, 21 more than in the previous year.

Meanwhile, serious sexual crime in Chelmsford has risen by 22.1 per cent from 140 cases to 171 in the timeframe and, in Braintree, reported cases rose by 26.4 per cent from 91 to 155.

Essex Police says one reason for an increase in sex crimes is victims' increasing confidence to come forward.

A spokeswoman for the force said: "Dealing with domestic abuse is a key priority for Essex Police and the force has been focused on supporting victims and encouraging reporting. This has led to an increase in the number of offences recorded and, although we have seen a decrease in the percentage of solved crimes, in real terms the numbers detected have actually increased by 350 offences."

Nationally, two women per week are killed by current or ex-partners, and one in four women in the UK will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime.

A spokesperson for domestic abuse charity Safer Places, based in Braintree and Chelmsford, said: "Domestic abuse affects all sections of society regardless of age, nationality, gender, sexuality, financial standing and religion.

"Women are most often the victims but this does not mean that men do not also suffer at the hands of their female partners."

Anyone who has been a victim of violent or sexual crime should call Essex Police on 101, or 999 in an emergency, or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.



Utah Toddler Beaten To Death Over Dirty Diaper: Parents Face Child Abuse Charges

A Utah toddler was beaten to death over having a dirty diaper, and now his parents are facing child abuse charges.

According to Fox13, the 2-year-old, who has been identified as James Sieger Jr. (JJ), was fatally injured during a potty training incident.

Layton police, who were notified of the alleged abuse after JJ was taken to the Davis County hospital, call the details of the abuse “disturbing.”

According to police documents, Jasmine Bridgeman, 23, and her boyfriend, Joshua Schoenenberger, 34, became furious with JJ after he pooped in his diaper, something all toddlers do, and even smeared the diaper in his face. Schoenenberger then continued to beat JJ while Bridgeman went outside to smoke a cigarette.

“It's just horrible,” said Lt. Travis Lyman with Layton Police Department. “The biological mother did allow significant amount of abuse to go on without intervening, but also engaged in it herself.”

According to Fox2Now, the couple brought JJ to the hospital and claimed he had almost drowned in the bathtub. However, the doctors quickly realized that was not the case. JJ was said to have been unresponsive and covered in bruises on his legs, groin, arms, and head. He also suffered severe internal injuries.

“There are no words. There are no words what this baby went through and the pain he suffered,” said his Aunt Nicole Sieger.

JJ was then flown to the Primary Children's Hospital in extremely critical condition.

“Certainly the Injuries looked like the result of abuse and the biological mother and her boyfriend were the ones who brought the child in and their stories were not matching up or making sense with what we were seeing,” said Layton police Lt. Travis Lyman.

Despite undergoing several emergency surgeries, JJ did not make it.

Now his family is saying that the whole situation could have been avoided. His grandmother Krista Sieger said he saw JJ and his mom at the store last month and recalled he had a large bruise on his face.

“He had a bruise on his cheek, a pretty big one,” she said.

Krista said she called the Layton police department to report it, and his father contacted the Department of Child and Family Services, but nothing came of it.

“We could have stopped this whole thing,” said Krista.

“Very upset we have been trying for a long time to get those kids out of that situation,” said James Sieger Sr., JJ's father.

Lyman said that they did receive a call from the grandmother on April 16 and tried to contact her back, but they were unable to reach her. The Department of Child and Family Services were not able to locate the mother.

Schoenenberger and Bridgeman are being held at the Davis County Jail and are expected to face child abuse and homicide charges.


North Carolina


Protecting Children From Sexual Abuse: My Interview with the Assistant District Attorney of Charlotte, NC

My sister-in-law, Kelly Stetzer, shares important information about child abuse and what churches need to know.

by Ed Stetzer

If you aren't aware, protecting children against all sorts of abuse, particularly sexual abuse, is something I care about. I've hosted Boz Tchividjian on the blog before, and he is as actively working to protect children as anyone I know. I'm thankful for his work.

We have a special Thursday is for Thinkers post on the blog today. Recently, I had the chance to interview my sister-in-law, Kelly Stetzer. Kelly is an Assistant District Attorney in Charlotte, North Carolina.

In 2010, Kelly won the Attorney General's Special Commendation Award, which recognizes the extraordinary efforts of an Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC), an ICAC affiliate agency or an individual assigned to an ICAC Task Force or affiliate agency for making a significant investigative or program contribution to the ICAC Task Force. (See her picture with Former U.S. Attorney General Holder below.) She's won a number of other awards including an award for being an Outstanding Criminal Justice Professional in 2011, and a Public Service Practitioner Award in 2013.

I hope this interview is informative and helpful for pastors and church leaders. We must be vigilant in our efforts to protect our children. In many states, including North Carolina where Kelly practices, it is a crime not to report child abuse, so you could be arrested for failing to report. Please, for everyone's sake, report anything you see or hear immediately to the police.

Ed Stetzer: What is your experience in dealing with child sexual abuse cases?

Kelly Stetzer: I have been a prosecutor in North Carolina for over fourteen years. For over ten of those years, I have prosecuted child sexual and physical abuse cases exclusively. I have worked with hundreds of families who have been affected by child sexual abuse.

Many of the cases in which I have handled or prosecuted have dealt with child sexual abuse that has either occurred or been disclosed in a school or church setting. In this area of law, prosecutors work closely with experts in this field as part of a multi-disciplinary team, which includes law enforcement, social services, child advocacy centers, medical and mental health providers, the school system and many other partner agencies.

ES: Are there legal requirements that mandate the reporting of child abuse?

KS: Yes. These legal requirements are enacted in each State and they do vary between different states. For example, some states specifically mention clergy in the category of those who must report child abuse, while other states exempt clergy from a duty to report child abuse if the information about the abuse was gathered during the course of a privileged communication. For example, the statute in North Carolina requires “any person or institution” to report child abuse to the Department of Social Services if they have “cause to suspect” child abuse. Church leaders should familiarize themselves with the specifics of the reporting law in their particular state. For an overview of each state's reporting law, visit

ES: What should churches know about child sexual abuse in general?

KS: Much research has been conducted in the area of child sexual abuse. Research in this field increased after the infamous “Little Rascals” daycare case in the late 1980s and also with the later development of Child Advocacy Centers in the early 90s. While not all experts agree on statistics or even on the way in which child sexual abuse is often disclosed by children, it is important for church members to be familiar with some tenants of this research.

Studies have concluded that the rate of false allegations of child sexual abuse are very low, somewhere between 2% to 8%. However, false allegations can happen and that is why it is important that only trained investigators or interviewers conduct the questioning of children who disclose abuse.

Child sexual abuse is an epidemic, with approximately 1 in 10 children having been sexually abused before their 18th birthday.

In approximately 90% of the cases of child sexual abuse, the child is being abused by someone they know, love and trust. Less than 10% of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by a stranger.

There is rarely any medical evidence that will confirm or refute sexual abuse. Studies show even in confirmed cases of child sexual abuse, most medical exams of these children are completely normal (often because children may not disclose abuse for weeks or months and any injuries that may have been inflicted have already healed). For that reason, physicians will not be able to tell you whether sexual abuse occurred or not. It is, however, important to have the child seen by a medical professional after an allegation of abuse to make sure there are no medical issues that need to be treated or addressed. Often, these medical exams are coordinated by the social worker or the police officer who is investigating the case.

The environment in which a child is first asked about the sexual abuse can greatly affect a child's willingness to ability to disclose abuse or lack thereof. Children often worry about how adults will react to their disclosure of abuse, and may deny abuse if they are asked in front of other adults who they fear won't believe them.

There is a nationwide movement to encourage adults to learn more about the common “myths” associated with child sexual abuse so that we all can be more informed about the dynamics of this type of abuse. For more information about training programs available, visit the “Darkness to Light” website.

ES: What should church leaders do upon learning of an accusation of child abuse?

KS: If your state mandates that you report child abuse, you must report the abuse to authorities immediately. The natural inclination to “learn more” about the abuse by talking to the child or alleged offender prior to reporting the matter to authorities can have a negative impact on any subsequent investigation by the police or social services. The child should be questioned only by those investigators who are trained in interviewing children about child sexual abuse. Having a child questioned by those who are experts in the field protects both the accused and the child. Additionally, it is not in the child's best interest to have to talk about the abuse with multiple adults, and then later to have to talk about it again to investigators.

A church, much like a school, is a place where a child should feel safe and at peace. If multiple adults are asking embarrassing questions while the child is still on the grounds of the church or the school, the child may begin to associate negative feelings with the place where they are being asked about the abuse.

It is for the above reasons that most communities have nationally accredited Child Advocacy Centers whose main purpose is to offer a child friendly atmosphere where a child who has disclosed abuse will be interviewed by a forensic interviewer. That interviewer is trained in the dynamics of child sexual abuse and child development. Those interviews are witnessed by the various agencies who are investigating the case, often via closed circuit television. The interviews follow a nationally recognized protocol in the hopes of (1) reducing the likelihood of false allegations; (2) reducing the trauma to the child by eliminating the need for multiple interviews of the child; and (3) offering a safe, neutral and child friendly environment where the child feels “safe to tell”.

Most Child Advocacy Centers are contacted by law enforcement or social services to schedule that interview after the matter has been reported to authorities. In other words, the forensic interview is often part of an active police or social services investigation. Most private entities or parents who are concerned that a child may have been abused cannot refer these children directly to a child advocacy center to request an interview of the child. Concerned adults must report the matter first to the authorities as they are required to do under their own state's mandatory reporting laws.

Even if church officials are not “mandated reporters” under state law, you should report the abuse to authorities anyway.

ES: How can I find out more information about this issue?

KS: I encourage church leaders to reach out to the agencies within your community who deal with these types of cases on a daily basis so that you can better understand the scope of the problem within your own community, and to seek advice from those agencies about what to do (or what not to do) when you learn of an allegation of child abuse within your church. Those entities may include your local Child Advocacy Center, the Department of Social Services, law enforcement agencies or the prosecutor's office.

Some helpful websites include: (Darkness to Light) (National Children's Advocacy Center) (American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children)



Children's Safe Harbor surpasses 1,000 child sexual abuse cases in 2014; shares tips for recognizing abuse

by The Editor

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, TX (May 14, 2015) - In recognition of the amount of children treated last year for sexual abuse, Children's Safe Harbor recently placed 1,053 pinwheels among the grounds of the Alan B. Sadler Administrative Building in downtown Conroe. In its 16 years, the nationally-accredited children's advocacy center has never seen this many new cases in a single year, which is mostly attributed to Montgomery County's population growth. The pinwheels represent the lives impacted by Children's Safe Harbor and the movement forward toward justice and healing.

Some signs that a child is experiencing violence or abuse are more obvious than others. Victoria J. Constance, MSPH, PhD, Executive Director of Children's Safe Harbor, encourages you to trust your instincts enough that if you suspect abuse, it is enough of a reason to contact the authorities; you do not need proof.

In conjunction with Children's Advocacy Centers of Texas, Dr. Constance shares these essential primary indicators for recognizing warning signs of possible child abuse:

Unexplained injuries. Visible signs of physical abuse may include unexplained burns or bruises in the shape of objects. You may also hear unconvincing explanations of a child's injuries.

Changes in behavior. Abuse can lead to many changes in a child's behavior. Abused children often appear scared, anxious, depressed, withdrawn or more aggressive.

Returning to earlier behaviors. Abused children may display behaviors shown at earlier ages, such as thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, fear of the dark or strangers. For some children, even loss of acquired language or memory problems may be an issue.

Fear of going home. Abused children may express apprehension or anxiety about leaving school or about going places with the person who is abusing them.

Changes in eating. The stress, fear and anxiety caused by abuse can lead to changes in a child's eating behaviors, which may result in weight gain or weight loss.

Changes in sleeping. Abused children may have frequent nightmares or have difficulty falling asleep, and as a result may appear tired or fatigued.

Changes in school performance and attendance. Abused children may have difficulty concentrating in school or have excessive absences, sometimes due to adults trying to hide the child's injuries from authorities.

Lack of personal care or hygiene. Abused and neglected children may appear uncared for. They may present as consistently dirty and have severe body odor, or they may lack sufficient

clothing for the weather.

Risk-taking behaviors. Young people who are being abused may engage in high-risk activities such as using drugs or alcohol or carrying a weapon.

Inappropriate sexual behaviors. Children who have been sexually abused may exhibit overly sexualized behavior or use explicit sexual language.

What you can do if a child outcries:


• Remain calm.

• Believe the child.

• Allow the child to talk.

• Show interest and concern.

• Reassure and support the child's feelings.

• Take action. It could save a child's life.


• Panic or overreact.

• Press the child to talk.

• Promise anything you can't control.

• Confront the offender.

• Blame or minimize the child's feelings.

• Overwhelm the child with questions.

Children's Safe Harbor's mission is to protect and enhance the life of every child who has the courage to battle sexual or severe physical abuse. As a nationally-accredited children's advocacy center organization founded in 1998, Children's Safe Harbor is part of a nationwide effort to heal the trauma and facilitate justice for sexually abused and assaulted children ages 2 through 17. Children's Safe Harbor advanced their collaborative justice work in 2009 through the creation of an expanded co-located child-friendly facility serving children and their families all in one building – reducing the trauma by minimizing the need for children to retell their experience to multiple agencies, while facilitating investigation, prosecution, justice and healing.

Your local children's advocacy center provides services in your area for child victims of abuse, but also offers volunteer opportunities and trainings for educators, local community members, and others interested in learning how they can make a difference for child victims of abuse.

Remember, you are obligated by law to report suspected child abuse. If you suspect a child is in immediate danger, all 911. Or, in the counties of Montgomery, Walker, San Jacinto, call Children's Safe Harbor at (936) 756-4644, or throughout in Texas call the abuse and neglect hotline at 800.252.5400. Outside of Texas, visit for a list of resources.

To make a donation or to volunteer see their website at Financial donations can be mailed to their main office at 1519 Oddfellow, Conroe, Texas, 77301.


A Mid-Year Report on Child Sex Abuse Victims' Access to Justice in 2015

by Marci Hamilton

Here is good news and bad news for victims of child sex abuse who seek to enter the justice system in 2015. As a general matter across the United States, we are on the right track and headed in the right direction. But there is a great deal of work left to do.

The most remarkable leap forward: Georgia. Before May 5, 2015, the date when Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law the Hidden Predator Act (HPA), Georgia was among the five worst states in the country for child sex abuse victims' access to justice. The statutes of limitations (“SOLs”) in the civil context shut down all claims by age 23 and on the criminal side, only opened the door for crimes after July 1, 2012. That meant civil suits and prosecutions for child sex abuse have been rare occurrences in Georgia.

That changes on July 1, 2015, when the HPA goes into effect. The HPA moves Georgia into one of the better states in the country. It creates a two-year window (during which defendants do not have the benefit of the statute of limitation as a defense) for the victim to sue the perpetrator. It also institutes a new discovery rule, which permits victims to sue perpetrators and/or institutions for abuse and cover ups. Victims will have two years from the date they understand that their current problems were caused by the childhood sexual abuse to go to court. While there are better SOL laws in the country, and most specifically, Delaware and Minnesota, which have eliminated civil and criminal SOLs for all defendants, and given victims a window, it still catapults Georgia ahead of the other four deplorable states on this issue, New York, Michigan, Alabama, and Mississippi.

A more predictable result: Utah. Utah also made some progress, though it is all against the perpetrator. As of March 2015, for all abuse into the future, civil claims will not be subject to an SOL against the perpetrator. The bill started out as one against perpetrator and institution. Yet, as expected, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ensured that the same civil extension could not be applied to institutions that employ pedophiles or that cover up for them. The same age 22 limit that was in place before remains, making Utah one of the most restrictive regimes for bringing institutions that harbor abusers to justice.

The stalling continues: New York and Pennsylvania. As I mention above, New York is one of the four worst states in the country for child sex abuse victims. None of the paths that other states have traveled to increase justice for victims has worked in New York. Neither the courts nor the legislature has lifted a finger to help these victims obtain meaningful civil justice. Reform bills have been introduced year in and year out, with the Assembly passing the Child Victims Act numerous times, but an SOL revival bill has never gotten a fair hearing in the Senate, let alone a vote on the floor. Gov. Cuomo has shown less leadership on this issue than seems humanly possible. Who is pulling the strings in Albany? On this issue, it would be the Catholic bishops and primarily Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York City. Given his tattered reputation after he tried to hide $55 million from the victims in his previous location, Milwaukee, one wonders why members defer to him on this issue. Suffice it to say that New York is a national disgrace on these issues.

Pennsylvania did extend its civil SOL in recent years to age 30, but it did not revive expired claims, which left the vast majority of victims locked out of court. Again, the reason Pennsylvania is stuck is that legislators slavishly defer to the Catholic bishops and ignore the cries of the victims.

Michigan, Alabama, and Mississippi have made either futile or doomed efforts to increase access, which means there is every reason to expect that the four worst in the country will stay right there for the immediate future. What is lacking is leadership in the interest of the children in each state. This can change.

As we saw in Georgia this spring, with Rep. Jason Spencer, Sen. Renee Unterman, and Gov. Nathan Deal leading the way, there is no need to stay at the bottom of the heap when it comes to child protection.

Marci A. Hamilton is the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, and the author of God vs. the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty and Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children. She also runs two active websites covering her areas of expertise, the Religious Freedom Restoration Acts,, and statutes of limitations for child sex abuse, Professor Hamilton blogs at Hamilton and Griffin on Rights. Her email address is



Sexuality and sexual assault: They both exist in later life

by Sue Hall Dreher

I am often asked what later life means – for some that is 50 and up, others say 60 and older, and for others who don't want to think about getting older, later life is just older than their current age.

Aging is a process, not a disease. Within our aging communities there are unique needs that must be identified and responded to, particularly in light of ‘us' older adult baby boomers. Aging must include dignity, respect of a rich history and current life while also acknowledging sexuality – and safety – within later life.

Recently I witnessed an energetic discussion regarding sexuality in older adults (yes, sexuality in older adults does exist) and the question of when does sexual intimacy intersect with sexual assault/sexual exploitation? was raised.

For older adults, if their mental capacity changes, it may be difficult to determine intimacy versus assault/exploitation.

Sexuality is self-determined and self-identified, and is an ongoing and shifting life-long experience. The risk of sexual victimization is also ongoing through life. Thinking of intimacy versus victimization is even further complicated when we think about dementia, or other diagnoses that may impact a person's ability to decide for themselves if they choose to be sexually intimate.

Sexuality may look different at various ages, it is an inherent part of who we are, and a basic right. Human interaction contributes to our social connection and engagement in life. And yet, we may start to question behaviors when a diagnosis related to cognitive decline may call into question the ability to consent.

Sadly, I don't hear as often as I would like the understanding that while an individual can give consent, we must clarify what the consent is for, and equally accept that an individual can withdraw consent at any time.

I have heard people say “They had a consensual relationship for x number of years,” and I wonder How do you know that? and Does a lifetime of ‘yes' mean a forever yes?

Can't intimacy be the holding of a hand, sitting quietly together, listening to music? We can have human connection in many ways, and yes, that does include consensual sexual activity. The need for intimacy does not disappear with age.

What concerns me is when the individual who supposedly wants sex behaves in a manner that suggests the opposite. I routinely hear, “She/he/they made it up; they must be confused about what happened. This is a prior memory coming to the forefront or this person is just not a credible witness.”

Sorting this out isn't easy. However, what is clear to me is that victimization in later life does occur. It is not unusual for victimization to be perpetrated against our most vulnerable (it also is perpetrated against children and individuals with disabilities to name a few). Sexual violence holds victims to a higher level of responsibility/accountability than any other crime.

I recognize that older adults with cognitive issues may have mental capacity in some aspects of life, and not in others. Loneliness and confusion can add to the vulnerability of any individual and make it easier for the abuser to get away with the behavior. After all, who will believe an older person that can't remember what day it is?

Victims may not have the vocabulary or verbal ability to tell us what happened. They also may not recognize what happened as a personal violation.

How do we know if a loved one is being sexually exploited? Many survivors, regardless of age, may ‘tell' us through emotional/ behavioral changes, stress related reactions, changes in health status and possibly coded disclosures – those disclosures that ‘say' one thing and indicate the possibility of something else.

Those are only some examples of what to be aware of – we must consider sexual violence and not leave that possibility off the list when trying to sort out what may, or may not, be going on for an older adult. Too often that possibility is dismissed because older adults aren't supposed to be sexually desirable in our society. And yet again, we must realize that sexual violence is a crime of power and control – and often committed against less “believable” victims.

We must recognize the right to consent does not disappear as we age. As older adults, we get to make decisions that others may question, disagree with, or just want to ignore. Collectively, we can respect an older adult's right to consent. We can also work together to prevent, and respond to, sexual assault of older adults. We just have to recognize the realities that older adults face, and respect that older adults are still sexual beings and capable of experiencing sexual violence.

Sue Hall Dreher was the executive director of Sexual Assault Support Services of Midcoast Maine from 1995-2015. She is currently an independent organizational consultant who focuses on sexual violence and or abuse in older adults.



Paraguay stepdad arrested after allegedly getting 10-year-old pregnant, outrage after victim denied abortion

by The Associated Press

ASUNCION, Paraguay — Paraguay's government has failed to protect a 10-year-old rape victim who is being denied an abortion, United Nations human rights experts said on Monday.

In a statement released in Geneva, the four experts said Paraguay has refused to provide treatment to save the life of the girl, who is five months pregnant, "including safe and therapeutic abortion in a timely manner."

The case has set off a national debate in Paraguay where abortion is banned in all cases — even rape — except when the mother's life is in danger.

"The Paraguayan authorities' decision results in grave violations of the rights to life, to health, and to the physical and mental integrity of the girl as well as her right to education, jeopardizing her economic and social opportunities," the experts said.

The World Health Organization says such child pregnancies can be dangerous, potentially leading to complications and death.

The girl's stepfather, who is accused of raping her, was arrested over the weekend and placed in isolation to prevent other inmates from attacking him. The girl's mother is being held at a female prison for neglecting to take care of her daughter.

About 600 girls 14 or under become pregnant each year in this country of 6.8 million people. Studies by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control say thousands of children in the United States also give birth each year.

Amnesty International has asked authorities to allow an abortion to protect the girl.

Health Minister Antonio Barrios has responded that she is in good health at a Red Cross hospital and that her pregnancy, at five months, is too advanced.

But a medical panel was created on Monday to assess her mental and physical health, said Jose Orue, the public defender for children in the city of Luque, where the girl lived with her mother and stepfather near the Paraguayan capital.

Experts say the girl isn't ready mentally or physically to give birth. "When her baby arrives, the justice system will have to set a guardian and tutors for both of them," Orue said.

Paraguayan forensic psychologist Franca La Carrubba said that though the girl is not prepared to be a mother, with medical care she might be able to give birth.

"The aftermath of rape could remain when she becomes a teenager or an adult. It's the most common disorder in these cases," she said.

The president of the country's Episcopal Conference, Msgr. Claudio Gimenez, recently decried the possibility of a therapeutic abortion, saying that Paraguay is already split over the case.

"Some want to legalize abortion, the killing of an innocent who still is in a period of gestation," he said. "And for the other side, those who oppose that idea."

But Sen. Esperanza Martinez, a former health minister, complained that the debate about whether the girl is physically able to bear a child overlooks her own well-being.

Groups staged small protests in Asuncion and in Ciudad del Este, on the other side of the country, on Monday demanding authorities intervene under the slogan: "Together we can protect children from abuse."

In Ciudad del Este, children carried signs that had their hands printed on them in paint and slogans like "No more abuse!" Parents said they were outraged that so many young girls were being abused.

"A child is only a virgin once," said Sebastian Martinez, a march organizer in Ciudad del Este, who came with his 5-year-old daughter. "Their innocence can never be recovered. We have to do more to protect our children."



CPS ignored, erased messages from child abuse line

by Laura Peters

Teachers, doctors or neighbors who suspect a child is being abused and call a hotline expect that a caseworker will investigate and rescue the minor from harm. Or look into it and decide the suspicion was mistaken.

But in scores of cases during at least six months last year in Augusta County, Staunton and Waynesboro, that didn't happen.

Call after call went unanswered and stacked up on an automated answering system at Child Protective Services.

The caseworker who monitored the message line had left the agency in April. The team's new rotation approach to checking daytime voice mails quickly fell apart, the agency's director admitted during a News Leader investigation.

How many of the citizens who saw a child's bruise or heard a story indicating sexual molestation called CPS back until they got a live person? How many just left a message and assumed their issue would be investigated?

We will likely never know.

A CPS staffer in the Verona office did discover more than 200 ignored voice mails in October. They'd been stored unheard for months, messages freighted with stomach-churning urgency, the kind that propels someone to call a hotline.

The messages could have been combed through, and an overworked CPS team could have admitted the mistake and called in help.

The office could have assigned every case — old or not; involving still ongoing abuse or not; facing the career consequences or not.

But Child Protective Services didn't do that. Instead, according to an official account reconstructed by the News Leader and documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act, they listened to a few calls and erased the rest.

"It was a mistake to delete the messages without first reviewing all of them, and the department acknowledges it as such," local Social Services director Elizabeth Middleton told us, after we worked for a few weeks to pull together the story. "No wrongdoing was intended."

A supervisor approved deletion of the messages. Middleton wasn't told for weeks.

It's not clear if Middleton — who announced Tuesday that she's leaving for a similar job in Orange County — ever reported the matter to her bosses, the state or to anyone in the local governments who help finance CPS.

According to county administration, officials there weren't told at all. They had to discover it on their own.

It was only when a chance phone call by a pediatrician surfaced a wider phone system problem that Augusta County investigated and also found out about the erased 200 messages.

The public never was notified. All the abuse reporters who left their stories on voice mail and never called CPS back may have wrongly thought the children involved were being protected.


In 2014 and prior, if you called during office hours to report child abuse and none of the handful of people at the busy operation were available, you were sent to voice mail.

Anyone with concerns about a minor's safety could call the hotline, if it wasn't a crisis that required 911. The messages were supposed to be checked daily.

The office is staffed with fewer than a dozen people and works on behalf of Staunton, Waynesboro and Augusta County as a joint bureau under the state's Department of Social Services umbrella. The employees are paid and managed by Augusta County through a joint agreement.

One person had the job of checking messages and making sure a caseworker was assigned.

But the employee in charge of monitoring the intake line left the agency in April 2014.

A new procedure was then established for the nine CPS caseworkers to take on the added duties of checking messages.

"In the transition, the responsibility for checking the voice mail messages on the intake line was re-assigned to multiple employees, on a rotating basis," Middleton said. "But due to a failure in communication, the voice mail messages went unchecked."

Spring turned to summer, and unheard calls kept stacking up.

"Caseworkers are very busy and they are not always available to take calls as they come in," Middleton said.

Messages can be left anonymously, although the CPS office hopes for a phone number and a caller's name.

Christine Walker, a private psychotherapist in Charlottesville, has previous experience working with CPS in her area and with child welfare cases.

Walker said the Department of Social Services is "legally obligated" to answer anything that is reported.

If you leave your contact information, the office has to call back, Walker said. "(They must) respond and assess," she said. "That assessment could be their own judgment whether it deems investigation. They have to consider it."

There are times when messages could be deleted and not answered, if there was a repeated complaint even though the case had already been investigated, Walker said.

But the messages have to be listened to, said the psychotherapist.


As the count of ignored calls reached triple digits, the local Child Protective Services office struggled to do its work, by several accounts.

Valley Children's Advocacy Center Executive Director Dennis Baugh said his non-profit program to help child abuse victims works closely with CPS caseworkers.

"CPS is liked and disliked — there's no middle ground, because of the nature of their job," he said. "Protecting children is a very strong issue."

"I have very good relations with CPS," Baugh said, although he said an account of the voice mail issue troubled him. "We've had no problem with them whatsoever. …

"In some people's eyes, having hurt a lot of families, (CPS is) the enemy. But (to me), they haven't overstepped. If anything, they don't have the staff."

There are now 11 people working under CPS — one supervisor, nine caseworkers and a clerical support person.

Each Augusta County area caseworker averages about 40 cases at a time, Middleton said. The average caseload in Virginia is 17 cases per worker, according to the state.

"The Child Welfare League of America recommends an average caseload of 12 to 15 cases per worker," said Virginia Department of Social Services spokeswoman Necole Simmonds.

Valley Children's Baugh said his biggest issue with CPS is the lack of staffers to accommodate the workload.

"The citizens of the area need to step up and say they need more CPS workers, just like they are beating their drum for mental health issues," Baugh said. "They ought to demand more people to get the job done."

Other local organizations wouldn't comment on CPS, concerned it would interfere with their working relationship.


By the time the tally of neglected messages hit 200, and was probably still growing, a local pediatrician had been trying to report a case of potential child abuse.

This doctor ran into a new issue. It wasn't that a caseworker failed to call back. It was an infinite phone loop at the Augusta County area CPS office.

Emails secured through News Leader FOI requests outline the problem:

"It took me about 45 minutes to speak with someone at Augusta County CPS," wrote the physician in an Oct.29 note to politician Marshall Pattie, an Augusta County supervisor. "The phone number I tried was … the Verona office. The phone tree there puts you in an infinite loop.

"A social worker tried the day before me and got nowhere. So I tried. After a few failed attempts, I went to the state hotline number. I left a report with them, but they said they (had the same number). The Augusta County Sheriffs office said the same thing.

"Ultimately I bumped it up to administration, who was somehow able to get through."

"In addition, the mom (had) tried to call herself and had a hard time. The mother's lawyer also had a hard time finding any additional info."

Pattie, an elected county supervisor, then tried to call himself.

After time stuck in the loop, "I was totally confused as to what my own name was," he wrote in an email the next day to the county administrator.

Pat Coffield, the administrator for Augusta County government, was also the chairman of the board for CPS in 2014, a rotating position between leaders of the participating governments.

He investigated, and the phone loop would later be solved with a new system installation.

CASES PER WORKER: The average caseload in Virginia is 17 cases per worker at a time. The Child Welfare League of America recommends 12 to 15 cases. Valley caseworkers juggle an average of 40 cases at once, three times what is recommended.

But a response he first received from the state Department of Social Services may encapsulate the challenges faced by the public and professionals in getting help and attention for child abuse reports.

"I have asked (a technician) to look at the message on our phone system for possible improvements," wrote one Virginia official in an Oct. 30 email. "… (But) it appears that (the doctor) was able to report the CPS issue. … Your suggestions are appreciated."


The phone loop crisis would lead Augusta County to eventually discover that more than 200 reports on the abuse line were deleted without being listened to, as well as a CPS decision to cover it up, Coffield said.

The agency has been run in a very hierarchical manner, he said, suggesting that staffers felt like they could not speak out.

Coffield confirmed that it was the phone loop that broke open the deletion issue. "This little can of whoop-ass opened a bigger can of whoop-ass," he said.

Pattie, county supervisor for the North River District, confirmed that things got rolling after he told Coffield about the phone system issues.

But Pattie said on Tuesday that he was never told about the deleted voice mail discovery.

"I have not heard anything from that. I'm assuming that's because this is a joint association from multiple localities — it's always a bit tricky," he said. "I'm not the point person on any of this."

Coffield and county administration never publicized the destruction of the messages after apparently learning about it last fall.

"I spoke to HR about having the (supervisor who ordered the emails deleted) reprimanded," he said. "They ended up putting a letter in the person's file."

When The News Leader later confirmed the mass voice mail deletion, the only supervisor at the local CPS office, Nenita Fisher-Cromer, did not respond to requests for comment about it.

CALL TO ACTION: After deletion of the hotline messages, no attempt was made to find or help the children who might be in distress. Can you help? If you reported something between April 2014 and October 2014 to the local CPS office and worry your call was deleted, call the state at (800) 552-7096.

Middleton said CPS made the decision to delete the voice mails after listening to a few of them.

"The CPS supervisor stated that given the age and content of the initial messages that staff heard … clearing the inbox would allow new messages to be addressed with greatest speed," she said.

Middleton also said the few voice mails listened to were not from citizens.

"Given the prevalence of this pattern … the CPS supervisor indicated that she thought it unlikely that a person making a CPS complaint would just leave a message and not call back if the message was not quickly returned," Middleton added.

"Case workers are very busy and they are not always available to take calls as they come in," she said. "Callers frequently call soon after leaving voice messages, in an effort to reach a live voice."

Middleton, the official that Augusta County CPS workers report to, said it took her almost two weeks to discover the deletion had taken place.

At the direction of the CPS supervisor, an IT worker erased the messages on Oct 28 or Oct. 29. It is unclear if anyone later tried to retrieve the deleted voice mails.

According to Middleton, no approval of an outside authority is necessary in order to delete messages.

"State guidelines provide that voice mail messages may be deleted when they are 'no longer administratively useful,'" she said. "Nevertheless, as acknowledged previously, it was a mistake to delete these particular messages without first reviewing them."

"The situation was addressed," Middleton said. "Our agency cannot disclose whether disciplinary action was taken against a specific employee."

Middleton also said she is unaware of any cases that have been left unattended due to the deletion.

"The agency has no information that would suggest that this decision left any case unreached," she said. "We are reasonably sure, but we cannot be absolutely certain."


Virginia Department of Social Services spokeswoman Necole Simmonds said local social services follows Augusta County policy and procedures and are paid employees of Augusta County.

The voice mail deletion was deemed a personnel matter, which would be handled at the local level, Simmonds said.

"SVDSS is governed by a board made up of representatives from Staunton, Waynesboro and Augusta County," she said. "All local departments of social services receive some funding from the state. All personnel matters including hiring, firing, discipline happens at the local government level."

Currently, Steve Rosenberg, Staunton's city manager, is the chairman of the board.

New protocol was put in place by CPS to avoid another mishap, Middleton said.

"Measures have been taken to ensure that the occurrence is not repeated," she said. " A new procedure was implemented in November 2014, which requires the hourly retrieval of messages on the intake line during business hours."

Coffield said that he has no idea why no one listened to the voice mails.

"Part of the problem is people have information, but they don't get in the position to share with us," he said.


South Carolina

Almost any teen is susceptible to sex trafficking, survivor says

by Christina Elmore and Dave Munday

A woman who was lured into commercial sex when she was 14 brought a warning to Charleston parents Wednesday.

Just about any unhappy teen can be enticed in the same way, according to Holly Austin Smith, who has spent the past 20 years trying to figure out how she got hooked. She repeated the message of her 2014 book, “Walking Prey: How America's Youth Are Vulnerable to Sex Slavery.”

“The truth is that any child can be susceptible,” said Smith, who lives in Virginia. “The very nature of being a child is a risk factor as youth often act on emotion and impulse.”

Smith told her story at a fundraising luncheon for the Dee Norton Lowcountry Children's Center, often the first stop for abused children who are taken into custody.

At the same time as Smith was speaking in Charleston, S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson was giving a similar message to a Rotary Club in Mount Pleasant.

“Trafficking is far more nefarious than what you see in Hollywood,” Wilson said to the group of about 50 people.

He shared with them a story of a woman he had met who was blackmailed into sex trafficking in the 1980s after being drugged, raped and photographed by a classmate.

“She wasn't kidnapped in Europe,” he said. “She wasn't taken at gunpoint. She went home every day, she did her homework, she went to church on the weekends and she went to school. For two years she was trafficked over and over and over again. She told me that story and it really resonated with me because she was living under her parents' roof and they did not realize she was being trafficked.”

Smith met the man who would lure her to the dark side at a suburban shopping mall in New Jersey. A well-dressed young man made eye contact, smiled and motioned her over. She was flattered by the attention. They started talking on the phone. He promised to take her to Los Angeles and help her get started in the music industry.

She knew she was running away when she left town with him. She was upset that her best friend was not paying attention to her anymore, among other problems. She had always been used by older boys, yet longed for their attention.

They ended up in a motel in Atlantic City. An older woman dressed her up and told her they were hitting the streets and had to make $500 a night before they came back home.

Nobody called it trafficking in 1992, when Smith was 14. She was arrested her second day on the street. Cops treated her like a teen prostitute, but they didn't press charges, instead sending her back home to her parents.

It wasn't until 2000 that the federal government passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act, which says any child under 18 involved in a commercial sex act is a trafficking victim by definition. Since the federal government doesn't have the power to pursue every sex-trafficking case, it was up to states to pass similar laws for local prosecution. South Carolina passed its version in 2012.

The man who trafficked Smith was eventually arrested and sentenced to a year in prison for prostituting a child. The penalty would be much harsher today. Under South Carolina's human trafficking law, anybody involved in inducing a minor into commercial sex can be sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Smith is an advocate for more services for teens rescued from sex trafficking. That includes teens like herself who don't believe they need rescuing.

The children's center is the site of monthly meetings of the local Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children workgroup. Representatives for juvenile justice, social services, law enforcement, medical and mental health interests have been working to create a set of guidelines that detail the local provider response protocol and will increase awareness.

The S.C. Legislature is considering a Safe Harbor Act that would grant immunity for any minor caught selling themselves for sex, treating them as victims instead of criminals and referring them for services. The bill has been sitting in the House since January.

“We're in favor of Safe Harbor,” Wilson said after his talk. “We've just got to make sure it's drafted and written the right way.”

The House and Senate are trying to work out a compromise on another bill that would allow courts to vacate prostitution convictions for minors involved in sex trafficking. The big disagreement has been over whether a defendant can use a victim's sexual history as a defense.

Wilson has been tirelessly proclaiming the message that sex trafficking is a major threat in South Carolina. Yet the arrests on trafficking charges have been relatively few since the state passed its law in 2012. Wilson said more arrests will follow, now that the state grand jury has been given the legal authority to indict on human-trafficking charges, a necessity since traffickers often move around across jurisdictional lines.

The low number of trafficking arrests can also be explained by the fact that many traffickers are still being arrested on other charges, Wilson said. Educating officers and prosecutors to recognize trafficking for what it is takes time, he said.

“We have cases right now that get charged with criminal sexual conduct with a minor or kidnapping because some law-enforcement agencies still don't fully understand the law around the state,” Wilson said. “There are other human trafficking cases out there by another name.”

The state's human-trafficking task force released its first report last summer. The report acknowledged that nobody knows how widespread trafficking is in South Carolina, mainly because until recently not many police officers or other first responders were looking for it. The report called for more education and for more services for victims, including shelters.



Modern day slavery: Breaking free from human trafficking

by Jennifer Baileys

LOUISVILLE, Ky. —It's one of the fastest-growing crimes in the world and local investigators say it's happening right here in Louisville area neighborhoods and communities.

Researchers said Kentucky's youngest victim of human trafficking is just 2 months old.

Grace United Methodist Church sits in the shadow of Churchill Downs.

During Derby weekend, the pastor and his congregation sold parking spots in their lot.

They said they witnessed modern-day slavery as girl after girl got into and out of cars, sold for sex.

"It didn't register with me what we were seeing. We're sitting there watching and the gears are turning, but it's just not clicking," Grace United Methodist Church Pastor Corey Nelson said. “The reality began to set in and, you know, the natural response was anger and then heartbreak."

Officials say crimes including sex trafficking spike during big events like the Kentucky Derby.

At any given time, there are at least 100,000 children in the sex trade in the United States.

University of Louisville professor Dr. Theresa Hayden said the average age a victim is first trafficked is 12 or 13 years old.

"It's not just low income or minority groups," Hayden said. "Almost any child is at risk because of their simplistic understanding of life."

Hayden researches human trafficking and admits she wasn't prepared for what she discovered.

"I thought, ‘No, this, this is not happening. This is a mistake. We have collected the wrong data,'” Hayden said. “I'm firmly convinced it's happening in Louisville, Kentucky. And I'm convinced it's happening right in front of our eyes."

Hayden said a website, offering what many officials say is sex disguised as anything from a massage to natural medicine, is proof. The website displays pictures and profiles, mostly of young girls dressed in revealing clothing. The site offers appointments in some of Louisville's most affluent neighborhoods.

Hayden said a lot of children have smartphones and computers which are a gateway for traffickers to find potential victims.

"It's so easy to take place through social media, the Internet where the person buying or trafficking is unknown. You can totally remain anonymous,” Hayden said.

Hayden said people are often unaware trafficking is going on in their community.

Amy Leenerts created Free2Hope, an organization focused on fighting human trafficking in greater Louisville.

She partnered with Nelson and his church to spread awareness.

Volunteers have been blanketing the area with the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Leenerts believes the information could save a life.

"We just have to trust that it's working because people have the knowledge and people start caring," Leenerts said.

Free2Hope is looking for volunteers. To learn more about the organization and find out how you can get involved, click here.


South Carolina

Sex Trafficking Bill Clears House Floor

by Joyce Koh

Columbia, SC (WLTX)- The South Carolina House unanimously passed a Senate bill aimed to protect victims of sex trafficking Wednesday.

The bill defines who would be considered a trafficker, and it protects the victim from being prosecuted in court for prostitution.

Victims of sex trafficking rings can often be treated as criminals in court.

The primary sponsor of the bill, Senator Robert Hayes said he created this bill to address that problem.

"That gives them some immunity from being prosecuted if they're basically in a slave position where they're being made to do this," Sen. Hayes said. "So I think that's only right because you dont want them to be afraid to come forward because theyre afraid to be prosecuted."

The bill will now head back to the Senate floor.


Washington D.C.

Human Trafficking Survivors Cannot Wait

by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Rep. Renee Ellmers

Co-authored by Yasmin Vafa, Co-founder and Director of Law and Policy, Rights4Girls

Jade was kidnapped on her way home from school. Violently thrown into the trunk of a car and taken from her hometown, she was held against her will and tortured by her captor for six excruciating months. At 15 years old, she was sold to over 10 men per night and endured repeated physical violence and denial of food and sleep for days at a time. In hopes of escaping her nightmare, Jade would ask each man who purchased her to help her break free. She explained, in vain, that she was only a child and desperately wanted to return home. But in those six painful months not one man helped Jade. Instead, one by one, they forced her to perform the sexual acts they had paid for and returned her to her trafficker.

Jade was ultimately able to escape her trafficker, but for countless other children ensnared in the commercial sex trade, there is no escape. Even when victims of child sex trafficking come into contact with those who can assist them, such as law enforcement, they are often mischaracterized as delinquents or child prostitutes. Survivors recount having come into contact with healthcare providers, law enforcement, the child welfare system, the juvenile justice system, and schools. In each of those cases, the child was not identified as a victim but instead branded a criminal and denied proper care.

Her story is far too common in the United States, but there is finally hope on the horizon for girls like Jade and other trafficking victims. Just recently, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a landmark piece of anti-trafficking legislation aimed at helping girls like Jade who are bought and sold in this country.

Our three offices worked together to ensure that the Senate-passed version of the package included our provision to properly train and educate the U.S. medical community on intervention methods for trafficking victims.

The bipartisan bill, the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (JVTA), provides unprecedented support to domestic victims of trafficking by increasing specialized training to law enforcement and other first responders, promoting the development of best practices for healthcare providers, partnering with Wounded Warriors to fight child exploitation, and making clear that buyers as well as traffickers are held legally and financially responsible for the crime of sex trafficking. Most importantly, the Senate-passed JVTA includes virtually all of the anti-trafficking bills passed overwhelmingly by the House in January -- and unlike its House companion, the Senate bill provides critical funding for domestic victim services. Simply stated, the Senate JVTA represents the most significant and comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation in years. That is why we and many others are calling on the House to take up and pass the Senate bill.

There's no time to waste. The Senate JVTA represents real and significant progress in our fight to address domestic human trafficking. After several years of working together to get this legislation through the House and Senate, we are just one step away from making it law. Advocates and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have come together to elevate the rights of survivors and bring justice and healing to victims of human trafficking all across the United States. It is now time for the House to finish the job by taking up and passing the Senate bill without further delay. Survivors are counting on them.

Jade is a real survivor of human trafficking in the United States. She shared this story at an event in Washington, D.C., via Saving Innocence, a direct service provider that affords comprehensive services and intensive case management to survivors of sex trafficking age 11 to 24.



LDP eyes changes to statute of limitations for child sexual abuse claims

The statute of limitations for child sexual abuse claims could be changed to allow young victims to pursue their perpetrators into adulthood under a proposal being considered by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Currently a 20-year time limit exits for victims seeking compensation through civil litigation, with a seven-year statute of limitations in place for criminal complaints.

An LDP project team is considering whether the starting point under the Civil Code and Penal Code can be modified from when the criminal act took place to when the victim turns 20 years of age, officials said.

At its inaugural meeting last month, the team on the protection of women's rights, headed by House of Representatives lawmaker Hiroshi Hase, heard from a woman who suffered sexual abuse by a family member during childhood.

According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, sexual abuse accounted for only 2.1 percent of all requests for advice filed with child consultation offices in Japan in fiscal 2013.

Toko Teramachi, a lawyer who is knowledgeable about the matter, said child victims usually do not understand the meaning of abuse until at least puberty.

If abused by a parent, sibling or other relative, the victim often has no one to rely on for advice or help, and often keeps the abuse bottled up, he said.

To make the change, the task force will also look at revising the child abuse prevention law, officials said.

Specific measures would be created in coordination with relevant ministries and agencies.

However, the group will likely need to address concerns that delaying the start date of the statute of limitations could complicate court proceedings as a result of loss of evidence and reduced memories by relevant parties.

Along with legislative work, the LDP team will call on the government to support private-sector efforts to address all forms of sexual abuse, including counseling for victims, assistance with criminal investigations, medical examination and treatment, the officials said.

They said it will also urge the government to boost the functions of child consultation offices.

Following consultations, the LDP plans to submit a set of proposals to the government.



Boy Sues ChildNet, Says Foster Parent Abused Him

by Chris Joseph

A child who was allegedly sexually abused by a foster parent has filed a lawsuit against welfare providers Kids in Distress Inc. and ChildNet Inc. because the agencies did not conduct proper background checks on the parent before issuing a foster parenting license.

According to the lawsuit, the child — identified only as R.S. — claims 56-year-old John Michael McGuigan of Broward County sexually abused him while the child was under his care. But the lawsuit says there were multiple glaring red flags the agencies failed to see when McGuigan applied to become a Florida foster parent in 2008.

The child-care providers failed in their background check of McGuigan, who had failed to disclose that he had been investigated for showing a minor a pornographic photo and asking that minor to perform sex acts, according to the lawsuit. McGuigan also failed to disclose that he had been arrested for cocaine possession. Moreover, McGuigan was also involved in a ten-year relationship that ended with his partner committing suicide.

Even more disturbing is that one 7-year-old foster child under McGuigan's care, Gabriel Myers, committed suicide by hanging himself in 2009. Although Myers was found dead in another foster family's home, the lawsuit says the suicide happened only days after Myers was removed from McGuigan's care following the boy's erratic behavior, which hinted at "inappropriate parenting" by McGuigan, according to the lawsuit.

Myers' death did force some changes by the Florida Department of Children and Families, including how agencies monitor drugs taken by foster children. Myers had been on two powerful psychiatric drugs at the time of his death.

But the lawsuit against the agencies points out that R.S. was placed in McGuigan's home only a year after Myers' death. R.S., who had never been abused before, was removed from McGuigan's home after DCF received a report alleging abuse by McGuigan.

"On or about December 12, 2011, DCF received a report through the Florida Abuse Hotline alleging that R.S. disclosed that he had been sexually abused by McGuigan while under his care, and this report was closed with indicators of sexual abuse," the lawsuit says. "R.S. was groomed and sexually assaulted by McGuigan, which resulted in R.S. being emotionally harmed and becoming sexually reactive."

It was after this report that investigators learned McGuigan had falsified information on his foster parenting application. Investigators also discovered that McGuigan had himself been sexually abused as a child by his father.

McGuigan was forced to resign from his position as CEO of the Broward House HIV service center following sexual abuse allegations from alleged former victims.

In 2000, McGuigan was investigated by Delray Beach Police for lewd and lascivious acts after a teenager claimed he had shown him a pornographic picture and asked him to perform sex acts. The lawsuit also points out an incident where a man from Boston accused McGuigan of molesting him when he was a child. McGuigan was not charged in either case.

The lawsuit says that both Kids in Distress and ChildNet allowed "an alleged child molester and person of poor moral character" to care for R.S. by not thoroughly checking McGuigan's background and by not conducting a fingerprinting and local criminal records check.

R.S., who is represented Fort Lauderdale attorney Howard Talenfeld, is seeking compensatory damages in excess of $15,000.

Requests for comment from DCF by New Times were not immediately returned.


New Jersey

Slain sister inspires N.J. man to create Domestic Violence Action Group

by Christina Rojas

BORDENTOWN CITY — Domestic violence is an issue that hits home for Kell Ramos.

Growing up as a child, he saw his stepfather's frequent bouts of anger and suffered emotional abuse.

In 2003, he was arrested for assault after an argument with his wife escalated into punches.

And in 2011, he and his brother found their sister, Misty Ramos' lifeless body on the floor of her Bordentown Township apartment. She was strangled to death by her ex-boyfriend Noel Irizarry.

But it was only after Irizarry's arrest that the Ramos family learned he had spent 10 years in prison for slashing the throat of his ex-girlfriend, who survived.

Misty's death spurred Ramos into action. A local documentary filmmaker, he began working on a film to shed light on violence against women and continues to lobby for a domestic violence database for repeat, violent offenders — something similar to the Megan's Law database for sex offenders.

But his efforts don't stop there.

Ramos, 39, recently launched the Domestic Violence Action Group (DVAG-USA), whose mission is to end domestic violence through research, education, advocacy and by encouraging society to openly discuss its issues and causes.

The group was granted nonprofit status a month ago. While many organizations focus on helping victims of domestic violence, DVAG-USA's primary focus will be men, both offenders and those who will openly speak out against domestic violence.

"We need men to be part of the solution," Ramos said. "Focusing on the woman is needed, but what happens to the next generation? The same cycle repeats itself. There's going to be more men doing the same thing. How do you stop that? Other men have to hold men accountable to their actions."

One of the initiatives is a batterers intervention program, which is loosely based on the 12-step program and geared toward changing the behavior patterns of men who abuse their partners. Having spoken before such groups before, Ramos said that men are often hesitant to share about what they have done, but peer groups can help them open up.

"When they hear about what another man went through, you can see the walls come down and they open up a little more and share," he said.

DVAG-USA also plans to bring school-age programs to schools, hospitals, shelters and juvenile justice institutions, with the hopes of teaching kids how to use words to express their feelings at an earlier age.

"If I learned how to express what I felt, it wouldn't have morphed into such dysfunctional behavior," he said. "We want to try to provide them with some sort of relief."

Other events, documentaries telling the tales of victims and abusers and social media campaigns will also help drive awareness to the issue, Ramos said.

The group's first awareness event is Clothesline for Change at the Bordentown Street Fair this weekend. Attendees are encouraged to design T-shirts with messages of hope, empowerment and inspiration that will later be hung in nearly a dozen storefronts.

Ramos said he hopes the event will help him recruit new members to the cause.

"I want to create a small army of people that are going to openly speak out against this, especially men, and fight for this cause that is often overlooked," he said.

For more information, visit DVAG-USA or email



Ohio salon employees taking required course in human trafficking

by Ben Nandy

Beginning this year, anyone wishing to work in, or continue to work in, a nail or hair salon must complete a course on human trafficking.

Part of the course involves watching a 45-minute video on what human trafficking is, and how to spot potential victims of human trafficking.

Officials with the State of Ohio Board of Cosmetology are now requiring the hour-long course to help employees identify coworkers, customers or friends who may be victims existing in plain sight. Unlike prostitution, which is considered voluntary, human trafficking is defined as recruitment or transfer of humans through force or deception for the purposes of sex or labor.

According to the video that all Ohio cosmetology licensees must watch, there are an estimated 1,078 minors who are victims of sex or labor trafficking. According to a comprehensive report prepared exclusively for this story by Christopher Logsdon, executive director of the Board of Cosmotology, there are 106,000 licensees working with, or at, salons in Ohio

.According to Attorney General Mike Dewine's annual report on human trafficking, there were 135 victims identified by law enforcement in 2014. -- 131 were said to be victims of sex trafficking, and four who the report says were forced into labor trafficking.

As for Ohio's salons, specifically, being potential hiding places or hubs for human trafficking, Logsdon points to two instances "from 2010 that were related to nail salons."

That may not make the average observer see the need for human trafficking education for cosmetology licensees, but since 2010, resources to educate about, and identify, human trafficking cases have increased significantly.

In each of the attorney general's yearly reports on human trafficking, numbers change, but the high-risk experiences associated with victims remains the same.

Runaway behavior, difficulties in education, sexual assault, court appearances, use of drugs or alcohol, emotional abuse, child abuse, homelessness, influence from friends or relatives in the trade, relationships with older men, and difficulty making friends are the high-risk experiences or traits the attorney general says are often had by victims.

Salons are not necessarily a hotbed for human trafficking, but are among the industries where labor trafficking specifically can be found, according to the Polaris Project, a non-profit that researches and informs about human trafficking in the United States.

Aside from salons, those industries include landscaping, construction, agriculture and food service, among others. Anyone who suspects a case of human trafficking is asked to call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.



Local foster parents give love, chance for stability

by Tricia Cambron

The reason people of all ages, races, and economic backgrounds choose to take the leap into foster parenting is unique for each family.

Some have a big house and want to share it.

Some just can't stand the idea of a child not having a safe place to go when they are removed from their homes.

But the one thing they typically have in common is a big heart.

‘Typically, people who want to become foster parents are individuals with big hearts who genuinely love children. Unfortunately, this is often not enough to be a successful foster parent,” advises Georgia's Giving Children a Chance.

Once immersed in the foster parent world, caregivers will find there are a whole host of challenges in caring for a child removed from his or her home. But most also find the experience to be one of the most rewarding of their lives.

It can also be one of the most heartbreaking. Children arrive with no shoes and only the clothes they are wearing. They have been abused, neglected, abandoned and even starved. They may be born with drug addictions. They often have medical issues that require repeated trips to the doctor, emotional problems that require therapy, and development problems that require special schooling.

Cedartown Police Chief Jamie Newsome says answering calls when a child is the victim breaks through every bit of the veneer that he normally is able to keep intact on the job.

“I've seen everything. I've seen kids that have been beat up. I've seen kids that are hiding in another room because they're scared. I've seen kids that get defensive and aggressive toward me,” Newsome, who has worked in various capacities in law enforcement in Polk County for 25 years.

What gets to him the most, he says, is the pure randomness of it all.

It is the truest example of “there but for the grace of God go I.”

“It breaks my heart when I have to intervene in a situation, when I know that those kids had no control over who their parents were, they had no control over the home they were born into,” he says.

“I have two children that live in a healthy home environment. They have parents who love each other. They know they are going to have a hot meal and a warm bed. My children don't have to come home and wonder what's going to happen at their house tonight.”

Newsome said the situations he sees run from physical and emotional abuse, which involves an actual act against the child, to neglect or criminal negligence. With younger children, and he's had to intervene in several cases where the children were under six months old, “It is generally neglect. You find the child in a diaper that hasn't been changed for days or he hasn't eaten for a couple of days.”

It's not always just neglect though, even with very young children. There can be physical abuse as well. “You have the person who doesn't have the parenting skills, doesn't have the coping mechanism to deal with a child that's been crying for four hours, like all children will at some point.” Newsome said.

“I've seen cases where an adult grabbed the kid by the ankles and slammed them up against the wall.” Newsome said.

Worth the work

Kristy and William Russell began caring for children in their home five years ago. Since then they've fostered more than 30 children. She says they have never questioned that it is the right thing to do.

William, 46, and Kristy, 35, have been married for 14 years. They got involved in foster care when they applied to foster the child of a relative. They went through all the background checks and home inspections, went to all the trainings and meetings, and were approved as foster carers. When the situation with the relative was resolved otherwise, they decided to put their name on the list as foster parents anyway. They discussed the decision with their three children, now ages 9, 13, and 18, and with their blessing took in their first child in 2010.

The children are with them from a couple of days or a year or more. The longest a child has stayed with the Russells is a year and a half, Kristy says. But that will change soon.

“We now have a little boy, one year old, who we are going to adopt,” Kristy said. The child was 12 days when they got the call to come to Columbus and pick him up from the neo-natal intensive care unit. “I knew the moment I saw him, he was going to stay with us,” Kristy says, even though she knew the child had some serious medical issues. “He's overcome some of them, problems with his heart and stuff, which will be a forever experience we'll have to go through, but it doesn't matter, “Kristy says.

Going home

Foster care has had its ups and downs, and its heartaches, Kristy says. “It's always hard to let them go home, especially the ones you've had for a long period of time,” she says. “We stay in touch though. Most of the kids we've had have either aged out (at 18) or they have been adopted. There are a few that we do stay in contact with and we get to see them periodically and that makes you feel good. “

“I had a teenager who has aged out and he went on Facebook and thanked us for taking him in and providing him a home. Makes you feel happy and proud.”

One challenge to foster parenting is developing a working relationship with the parents. The training program emphasizes that a foster parent must resist the impulse to be angry with or to blame the parents. The primary goal of the foster care system is to rehabilitate the home and return the children to their parents.

“It's not always easy,” Kristy says. “We try to work with the parents. Some parents are welcoming and some parents, they think of us as the devil. But, you know, we've only had a few parents who really did not like us. Most of them, after a few months, they realize we are not bad people. We try to put ourselves in their shoes by allowing them to call the children if they are old enough to talk on the phone, so it makes it easier on the kids and on the parents as well.”

“You have to learn to -- and it's something I had to learn myself -- not to be completely angry with the parents; sometimes they just need to learn how to properly take care of a child.”

Calls are okay, but parents are not allowed to come to the house. Most children have scheduled visitations with their parents. If a judge determines the visitations need to be supervised, the parent and child will meet in the presence of a caseworker or even, sometimes, the foster parent. Kristy said she has supervised some visits, when it was the only way the visit was going to happen.

“They usually are pretty excited about seeing the parents, it's always hard on them when they have to leave, they cry and want to go back with their mom and dad. We have to reassure them that mom and dad are doing what they're supposed to do to get them back. We don't discuss anything negative about the parents or anything. They're human. They make mistakes; they just have to learn from them.

Few homes for teenagers

The Russells have cared for children of all ages, from newborns to age 17. Care agencies report that most foster parents prefer to take in younger children. Kristy agrees caring for younger children is less stressful.

“We've only taken in a few teenagers. We have teenagers of our own and teenagers sometimes, they don't want to go by the rules. They'll say ‘you're not our parents, you can't tell us what to do.' I tell them, you're right, but you live in our house so you have to go by our rules.”

Training programs for foster parents emphasize that routines, establishing boundaries and learning how to say no are key to a successful experience for both foster parent and child. “We're not really strict, but we have curfews and chores for all the kids. It takes a lot to run a house. “

“They don't like to be told no, but no kid likes to be told no. We accept them into our family, treat them like our own kids. They feel at home; they don't have to feel afraid. “

First, feed the children

Challenges with the foster kids come in all shapes and sizes, Kristy says. “Probably the hardest ones are the ones that have been deprived of food. We've had a few that I had to put locks on the refrigerator to keep them from getting up in the middle of the night and eating anything they could find in the refrigerator. They'd even eat raw meat.”

“We've had kids that didn't even know what a spoon and fork was, they were just eating with their hands and just stuffing the food in their mouths. We've had to tell them, they're going to get food and they're not going to go without, but it took months before they finally learned.”

“They would take food into their rooms and hide it, you couldn't be mad at them, but it's what goes through their mind and it's sad that kids have to worry about having something to eat.”

Kristy said one group of siblings, 2 and 3 years' old, weren't talking yet. “They had maybe two or three words a piece. We had to enroll them for speech therapy, to learn how to speak. “

Full time job

Sometimes just attending to the medical and emotional problems that children arrive with can be a full time job. Williams works at Hon in Cedartown, but Kristy finally quit her job outside the home so that she could care for a young girl with serious medical problems that required trips to the doctor in Atlanta several times a month.

Now, she is a full time caretaker. “I like to go to every court hearing possible so that way I understand what's going on. The judge will ask questions and likes to hear all sides. We're around them (the children) all the time, caseworkers only see them one a week or once a month. So the court likes to hear from the foster parents.

Making room

Even though they have now extended their permanent family to what they hope will be four children, the Russells intend to still foster children. “Oh yes, we ain't stopping,” said William Russell, who is a scoutmaster for a Boy Scouts troop in Cedartown.

Their four-bedroom, one-bath rental home is equipped with bunk beds in the kids' rooms, which the foster children share with the Russells' children. They've had as many as 10 living in the home at one time.

The Russells' children have been open to the idea of bringing the children in. They even have helped pass the word about the need for more foster homes in the area.

“I really believe it's made my kids more humble and thankful for what they have, because they have seen kids come that have nothing. Absolutely nothing,” Kristy says.

Right now the family is taking a break from foster care for a couple of months while they concentrate on the adoption process for the baby boy. But they will begin taking in children again, says Kristy, and once again it will be a family decision.

Kristy says she'd love to see more people open their homes in Polk and the surrounding counties to these children. “There's not enough foster homes, there's just not. When we started five years ago there was only like nine or ten active homes in the area. I know we have more than that now, but a lot of kids are having to be sent out of county, some to Savannah. That's a long way from your parents and they don't understand why they have to go.”

If she has any advice for future foster parents, it's to just keep an open mind and be prepared that not every placement will be a success.

“You have go in with an open mind, an open heart and understand there are some kids you can't help. I had it in my mind that I could change every child that walked through our doors. We've had to have some kids removed, because we couldn't handle behavior and counseling did not help.

“Open mind, open heart, and understand that these kids are going through a lot: sexual abuse, starvation, abandonment; you have to reassure them you're not going to do that and let them know that they are going to have a place to sleep and something to eat.”


Watching Dad Watch Mom: Childhood Lessons for Men Who Kill Intimate Partners

by David Adams

Psychologist, and Co-Founder and Co-Director of Emerge, an abuser education program and national training center on domestic violence

George: "I was so afraid of my father. But then, I was attracted to his attitude which is to do unto others before they do unto you. Me and him... after that... we couldn't be beat."

What about your mother? Were you still worried for her safety?

"I worried, sure, but then again I figured anyone who lets themselves get beaten deserves to be beaten."

Edwin: "My brother Elroy used to beat me up every single day but I couldn't do anything about it cause he was my father's favorite. Then one day, I beat up Elroy real bad -- and I was my father's favorite after that."

George and Edwin have two things in common. They both grew up with fathers who beat their mothers. As young children, they were feared their fathers. Their second point in common is that as adults, George and Edwin killed their intimate partners.

George and Edwin were two of the 31 inmates I interviewed for my book, Why Do They Kill? Men Who Murder Their Intimate Partners . I found that the murders these men committed were neither random acts of rage nor 'crimes of passion' as commonly portrayed in the media. Rather, they were culminations of longstanding grievances towards women on the part of abusive men. Their violence usually appeared quite suddenly soon after fast courtships with women that averaged two months, and in a few cases were as short as two days. The first act of violence occurred quickly after the beginning of co-habitation and was followed by the abuser's apologies and promises that it would never happen again. However, these 'quick fixes' were quickly followed by new acts of violence. Over time, the men stopped apologizing and started blaming their partners for 'driving me to it', or for 'leaving me no choice'.

Most of the victims expressed unhappiness and sought to end the relationship. This triggered increased surveillance by the abusers, which was often accompanied by stalking during periods of separation. It was not love but possessive control that motivated these men to prevent their partners from leaving for good. As one killer put it, "At least I could make sure no other man could have her". Explaining his decision to coerce his estranged wife to have sex with him just before he stabbed and bludgeoned her to death, another man said, "I wanted the other man to know I was the last to have her". A victim of attempted homicide whom I interviewed said that while her estranged husband was strangling her, he told her, "Think you're done with me bitch; you're not done with me until I say you're done with me; got that?"

Where does this possessive control come from? I believe there are two primary pathways. On the societal level, large segments of popular culture and media still glamorize violence toward women. Increasingly, the 'stars' of crime shows are beautiful dead women whose naked bodies are splayed for all to see - first on the pavement or floor highlighted by a chalk outline and then on the medical examiner's table. Violent and possessive control over women is also celebrated in popular music. Catchy song beats often camouflage lyrics that reveal contempt for women - or sell the notion that women can drive men to violent extremes in the name of love, as in "I'd take a bullet in the brain for you" (Bruno Mars) and "I keep on bleeding for love" (Leona Lewis), and "I'll be watching you" (Sting). At the same time, online pornography and much of the gaming industry provide templates to show young men how act out virtual misogynistic and violent fantasies. And until recently, celebrity men who behave badly toward women have not been held to account, leaving young fans to conclude that their public acclaim and admiration trumps their abusive behavior toward women. Given all this messaging, our societal tolerance of violence against women should not be seen as a social aberration but as a continuing reflection of structured gender inequality in which there is yet to be a critical mass of women in positions of power.

The second major contributing cause to men's possessive control is exemplified by the childhood experience of men like George and Edwin. Forty-eight percent of the killers I interviewed said that they had been physically abused as children while 55% said they had witnessed partner abuse between parents. Overwhelmingly, their fathers or stepfathers were the perpetrators of both kinds of abuse. Twice as many of the killers said that as young children, they felt closer to their mothers and more fearful of their fathers. Despite this, it was their fathers whom they came to emulate.

Child experts say that this reflects the need of some traumatized children to identify with the more powerful parent. In doing so, the child seeks to shed feelings of fear and vulnerability by adopting the abusive parent's attributes. For boys, it is simultaneously a way of resolving conflicts about male identity. Many of the killers came to appreciate their father's physical violence and emotional detachment as signs of strength, or as one man put it, as a way of helping "to toughen me up". In many cases, these men's admiration for their fathers was accompanied by a growing disdain for their mothers whom they blamed for failing to protect them. As adults, these future killers seemed to live in a state of perpetual possessive vigilance toward intimate partners.

Though possessive control doesn't always lead to murder, it is a toxic condition that surely harms relationships as well as child development. For children in these families, witnessing possessive control by one parent over the other blurs the distinction between love and control and provides the blueprint for becoming an abuser. It is important to recognize that this outcome is by no means certain. Plenty of kids who grow up with an abusive parent learn to be caring partners and parents, whether from the negative example of the abuser, or from the positive example of other adults in their lives. If we believe that it takes a village to raise (or mis-raise) a child, we are all role models, good or bad, whether we mean to be or not.



A Child Needs You; Info session on foster parenting to be held May 13 and June 10 in Hartford

by Community Contributor -- FAMILIES VILLAGE

May is National Foster Care month, intended to bring a focused attention to the need for foster families. But foster children need families all year long.

Approximately 4,600 Connecticut children are waiting for foster or adoptive homes. More than half are adolescent children who need mentors to help them grow successfully into young adults.

Children are placed in care for a number of reasons, most often due to physical, emotional or sexual abuse, or a caretaker's inability to support them. All of them need nurturing homes and caring foster parents, like Odell Martin of Hartford.

When Jordan arrived at Odell's home at the age of 10, "he was sad and didn't laugh much," said Odell.

But it wasn't long before Odell and her grown children drew Jordan out of his shell.

"They were all open arms," said Jordan.

And Jordan credits Odell for setting him on the right path. "She taught me I can be whatever I want to be." Jordan currently attends Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island and has his sights set on a career as a Navy officer.

He'll return to Odell's home - his home - for the summer and says their relationship is "tighter than ever."

Odell says being a foster parent doesn't require any special skills, but it helped that she is "built for patience." Foster parents receive support to help them and their foster children through transition and growth, including extensive training, 24/7 support, a monthly stipend, case management services and fun family events.

To learn more about becoming a foster parent, visit, contact us at 860-236-4511 or, or attend an information session on Wednesday, May 13 or June 10, 6 - 8 pm at The Village, 331 Wethersfield Avenue, Hartford.

Everybody needs somebody - a child needs you. If you've ever thought about becoming a foster parent, now is the time to act.

About The Village:
For more than 200 years, The Village for Families & Children has been working to build a community of strong, healthy families who protect and nurture children. We fulfill this mission by providing a full range of children's behavioral health treatment, foster care and adoption, and community support services for children and their families in the Greater Hartford region. For more information, visit or call 860-236-4511.



Bill to help adult and child sexual abuse victims goes to Missouri governor

by Mike Lear

A bill has gone to Governor Nixon that would do a number of things for victims of sexual abuse in Missouri.

One provision in the plan would allow, for the first time, victims of sexual assault to seek orders of protection against their attackers.

Colleen Coble, Chief Executive Officer with the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, says a protection order is more than just a piece of paper.

“It is a recognizable, enforceable order of the court, and it also can allay the concerns of a lot of survivors that they have to be continually looking over their shoulder and worried about ongoing harm or threats from a person who has obviously already harmed them,” Coble told Missourinet.

Missouri Kids First Deputy Director Emily van Schenkhof says the bill would also allow the state to intervene when a child is being abused by another child.

“Our statute that governs how our child welfare system works requires that the person who is committing the alleged offense against the child had care, custody, and control [of the child]. So when our hotline received calls from folks who were concerned about being sexually abused by other juveniles, those other juveniles typically didn't have care, custody, and control.”

Van Schenkhof says that typically meant nothing would happen to stop the abuse from continuing, “and so we were leaving children who were being molested by juveniles in really bad situations.”

The bill would also add to the definition of a sexual assault in regards to an order of protection, a lack of consent.

“A lack of consent is now a part of the definition of a sexual assault or sexual offense for orders of protection. That covers someone who is incapacitated, who is incapable of consent, who is passed out, who is on medication or who is disabled,” said Coble.

Both advocates expect Governor Nixon to sign the bill.

“This is in line with issues and priorities that the governor has acted on both when he was in the Missouri Senate, when he was attorney general, and now governor,” said Coble.

“I think the governor is going to love this bill,” said van Schenkhof.

The legislation is SB 341.



UN rights experts knock Paraguay over pregnant 10-year-old

by Pedro Servin

ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) - Paraguay's government has failed to protect a 10-year-old rape victim who is being denied an abortion, United Nations human rights experts said on Monday.

In a statement released in Geneva, the four experts said Paraguay has refused to provide treatment to save the life of the girl, who is five months pregnant, "including safe and therapeutic abortion in a timely manner."

The case has set off a national debate in Paraguay where abortion is banned in all cases - even rape - except when the mother's life is in danger.

"The Paraguayan authorities' decision results in grave violations of the rights to life, to health, and to the physical and mental integrity of the girl as well as her right to education, jeopardizing her economic and social opportunities," the experts said.

The World Health Organization says such child pregnancies can be dangerous, potentially leading to complications and death.

The girl's stepfather, who is accused of raping her, was arrested over the weekend and placed in isolation to prevent other inmates from attacking him. The girl's mother is being held at a female prison for neglecting to take care of her daughter.

About 600 girls 14 or under become pregnant each year in this country of 6.8 million people. Studies by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control say thousands of children in the United States also give birth each year.

Amnesty International has asked authorities to allow an abortion to protect the girl.

Health Minister Antonio Barrios has responded that she is in good health at a Red Cross hospital and that the pregnancy, at five months, is too advanced.

But a medical panel was created on Monday to assess her mental and physical health, said Jose Orue, the public defender for children in the city of Luque, where the girl lived with her mother and stepfather near the Paraguayan capital.

Experts say the girl isn't ready mentally or physically to give birth. "When her baby arrives, the justice system will have to set a guardian and tutors for both of them," Orue said.

Paraguayan forensic psychologist Franca La Carrubba said that though the girl is not prepared to be a mother, with medical care she might be able to give birth.

"The aftermath of rape could remain when she becomes a teenager or an adult. It's the most common disorder in these cases," she said.

The president of the country's Episcopal Conference, Msgr. Claudio Gimenez, recently decried the possibility of a therapeutic abortion, saying that Paraguay is already split over the case.

"Some want to legalize abortion, the killing of an innocent who still is in a period of gestation," he said. "And for the other side, those who oppose that idea."

But Sen. Esperanza Martinez, a former health minister, complained that the debate about whether the girl is physically able to bear a child overlooks her own well-being.

Groups staged small protests in Asuncion and in Ciudad del Este, on the other side of the country, on Monday demanding authorities intervene under the slogan: "Together we can protect children from abuse."

In Ciudad del Este, children carried signs that had their hands printed on them in paint and slogans like "No more abuse!" Parents said they were outraged that so many young girls were being abused.

"A child is only a virgin once," said Sebastian Martinez, a march organizer in Ciudad del Este, who came with his 5-year-old daughter. "Their innocence can never be recovered. We have to do more to protect our children."

Associated Press reporter Peter Prengaman contributed to this story from Ciudad del Este, Paraguay.

Full U.N. human rights expert report:;LangID=E



New law offers major Georgia child-welfare reforms

Gov. Nathan Deal has signed into law a measure that provides for major reforms of Georgia's child welfare programs. This comes in the wake of reports last year our state had the sixth-worst rate of children dying from abuse or neglect in the nation in recent years.

Deal set the latest reform in motion in March 2014 with creation of the Child Welfare Reform Council to review and make recommendations for badly needed changes in the state's child welfare system. A month earlier the state Department of Health and Human Services had reported to Congress that in Georgia abuse or neglect directly caused or contributed to the death of 83 children in 2012, ranking sixth among the states.

The new law empowers the governor to appoint the director of the Division of Family and Children Services, who reports directly to the governor and serves at his pleasure. This should ensure open, immediate communication at the highest level regarding the welfare of at-risk children in Georgia.

The legislation sets up a 20-member DFCS State Advisory Board to review and make recommendations concerning the protection and welfare of children. In addition, advisory boards are created in each of the 15 DFCS regions “to improve communication and coordination between the county departments of family and children services … to improve and streamline service delivery by the county departments and to provide for the consistent application of state policy.” This should improve significantly interagency communication and transparency, essential to bringing about the positive changes needed.

The DFCS is required to develop and implement, in conjunction with other agencies, “a workable statewide system for sharing data relating to the care and protection of children” to afford caseworkers more complete information about the interaction of children and families with the state. Further, foster parents and other care providers are given access to appropriate medical and educational records, another substantial improvement.

The law also re-establishes the Child Abuse Registry, which will handle cases of abuse, maintain statistical data and require documentation of steps taken by the state in giving care to children.

These changes should result in a much more effective child welfare system. In this regard, the work of the regional advisory boards will be significant.

As Deal said, “There is perhaps nothing more harmful to a child than an abusive father or a neglectful mother. But if there was, it would be a community that watched in silent disapproval, doing nothing. Georgia is doing something.”

We commend the governor, the legislators and the citizens who have worked together to bring the new law into force. Along with the child advocates in Cobb County and across Georgia, we hope it will make a dramatic difference in child abuse and neglect in this community and the entire state.



Is leaving a child alone in the car for less than 10 minutes child abuse?

by Amy Graff

Six years ago a mother known only as Eleanor in court documents left her sleeping 19-month-old baby alone in the car between five and 10 minutes while she ran into a Dollar Tree store in South Plainfield, New Jersey. The car doors were locked, the windows cracked and the engine running. The weather outside was cool.

A security guard noticed the unattended child and called police. The mother was reportedly watching the car from the store and when she saw the police cars pull up, she ran out of the store and was arrested.

Authorities launched a thorough investigation into the mother of four, determining the May 6, 2009, incident was an aberration in behavior and she was a good mother in all other respects. Charges were dropped, although because the situation was recorded in the books, Eleanor is categorized as a child abuser and her name was included on New Jersey's child abuse registry.

Now, Eleanor's legal team is fighting this label and as the New Jersey Supreme court considers her case, her story is raising the question whether leaving a child alone in a car for a brief period is child abuse?

Many parents consider this question when they're pulling the car out of the driveway and realize they left the oven on? Do you unload the kids from the car and lug them into the house or leave them strapped into their carseats while you make a mad dash inside to turn the nob to off?

I have to admit that I've left my children in my parked car for maybe two or three minutes while I've run into the house to grab a forgotten piano book, lunch, swim bag.

I feel uneasy doing this and as if I'm committing an unmotherly act, or maybe even a crime. I think about all unfortunate incidents resulting from kids being left in cars.

Yet still I do it because it seems safe–and I don't like thinking that everything in this world is dangerous and that my children are doomed every time they're out of my sight. I don't want to live in fear.

A few years ago, I checked in with San Francisco Police Department Officer Albie Esparza to ask whether this was legal and he directed me to California Vehicle Code 15620 (a) (California is one of 20 states with a law addressing the issue of leaving kids alone in cars):

A parent, legal guardian, or other person responsible for a child who is 6 years of age or younger may not leave that child inside a motor vehicle without being subject to the supervision of a person who is 12 years of age or older, under either of the following circumstances:

(1) Where there are conditions that present a significant risk to the child's health or safety.

(2) When the vehicle's engine is running or the vehicle's keys are in the ignition, or both.

Esparza said that when I've left my kids in the car for a few minutes in my driveway, I wasn't technically breaking the law because there wouldn't have been any clear significant risk. “But if you left your car double parked, running with keys in the car, then you would have been breaking the law, or if your children were disabled,” he said. “Parents really need to use their common sense. I would never advocate for parents leaving kids unattended in cars but I know that sometimes these instances come up and parents need to be smart and safe about it.”

Many safety organizations including Safe Kids and the American Automobile Association take a much more conservative stance on this issue and say you should never leave a child unattended in a car.

“We don't want anyone to leave any child alone in a car for even one second,” says Emma Oldenberger, community relations and traffic safety specialist of AAA Northern California. “Even on a cold day and even if the windows are cracked. Children's bodies heat up five times faster than an adults. And rising temperatures aren't the only risk. Children can disengage a parking break or strangle themselves with a carseat harness or a seatbelt.”

The judges in the New Jersey case have seemed to imagine the worst case scenario in the situation with Eleanor. Deputy Attorney General Erin O'Leary said of the case, “The division has an obligation, I think the legislature has made it clear, to step in to protect children before they're actually harmed.”

But Free-Range Kids blog and book author Lenore Skenazy points out that it's very unlikely something bad would have ever happened and says it's unfair punish the mother and call her a child abuser for something that didn't happen. “Just because the judges could imagine a kidnapping, or carjacking, or a big bad wolf, doesn't mean that these are at all likely,” Skenazy writes in a story for Yahoo.



Crossing The Line: child and teen sexual abuse

by Todd Faulkner

Child and teen sexual abuse in the area is difficult to talk about for many people. Preventing it can be just as challenging, but it is important.

Local examples of individuals once in a position of authority now facing criminal charges in connection to some type of inappropriate sexual contact with a minor include former Marshall County football coach Ron Barnard, former Reidland Middle School teacher Chelsea Rose, and former Milburn Chapel Cumberland Presbyterian Church leaders Frederick Daack and Michael Parsons.

Investigators have said those four individuals are responsible for crossing the line. WPSD Local 6 is committed to helping parents understand why a dialogue involving this topic with their child or teen is so important.

Lauren Barks with the Purchase Area Sexual Assault and Child Advocacy Center works to prevent abuse.

"We're really trying to change the culture of not talking about it, to talking about it and talking about what we can do to improve things," Barks said. "And it really just leaves those adults empowered that they can make a difference and protect children in their lives."

Barks helps churches and youth organizations understand and implement the Darkness to Light program, prevention training for adults. According to the program, 90 percent of children who are victims of sexual abuse know their abuser. Thirty percent are abused by family members.

"Encouraging that open communication and talking to their children —that if anybody ever makes you feel uncomfortable or you kind of have that gut feeling of something isn't right, that they come to the parent and tell them what happened," Barks added.

Ensuring organizations, like churches, have procedures and guidelines in place to address this issue is another step toward bringing this dark subject to light. Local 6 reached out to nearly two dozen local churches to talk about the policies they have in place. Even if they did have them, all were reluctant to go on camera.

Jared Morgan is not surprised church leaders don't want to talk about it. Morgan writes insurance policies specifically for churches —ones that cover sexual acts, sexual abuse, and molestation. He knows it's an uncomfortable topic.

"When you have children in your care, custody, and control you have additional liability that you have to deal with that most insurance policies won't cover," Morgan said. "If an abuse event happens it can just destroy people's lives, including the minor and anybody else that's involved with it."

Parents need to ensure the church where they attend has an insurance policy requiring the following: a national background check, a six month waiting period for a volunteer to work with youth, and following the two-adult rule. That's when at least two adults who are not related are in a room with children.

Morgan cautioned that creating an atmosphere of accountability is also key, saying "Prevention is far more important than paying a claim on this particular line of exposure."

Lauren Barks agrees that it is necessary to work together to shine light on a dark subject.

"The most important things for organizations and churches are, I think, it's having that policy in place of, you know, eliminating those one-on-one situations," Barks said. "And if somebody sees something like that happening, that they can go tell somebody what they see."

The Darkness to Light program has five steps to protect children: learn the facts, minimize opportunity, talk about it, recognize the signs, and react responsibly.

To learn more about the Darkness to Light program call PASAC at 270-534-4422 or by visit the organization's website.

To get additional material about Darkness To Light, click here.



Surveillance Video Captures Teen Girl Fighting Off Attacker Inside San Jose Home; Man Arrested

by The Los Angeles Times

The man who was sought in connection with following a girl into her San Jose home and assaulting her as she fought back has been arrested, police said.

Mohammad Khaliqi, 31, of San Jose was taken into custody about 10:25 a.m. Friday in the 1400 block of School Street in San Leandro on suspicion of assaulting the 13-year-old girl as well as another woman in a separate attack, according to the San Jose Police Department.

He was booked on multiple counts of burglary, attempted sexual assault and false imprisonment, police said.

Home surveillance video shows the suspect trailing the girl as she walks home from school at about 4 p.m. Tuesday in the 4000 block of Rio Vista Avenue in San Jose.

Click here to read the full story on


New Jersey

Center for Great Expectations offers hope for women, teens in need

by Paul C. Grzella

In March, Peg Wright, founder and chief executive officer of The Center for Great Expectations, was honored by NJBIZ as one of New Jersey's “Top 50 Women” in business.

On April 27, New Jersey first lady Mary Pat Christie recognized Wright as a New Jersey Hero for her commitment and advocacy on behalf of pregnant women and adolescents experiencing abuse, addiction and homelessness. Wright was the 34th Garden State resident to be designated a New Jersey Hero by Christie since 2010.

The day after that presentation, Wright was sitting in her center office in the Somerset section of Franklin wondering what will happen at the end of June when funding for one of her programs ends.

“It's crazy,” Wright said. “But all will be well.”

Speaking of the agency's $3 million annual program budget, funded through state contracts and about 35 percent through private donations, Wright said, “You just keep doing the next right thing.”

For Wright, doing the next right thing has taken her from a career in diagnostic imaging sales, to being a volunteer at what was then a small, nonclinical program for pregnant teens in Somerville, to leading an innovative treatment program that seeks to be a model in creating generational change for the teens and young women it serves.

“My father taught me that you have to hire people who are better than you are,” said Wright, a Hunterdon County resident. “My gift is to recognize talent, to retain talent, and to connect the dots.”

Those dots are leading Wright and her colleagues to work collaboratively with a number of community partners, including Rutgers University, to create a comprehensive approach to trauma and substance abuse that seeks to break generational behavioral patterns of the center's clients and nurtures them on new paths of self-sufficiency and success.

“Hope Lives Here” reads the sign that greets visitors to the center's Dellwood Lane site.

“What Peg has accomplished here at The Center for Great Expectations is awe-inspiring,” said Christie, during her presentation of the New Jersey Hero award to Wright. “Her strong vision and commitment to a segment of our population that is often overlooked is providing life-changing opportunities to many adult women, teens and their children.”

The history

The Center for Great Expectations was founded as a nonprofit organization in 1998. Its roots in the community are deep, and watching the organization grow “as it has changed the lives of the young mothers it serves has been a wonderful thing,” said Msgr. Charles W. Cicarele, pastor of St. James Church in Woodbridge and a longtime center board member.

“Over the years, the mission has evolved beautifully,” he said. “Trauma-based care addresses the past, and brings healing where it can be brought.”

When the center was formally established in 1998, it operated out of a two-bedroom, one-bathroom rented house in Somerville. It started out by serving six homeless pregnant women and teens, and no children.

Wright credits mentors like Sister Rita Woehlcke, a member of the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Philadelphia, with helping her and others to think in a more expansive way about what the center could accomplish and how it could go about doing its work.

“But I always have been passionate about this work,” Wright said. “These women have no other voice.”

With no room for children at the rented house, the center's Board of Directors planned and executed a capital campaign to expand services significantly to provide for more mothers and children. As momentum grew, so did the milestone achievements reflecting the evolution of the center's mission:

• In 2008 and 2009, two residential-style buildings opened in the Somerset section of Franklin. Each building can accommodate eight mothers and their children. The two resident treatment programs serve homeless, pregnant/parenting adult women and adolescents who suffer from substance use and/or mental health disorders; they also are survivors of what has often been a lifetime of trauma and abuse, and the center specializes in trauma-informed care. The buildings also have some common areas, a community conference center and a vast basement filled with donated baby supplies and clothes — tens of thousands of dollars worth of donations given by area parishes, churches, businesses and individuals, and in turn given out to clients and patients as needed.

• In 2009, the Franklin-based center opened Katy's Place, an onside child development center that focuses on parent-infant mental health and individualized care for each child. Mothers are also given quiet time to simply spend with their children.

• In 2010, the center began operating an outpatient program in New Brunswick. The program, which serves some 80 women annually from around Middlesex and Somerset counties, provides early intervention and outpatient treatment services for parenting or pregnant women with substance use and related disorders.

• In 2012, a Permanent Supportive Housing program that provides 16 apartment homes to homeless women and their children was opened next to the center. Done in partnership with AvalonSomerset, supportive case management is offered by the Center for Great Expectations.

• In 2014, expansion work began on one of the residential buildings to increase the capacity of the adolescent program and Katy's Place. The expansion, which will provide space for four additional adolescent mothers, and up to eight children, is expected to be completed this summer. Clients for the residential programs come from around the state.

With some 60 full- and part-time employees, The Center for Great Expectations has served approximately 850 women and children since 1998.

“All those years ago, I had some ideas about what was needed and where we needed to go, even if I didn't know exactly how to get there,” Wright said. “But I am a very stubborn Irish woman, and sometimes you just have to keep on keeping on.”

Wright is the mother of three young men — David, 27, and twins James and John, 22. She credits the support of her family and her husband, Bob, whom she has been with for 39 years, in helping her to keep on track.

“This is really 24/7 and he is such a mensch,” she said with a lilt in her voice.

The work

Over the years, the center's approach to its work has evolved, adding mental health components as well as substance abuse treatment. Today, Wright said, it focuses on two modalities of care: trauma-informed care and parent-infant mental health.

“For the women we serve, it's just not about their substance abuse, but what happened in their lives that led to the substance abuse,” said Debbie Ruisard, the center's clinical director and adult women's program manager. “We try to understand and work with them, and help them stay in treatment longer” and in turn get better long-term outcomes.

Wright said that the center's “nurtured heart approach,” developed by Howard Glasser, founder of the Children's Success Foundation, creates a culture of celebration.

“We don't spend time on deficits,” she said. “We really celebrate the individual.”

Recent partnerships with medical experts at Rutgers, focusing on early childhood well-being and other treatment areas, are also offering exciting new directions for the programs and its clients.

Wright said that sometimes as the new treatment methodologies were being introduced to her, she didn't really get it at first, “but I am teachable, and as I started to study it and see the results, it began to make sense to me.”

The field of study, she added, is continuing to evolve and improve.

“You have to understand that we are dedicated to providing the best treatment modalities possible because the life situations of our clients are so traumatic and horrific,” she said. “Everyone on the staff is clinically astute, but they also have tremendous heart for the mission. You have to because this is very hard work.”

Wright and her colleagues always keep in mind the lives of their clients, and the experiences they bring.

“If you haven't received love in any nurturing way, it is impossible to deliver it, not to mention the fact that you think you don't deserve it,” she said.

Wright, who was adopted by a loving family when she was 5 weeks old, said, “I landed in a magnificent home, but I could have landed very differently,” she said.

“If you end up in an horrific life situation, it's just not your fault,” she added. “People don't choose to site in a blown-up building. You can tell someone to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, but what if they don't have any boots?”

Board member Cicerale said he has tremendous admiration for Wright, her colleagues and the transformative work they are doing.

“It is incredibly life-giving,” he said. “They are working with their whole hearts and, like that old message says, transforming the world one person at a time.”

He also understands the ongoing financial challenges an organization like The Center for Great Expectations faces — “it can be hand-to-mouth, year-to-year, but as Peggy always says, it's a God thing, and the God she knows will take care of his own. She has genuine hope and joy. Happiness comes and goes, but she has this underlying sense of joy that all will be well in the end.”

Even as she inspires others, Wright finds inspiration in the young mothers she works with, as she watches them learn to trust and learn that they can change.

“I have been amazed at times by the extraordinary strength of some of the women we have served,” Wright said. “They have overcome incredible odds and forged a new path in their lives. If I were in their shoes, I don't know if I could do it. But they do.”

Staff Writer Paul C. Grzella: 908-243-6601;

Parenting 101

No one is born a great parent — we learn from our own parents, our first caregivers, our community. CGE's Parent Infant Mental Health recognizes this both for those of us who feel affirmed in our experiences of healthy parenting and especially for those who have had unhealthy or neglectful experiences — and the great sense of loss and trauma that result. We can all learn to be better parents. These are the tips that I focus on:

• Be engaged — not just responsive — to them, not your cellphone!

• Laugh with them — have fun, get dirty, roll around on the floor!

• Feed their brain. If you think they grow out of shoes fast, check out brain development from birth to 3. It's off the charts and keeps going 'till they're 25! (Hope springs eternal — my twins are 22!)

• Read together — from birth until they beg you to stop. What they learn is unlimited. It's not just the story, it's your presence

• Frustrated? Give yourself a timeout. Do whatever you need to do to respond in a nurturing positive way. Hurting in any way — verbally, physically, emotionally — has no place in healthy parenting.

• Celebrate their greatness in an authentic way!

• Badgering and long, drawn-out lectures never reaps positive behavior change. They will learn that acting out gets them a lot of attention. Be clear and swift with consequences and then move on ... I like “reset.”

Peg Wright

Take action

The Center for Great Expectations receives supports from a variety of community civic and religious organizations. It also has a number of upcoming events community member may support, including:

• June 7, Moms and Babies Luncheon in Whitehouse Station

• July 9, Ken Daneyko Golf Classic

• Nov. 13, The Center for Great Expectations Gala at Fiddler's Elbow Country Club in Bedminster.

There are also a number of ongoing volunteer opportunities. To get involved, call 732-247-7003, email or visit . The organization also can be reached toll-free at 855-467-3548.




Nigeria: Incestous Brothers and Sisters!

by Emmanuel Edukugho

We are living in a complex and highly sophisticated society in which sexual intercourse is often taken for granted not only among individuals unknown to each other, but even between family members and close relatives. Incidents of incest, defined as "having sexual relations or activity with close family members", are common today all over the world, but not often reported. That presents a dilemma.

Incest is not only a taboo but also illegal. Different kinds of incest exist - one is when a father and daughter, or step father and step daughter engage in sexual relationship. This kind of incest has been the most reported worldwide. But in Nigeria, incest between fathers and daughters is hardly reported because nobody wants such a story to be heard outside the family.

Incest in Nigeria is kept often as a "family secret", not to be reported to the relevant authorities.

However, some fathers and stepfathers abuse their daughters and stepdaughters on regular basis, while victims are unable to do anything about it. Even when a mother knows what is going on, she tries to put an end to it in her own way, but rarely reports the matter to the authorities, for fear of being stigmatized.

Sex between siblings is another kind of incest that is common but rarely reported. Little children are fond of practising what they see adults do. Often times, they imitate what they watch on television when adults kiss or have sex. So parents must monitor their kids and the kind of films they watch while they are around and block such films or video from their children when they are not at home.

There have been instances where teenage or adult siblings fall in love with one another and get involved in sexual relationship without the knowledge of their parents. Even when the parents are aware, there is little or nothing that they can do to stop it.

A youngman (names withheld) involved in incest confessed, saying, "You can't help whom you fall in love with, it just happens. I fell in love with my sister and I am not ashamed of it. I only feel sorry for mom and dad."

But the question is whether the man's excuse is morally justified. We can decide who to fall in love with if we exercise self control, because we are in charge of our actions and emotions, not the other way round.

Our investigation showed it is very difficult for girls and women to report cases of incest in their families, either as victims or as eye witnesses for fear of being stigmatized. Family members often insist on solving the problem, but time has proved they lacked the will to tackle it.

The judicial system is not helping either, because such cases are left to die due to lack of diligent prosecution. The case may drag on for years, then forgotten, frustrating victims from seeking justice for those who are even courageous enough to approach the authorities. At the end, the abuser goes unpunished while the victim returns, depressed, discomforted, hopeless.

Incest destroys relationship in the family, especially between the abuser and the victim; the victim may become loose and promiscuous and could end up in prostitution.

Incest the risk of teenage or adolescent pregnancy, causes depression and intense guilt, can lead to drug and alcohol abuse by victims.

Social research studies showed that most societies regard sexual relations between close family members as not only a taboo, an affront against decency, an abomination, but also illegal. "Incest occurs everywhere even though people won't admit to partaking in it," said a university don.

Some researchers argued that in certain circumstances, incest is a necessity while multiple studies showed that offsprings of distant relatives are actually healtheir than the general population. Because there is usually more of an evolutionary advantage to diversifying the gene pool, therefore incest is not very common in species who practice sexual reproduction.

But where there is no natural advantage, to genetic diversity, incest still exists. An evolutionary biologist at Bowdoin College in Maina, USA, Dr. Nathaniel Wheelwright, who focuses on sexual reproduction, described asexual reproduction to LiveScience as the "ultimate incest" because an organism is breeding with itself.

"You can still see species asexually reproducing, or cloning themselves, in situations where there is no advantage to (sex)", Wheelwright explained, "and you can see species that commit incest where there is no penalty to inbreeding."

What Draws Some People To Incest

It is believed that people have a biological defense against close forms of incest, since there are the cases most likely to end in genetically compromised offsprings. LiveScience reported that Finnish sociologist, Edward Westermarck, suggested that growing up in the same house puts people off from developing sexual feelings. This is so even in cases where children are not directly related. When close incest does occur, that is, sexual relations between first relations like brother and sister or father and daughter, it is more likely due to a psychological factor than a biological attraction. Genetic attraction occurs when two relatives who have been seperated for a long time in their lives meet for the first time and experience intense emotional attraction. According to a report, this occurs in around 50% of reunions between close relatives separated at birth. "These people regress to a very early stage of development. The relationship is sensual, but we don't call it 'romance' or being 'in love' when it's breastfeeding, cradling, and stroking, or when it's a mother and baby gazing into one another's eyes,"explained psychotherapist Joe Soll.

According to him, this jump to incest is most common in brother - sister relationships, although it's unknown why. According to one brother and sister relationship, the intense attraction is rooted in their physical resemblance.

"It's like kissing myself, " a woman who goes by the name 'Rachel' spoke of her intimacy with her brother 'Shawn'.

In general, inbred children (born by incest sexual relations) exhibit lower intelligence and physical strength and get sick more often compared to their non-inbred counterparts. The risk for life-threatening diseases and deformities among inbred children is relatively higher.

Our genes are responsible for essentially every part of who we are. Most of our genes are either beneficial or largely neutral, but a small number of genes usually carry serious health consequences known as "autosomal recessive diseases."These include cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, Tay-sachs disease and albinism. In small gene pools, the chances of offspring inheriting the two recessive genes needed to express these conditions increases.

For example, first cousins would have a 12.5% of having a child with one of these disorders.

Hence Tay-Sachs, a genetic disorder that retards mental, physical action, being most prevalent in some population trends of Jewish origin, and Puerto Rico having the highest density of albinism in the world, a US research institute reported.

When you have an even smaller gene pool, such as two first relatives, the chances of inheriting these recessive conditions may go up to 50/50. A 2008 study on 48 cases of incest found that the risk for birth defects is around 2% in the general population but rises to only 4% between first cousins.

Incest Statistics

*Research shows that 46% of children who are raped are victims of family members (Langan and Harlow, 1994)

*The majority of American victims (6%) are raped before the age of 18; furthermore, an astounding 29% of rape occurred when the victim was less than 11 years old. Also 11% of rape victims are raped by their fathers or step fathers and another 16% are raped by their relatives (National Centre for Victims of Crime and Crime Victims Research and Treatment Centre, 1992).

*The Study of a nationally representative sample of state prisoners serving time for violent crime in 1991 showed that, of those prisoners convicted of rape and sexual assault, two-thirds victimised children and almost one third of the victims were children or step children of the assailant (Greenfield, 1996).

*In a study of male survivors of child sexual abuse, over 80% had a history of substance abuse, 50% had suicidal thoughts, 23% attempted suicide and almost 70% received psychological treatment. About 31% had violently victimised others (Lisak, 1994)

There was also the Bible story about incest in which Lot, a just and righteous man who got drunk and impregnated his virgin daughters. "Come, let us make our father drink wine and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. And they made their father drink wine that night; and the first born went in and lay with her father, and he perceived not when she lay down n or when she arose. The younger daughter did same. Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father."Genesis 19:32-36.



Child abuse affects man 50 years after incidents

by Tom Miller

ROUND ROCK, Texas -- From the outside looking in James Ayers' upbringing seems normal. His parents raised him, an older sister and two younger siblings in East Austin. But he says being part of that family meant a much darker, more secretive reality.

"Nobody raised us really, we put ourselves to bed. Never a goodnight hug or a simple I love you. Matter of fact those are three words we never learned," Ayers said.

The attention the Ayers siblings did get took its toll on them.

"Number one form of punishment was banging our heads against the walls repeatedly over and over and over 'till we didn't think there was going to be a tomorrow for us," Ayers said.

If not the children, his mother became the target. His father worked as a musician and oftentimes the couple would come home drunk from a night at bars.

"He'd yell at us, of course he'd use a lot of foul language, get down there and watch, he was going to knock the you know what out of my mother. And he said if we didn't, we were going to get the same thing," Ayers said.

When Ayers' parents divorced, his father held him hostage in an attempt to get his wife back.

"He pulled out a switch blade knife and held it to my throat," Ayers said. "He told her he was going to slit my throat from ear to ear if she didn't come back. And to my shock my mother didn't even plead for my life or her say, 'No, please don't.' She just said, 'Go ahead, I'm not coming back.'"

He said neighbors knew about the abuse, as did aunts and uncles, but no one spoke up. He's since been able to raise his own family, hold down a job and live a productive life. But this secret of vicious abuse sticks with him through all of it. He's only now sharing his story in hopes of saving others from going through the same thing.

"They need to speak up and say something," Ayers said. "You know, they're destroying that child's life. They're all, 'He'll grow out of it, in time he'll forget.' They don't. They don't grow out of it and they don't forget. It stays with you and it doesn't go away.

"I'm 65 years old. It doesn't stop."

Last year in Williamson county, the Children's Advocacy Center handled nearly 700 child abuse cases. However many more cases went unreported.

It is by law mandated for any adult who is aware of abuse to report it.

If you are a victim or have seen or suspect child abuse, please call 911.

Anonymous tips can also be left online here.



Judge to decide sentence for Joyce Garrard, convicted of running grandchild to death

by William Thornton

An Etowah County judge is scheduled to decide today whether a woman should be executed or spend the rest of her life in prison for forcing her granddaughter to run for hours until she collapsed and died.

Judge William "Billy" Ogletree has scheduled a sentencing hearing for 2 p.m. today for Joyce Hardin Garrard, 50, who was found guilty of capital murder in March in the 2012 death of Savannah Hardin, her 9-year-old granddaughter.

A jury of 8 men and 4 women spent about three-and-a-half hours deciding to convict her, and then took about the same time to recommend she spend the rest of her life in prison. The jury vote was five for death and seven for life in prison. Prosecutors have said they support a life sentence.

However, Ogletree could opt for death by lethal injection under state law. In 101 cases in Alabama since 1976, judges have overridden a jury's recommendation of a life sentence and opted for the death penalty, according to the Equal Justice Initiative.

Prosecutors said Garrard forced the child to run for more than three hours as punishment for lying about eating candy bars on Feb. 17, 2012. Witnesses testified they saw Garrard in the yard of the child's home shouting at her to continue running through the afternoon. Savannah collapsed and died days later in a Birmingham hospital.

Garrard testified that she never forced the child to run, but both a state pathologist and one testifying for the defense told the jury Savannah's death was caused by extreme physical exertion.