In Defending Dennis Hastert, Washington Forgets Sex Abuse Victims
by The Rev. Madison Shockley
Dennis Hastert, a former speaker of the House of Representatives, is to Washington what many a pedophile priest has been to the Vatican: an accused sexual predator who is treated as if he deserves more protection than his alleged victims.
An FBI indictment issued last week says that “in or about 2010,” Hastert agreed to pay $3.5 million to a person known only as “Individual A” to cover up unspecified misconduct that had occurred years earlier. Though there are few clues in the indictment itself, several major news outlets have since reported that Individual A was a male student of Hastert's when Hastert was still a high school teacher in Yorkville, Ill., and that the unspecified misconduct against the student was sexual. In addition, while I was writing this article, ABC News reported that a second student from the same high school made similar accusations against Hastert but did not seek compensation.
Leaving Hastert's actual guilt or innocence aside, I am astonished that both the Washington political establishment and the press corps have consistently expressed disbelief that a person in his position could be capable of sexually abusing a child. The press has done everything possible to take the focus off of the question of child sexual abuse and to place it on Hastert's alleged violations of banking laws—thus turning the story into a prototypical financial scandal that fits the political narrative in ways that a child sexual abuse scandal cannot.
To accept that a former speaker of the house—once one of the most powerful people in government and second in the line to succeed the president—might have sexually abused a child when he was a high school teacher is too much for some politicians and pundits. But by ignoring that dimension of the story, they do a great disservice to victims of childhood sexual abuse and to the public at large. They imply that a person who has served at the highest levels of government is incapable of such behavior—behavior that is rightly regarded as so reprehensible that perpetrators are not only exiled from the halls of power but spurned by society as a whole.
Members of the American political elite feel they are protecting the establishment by giving Hastert the benefit of the doubt, just as the Vatican and its subsidiaries have done for accused priests. But they do so by sacrificing Hastert's alleged victims on the altar of organizational integrity. Even current House Speaker John Boehner has said: “The Denny I served with worked hard on behalf of his constituents and the country.” This is no time to be providing character references for a man that agreed to pay millions of dollars to a former student who accused him of a sexual offense.
Yet it is typical that the culture rushes to the aid of perpetrators with power and abandons the powerless victims. It's as though an indictment of the accused—be they a House speaker, bishop, pastor, principal or teacher—is an indictment of the institution that authorized them for the position that they held. But the reality is that perpetrators come from all walks of life. According to the National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse (NAASCA), “90% are abused by someone they know, love or trust.” So it is not incredible at all that a person who was a high school teacher who then entered politics and ascended to the top tiers of government might have a history of sexually abusing children.
It seems, however, that the press can only talk about the comfortable topics of money and cover-up, while the underlying issue—a true national scandal—begs for intelligent reporting that can bring perspective to it: child sex abuse in the United States. According to NAASCA: “There are over 42 million survivors of sexual abuse in America. Somewhere between 2/3 and ninety percent of sexual abuse victims never tell … 293,000 children and youth are estimated to be at risk of exploitation. 100,000 are prostituted annually.”
Hastert's indictment is an unfortunate but excellent opportunity to re-educate the nation away from the “stranger danger” mantra and to a more responsible and accountable policy that recognizes that perpetrators are usually the people children know and trust. This is what we did at Pilgrim United Church of Christ in 2007 when we faced the prospect of a known sex offender attending our church. We developed a policy governing the inclusion of registered sex offenders who are part of the congregation. We refocused our energy toward effective supervision of children whenever they are on the church campus. This supervision requires that two unrelated adults are present in any activity in which children are involved—whether in a Sunday school class or a youth meeting.
We had to face the hard truth that excluding registered sex offenders does not make our children much safer because they represent so little of the threat. The sad truth is that there are not too many people on the sex offender registry, there are too few .
The Rev. Madison T. Shockley II is pastor of the Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad, Calif. He writes commentary on a wide variety of subjects, including race, religion, politics, education, reproductive choice and popular culture.
The sins of the 'fathers': Catholic Church and Abbott Government on trial
by Lyn Bender
'Father forgive them for they know not what they do' doesn't cut it for a Church that has protected itself and its priests over victims, writes Lyn Bender.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has exposed generations of abuse that has been quietly countenanced by “good” people, and respected institutions.
The evidence given in Ballarat to the Royal Commission is excruciatingly unbearable to hear. It is blood chilling evidence of a cancerous contagion of loathsome cruelty. It is generational and passed on from priest to priest — some of whom received their own fierce initiation.
But while the abuse is of itself a horror story, the damage reaches far out into the community. The greatest injury is to the trust in those to whom many would turn in time of need. Those anointed to provide support wisdom and moral guidance. Those who betrayed trust were pronounced the guardians of Christian teachings — on love, compassion and care for the vulnerable. But the Church is also the guardian of centuries of outdated dogma that excludes and punishes. It is perhaps this contradiction that has fostered the schism of values that has institutionalised a satanic enactment of abuse and brought suffering to its children. “Suffer the little children” has been bastardised.
The lukewarm apology of the Catholic Church to the unfolding revelations of cruelty is, of itself, appalling testimony to the pervasive attitude of diminishing the harm done. With the vast lexicon of words to describe sin and transgression, those now bearing witness as church elders at the Commission can muster very little ownership of the trauma inflicted. All seems to be concentrated on saving the beast of the constructed Church. In the reverence for this incarnation of a religion, the parishioners have been forgotten.
The Catholic Church – now “on trial” – is a vast corporation intent on the protection of its brand and its assets, and supporting its own.
“Father forgive them for they know not what they do” doesn't cut it as a defence for a vast corporate beast that has devoured its young. The Church has protected itself and its priests over victims. Offending priests were moved on to offend in new parishes. The Church knew the priests knew and some of the parents knew, but the façade of the good and benign church was preserved above all else.
This is exemplified by one of my former clients, “Peter”, now in his forties, who came from a supposedly solid, loving, good Catholic family. He had been sexually abused on a regular basis by priest who was also a family friend. The priest would come to dinner then spend time with young “Peter” in his room. When the sexual abuse is seen as loving or special, the victim is confused. This is the act of a man of god? What can be possessed of greater goodness than god?
Another abuse victim said to me that:
“We saw the priest as like god."
The carnage of adult suicide and dysfunction reveals the destruction of lives. Trauma and its torments may emerge in later life. Years after battle war veterans agonise over deaths witnessed and inflicted.
No myths of the ultimate goodness of the church, or the nobility of war can expunge this awareness. The mind flashes back at unexpected times. An innocent word or gesture triggers visceral re-experiencing of trauma.
Many say telling the story, and being heard, believed and understood, brings some peace to the mind. In that way the Royal Commission has the potential to encourage healing. Many are calling for the scalp of people at the top, in particular Cardinal George Pell. But the abuse is structural, more than due to any one person's reprehensible negligence. If Pell knew, it is likely that the entire Church knew. There was a culture of impunity and cover-up.
The Church and many within it, has a lot of soul searching and tears to shed, before it can be forgiven for what could be described in its own terms, as a massive besmirching of the teachings of Christ.
But this is not just past history. We are turning a blind eye to the abuse of children and adults in the detention centres that is occurring right now. How many reports over decades and exposures in the media can be denied and ignored? We know in the way we know about the Nazi concentration camps. The German people mostly claimed not to have known as people disappeared or were openly rounded up. But, in fact, there was open reporting on the progress that the Nazi regime was making in dealing with the "Jewish problem".
On 23 May 1933, the Dachauer Zeitung said Camp Dachau was Germany's most famous place and brought 'new hope to the Dachau business world'. Robert Gellately in his book Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany , reveals the complicity that the dictatorship extracted from the populace, by drawing on long held German ideals and phobias.
Now we are asking, how could the abuse have happened in the Catholic Church and it not have been known?
The cancer of abuse and terror proceeds insidiously.
Gillian Triggs, head of the Australian Human Rights Commission has been attacked by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton for asking the following bleedingly obvious question:
"Have we thought about the consequences of pushing people back to our neighbours Indonesia? Is it any wonder that Indonesia will not engage with us on other issues we care about like the death penalty?"
Undaunted by Dutton's demands she recant, Triggs has addressed an audience of human rights lawyers and declared that a "growing threat to democracy" was the diminishing of human rights and expansion of "discretionary, often non-compellable ministerial powers" . Triggs has expressed deep concern at the hasty passing of counter-terrorism laws, metadata laws and proposals to strip citizenship.
We have a Government that is manipulating our fears and is openly set upon imposing a rule of abuse and coercion for those deemed outside the Team Australia safe zone in the following ways:
With bipartisan support, the Government has targeted refugees – a marginalised group – who are imprisoned, harshly punished and made an example of to “deter” others.
The problem of desperate refugees has been redefined. No longer a human issue, it is now classified under the intimidating, secretive and militarised regime of Operation Sovereign Borders — now Australian Border Force
Boat tow back is now brazen policy, without the safe to do so slogan.
Exposing the abuses in detention centres under the Australian Border Force Act can lead to a possible jail term for whistleblowers — even health workers with an ethical duty of care.
Staff are being trained to use force in detention centres and given virtual immunity from prosecution.
There has still been no effective prosecution following the murder of Iranian asylum seeker Reza Barati in 2014 on Manus island.
Indigenous people remain denied and marginalised and are being moved on and displaced from their lands.
Australians are now all being spied upon through metadata retention.
It is being proposed that Australian citizenship can be revoked on a ministerial whim on suspicion of association with terrorism. The fear is that this could be potentially used against any who protest about government policy.
Overall a concerted strategy of attacking, rejecting and demonising all critics.
Only when the perpetrator cries tears of remorse that match those of the victim can reconciliation and forgiveness be achieved. This is the task of the Catholic Church that has inherited the sins of the "fathers".
But Tony Abbott and his Government has shown no remorse. Instead, demands are made for retraction and apology by any who dare to criticise.
The abuser – this Government – claims authority and to be caring for and keeping us “safe”. Australians are being groomed and desensitised to abuse by the Abbott Government. We, the citizens, have been deceived by a moral panic, even as our rights are being eroded under the cover of "protection".
The Abbott Government, like the Church, looks to alienate and victimise the abused as it shepherds the flock meekly to its fate.
Sickening Facebook child abuse video is NOT 'baby yoga' insist pioneers of gentle bonding classes
by Rachel Bletchly
REAL baby yoga fans say images of screaming child does not reflect their nurturing and relaxing practice
The sickening child abuse video which Facebook had insisted was “baby yoga” has provoked outrage around the world.
Child protection charities have been queuing up to condemn the horrific two-minute footage of a tiny, screaming baby being flung around and dunked in a bucket of water.
Facebook has now removed the footage after child protection charities criticised the social network for its inaction.
But now the pioneers of REAL baby yoga and mums who have seen its benefits have joined the call for the social network to take it down.
Baby yoga was spearheaded by the Birthlight Trust, set up 30 years ago by Cambridge University medical anthropologist Francoise Freedman.
It now trains teachers across Europe and as far afield as Russia, China, Asia and Australia. It has also been training Sure Staff staff, health visitors and midwives for years as the benefits of the gentle practices were recognised.
Friedman fears the “barbaric cruelty” shown in the video will taint the good name of baby yoga.
She said: “The Facebook moderator for the UK said that the clip did not violate standards policy on the grounds that ‘it depicts a form of baby yoga.'
“This is an unacceptable stretching of the term ‘Baby Yoga' and no one associated with Birthlight can endorse this justification by Facebook.
“It is time to protest on behalf of the babies out there as the video is gaining shares.
“What will people remember? An association of Baby Yoga with utmost barbaric cruelty and baby abuse.
“As the world initiator of the label Baby Yoga in 1996, I could have, perhaps should have, trademarked it as a hallmark of the gentle and safe movements we promote to enhance babies' enjoyment of close interaction with parents or main carers.
"But I did not because yoga does not belong to anyone.”
Freedman says she was inspired by the “gentle approach to parenting” she saw while doing fieldwork in India and South America.
A trained yoga teacher herself she created an original programme of movements and nurturing relaxation for mothers to be and new mums and their babies.
The aim is to “enhance playful interaction and communication between parent and baby and to promote their healthy development.”
Freedman believes that “through loving interaction and fun, it helps the brain to grow lots of happy neuron networks at the time of most intense growth in human life."
Baby yoga classes involve massage, holds, stretching, relaxation, singing and game playing.
Mums learn how to perform gentle body strokes, mini twists, mini stretches and upper and lower body movements.
And it is the lack of any gentleness in the shocking Facebook video that has left trainers and followers so appalled.
Birthlight executive manager Sylvie Russell said: “I found it quite sickening. This is not baby yoga in any form and certainly not Birthlight baby yoga. The baby is clearly in distress.
“As a mother myself I do not understand how anyone would want to treat a baby in that way or why it is being dunked in water.
“Baby yoga is land-based and takes place in a calm environment – which we certainly don't see here.
“It is about creating a bond between baby and mother, teaching mothers how to hold them in ways that can help with all sorts of issues – feeding difficulties, helping them to sleep.
“We start with babies of three months old and, as they get older, the movements and practice change as the child's body develops.
"We have seen some dramatic changes and received many testimonials from parents.
“It is all about gentleness – and there is none of that in the sickening video.”
One mum, Anat, said: “I joined Francoise's classes when Adam was 11 weeks old.
“I believe that baby massage and baby yoga have an effect on the child's mental development.
"For example, during the classes I was introduced to a new way of picking Adam from the floor, which involves a circular movement as opposed to just placing him flat tummy to tummy.
“After a week, Adam began to roll by himself from his back to his tummy and backwards.”
Daily Mirror Royal Reporter Victoria Murphy took her own daughter, Isobel, to baby yoga classes, starting when she was three months old.
She said: “I'd done yoga throughout my pregnancy so was keen to get back to it as soon as possible, knowing it would help me recover from childbirth.
“My classes combined practice for the mums and movements for the babies – like holding them up on our legs and doing gentle massaging.
“It was a wonderfully, calm, relaxing time that allowed you to focus on how your baby moves and responds to your touch.
“It's definitely about the physical closeness and nurturing – not swinging a child around or dunking it in water.
“I was horrified by that video and the clear distress of the child.”
But the Facebook row is not the first controversy surrounding baby yoga.
Three years ago parents were left horrified by the techniques of Russian self-styled baby yoga guru, Lena Fokina.
Frightening images emerged of Fokina flinging around babies as young as two weeks old and spinning therm around by their wrists and ankles.
Most of the babies were left screaming and in tears and some vomited during or after their session of 'baby dynamics'.
But Lena, a qualified PE teacher, mother of five and grandmother, insisted: "It's very good for babies and not dangerous at all. Some babies cry at first, but they begin to enjoy it.
“Most people think young babies can only lie on a bed, eat, and cry. But babies are born with natural reflexes, which we can use to help them develop physically and intellectually.
“'The method was originally developed to cure and correct the health of children having muscular or skeletal problems but it is also suitable for healthy children.
“The movements are designed to improve their muscular abilities and development.
“And the children often turn out to be early readers, singers, talkers, swimmers. It also makes their hands stronger. We are humanists and we don't do anything wrong.”
Catholic archdiocese in Minnesota charged in priest sex abuse
by Ben Brumfield
A Catholic archdiocese with a landmark legal legacy in child sexual abuse now faces criminal complaints in its handling of them.
In 1983, attorney Jeff Anderson filed a civil case of priest sexual abuse of minors against a U.S. archdiocese in Saint Paul, Minnesota . It opened a floodgate of victims who came forward with clergy sex abuse stories across the country.
On Friday, Ramsey County prosecutor John Choi leveled six counts at the archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. He accused it of encouraging, causing or contributing to the sexual abuse of three victims by a priest in 2010 and 2011.
Read the criminal complaint
Each count is a "gross misdemeanor," and each carries a maximum of one year in prison and/or a $3,000 fine. The complaint focuses on abuse by former priest Curtis Wehmeyer, but it and an accompanying document say his case was just one of many that the archdiocese let slide.
A representative of the archdiocese has been summoned to answer to the complaint in court on June 12.
The archdiocese will cooperate with Choi's office, Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens said in a statement Friday. "We deeply regret the abuse that was suffered by the victims of Curtis Wehmeyer and are grieved for all victims of sexual abuse," he said.
Wehmeyer was convicted in February 2013 on 20 felony charges of sexual abuse against minors and possession of child pornography, the archdiocese said in a statement. He was sentenced to five years in prison, and since then has been charged again with similar criminal sexual misconduct.
In 2012, the archdiocese booted Wehmeyer from the ministry. In March this year, Pope Francis permanently ejected him from clergy status.
And Saint Paul Archbishop John Nienstedt promised to do better.
"I am deeply saddened and have been profoundly affected by the stories I continue to hear from victims/survivors of clergy sexual abuse. My focus, and the focus of the archdiocese, is to do all we can to keep children safe while offering resources for help and healing," he said in a statement then.
'Turned a blind eye'
That was too little too late for prosecutor Choi, who said the archdiocese protected Wehmeyer and kept him in its system while he continued abusing children.
"When confronted with disturbing information about Curtis Wehmeyer, church officials time and time again turned a blind eye," he told reporters Friday.
To tackle the problem of sexual abuse by clergy, the archdiocese created the "Promoter for Ministerial Standards Program" in 2005 to supervise offending members. To Choi, it was an empty shell -- or worse.
"What was purported to be a best practice in monitoring and supervising wayward priests was in reality a sham," he said. And news of Wehmeyer's behavior grew worse.
"As time progressed, the information about Curtis Wehmeyer became more alarming and more specific," he said. Much of the 44-page complaint and the 35-page petition are dedicated to Wehmeyer's missteps and problems: From sexual issues, to alcohol addiction, DWIs and illegal drug use -- to uncomfortable approaches made on boys.
Hanging around boys' bathroom
The priest had been seen hanging around the boys' bathroom, and been caught loitering in an area of a park notorious for hook-ups, the documents said.
A priest Wehmeyer had unspecified questionable contact with was keeping his distance, and Wehmeyer had approached children in odd ways, the documents allege.
He once hit on teen boys in a book store, asking one if he was in the mood for sex, according to the documents.
The last incident was reported to the archdiocese, which said it would place restrictions on Wehmeyer and have him evaluated at a treatment center for clergy.
In 2005, he was required to participate in the archdiocese's monitoring program, and although he showed signs he was not complying with it, the program's head let him slip through it, the complaint said.
Prosecutors called the program "window dressing."
Promoted to pastor
With knowledge of Wehmeyer's past, Archbishop Nienstedt later promoted him to pastor.
"Are you aware of my past? Are you aware of my record?" Wehmeyer said he asked Nienstedt at the time. Nienstedt brushed it off, the documents said.
And in 2009, Wehmeyer became pastor at two churches at the same time -- St. Thomas the Apostle, and Blessed Sacrament.
In the two years that followed, he abused at least three more boys on parish grounds, for which he was later convicted.
"During at least the summer of 2010, Wehmeyer sexually abused VICTIM-1 multiple times, including touching the boy's penis and buttocks and exposing himself to VICTIM-1," the complaint read. He gave the boy marijuana and beer, and showed him pornography.
He did the same with a second boy that summer, and a year later, he repeated the abuse with a third boy, getting him high and drunk to the point that he was incapacitated. The boy built barriers with pillows in a bed they shared to keep Wehmeyer away, the documents said. But that didn't work.
Turned in to police
In June 2012, a church deacon turned Wehmeyer in to police, and a mother reported to police the abuse of her two children.
All three boys will require psychological treatment as will a traumatized sibling of one of the boys, the documents said, and prosecutors are holding the archdiocese accountable for that fact due to its "act, word and omission."
The costs for treatment could climb over $100,000.
Wehmeyer's was not the only case the archdiocese swept under the rug, the documents said, which named more examples of clergy who abused children. "Respondent has a long history of not effectively addressing sexual abuse committed by some of its clergy," it read.
But Wehmeyer is the most recent after a long prior history of abuse within the archdiocese, it read, and one of the worst.
Inappropriate Touching is Still Child Sexual Abuse
by Beth Morrison
When I was 9 or 10-years-old I was molested by the 14-year-old son of family friends. It happened just once and I knew immediately that I didn't want it to happen and that I needed to tell. Keep in mind, in the 60's, child molestation was not talked about and I had no frame of reference for what had just happened. I just knew it was wrong.
I told my mom and she reassured me that telling her was the right thing to do and she would make sure it never happened again. And it didn't. I have no idea what transpired but I assume my mom told my dad and they confronted the other family. Although our families remained friends, I was never left alone with "Sam" and when our families were together he stayed far from me.
On and off for years, I wondered if Sam ever molested any other girls after me. Did he get help? Real professional help? Was he held accountable in any way for molesting me? Lots of unanswered questions decades later.
When the high-profiled Josh Duggar molestation case came out into the open, I like probably thousands of others, reflected back to my own experience. Although the circumstances were vastly different, there are similarities. Two Christian families linked via our church, no law enforcement involvement, no apparent professional help, and I am assuming, once the incidents were brought to light, no one gave the victims a voice. I imagine, that the victims of the Duggar family freaked out just like I did when our molesters became fathers. Was he going to harm his daughter? Do I speak up, all these years later? Would speaking up make a difference, prevent any future harm?
Although my parents protected me and my life went on rather unmarked, I realize that I never had a voice in what happened. I told one person, she protected me, and that was it. At the time maybe that was all that I needed. Now, I want a say. I want to know about his accountability. I want to know if he changed. I want to have a sense of closure. But on the flipside, I am not yet prepared to open old wounds and to confront my abuser, nor to create pain for my still living parents. One day I might decide differently but I know that is my decision to make, and I know that I have the right to answers. Do Duggar's victims feel as if they have that same choice and right?
What outrages me is that I suspect that they do not. They appear to have been silenced in the past, during a supposedly more enlightened time than the 60's. If facts are true, Duggar was shuffled off for a few months, and then returned to live with his victims. And I can almost hear his parents, instructing their daughters to dress more modestly around him and not no anything provocative so not to arouse him - therefore putting the blame and burden on the girls. A few weeks ago, while flipping through channels, I watched about 15 minutes of their TLC show, with Michelle Duggar explaining the importance of modest dress, how immodesty causes stress and impurity in boys and men.
It may be too late, with statute of limitations, for these victims to have a criminal process and unfortunately I don't understand what civil options they may have available to them today. But let's give these young women an opportunity to have a true, un-coached voice other than to share that they "forgive Josh" and that what he did was "very mild compared to what happens to some young women". Let them get answers to their questions, let them know they are not to blame, let them know that we have their back - even when the involved parents continue to express their minimization of events and their grief over their son's despair. They do not owe us their story but they have a right to have their story heard if they wish. And they have a right to be spared any further blame or sweeping Josh Duggar's blame under the rug.
Reform sought in child sexual abuse statute
by Michael Petro
A few months ago, Diane Tiveron and some of her colleagues at HoganWillig went to Albany to stand behind state Assemblyman Margaret Markey as she lobbied for the Child Victims Act of NY.
The Amherst law firm represents Buffalo natives Antonio Flores and Vanessa DeRosa, victims of child sexual abuse who are now adults with no legal remedy due to the state's statute of limitations on such cases.
Tiveron, the firm's managing partner, was in Albany on behalf of her clients but also, she said, because she felt the reform effort was right and just.
She pointed out that New York is on the wrong end of an anomaly among states that allow only five years after a victim's 18th birthday to commence a lawsuit against their abuser.
The five years is on the lower end of similar state statutes, joining the ranks of such places as Georgia, Alabama and Missouri, she said. Many other states have expanded the number of years in their statutes or have no limitations.
“That doesn't seem to be a good place for our state to be. ... I think Albany is ready for (this reform),” said Tiveron, who oversees the case being handled by HoganWillig associate William Lorenz.
She wants to see reform efforts gain some ground in Albany.
It's not a new concept. In years past, there have been a number of attempts to pass increases in the statute of limitations.
The Child Victims Act would have no statute of limitations for both criminal and civil actions. It also would allow those who have seen the statute of limitations expire to have a one-year window to pursue a claim.
“What we're trying to do is get a reasonable change in the law,” Tiveron said. “We know it's reasonable because other states in the U.S. have made these changes and there haven't been catastrophic issues as a result, which some people think might occur.”
The firm's clients have been brave in telling their stories but, because of their circumstances and age, she said they have no legal recourse. And there's a good chance that may never change, even if some sort of reform is eventually passed.
Flores and DeRosa allege sexual abuse at the hands of people affiliated with the Diocese of Buffalo. The law firm held a press conference earlier this year where the two told their stories and helped push for change in legislation, which might one day help garner them justice and emotional closure.
DeRosa said she was abused as a teenager, starting as a student at St. Dominic Savio Middle School in Niagara Falls, by a teacher.
The teacher would sexually harass her and ask for sexual favors, she alleges. When she reported the abuse to the school, the teacher was allegedly protected by the principal and other school and church officials.
The abuse Flores said he suffered, which began at age 10 in 1973 and continued for five years, came from a trusted adviser to the family of four siblings and their single mother.
The sexual abuse started on a weekly basis and wound up becoming a daily routine, Flores alleges. The accused also worked at Bishop Timon High School in Buffalo.
Both victims had only until their 23rd birthday to seek damages for actions that they say will affect them for a lifetime. By the time they worked through the shame and grief, which is not uncommon in such situations, it was too late for legal recourse, according to Tiveron. She said it's unjust that they no longer have a voice in the system.
“This type of abuse lasts a lifetime and shapes who you, are just like any other experience in life,” the attorney said. “I give them a lot of credit because they're putting themselves out there and all this might do is call attention to them. I hope that it helps get the change that they need and opens that window for them to pursue their claims. It doesn't mean that automatically they're going to be successful — they still have to prove their case, like everyone else. It's not a free ticket.”
Markey says her legislation would provide victims of abuse a greater opportunity to have their day in court and will ensure that sexual predators are identified, stopped and punished.
According to studies, one in five U.S. children is a victim of childhood sexual abuse, mostly by family or acquaintances they trust and respect.
During her recent trip to Albany, Tiveron heard some of the concerns and misconceptions about reforming the law. Opponents of the Child Victims Act say it unfairly targets the Catholic Church or other agencies and institutions for events that happened decades ago and will lead to false allegations and swamp the courts.
Tiveron claims the bill only targets the abusers. It just so happens that her firm's clients fell under the abuse of people affiliated with the Catholic Church. She looked to the Diocese of Buffalo for help, but the organization has taken the position that there is a statute of limitations, she said. Inevitably, that's why Tiveron wound up in Albany.
The law firm requested a papal investigation of the diocese and also made a request to see and tell client stories to Pope Francis when he visits the United States in September.
Since his election in 2013, the pope has been sympathetic to those abused by church representatives and has even said the church should make reparations for their suffering.
HoganWillig has been asked to help tweak the Child Victims Act so that it has a better chance of passage. Legislators seem to be looking to put some limitations on the changes in the statute so it doesn't “open up the flood gates” for alleged victims, she said.
“Maybe we can make some toggles in the law that will help assure that those things are kept to a minimum, but with the kind of rawness that this brings out, I don't see a lot of people just plopping themselves in these arenas just for the hell of it,” Tiveron said. “I think that this is a place where people will tread very carefully.”
Legislation has been changed in other appropriate situations, where updates were necessary.
In last week's edition, for example, I told the story of legislation regarding asbestos cases being changed in 1986 when it was realized that the latency of the toxic substance often took much longer than the three years New York state previously allowed from the time of exposure to when a lawsuit had to be filed.
Now the legislation allows for three years from diagnosis or the first sign of symptoms, and victims who had seen the statute of limitations pass were granted a one-year window to sue.
It may be prudent to create a more reasonable timetable for cases of child sexual abuse, as well.
Child neglect cases across Australia increase; services failing to support at-risk children
by Alison Branley and Norman Hermant
Rates of child neglect and emotional abuse are on the rise across Australia but the problem is being largely ignored, child protection groups have warned.
As authorities grapple with serious cases of physical and sexual abuse, groups like the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN) and UnitingCare are concerned not enough is being done to address those areas which form more than two-thirds of child protection reports.
They said neglect and emotional abuse made children vulnerable to predators and the long-term consequences of such abuse could be as damaging as the physical kinds.
While drug problems and mental health issues were partly responsible, the largest contributor continued to be alcoholism.
It comes after a number of high-profile cases in recent years including the death of Chloe Valentine in South Australia, whose mother Ashlee Polkinghorne and her partner Benjamin McPartland were charged with criminal neglect.
Advocates have called for more early intervention and a greater emphasis on children's rights.
'More than just a dirty child'
Child neglect is more than just the image of a hungry, dirty child at school, Sue Packer from child protection group NAPCAN said.
Dr Packer, who is a paediatrician, said she had encountered cases of two-year-olds who could go to the fridge to feed themselves, five-year-olds who cared for infant siblings and children denied essential medical treatment.
It extended to children locked in cars at casinos, teens roaming the streets at night or infants who were injured because of poor supervision.
A common symptom was poor dental care.
"At a far more general level [the parents] certainly don't see the child as someone who needs to be spoken to, loved, cuddled and responded to and it's really very dangerous," Dr Packer said.
"There isn't the interaction, and the interaction is what grows the brain."
Cases of emotional abuse also went hand in hand with physical or sexual abuse.
Frequently emotional abuse was also associated with domestic violence.
"The baby is really quieted out of it and trying not to be noticed because it's a scary environment," Dr Packer said.
Fiona Arney from the Centre for Child Protection at the University of South Australia said the long-term consequences of neglect and emotional abuse could be profound.
"That includes things like problems that might emerge in people's teens or adulthood like mental health problems — so depression, anxiety and also suicidal ideation,'' she said.
"But also health problems, relationship problems, things like early pregnancy, so forming relationships really early on.
"Things like obesity, diabetes and some cancers may actually be linked to early childhood maltreatment."
Cases of emotional abuse, neglect rise by one-third
Figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show the rate of proven cases of emotional abuse and neglect rose by more than one-third between 2010 and 2014.
Rates of substantiated emotional abuse of Australia's children rose from 2.2 to 3.1 for every 1,000 between 2010/11 and 2013/14.
Rates for substantiated neglect also increased from a rate of 1.7 to 2.2 for every 1,000 between 2010/11 and 2012/13.
Research suggests the number of unproven reports were up to five times higher than investigated and proven cases, with authorities simply not getting to, or able to prove, many reports.
Workers in the sector said it was not just better reporting, there was more of it happening.
Ms Arney said academics were now observing intergenerational neglect, where parents could not parent properly because they never learned how.
"So we know things like parents using ice, parents using opiates heroin etcetera are problematic as well as parents using cannabis," she said.
"In particular something that doesn't always get talked about is parental alcohol misuse which is indicated in at least 70 per cent of cases where children have to be removed from their families."
'Priority given to physical and sexual abuse'
Scarcity of resources in child protection systems meant authorities often prioritised children at risk of physical or sexual violence, advocates said.
"I think we have is a mismatch in what we are required to report and what child protection can effectively do,'' Ms Arney said.
She said there needed to be more early intervention and multi-faceted programs that included parenting skills courses, treatment for mental health issues, drug and alcohol support, family violence services and family support.
UnitingCare families director Clarewen Little said housing was another issue.
"I do believe we are seeing more of that as families are under more financial stress and difficult housing situations," she said.
"All the research tells us is that the best place for children to be raised is within their family unit.
"So we want to keep children with their families but we want them to safe, loving, healthy environments for those children."
Ms Packer said society had a role to play and needed to be more child-focused.
"You need neighbours who say 'watch it kid or I'll tell your mum' and we don't have that anymore," she said.
"People use the excuse of being taken to be a paedophile. Paedophiles are rare and paedophiles don't get a look in if everybody else is watching the child."
Parents, keep talking to your kids
by Vicki Turner
The positive influence parents can have on their children cannot be stressed enough.
That influence faces a stiff test when Montana's youth are forced to make tough decisions concerning drugs and alcohol.
However, in a recent survey, students reported that Montana parents are talking even more to their kids about the dangers of using alcohol and other substances.
That is great news. It's vital that children continue to hear positive messages from people they know and who care about them. In most cases, that's a parent. The importance of talking to youth about substance use and abuse and being involved in their lives cannot be measured.
For example, the frequency of binge drinking, illicit drug use and cigarette smoking is lower among youth aged 12-17 whose parents always or sometimes engage in monitoring behaviors, such as helping with homework, compared to youth whose parents seldom or never engage in such behaviors.
However, parental influence can work the wrong way as well. Research has found that even the slightest parental favorable attitude toward allowing underage drinking, even under parental supervision, increases the risk of the young person not only using alcohol, but using marijuana as well. As perception of harm decreases, use increases. As availability of a substance increases, so does use.
Further, Montana's underage drinking rates are declining and heading in the right direction, which means more students are exercising good decisions. Yet, other challenges remain. The same survey shows 1 in 3 students between 8th and 12th grade continue to drink at dangerous levels and well above the national average. Parents must also combat the negative influence media campaigns meant to glorify underage drinking, marijuana use and/or using e-cigarettes and vaping.
Brain development is also a key component in youth as they mature well into their 20s. Why is this important in relation to substance abuse?
Substances and the teen brain -- the parts of the adolescent brain which develop first are those that control physical coordination, emotion and motivation. However, the part of the brain which controls reasoning and impulses -- the prefrontal cortex -- does not fully mature until the age of 25.
In childhood, a child's development is influenced by genetics, and the interaction of their home environment into which a child grows up. When a nurturing, responsive relationship does not exist in the home, elevated levels of stress hormones can impair a child's healthy brain development. When there is trauma, chronic stress, substance abuse and/or mental health problems in the home, a child is more likely to develop behavioral, social, emotional or cognitive problems as they grow into young adults. This includes an increased risk for addiction to alcohol and other substances.
The words and actions of one person can make a positive difference in the lives of others. Every day, parents, caregivers, educators and community leaders in our Montana communities can make a difference by having conversations with youth about substance use and by modeling healthy choices and behaviors. As individuals, as a community and as a state, we can help prevent underage drinking and illicit drug use by being involved in young people's lives; identifying resources, support systems and alternatives for youth in the community; and raising awareness about the importance of prevention.
For more information on how to talk to young people about making smart choices and difficult subjects such as alcohol, marijuana and drug use, visit the following resources at www.parentpower.mt.gov or www.drugfree.org/MJTalkKit.
As we approach the excitement of summer, there's no better time to continue this discussion with your kids.
What are you waiting for?
Vicki Turner is the director of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services Prevention Resource Center and staff to the Montana Interagency Coordinating Council for State Prevention programs.
Seven children allegedly abused at a police-run boot camp for troubled youth
by Dr Lorena Brownlee
An investigation that began on May 28 is underway into allegations that at least 7 children between the ages of 11 - 17 were mentally and physically abused at the week long Leadership Empowerment and Discipline Boot Camp in San Luis Obispo.
The at-risk youth camp is held from May 17 - 24 and is a sponsored event through Huntington Park and South Gate police departments. Families of these children pay a $400 fee per child to attend with the program broken down into 15 weeks increments.
One of the more serious allegations made by one child is that an officer stepped on the child's hand leaving him with broken fingers. Other children said officers punched and kicked them even grabbing one child by the neck while punching their head and stomach.
Children reported being called names and threatened with more abuse if they told their parents about their treatment.
Abuse at at-risk youth camps throughout the United States is not a new story. Grueling workouts followed by abusive treatment have had a long history as part of their “programs”.
In 2013, Edgar Alvarado and Ruben Romero from 180 Degree Recon juvenile boot camp were arrested when video footage emerged of the men hitting, kicking and dragging youth both male and female. The motto of the camp was to break down children to build them back up as community leaders. Over a three year period children were hospitalized after attending the boot camp with serious injuries.
Throughout the years video footage from inside these camps has implicated program directors,staff sergeants and others running these facilities of a wide range of abusives.Some being carried out on children as young as 6 years of age. Terrorizing children through fear tactics,forcing children into cumbersome positions while adults scream into their faces and even resorting to sexual assaults against young girls in their programs.
While some families turn to these at-risk youth boot camps as a last ditch effort to “deal” with their child's behavior, these camps are largely self regulated with very little accountability outside of those running the programs.
On July 21, 1999 14 year old Gina Score died following a 2.7 mile run at the State Training School in Plankinton. The Plankinton boot camp was part of a political campaign by the tough on crime South Dakota governor; Bill Janklow. He promoted this idea as a commonsense solution to juvenile crime. Score was told she was faking her inability to keep up with the crowd during her run claiming it was all part of her “behavior problem.” These allegations of her faking being ill continued all the way to her death.
Study after study has shown these camps rarely work to bring the changes promoters of these programs promise. In many cases it has been found to only allow for the physical and emotional abuse of children much of which is carried out by staff that is improperly trained to work with young people.
While boot camps claim that removing children from environments filled with negative influences that trigger poor and reckless behavior entrenching them into programs that include abusive methods has consistently resulted in leaving at-risk children far more at-risk than when they entered the camp.
While San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department investigates the allegations of the abuse of 7 children these dangerous and unregulated environments that leave children in grave danger of ill-treatment should be halted from the ability to further harm any more young people. Without any evidence that they work their primary function serves only to abuse and harm children.
Human trafficking spreading through Wisconsin
by Doug Schneider
To Sister Celine Goessl, the news was tragic but not surprising.
Police who staged a raid at a Fox Valley motel in April found a 17-year-old Green Bay girl and a 14-year-old Appleton girl being sold to men for sex. The 14-year-old, who police said had seen 18 men before the arrest, would tell police that she needed money to repay a suspected pimp who had threatened her.
Prosecutors said the teens were the victims of human trafficking — a form of slavery in which force, fraud or coercion is employed to make another person provide labor, usually a sex act. Prosecutors charged the three Green Bay adults who accompanied the girls with prostitution, child trafficking, soliciting a child for prostitution and child enticement.
For Sister Goessl, it's a story she hears all too often.
"It seems like this is happening in almost every single county in Wisconsin," she said.
The Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance has documented trafficking cases in more than half of Wisconsin's 72 counties, both urban and rural, amid more than 200 cases overall. Three-fourths involved sex trafficking. About one-sixth of the victims were minors.
But as trafficking has spread, it has become harder to find and more difficult to stop. Experts say pimps and prostitutes use the Internet to arrange meetings with "johns" by posting ads on backpage.com and other websites.
"What we don't see is the old stereotypical image of the street-walker," said Lyn Beyer, executive director of Reach Counseling Services Inc., which provides sexual-assault prevention and counseling services in the Fox Valley. "Nowadays, everything is done (online) or through cellphones, so most of this happens in hotel rooms. So that's part of the reason why the community doesn't get a sense that it's happening here."
Beyer said human traffickers often move up from Chicago, stopping at Wisconsin cities along Interstate 41 before heading west.
Green Bay, with its location along interstates, attractiveness to tourists and its ability to attract thousands of cash-laden weekend visitors for football games and concerts, can present a level of demand that appeals greatly to traffickers, said Brown County Sheriff's Lt. Jim Valley, who frequently investigates sex crimes against minors.
Beyond Brown County
Green Bay police made eight prostitution arrests during a sting operation in spring last year, then busted a total of 22 hookers and customers during a crackdown in the fall. Ashwaubenon public safety officers have made arrests, targeting both prostitutes and the people who pay them.
"We also try to get to the people who traffic them," said Capt. Jody Crocker. "But that's difficult because they may fear violence, or they may view that person as their lifeline."
But the problem is not limited to Brown County.
• In Oshkosh, authorities made 31 arrests linked to prostitution and human trafficking in 2013. A year later, they reported making 50.
• In Shawano County, three women were charged with prostitution last September after they offered sex for money.
• In Sheboygan, a 29-year-old man agreed in May to plead no contest to one count of human trafficking and another of trafficking of a child. Prosecutors say the man brought teenage girls to Sheboygan and arranged for them to have sex with men at various locations, ordering the girls to give him the money they collected.
• In Wausau, a 40-year-old man was convicted last year of trafficking a 22-year-old woman who was grabbed off a Milwaukee street in 2010. A judge sentenced the man to 17 years in prison after testimony showed that he forced the women to have sex with different men in motels over a nine-day span before her escape.
• Statewide, 10 Wisconsin children were rescued from trafficking and 100 suspects were arrested over one weekend in 2013 during a nationwide FBI investigation.
Police elsewhere tell similar stories — and say they could do more if they had more resources.
"If this office needs to do a drug case, we have multiple officers we can assign and we can get help from (neighboring) departments," said Brown County Sheriff's Lt. Jim Valley, who frequently investigates sex crimes involving underage victims. "For human-trafficking cases, we maybe have one."
Worldwide, human trafficking generates $32 billion a year, according to a United Nations agency called the International Labour Organization.
'Not for sale'
The message from the Green Bay Police Department was simple, following last year's sting that netted eight arrests.
"These operations are important because of the inherent health and public safety concerns caused by this behavior," the department wrote on Nixle, the public-messaging service it uses.
"The illicit sex trade historically has connections to human trafficking, drug dealing, sexual assault and robberies. The victims are not only those involved in all aspects of this lifestyle, but their families and the community."
Organizations large and small are heeding the call to help stamp out human trafficking in Wisconsin.
Last year, the state Legislature passed a law that strengthened penalties against traffickers. Earlier this year, an estimated 650 people attended an anti-trafficking conference, in Milwaukee, called "Not for Sale."
"That person you thought was just a runaway or a delinquent," said U.S. Attorney Julie Pfluger, who prosecutes federal child exploitations in Wisconsin. "That person might be a victim of trafficking."
On a smaller scale, forums and workshops have been held in the past few years at various locations around the state, including an event earlier this year at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Some of the women who attended the UWGB event then met in May, inside Heartland Church near the Howard-Suamico line, to discuss ways that they might assist the survivors of human trafficking.
The group plans further meetings this summer.
Death penalty would do nothing to deter sex trafficking
by Jean Hill
Rep. Paul Ray has proposed imposing the death penalty on individuals who engage in child sex trafficking, asserting that doing so will somehow stop the perpetrators of the crime. While Rep. Ray is correct — trafficking is abhorrent — his solution is far too simplistic to impact human trafficking in any meaningful way.
Sex and labor trafficking are multi-billion dollar businesses. Individuals who are willing to sell human beings, especially children, are typically involved in larger criminal enterprises, making the death penalty for one person within the enterprise less likely to deter other members of the organization. Nor are they likely to be deterred by the threat that, 20 or 30 years down the road, they may face a death sentence, presuming their victim is not too traumatized to testify.
Ending human trafficking of any sort requires far more comprehensive solutions than a penalty assessed to the perpetrator. Toward this end, during each of the past several legislative sessions Utah has taken important steps, including passing laws that recognize that teenage runaways and prostitutes are more likely to be victims than criminals. These are positive measures that help law enforcement and prosecutors address human trafficking.
While trafficking needs much more focused research to fully develop a strategic plan for combatting it, federal and state agencies that are heavily involved in this arena agree that providing comprehensive services to victims is the first priority. There is also general agreement that any approach to trafficking should be based on evidence that the chosen measures work, recognize the different experiences, histories, and behaviors of male and female victims, and provides law enforcement, prosecutors and victim service providers with training in appropriate techniques for working with victims suffering mental, physical and emotional trauma. This includes appropriate training in interviewing child trafficking victims in developmentally and culturally sensitive ways so that they are able to testify against the perpetrators.
Obviously, penalties do need to be a part of the anti-trafficking strategy. Life sentences, asset forfeiture and allowing private rights of action by victims have proven to be effective punishments. The death penalty, on the other hand, is not even considered in any study of best practices to combat trafficking. What prosecutors tend to focus on is not imposing a harsher, potentially unconstitutional, penalty, but developing better relationships with law enforcement, more and better services for victims — including emergency and safe-housing and interpreters, and additional training for both law enforcement and prosecutors. As attorneys in one study noted, trafficking cases depend on the victims being able to accurately testify against the people who sold them into slavery. The success of a trafficking case is not at all dependent on whether the prosecutor can threaten the perpetrator with the death penalty.
Rather than push for the death penalty for perpetrators, Rep. Ray could do something truly useful against the slave trade. The federal Trafficking Victims Protection Re-Authorization Act (TVPRA) is a useful tool to combat slavery, providing measure for prevention, prosecution and victim protection. While the legislation has its flaws, some members of Utah's congressional delegation have sought to alter its protections in ways that could lead to even greater harm for trafficking victims. Perhaps Rep. Ray might spend some time lobbying his congressmen to preserve the TVPRA rather than seeking to impose a useless penalty.
While more study is needed to uncover the best practices in the fight against trafficking, what is certain is that the death penalty is not an effective deterrent. Study after study has shown executions in the United States are ineffective, costly, and serve no actual public safety purpose. If Rep. Ray really wants to deter child sex trafficking, he will need to do more than simply seek revenge on perpetrators.
Jean Hill is government liaison for Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.
The false claim that human trafficking is a ‘$9.5 billion business' in the United States
by Glenn Kessler
“It's estimated that child sex trafficking in the United States alone is a $9.8 billion industry.”
–Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), statement, May 19, 2015
“This [human trafficking] is domestically a $9.5 billion business.”
–Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), remarks at a congressional hearing, May 14
Readers should always be wary of false precision. The sex trade is an underground industry, so on what basis would the revenues from the trafficking of children–or children and adults–in the United States be calculated so precisely, either as $9.8 billion or $9.5 billion?
That's what jumped out at The Fact Checker when we first spotted these figures, uttered by lawmakers as the House of Representatives considered the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. The figures came from two different sources, but it turns out both were practically invented out of whole cloth. Let's explore.
For the $9.8 billion number, Goodlatte's office originally directed The Fact Checker to an informational graphic posted on the Internet by Shared Hope International, which says it aims to eradicate sex trafficking. The graphic indicated that the statistic concerned all human trafficking in the United States—not just “child sex trafficking” as Goodlatte's statement said.
“His statement should have said human trafficking, not child sex trafficking,” said Goodlatte spokeswoman Jackie Collins. “That was a staff error.”
But there's a bigger problem. Shared Hope's graphic gave as its source a 2005 International Labour Organization report on human trafficking. But that report contains no mention of a $9.8 billion figure for human trafficking in the United States.
Instead, there is only a broad estimate of about $13 billion in profits for “forced commercial sexual exploitation” for 36 industrialized countries (of which the U.S. represents about 30 percent of the population). ILO officials say they have never given a breakdown by country, only for broad groups of different types of economies.
The full methodology for the numbers in the report suggests the actual revenue for sex trafficking in this group would be close to $20 billion. It assumed turnover of $100,000 per prostitute, and then assumed profits of nearly 70 percent, or $67,000 per person. The report also estimated there were 200,000 people forced into prostitution in these 36 countries.
But these profit and revenue figures were based only a handful of examples and then applied across the board, making it a fuzzy number. The estimate of the number of people forced into prostitution is also a broad estimate that could be off by as much as 25 percent.
So the number is a result of multiplying two guesstimates, both with large sampling errors. Trying to figure out the U.S. share of that total would introduce even more fuzziness.
Taryn Offenbacher, a spokeswoman for Shared Hope, acknowledged the $9.8 billion number was a mistake. “It was released as a misreading of the ILO report and has been fairly widely circulating,” she said. After being contacted by The Fact Checker, the group immediately withdrew the graphic from its Web site—a proactive step that we applaud.
“We pulled our fact sheet with that stat until we are able to update it,” she said. “We are careful to conduct our own primary research or only cite stats that can be supported by credible sources. I've read numerous articles questioning the accuracy of human trafficking statistics and want to ensure our office isn't spreading inaccurate or unsupported information about the seriousness of this crime.”
So what about Wagner's claim of $9.5 billion? Her office's Web site cites the same 2005 ILO report, but after we pointed out that the ILO did not give an estimate for the United States, spokeswoman Moira Bagley Smith cited another source: the 2006 State Department Trafficking in Persons report. In the report, there is this statement:
“According to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, human trafficking generates an estimated $9.5 billion in annual revenue.”
First of all, although Wagner choose to interpret this as a figure for the United States alone, that is wrong. The report clearly states this is a worldwide estimate. Moreover, there is little to suggest that this figure relates specifically to sex trafficking of children or even sex trafficking in general.
But there's a bigger problem: This is not an FBI estimate.
FBI officials, after checking the files, say they have no record of having produced such a figure; certainly, they say, no such report was issued. Eventually, The Fact Checker determined this originated as a figure offered in 2004 congressional testimony by an official at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement–except he was referring to worldwide profits from both human smuggling and trafficking. (Smuggling does not involve the use of force or coercion.) ICE originally issued a news release about its estimate for profits in “human smuggling” in 2003.
The State Department's 2004 TIP report attributed the figure (as “revenue” from “human trafficking”) to “the U.S. intelligence community.” Somehow, for reasons the State Department cannot explain, it became an “FBI” figure about just human trafficking in the 2005 and 2006 reports. The number was never repeated in any subsequent State Department report. But unfortunately, because of the State Department's error, it since has been wrongly cited as an official FBI estimate in books, a Congressional Research Service report and other studies.
A State Department official said it was “highly likely” the number originated with the ICE estimate and it also was “highly likely” that the agency pulled it from a news report that incorrectly labeled it as an FBI figure. “Please let me acknowledge that it is an old Report (2004-2006) and we just don't use that number anymore,” the official added.
Thus, we also must treat “$9.5 billion” as a fantasy, unconnected to any real data. The State Department should take steps to correct the record.
The ILO in 2014 released another report on human trafficking with updated profit estimates. This report provided a calculation of $26 billion in profits for “forced sexual exploitation” in the 36 industrialized countries, based on the assumption of 300,000 prostitutes, earnings of about $115,000 a year, and profits of $80,000. This time, the revenue figures were based on the book, “Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery,” by Siddarth Kara.
But Kara, in his book, writes that “despite what you might read in the papers and see on television and movie screen, trafficking for sexual exploitation is not a fast-growing epidemic within U.S. borders….The majority of human trafficking in the United States is not for commercial sexual exploitation.”
“The truth is that we really do not have very good data on this question,” Kara said in an email.
In 2014, the Urban Institute published a detailed study of the sex trade in eight major U.S. cities, including Washington, D.C. It estimated that the total size of the underground commercial sex market in 2007 in those cities was $975 million, which represented a decline from $1.02 billion in 2003. But this figure includes all forms of sex work, not just people who are victims of trafficking.
Meredith Dank, the primary researcher, said the estimates were unique for each city and thus “should not be extrapolated to the entire country.” She said she “couldn't even begin to venture a guess as to the total value of the UCSE [Underground Commercial Sex Economy] in the U.S.”
The Pinocchio Test
In the end, we find that there is no reliable estimate for the business of human trafficking in the United States, let alone child trafficking. (As we have noted previously, estimates for both child victims of trafficking and victims of trafficking are highly suspect.)
One could certainly say that the underground sex trade in the United States likely is worth more than a billion dollars, but it would be a serious mistake to conflate that with human trafficking. Until more reliable and careful research is done, that figure is simply unknown.
In any case, claiming that child sex trafficking, or even simply human trafficking, is a $9.5 billion or $9.8 billion business in the United States is worthy of Four Pinocchios.
Woman alleges Hastert was her brother's abuser
by Mary Clare Jalonick
WASHINGTON - A Montana woman says her brother was sexually abused by former House Speaker Dennis Hastert during the years when the GOP leader was a wrestling coach at a suburban Chicago high school.
Jolene Burdge of Billings, Mont., told the Associated Press on Thursday that the FBI interviewed her last month about Hastert, who was charged last week in a federal indictment alleging that he agreed in 2010 to pay $3.5 million to someone so that person would stay quiet about "prior misconduct."
Fifteen years before Hastert allegedly promised to pay that money, Burdge's brother died. But years before his death, his sister said, he told her that his first homosexual contact was with Hastert and that it lasted throughout his high school years.
Stephen Reinboldt attended Yorkville High School, where Hastert was a history teacher and coach from 1965 to 1981.
In an interview aired Friday on ABC's Good Morning America, Burdge said Hastert had been a father figure to her brother but also caused him irreparable harm. "He damaged Steve, I think, more than any of us will ever know," she told the show.
The AP could not independently verify her allegations.
A friend and former classmate of Reinboldt's said Reinboldt told him in 1974, during college, that he'd had a sexual relationship with Hastert in high school. That friend spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity so as not to betray a confidence.
A person familiar with the allegations in the indictment has told the AP that the payments mentioned in the document were intended to conceal claims that the Illinois Republican sexually molested someone decades ago. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
Hastert has not been charged with sexual abuse. But Burdge's story indicates there could be more victims beyond the "Individual A" named in the indictment.
The former congressman has not appeared in public or addressed any of the allegations since he was indicted. An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment on Burdge's allegations.
Reinboldt died in Los Angeles in 1995 at age 42. Burdge told ABC that he died of AIDS.
Reinboldt was a manager of the wrestling team that Hastert coached, the AP found. He was also manager of the football team, student council president, and a member of the pep club, letterman's club, the French club, and the yearbook staff.
He graduated in 1971 and later moved to the Los Angeles area.
The federal indictment, announced May 28, accuses Hastert of evading bank regulations by withdrawing hundreds of thousands of dollars in smaller increments and lying to the FBI about the reason for the withdrawals. The document says Hastert agreed to pay "Individual A" to "compensate for and conceal prior misconduct" against that person.
In the last six months, Burdge said, she had started to put her brother's story "on the shelf" trying to move on. Then the FBI visited.
An Incest Survivor Shares Her Perspective on the Josh Duggar Sex Abuse Scandal
by Rachel as told to Zahra Barnes
The Duggar family is no stranger to controversy. Headed up by Jim Bob, 49, and Michelle, 48, the clan of 21 has found infamy on their TLC show 19 Kids and Counting, which focuses on their strict adherence to the Independent Baptist sect of Christianity. Now, they're in the news for a far more serious reason than the growing ranks of their brood. On May 21, In Touch Weekly released a police report that alleged that oldest son Josh molested five young girls as a teenager, allegedly including some of his sisters. Josh issued a statement admitting that he “acted inexcusably” as a young teenager. He went on to explain that he described his actions to his parents, who got him into a Christian counseling program that involved “physical work and counseling,” according to In Touch Weekly. “I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life,” said Josh.
Here, Rachel, a 32-year-old sexual abuse survivor from the Philadelphia area, explains what she wants everyone to know about assault in light of the controversy.
My first and foremost thought when I hear about cases like this is that I feel very bad for the victims. I hope they got and are getting the help and support they need from family and friends. I also hope Josh got or is getting help now. His parents, too, because there can be a sense of guilt there for letting this happen in your own home. But as someone who was sexually abused by her brother, I wasn't shocked.
It Started When I Was About 5 Years Old.
It began like a game with me being coaxed into my brother's room (he's seven years older than me). He performed oral sex on me, and he raped me. These are some of my earliest memories of him.
It happened repeatedly for quite some time. At first, I trusted him. I didn't question him or what he was doing. Then, I started to have a sense of how wrong it was. I started to not want to do it. I would feel sick to my stomach and get sad and look at him like, “I don't want to do this.” I remember every detail: the scratchy carpet, the light in the room shining on my face. I would look under the bed because it was darker so I wouldn't have to look at him. I'd just wait until it was over. My body just went numb. I went to a different place and pretended I wasn't there.
I don't know what happened to instigate this exactly, but around when I was 7 years old, I remember sitting in school and thinking, “I have to say something. I can't take this anymore. I have to tell somebody.” I didn't sleep the whole night before I told my parents.
That morning, my parents were getting ready for work, and I went to them and said, “You know how sometimes you have sex? Sometimes, my brother does that with me.” My father immediately ran into my brother's room and physically started hurting him, grabbing him by the collar of his shirt and smacking him around like, “What did you do?” He was freaking out and being protective of his little girl. My mom just kind of sat there and was pretty quiet, asking me, “Are you sure? What do you mean?” My brother denied it.
My parents told me they would talk to me about it, but we didn't really. I'm not defending them, but they were a product of the times and their generation. You just did not talk about things like that. I didn't tell anybody else for a very long time, like friends or other family members. I felt like it was subtly made perfectly clear to me that we didn't talk about it and to move on.
They took me to a couple different psychiatrists. I remember sitting in one office with wood paneling all around. I don't remember my parents being there, but I was uncomfortable because the male doctor touched me to ask, “Is there where he touched you?” I realized years later that was completely inappropriate.
Given the way it was handled when I did finally speak up, I convinced myself I was crazy, that it didn't really happen, and that I was having sick, weird thoughts. I do remember trying to tell a girlfriend in middle school and her saying to me, “That's disgusting, you shouldn't say things like that.” I remember thinking, “Oh, god, something's really wrong with me.”
Holding My Secret Was Such a Heavy Weight.
In my early twenties, I decided to seek therapy on my own. It was probably the best thing I ever did for myself. My therapist and I talked about details, and she told me, “You're not crazy. A child can't come up with this type of memory.” She helped me realize I'm a strong person emotionally and that I was really brave as a little girl to say, “Hey, something weird is happening that I don't like. It needs to end.” She helped me realize I was very angry and it was eating away at me.
I confronted my parents and brother in my early twenties. I started with my mom and dad, saying, “Hey, I'm thinking of some weird things and remembering some stuff. Can you help me fill in the gaps?” They weren't terribly helpful. When I brought it up as an adult, my parents weren't mean about it, but I think they felt frustrated, like, “I thought we already dealt with this!”
Therapy helped me finally say to them, “I'm angry with you for the way you handled it and for letting this happen to me.” It was a rocky point in our relationship for a few years, but I needed to get angry and say it wasn't okay and it's still not okay. It helped me move forward and realize I'm a strong person and I can get through this.
Today, my relationship with my parents is much better. It doesn't mean all is forgotten, but I embraced that anger and was able to let it go.
I also confronted my brother. I said to him, “I don't want to be friends anymore. Don't talk to me. You make me uncomfortable.” He didn't apologize, but he clearly acknowledged what he did. People have asked me over the years if I think something happened to him that made him do that to me. I think that's a perfectly viable option. I have no proof of that. But this happened to me, and I didn't turn around and hurt someone else.
My brother isn't welcome in my life, and I don't participate in his. I do attend some family functions where he is, but we don't really chat. I just prefer it that way. It took me a long time to be able to go to things where he would be and feel safe.
Is the Current Conversation Focused Too Much on Josh Duggar Instead of His Victims?
Yes and no. I'll admit I haven't been following the case very closely. Reading some of it did trigger some emotions and memories, but I'm a pretty well adjusted, emotionally healthy adult. I can compartmentalize and realize that the story isn't about me, it's about other people. I just feel like it's not specifically my business. I pay attention to random updates, but I'm not following it.
With that said, I think the media tends to focus on the wrongdoer because they're the ones they can name and point a finger at. With a victim or survivor—and I do appreciate this—I would hope sometimes you don't see as much about them because the media is trying to protect them. I think the other part of the situation is all you have is what's in front of you and who's speaking out. You're not hearing from the victims, and I don't blame them. They're often afraid of being judged or criticized.
I'm not terribly surprised by the whole situation. Back when it happened, you just didn't talk about stuff like that. It's still a taboo topic with families. It's shameful. What do you do when one of your children hurts another?
If the Duggars Feel That Josh Is Rehabilitated, Great—as Long as He Doesn't Hurt Anyone Else.
I'm not an expert, but I've read that there's something wrong in the brains of pedophiles and people who do this. I think there should be some sort of conventional therapy on all sides, but my biased gut reaction is that people can't be rehabilitated.
But really, it's not my place to judge this family for what happened. My primary concern as a survivor is the victims. If the Duggars feel like Josh got better, it still doesn't right the wrong. It doesn't give those children back what was taken from them. That's the tough part for me.
Even though I can't speak for all victims and survivors, I do hope that if they read this, they see that someone else is willing to share their story and that it's okay for them to share theirs, whether it's with a friend, family member, or psychologist.
People Bring Up Forgiveness with Me—and This Is Something I Noticed in the Duggar Case.
If somebody can forgive that, good for you, that's great. To me, it's not about forgiveness. It's about my brother taking something from me that I will never be able to get back. I was angry, but I moved past that and dealt with it. I need to take steps to make myself feel whole again and make myself feel better. If that includes removing my brother from my life, it's not out of hate. It's because I'm taking the power back. I'm taking control of the situation and saying, “I'm in charge. This is what I want, end of story.”
There are times I still feel the effects of it, not even just sexually, but in life. Sometimes things will make me angrier than they really should or more upset than they really should. Sometimes I wonder, “If he hadn't done that to me, what kind of person would I be?” I don't think it ever truly goes away.
I do some volunteer work with victims and survivors, and one of these groups asked us to write a letter to survivors that they could hand out. I want other survivors to know that you're not alone. There are people out there willing to speak up for you, for us. I'm so sorry this happened to you. Tell yourself the following three things: It's not your fault, you didn't deserve it, and I believe you. Even though it may not feel this way in the moment, you're a survivor. You're alive, and you are strong. You're going to have some tough days. Embrace them. That's the only way to let the pain go.
I'm at a place in my life where I don't have a problem talking about it. Not that it doesn't upset me, but I don't think we talk about this enough. It's a terrible topic, but it's terrible because we keep it a secret. It's too heavy for the poor victims to bear. Let's talk about it and make it less taboo.
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it's not your fault. You are not alone. Help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE and online.rainn.org, y en español: rainn.org/es.
Abuse Survivor Reveals Duggar Text Messages, the One Thing Michelle, Jim Bob Are Doing Right
(Interview with Erin Merryn)
by Rachel Bertsche
Erin Merryn is a mother and an advocate for sexual abuse prevention. At age 6, she was molested and later raped by a friend's uncle. At 11, her teenage cousin began abusing her. The author of three books about abuse, she is the creator of Erin's Law, which requires public schools to teach sexual abuse prevention.
In 2013 — 11 years after Josh Duggar first told his parents he had “inappropriately touched” five girls, four of whom were his sisters — she met with the Duggar family to discuss safe and unsafe touching, not knowing the family's own history with abuse. Merryn opens up to Yahoo Parenting about the text messages she exchanged with Michelle Duggar this week, the surprising reason why the Duggar girls might be protecting their brother, why the parents are partially to blame for Josh's alleged repeated molestations – and her own painful experience with childhood molestation.
You've met the Duggar family before, and have spoken to some of their children about sexual abuse. How did that first meeting come about?
I was the keynote speaker at a child abuse fundraiser that they were attending. Michelle and Jim Bob approached me afterwards and they said, ‘We love what you're doing, we want to help you get Erin's Law passed in other states, we want to help you gain contact with the right legislators.' And then they left. But 10 minutes later they came back in and said, ‘Erin, we know it's late, but is there any way you can come to our house and talk to our kids about Erin's Law?' So for two hours on September 24, 2013, I sat with nine of their kids, telling them about safe touches, about how people shouldn't touch you in areas that fall under a swimsuit, and what types of secrets you should tell adults immediately. Only nine of their kids were there – the younger ones. The girls who were abused were out of town, and Josh wasn't living there at the time. He was already living in DC.
Did you have any inkling then about what had gone on in their home?
Not at all. The kids I was speaking with, they were shaking their heads at the stories I was telling them. When I posted on Facebook about meeting the Duggar family, I wrote about how they were some of the most well-behaved and respectful kids I had ever met. I know people who have one kid who do not behave as well as their nine kids did. I was really impressed with them. So when I learned of this, I was stunned. Not that they had to tell me anything – why would they tell a stranger they just met? – but I was shocked, and it got me thinking: Is this why they brought me into their home? So this doesn't happen to their other kids? They wanted their children to know about safe secrets, unsafe secrets, safe touches, unsafe touches. Were they trying to stop something from happening again under their roof?
What do you think of the way that Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar handled the situation when they found out Josh abused his sisters? They didn't call the police right away, but instead tried to handle it at home and eventually sent Josh away to a training center for kids who made bad choices.
They made mistakes. They should have gone to the authorities right away. If they had removed their son from the beginning, we wouldn't have multiple victims. Keeping Josh in the home was a danger. He said, ‘I've done this,' so why are you keeping him in the home? Send him to an aunt or uncle's home, to a grandparent's… they needed to put in safety measures more than just making sure Josh can't get into the girls' bedrooms at night. When you have a family that big, you can't keep an eye on everyone.
Josh told his parents about sexually abusing his sisters on three separate occasions, so they knew it wasn't handled after the first time.
Right. He realized that ‘what I'm doing is wrong,' but obviously he couldn't control himself because he kept doing it. He was saying, ‘Mom and Dad, I'm committing a crime. Help me stop.' They should have gotten him out of the home.
I think one thing parents should get out of all of this is to try and put themselves in the Duggars' shoes. What if your teenage son told you that he molested his sisters? What would you do? This is the conversation we need to be having. This is going to happen in other families, sadly. So parents, talk to your spouse. Ask yourselves, ‘if one of our children did this to their sibling, what would we do?' I certainly hope you would go to the police and find a different place for this child to live. Yes, they need psychological help, but when you look at the statistics of how these perpetrators re-offend, they have some of the highest re-offending rates across the board. More than drunk driving, more than murder. So why would you keep someone like that in your lives?
Have you told the Duggars that you disagree with how they reacted?
I spoke to them this week. I reached out because I wanted to let them know that with everything going on, and the fact that they brought me into their home to talk to their kids about personal body safety, I was getting requests for interviews. I said, ‘I know a lot of the media is throwing you under the bus. It's not my place to judge you, no parent is perfect. I don't want to sling mud at you, but I don't agree with how you handled this. You should have gone to the authorities and Josh should have been removed.' I told them that I hoped moving forward there can be some positive lessons from this negative event, and that I hoped their daughters wouldn't be re-victimized.
What was their response?
I was texting with Michelle, and she said she understood that I was being hounded by the media, she told me she would be doing an interview on Fox News and asked me for resources they could give other parents to use in similar situations. After I spoke with CNN I sent Michelle my interview and she sent me a text message that said, ‘Thank you for sharing. That was powerful, you did a great job. Praying the Lord continues to expand your ministry.'
The one thing I have to give the Duggars credit for – they are not in denial. They may be protecting their son, but at least they aren't in denial. I can't tell you how many horror stories I have heard about parents who don't want to accept that cousins, uncles, pastors, grandfathers have done things like this. My cousin confessed to the police and to this day his parents are still in denial. They say the police convinced him to confess something that he didn't do, that my sister and I were making it up.
Jill and Jessa Duggar's interview with Fox News airs on Friday night, and clips have already been released of them defending their brother. Are you surprised?
Not at all. What I can take from my own experience is that they are probably protecting their mom and dad. These are their parents, and they probably hate seeing their parents destroyed in the media, so the last thing they are going to do is say their parents handled it the wrong way or that it was dirty or shameful. I did the same thing. After I was abused — first by a friend's uncle and then by a 16-year-old cousin — my mother was crying every night because someone she knew did this to her daughter. For two years I saw my mother cry, and so I put on a happy face and said ‘I'm ok, this doesn't bother me.' I wanted to protect my mom because we hate seeing our parents in pain. It's that protective instinct kids have. Parents are supposed to protect their kids, but kids want to protect us, too. So I'm not surprised at all – I figured they would take this position. If they had a problem with their parents, or how they handled it, this would have come out long ago.
Knowing what you do as a survivor of abuse, also by a teenage family member, what do you think might be going through the girls' minds? What are they feeling?
There's a lot of shame there. Everybody in America knows that their brother sexually abused them. I'm not going to speculate on whether or not they remember it, if it happened while they were asleep [editor's note: Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar claim they told their daughters what happened to them because they were asleep and ‘weren't even aware' of the abuse], because even if they don't remember, what they do know for a fact is that their brother molested them. For the rest of their lives they will have the label that they were sexually abused by their brother. That carries shame and feelings of worthlessness and being dirty. Even if they slept through it, it doesn't matter. It happened.
Hearing that their abuse came at the hands of someone they knew, that doesn't surprise you, right?
Ninety-three percent of the time the abuser is somebody the child knows and trusts. Over 60 percent of the time it's a family member, so this is not startling at all. The fact that it happened at home and not by a stranger they met on a family field trip – it's not surprising. The fact is that one in four girls and one in six boys will be molested by the age of 18, and this family has 19 kids. So statistically, it isn't shocking that this happened.
So many parents only talk to their kids about stranger danger. They don't have the conversation about people the family knows because parents can't get themselves in the mind frame that someone they trust would do something like that. But we all know someone who has been sexually abused. It's not just the Duggars. We just might not know their names because there is so much shame and stigma that they don't speak up.
What should parents teach their kids about sexual abuse?
This firestorm is the perfect opportunity for families to sit down and prevent this from happening in their home. It's a simple conversation. ‘Kids, the areas covered by your swimsuit, nobody ever touches you there. If somebody does, you report it and you report it immediately. If the first person you tell doesn't do anything, keep telling.' Make a list of safe people in their life that they can say something to, like parents, grandparents, teachers. The message should be that you don't keep the secret, you stand up and tell. And you will be believed.
Erin's Law was passed in Alabama Thursday, making it the 25th state to pass the law. What are your goals for this law?
Erin's Law requires that every year, kids are taught in public schools about body touching. Safe and unsafe touches, safe and unsafe secrets, and teaching kids how to ‘get away and tell today' when they've been sexually abused. We don't give kids that message enough. We talk to them about peer pressure and alcohol abuse but the only message they get without Erin's Law about abuse is from the perpetrator. And that message is not to tell, to keep it a secret. I've found that, usually, the only parents who tell their kids about safe touching are the ones who were abused by something they know. Erin's Law first passed in Illinois in 2010 and it's now in 25 states, so we're halfway there.
In fact, the Duggars were huge supporters of Erin's Law. They told me, ‘Erin, we want to get you to the home-schooling community.' That was the one area I'd been banging my head against a wall with, since I can't require homeschoolers to teach kids this.
The very first page of my book, An Unimaginable Act, even has a quote from Michelle and Jim Bob. They wrote, ‘Erin Merryn is a dynamic Christian young lady who shares her tragic testimony of how she was abused growing up, but once she was able to open up, God set her free. She is one of the best speakers we have ever heard and her story will help millions.'
Facebook keeps disturbing baby dunking video amid child abuse outcry
by Lori Grisham
A disturbing video showing an infant being dunked in water and spun around by its limbs remains on Facebook despite public outcry that it depicts child abuse.
"Like others, we find the behavior in this video upsetting and disturbing," Facebook said in a statement to USA TODAY Network. However, the company has decided to keep it on the site because it raises awareness.
Facebook's policy is to remove violent or disturbing images when they are being celebrated, but to leave that content when it is being used to bring attention to a problem.
"In this case, we are removing any reported instances of the video from Facebook that are shared supporting or encouraging this behavior. In cases where people are raising awareness or condemning the practice, we are marking reported videos as disturbing, which means they have a warning screen and are accessible only to people over the age of 18," the statement said.
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, a child abuse prevention organization in the United Kingdom, criticized Facebook on its website for leaving the video online.
"We obviously have deep concerns for the baby and would hope that Facebook does all in its power to help trace whoever was responsible for this appalling incident. It's difficult to understand why such a dreadful film should have been posted and why Facebook allowed it to be viewed," NSPCC told USA TODAY Network in a statement.
However, there could be a benefit to having the video seen by lots of people, Christina Martinez, the public affairs director for Childhelp, a USA-based nonprofit that works to protect children from abuse, told USA TODAY Network.
"The more people you have seeing it, the more people you have talking about it, the more likely someone is to speak up," Martinez said. "From what I can tell here, this is being used as an advocacy tool."
"People want to know who this child is, where this child is and if the child is alive," she said.
Martinez called the video an example of abuse and victimization, but said it serves as a reminder to the public to be vigilant and report videos like this one to law enforcement immediately.
"We all have to be on high alert when we see these sorts of things on social media," she said.
At this time, it's unclear where the video originated or who is depicted in it. Facebook confirmed that they been in touch with law enforcement authorities about the video.
Local Resource Centers Shares Child Abuse Symptoms
by Adora Namigadde
“It doesn't matter if it's dating, you wouldn't leave your child with a stranger, unless you know that that person is going to be a good influence and a good caregiver for your child,” said OASIS Family Resource Center Executive Director Sally Repeck.
OASIS says it's critical that people don't trust their children with a girlfriend or boyfriend right off the bat.
“We all know when you're dating you want to integrate the families together and things, but people need to be very careful and vest those individuals they leave their kid with.”
Some kids are too young to verbalize what's going on, so adults have to be extra careful and attentive.
“Are they crying more? Watch how that person reacts around them. Watch how the child reacts with them.”
She says it's hard for normal people to wrap their heads around.
“To subject another human being to that type of torture, that person is sick. And that person needs to take responsibility for what they did.”
While everyone handles abuse differently, there is a common thread.
“That does scar you. You remember that abuse no matter how little you were.”
She says there's a difference between acting up and having a more serious issue.
So trust a kid if they open up to you.
“You always believe people. When they tell you that they're uncomfortable with someone. If it's a child, that they don't want to go see Uncle Joe.”
If you suspect it, it's important to voice those concerns.
“It may be uncomfortable for an individual to be proactive and call the police on their neighbor but it is much more uncomfortable to live with the fact that you could have done something to save a child.”
If you have any reason to believe someone you know is being abused, the center stresses you should call police immediately.
Mother Of Children Found Dead Had Prior Abuse Conviction
by Alaine Griffin and Josh Kovner
The mother of two children found dead in an East Haven home Tuesday was convicted of child abuse and had two other children removed from her custody in 2006 after police said she repeatedly beat her 4-year-old daughter with the handle of a sponge mop, according to court documents and state child protection officials.
It was the second child endangerment-related conviction for LeRoya Moore within five years. In 2001, Moore, who at the time went by her maiden name White, was convicted of reckless endangerment, a charge that had been reduced from a more serious charge of risk of injury to a minor, court records show.
In the 2006 case, an investigator with the state Department of Children and Families met Meriden police at the preschool that Moore's daughter attended, putting Moore on the radar of state child protection authorities as far back as nine years ago. DCF investigated Moore again in 2014 following her arrest in connection with an assault on her former husband, Michael Moore.
On Thursday, East Haven police said they were continuing to investigate the deaths of the children, identified by their father, Michael Moore, as Daaron Moore, 7, and his 6-year-old sister, Aleisha. There have been no charges in the case and police have not identified the woman found in the home with the children. There have been no criminal abuse charges against LeRoya Moore in connection with the deceased children.
Michael Moore told News 12 and other media outlets in Bridgeport on Thursday that Daaron was a "fun-loving 8-year-old boy" who loved life "to the fullest." Aleisha, he said, excelled at everything she did. "She was very wise beyond her years," he said.
Police were called to the family's home Tuesday after LeRoya Moore, 36, contacted a friend and said she had tried to commit suicide. The friend went to the home because she was concerned about the safety of Moore and her children.
While on the phone with a 911 operator, the friend was asked if she could see the children. The woman said, "They're lying down in the house. The door's locked."
The Moore children were found dead inside the house, which smelled strongly of gas. Police are calling the deaths "suspicious" and said that the three-member detective division is working round-the-clock.
"I know a lot of people are looking for answers right now," East Haven police Sgt. Stephen Paulson said. "But we are as well. These guys have been working diligently since the incident occurred, and getting very little rest."
A spokeswoman for the chief state medical examiner's office said Thursday that there was no information to release.
"This is a high-profile case," she said. "Police are still investigating and we are waiting for the OK from them to release any information."
Moore bought the $220,000 home on Strong Street in East Haven in 2014 with a $4,000 down payment. Marlon Graham, the father of Moore's 17-year-old son, said Wednesday that Moore worked for Yale University but the school has yet to confirm that employment. LeRoya Moore had posted numerous pictures of the two children to her Facebook page.
At the time of the 2006 abuse case, three children were living with LeRoya Moore. DCF removed all three children from the home. LeRoya Moore's parental rights were terminated in regard to the two youngest children. The oldest, a boy who was 9 at the time, was placed under the legal guardianship of his father.
"At that time, there were no other children in the home," DCF said in a statement.
The 2006 case began when police were called to The Right Place preschool in Meriden after employees there contacted DCF when a teacher noticed "numerous bruises" on Moore's 4-year-old daughter, according to court records.
The DCF worker, identified as Yvette Cortez, observed the bruises and said the girl told her that her mother "had beat her with the happy stick for spilling her juice and screaming," the records said.
Police said the girl and her two brothers described the "happy stick" as a sponge mop with "a smiley face" that their mother had drawn on one side and a sad face on the other, records said.
Although the criminal charge was related to the 4-year-old daughter, police throughout the arrest warrant expressed concern for the safety of Moore's two sons, then aged 9 and 3. The older boy told police that he saw Moore on Sept. 29, 2006, hitting his sister with the stick "10 to 15 times" as the child cried.
He said that Moore beat his sister with the stick "two or three times a day," records said. The boy said that his little brother was beaten with the stick "twice a week" and, in one instance, after the 3-year-old had urinated on the living room rug, Moore picked up the boy and "slammed" him onto the floor "causing him to cry."
The 9-year-old boy told detectives he was afraid that Moore "was going to hurt" his younger brother and sister.
Moore was originally charged with risk of injury to a minor, cruelty to persons and third-degree assault. In a plea deal, she pleaded guilty to the risk of injury charge on Dec. 11, 2006, and received an eight-year suspended sentence and five years of probation. The conditions of her probation included that she undergo a psychiatric evaluation and treatment, parenting classes, anger management and that she cooperate with DCF.
The following year, LeRoya White married Michael Moore. The couple started a new family with the birth of Daaron in June 2007. Aleisha was born in 2009.
LeRoya Moore filed for divorce in January 2012. They reached an agreement in 2012 to share custody of the children, with the mother's home as their primary residence. Michael Moore, who at the time was working at Schick of Milford, would get the children on alternating weekends and holidays, court records said.
The arrangements of the divorce, however, turned violent last fall. LeRoya Moore is scheduled to appear later this month in court on charges that she assaulted Michael Moore while he had the children. According to a court file at Superior Court in New Haven, Moore was charged with breach of peace in the second-degree and third-degree assault stemming from a confrontation on Sept. 26.
Michael Moore told police he picked up his two children at King Robinson Magnet School in New Haven that day and as he was leaving the school, Moore pulled up in a vehicle and began beeping the horn and flashing the headlights, according to court records. He said he pulled over on Ella T. Grasso Boulevard and LeRoya Moore went toward his vehicle "in an extremely hostile manner and began swearing and making a scene in the middle of the roadway," the records said.
She asked Moore why it took so long for him to pick up the children and he replied that he had been working overtime, records said. She then struck Moore "three times with a clenched fist to his forehead area" and fled, court records said. Both children were inside the vehicle during the altercation.
Police contacted DCF and a family violence offense report was completed. Police then issued an arrest warrant for LeRoya Moore. She was arrested April 15, and at a court hearing a Superior Court judge issued a protective order against her prohibiting LeRoya Moore from having contact with her ex-husband. She was released on a promise to appear in court later this month.
When DCF was contacted, caseworkers investigated, according to court records.
It's not clear how DCF's past actions with LeRoya Moore affected the agency's most recent involvement with her.
In the East Haven case, DCF said that "because a police investigation is ongoing … the Department at this time cannot share any additional information that may impact that process."
The agency said it was conducting "its own internal review of our involvement with the family to determine what we might learn in order to improve our work in the future.
In the meantime, our hearts go out to the family of the children for the great loss they are suffering."
Fourteen facing child sexual assault charges since first of year
by Sergio Avila
LAS VEGAS (KSNV News3LV) – The year is just half over and already police and prosecutors are dealing with more than a dozen sex crimes involving adults and children.
In the latest a Rancho High School honors teacher was arrested the last day of school Thursday. Other defendants include police officers, a bus driver, teacher, parents and others.
Jason Lofthouse, 32, is the latest adult to be arrested in Southern Nevada on charges of having sex with a minor.
A police report states when officers went to his Rancho High classroom Lofthouse told them, “He was pretty sure he knew why he was under arrest.”
“Child sexual abuse is at epidemic levels,” said Daniel Dreitzer, excutive director for the Rape Crisis Center.
Dreitzer tells News 3 the center is ramping up efforts in a campaign called “Enough Abuse,” a program aimed at stopping child sex abuse.
Since January 1, News 3 counted 14 adults arrested for sex crimes involving children.
It comes out to about one arrest every two weeks.
Two of those defendants, former police officers charged with having child pornography; seven others are school employees.
A Clark County School District spokesman told News 3 the district is working on improving training and updating policies to prevent inappropriate conduct by teachers and other employees.
Amanda Haboush-Deloye with Prevent Child Abuse Nevada said those policy discussions are now happening across the country as they battle what they call the silent epidemic.
“When can you be alone with a child?” Haboush-Deloye said. “What kind of communication are you allowed to have with a child? So those codes of conduct are stricter. That way it reduces access to one-on-one situations where that would escalate.”
The experts understand prevention is difficult.
A School District spokesperson said background checks are conducted on every teacher hired. Often those arrested for these crimes once they begin working in Las Vegas have clean records.
“It's really hard to look for that in advance especially if you've done your due diligence and you've done the background check and they've never been convicted and they've never been caught,” Haboush-Deloye said. “There isn't going to be a record.”
Dreitzer says education of parents and children is key.
“Hopefully we're empowering more kids to come forward and understand what's happening is wrong,” Dreitzer said. “Any time there's a large difference in age or power differential in a relationship, that's a red flag.”
For more information on the Enough Abuse campaign, click here.
Ronan priest who disappeared accused of sex abuse
by Vince Devlin
POLSON, Montana (AP) - When the Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena in April posted the names of 80 former employees, most of them priests and nuns, who had allegedly sexually abused children in western Montana, it also shook the dust on a 31-year-old murder mystery in Lake County.
Among the priests placed on the list of alleged child sexual predators was Father John Kerrigan.
In the summer of 1984, Kerrigan vanished just a couple of days after being transferred from Plains to Ronan's Sacred Heart Parish. He was last seen at a bakery in Ronan.
Neither he, nor his body, has ever been found.
But his clothes were, shortly after Kerrigan disappeared. A passer-by noticed them in a heap at a turnout along Montana Highway 35 on the east shore of Flathead Lake and called authorities.
The clothes were stained with Kerrigan's blood. A $100 bill was tucked in one shirt pocket.
A week later, the priest's car was found several miles away, parked near radio towers off Polson's Skyline Drive.
It had been wiped clean of fingerprints. But there was blood in the front seat. Blood on the passenger-side door. Blood on the passenger-side floorboard.
In the trunk was a bloody pillow, a bloodied shovel, and Kerrigan's wallet, with more than $1,000 in cash. The keys to the car were found in weeds 30 yards away.
Authorities were aware back then of the allegations of sexual abuse of children involving Kerrigan, according to Joe Geldrich, who was Lake County undersheriff when the priest disappeared, and became sheriff in 1985.
“Oh yeah, we sure were,” Geldrich said. “He'd been moved all over the state.”
Ronan was Kerrigan's 13th parish assignment since being ordained in 1954, with none of the postings lasting longer than six years and the priest being moved three times in 1965 alone.
The priest, who was 58 when he disappeared, had also been assigned to St. Patrick Parish in Butte in 1954-55, St. Francis Parish in Hamilton in 1955-56, St. Lawrence Parish in Walkerville from 1959-62, St. Rose Parish in Dillon from 1962-64, St. Ann Parish in Butte in 1964-65, Little Flower Parish in Browning in 1965, Holy Rosary Parish in Bozeman in 1965-66, St. Michael Parish in Drummond from 1966-72, St. Bartholomew Parish in White Sulphur Springs from 1972-77, St. Joseph Parish in Choteau from 1977-80 and St. James Parish in Plains from 1980-84.
Still, Geldrich said he does not believe the alleged sexual abuse was a motive in Kerrigan's likely murder.
“We developed some suspects,” says the former sheriff, but “we never really had enough to wrap it up with.”
With all the cash left behind, robbery obviously wasn't a motive either, but Geldrich declined to say what might have been.
“I wouldn't want to talk about that,” he said. “I don't want to mess it up for somebody else to solve.”
Two years and almost 1,000 miles separate Kerrigan's disappearance and the murder of another Catholic priest in New Mexico. But some have theorized that the same killer was at work in both cases.
On the night of Aug. 7, 1982, Father Patrick Gerard answered the phone at St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe. The caller, who identified himself as Michael Carmello, wanted a priest to meet him at an interstate rest stop to deliver last rites to a dying relative.
Father Gerard was unable to leave, and told the man to call back in 15 minutes.
The phone rang again exactly 15 minutes later, and this time, Father Renaldo Rivera answered. The man who said his name was Michael Carmello repeated his request, and Father Rivera obliged.
Three days later, Rivera's body was found on a deserted road near a ghost town called Waldo. He had been shot to death.
When they learned of Kerrigan's disappearance two years later, New Mexico authorities noticed similarities that started with both victims being Catholic priests, but didn't end there.
In both cases, the victims' cars were driven away from the scene, wiped clean of fingerprints and abandoned. Rivera's car was found at another rest stop a couple of hours from the one police believe he was headed for on the “last rites” call.
While Rivera's body was found three days after he disappeared - along a road in a remote area where it would have been easy to hide or bury it - and Kerrigan's never was, “In both cases the killer wanted people to know, ‘I killed a priest, and here's the evidence to show I killed him,' ” Santa Fe Police Lt. Gilbert Ulibarri said.
Robbery was ruled out as a motive in both cases. In both cases, the victims were members of the Order of Franciscans.
And, perhaps most importantly, wire coat hangers were believed to have been used in both crimes. There was evidence one was used during the murder of Father Rivera, and a bloody and deformed hanger was found near Father Kerrigan's abandoned clothes that authorities believed might have been used to strangle or restrain the priest.
It doesn't appear that any direct connection between Rivera and Kerrigan was ever established, although there are indications Kerrigan spent time in New Mexico at some point, at the Congregation of the Servants of the Paraclete in Jemez Springs.
The Servants of the Paraclete had originally been founded to treat priests with alcohol and drug abuse issues, but eventually wound up taking in priests accused of sexual abuse as well.
Kerrigan's name appeared on the Diocese of Helena's website, along with other priests, Ursuline sisters, lay people and others, as part of a settlement agreement between the diocese and hundreds of victims of sexual abuse.
According to the terms of the settlement, the names of the 80 accused of sexually abusing children while employed by the church will remain posted for 10 years.
Survivors of Canada's 'cultural genocide' still healing
by Micah Luxen
A report on Canada's history of separating indigenous children from their parents at abusive residential schools has called the practice "cultural genocide". But what does the proposed reconciliation mean for survivors?
In 1966, five-year-old Joseph Maud was separated from his family and sent to live at a Canadian residential school for indigenous students in Pine Creek, Manitoba.
Maud remembers it was like walking into an invisible brick wall - students were expected to speak English or French and Maud only spoke his native Ojibwa. If the students spoke their own language, ears were pulled and mouths were washed out with soap.
"But the greatest hurt was being separated from my parents, cousins and uncles and aunties," says Maud, who now lives about an hour from Pine Creek.
When the lonely little boy would wet the bed, his nun in charge of his dormitory would rub his face in his own urine.
"It was very degrading, humiliating. Because I'm sleeping in a dormitory with 40 other boys," he says. "It's bringing tears to my eyes right now just thinking about it."
The residential school survivor remembers kneeling painfully on the cement chapel floor, because the nuns told him 'that's the only way God hears you.'
"I cried going down on my knees, and my thoughts were 'when is this going to end? Somebody help me,' calling out for my parents." Each day, the distance between them increased, he says.
On Tuesday, the government of Canada released a report on residential schools, with testimony from nearly 7,000 witnesses, called the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
From 1840 to 1996, more than 150,000 First Nations, Metis and Inuit children were taken from their families and placed in these schools, in order to "kill the Indian in the child".
TRC chair Justice Murray Sinclair said more than 6,000 residential school students died.
Many more suffered emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Survivors of St Anne's Indian Residential School in Fort Albany, Ontario, are suing the government to release an unredacted version of documentation that shows staff used an electric chair to shock students as young as six and forced sick students to eat their own vomit.
The TRC report concludes that the government-led policy amounted to cultural genocide.
"These measures were part of a coherent policy to eliminate Aboriginal people as distinct peoples and to assimilate them into the Canadian mainstream against their will," says a summary of the report.
"The Canadian government pursued this policy of cultural genocide because it wished to divest itself of its legal and financial obligations to Aboriginal people and gain control over their land and resources."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologised to the survivors in 2008, but the report notes "the urgent need for reconciliation runs deep in Canada" and says Canada needs to move from apology to action.
The report makes 94 recommendations about the "way we talk to, and about, each other", including implementing an Aboriginal Languages Act to preserve and promote those languages, and a memorial museum to be launched by Canada's 150th anniversary in 2017.
This week, there were more 15,000 tweets under the hashtag #MyReconciliationIncludes.
"#MyReconciliationIncludes the freedom to identify as Aboriginal without fear of racism by peers/authorities/institutions," @starleigh_grass tweeted .
Cindy Blackstock tweeted "reconciliation means not saying sorry twice. End inequality in fed. funding for First Nations kids."
Barbara Nolan, who attended St Joseph's Girls Residential School in Spanish, Ontario, in the 1950s, is now working as a counsellor with a degree in psychology.
"We should have been embraced for who we are, not being turned into something we weren't," says Nolan, who's been working through her own healing for years. "It should have never happened, but we have to forgive that era of time."
The child and family councillor says that even if the report is complete, that doesn't mean survivors have finished that process.
"People start to realise in their adult years, why did I scream at my kids like that? I did that because I learned that. I learned that in Residential School, because that's what we experienced."
Nolan's hope for the future is that they come to be at peace, as the last step of the grieving process.
"I'm just hoping people find peace, that they know who they are, to be proud of that, and [that] nobody else is going to tell them … they cannot speak their language again," she says. "I hope people reach that state and are able to hold their head up high."
Nolan says its not about non-indigenous people feeling guilty, but having a good understanding of what happened, to prevent something like this happening in Canada again.
Earlier this week, Joseph Maud visited the former Pine Creek Residential School with his daughter.
"I used to stand against the church wall, and I would feel a little comfort in the warmth of the sun, but inside, my little heart was always wanting my parents," he says.
As he sat there, 49 years later, Maud says, "the tears flowed".
New Numbers On Child Sex Abuse In Florida
by Bob Barrett
The current media frenzy around the Duggar family has brought the issue of child sexual abuse into the light. A new survey of over a thousand Floridians shows that while many are affected by abuse, more have a poor understanding of the problem.
"We know that 95 percent of sexual abuse is preventable with education and awareness" says Lauren Book, the founder of the Lauren's Kids Foundation, a group whose stated mission is educating people in Florida about child sexual abuse and helping survivors heal with guidance and support. "According to the (survey results), one in five adults do not know that everyone is required under Florida law to report suspected cases of child abuse."
The findings of the survey were released on a conference call Thursday morning. Dr. Karen Cyphers is Vice President of Research and Policy for the Sachs Media Group, the company that conducted the survey. She says many people wrongly assume that only professionals like teachers or doctors are required to report suspected cases of abuse. "The goal of this pole was to better understand experiences, concerns and attitudes of Floridians regarding this difficult topic".
The survey was conducted this April, long before the current Duggar scandal started a nationwide conversation about child sexual abuse. One of the core questions on the survey asked if the person was sexually abused before age 18. The answer was yes for 30 percent of women and 15 percent of men. The people who answered no were then given the legal definition of child sexual abuse, and then asked the same question again. About one in ten of those people changed their answer to yes.
Other results showed that one in three Florida women and one in seven Florida men report that, regardless of age, their first sexual experienced was forced. 15 percent of Florida parents believe their child has been subjected to some form of sexual abuse, and only one in five victims say they have received counseling regarding their abuse. Lauren Book of Lauren's Kids Foundation says the numbers are a call to action. "I'm hopeful that sharing this information with the public will show the urgent and very important need for continued education efforts surrounding child sexual abuse".
New anti-trafficking law faces billion-dollar global challenge
by Cheryl Wetzstein
The nation's new anti-human trafficking law, which was enacted with broad bipartisan support, must contend with a global industry reaping billions of dollars from enslaved men, women and children.
Some 21 million people worldwide are believed to be ensnared in human trafficking, much of which revolves around sex slavery.
Former sex-trafficking victim Tina Frundt, who founded the D.C.-based nonprofit Courtney's House in 2008, said she is pleased the new Justice for Victims of Human Trafficking Act is “now in place.”
“Yes, it does need a lot of work, but now finally we have something to work with,” said Ms. Frundt, who started her program to search for and rescue trafficked youth and young adults, and help them build new lives.
While there is no official estimate for human trafficking victims in the U.S., it is believed that the number of adult and child victims in peonage and sexual slavery reaches into the hundreds of thousands, according to the Polaris Project, which runs the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) and hotline.
Data collected since 2007 by the NHTRC show that California, Texas, Florida and New York have the highest number of trafficking cases reported by states, with 973 of 1,345 cases involving sex trafficking. Female adults were the most likely to have been trafficked.
The Justice for Victims of Human Trafficking Act, which passed unanimously in the Senate in April and almost unanimously in the House in May, was signed into law May 29 by President Obama.
Yasmin Vafa, director of law and policy at Human Rights Project for Girls, said the law means “survivors of child sex trafficking into the United States will finally receive the vital services and protections they deserve.”
This is the first time a federal law “specifically addresses domestic human trafficking and prioritizes the need to confront the demand for child sex,” Ms. Vafa said.
It also marks an acknowledgement “by both Congress and the president that we have a serious sex trafficking problem right here in the United States,” she said.
The new law is designed to step up law enforcement efforts against human trafficking and sexual abuse, as well as provide resources to victims.
A centerpiece of the law is a new Domestic Trafficking Victims' Fund in the Department of Justice, which will be tapped to pay for law-enforcement programs and victims' services.
The fund will be financed by people convicted of trafficking or related offenses: Courts are to levy a $5,000 “special assessment” on non-indigent people who sold or bought a trafficked person; engaged in sexual abuse, child pornography or child sexual exploitation; or engaged in interstate transportation for illegal sexual activity or commercial human smuggling.
The assessments, plus additional criminal fines, are expected to pay for the bulk of the law's programs.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated in March that implementing the law would cost taxpayers about $1 million a year and less than $500,000 a year afterward.
The law also directs that at least $5 million in health care funds go to medical services for trafficking victims and $5 million in grants be carved out of an existing program to combat trafficking.
Congressional leaders praised the law's potential to stem the tide of human misery and cripple fast-growing criminal activity, which is believed to be worth $150 billion worldwide, according to the Polaris Project and the International Labor Organization.
Criminal organizations and drug gangs “have realized that selling children can be more profitable than drugs,” Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Virginia Republican and chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary said last month. “This is because drugs are only sold once, but minor children can be, and are, prostituted multiple times a day, every day.”
Republican Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and Chuck Grassley of Iowa helped push the bill forward in their chamber, even after it sparked a lengthy dispute over the funding of reproductive services for female victims.
Polaris Project Chief Executive Bradley Myles, while applauding the bill, lamented that it does not include a measure proposed by Sens. Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, and Susan Collins, Maine Republican, to address runaway and homeless youth.
“The Senate missed a unique opportunity to combat human trafficking by investing in services that could prevent this crime before it occurs,” Mr. Myles said, adding that desperate youth and especially those who are gay, lesbian and transgender are vulnerable to traffickers.
Longview conference focuses on how to stop human trafficking
by Bridget Ortigo
Human trafficking has been called "modern-day slavery," and the Women's Center of East Texas is working with other area organizations to identify what is driving the industry so they can stop it.
"We are really working to address the demand. If there is no demand, there is no supply," Brooke King with the Women's Center said Thursday at a conference on human trafficking.
"We need to make consequences for those buying and selling people so severe that demand decreases."
The demand for human trafficking victims is fueled by pornography, the media and prostitution, to name a few, said Cordelia Anderson of Sensibilities Prevention Services, who talked about "50 Shades of Porn."
"Yesterday's porn is today's mainstream media," Anderson said. "The porn industry is the primary sex educator for youth and children than anywhere else today. That's why the content is problematic. The violence depicted in porn is literally women who are being abused and exploited."
Anderson said people who use pornography become desensitized and have unrealistic expectations in their sexual relationships. They often view women as an object or tool that's needed to achieve their desired outcome, she said.
"More and more women are using porn to figure out what to do, and girls are learning that they just have to take it, whatever it is," Anderson said. "There's no more mutuality of pleasure, no consent. Guys are learning mutuality doesn't matter."
Anderson said this behavior leads to more and more violent sexual behavior.
"There is a link between sex trafficking and sexual exploiters," Anderson said. "A lot of them are getting ideas from porn, and it's becoming more and more violent."
She said pornography is linked directly to prostitution and human trafficking.
"Porn fundamentally feeds the demand," Anderson said. "Women are seen as objects, and we're teaching boys to be consumers of humans. It is robbing them of humanity and hijacking sexuality."
Also speaking was Elizabeth Crooks, founder of Embassy of Hope, a nonprofit group in San Antonio that helps survivors of sex trafficking.
"Ninety-six percent of prostitutes would leave the profession if they could," Crooks said. "A large number of them were raped and molested as children. Many of them develop Stockholm syndrome and form a trauma bond with their pimp or johns. Many are forced to use drugs in order to develop an addiction that the pimp will supply if the woman services enough clients."
Crooks said an adult prostitute has a lifespan of seven years because of violence.
"So who is buying and selling these women and girls for sex?" Crooks asked.
She said many people begin dealing drugs and eventually move up to selling women. She said the average pimp in Dallas makes $12,000 a week by selling women to clients.
She said the role of men in the trafficking industry is overlooked because most people focus only on the women.
"Men have been erased from the conversation that is centrally about them. We're going to have to have men stand up for this issue," Crooks said.
She said men who have trauma and domestic violence backgrounds need to speak up so they can seek help.
"They need the same as the women," Crooks said. "They need education and accountability. Open your eyes, get involved and be introspective. Use your voice."
The day-long conference was the third in a series of events the Women's Center began several years ago.
In 2012, the center played host to a day-long conference on human trafficking and its prevalence in East Texas. In 2014, the center brought in experts to discuss the crime and victims rights.
King said the center and other organizations are having discussions about the best course of action to reduce human trafficking in this area.
"We feel that focusing more on the demand will make a bigger impact in our area," King said.
"We do have some good work happening here, but it's a really slow process to figure out how do we best combat this."
Duggar case has lessons about abusers, victims
by Phyllis Barkhurst
Because I've worked with victims and offenders for more than 30 years in the field of sexual abuse intervention and prevention, I have been following the highly publicized case of sexual molestation of children by Josh Duggar, now a 27-year-old reality TV star and political strategist. The Duggar story is being politicized to the extent of overshadowing the lessons we can learn from it.
Josh Duggar has admitted molesting children when he was 14 and 15 years old — mostly his younger sisters, including one child as young as five. In all 50 states, these actions would be classified as criminal.
According to his statement, as well as those of his parents, Josh Duggar repeatedly admitted that he had molested younger children soon after committing the crime.
He left the question of what to do with the adults in his life, primarily his parents, but also (much later) with church “elders” and a state trooper. It seems that all the adults failed him by not responding appropriately — but, more importantly, they failed the children he molested, and failed to ensure the safety of children who lived in or visited the Duggar home.
I have chosen five key lessons to focus on from this ongoing story:
1) Safety first. This is the most important lesson. It is imperative that all children be safeguarded. The Duggar parents called what Josh did “bad choices,” but they made their first “bad choice” by keeping Josh in the home where he had continuing access to younger children.
2) Break the secrecy. In this case, that means breaking the silence within the family, within the church and, finally, to law enforcement so that the victims don't think that they have anything to be ashamed of, now or in the future.
It is vital that survivors never be silenced. It is harmful to “protect” survivors from embarrassment by enforcing silence and secrecy “for their own good.” Without overt permission to speak about their experience, survivors can and do internalize shame and guilt that is often traumatizing on its own. Survivors are empowered when they are supported in speaking about their experience to anyone they choose to and whenever they choose.
3) Hold the offender accountable, and keep the focus on the victims. It is vital that children who are molested see that action is taken to protect them and that the person who molested them was held accountable within the family and wherever the abuse occurred — in church, in school or on a team — as well as within the criminal justice system.
Victims' needs have to be the priority; child victims' needs may change as they age. Young children may not articulate or present symptoms of trauma or harm at the time of disclosure, but they may feel and articulate it later, especially as puberty approaches and they start to struggle with their own emerging sexuality.
For survivors, there is no “dealing with it” once and putting it away. It is a lifelong process with many opportunities along with the way to offer support.
4) Don't minimize what happened. Parents Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar have said that most of the molestations were “over the clothes” and that “it wasn't rape.” The evidence is clear: Children who are harmed by family members can be severely traumatized. Children can be severely traumatized by a one-time over-the-clothes incident because they were harmed by someone they trusted, or because they felt helpless and afraid and didn't know what to do, or because they blamed themselves for what happened. Betrayal causes trauma, as does helplessness and terror, as do poor responses to disclosures — which leads us into the last key lesson.
5) Respond well when a person of any age discloses abuse. This is important whether the incident was recent or happened decades ago.
When people disclose, they are seeking reassurance that they did nothing wrong and that they have nothing to be ashamed of. It is always an opportunity to support survivors, because they told you for a reason. So, offer thanks that they chose you to tell, along with a calm and caring response.
If there is any current threat of harm, a calm and caring response needs to be coupled with effective action that maintains safety for the victim and, hopefully, brings about accountability for the offender.
Let us choose not to be passive spectators of the media circus that surrounds the Duggar family.
Other than celebrity, there is nothing unique about this story. Let us decide what lessons can be learned here — and apply them here at home. In this way we do our part to honor the survivors in this case and in every case.
There is a Duggar family in every community — including ours.
Phyllis Barkhurst is director of the 90by30 child abuse prevention initiative and co-director of the University of Oregon Center for the Prevention of Abuse and Neglect.
Who legally has to report child abuse?
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The parents of reality TV's Josh Duggar broke their silence with new details about the scandal surrounding their family, but it's unclear if he helped or hurt their case.
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar granted an interview to Fox News Channel after a tabloid magazine released court records showing Duggar fondled five girls, including family members when he was a teenager.
WREG did some digging into mandatory reporting laws and learned that if this happened in Tennessee, the case would be playing out very differently.
“Parents are not mandatory reporters. The law lets parents do what they think is best for their child,” Jim Bob Duggar said flat out.
That might be surprising to hear, but Duggar was right.
He raised his family in Arkansas and the laws for reporting sexual abuse are much different than other states in the Mid-South.
In Tennessee and Mississippi, any adult with a suspicion a child is being abused is legally required to report it.
However in Arkansas there's a laundry list of mandated reporters; dentists, law enforcement, shelter employees, physicians ministers, lawyers and foster parents.
But biological parents were not listed.
“Even in states where you are not a mandated reporter, it's your moral obligation,” Virginia Stallworth, the Executive Director of the Memphis Child Advocacy Center said.
Duggar and his reality show parents were put into the hot seat.
Illegally released police records showed he molested five girls, some of them his younger sisters, over the course of two years.
“It was after that third time he came to us is where we really felt like, you know what? We have done everything we can do as parents to handle this in-house we need to get help,” Duggar explained in the interview.
But some said Josh Duggar wasn't the only one who needs help.
Child Advocacy Centers are focused on the victims and making sure they firmly understand what happened to them is not their fault.
“We can never forget that victims first and foremost need our special care and treatment,” Stallworth added.
Experts said if this happens in your family there's no reason to be embarrassed, but the longer you wait, the worse it could get.
“Making a report is the only responsible answer,” Stallworth said.
If you want to learn the signs of child abuse CLICK HERE for more information about the Stewards of Children course offered through the Memphis Child Advocacy Center.
Fighting online abuse of children has driven it underground - report
EFC reports bitcoin and images and videos of child abuse used as currency after conventional payment systems decline in popularity
by Alex Hern
A pan-European drive to use the financial system to fight online child abuse has succeeded in reducing sales of child abuse material using conventional payment systems – but research suggests that abusers have been driven underground, turning to anonymiser technologies to evade law enforcement, and bitcoin to pay for material.
Experts from the European Financial Coalition Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation Online (EFC) report that images and videos of child abuse have become a currency in their own right, with abusers expected to provide new material in exchange for access.
The fight against online child abuse is also struggling in the face of increased use of live-streaming to share video of abuse. Live-streamed material is more difficult to discover once the stream has ended, and requires rapid action from law enforcement authorities to combat.
“Rather than a success, the phenomenon is getting harder to tackle, with all this material going underground”, says Tania Anguelova, the EFC's project officer.
“It is getting harder and harder to find this material in the open web … and more and more challenging to identify the offenders,” she added.
The EFC, which includes tech firms such as Microsoft and Google, financial companies including Visa and Mastercard, and child protection organisations including INHOPE and the International Centre for Missing and Exploited children, was formed in 2012 with the aim of cracking down on people who exploit children for money.
Its report, the first since 2013, finds that conventional payment systems are declining in popularity. They were used in a little under 10% of the 5,236 URLs suspected of commercial distribution of child abuse material that were catalogued over 2013.
Of those, 266 accepted payment through money transfer services, 135 through credit card companies and 102 through digital wallet operators. The British anti-abuse Internet Watch Foundation suggest that SMS payments are also being used.
“A proactive approach by reputable companies, a number of regulations, compliance programmes and preventative work appear to have been effective in reducing the number of sites able to process payments,” the EFC report concludes.
But commercial abusers have moved to other payment methods in order to continue operating. Much of the evidence is still anecdotal, notes the report, but law enforcement and financial experts have expressed concern that commercial exploitation of child abuse material is “moving to a new unregulated, unbanked digital economy”.
It cites IWF research that found 22 sites exclusively taking bitcoin in exchange for child abuse material in 2014, and 37 accepting it overall. The organisation first discovered bitcoin being taken for child abuse material back in June 2013.
Some organisations have also turned to using child abuse material as currency. “A worrying phenomenon is the fact that the new material is sometimes considered a currency itself. And this is another big phenomenon which we need to find a way to tackle properly,” said Anguelova.
The other major technological trend cited by the coalition is the rise in the live-streaming of child abuse for payment. “[It] is no longer an emerging trend but an established reality. It is of particular concern in the context of emerging markets due to internet adoption there,” the report states.
A recent operation led by the National Crime Agency in the UK resulted in a paedophile ring, which streamed live sexual abuse of children as young as six, being dismantled, says the EFC paper. In some cases the victims' parents were involved.
“Fifteen victims in the Philippines aged between six and 15 were rescued, 29 people were arrested, including 11 in the Philippines. 12 countries were involved in the arrest of individuals who had been paying for the live abuse of children.
“Over £37,500 was identified as having been paid for the live abuse of children by the customer network. Three other ongoing investigations have identified 733 suspects.”
Dismantling such rings is difficult, because the real-time monitoring of streams is legally and technically challenging, with users adopting layers of anonymity and many broadcasts password-protected.
As a result, the best approach as identified by the report is using the financial system to identify suspicious transactions in order to follow the money back to the abuser, and prioritising the identification of individuals who have access to children.
Be aware: Not all child abuse is obvious
by Jessica R. Key
Sometimes, child abuse is obvious. When a child's suffering includes unexplained injuries; delayed development not explained by a medical diagnosis; or severe emotional disturbances, the need for necessary action is unmistakable.
However, experts say child abuse isn't always crystal clear. Some abuse, such as neglect, is subtle, yet can cause lasting harm to children.
"It's by far the most substantiated form of abuse," said Sandy Runkle, director of programs for Prevent Child Abuse Indiana, a division of The Villages. "You hear about physical abuse more often, but thankfully it's not the most common. It's by far neglect."
Emily Perry, executive directorofSusie's Place Child Advocacy Centers agrees and said child neglect can include lack of appropriate food, clothing, or shelter.
Often, her staff sees neglect due to drug and alcohol addicted parents who are incapable of supervising and providing appropriate care for their children.
Neglect can be just as damaging as physical, sexual or emotional abuse, and since it is less obvious, others are less likely to intervene. Furthermore, neglect can be subjective. Runkle gives the example of children living in a dirty home.
"Your definition of a dirty house could be different from my definition of a dirty house and they both can be different from what the Department of Child Services says. That's why this is so challenging," said Runkle.
She adds that an adult showing a child pornography, even if the child is 16 or 17 years old, is a type of sexual abuse people may not consider. However, child advocates state this is an example of a "grooming" behavior, which can be employed by sexual predators to gain power over a potential victim.
Witnessing violence is another factor that puts kids at risk. Perry said her staff is also seeing increased referrals to assess child witnesses to domestic violence and other interfamilial violence.
"These situations are generally characterized as neglect 'environment life/health endangering' because the child was not directly assaulted," said Perry. "However, we know that children witnessing domestic violence incidents in the home are at significantly higher risk for experiencing child sexual abuse and child physical abuse."
Experts say behavioral issues, such as depression or bed-wetting, can indicate problems due to child abuse, particularly if they are linked to physical signs, escalate or intensify. While these issues can be caused by genetic factors and disabilities, child abuse shouldn't be ruled out.
Runkle said the best way to deal with the "gray areas" of child abuse and neglect is to simply contact the proper authorities.
"The standard is 'if you have reason to believe.' You don't have to shoulder that burden or make the decision. If you are uncomfortable with the situation, you pick up the phone and report it. Be as detailed as you can as to why you're concerned," said Runkle.
Both Runkle and Perry said child abusers cannot be restricted to one demographic. However, Runkle states there are risk factors that could lead to child abuse such as substance abuse, domestic violence, insufficient income with no support or unmet mental health issues.
All parents, regardless of risk factors, who face tough times are encouraged to seek help from a church, the child's day care, the local Women Infant and Children office or the local Department of Child Services office.
Perry said adults should also alter their view of children to help reduce these instances of abuse. Children are vulnerable because in many ways they are unable to care for themselves, are smaller/'weaker" biologically, and don't function as miniature adults. Due to these issues, adults often perceive children to be of less value than adults.
Sadly, some adults justify negative treatment of children because they are not perceived to be as important. When a child is raised and is treated as "less than," they grow up believing children are not worthy of love, respect, nurture, and care. They frequently become incapable of providing that nurture, love, and attachment to their own children... thus perpetuating the generational cycle.
"The key to change is teaching children and young adults (new parents) the true value of children. When children feel loved and valued they will grow up to give love and value their children," said Perry.
Runkle said kids who believe they are being abused should contact a trusted adult. The adult should then believe the child and call the proper authorities.
Though there are gray areas of child abuse, experts ask people to remain vigilant of clear and unclear signs of child abuse. The Indiana Department of Child Services said they have a course available to better understand child abuse.
To report child abuse, call the Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at (800) 800-5556.
‘An Open Secret' focuses on child sexual abuse in Hollywood
A review of Amy Berg's documentary, “An Open Secret,” which looks at several specific cases of child sexual abuse in Hollywood involving young boys. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
by Moira MacDonald
Amy Berg's chilling new documentary “An Open Secret” begins with the on-screen words “The movie Hollywood doesn't want you to see.” No doubt; it's an exploration of sexual abuse of children in the entertainment industry, focusing on about a half-dozen specific cases involving young teen or preteen boys. “It's the tip of the iceberg,” says Anne Henry, a mother who co-founded an organization to support families in the industry. The combination of vulnerable children and parents dazzled by stardom, the film tells us, creates a climate for abuse — often committed, in these stories, by managers and publicists, trusted to safeguard the children in their charge.
Berg, who explored similar territory in her Oscar-nominated film about sex abuse in the Catholic Church (“Deliver Us From Evil”), points out known abusers still working in the industry: actor/former Nickelodeon dialogue coach Brian Peck, a convicted sex offender; agent Martin Weiss, who spent just months in jail after pleading no contest to two counts of committing lewd acts on a child under 14. (That child, now grown and identified only as Evan H., speaks in the film; he bravely tape-recorded Weiss discussing the acts.)
Some familiar faces and voices appear: Todd Bridges, once Willis on “Diff'rent Strokes,” talks of being abused by his publicist at age 11, and how it affected the rest of his life (he turned to drugs and alcohol, because he “didn't want to feel any more”); and former child actor Corey Feldman is seen, in archival footage, talking about what he describes as the biggest problem in Hollywood — pedophilia. But Berg's most shocking moment comes late in the film, when a veteran child-talent agent is himself accused of abuse on camera, and doesn't deny it. “This is not a terrible thing,” he says, “unless you think it is.” All proceeds of the film go to the Courage to Act Foundation, to help victims of sexual abuse; that sentence alone reminds us that such foundations — and this film — are desperately needed.
Some say that social media may affect reporting of child sexual abuse
by Jay Meisel
SEBRING — In relation to a recent case involving a Highlands County man charged with sexually abusing a 10-year-old girl, those commenting on Facebook conduced a spirited debate.
Some supported the girl. Others insisted that the man is innocent.
Eventually, the posts resulted in the victim essentially being identified and accusations were that the mother of the victim coached her daughter into making the accusations.
Some say that social media is increasingly become a source of concern, regarding whether victims come forward with reports of child sexual abuse.
Jeffrey Roth, executive director of the Champion for Children Advocacy Center, said he has no doubt that such debates on Facebook may increase the chances that a victim won't come forward with accusations.
Keeping the identity of the victim confidential is crucial to victims coming forward when they've been sexually abused, Roth said.
The victim is typically concerned about who will find out that she/he has come forward with the accusations, Roth said.
Moreover, he said, they don't want to be in a situation where they reveal details of what happened, only to learn later that others are reading those details on Facebook or elsewhere, he said.
For some victims, dealing with their peers and the knowledge that their peers know what happened overshadows the abuse, Roth said.
Nell Hays, public information officer for the Highlands County Sheriff's Office, said crime prevention experts believe that only 30 percent of child sexual abuse cases get reported.
She said she agrees that social media is one of many factors that result in a victim choosing not to come forward after being sexually abused by an adult.
The issues involving social media and child sexual abuse cases are a national problem, said Mia Fernandez, executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime.
Fernandez said bullying, sexting and outing are problems. She said she advocates working with private firms, such as Facebook, to determine possible limitations on what can be posted, while taking into account First Amendment rights.
She said she agrees that any potential outing of a sexual abuse victim's identity creates a disincentive for the victim to come forward.
A survey conducted for Lauren's Kids, a Florida-based nonprofit that advocates for victims of child sexual abuse, said that 30 percent of respondents were concerned that reporting the crime would result in a child being ridiculed by other children.
Experts warn about infant child sex abuse
by Erin Calandra
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – After police said a Centre County man was arrested this week for child pornography involving infants, 6 News wanted to learn more about infant child pornography.
“Horrifying to hear those words put together,” Director of Centre County Youth Service Bureau Andrea Boyles said. “We have to start from day one protecting our children.”
Adam Hinton, 25, of Port Matilda, is behind bars facing several felony charges after State College police said they found 535 images of toddlers, babies and young girls on his laptop computer.
In the criminal complaint, police said a majority of those 535 images are of infant sexual abuse.
Boyles said she's rarely seen infant pornography in her career, but warns parents of the dangers.
“What we may view as pictures of our precious baby could be sexually stimulating to others and misused,” Boyles said.
Experts say it's important that parents are hypervigilant, because babies can't tell them they are being abused.
“If something doesn't seem right, go to the doctor,” Boyles said.
Hinton was a substitute janitor for the State College Area School District working during evening hours at the Radio Park Elementary School building, but school officials made it clear that he is no longer employed and that he never had access to any computers at the school.
Boyles urges everyone to take the Stewards of Children training. This is training that helps adults recognize the signs of child abuse, but also has information on how to talk to children about this topic.
The training is free and you can do it from your computer at work.
To learn more about it, call the YMCA in Centre County.
What you can do to prevent sexual assault to a minor
by Justin J. Reyes
LAREDO, TEXAS (KGNS) - The advocacy center provides a safe and secure environment for child victims of domestic violence and abuse ranging from physical to sexual.
Of the child sexual assault cases in Laredo from 2013 to 2014, one hundred percent of the perpetrators were someone the child knew.
Colorful works of art, crafts and toys are what you will find at the Children's Advocacy Center.
The arts and crafts depicting the feelings of children healing from abuse including sexual assault.
Sylvia Bruni is the executive director at the center.
She says prevention starts with education.
"They have to be prepared to tell you if something is happening because if there has been one distinct enabler of the predator its the silence, one that has surrounded the abuse and two the fear that they instill in children which keeps them quiet and silent", said Bruni.
Creating a child-sensitive environment, the center allows children to heal through intervention and counseling.
Bruni is working with school districts educating administrators and teaching kids to "break the silence" .
"We are educating children, we are educating teachers and i think that kind of conversation education is what is going to break the cycle because you are not going to break the predator at least you are not going to erase the urges", said Bruni.
Close to 50 percent of children sexually abused are between the ages of six and 12.
"One hundred percent of the time its someone the child knows whether its her teacher, her grandfather, her uncle, her next door neighbor its not a stranger and so that also enables a predator because he is able to manipulate he is bale to control. The bottom line is you talk to your children", said Bruni.
Talking and educating them that silence, isn't the solution, speaking out is.
"The big mistake is that they keep quiet, but that's really out mistake its not a child's mistake", said Bruni.
Laredo is the only city in the United States that implements the Rad Kids program in all of its public schools.
Rad Kids is a 10 hour course which teaches kids skills to prevent physical abuse from predators and teaches ways to prevent unsafe situations.
The children's advocacy center encourages parents to talk to their children about sexual abuse and teach them to speak up if they are ever in any situation that involves child abuse.
State law requires anyone who suspects abuse to report it to the police or Child Protective Services.
Vatican's No. 3 fights Australian allegations of bribery, bullying tactics in sex-abuse probe
SYDNEY — Cardinal George Pell has been dogged for years by allegations that he mishandled the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis in his native Australia, and now the scrutiny is more intense than ever. Australia's latest inquiry is as high-level as it gets, and since Pell is now the Vatican's third-most-powerful official, the same can nearly be said for him.
Pell, whom Pope Francis placed in charge of the Vatican's finances last year, is accused of creating a victims' compensation program mainly to protect the church's assets and of using aggressive tactics to discourage victims' lawsuits, all while he was a bishop in Australia.
Pell is also facing accusations from earlier in his career when he was a priest and auxiliary bishop and not in the ultimate position of authority: that he ignored warnings about an abusive teacher, bribed the victim of a pedophile priest to stay silent and was part of a committee that moved that priest from parish to parish.
Pell has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and defended his record on confronting the abuse scandal as archbishop of Melbourne, and later of Sydney. But the investigation by Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is raising eyebrows in the Vatican, where the pope promised to hold bishops accountable for failing to protect children and care for victims.
The Vatican's position was further complicated this week when Peter Saunders, a member of Pope Francis' sexual abuse advisory commission, spoke out against Pell. The issue has now become so fraught that three Vatican offices have issued statements trying to limit the damage by distancing themselves from Saunders' comments and, to some degree, what is happening Down Under.
Pell testified twice last year before the long-running Royal Commission — the highest form of investigation in Australia — and with pressure mounting, he offered to appear again. On Monday, the commission took him up on that, asking him to testify at a later date.
The commission is looking at how the Catholic Church and other institutions dealt with decades of abuse across Australia. Given the scale of abuse in Catholic institutions, much of the attention has focused on how the church — and Pell — responded.
"The buck has to stop somewhere," abuse survivor Paul Tatchell recently told the commission. "And in Australia, it's George Pell."
The commission has just wrapped up two weeks of hearings in the city of Ballarat, where scores of children were abused by Catholic clergy from the 1960s to the 1980s. Many victims in Ballarat and elsewhere in Victoria state committed suicide, in one of the worst clusters of clerical abuse trauma in the world.
Anthony Foster's daughter was one of them. Repeatedly raped as a child by priest Kevin O'Donnell, she committed suicide when she was 26. Her sister was raped by the same priest and began binge drinking to dull the pain, Foster says. One day while intoxicated, she was struck by a car when crossing the road and is now severely disabled.
Foster and his wife met with Pell in 1997 to discuss the abuse. Foster said Pell, then the archbishop of Melbourne, was cold and confrontational, dismissing his concerns that the archdiocese's compensation program was unfair.
Years later, Foster would testify before a Victoria inquiry into institutional child abuse —a lower, state-level investigation separate from the Royal Commission — that Pell showed a "sociopathic lack of empathy."
"He was bombastic, certainly overpowering, verge of anger. He was telling us if we didn't like it, go to court," Foster says today. "It was adversarial at that point and from that point on."
Pell has acknowledged having an "unfortunate encounter" with the Fosters, but testified at the Victoria inquiry in 2013 that he believed compassion is best expressed through actions. He noted that the church compensated the family and paid for their counseling, and called the case a great tragedy.
After Pell's meeting with the Fosters, the church sent the family a letter offering compensation, dubbing it a "realistic alternative to litigation that will otherwise be strenuously defended." That phrasing was used in all church offer letters sent to Melbourne victims in the 1990s, and was perceived by many to be a way of discouraging legal action.
Under questioning at a Royal Commission hearing, Pell rejected a suggestion the wording was meant to be menacing, and said it wasn't intended to deter victims from going to court. Still, he described the phrase as inappropriate because it could upset victims.
The Royal Commission, which the government launched in 2012, has no power to criminally charge a person. But commissioners can note in their final report whether they believe someone has broken the law — such as concealing a crime — and can refer the matter to police and prosecutors.
Pell declined to comment to The Associated Press. In his testimony to the Victoria inquiry and a statement to the Royal Commission, he rejected each allegation against him as false and called child abuse "profoundly evil." Pell denies allegations that he was involved in moving Gerald Ridsdale — Australia's most notorious pedophile priest — between parishes, and said he never tried to buy the silence of one of Ridsdale's victims. Pell said he has no memory of ignoring warnings in the 1970s that a teacher was abusing students.
The bribery allegation has been the most explosive one to emerge from the Royal Commission. Ridsdale's nephew, David Ridsdale, told the commission that in 1993 he spoke by phone with Pell — then an auxiliary bishop of Melbourne and family friend — about the abuse he had suffered at the hands of his uncle.
David Ridsdale testified that Pell began talking about the needs of Ridsdale's growing family, pointing out that he may soon need to buy a car or house. David Ridsdale testified that Pell then said: "I want to know what it will take to keep you quiet."
"Some days I don't know who I am angrier at," David Ridsdale told the commission. "Gerald for being a sick monster, or George for the way he reacted and dealt with the issue."
Pell issued a statement denying that he offered the nephew a financial incentive to stay quiet and said he had spoken to him after his uncle was already under investigation — meaning there was no reason to keep the case quiet since authorities already knew about it.
The allegations are unlikely to threaten Pell's position, since they were already known when the pope made him prefect. But they have been closely watched by members of the pope's sexual abuse advisory commission, which is expected to discuss Pell's case at a working group meeting this week in London, said commission member Peter Saunders.
Saunders criticized Pell's response to the abuse crisis in an interview with Australia's "60 Minutes" this week, prompting Pell to threaten legal action and the Vatican to issue a statement emphasizing that Saunders had spoken from a personal standpoint and not on behalf of the pope's commission.
"Cardinal George Pell has always responded carefully and thoroughly to the accusations and questions posed by the competent Australian authorities," the Vatican statement said. "And his position has been made known again in recent days by a public declaration on his part, which must be considered reliable and worthy of respect and attention."
Pell has said the Melbourne compensation program he launched in 1996 was groundbreaking within the church, given that Australian law at the time made it difficult for victims to sue the church. It initially paid abuse survivors up to 50,000 Australian dollars ($39,000) in exchange for them giving up their right to further litigation. But some victims have dubbed it an inadequate, intimidating tactic to prevent them from suing.
In its final report, the Victoria inquiry found that the program was hardly an independent body as Pell asserted, that the amounts it paid out were not commensurate with the suffering endured, and that the waiver victims were forced to sign made clear they were to keep quiet, creating the perception that it was "hush money." The inquiry concluded that, while 97 percent of the claims were approved and some victims were satisfied with the program, it ultimately benefited the Melbourne archdiocese by limiting exposure and protecting its reputation.
The protection of the church and its finances came into sharp focus in the case of John Ellis, a former altar boy who was abused by a priest in the 1970s. Ellis initially offered to settle with the diocese for AU$100,000, but the church rejected that request, eventually spending over AU$1 million to fight Ellis' claim in court.
In a report following a hearing on the Ellis case, the Royal Commission found that Pell accepted legal advice to vigorously fight Ellis' claim partly to discourage other victims from suing the church. Pell admitted to this in his testimony last year and subsequently apologized to Ellis, saying he and others in the church had failed in their moral and pastoral responsibilities to him.
"There's a profound disappointment and anger that ... someone in such a position of power and trust, and who is a moral compass for so many, at a fundamental level does not appear to understand the scope and the scale and the horror of the devastation that survivors have experienced," says Cathy Kezelman, president of the Australian group Adults Surviving Child Abuse.
Several church leaders have defended Pell, including seven Australian archbishops and bishops who issued a statement of support on Wednesday.
"He is a man of integrity who is committed to the truth and to helping others, particularly those who have been hurt or who are struggling," the archbishops wrote. "His style can be robust and direct; he does not wear his heart on his sleeve. But underneath he has a big heart for people."
Shelter Skelter: Domestic Abuse Survivors Wind Up in Seedy Motels
by Alicia Freese
Last month, state Sen. Norm McAllister (R-Franklin) was charged with sexual assault and other crimes involving three women. One of them has since died, apparently from natural causes. Key questions remain unanswered, including what happened to another of the alleged victims — a woman who lived on his property and told police she felt compelled to have sex with him in order to keep her housing.
A group of advocates, former governor Madeleine Kunin, a retired judge and several dozen Franklin County residents gathered last Friday in St. Albans for a rally organized in response to the scandal. Although the speakers never referenced it directly, their message was clear: Whatever the plight of the women in this high-profile case — which advocates declined to discuss for confidentiality reasons — people should understand that the challenges they likely face apply to countless abuse survivors.
"Many victims are making untenable choices between homelessness and abuse," Auburn Watersong of the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence told the small crowd at downtown Taylor Park.
She wasn't being hyperbolic. Recently, emergency shelters for abuse victims have been unable to welcome everyone who comes knocking. Those who are turned away often end up in unsupervised motels along with the homeless and mentally ill.
In St. Albans, the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity runs a 10-bed shelter — one of 10 scattered across the state that offer secure accommodations to fleeing victims and their children. Program director Kris Lukens, who helped organize the rally, noted in an interview that it's been full since last September.
Head southeast and the story is the same. WISE operates a safe home in the Upper Valley. "We don't have the beds," said director Peggy O'Neil.
Chittenden County's Women Helping Battered Women has been full for roughly a year, according to executive director Kelly Dougherty.
Collectively, Vermont's 10 shelters have a maximum capacity of 115 beds. In 2014, they provided emergency housing to 782 people for a total of nearly 29,000 nights, according to the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, a coalition of organizations that includes the shelters.
In the same time frame, they turned away 346.
One of them was "Rachel," 31, who spoke to Seven Days on condition of anonymity on her day off last month. The self-assured young professional in jeans and a North Face jacket left her boyfriend last year, after more than a decade of abuse. She fled the apartment they shared without belongings, money — he had emptied her bank account — or a place to stay. At a friend's urging, she got in touch with Women Helping Battered Women.
Here's what should have happened: Rachel would have stayed at the shelter — where adult males aren't permitted and there's staff on-site 24 hours a day — for a few days, or maybe weeks, until she could find a place of her own.
But the 15-bed facility — the only one in Chittenden County — didn't have space for her. Instead, Rachel received a voucher from the Department for Children and Families, which puts homeless people in motels temporarily if they meet certain criteria and other shelters are full. She stayed in motels for more than two months, moving to a different one every couple of weeks. Rachel described the experience as traumatic. She witnessed drug activity and, at one locale, lived across the hall from an alcoholic. Without a car, she had to figure out new ways to get to work each time she relocated.
What's causing this supply-demand problem? Shelter residents are staying longer because they can't find places to live. Women have lived at the Burlington shelter for as long as eight months, according to Dougherty.
"Usually, we could find housing within 30 days," said Anna Pirie, executive director of the advocacy organization AWARE in Hardwick. "Now you're talking months."
The shelters are understandably reluctant to boot people who've got nowhere else to go. But longer stays lead to bottlenecks, which mean more victims are diverted to motels. It's impossible to know exactly how many, because DCF can't track that data. Anecdotally, DCF deputy commissioner Sean Brown said, they've seen an increase in the number of battered women seeking vouchers.
Advocates are also struggling to find accommodations for a growing number of homeless Vermonters. But there's a reason why separate shelters were created for victims: to create safe and comfortable places for people escaping traumatic situations. Advocates emphasize that they're grateful to have motels as a fallback option — and sometimes people actually prefer it — but they also point out that they don't offer the same safeguards as shelters.
The motels, Dougherty said, can be "kind of a crazy environment."
Pirie was more explicit: "You've got batterers in there. You've got rapists in there. You've got drug addicts in there." Sometimes, she drops off people who don't have cars. "When I leave a woman at a motel, it's not a good feeling," she said.
Rooms don't have kitchens, which can be a hardship, particularly for people with children.
State officials say they're well aware of the drawbacks. "We try to connect people with services," Brown noted, but "it's much more difficult when they're out in a motel." The deputy commissioner acknowledged that frequently moving people among motels makes that even harder. But, he said, it's unavoidable for now because a state law allows people to establish tenancy after occupying a place for more than 28 days.
The department works closely with domestic abuse and sexual violence organizations, according to Brown, and it does what it can to make victims feel safe. "If we place a victim in a motel and it turns out that something happened where they no longer feel safe, we work to move them to a different facility where they do feel safe," he said.
Even so, the instability can have negative consequences. Victims often return to their abusers multiple times before leaving permanently, and that option can seem more palatable when their housing situation is volatile.
"We're putting people in a precarious position," Dougherty said. In some cases, she continued, "It's easier to have a roof over your head and be abused than to not know where you're living."
In early December of 2013, "Karen," 46, left an abusive marriage after 25 years. WHBW's shelter was full, so she and her teenage son landed in a motel. After someone told her that a drug addict had tried to assault her son, she opted to move back in with her husband on Christmas Eve. "I decided it was safer for him to be at the house, where I could pay attention, than to be out there where there were people who I didn't know what they were going to do," she explained.
Rachel also returned to her ex when her housing situation fell through. "It's easy to get sucked back," she explained. "Especially when you don't have a stable place to live."
Finding affordable housing is a challenge for many Vermont residents. A recent report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition found that the fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Vermont is $1,075 — out of range for many residents.
Abuse victims often face additional hurdles. Some are dealing with mental health or substance abuse issues, and many are under serious financial constraints.
Rachel, who moved in with her boyfriend right out of college, had no landlord references. He'd also ruined her credit. Again and again, she explained the situation to potential landlords, while also working with WHBW to rebuild her credit. She recalled how embarrassing it was, sharing her story with strangers in the hopes that they'd take pity on her. Ultimately, none did. "They just looked at the numbers. They didn't look at me," she said.
Karen also lacked landlord references because she'd never rented a place of her own. Her husband had complete control of the finances. "Everything was in my ex-husband's name, so I basically walked away with the clothes on my back ... I had maybe 28 bucks to my name," she said.
Karen and Rachel both left their homes a second time. In each of their cases, the shelter was again full. Both women were given state vouchers and sent to Harbor Place — a former motel that the Champlain Housing Trust turned into temporary housing with supportive services. Dougherty and Brown agree that it's a much better arrangement than what women find in commercial motels. For one thing, it provides 24-hour security. But in separate interviews, Karen and Rachel said that despite the strict rules imposed on Harbor Place residents, they still observed drug activity and altercations.
Service providers are trying to come up with solutions. They're not keen on the most obvious one: adding shelter capacity. Watersong explained that they want to focus on finding transitional and permanent housing for victims.
With that goal in mind, the network organized a first-of-its-kind summit two months ago, where 13 domestic and sexual violence organizations met with 11 housing organizations and several DCF staff.
Organizations broke out into groups by region, and some emerged with specific plans. In the Northeast Kingdom, Pirie and others are considering buying one or more motels to convert into temporary housing with wraparound services, modeled after Harbor Place.
Some organizations shared strategies they've found successful. WISE, for instance, already works closely with the region's housing trust, Twin Pines, to find apartments for clients.
In December, the Burlington Housing Authority hired a housing retention specialist to help victims find, and keep, housing. Jennie Davis, who previously worked at WHBW, explained that she helps coordinate services among different organizations and can act as a go-between with landlords.
In the meantime, groups are patching together solutions for the people who come through their doors.
After roughly 70 days at Harbor Place, Karen got a bed at the shelter. With WHBW's help, she was shortlisted for a Section 8 voucher. It took her several months to find a two-bedroom apartment. In January, after being homeless for more than seven months, she and her son moved into a place of their own.
Rachel also eventually got a bed at WHBW. She stayed for several months until she was accepted at Sophie's Place, a unit of WHBW-managed transitional housing apartments. "If there had been space available for me the first time, I'm not saying I wouldn't have gone back, but I think there would have been less of a chance," she said of her first failed attempt to leave her boyfriend. Now, she continued, "I consider myself lucky."
Johnson's ‘Switch' ministry seeks to combat sexual exploitation
by Angelia Davis
One thing that propels Stephanie Johnson in her new life's mission can be traced back to a phone call.
She was at a birthday party at the time, but stepped out to answer the call. It was a co-worker telling her that a woman they'd been investing time in had decided to leave the commercial sex industry.
Johnson recalls screaming with joy at the top of her lungs when she heard the news.
“I'm sure the neighbors in the neighborhood thought I was crazy, but it was such a joyful moment,” Johnson said.
Other joyful moments have followed for Johnson, founder of Switch, “a ministry that seeks to combat human trafficking and sexual exploitation through awareness, prevention, demand, intervention and restoration.”
The nearly 3-year-old organization has served more than 260 women and helped at least 14 get out of the sex industry and into long-term recovery.
By helping others, Johnson is helping herself.
The 30-year-old married mother of three said she, too, was a victim of sexual exploitation as a child. She also said she was verbally and physically abused.
Samantha McConnaughey said Johnson, her friend of 14 years, has always had bits and pieces of the abuse in memory, but never was sure who to talk to.
“So it was really positive and uplifting that she does now know 100 percent about the things that happened to her and that she's able to move forward and not let it hold her back,” she said.
McConnaughey said helping people is something that Johnson has always wanted to do.
“She has always been a giving person who wanted to do something that was more than a regular run-of-the-mill job,” McConnaughey said. “She's a very hard worker, very motivated and she does not give up very easily.”
Johnson said her Christian faith led her to start Switch.
For approximately a year and a half, she studied human trafficking, receiving training under a survivor-led ministry in Fort Myers, Florida, called “Beauty From Ashes.”
When she returned to the Upstate, she researched how to start a nonprofit. Switch was incorporated in November 2012.
Zaina Greene, executive assistant at Switch, said she was inspired by Johnson's will to get out and do something here that no one else was doing.
“I was impressed to see her taking charge of a problem that we have in our community,” Greene said. “Now that I've gotten to know her, I know that when she's ready to do something, she'll get it done.”
Most of Switch's efforts — awareness and intervention services — are in the Greenville area. The organization aims to expand services into Spartanburg County.
Switch is raising money to establish a full-service shelter for adult women who are victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation, to expand outreach efforts and to cover the operational costs for the first year.
One such outreach is Rahab's program. The vision for Rahab's program is to offer direct services to women who are currently being sexually exploited and to women who are transitioning out of the life of the commercial sex industry.
The program will offer classes, a Drop-in Center where women can stop by and pick up toiletries, clothing, and other necessities, counseling services, support groups, and other options for the women.
The shelter will focus on women ages 18 and up, Johnson said
South Carolina now has one such home in the state for victims of trafficking and it's for women ages 18 to 24. Most such beds across the nation stop at age 24, Johnson said.
“Not only will we meet a need, we're going to meet a national need,” she said.
The biggest challenge, though, is funding, she said, because “our community does not want to shed light on the fact that we do have a lot of prostitution and that's where the sex trafficking occurs.”
For more information, visit www.switch4216.org.
UN chief orders review of handling of claims of child abuse by French soldiers
by Sandra Laville and Ben Quinn
The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, has made a dramatic intervention in the scandal of French peacekeepers allegedly abusing children in Africa by announcing an independent external review of how his organisation handled the affair.
The move is the first public intervention by the secretary general into what has become a growing controversy for the UN. Pressure is growing on the organisation and on the French authorities to explain when and how they reacted to revelations by children in Central African Republic last year that they were being sexually exploited by French soldiers at a camp for internally displaced people.
In April the Guardian revealed that a senior UN official, Anders Kompass, had been suspended for disclosing an internal report on the alleged abuse to French prosecutors. Documents released last week, including a statement from Kompass, stated his position that he had passed the report to the French because he was concerned the UN would do nothing to stop the abuse. He has been reinstated but is still under internal investigation and could be dismissed.
On Wednesday, as the row over the scandal continued, Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for the UN chief, announced there would be an external inquiry into the whole affair.
“His [the secretary general's] intention in setting up this review is to ensure that the United Nations does not fail the victims of sexual abuse, especially when committed by those who are meant to protect them,” he said.
“There are systems that failed here. This was not handled in the way that the secretary general would want it to be handled.”
Ban Ki-moon's spokesman said the review would examine the treatment of the specific report of abuse in the Central African Republic, as well as a broad range of systemic issues related to how the UN responds to serious information of this kind.
“As has been stated over the past few weeks, the secretary general is deeply disturbed by the allegations of sexual abuse by soldiers in the Central African Republic, as well as allegations of how this was handled by the various parts of the UN system involved,” he said.
The allegations against the French troops emerged during interviews by a UN staff member with young boys in a camp for displaced people in the capital Bangui. The report from the interviews was passed in July last year to Kompass, director of field operations for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, by one of his colleagues. Kompass then passed it to the French.
He was suspended from his post in March – on the order of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – and put under internal investigation for leaking a confidential UN document. The UN said he had not followed protocol and in particular had failed to redact the identities of the children and the interviewers, potentially putting them at risk. He was reinstated after a UN appeal tribunal rules his suspension was unlawful.
Pressure has grown on Moon over the revelations, specifically over what his organisation did when it received the internal report detailing the sexual abuse last year.
In a letter to Ban, seen by the Guardian, the president of the UN staff association accused her own organisation of trying to “kill the messenger” in its treatment of Kompass.
Barbara Tavora Jainchill called for the resignation of the two senior officials who are in charge of internal investigations, Carmen Lapointe, head of the Office of Internal Oversight Services in the UN and Joan Dubinsky, chair of the organisation's ethics committee.
“I strongly hope that Ms. Lapointe and Ms. Dubinsky act with honour and tender their resignations since both of them – not the whistle-blower – failed this Organization and its staff members,” she wrote. “If they don't resign, I hope that you terminate their contracts without delay since their actions are an embarrassment to the UN in general, their offices, their fellow staff members and to you, Sir.”
Jainchill added: “I am personally very disappointed at the nonchalant, almost indifferent way that a serious crime, involving the most vulnerable of our “clients” – displaced children in a refugee camp – was (NOT) dealt with.”
French prosecutors are also under pressure over a failure to act quickly to identify and prosecute the suspected soldiers. They were passed the report by Kompass last summer and began an investigation, but it was only last month that the French began a criminal investigation into the allegations.
The French blamed the UN for refusing them access to the author of the report, saying it had taken months for the UN legal process to provide them with written answers from her to their questions. A request to interview her directly was refused.
Last month the high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein admitted that the UN could have handled the child abuse allegations differently, and said: “We could have done better,” he told a press conference in Geneva.
He admitted there had been months of delays before the UN legal department allowed the author of the report to answer questions from French prosecutors. The French were never allowed to interview her directly.
But he blamed the French – who had jurisdiction over the soldiers – for not responding sooner to the allegations.
Aids Free World, which published a series of documents relating to the case last week, said the inquiry must be “a truly external and independent inquiry”, adding that no member of existing UN staff should be appointed to investigate.
“It must be understood that top members of the secretary general's own staff will have to be subject to investigation,” the statement said.
“This must go right up to the level of under-secretaries general.”
• This article was amended on on 4 June 2015 to clarify that it was Kompass, not his colleague, who passed the report to French prosecutors.
Marion County overwhelmed by child abuse cases
by James Cherardi
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (June 3, 2015) – We were the first to tell you of the overwhelming number of child abuse cases in Marion County. We've learned those cases have flooded DCS case workers, and the additional work load has passed on to nonprofits and others, now having to pick up the slack.
“Judge Marilyn Moores described it as a tsunami of kids entering the system,” said the Executive Director of Marion County Child Advocates, Cindy Booth.
A wave consuming our child courts with thousands of new kids, and new cases every single year.
“We have just this wave of children who suddenly started appearing in juvenile court because of heroin use by their parents, mental health issues, poverty… all those things that typically bring children into the system, we've just had way more of them come into the system,” said Booth.
Booth knows of this crisis all too well. Her organization is having to pick up the overflow from an overwhelmed Department of Child Services.
“What happens when we have 1,000 more children in the system is, is that everyone is taxed, everyone is overburdened, so you're talking the juvenile court judge, the magistrates who hear, the court bailiff, the court reporters, the service providers,” she said.
As of March, there were 4,427 cases in Marion County, handled by 260 case managers. That equates to 17 cases per manager; the absolute limit allowed by the state.
In May, Marion County Juvenile Court Judge Marilyn Moores had this to say to reporters, “The children of Indianapolis are in a crisis. A crisis not of their making, a crisis they're powerless to fix and a crisis of absolutely huge proportions.”
DCS is not able to handle all the cases in Marion County. As of May, Child Advocates was serving almost 6,000 children. And the “tsunami” never stops. In May 2014, Child Advocates received 239 new cases, in May of 2015, they received 392.
“We already don't have enough volunteers and now we're really overburdened,” said Booth.
The General Assembly this session allotted $7.5 million to hire an additional 117 DCS employees. But that according to Child Advocates is likely not enough. There are so many new children added to the system every year, there will likely have to be an annual DCS case manager increase.
If you'd like to be a court appointed child advocate, or a foster parent, visit Child Advocates' website.
From the Department of Justice
Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch Delivers Remarks at The Society Shelter Safe House for Human Trafficking Victims
Good morning and thank you for an especially warm welcome. It is a pleasure to be in Latvia and a special privilege to join you today in the beautiful city of Riga. I'd like to thank the Latvian government for their hospitality – and particularly Minister of Justice [Dzintars] Rasnacs for accompanying us on our visit this afternoon. I'd also like to thank all of the impressive staff here at Safe House and recognize their outstanding commitment to public service. It is an honor to see this remarkable facility, to witness the all-too-necessary work being done here and to take inspiration from the hardworking men and women who are committed, each and every day, to improving the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the world. The individuals here are standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves; helping to reduce the toll that human trafficking inflicts on citizens both in Latvia and abroad; and restoring the promise of a bright future that everyone deserves.
The governments of both the United States and Latvia share a deep commitment to this work. Promoting international anti-trafficking efforts is one of my top priorities as Attorney General and the United States Department of Justice is pursuing a comprehensive approach to the issue. We are collaborating with the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor to create anti-trafficking coordination teams, which have significantly increased the number and quality of human trafficking investigations and prosecutions in the cities where we've deployed them. The FBI also oversees dozens of federal, state and local task forces and working groups that have led to hundreds of arrests and thousands of rescued trafficking survivors. And alongside aggressive criminal enforcement, we recognize that we must foster an environment in which victims are willing to speak without fear of reprisal, stigma, or punishment.
We do that in part by educating the community about the problem and by supporting the organizations and people trying to make a difference. I have personally seen how government and civil relief organizations can work together to stem the scourge of human trafficking. The Safe House where we gather today and Latvia's interagency anti-trafficking working group are some of the shining examples of that approach. It is heartening to see the significant assistance that Latvia provides to trafficking victims through state-funded rehabilitation programs and I am especially pleased that the Latvian government has nearly doubled the funding for such programs in just the last two years. Dedicated efforts by the government and civil society organizations are helping victims, both male and female, to recover and break free from the trauma of sexual abuse, labor exploitation, coerced marriages and emotional and physical violence that could have permanently diverted their paths in life. Through innovative programs like the Safe House, victims are reclaiming their futures and forging promising paths forward.
Latvia's efforts to support trafficking victims are vitally important and they are significantly strengthened as a result of the tireless work of someone I would like to personally recognize – and to thank – today. As many of you know, Gita Miruskina is a lawyer here at the Safe House with a record that speaks volumes about her unwavering dedication, her uncommon depths of compassion and sympathy and her well-known talents for constructively assisting those who need her help the most. Over the past six years, Gita has helped more than 150 trafficking victims and represented them in nearly 30 cases. She has worked persistently to hone and expand her victim-centered approach, to lobby for heightened protection for trafficking victims and stronger penalties for traffickers and to raise awareness among government officials and the public about emerging trafficking threats in Latvia and around the world.
That's why the United States Department of State has chosen Gita to be formally named as one of its anti-trafficking heroes – an extraordinary and well-deserved honor that Secretary of State [John] Kerry will personally bestow in Washington, DC, later this summer. Gita is the first Latvian to be named an anti-trafficking hero and I know I speak for President Obama and our entire administration when I tell you how proud we are of you and how inspired we are by all that you have accomplished.
The United States is proud not only to recognize Gita's achievements, but also to support the broader Latvian efforts to combat human trafficking that she exemplifies. We extend that support in a variety of ways, including trainings for law enforcement officials investigating trafficking and grants for public-awareness campaigns – like the educational trailer you see here in the courtyard. And we are ready and willing to do more. Prevention and rehabilitation efforts are essential, but exercising the rule of law through prosecutions and convictions is a necessary complement. Achieving the full measure of justice for trafficking victims means rigorously investigating and diligently prosecuting those who have inflicted their trauma. The United States is prepared to assist any country, including Latvia, in reviewing its legal procedures for trafficking cases, in expediting prosecutions and in securing convictions fairly, properly and efficiently.
I know that the work ahead will not be easy. But when we stand together, work together and strive together – as people of principle, as leaders of conviction and as nations of high ideals – no challenge or setback can deter our efforts in service of this worthy cause. I thank you all, once again, for your leadership, your collaboration and your friendship. And I look forward to all that the United States and the Republic of Latvia will continue to achieve together in the months and years to come.
From the Department of Homeland Security
Statement by Deputy Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas on the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015
I applaud the Congress for its bipartisan support and passage of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015. Under the leadership of Secretary Johnson, we will work quickly and comprehensively to fulfill the promise of this new law, which improves upon the efforts of several federal departments and agencies to combat human trafficking, and establishes two new provisions to further the Department of Homeland Security's efforts.
The Act recognizes and authorizes ongoing activities of the Human Exploitation Rescue Operative Corps – a program currently operating within the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – which recruits and trains wounded, ill, or injured active duty service members and military veterans for employment to support law enforcement in the area of child exploitation. The Act also formally authorizes ICE's Cyber Crimes Center, which plays an integral role in supporting cyber investigations related to child exploitation, online financial fraud and identity theft. Additionally, under the new law, relevant DHS personnel will receive regular training on how to effectively deter, detect, and disrupt human trafficking.
These provisions are significant as we advance our efforts every day to combat human trafficking. The DHS Blue Campaign will continue to unite the efforts of our components, working in collaboration with law enforcement, government, non-governmental and private organizations, to protect the basic right of freedom and to bring those who exploit human lives to justice.
5 reasons why domestic violence isn't inevitable
by Regina Rooney
Each year in Maine, domestic violence accounts for approximately half of the state's homicides. Every 1 hour and 35 minutes, a domestic violence assault is reported to Maine law enforcement — and many other assaults go unreported.
With statistics like these, it can be easy to become discouraged about the prospect of never ending abuse for good. But the news isn't all bad; in fact, we have reason to be hopeful for the future:
Public awareness is translating into action. Each of us has a part to play in ending abuse. More and more, communities and individuals are figuring out what their roles should be, and then acting on them. Maine employers and hospitals are instituting protocols to respond to employees and patients when abuse is present. Cosmetology schools are training their students in how to respond and refer when clients disclose abuse in the salon. Individual citizens are volunteering as advocates, writing letters to the editor and throwing fundraisers. It will take broad support from across sectors for us to truly send the message that abuse is wrong and is not welcome in our communities, and slowly but surely we are getting there.
People are asking the right questions. Asking “Why doesn't the victim just leave” is dangerous: Up to 75 percent of domestic violence homicides happen at the time of separation, or after the victim has left. It's not that people can't escape abusive relationships — they do, every day — but we must not fall into the trap of assuming leaving is the solution to the problem. Thanks in part to the online campaign #WhyIStayed, more people outside of the advocacy community are understanding the need to shift this conversation. They are now asking “How can we help survivors be safe?” and “How can we hold offenders accountable for their actions?” Those are the right questions, and the ones that will lead to ending abuse.
Children are resilient. We have known for many years that exposure to domestic violence is harmful for kids, even if they themselves are not directly experiencing the abuse. Emerging research is shedding light on the complexity of abuse's impact on children's lives, and is teaching us about protective factors — in other words, the things kids need to recover from their exposure. The single most important factor in helping a child deal with the trauma of domestic violence? A strong relationship with at least one loving, caring adult. Frequently this support comes from the non-abusive parent, who often works hard to give the children a normal, happy life, even amidst the abuse. But other adults — grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, coaches — can also play a crucial role. By educating ourselves about what children need and supporting kids and their non-abusive parents, we are helping ensure that what was once thought of as an inevitable cycle of abuse is broken for the next generation.
We are targeting our resources. Increasingly, Maine's advocacy, law enforcement and justice systems are utilizing specialized approaches to identify the highest risk cases of domestic violence, and then are focusing particular energy and resources on those cases. One example is the Ontario Domestic Abuse Risk Assessment (ODARA), which went into use by all of Maine's law enforcement officers on January 1 of this year and predicts the risk that someone arrested for domestic violence will re-offend. By focusing our collective attention on the highest-risk cases, we are better able to intervene to keep families safe, before the worst happens.
Help is available. The member agencies of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence continue to offer 24/7 access to advocacy services throughout the state. Survivors can pick up the phone at any time, dial their local resource center or the statewide helpline (1.866.834.4357) and reach help. The members of the Wabanaki Women's Coalition provide response services to Maine's tribal communities, and United Somali Women of Maine exists to support the new Mainer communities dealing with domestic and sexual violence. Together, Maine's advocates are working around the clock to provide the support, safety planning and services that survivors need to be safe.
It is true that we have a long way to go to end domestic violence in Maine, and too many people are suffering right now from abuse. But recent years have brought progress. Fresh energy, ideas and partnerships have come from different sectors of the community, offering new opportunities for outreach and intervention. Advocates continue to learn and adapt practices to suit the evolving needs of survivors.
Together, we can make Maine a place where domestic violence doesn't exist. We just have to keep on working.
Childhood trauma gets under the skin
Long-term changes in immune function caused by childhood trauma could explain increased vulnerability to a range of health problems in later life, according to new research by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King's College London and the NIHR Maudsley BRC.
The study, published today in Molecular Psychiatry , found heightened inflammation across three blood biomarkers in adults who had been victims of childhood trauma. High levels of inflammation can lead to serious and potentially life-threatening conditions such as type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease as well as the onset of psychiatric disorders.
Childhood trauma was defined by the researchers as experiencing sexual, physical or emotional abuse, neglect, or separation from caregivers before the age of 17. Previous research has shown that childhood trauma increases vulnerability to several psychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety, psychosis and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as several chronic physical health problems, including arthritis, cardiovascular disease, lung disease and cancer. However, the biological pathway mediating vulnerability for these health problems has, until now, been unclear.
The researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 25 studies which previously investigated the association between childhood traumatic experiences and markers of inflammation in adulthood. The final sample comprised more than 16,000 people, including healthy participants and patients with psychiatric disorders or physical illnesses.
As well as the association between childhood trauma and increased blood inflammation, the researchers found that different types of trauma - emotional, physical or sexual abuse - affected these biomarkers in different ways. For instance, physical and sexual abuse was associated with significantly increased levels of two biomarkers - tumour necrosis factor-a (TNF-a) and interleukin-6 (IL-6), whereas heightened levels of c-reactive protein (CRP) appeared to be primarily related to parental absence during early child development.
Dr Valeria Mondelli from the Department of Psychological Medicine at the IoPPN, said: 'Our findings are important not only because they help us to understand more about why people with a history of childhood trauma may develop psychiatric disorders or physical problems in adulthood, but also because they open the possibility of prevention and treatment strategies for these individuals. For instance, using these inflammatory markers might make it possible to identify victims of childhood trauma who are at higher risk of developing physical or mental health problems, and to test potential treatments which could decrease inflammation in these individuals.'
Dr Mondelli added: 'We also found that different types of trauma are associated with different types of inflammation. While there is no clear reason for this, there are several factors which may offer some insight, including the age and length of exposure to childhood trauma and the victim's relationship with the perpetrator. However, further research into this and the molecular mechanisms behind these associations is warranted.'
She concluded: 'Understanding the biological consequences of childhood trauma may be crucial for identifying why some individuals go on to develop physical or psychiatric disorders following these traumatic experiences, whereas other remain resilient in face of similar traumatic exposure.'
Nearly one-third of early adulthood depression could be linked to bullying in teenage years
Bullying in teenage years is strongly associated with depression later on in life, suggests new research published in The BMJ this week.
Depression is a major public health problem with high economic and societal costs. There is a rapid increase in depression from childhood to adulthood and one contributing factor could be bullying by peers. But the link between bullying at school and depression in adulthood is still unclear due to limitations in previous research.
So a team of scientists, led by Lucy Bowes at the University of Oxford, carried out one of the largest studies on the association between bullying by peers in teenage years and depression in early adulthood.
They undertook a longitudinal observational study that examined the relationship between bullying at 13 years and depression at 18 years.
They analysed bullying and depression data on 3,898 participants in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), a UK community based birth cohort.
The participants completed a self-report questionnaire at 13 years about bullying and at 18 years completed an assessment that identified individuals who met internationally agreed criteria for depressive illness.
Of the 683 teenagers who reported frequent bullying at more than once a week at 13 years, 14.8% were depressed at 18 years. And of the 1446 teenagers who had some bullying of 1-3 times over six months at 13 years, 7.1% were depressed at 18 years.
Only 5.5% of teenagers who did not experience bullying were depressed at 18 years.
Around 10.1% of frequently bullied teenagers experienced depression for more than two years, compared with 4.1% from the non-bullied group.
Overall, 2668 participants had data on bullying and depression as well as other factors that may have caused depression such as previous bullying in childhood, mental and behavioral problems, family set up and stressful life events.
When these factors were taken into account, frequently bullied teenagers still had around a twofold increase in odds of depression compared with those who did not experience bullying. This association was the same for both males and females.
The most common type of bullying was name calling - 36% experienced this, while 23% had belongings taken.
Most teenagers never told a teacher (41%-74%) or a parent (24%-51%), but up to 75% told an adult about physical bullying such as being hit or beaten up.
If this were a causal relationship up to 30% of depression in early adulthood could be attributable to bullying in teenage years, explain the authors, adding that bullying could make a substantial contribution to the overall burden of depression.
While this is an observational study and no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, they say that interventions to reduce bullying in schools could reduce depression in later life.
In an accompanying editorial, Maria M Ttofi from the University of Cambridge writes that this study has clear anti bullying messages that should be endorsed by parents, schools and practitioners. She also calls for more research to establish the causal links between bullying and depression, and to drive specific interventions to reduce victimisation.
Ed Sheeran reveals why he refused to kiss nine-year-old female fan
by Toyin Owoseje
Ed Sheeran may be one of the most approachable and down-to-earth artists on the music scene but even he sometimes has to say 'no'.
The flame-haired star has revealed that he was forced to reject a nine-year-old fan after her mother asked him to be her first kiss.
During a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, the 24-year-old singer admitted that he has received some weird requests and "parents are the ones that do the things that I think are odd."
"There was a woman in San Francisco, she wanted me to be her daughter's first kiss – and her daughter was nine," Sheeran explained. "She was like, 'Well, Carrie Underwood did it for this 11-year-old boy last week!'"
But the Thinking Out Loud hitmaker quickly hit back with a reasonable theory on why it wasn't a good idea.
"If Carrie Underwood kisses an 11-year-old boy, he goes into school the next day and they go, 'Oh, you absolute lad!' If a nine-year-old girl goes into school and goes, 'I got kissed by a 24-year-old yesterday,' police are being called, you know?"
Meanwhile, Sheeran is still on a high after receiving the 'Songwriter of the year' honour at the Ivor Novello awards. At the ceremony he discussed with Gigwise his upcoming tour.
"I think the key is that it hasn't been done before, and that will be the intriguing thing. Even if it's totally shit, it will still be a spectacle," Sheeran told Gigwise.
"I've spent a fair bit of money on making it look good, so it's going to look good and sound good, and the show's going to work. If you're a fan of me, you'll like it. But I imagine that people who aren't fans of me who are sent to review it, probably won't."
Sexually abused children get renovated help center in Berrien County
by Zach Crenshaw
A Berrien County center is expanding to keep up with the number of sexually abused children it helps counsel.
Officials broke ground on an improved facility today in St. Joseph.
The Berrien County "Children's Assessment Center" has seen such an increase in abuse reports... they need more room to meet the needs of the children.
Before any groundbreaking, work on the Berrien County Children's Assessment Center was being done - that's because time is of the essence.
"We really couldn't wait much longer," said Jamie Rossow, the center's Executive Director. "We opened the door and 2002 and saw 67 kids, and last year we saw over 500."
Those children have all been sexually abused in some way.
"We see anything from fondling and exposure to pornography, to probably anything you can imagine could happen to a child with sexual abuse," said Rossow.
The center conducts interviews with those children, which helps law enforcement and the prosecutor's office.
"An interview can be done here one time with the police officer [and] prosecutor sitting on the other side of a window listening to the interview. While professional, trained people are doing that interview," said Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey.
"It's just an invaluable asset to our county to have that investigative technique," said Berrien County Prosecutor Mike Sepic.
Therapists also provide free, long-term counseling the children and their families.
"They can come out on the other side and leave really productive lives if they get the services that they need."
The expansion is providing more individual therapy rooms, as well as group counseling room and mock courtroom, to help children get used to testifying when their case is prosecuted.
As the new concrete is laid, therapists at the center look forward to using the renovated building to help children get back a strong foundation for the rest of their lives.
The center's expansion is being funded entirely by corporate and individual donations.
They have raised nearly $800,000 but still need $400,000 to pay for the $1.2 million project.
The center serves Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren counties.
The children are currently being seen at medical center until construction wraps up in October.
If you are interested in learning more or helping with the project you can visit their website: http://www.berrienchild.org/
How to talk to your children about sexual abuse
by Angela Rose
The controversy surrounding reality TV star Josh Duggar's sexually abusive past is a stark reminder of the crucial need for sexual abuse education in our communities. The eldest Duggar son who appears on TLC's "19 Kids and Counting,” Duggar -- now 27 -- has admitted to molesting girls as a teenager, including some of his sisters.
After allegations surfaced, Duggar issued an apology on Facebook. His parents, Michelle and Jim Bob, are scheduled to address the controversy in an interview Wednesday.
Sadly, the story of sexual abuse at the hands of a known and trusted person is not unique -- it happens in homes across the country and its impact is immeasurable. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old. This type of trauma puts children at significant risk for a wide range of physical, psychological and social struggles.
Yet I have heard countless stories of parents who are woefully underprepared to deal with sexual abuse.
The recent media storm regarding how the Duggars have handled this scandal should prompt parents to understand the issue and recognize the signs of potential sexual abuse in their own children. Early intervention can greatly improve the healing process. Here are seven tips to help parents feel more equipped to prevent the situation and handle it if it does occur.
Talk to your child
Educating your child about sexual assault is paramount. “Stranger-danger” used to be the typical conversation at home, yet most often, it's someone we know and trust who commits sexual assault crimes.
Grooming is the process of the perpetrator creating an emotional bond with the victim to establish trust. This is especially relevant when the child knows the offender. Let your child know that they can tell you if anyone acts or touches them inappropriately.
Avoid “good touch/bad touch”
The traditional “good touch/bad touch” conversation can be confusing for children because it can create a deeper sense of shame. At the time, sexual abuse may actually feel “good,” even though it can cause deep negative feelings over time. It's better to use “safe touch” vs. “unsafe touch,” which removes the stigma of good and bad. As an example, you can point out body parts covered by a bathing suit. Moreover, the term safe/unsafe secrets should be discussed, because perpetrators often use secrets to silence their victims.
Trust your gut
If you feel that something is wrong, it probably is. Many perpetrators trick the family and the child into thinking that they have good intentions, when they are really working on gaining the victim's trust.
Know the resources
Many counties have support services for survivors of sexual assault, including counseling and protection for reporting the crime to authorities. One of these resources is the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) who recruit, train and supervise volunteers serving as powerful voices for abused and neglected children.
Recognize the signs
Warning signs of possible sexual abuse include:
Know how to support
Studies show that if the first person a survivor opens up to reacts well, their response can greatly impact the victim's healing process.
Believe anyone who discloses sexual abuse to you
Avoid language that blames the victim
Encourage professional counseling
Let the victim know that they are not alone and that healing is possible
Reassure them that it was not their fault
The topic of sexual abuse is not easy to discuss, but if we continue to ignore it, we continue to fail our children. Not only do parents need to be educated, it is also crucial we educate kids because family members can often be perpetrators.
PAVE Ambassador Erin Merryn, who spoke to the Duggar family about sexual abuse, is working across the country on Erin's Law. It requires age-appropriate sexual abuse prevention education in grades K-12. As an outspoken survivor of childhood sexual abuse, Merryn has been a tireless advocate on these issues. In an interview with CNN last week, Don Lemon also bravely shared his experience as a survivor of sexual violence. Merryn and Lemon remind us all that there is no shame in being a survivor. We owe it to our children not to brush these crimes under the rug.
Your voice is powerful: Use to shatter the silence of sexual violence.
Angela Rose is founder of PAVE: Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment, a national nonprofit that works to prevent sexual and domestic violence. She started the organization after having been abducted and sexually assaulted as a teenager. She is the author of “Hope, Healing & Happiness: Going Inward to Transform Your Life.” She is on Twitter.
Publicly Shaming Our Kids – Good Parenting or Emotional Abuse?
by Brooke Dean
Making the rounds lately on social media are videos of parents publicly punishing or shaming their children when they do something wrong. Some seem harmless, like parents making their children carry signs that read “I lied to my mother” or “I cheated on an exam.” But I've also seen a video of an African-American father punching and slapping his teenaged son in the face because his son wanted to join a gang. The father's intention was to show how “soft” his son was and that he was no where near “gang material.” And others show parents shaving their son's head, or giving them “grandpa” haircuts because apparently the child thought he was “grown” and doing things that were inappropriate for his age.
And more often than not, these videos usually involve African-American parents and their children. I'm not saying White parents don't do this, but it seems to be an overwhelming trend of these videos going viral when it pertains to African-Americans, and I wonder why WE of all communities feel this is necessary.
Now I'm not saying parents shouldn't discipline their children when they lie, cheat, skip school, smoke weed, fight or want to join a gang. Making sure our children go down the right path since there is a war waged against them daily is imperative now more than ever. Tamir Rice, Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin – our children (especially our sons) are being gunned down at an alarming rate, so I understand wanting to set them straight now so that “they” don't get them later.
But when setting them straight and ushering a punishment, is it necessary to make a video of it and put it on YouTube, Facebook or Instagram for all to see? My guess is that parents assume that if they publicly shame or embarrass their child, they'll learn their lesson and never commit that infraction again. But could a parent be doing more harm than good?
Parenting is hard, I know. There is no right or wrong way to parent a child, and one could argue that these parents know what will get through to their child to get them to act right. But in many cases, I wonder if the parents aren't publicly shaming their child to correct their behavior, but to get kudos and accolades for being a good parent. I read the comments section of these posts and many applaud the parents for their “tough love” and not putting up with any nonsense. But do you need the approval of friends, family or strangers to discipline your child? Since when is humiliating your child for the world to see protecting them from trigger happy cops? Are you building them up or tearing them down while you look for “likes” and cosigns from people who are happy to see your child traumatized on social media?
I have a son, and I know that I will inevitably have to discipline him for something. While the jury is still out on whether I'll spank him or not since he's just a baby, I don't know what types of discipline I'll employ to teach him a lesson. I do know that if I DO spank him, it'll be a last resort. My mother didn't believe in spanking. She believed in talking to us and explaining why our actions were inappropriate while also explaining the consequences of our actions. She also believed in taking privileges away – no phone, TV, friends over, etc. Luckily that was enough for us to fall in line.
I know all children are different, so one form of punishment may not fit all when disciplining a child. And I understand that some parents feel that spanking that behind first and talking later is all that is needed to get that kid's mind right. Most kids I know who were spanked appreciate their parents for laying hands on them, and even claim they were better off for it and turned out to be wonderful, well-adjusted adults.
But beating your kids on social media – is THAT necessary? I'm not saying don't punish the child. I just wonder if doing so publicly can backfire on you. Nadine Bean, a professor of social work at West Chester University says the videos “are a way to gain temporary fame and kudos. But the impact of psychological maltreatment is well-documented … and lifelong. They can take the form of insults, threats, public shaming, belittling, being emotionally neglectful, being insensitive, cruel, etc.” While it's a parent's job to discipline their child, it's also their job to make them feel safe and protected. In a world where they are looked at as inferior and used for target practice, the last thing I'd want my child to feel is that I was against him too. If he's not safe at school, going to the store for some Skittles or simply walking down the street, at the VERY least he should feel safe in his own home and not feel bullied by his or her own parents.
Shaming and humiliating children under the guise of good parenting says more about the parents to me than it does about the child and whatever the child did. Most times, it seems that these parents are doing this to say, “See, look at me, I'm punishing my child therefore I'm a good parent.” There's an insecurity there that makes them embarrass their child in exchange for applause for “not taking no stuff.” And since most times the parents are blamed when a child does something wrong, especially in the Black community, I feel we have a tendency to overcorrect the problem because we feel inadequate as parents. But emotionally abusing your child so that he can face further humiliation and ridicule can have longer lasting negative effects that can lead to stress, depression, substance abuse and low self-esteem. Is it really worth it?
I'm all for finding ways to discipline a child, but do so in a way that doesn't dehumanize him. With #blacklivesmatter as our mantra, it seems our children need us to be their strongest allies, not their enemies. Punish your child yes, but do it privately, talk to him/her and get to the root of the problem from the inside out. You may find that you are part of the problem, and therefore can most certainly be the biggest part of the solution.
Missing kids now seen as possible victims, not runaways
by Jessie Balmert
One of every six runaways in the U.S. was likely a victim of sex trafficking in 2014.
With sexual exploitation that prevalent, Ohio police have changed how they look for missing people. Everyone who has trained to become a police officer since mid-2013 has received 12 hours of instruction on how to spot signs of human trafficking, said John Gibson, criminal justice program director at Zane State College. Additional training for current officers is available through the state attorney general.
"The issue of child sex trafficking is something we are becoming more and more aware of. We don't look at a child as a runaway but as a possible victim," said Robert Lowery, vice president with the missing children division of the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children.
Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy students learn about Anthony Willoughby, of Toledo, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison for forcing a 16-year-old runaway into prostitution. They also are taught about a Columbus man sentenced to 12 years in prison for recruiting several women to serve as escorts.
Trafficking is one of several possibilities law enforcement is exploring in the hunt for three missing Chillicothe women.
Officers are taught that certain locations such as malls, nail salons and bus stops are places where traffickers can recruit victims, Gibson said. They also learn about red flags of human trafficking, such as chained doors, large amounts of cash on site, appointment books or ledgers and suspicious behavior among victims like lacking personal identification.
The training was mandated by a 2012 law, which also helped victims of human trafficking avoid criminal penalties.
In 2014, law enforcement agencies across the state conducted 85 human trafficking investigations, leading to 98 arrests, according to the Ohio Attorney General Office's annual report. Police also identified 181 potential human trafficking victims last year.
People living on the streets are vulnerable to offers from sellers, buyers and traffickers because they need a place to stay and food. Thirty percent of children in shelters and 70 percent of street youth have been victims of sexual exploitation, according to the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission manual.
Children who runaway from foster care are among the most likely to become victims of trafficking. About 68 percent of likely sex trafficking victims spent time in foster care, Lowery said.
"They are very vulnerable to victimization," he added. A recently signed federal law would require missing foster children be reported to law enforcement and the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children within 24 hours.
Officers are taught to identify whether a person is lost, missing voluntarily or missing involuntarily. Looking at past history of running away or abuse can be helpful in making that call, said Jeff Sowards, commander of the basic police academy at Central Ohio Technical College.
"These children are much more likely to be trafficked if they have a background in emotional abuse as opposed to being upset," said Sowards, who retired from Columbus police. "If there are patterns (of abuse) at home, the chances of people being trafficked is much more likely."
Where can I get help?
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center can be reached at 1-888-373-7888. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children can be reached at 1-800-843-5678.
You can report suspicious behavior to local police. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has an online form at report.cybertip.org.
Advocacy group says dozens of corpses of trafficking victims wash to Myanmar shore
by The Associated Press
YANGON, Myanmar – An advocacy group says dozens of decomposed corpses have washed to shore in Myanmar's western state of Rakhine in the last month.
Chris Lewa of the Arakan Project, which has been monitoring activities in the isolated, northern tip of Rakhine for more than a decade, said Wednesday 47 bodies washed up on beaches from May 12-24.
Some were believed to be Rohingya Muslims trying to escape trafficking ships parked off the western coast, while many more were Bangladeshi.
Myanmar presidential spokesman Ye Htut and other officials were in meetings Wednesday and could not immediately be reached for comment.
Rakhine's chief minister, Maung Maung Ohn, had no word on the bodies, but said his office was checking into the report.
Lewa believes most victims drowned while trying to swim to shore.
Hastert case shows need for Illinois sex-abuse hotline, survivors group says
by Meredith Rodriguez
Asupport group for clergy sex abuse victims presented a letter to Lisa Madigan's office Monday asking the attorney general to set up a hotline for adults who have suffered sex abuse as children.
The group also sent letters Monday to the Illinois Association of School Administrators and several Boy Scout councils in the Chicago area, asking them to set up hotlines.
"We want victims to find information and resources and learn that they are not alone," the group wrote in the letter to Madigan.
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, referred to the recent federal charges against former House Speaker Dennis Hastert. According to his indictment, the former Illinois congressman agreed to pay $3.5 million in apparent hush money to a longtime acquaintance who once lived in Yorkville, where Hastert taught English and coached wrestling from 1965 to 1981. The payments were made to the acquaintance to "compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against individual A," according to the indictment.
Details of the misconduct aren't spelled out in Hastert court documents, but a day after the news broke, law enforcement sources said he was paying off a former male student to conceal sexual abuse from decades earlier and that a second person raised similar allegations that corroborated the account of the initial victim.
The indictment against Hastert can be "a watershed moment" for those molested by teachers, coaches and scout leaders, SNAP President Barbara Blaine said Monday at a news conference outside the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago.
"We believe this unfortunate moment actually creates an opportunity for Illinois," Blaine said.
Blaine also advocated for prosecutors to disclose more details about the alleged wrongdoing, saying that may deter others from committing or concealing child sex crimes. Often, details are kept anonymous to protect the identity of victims, Blaine said.
"The bottom line is those are legal, but we believe it is against the public interest," Blaine said.
This is the first time SNAP has spoken out on a case that does not involve a priest, but the issues are similar whether an abuser is a priest, teacher or scout leader, Blaine said.
"We are a support group for survivors run by survivors," Blaine said. "We want to help everybody we can. Mostly we want to protect other kids."
The attorney general's office has a hotline for crime victims at 1-800-228-3368 for voice and 1-877-398-1130 for text. The division that runs the hotline often refers callers to the state's 27 rape crisis centers, spokeswoman Natalie Bauer Luce wrote in an email.
"We do receive calls to that hotline from people who have survived crimes of sexual assault seeking assistance," Bauer Luce said. "Those calls can be made anonymously."
Conference will focus on surviving child sex abuse
For the third consecutive year, several Wisconsin organizations have partnered to put together Paths to Healing, a one-day conference on surviving childhood sex abuse that will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, June 11, at the Goodman Community Center in Madison.
Sponsored by Solidarity with Child Sex Abuse Victims/Survivors, Rape Crisis Center, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault (WCASA), OutReach Inc., Canopy Center, Proud Theater and UNIDOS the conference will focus on healing and survival, particularly among male survivors.
Matt Sandusky will be the keynote speaker this year. Sandusky is a motivational speaker, child sex abuse survivor, co-founder of Peaceful Hearts Foundation and an advocate and activist for the issue of child sex abuse. He is the son of convicted child sex offender Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant coach at Penn State University.
The Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal was one of the most highly publicized sex abuse cases in history. During the trial, Matt Sandusky disclosed that his adopted father, Jerry Sandusky, had sexually abused him between the ages of 10 and 16. His disclosure interview to police was leaked by the media, and he and his family were placed in the center of the media firestorm. After that experience, he decided to take on the role of advocate for sex abuse survivors.
Sandusky works to give survivors a voice to raise awareness. He also shows survivors there is hope and that healing does happen. By speaking publicly, he hopes to bring more awareness to the fact that males are sexually abused and that help is needed. As the co-founder of Peaceful Hearts Foundation, along with his wife, Kim, he works to promote stronger statute of limitation laws, education for children and adults, stronger mandated reporting laws and other legislation, and has created a survivor fund to help alleviate the costs of treatment for child sex abuse survivors.
The conference will open with socializing and networking from 8 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. That will be followed by an introduction to the day's events by Dane County Supervisor Kyle Richmond at 8:45 a. m. Sandusky's keynote speech will follow and officially kick off the day's presentations. Throughout the day, there will be breakout sessions geared to professionals and survivors, with a lunch midway through the day. The afternoon will close with a community panel discussion, which Sandusky will also join, on engaging and empowering survivors.
Breakout sessions are split into a community track and a survivor track. Attendees are welcome to choose between tracks.
Sessions in the community track will be Latino survivors by Veronica Lazos of UNIDOS Against Domestic Violence; transgender survivors by Michael Munson of Forge; and human trafficking by Tyler Schueffner or Briarpatch.
Survivor track sessions will be coping skills by Lucy McLellan and Owen Karcher or Canopy Center; mindfulness meditation by Amanda Hellenbrand or Red Tail Hypnosis; and healthy boundaries by Shelby Mitchell of Safe Haven/
The conference started in 2013 when survivor Callen Harty decided he wanted to bring the film “Boys and Men Healing” to Madison. He approached Kelly Anderson at the Rape Crisis Center, and together they decided to expand that idea into a one-day conference on survival. He then contacted other organizations for sponsorship and support, and several decided to partner to put on this event. Harty, Anderson, Angie Rehling of OutReach, and Peter Fiala and Naomi Takahashi of WCASA comprised the planning group this year.
The sponsoring organizations are nonprofit, so funding is always needed to ensure expenses are covered. Donations may be mailed to OutReach Inc., 600 Williamson St., Suite P-1, Madison, WI 53703. Checks should be made out to OutReach but must be marked for Paths to Healing to ensure the funds go to the right account.
The cost of the conference is $40 in advance or $50 at the door and covers the entire day, including lunch. For more information on the conference, visit the WCASA website (www.wcasa.org) and click on the events link or visit the Facebook event page, Paths to Healing. Advance registration is through the website or contact WCASA directly. Some scholarships are available.
For more information or questions, call Peter Fiala at WCASA at 257-1516 or Harty at 469-6686.
Art Therapy as a Treatment for Childhood Sexual Abuse and Trauma
by Dr. Michelle Hintz
Given the recent high profile instances of sexual abuse of minors, including Speaker Hastert and Josh Duggar of TV fame, the use of art therapy in cases of sexual abuse of minors is timely. The news here is good although the root cause is a blight.
Art therapy can be defined as psychotherapy through the use of art media. In art therapy, the goal is not to find one's inner Picasso. In fact, the end product does not matter much; it is the process of creation that is beneficial to a patient.
Used to treat a range of issues in children and adults, from mental illness to trauma and more, art therapy can involve all types of art supplies and methods, depending on what the therapist deems appropriate. One thing we can take from the recent news about the Duggar clan is that it is important to be aware of the prevalence of child sexual abuse, which occurs in all socio-demographic groups, as well as how we can help survivors.
Sexual abuse can result in devastating mood, attachment, and behavioral disorders, as well as PTSD. In any case of suspected or confirmed sexual abuse, trained and licensed professionals should be brought in to promote recovery.
Effective Treatment Counters Lingering Effects
As a relatively new but extremely effective method for helping abused children through trauma, art therapy is especially useful for children because it is often difficult for them to talk about their experience.
“Ginger”, an eight year-old victim of molestation, came to therapy feeling conflicted about her feelings towards adults. She had already spoken with investigators and therapists about her abuse, was appointed a Guardian Ad Litem, and was recently reunited after a months-long ordeal and temporarily living with relatives. In recent months, however, Ginger's grades slipped and her behavior became erratic and unpredictable. She was prone to moodiness and demanding. Above all, she was extremely guarded and mistrusting of anyone she perceived as having a role of caring for her.
Art therapy gave Ginger a way to voice her pain and sort out the conflicting feelings she had towards those who were supposed to love and protect her. Art therapy processes of molding clay sculptures, working with sand tray figures, and creating collages were opportunities to create safe spaces for her to explore feelings.
Often the least stressful way to explore anger, fear, sadness, and other threatening emotions is through art. Children are able to give a shape and form to these feelings, which is the first step in learning how to cope and overcome them. It helps teach them how to express themselves and begin developing a sense of self. For instance, Ginger initially identified with more timid and defenseless animals, then her animal themes shifted toward animals with more of a commanding presence and an ability to assert themselves. Ginger learned healthier boundaries and expanded her ability to express herself more directly after art therapy.
The imagination of children makes art a natural act of expression for them, an intuitive way to get what they're feeling to the surface so that they can learn to work through it. Hopefully, learning this method of expression at a young age will stick with them, strengthening their coping skills as they move ahead through life.
Child abuse costs E Asia, Pacific $209 billion a year - U.N. report
by Alex Whiting
LONDON, June 2 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Child abuse and neglect are costing countries in East Asia and the Pacific an estimated $209 billion a year, equivalent to 2 percent of the region's GDP, researchers said on Tuesday in the region's first study of the economic impact of abuse.
Child abuse affects victims' education, long-term physical and mental health and work performance, and increases the risk of adult aggression, violence and criminality, the researchers said.
Some maltreatment is preventable. Earlier studies in the United States and Europe, cited by the researchers, found that the right forms of prevention can reduce severe forms of maltreatment by up to 50 percent.
"We all know that violence against children must stop because it is morally wrong. This research shows that inaction about violence results in serious economic costs to countries and communities," the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) regional director for East Asia and the Pacific, Daniel Toole, said in a statement.
"Governments need to take urgent action to address violence against children, both for the sake of the children themselves and for the wellbeing of future generations," he added.
UNICEF commissioned international experts to carry out the research. They aggregated data from 364 previous studies of neglect, physical, sexual and emotional abuse, and the impact of witnessing domestic violence, and estimated the costs involved.
The most common form of abuse in the region is emotional, which affects 42 percent of girls in high income countries. In China alone it affects some two thirds of children aged 3 to 6 years old.
It also costs the most - $65.9 billion - followed by physical and sexual abuse (costing $39.9 billion a year each), neglect ($32.4 billion), and witnessing domestic violence ($31 billion).
East Asia has one of the world's highest levels of ill-health caused by child sexual abuse.
About one third of men and boys have experienced physical abuse in lower middle income countries throughout the Pacific and East Asian region, and 22 percent of women and girls have experienced sexual abuse.
A separate study carried out in Cambodia recently found that over 50 percent of children experience at least one form of violence before the age of 18. About a quarter of Cambodian children had been emotionally abused and 5 percent sexually abused.
"All children have the right to live free from violence, which harms their physical and mental growth and inhibits the growth of their society and economies," Toole said.
"Violence against children often takes place behind closed doors but it is preventable when people come together and say loudly and clearly that this is not acceptable," he added.
The East Asian and Pacific research is published in the journal "Child Abuse and Neglect".
What Beau Biden Wanted Everyone To Know About The Issue That Defined His Career
by Kay Steiger
Beau Biden, son of the vice president, died tragically at the age of 46 from brain cancer on Saturday, but some may not realize that a cause Biden devoted himself to was trying to raise awareness about child sexual abuse.
While Biden served as attorney general in Delaware, a position to which he was elected in 2006, he brought a successful indictment against Dr. Earl Bradley in 2010. The pediatrician was charged with 471 felony counts of child abuse involving 102 girls and one boy. Bradley was convicted in 2011, but sought appeal of his case on the grounds of ineffective counsel last year.
“I cannot say certain things that I am feeling, and I am feeling a great deal. I am determined to see that this defendant will never, ever be in a position again to hurt another child,” Biden said in a statement following the indictment.
Biden became something of a national spokesman on the issue, even speaking about the crimes of Penn State's former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. (His father, Joe Biden, was an early supporter of the Violence Against Women Act, which targeted domestic violence.)
“It's adults' responsibility to protect kids. It's not the kids' responsibility to protect themselves from these predators…. There need to be consequences for violating the law,” he said when interviewed by ABC News.
He also penned an op-ed for the News-Journal, highlighting his work with Darkness to Light Foundation's “Stewards of Children” program and its partnership with the state of Delaware. The program teaches “adults how to spot the signs of child abuse and the importance of immediately reporting the abuse to authorities.”
According to the foundation, nearly one in ten children suffers from childhood sexual abuse, with about one in seven girls and one in 25 boys experiencing such abuse before they turn 18. For reasons that are unclear, the identified incidents of child sexual abuse have declined about 47 percent from 1993 to 2005-2006. The Department of Justice has found similar statistics.
One of the reasons that childhood sexual abuse is so difficult to tackle is that an estimated 90 precent of victims know their abuser and 30 percent are abused by family members. Sometimes children are abused by older children. Yet just 38 percent of victims disclose the fact that they have been sexually abused — and far fewer incidents are reported to authorities. Darkness to Light further points out that not all abusers are pedophiles, and there are “situational” abusers who often begin abusing children later in life. LGBT youth are at far greater risk of experiencing childhood sexual abuse , perhaps because abusers target a vulnerable population. Biden also supported Delaware's protections for gender identity non-discrimination, which can protect transgender youth from stigma they face.
There has been a recent movement to address the issue of childhood sexual abuse and pedophilia in a more complex way, with Canadian researcher James Cantor calling for more mental health treatment of those experiencing pedophilia, but who haven't abused anyone, to seek counseling without fear of counselors reporting them to the police.
“As adults, we have a legal and moral obligation to stand up and speak out for children who are being abused – they cannot speak for themselves,” Biden wrote in his op-ed.
New Zealand's shocking child abuse statistics
by Blair Ensor
A child is admitted to a New Zealand hospital every second day with injuries arising from either assault, neglect or maltreatment, research says.
Nearly half of them are aged under five.
The figures, which are likely under reported, are contained in a 2012 report prepared for the Ministry of Health by the NZ Child and Youth Epidemiology Service.
Officials say child abuse remains a significant problem in New Zealand and a series of changes have been made to try and prevent it from occurring.
They say that there is now a greater emphasis on identifying at risk families before a child is born and putting support measures in place to help them cope.
However, much of the responsibility lies with the public who need to report any warning signs before they escalate.
"It's very hard for outside agencies to pick up on these things. Close family won't even know what's going on," Detective Inspector Tom Fitzgerald said.
"It's about having the guts . . . to front people who aren't coping and making sure we're all responsible for looking after these kids."
According to the report, which was cited by Children's Commissioner Russell Wills, 843 children aged 0-14, were admitted to hospital from 2007 to 2011 with injuries arising from either assault, neglect or maltreatment.
Their injuries ranged from serious head trauma to broken legs.
Wills said the statistics were likely under reported because national guidelines meant officials had to be certain of an assault before it could be recorded.
Attitudes about violence towards women and children had to change, he said.
Every year an average of 10 to 14 children were victims of homicide, he said.
Long term trends showed the number of children admitted to hospital with assault-related injuries was slowly falling.
The likely reason was much better identification of at risk families and inter-agency information sharing, Wills said.
Staff at district health boards (DHBs) across the country were now trained to ask hard questions about domestic violence and child abuse.
Mike Doolan, who has researched child homicide, said children under the age of two were most vulnerable because they were totally reliant on their parents and unable to escape abuse.
Older children were able to run away and sound the alarm, he said.
Ministry of Social Development chief social worker Paul Nixon said child abuse in New Zealand was a "significant problem which people are working very hard to tackle".
"Child abuse by its very nature is often hidden as adults try to conceal it. The raising of awareness and people's sensitivity to the issues and to the risk factors become really important."
The number of referrals to Child, Youth and Family about suspected child abuse had increased in recent years, Nixon said.
It was important people continued to raise concerns if they were worried about a child's care.
"Picking up early on problems and intervening early will make a difference."
According to the report, Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) had 138 admissions from 2007 to 2011 – more than any DHB. CDHB has the third largest child population in the country.
CDHB child and family safety services coordinator Susan Miles said key clinical staff received child protection and family violence training.
"Each year we get more and more cases that are identified so I guess there's an indicaton that that training and awareness building is successful."
Josh Duggar Is Not The Only One Who Escaped Prosecution
by Tamara Tabo
If the phrase “sibling sexual abuse” appears in dinner party conversation this weekend, it's probably Josh Duggar's fault.
Josh Duggar is the oldest child in the family featured in the TLC reality series “19 Kids and Counting.” This week, In Touch reported on allegations that Josh, now 27, had repeatedly molested several young girls when he was 14 years old. According to the police report, four of the five victims appear to have been Josh's younger sisters. A source told In Touch that Duggar was never prosecuted due to expiration of the statute of limitations.
Josh Duggar might have committed a crime — but if so, was he the only Duggar who committed a crime?
“Playing Doctor” Or Pedophile Or What?
Juveniles who commit sex offenses against other minors present a tangle of evils, with children as victims, children as perpetrators, and one of the categories of harm most likely to turn one's stomach.
Far from an isolated incident, Josh Duggar's alleged offenses involved multiple little girls on multiple occasions. Far from teenage exploration between peers who are nevertheless underage, his acts reportedly took place when he was 14 and his victims were as young as five. Also, there's that incest piece.
Does anyone capable of molesting his little sisters change?
According to the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, long-term clinical studies report that about 85 – 90% of juvenile sex offenders have no arrests or reports for future sex crimes. When they do have future arrests, those arrests are far more likely to be for nonsexual crimes than for other sex offenses. Data suggest too that even juvenile offenders who abuse younger children are not necessarily motivated by paraphilia. The abuse warrants professional attention and close scrutiny, but the abuse is not always evidence of life-long sexual interest in children. Pennsylvania recently found its juvenile sex offender registry unconstitutional and other states are currently debating their own policies.
The Other Problem With Sibling Sexual Abuse
Sibling sexual abuse, as in the Duggar case, is particularly common among sex offenses committed by juveniles, as well as those committed against juveniles. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found in a 2002 study that, while children face a 0.12% chance of being sexually abused by an adult family member, children face at least a 2.3% chance of being sexually abused by a sibling. That is a lot of siblings molesting siblings.
Yet experts such as John Caffaro who study sibling sexual abuse suspect that the offense is grossly under-reported. Adults simply don't seem to take it as seriously as they do abuse by adults, or even by children or teens outside the family. If a child tells a parent that the shifty-eyed guy circling the playground in a windowless van touched her in her bathing-suit area, that parent is likely to have a torch lit and a pitchfork in hand, ready to lead an angry mob to exact rough justice, all before the child finishes her story. If a child tells a parent that her brother or sister did the same thing, too often the parent will dismiss the report, make excuses, or even blame the victimized child.
Others have analyzed how the Duggars' fundamentalist Christian “quiverfull” dogma contributed to the abuse and the response to the abuse. Perhaps it did. But parents mishandling abuse among siblings is not reserved only for misogynists and members of extremist sects.
Jim Bob and Michelle's Choice
Parents can be fiercely, even irrationally, protective of their kids. Instinct can compel mothers and fathers to deny that their kid set a fire even when he's caught holding a half-used book of matches. Yet sibling sexual abuse diverts and distorts parental instincts in particularly troubling ways.
The phrase “Sophie's Choice” has entered common usage to describe a forced decision between two bad options. In the book and film “Sophie's Choice,” the protagonist is forced by a doctor at Auschwitz to decide which of her two children will be gassed immediately and which will be permitted to live. Sophie chooses to save her son by sending her daughter Eva to die.
For parents facing sexual abuse among their children, the phrase is only barely a metaphor. Their parental instinct to protect one child runs directly at odds with their parental instinct to protect the other. To defend the abusing child, they must minimize or deny the seriousness of the behavior. By minimizing the seriousness of the behavior, they minimize the victimized child's injury. For the sake of one child, they sacrifice another.
Jim Bob and Michelle's response to Josh's actions was not only a moral failure. It also may have been a crime in itself.
Along with civil penalties for child maltreatment, “permitting abuse of a minor” counts as a criminal offense under Arkansas law. The offense is punishable as a felony when a parent “recklessly fails to take action to prevent” the sexual abuse of a minor. The statute provides a defense if the parent “takes immediate steps to end the abuse of the minor, including prompt notification of a medical or law enforcement authority, upon first knowing or having good reason to know that abuse has occurred.”
According to the police report, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar learned that their daughters were being sexually abused in March 2002. Jim Bob also told police that in July 2002 Josh admitted to again fondling one of the girls while she slept. Nine months later, in March 2003, the report indicates that yet another incident occurred. There is no record of the Duggars notifying a doctor or, at that time, notifying law enforcement.
Instead, the family sent Josh to stay with a family friend from March 2003 to July 2003. When Josh returned home, his father took him to see Arkansas State Trooper Jim Hutchens, a personal acquaintance of the Duggars, who gave Josh no more than a “very stern talk.”
We now know that Hutchens himself would be later convicted of child pornography offenses. One wonders how stern his counsel not to touch the genitals of little girls could possibly have been.
Even if the trip to see Hutchens counts as notification of law enforcement, July 2003 is a long time after the Duggars first learned of the abuse, certainly not the “prompt” response required by law.
The statute of limitations suffices to keep prosecutors from now pursuing Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. Their response at the time, however, was hardly adequate. They had a moral duty to protect their daughters. Josh's repeated offenses make clear that they failed. They had a legal duty to take appropriate action as soon as they learned of the crimes against their daughters. Their attempts at homegrown family discipline show that they fell short there as well.
If the Duggars had reported Josh's misconduct to authorities as soon as they learned of it, the juvenile justice system would have handled the case. Unlike the adult system, the juvenile system expressly focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders — not retributive punishment, not mere warehousing of criminals. Juvenile sex offenses often signal pervasive distress in the offending youth's life prior to the misconduct. The juvenile justice system, regardless of its many shortcomings, attempts to treat offenders with targeted therapies.
Ironically, Josh Duggar himself might have benefited if his parents had handled the first reports of sexual abuse as the law required. Certainly his sisters would have.
Hastert Case Is Said to Be Linked to Decades-Old Sexual Abuse
by Michael Shear & Michael Schmidt - NY Times
J. Dennis Hastert, who served for eight years as speaker of the House of Representatives, was paying a former student hundreds of thousands of dollars to not say publicly that Mr. Hastert had sexually abused him decades ago, according to two people briefed on the evidence uncovered in an F.B.I. investigation.
Federal prosecutors on Thursday announced the indictment of Mr. Hastert, 73, on allegations that he made cash withdrawals, totaling $1.7 million, to evade detection by banks. The federal authorities also charged him with lying to them about the purpose of the withdrawals.
The former student — who was not identified in court papers — told the F.B.I. that he had been inappropriately touched by Mr. Hastert when the former speaker was a high school teacher and wrestling coach, the two people said Friday. The people briefed on the investigation spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing a federal investigation.
It was not clear when the suspected behavior, which was first reported by The Los Angeles Times, occurred. Mr. Hastert was a high school teacher and coach in Yorkville, Ill., from 1965 to 1981, and the indictment said the recipient of the payments was from Yorkville and had known Mr. Hastert for decades.
It was also unclear whether the authorities considered pursuing charges against the man on suspicion of extorting payments from Mr. Hastert in exchange for keeping silent. Such a prosecution would probably have required Mr. Hastert to allege that he was the victim of an extortion. But the indictment said Mr. Hastert denied to the F.B.I. that he was making payments to the individual, saying he withdrew the cash because he no longer trusted the banking system.
Mr. Hastert, a Republican who had a highly lucrative career as a lobbyist since leaving Congress in 2007, could not be reached for comment at his office in Washington. A spokeswoman for the United States attorney for the Northern District of Illinois said Friday that there was no lawyer of record on file for Mr. Hastert.
The allegations against a man who was once one of the most powerful people in Washington have stunned lobbyists, lawmakers and veteran Capitol Hill staff members who worked alongside him as he rose to become second in line to the presidency in 1999.
“The Denny I served with worked hard on behalf of his constituents and the country,” House Speaker John A. Boehner said in a statement late Friday evening. “I'm shocked and saddened to learn of these reports.”
Document | Indictment of John Dennis Hastert Federal authorities accused the former House speaker of structuring withdrawals from various accounts in order to avoid bank reporting requirements.
The indictment also surprised Mr. Hastert's former students and high school teachers back home in Illinois. Several of them said Friday that they were struggling to make sense of the federal charges against him.
“They are all stunned at the news,” said George Dyche of Aurora, Ill., a coach who competed against Mr. Hastert's team for years, and worked closely with him to develop the Illinois state wrestling association. “They all say, ‘Are they talking about our Denny?' ”
In Yorkville, about 50 miles southwest of Chicago, Mr. Hastert is a larger-than-life figure, not just because he rose to be speaker of the House, but because the wrestling team he coached at tiny Yorkville High School won the state championship in 1976 — a triumph still listed as a historical event on the town's official website.
A statement released Friday by the Yorkville Community Unit School District said it had “no knowledge of Mr. Hastert's alleged misconduct, nor has any individual contacted the district to report any such misconduct. If requested to do so, the district plans to cooperate fully with the U.S. attorney's investigation into this matter.”
In the lobby of Yorkville High School, where final exams were underway on Friday, Ron Kiesewetter, the principal, referred all questions to the office of the school district superintendent.
In his years at Yorkville High School, Mr. Hastert taught a range of topics — history, economics, sociology and speech — but he seemed best known at the school for his efforts to build the wrestling team, the Yorkville Foxes, over more than 15 years.
In Mr. Hastert's 2004 memoir, “Speaker: Lessons From Forty Years in Coaching and Politics,” Mr. Hastert acknowledged the wrestling squad of 1976, a championship team, on a dedications page.
“While many of our teams did well, you were the very best,” he wrote, addressing the Yorkville Foxes of 1976. “For me, winning the state championship was among the finest moments of my life. So many of the fine athletes I had the good fortune to coach are today raising and coaching boys and girls of their own. They're mentoring the next generation. For me, it doesn't get any better than that.”
Mr. Hastert also worked with the Boy Scouts for 16 years, according to an address he gave in 2008 to a Boy Scouts group at Pikes Peak in Colorado.
“We did a lot of neat things,” he said to the group, including taking high-school-aged boys on trips to the Bahamas, the Grand Canyon and float trips on the Green River in Utah. “I saw those kids develop and meet challenges and change,” he said.
Yearbooks from Mr. Hastert's tenure at the high school said he also was an adviser to the Yorkville Explorer Post 540, and had traveled in the late 1960s with the Explorers to the Bahamas for a week, as well as on a canoe trip to Canada.
“He is now planning a trip for the future around the world,” the Mi-Y-Hi of 1970, the school's yearbook, said.
In 1979, the yearbook noted the wrestling team's successful season — a record of 16-6 — and Mr. Hastert's having finished his 14th year as coach, ending up “one meet short of 200 varsity wins.”
Mr. Dyche said Mr. Hastert helped build the sport in his home state, was president of the wrestling association and started a state wrestling newspaper called The Word in the 1970s. Mr. Hastert still regularly attends Big 10 Conference collegiate wrestling championships, said Mr. Dyche, who said he saw him there this year.
“He was a quiet guy in the corner, not a yelling, screaming coach, very pragmatic, cool under fire,” Mr. Dyche said. “I would go up after losing to him and say: ‘Damn it, you did it again. I know what your kids are going to do, but my kids still couldn't stop them.' ”
Mr. Dyche said Mr. Hastert “ruled his program with a calm but firm hand. He was extremely successful and respected.” And he said he was stunned by the allegations.
“Of all the people in the world, it's not the Denny Hastert I know,” Mr. Dyche said. “He was a man of character, a pillar in the community.”
Mr. Hastert was already an affluent man during his service in the House, largely from land holding, according to financial disclosure forms.
He owned land in Kendall County, Ill., a farm in Wisconsin, and a home and property in Plano, Ill., worth between $3 million and $15 million, along with savings and investment accounts worth as much as $310,000. His cash income while in office consisted of a congressional salary of $212,100 and an Illinois pension of $34,000.
His pay soared after he left Congress and opened his own lobbying firm. He also worked for Dickstein Shapiro, where he lobbied for Lorillard Tobacco, Peabody Energy, Bridgepoint Education and an Illinois real estate developer.
The indictment said that in 2010, after several meetings, Mr. Hastert agreed to pay the unidentified man $3.5 million “in order to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against” him. The authorities alleged that Mr. Hastert structured the cash withdrawals, totaling $1.7 million so far, in increments designed to avoid bank reporting requirements.
Kim Nerheim, a spokeswoman for the United States attorney's office, said Friday that Mr. Hastert's case had been assigned to Judge Thomas M. Durkin of Federal District Court, who will schedule an arraignment for the former speaker, perhaps as early as next week.
Preliminary bail in Mr. Hastert's case was set at $4,500, according to court documents.
Reporting was contributed by Monica Davey from Yorkville, Ill., Dave Philipps from New York, and Carl Hulse and Jonathan Weisman from Washington.
Surviving Child Sexual Abuse
by Charles M. Blow
Last month came the news that Josh Duggar, now-former executive director of the Family Research Council's lobbying arm and eldest son on the TLC reality show “19 Kids and Counting,” had apologized and said he had “acted inexcusably.” As In Touch Weekly magazine put it: “Josh Duggar was investigated for multiple sex offenses — including forcible fondling — against five minors. Some of the alleged offenses investigated were felonies.” Those minors apparently included his sisters. Duggar was around 14 years old when the reported assaults took place.
Last week, The New York Times reported that “J. Dennis Hastert, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, was paying a man to not say publicly that Mr. Hastert had sexually abused him decades ago, according to two people briefed on the evidence uncovered in an F.B.I. investigation into the payments.”
The F.B.I. announced their indictment of Hastert on Thursday, and The Times reported: “The indictment said that in 2010, the man met with Mr. Hastert several times, and that at one of those meetings Mr. Hastert agreed to pay him $3.5 million ‘in order to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against' the man.”
There were quick and clamorous reactions on social media and some mainstream media about the irony and even hypocrisy of these conservative icons being caught in unseemly, counter-their-apparent-convictions circumstances.
I understand this impulse. The contradiction is newsworthy. That dissimulation must be called out. But we shouldn't stray far from focusing on, extending help to, and seeking to be sensitive to the survivors and using these cases educationally to better protect other children.
As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I can say with some authority that no one should take an ounce of joy in these revelations and accusations. This is not a political issue, even if people — including abusers themselves — have hypocritically used it as one.
This is not the time for giddiness or gloating. Child sexual abuse is tragic and traumatic for its survivors — and that is where the bulk of the focus should always be.
When a child is sexually abused, it breaks bonds of trust. It is a violation of the sovereignty of the self and one's zone of physical intimacy. It is an action of developmental exploitation. It is a spiritual act of violence that attacks not only the body but also the mind.
It can take decades, or even a lifetime, to recover if recovery is even emotionally available for the survivor.
Indeed, precise statistics on just how large the universe of survivors is are not easy to come by, because many survivors never tell a soul about the abuse. And, if they never tell, obviously they are not at a place where they feel comfortable seeking professional help to deal with it. This only compounds the tragedy. Furthermore, the nature of the abuse, the duration of it, the circumstances around it and the child's relationship to the abusers can all impact how the child processes the abuse and his or her ability to move beyond it.
All of this means that we have to better understand the very nature of abuse.
It is often an adult in authority — an adult family member, a teacher, a coach, a spiritual leader — but often it isn't.
As a 2000 Bureau of Justice Statistics report makes clear, although 14 is the single age with the most childhood sex abuse victims reported to law enforcement, it is also the age with the most abuse offenders.
According to the report: “The detailed age profile of offenders in sexual assault crimes shows that the single age with the greatest number of offenders from the perspective of law enforcement was age 14.”
Furthermore, “more than half of all juvenile victims were under age 12” and of that group “4-year-olds were at greatest risk of being the victim of a sexual assault.”
And timing is critical. For very young victims, assaults spike around traditional mealtimes and 3 p.m., just after school.
Also, the greatest number of serious sexual assault charges were for “forcible fondling in 45 percent of all sexual assaults reported to law enforcement.” Forcible rape came in second at 42 percent.
Lastly, while most sexual assaults occur in a home, “Young victims were generally more likely to be victimized in a residence than were older victims.”
Overall, childhood sexual abuse is a crime of access. An abuser needs access to the child, often without suspicion, to conduct the assault with the hope of not being caught.
Once we soberly assess the contours of childhood sexual assaults we can better understand the need for early conversations with children about body safety and ensuring that they have safe spaces in which to express themselves.
And, we can see these two recent cases as more than just political point scorers, but much more importantly as educational and cautionary tales that we can use to protect more children.
Duggar case illustrates how poorly we treat child victims
by Cathleen Palm
When a person is hit and injured by a drunken driver, no one asks, “Why were you on the road at that time?” or “Did you try to avoid being hit?”
Instead, our outrage and pursuit of accountability are focused on the intoxicated person who put others at risk.
A different standard is applied to sexual crimes committed against children. The sexually abused child who bravely discloses the abuse often is not believed. Adults may suggest the child is confused or, worse, tell the child to keep quiet.
And if the child doesn't disclose the abuse until reaching adulthood, then he or she may face questions such as, “Why didn't you tell someone when you were a child?” or “Can your memory be trusted after so much time has passed?”
The haunting reality of child sexual abuse is that the person hurting the child is often a family member or other person the child has been taught to trust. Imagine the complicated process of trying to understand how your childhood could leave you deeply wounded even as you recall happy moments — some including the person who abused you.
The recent revelations that 27-year-old Joshua Duggar — from the TLC reality TV show “19 Kids and Counting” — sexually assaulted multiple victims in 2002 and 2003 illustrates how complex the journey to healing and justice can be for child victims.
In 2002, according to a police report, a brave victim told her parents Joshua had been “sneaking” into her room while she was sleeping and had touched her breasts and vagina. She told her parents it happened four to five times. The parents apparently did not call authorities and did not seek treatment for the victim or Joshua, who was in his early teens at the time.
About nine months later, more brave child victims told the parents about how they, too, had been sexually assaulted by Joshua. Again, the parents didn't call law enforcement or mental health professionals. Instead, the father consulted church elders, including a chaplain from a local hospital. Together, they vetoed the idea of sending Joshua into a hospital-based residential treatment program.
Joshua appears to have spent four months in a Christian-based work and counseling program. His father, Jim Bob Duggar, and a church elder also took him to talk to an Arkansas State Police officer, whom the elder Duggar knew personally. This state trooper, now serving time in prison for child pornography, provided a “stern talk” to Joshua.
Joshua's parents later would say that when he returned to the family he “no longer had any problem” and the issue had all been “resolved.” Like many in society, the Duggars were either unaware of or indifferent to how hard it is for an offender to stop offending and how long it takes for a victim to heal.
The state police officer and some of the church elders failed, too — they were mandated to report child abuse, but the law was not followed. These adults chose not to become a voice for the victims.
The 2006 police report in the Duggar case comes to an abrupt end with words about law enforcement's inability to translate the offenses against the victims into criminal charges. It wasn't that those who investigated the offenses through a local children's advocacy center didn't believe the victims. Rather, Arkansas' criminal statute of limitations had expired.
Joshua Duggar — aided by the misguided actions of his parents and inaction of mandated child abuse reporters — likely ran out the clock and thus escaped criminal charges or court-ordered treatment and supervision for the abuse he inflicted.
We won't prevent child sexual abuse overnight, but we can begin to make a difference when we:
— Make sure every child is connected to nurturing and protective adults.
—Listen to and believe a child.
— Speak up for a child when we reasonably suspect or know the child is being abused. To report child abuse in Pennsylvania, call 1-800-932-0313.
— Ensure child victims have access to high-quality investigation and treatment services.
— And, finally, advocate for child-centered and effective laws, including changes to Pennsylvania's statute of limitations to reflect the complex dynamics of child sexual abuse.
As the law stands now, survivors of childhood sexual abuse only have until their 30th birthdays to bring civil action against their abusers; criminal charges may be pursued by law enforcement until the victim turns 50. That shows access to justice is not equal for all Pennsylvania victims of child sexual abuse. And even today, the statute of limitations does not reflect the research or the sad reality that it often takes very long for child victims to come forward.
Cathleen Palm is the founder of the Center for Children's Justice, which spearheaded the effort to create the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection. That task force achieved significant child protection reforms in 2013-2014.
Oliver Twist-type gangs are operating on British streets: Anti-slavery commissioner says adults are using children to shoplift and beg when they should be at school
by Daily Mail Reporter
Children are being used by adults to pickpocket, shoplift and beg in Oliver Twist-type scenarios, according to the anti-slavery commissioner.
Kevin Hyland said youngsters were being used for criminal operations in UK cities when they should be at school.
The former Metropolitan Police detective, who was appointed in November, said the number of convictions for slavery offences was ‘nowhere near good enough'.
Slavery can involve sexual exploitation, forced labour, domestic servitude or forced criminality.
'We hear about young children being sent out to do shoplifting, pickpocketing and begging. These are young children who should be at school.
‘We are in the 21st century and yet we have Oliver Twist scenarios happening in our streets and cities. I think we all thought that was gone and in the past but actually it's alive and kicking in London.
‘It's pure criminality and abuse of children. But it's all very complicated because of the way the children are groomed.'
There have been reports of Roma children being used as thieves by ‘Fagin'-style masters. There were 151 convictions for slavery-related offences in 2014. Mr Hyland said: ‘What's really worrying is the numbers of investigations aren't sufficiently high.
‘The reason why people are choosing this form of criminality is because there aren't the resources tackling it.' Mr Hyland added it had become a 'very lucrative' criminal business.
'People are making a lot of money. In sexual exploitation, someone can make a million pounds a year out of 10 women.
'We see cases of forced labour where people are making hundreds of thousands a month.'
In December the Home Office published figures estimating there are between 10,000 and 13,000 potential victims of slavery in the UK.
They include women forced into prostitution, domestic staff and workers in fields, factories and on fishing boats.
Mr Hyland said official intelligence numbers were much lower than the Government estimate.
He said: 'It's a mixture of things, it's not being reported, it's being missed, even when it's being reported is it being wrongly reported?
'I see cases where I'm meeting victims and hear their cases have not been investigated properly. These are things that really need to change.'
He said he accepted the Home Office figure as an 'accurate evaluation on the facts as they are', describing it as 'a horrendous number'.
'You have to remember these people are a victim of these crimes every day. It's not like a one-off incident, it's day in day out.'
In April a report by the Centre for Social Justice warned that Eastern European crime gangs are operating in Britain 'with impunity' because of EU free movement rules.
Human traffickers run huge benefit frauds in the UK, including one that was used to fund a housing development in Slovakia, the report found.
The vile trade also includes the sale of young girls for prostitution and sham marriages. In some cases, 'customers' from outside the EU are requesting women with EU passports so they can make them pregnant. The migrants – desperate for a foothold in Britain – then claim they have a human right to a family life in the UK to raise the child.
The report also warns of Eastern European girls – aged 15 to 25 – being brought to Britain and forced into prostitution, benefit fraud or sham weddings to Asian men seeking a right to remain in the UK.
Manchester, Birmingham and Gretna are identified as hotspots – with Scotland targeted so the victims can marry at a younger age.
Karen Bradley, Home Office minister for preventing abuse and exploitation, said: 'The Modern Slavery Act - the first of its kind in Europe - gives the police the tools they need to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice and enhances protection for victims who must be recognised for their bravery in coming forward, given the harrowing experiences they have endured.
'For too long, this was a hidden crime. Now, we have succeeded in bringing modern slavery out into the open, we are determined to eradicate it. There is no place for modern slavery in today's society.'
Old rape kits and 4 brave women bring rapist to justice
by Sharon Cohen
CLEVELAND — When Stacey Fifer arrived at the prison one day last September, she was carrying four old photos of women, strangers to one another but bound by terrifying memories of the same man.
The criminal investigator had strong suspicions Dwayne Wilson was that man. A “hit” letter from the state crime lab had linked Wilson's DNA to a sexual crime spree — including three rapes for which he'd never been charged and a fourth case that had been dropped, all within 34 months beginning in 1994.
He was now in the Grafton Correctional Institution on an unrelated sexual battery conviction, but perhaps not for long. On her printout from the corrections department, Fifer had highlighted in yellow the date — Oct. 18, 2014 — of Dwayne Wilson's expected release. He could be free in just 23 days.
And another deadline loomed. One DNA “hit” had linked Wilson to a November 1994 rape, meaning time was running out to charge him under Ohio's 20-year statute of limitations.
Fifer had come to confront Wilson about his past. She was there as part of a special Cuyahoga County task force organized to investigate new test results from hundreds of old rape kits.
At first, she tried to put Wilson at ease, but he was tight-lipped. Then she got to the point: His name had surfaced in some cold cases. One by one, she displayed driver's license photos of the four women taken around the time each was raped. The youngest had been just 16.
“Do you recognize this woman?” she asked, four times. Wilson, she says, mumbled, shaking his head no at each photo.
“Did you have sex with any of the women?” she continued.
A long pause.
Then, according to Fifer's notes, he responded: “'I doubt that. I mean not that I would remember any face but none of them look familiar.'”
She pressed him: “Is there any reason why your DNA would be found in these sexual assault kits?”
Wilson, now 54, said he could have “partied” with them, she recalls, then added in a soft voice: “'You're talking two decades ... I don't know, I don't remember.'”
He was scared, Fifer thought. And surprised.
For 50 minutes, she and a second investigator questioned Wilson. They asked, among other things, whether he'd carried boxcutters or knives with him, since all four women had been threatened with blades by their attacker. Fifer says he told them he'd carried tools in his cars and trucks because he'd done odd jobs back then. He also acknowledged some “wild times” in his past when he drank and smoked weed.
As Fifer prepared to leave, she told Wilson she'd be seeing him again.
She then watched him return to his cell, walking in the prison yard, moving slowly, his head hanging.
“Things,” she says, “were finally sinking in for him.”
Every Tuesday morning, a group of law enforcement officers meets to revisit an ugly past.
They gather around a long conference table to discuss investigations they're pursuing against hundreds of suspected rapists in the county and women who've lived for years, even decades, looking over their shoulders, wondering if their attackers are still out there.
The Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Task Force, a team of prosecutors, police, state agents and others, is building cases based on the DNA results of thousands of newly tested rape kits that had, until recently, been languishing on evidence room shelves.
There's urgency to their work, and not just for cases bumping against the statute of limitations. There are predators behind bars for other crimes soon to be released, and a frightening, even more immediate prospect: an untold number of rapists still on the streets.
“We're racing against the clock and we know it,” County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty, who formed the task force, warned at one recent Tuesday meeting. “We're going to be taking some god-awful rapists off the street forever and then some.”
At the weekly sessions, the blunt-spoken McGinty is both cheerleader and strategist, asking questions about developing cases, venting at inevitable frustrations.
When one prosecutor announces an accused rapist was acquitted, McGinty proclaims: “The judge has abandoned the victim.”
When another describes how a rape victim may have been intimidated by a defense investigator, McGinty responds: “Let's react strongly, so he doesn't do it again.”
The cold case unit is an outgrowth of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's Sexual Assault Kit Testing Initiative. Shortly after taking office in 2011, DeWine started hearing about law enforcement agencies that had untested rape kits. He asked all of them to send the evidence to the state crime lab to be processed at no cost to local authorities.
As of May, about 7,200 of more than 9,600 untested kits had been analyzed, according to DeWine's office. The result: nearly 2,700 “hits” or matches in CODIS, or the Combined DNA Index System, a national law enforcement database of DNA profiles.
So far, nearly 3,800 of the 4,800 kits submitted from law enforcement agencies in Cuyahoga County have been tested. About half have yielded matches in CODIS, according to the prosecutor's office.
The “hit” letters are the starting point for investigators who make house calls, scour phone records, track Social Security checks, contact family members and go wherever necessary — West Virginia, Florida, California — in search of survivors and suspects.
In time, McGinty's office plans to indict 1,000 rape suspects. As of late May, more than 300 men have been charged, resulting in 79 convictions and guilty pleas and seven acquittals. The accused include “John Does,” unknown men who are identified by their DNA in their indictments to prevent the statute of limitations from expiring.
Like many other cities with backlogs, authorities say money and technology contributed to the mess. Early on, testing kits cost up to $1,500 to $2,000 each. It's now about $435 in Ohio. And DNA wasn't used widely until the mid to late 1990s.
“I know the press loves reporting that we had them (the kits) sitting on the shelves gathering dust for many years, which on face value is true, but it really doesn't tell the whole story,” says Cleveland police Lt. James McPike.
In the late 1990s, only cases that were being actively investigated and prosecuted were tested because the Bureau of Criminal Investigations lab had limited resources and Ohio hadn't yet established its DNA database. At that time, there were no profiles to match with offenders. In cases with no identified suspect or an uncooperative victim, the case was likely at a dead end.
Around 2000, Ohio began building a CODIS database and requested agencies to submit stranger rape cases. Even then, a case probably wouldn't be pursued without a victim's cooperation.
Back then, police didn't have as thorough an understanding of rape survivors' trauma as they do today, McPike says. Many were low-income black women — some with drug, alcohol or mental health problems.
“From an offender's viewpoint, those are very good victims,” he says. “They're the least likely to report and, when they do, people are thinking, ‘Well, nobody's going to believe them because of who they are and what they were involved in.'”
Rick Bell, special investigations division chief, points out that some potential cases also fizzled out because detectives didn't question rape survivors quickly and some didn't show up for appointments.
Over the years, as the kits piled up for various reasons, he says, “Nobody ever said, ‘Let's go clean up the backlog.'”
Not everyone is enthusiastic about how it's happening now.
“It's now become this cause du jour,” says Tim Young, director of the state public defender's office. “DNA is not proof of a crime. It's proof of a biological sample. What we have to litigate now 20 years later is whether there was consent or not. ... People are saying we have this incontrovertible evidence. You have to ask — ‘Evidence of what?'”
In non-consensual cases, Young says pursuing charges belatedly is unfair to women who've waited so long and suspects who have the daunting task of defending themselves after witnesses have died, evidence has been destroyed and memories have faded. The police, he says, have been dilatory, not pushing for testing and not pursuing suspects who were readily available for questioning. “This should have happened 15 years ago,” he adds.
But for McGinty, it's better late than never. He credits the task force with ridding the streets of “one-man crime waves,” noting that, on average, every man with a DNA “hit” from a rape kit has been linked to 10 crimes — often burglary and domestic abuse.
About 30 percent of the cases have turned out to be serial rapists, some with five or more assaults.
“We always thought when we started this that we're going to find some guy who really did one rotten thing and he's been going to church ever since and praying for forgiveness and working on a charity or something to make up for his sin,” he says. “Well, I was dreaming. That guy doesn't exist.”
Stacey Fifer suspected Wilson might already be in prison. A quick computer search confirmed her suspicions.
But before approaching him, she and a colleague began making calls and knocking on doors in search of four women.
Fifer knew interviewing them would be “opening up wounds that are buried so deep.” The women would have to dredge up horrible memories and, if the cases proceeded, repeat them in public. “It's hard enough to have these women talking one-on-one, let alone getting before a jury, a judge and a courtroom of people,” Fifer says.
She also couldn't assure them that justice would finally prevail. “I don't make any promises,” she says. “There are no guarantees.”
The first rape victim, now 54 and living with her adult son, had hazy memories of an attack she'd tried to block out of her mind.
It had occurred nearly 20 years earlier, on Nov. 12, 1994. She was pulled off the street, shoved into a car and raped at knifepoint. Her assailant drove her to an abandoned building, raped her again, and punched and kicked her, leaving her with severe facial wounds and rib injuries.
As she talked, Fifer noticed the woman looked at her, but never at her male partner. Since the rape, she said, she hasn't been comfortable around men.
When Fifer showed her an array of six photos, including of Wilson, she couldn't identify him.
Fifer wasn't particularly worried. “It's just one tool,” she says of the photos. “It doesn't make or break the case.”
The second victim, now 58, had a flypaper memory of the night of July 10, 1995. She'd been waiting for a bus when a man approached in his car, started flirting with her, then offered her a ride to her job as a home health care aide. After she accepted, he drove her behind a gas station, pulled a knife and raped her twice.
She told her story at a Burger King. She'd refused to tell investigators where she lived.
This case was different in one startling way: The woman had identified her rapist's car, a green Buick Century. She'd even provided police his license plate number. Wilson was picked up the next week, but a grand jury declined to indict. It's unclear why — it's possible they wanted to hear from the victim. The woman later said she never even knew he'd been arrested.
She, too, couldn't identify Wilson from his photo.
At the end of August, Fifer met with the third victim, who'd been approached on the street on March 15, 1997. She'd agreed to sell the man a rock of crack. He'd insisted the deal be made in his car and immediately drove into a parking lot. There, he put a box cutter knife to her throat and raped her.
This time, the law caught up with Dwayne Wilson — eight years later.
The results of the rape kit were linked to his DNA in a criminal database. He was indicted, but the case was dismissed when the victim failed to appear after being subpoenaed. The woman thinks she might have been in jail at the time.
Seventeen years had passed, but she instantly identified Wilson from the photo array
Fifer's final stop was the house of a 33-year-old mother. On the night of August 15, 1997, she was a 16 year old waiting for a bus home after attending a movie with a friend.
A man approached in his car. “The bus isn't coming. You want a ride?” he asked. She saw groceries and children's toys in his car. He looked like a family man. She got in.
He raped her, also at knifepoint. She recalled his threat: “'If you scream, holler or yell ... I will slice your f------- throat.'”
She also identified Wilson from a photo.
“She had felt guilty throughout the years,” Fifer says, but has since “realized it wasn't her fault.”
Twice, authorities had let Wilson slip from their grasp. Two other times, they had his DNA but it went untested while he preyed on others.
In 1998, he pleaded guilty to committing sex crimes against two women, including a 40-year-old he'd offered a ride to at a bus stop. He was sentenced to six months.
In 2004, he pleaded guilty to raping a 14-year-old who was supposed to babysit his two sons. She fell asleep and, when she woke, he was on top of her. His sentence: four years.
In 2009, he assaulted an 11 year old. Wilson pleaded to sexual battery after getting into the girl's bed and fondling her. He was sentenced to five years.
With the benefit of Stacey Fifer's notes from her interviews, the prosecutor's office rushed to present the case to the grand jury. Wilson was indicted on Oct. 9, 2014 — about a week before his release date.
Mary Weston had two rape survivors who weren't eager to relive their horror or see Dwayne Wilson again.
It was early 2015, and Weston, who'd already won guilty verdicts in five other rape kit cases, tried to make the women comfortable as she prepared them for trial. She briefed them on the questions she'd ask and offered to show them the courtroom. Both had reservations about testifying, and Weston wasn't sure they'd be there until they arrived that morning.
Accompanied to the courthouse by her elderly father, the first woman took the stand on Feb. 12. She was angry.
These new DNA results, she said, were no comfort. “I wanted to leave it behind,” she testified. “It took all these years to find the person and I forgot all about it. Tried to, anyway. And for them to bring it back up just made me mad. ... I didn't want to hear about it or look him in his face or anything. I just wanted to be left alone.”
The rape had shattered her life. Soon after, she was admitted to a psychiatric institute because, she said, “I couldn't deal with it.”
When a defense lawyer pointed out her hazy memory, noting she'd been drinking and using cocaine at the time and couldn't remember many basic details, she responded coolly: “I recall being raped.”
After testifying, the woman left quickly. She told rape victim advocate Janine Deccola she was done with the case and had a request. It was one Deccola hadn't heard before. “She asked that none of us contact her,” the advocate recalls. “She didn't even want to know the verdict.”
The second woman also wasn't happy to be there.
The criminal justice system, she said, had failed her long ago. She'd provided authorities the information they'd used to nab Wilson. “They didn't help me then ... so I figured they couldn't help me right now,” she testified. “...I gave them all the evidence. I gave them everything they needed to find that person; nobody did anything.”
She, too, had trouble coping after the rape. She was unable to return to her home health care job.
But she felt good that day, she said, believing authorities were on her side. And she said she was now able to identify Wilson — something his defense attorney dismissed as “miraculous.”
The third woman, who had been a drug user, cried as she described Wilson's deception in luring her into his car.
Then the last rape survivor — the one who'd been a teen when attacked — described her terror and the sickening feeling she wasn't the first woman he'd assaulted. “How it played out, you could tell it was done before,'” she told jurors.
Testifying that day, she felt relief. “Some justice finally served,” she said. “Feels good.”
The defense said in closing arguments that DNA evidence isn't foolproof and there were inconsistencies in each woman's story.
Weston's response: “These women ... do not deserve to be attacked. Do not buy into that.”
When the jury returned after a couple of hours, she was a bit nervous. She thought about the small imperfections in the case.
“What if the impossible was happening?” Weston asked herself.
Then the verdict: Guilty on all counts.
On April 1, Dwayne Wilson, balding with graying sideburns and square glasses, stood in a 17th-floor courtroom, awaiting sentencing.
“This is probably one of the hardest days of my life ... being accused of these crimes is just beyond my comprehension,” he said in a barely audible voice.
“A long time ago, I asked for help and I never got it,” he added. “Their answer was to send me to prison, send me to prison, send me to prison. So it is what it is.”
Weston was incensed, dismissing what she called Wilson's “insane proclamations of innocence.” She urged a life sentence, saying Wilson had destroyed “the lives of numerous women throughout the city who are suffering to this day.”
Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Nancy McDonnell called Wilson the “worst of the worst,” detailed his long “deplorable” criminal record dating back to 1979 and said he'd shown absolutely no remorse.
“You snatched women off the street, you took them somewhere else and you raped them,” McDonnell declared.
She then imposed sentence, count by count, for kidnapping and rape.
The total: 110 years.
Afterward, Weston said the streets are now safer, but four women “may never get over” what they've endured.
None of them was in court to see him escorted away in handcuffs.
Sexual abuse and your child
by Lenore Hirsch
At Napa's human trafficking conference in March, I heard survivors tell how they were first abused by someone in their home and told nobody. What an eye-opener! If you were a 6-year-old and being abused sexually by a parent, sibling, or baby sitter, what is the likelihood you would tell someone?
If your abuser threatened to harm you, asked you to keep a secret, or hinted that your family would be angry if they knew, you might just keep it a sad, painful secret. If you wanted to tell, to whom would you go? A parent? A teacher? Another child?
Every parent should consider how to make sure that if anyone threatens your child sexually, you will know about it. After listening to the survivors, I'm a total supporter of nanny cameras. Of course, you can't have your child under video surveillance at all times. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) offers excellent tips on protecting your kids from sexual abuse.
I sound like a broken record when I say once again it is important to have open communication with your children from an early age. If you sense your child is troubled, make time to listen to what is on her mind. Teach your kids the names of their body parts, so they have a way to ask questions and talk about concerns. Tell your kids from an early age that their private parts are private, and that if someone wants to touch or look at them or wants to show the child their own private parts, this is wrong and they must tell a trusted adult.
We used to have a program in the classroom that taught kids as young as first grade about touch that is comfortable or not comfortable. That program is gone, so it is parents' job to teach kids the difference. Even a tickle can become uncomfortable, and children need to know it is OK to say “no,” even to Grandpa. Then they must tell you about it. There aren't many situations in which we encourage young kids to refuse an adult request, so be sure you let them know they will not be in trouble if they say “no” to touch that makes them uncomfortable.
What are the signs of sexual abuse? Besides the obvious results like bruises, difficulty sitting, or infections, be aware of inappropriate sexual knowledge or behavior in your child. Shrinking from physical contact, nightmares, changes in sleeping or eating habits, stomach aches, headaches, anxiety, or regression to behaviors like thumb-sucking or bed-wetting are all signs that something is wrong.
I do not mean to create anxiety where there is no need, but we must all be on the alert for those who would prey on our children. As a principal, I have known troubled students who were being abused but I had no idea until they told me much later. Long ago, I had a beloved school employee who was an abuser, and nobody could imagine it possible. We need to talk to our kids about sexuality early, we need to be alert for the signs of trouble mentioned above, and we must give our kids the confidence to say “no” and tell a trusted adult.
Hands of Hope urges county to rally against domestic violence
by Gabby Landsverk
Residents of Morrison County are encouraged to speak up and break the silence at an upcoming march aimed at tackling some of toughest, least talked about issues facing the community: domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse.
“The idea behind it is just to get out there and say ‘We're not afraid, we're here, we're going to be known,'” said Amanda Kaping, sexual assault and volunteer coordinator for Hands of Hope.
The “Take Back the Night” event taking place Thursday marks the 22nd annual rally hosted by Hands of Hope Resource Center in Morrison County.
The event begins at 5:30 p.m. in Maple Island Park in Little Falls and will feature information, a proclamation, guest speaker Phyllis Michael and other activities to raise awareness of domestic violence and alert people to its prevalence in the community.
“It affects everyone, whether it's you personally, a family member or someone you know,” Kaping said. “It's happening, it's just that nobody talks about it … it's definitely a touchy subject and everyone wants to believe that it doesn't happen.”
Guest speakers at past Take Back the Night rallies have included Frank Weber, clinical director of CORE psychology and therapy services, and Patty Wetterling, mother of Jacob Wetterling who disappeared in 1989 in a case that was never solved.
Previous events have been sparsely attended, Kaping said, with crowds of 50–100 people. Kaping attributes this to the tendency of people to shy aware from discussing the tough topic of “what goes on behind closed doors.”
“It's always interesting to see who's comfortable coming, because it's a difficult subject,” Kaping said.
She added that the organization hopes to attract greater numbers and more awareness this year by emphasizing that domestic violence affects everyone; men and women, adults and children, rich and poor.
Kaping said one of the myths of domestic violence is that it only affects certain groups.
“We need everyone to come together and realize that it's not just one group of people. It affects everyone, unfortunately,” Kaping said. “Violence doesn't discriminate.”
Last year, Kaping said, Morrison County recorded 243 incidents of domestic violence, 253 of child abuse, 71 sexual assaults and 198 other victims of violent crimes.She added that these numbers only include reported cases.
“If you think about who hasn't reported, it's definitely affecting a lot of people,” Kaping said.
By getting the community to talk about domestic assault, Kaping and Hands of Hope seek to prevent further violence and encourage survivors of violence to find help and support.
“Unfortunately this does happen in our community,” Kaping said. “Hopefully people will realize (that) and stop being afraid to talk about it and hopefully step in if they see something going on … (we want) to let people know that there is help.”
For more information, contact Hands of Hope Resource Center at (320) 632-1657.
Hands of Hope also provides a 24-hour crisis line at (320) 632-487.
Child reported missing, found when he waves down cop asking to pet K-9
ALLEGAN COUNTY, Mich. — A little boy's love of a dog was all that was needed to bring the search for the missing child to an end.
A 2-year-old boy was reported missing from his home in Allegan County, Michigan, Friday night.
Hours later, after an intense search by local and state police, K9 teams and a helicopter crew, the little boy was found only a quarter mile from his home, WXMI reported.
He was covered in mud, but despite being on his own from 9:30 p.m. until 4:00 a.m., he was not hurt, and waved down a deputy searching for him, wanting to pet the police officer's K9.