From the FBI
FBI Releases New Version of Child ID App
The FBI today is announcing a reboot of its popular Child ID App, which provides parents with an easy way to electronically store their children's pictures and vital information to have on hand in case their kids go missing.
The application, which works on most Apple and Android smartphones and tablets, allows users to store up-to-date images and physical descriptions—like height, weight, birthmarks, etc.—that could help responders in the event of an emergency. The information is stored only on your device—not with your mobile provider or the FBI.
The latest version of the Child ID App contains updated features, including high-resolution image capability, a default recipient field (where you can enter your local police department's e-mail address, for example), and optional automatic reminders to update your children's profiles.
Current users of the Child ID App are encouraged to download the latest version for improved performance and capabilities. Please note that if you had been using an older version of the app (prior to 2.0), you will need to re-enter all relevant information after installing the update.
The app has been downloaded more than 250,000 times since it was released, first on iTunes in 2011 and then for the Android operating system in 2012. The current version, released in April, has been downloaded more than 50,000 times onto devices around the world.
The Child ID App also includes tips on keeping children safe as well as specific guidance on what to do in those first few crucial hours after a child goes missing.
For more information and to download:
On iTunes (Apple)
On Google Play (Android)
FBI Safe Online Surfing Internet Challenge -- Cyber Safety for Young Americans
In April, the Pew Research Center published a study saying that 92 percent of teens report going online daily—including 24 percent who say they go online “almost constantly.” According to the study, nearly three-fourths of teens have or use a smartphone.
Considering the many dangers that lurk on the Internet—from child predators to cyber bullies, from malicious software to a multitude of scams—it's imperative that our young people learn the ins and outs of online safety from an early age.
That is precisely why the Bureau launched the FBI Safe Online Surfing (SOS) Internet Challenge in October 2012 with a dedicated new website. FBI-SOS is a free, fun, and informative program that promotes cyber citizenship by educating students in third to eighth grades on the essentials of online security. For teachers, the site provides a ready-made curriculum that meets state and federal Internet safety mandates, complete with online testing and a national competition to encourage learning and participation. A secure online system enables teachers to register their schools, manage their classes, automatically grade their students' exams, and request the test scores.
FBI-SOS just finished its third school year, with record results. A total of 275,656 students completed the exams—more than triple the previous year. The competition included 5,053 schools in 49 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
“We couldn't be more pleased with how teachers and students are responding to the program and how participation is growing in such leaps and bounds,” said Scott McMillion of the FBI Criminal Investigative Division's Violent Crimes Against Children Section, which runs the program in concert with our Office of Public Affairs and field offices nationwide. “FBI-SOS is helping to turn our nation's young people into a more cyber savvy generation and to protect them from online crime now and in the future.”
The FBI-SOS website features six islands—one for each grade level—with age appropriate games, videos, and other interactive materials in various portals. The site covers such topics as cell phone safety, the protection of personal information, password strength, instant messaging, social networking, and online gaming safety. The videos include real-life stories of kids who have faced cyber bullies and online predators.
After navigating through the appropriate island, students take a timed quiz. The test scores for each school are aggregated by the FBI and appear on a national leaderboard on the website each month from September through May. Schools compete in one of three categories, determined by the number of students participating: Starfish (5-50 participants); Stingray (51-100); and Shark (100+). The top-scoring school in each category at the end of the month receives a national FBI-SOS award. When possible, the winning schools are visited by representatives of their local FBI field office.
Anyone—young or old, in the U.S. or worldwide—can complete the activities on the FBI-SOS website. The testing and competition, however, are only open to students in grades 3-8 at public, private, or home schools in the U.S. or its territories.
We'd like to congratulate the 26 schools that won the competition this past year and thank the many teachers and students who participated. We hope you will join us again in September.
Tompkins expert on responding to child sex abuse of boys
by Tiffany Greco -- Education Director of the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County
June is Men's Health Month. I am not going to talk about prostate cancer, the most common cancer and second leading cause of death in men. Instead I want to discuss another men's public health problem that impacts just as many men as prostate cancer, but receives far less attention.
1 in 6 men report having experienced child sexual abuse before age 18. That is about 19 million of the men in our lives we call “son,” “father,” “brother,” “lover,” and “friend.” At least 4 times more men in our lives have histories of child sexual abuse than will die of a heart attack, the first leading cause of death in men. These numbers are staggering, and we know they still fall short of actual prevalence.
Child sexual abuse can have long-term health impacts on survivors, regardless of gender. The health risks between male and female survivors have more commonalities than differences. It is not uncommon for adult survivors of child sexual abuse, male or female, to experience long term health impacts such as post traumatic stress, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, and shame and guilt.
And the struggles unique to male survivors of child sexual abuse have less to do with their experiences being different than that of females, and much more to do with society's rigid acceptance of what it means to be male. We make little room for a definition of masculinity that includes victimization. “Real men,” so to speak, are not victims.
Except that they are. The reality is that a lot of “real men” have life histories that include child sexual abuse. To deny the lived experiences of countless adult male survivors with arbitrary checklists of what it is and what is not “masculine” is egregious. This denial hinders the healing process for male survivors, and passively supports the ongoing culture of secrecy and shame that allow sexual abuse to flourish in the first place. Child sexual abuse remains one of the most underreported crimes in our country. Boys are even less likely to disclose their abuse than girls. Most male survivors carry the secret of their child sexual abuse well into their 30s, 40s, or 50s.
For the sake of men's health, this needs to change. Men (and the young children who will become men) should not have to deal with sexual abuse in isolation and confusion.The sexual abuse of children, male or female, has nothing to do with masculinity, femininity, or sexual orientation and everything to do with the abusive exploitation of power over them by someone likely known and trusted. Let us support the physical and emotional well-being of the men in our lives this month and always by reconstructing a definition of masculinity that makes room for all lived experiences – traumatic or otherwise – and that promotes the safety and healing of all survivors.
For further information and resources on this topic please visit 1in6.org, bristleconeproject.org, or check out Victims No Longer by Mike Lew. If you are someone you know has experienced child sexual abuse, sexual assault, or domestic violence the Advocacy Center is available 24/7 at 607.277.5000 for support.
NH can make perpetrators, not victims, pay for domestic abuse
by Amanda Grady Sexton
"WHY DOESN'T she just leave?"
It's an unfortunate question advocates against domestic violence hear regularly.
The answer: She is terrified and in danger.
When a victim leaves, the violence doesn't just stop. In fact, it usually escalates.
The real question is, "Why does he abuse?"
Beyond fears for their safety and the safety of their children, many survivors of domestic violence say even when they wanted to leave they couldn't.
They didn't have access to their own finances.
Imagine a woman whose purse is under constant in-home surveillance: cell phone texts, cash, credit card receipts - all of it, including anything that might help her escape, is under the control of her abuser.
The National Network to End Domestic Violence says financial abuse is experienced in 98 percent of abusive relationships.
If batterers had a playbook, limiting access to money would be on Page 1.
Sadly, by the time victims of domestic violence are ready to seek help in New Hampshire, they may not be able to get it. In 2014 our emergency shelters were forced to turn away 1,131 adults because they were already at capacity. In Coos County there are only four full-time advocates available to support victims scattered over nearly 2,000 sprawling square miles. An entire day of work can be spent simply transporting one victim to and from court to obtain a restraining order.
The Legislature is taking steps to remedy this problem by increasing the cost of a marriage license. For two decades, that cost has held steady at $45 per license, the bulk of it dedicated to funding the state's 13 regional domestic violence crisis centers. This year there is broad bipartisan support for a modest increase of $5, which would allow advocates and emergency shelters to help more victims - and more children, who are often in tow when a mom flees an abusive relationship. During the legislative process, the Senate decided to add a new funding stream, proposing a $50 fine on all abusers convicted under Joshua's Law, New Hampshire's new domestic violence statute. The law was named in memory of Joshua Savyon, an Amherst boy murdered by his father in 2013.
The addition of this fine on convicted abusers has proven controversial. Some legislators are wary of yet another fine, while others are concerned about overburdening defendants who might not have the money. For what it's worth, it is very important to note that domestic violence is a crime that knows no socio-economic boundaries. Anyone can be a victim.
When members of the House and Senate meet to decide the fate of this funding on Tuesday, I hope they'll keep in mind that a woman's abuser often has her purse on lockdown.
When he becomes violent, when she calls 911 and gathers the strength to help put him behind bars, when he is convicted under Joshua's Law and is required to hand over $50, you'd better believe she's paid that fine already.
In more ways than one.
Amanda Grady Sexton is director of public policy for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.
Nurses specially trained to respond to sexual assault
by Abbey Doyle
EVANSVILLE - The job of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner is one registered nurse Jessica Hahn and her co-workers wish wasn't necessary.
But she is glad the specially trained nurses are there to respond to both adults and children who have been sexually assaulted.
Deaconess Hospital has seven SANEs, three of whom are also trained as pediatric SANEs.
“Our job is a marriage of nursing and forensic evidence collector,” Hahn said. “We are not only trained to respond to the patient's medical needs as a nurse but we also are trained to collect evidence and testify in court as an expert.”
Part of the SANEs training is also about how to emotionally help the patient through the process, but the SANE is assisted with that by an advocate or volunteer from Albion Fellows Bacon Center, a local domestic violence and sexual assault resource center.
The SANE program was introduced at Deaconess in the early 1990s, explained Shawn Brown, RN and SANE. The nurses involved in the program take a multi-agency approach when caring for victims of sexual violence working closely with local law enforcement in obtaining evidence and maintaining security for the patient.
The SANE also works closely with the Albion Fellows advocate who is there for the patient during the entire experience for support, to answer questions and to help with any necessary follow-up care. Holly's House, a local nonresidential child and adult victim advocacy center, is also a part of the multi-agency response as follow-up interviews with police are often done there instead of at the police station.
Sidney Hardgrave, Holly's House executive director, said the collaborative process to respond to victims of sexual assault and abuse is amazing.
“All of the agencies are working together to provide the best outcome for the victim,” she said. “The Sexual Assault Response Team is made up of medical, social service, law enforcement and prosecution representatives all with the goal of supporting the victim's needs.”
While every emergency department nurse is trained to collect evidence in a sexual assault, a SANE is able to bring another level of expertise in the exam with advanced training. Whenever possible a SANE, if one is not already working in the emergency department at the time, is called in to handle the intense exam, said Marlene Waller, director of emergency services at Deaconess. And once that exam is started, that nurse must stay with the evidence until the police arrive to collect it to maintain a secure chain of custody. The exam can last as long as six hours.
“These are not skills taught in nursing school,” Waller said. “Nurses aren't trained to collect forensic evidence.”
Christina Wicks, Albion Fellows senior victim specialist, said their role is to help the victim understand their options, what to expect with the exam and offer emotional support both during the exam and in the days, weeks and years later through the services Albion Fellows provides. The agency is the one to follow through with the victim throughout the entire process — reporting the crime to police, counseling, prosecution and other services she may need, Wicks said.
That advocate isn't just for the victim, Hardgrave said. That person will also provide support and resources to family who are often impacted in instances of sexual assault, especially when the victim is a child.
The comprehensive medical exam is different for a child than it is an adult. And before there were trained pediatric SANEs in Evansville beginning in 2012, child victims of sexual assault had to go to Indianapolis for the medical exam and evidence collection.
Wicks said it is so critical to have the SANEs in the community because it allows for the most accurate evidence collection and expert testimony if the case goes to court.
“This allows for better prosecution, better collaborative response and the whole experience is easier for the victims, especially the children who no longer have to leave the community for the exam,” she said.
Victims of sexual assault need to know that there are people out there to help and support them deal with the emotional and physical trauma they are suffering.
Brown said often sexual assault is seen as taboo and the victim feels as if it is her fault.
“That is never the case,” she said. “And we are here to support them through this without judgment.”
Importance of the exam
Wicks said in many cases of sexual assault there isn't a lot of physical violence, instead there is coercion and mental abuse. But she stressed that an assault doesn't have to be brutal or cause physical injury for it to be an assault.
Often those who don't get physically injured don't report what happened, Hardgrave said.
“Those hurt by the attack are more likely to seek care; if they aren't injured they probably won't go to the hospital or report it. We want people to realize that even if they don't think they are hurt or don't plan to report the assault to police that it is still important to come and get a good medical exam and be tested and treated for any potential sexually transmitted diseases.”
That exam — whether or not it is reported to police — is done at no cost to the victim. And even if the patient chooses not to press charges evidence can be collected and held up to a year in case she may later decide to press charges. And Hahn said victims have the right at any time of the exam to decline part of it.
“We are driven on what the victim is comfortable with,” she said. “It is a difficult thing but we have support here for them.”
The SANE program was introduced at Deaconess in the early 1990s but in recent years it has expanded greatly and the hospital said it is taking an aggressive approach in the training and continued education of nurses for the program. Waller said the hospital has a great commitment to train the SANE nurses and have them available when needed.
There is a great need for these specially trained nurses and the seven women in those roles at Deaconess have a passion for what they are doing, Hahn said.
Rolf Harris's vile jail song: In shock letter from cell, shamed star reveals 'country rock' lyrics that damn his sex victims as greedy 'wenches' – then brags about cushy prison life
by Olga Craig
(Letter and lyrics on site)
Convicted paedophile Rolf Harris has written a vile song from his prison cell, sickeningly castigating his victims as money-grabbing mercenaries intent on claiming compensation.
Harris, 84, targeted girls as young as seven, but in his lyrics he displays no remorse for his crimes. Instead, he callously describes the victims whose lives he wrecked as ‘woodworms' who have ‘climbed up out of the woodwork from 40 years ago'.
In his misogynistic rant, he shamelessly sneers at the women he indecently assaulted, saying: ‘Perhaps you think you're pretty still, some perfumed sultry wench?'
The words are contained in a letter Harris sent from Stafford prison to someone close to him. He was so appalled at its contents that he passed it to The Mail on Sunday.
In the letter Harris insists he will record the song ‘the moment I get out', arrogantly assuming he will get parole and walk free ‘towards the end of 2017'.
Astonishingly, the former children's entertainer also talks of ‘the injustice' of his incarceration and of his cushy life behind bars.
His loathsome song prompted Liz Dux, a solicitor from Slater and Gordon, who represents his victims, to call for him to be denied parole, especially as many of his victims have spent years in therapy to cope with the aftermath of his abuse.
‘I strongly urge that this man is denied the right to apply for parole,' Ms Dux said last night. ‘And if he is allowed to apply, I sincerely hope this letter is taken into account and he is made to serve his full sentence.
‘He put these women through hell during the trial. He has shown them nothing but contempt and arrogance, even in the way he assaulted them. They will be distraught at this disgusting song.
‘They came forward because they wanted to see him face justice – it was nothing to do with claiming compensation. They are claiming it because it is the only way they can hold him personally liable.
‘Many of them have been deeply affected and need really complex treatment.
‘That is not provided by the NHS, so a large part of the claim will go towards that.
‘The main victim has never worked because of his abuse of her from an early age. Hers is a life ruined. Yet Rolf Harris still believes fame, power and money are more important than these women's lives.'
One of Harris' victims said last night: ‘I am totally revolted by what he has written. Despite convictions on every count he has shown no remorse and continues to think he can treat his victims like dirt.
'His arrogance is beyond belief. I am devastated by reading this and it will set back my recovery at a time when I am trying to rebuild my shattered life.'
Last night leading criminal justice expert Harry Fletcher, director of the Digital Trust which helps abuse sufferers, said he was outraged that the author of such a vile letter would automatically be eligible for parole halfway through his sentence of five years and nine months.
‘It is appalling and outrageous that Harris will walk free in two years and ten months, yet he so obviously feels not a shred of remorse or respect for his victims,' he said.
‘This is a perfect example of why the conditions of parole should be changed. Someone like Harris should not be eligible when he clearly feels no remorse and shows such contempt for his victims.'
The shamed TV star and artist, who once painted the Queen's portrait and was the darling of broadcast executives before his predatory and wanton sexual assaults were revealed, was jailed last July for 12 indecent assaults against four women.
In the letter, written in February, Harris – who was stripped of his CBE by the Queen after his conviction – brags of his easy lifestyle, saying: ‘Prison is no hardship really. I'm in the art room as an assistant to the tutor and basically I am doing what I like… I'm well accepted in here and there are a load of people, many of whom are friends.'
But it is his song that is the most sickening aspect of his correspondence. In rhyming couplets, his sneering lyrics begin: ‘Climb up out of the woodwork babe, from forty years ago. The climate's great in Britain now for making loads of dough. You've festered down there long enough, time's right to grab your chance. Clap eyes on a rich celebrity and make the bastard dance.'
Writing about 20 alleged victims who have come forward since he was convicted and are pursuing compensation, Harris continues: ‘My guess is they'll slide after you [his original accusers] all following your stench.'
He describes the women's quest for justice and for compensation by saying: ‘Join the feeding frenzy, girls.'
And the chorus of the song which is unfinished and as yet untitled, reads: ‘Make him squirm, slimy little woodworm, make him squirm, squirm, squirm.
‘Sink your claws right in to the hilt, don't let him go.'
In his prison cell Harris has been plotting to fight the compensation claims and protect his £16 million fortune.
His wealth comprises several companies, worth £8.5 million, £2.3 million in cash, and his mortgage-free £5 million home on the Thames in Bray, Berkshire, which he owns with wife Alwen, 82.
Even behind bars he is still making money since iTunes and Spotify are selling the disgraced star's songs.
It is believed he has hired private investigators to delve into the backgrounds of the women who are launching the civil claim against him. Harris's daughter Bindi and niece Jennifer have also hired lawyers in the hope of seeing off the women's claims.
During Harris's trial an email from Bindi to her father was read out in which she referred to inheriting his wealth as being akin to ‘winning the lottery'. She, like her mother, denies his guilt, describing her father as a ‘kind, sweet, honest man'.
Harris was originally sent to Bullingdon prison in Oxfordshire but was transferred to Stafford last October after he complained of being bullied and abused by fellow prisoners. One spat on him in the prison chapel after inmates claimed he was given preferential treatment and easy gardening jobs.
One of Britain's oldest prisons, Stafford is a category C prison with Victorian blocks and is exclusively for sex offenders. It contains 741 inmates who are not considered a security risk but cannot be trusted in an open prison.
All must wear uniforms, even prison-issue underwear and socks. Harris shares a cell in which he has use of a toilet and basin. He is allowed three showers a week.
Discipline is strict and those who break the rules are confined to their cells. As a sex offender, Harris's letters will be read by prison censors to ensure he isn't communicating with any of his victims.
Since he was locked up, Harris's only visitors have been Alwen, Bindi and Jennifer. This is the first letter he has written.
Clearly seething in his cell, he says he is finding it ‘EXTRAORINARILY [sic] difficult to write from gaol' and admits that after eight months inside ‘the inner rage has come to the fore. I've started writing a song about the injustice of it all.'
After the lyrics he concludes: ‘There's a lot more of it, but as yet I haven't got a tune. I envisage a country rock sound.'
He tells how he passes his time painting. ‘I did a big square picture of a tiger on the half landing yesterday and today,' he writes. ‘Tomorrow I start an image of a Scottish castle on the wall.'
After discussing other animal drawings he moves on to talk of his wife who has stood by him. He writes: ‘Alwen I'm worried about, as she's very lonely there at home. She rattles around in that big place, virtually alone and she's very fragile.'
Harris, however, showed no such compassion for the women he ruthlessly abused. One of his victims was a seven-year-old autograph-hunter and another his daughter Bindi's close friend. Though his prosecution was for the abuse of four women, scores more have come forward with allegations.
His chief victim was targeted when she was just 15. She and her mother met Harris at a promotional event at a shop in Australia in 1991. He groped her after insisting on giving her a hug, and then rubbed himself against her mother's bottom as they had their photograph taken.
When the older woman challenged him, calling Harris ‘a disgusting creature,' he told her: ‘She liked it,' referring to her daughter.
When the sordid details emerged in 1997, Harris wrote to the girl's father begging for forgiveness. But he has since doggedly protested his innocence, insisting she ‘willingly' took part in a consensual relationship after ‘seducing' him as an adult.
He tried desperately to wriggle out of trouble by telling her brother: ‘It takes two to tango.'
In court the victim was described by prosecutor Sasha Wass QC as ‘a damaged and emotionally dead creature', adding: ‘He used her for his sexual gratification like she was a blow-up doll.'
During his trial Harris was deemed a ‘Jekyll and Hyde' character who used his fame to mesmerise underage fans over an 18-year period from 1968. He began grooming his daughter's best friend when she was just 13, treating her like ‘a young puppy' after first molesting her on a family holiday in Australia in 1978. He continued to target her on their return to Britain, before ‘psychologically dominating her into womanhood', jurors were told at his trial.
She was ‘dehumanised' during that spell, she told the court, and was transformed from a ‘carefree child' to ‘an emotionally scarred adult' which sparked her descent into depression and chronic alcoholism.
When Harris was found guilty he showed neither emotion nor remorse. He announced that he would appeal his sentence but has since decided not to, claiming it would be too difficult for his wife.
Yet he allowed his victims to endure the harrowing court process by insisting he was innocent. During his trial his lawyers portrayed the women as fame-hungry liars. Their stories, however, were remarkably similar, each painting a disturbing picture of a man who used his fame to abuse girls and young women.
CAC: Authority Abuse
LINCOLN, Neb -- It happens more than you think, adults in positions of power taking advantage of children, turning them into victims.
The Lincoln Child Advocacy Center (CAC) and 10/11 News take a look at the problem and some strategies to prevent the unthinkable.
"It's horrible, it's something that keeps you awake at night knowing a child is unsafe," says Steve Joel the superintendent of Lincoln Public Schools.
Many parents, caregivers, and educators can't imagine it happening to their children, but the communities and families who are affected are unable to understand how it occurred.
"Absolute shock, I just couldn't believe it," said Pat McKinney. The unthinkable acts by someone in power is hard for many members of the community to understand as the suspect is often someone they know and trust.
"They put themselves in positions or opportunities where they are going to be around children," says Lynn Ayers of the Lincoln CAC. "Whether it's a youth serving program, a teacher, a mentoring program, or coach. They put themselves in that position where they have easy access to the kids."
The suspect often takes their time, gaining the trust of the entire community, not just their victims. They then manipulate various situations to provide them the opportunity for abuse. After the assault many abusers will use their position of trust against the victim.
"No one wants to believe them, because they were so nice."
There are even times where the victim does not realize that they are a victim. "The youth doesn't understand the consequences of the behaviors," says Ayers. While the youth are unaware that they may be a victim of child sexual assault, the abuser is aware.
There are typically signs to be aware of steps that both organizations and communities can do to protect children and avoid abuse.
Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) has a staff of thousands of authority figures and they put an emphasis on training to prevent these situations from happening. "We want to make sure our students are comfortable," says Russ Uhing of LPS.
LPS also has policies in place to make sure students and teachers are never alone and they include parents in conversations as much as possible to keep things transparent.
LPS staff members say there is a lot of training on appropriate interaction with youth.
Unfortunately, even with the best program in place, incidents can occur. The key is to have a plan in place for both students and staff. According to the CAC that's a big key, as abusers often have multiple victims.
Log on to learn the signs of child abuse
Missouri's first online mandated reporting course
by Rachel Dubrovin
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Log on to learn the signs of child abuse. That's the idea behind a new mandated reporter training program created by the Greene County Prosecutor, Community Action Partnership, and other advocates in Springfield. They say there's a chance it'll lead to an increase in reports of child abuse, which is actually a good thing.
“A mandated reporter is someone that suspects child abuse and needs to report it,” says Community Action Partnership's Amber Allen, who helped design the website. She says the idea is to make mandated reporter training more convenient, and available to everyone.
“Yes, the entire community, because you never know when you'll be put in a situation where you will end up being a mandated reporter,” says Allen.
What used to be offered four times a year through the prosecutor's office is now available to anyone with two hours to spare and an internet connection. The program features videos hosted by Greene County Prosecutor Dan Patterson and Child Advocacy Center's Micki Lane. She usually leads mandated reporter trainings in person to explain how to recognize signs of child abuse.
“The more people who are trained to recognize the signs and symptoms, the more reports can be made, so those children can come out of those abusive homes,” says Lane.
If you look at the 2014 annual report from Missouri's Children's Division, you'll notice that the majority of calls to the child abuse hotline were classified as ‘services not needed' or ‘unsubstantiated'. In fact, in Greene County, less than 7 out of every 1,000 child abuse reports were deemed ‘substantiated'. But Lane says that certainly does not mean the system isn't working.
“There's a large misunderstanding about how those calls are coded,” says Lane, “Children's Division's goal is to become a part of the solution and hopefully get involved early so that there aren't those extreme outcomes of a substantiation.”
Lane says a training like this could lead to more reports of child abuse in Greene County, but that's not a bad thing because it shows people care about keeping kids safe.
“It's not something that's a negative to say we have a higher rate of reporting. I, in fact, feel like we're much more proactive than maybe other parts of the state,” she says.
If you suspect child abuse, you can call Missouri's Department of Social Services hotline at 1-800-392-3738. But if you have an out-of-state area code, that number won't work. You'll have to call 573-751-3448.
New training for child abuse investigations saves time and money
by Avery Schneider
Despite frequently dealing with cases of child abuse, many law enforcers across New York are not proficient at handling them. New online training from the State's Division of Criminal Justice Services aims to change that and save law enforcement agencies time and money in the process.
In cases of child abuse, first contact is everything, from the right words said, or not said, to proper investigations and putting victims in touch with advocates and resources.
Town of Evans Police Chief Ernest Masullo says he has been doing child abuse training with his officers for years, going as far back as when course videos came on VCR tapes. He says it is effective, but time-consuming.
“It's pulling them off the road and putting them in a room and training them,” said Masullo.
For a town like Evans with only 29 officers, training leaves the department with a big deficit of manpower and a strain on the budget.
With the free online training for dealing with child abuse now available from New York State, Masullo plans to have his department take full advantage.
“A special order will be put out where it will be mandatory training,” Masullo said.
With internet-enabled laptops in every patrol car, officers like Masullo's will be able to take their training anytime, anywhere. They will learn how to recognize harm to a child, ensure victims are not re-traumatized and conduct more thorough investigations.
While online training lacks the engagement of a classroom, Masullo says his officers make up for it by bouncing ideas and experiences off one another.
“If they don't have an answer to the question, they go to another person,” said Masullo. “Then they eventually work their way up to the detectives, or to my office, and we find an answer for them.”
Officers can take the training as often as they need it, and even use it to assess their responses on the job. Masullo says everyone, including himself, stands to gain from the training.
12 percent decrease in countywide child abuse reported
According to new figures released, Center for Family Strengthening reports a 12 percent decrease in child abuse in San Luis County. The information cites statistics released by the Action for Healthy Communities 2013 Vital Signs Report, which sources data from the Child Welfare Services reports for California and the University of California at Berkeley Center for Social Services Research, 2006-2012.
“We're pleased with the results,” said Lisa Fraser, executive director of center. “Despite a crushing recession and an increasing population we've achieved a significant decrease in child abuse in San Luis Obispo County. Our programs are being proven to be effective.”
“Child abuse and neglect are found in families across the social and economic spectrum. Social isolation, financial stress, poverty, substance abuse, and domestic violence are all factors that can lead to adults abusing children. And while San Luis Obispo County has seen a 12 percent decrease in total cases of substantiated child abuse from 2006 to 2012, the rate of substantiated cases for the county (13.9 per 1,000) was still higher than for the state of California as a whole (9.2 per 1,000) in 2012. General neglect accounted for 91 percent of child abuse cases in the county,” stated the 2013 report.
To donate or learn more about Center for Family Strengthening go to www.cfsslo.org or call (805) 543-6216.
Pope Creates Tribunal for Bishop Negligence in Child Sexual Abuse Cases
by ELISABETTA POVOLEDO and LAURIE GOODSTEIN
ROME — Pope Francis has approved the creation of a Vatican tribunal for judging bishops accused of covering up or failing to act in cases of child sexual abuse by priests, an unprecedented step long demanded by victims in the more than three decades that the Roman Catholic Church has publicly dealt with the abuse scandal.
Bishops, regarded as “princes of the church” and sovereign in their dioceses, until now could be disciplined only directly by the pope, but until Francis, no pope had publicly confronted or demoted even those bishops accused of gross negligence. Under Francis' predecessors — Pope Benedict XVI and, before him, John Paul II — the Vatican defrocked about 850 priests for sexual abuse and penalized about 2,500 more, but there was no similar judicial mechanism for bishops.
Advocates for abuse victims had a range of reactions, from skepticism to watchful optimism.
Francis' move could affect bishops around the world as awareness of sexual abuse and calls for accountability spread, even to the church in Latin America, Asia and Africa, where the topic is still largely taboo.
It will also bring new scrutiny to a number of bishops currently under investigation over accusations that they covered up abuse by priests. They include Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of Minneapolis and St. Paul, whose archdiocese was indicted last week; Cardinal George Pell of Australia, the head of the Vatican's finances, who was recently called to testify by a government commission in Australia; and Bishop Robert W. Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Missouri, who was convicted on a misdemeanor charge for negligently handling a case involving a pedophile priest. He resigned his post recently but remains a bishop.
A mechanism for holding bishops accountable has been a high priority of the 17-member papal commission on abuse that was also created by Francis. That commission includes two abuse survivors and many laypeople, and it is headed by Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston, who was sent to Boston at the height of the abuse scandal there, and to two other dioceses before that, to clean up scandals left behind by previous bishops. l
There are many unanswered questions as to how the tribunal will conduct its inquiries and proceedings, including what punishments it would impose on bishops found guilty.
Peter Saunders, one of the two abuse survivors on the commission, said he was pleased that Francis seemed to be listening to their recommendations but said, “When allegations against senior clergy are brought to the tribunal, we'll see whether it's working.”
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in St. Louis for their semiannual meeting, said they had no advance knowledge of the creation of a new tribunal. (Among those attending the meeting was Archbishop Nienstedt.) In interviews, bishops said that they welcomed the step as a move toward transparency and would cooperate fully.
“It's something new and necessary in the church because it does provide a standard and a policy that holds bishops accountable in the way we've held our clergy accountable,” said Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Burlington, Vt., who was a spokesman in the archdiocese of Boston at the height of the scandals there in the early to mid-2000s.
The five-point plan announced on Wednesday says the tribunal will be housed in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office that polices adherence to church doctrine and that already handles the cases of priests accused of abuse.
Francis will choose a secretary, and additional permanent staff members will be hired for the tribunal, said the Vatican's chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi. The procedures will be re-evaluated in five years, he said.
Father Lombardi said the tribunal would also examine some of the abuse cases perpetrated by clergy members that were “still pending” at the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. “They are still very numerous and have accumulated,” he said. The tribunal will “accelerate” matters, he said, noting that money had been set aside to bolster the new section.
Father Lombardi said that the tribunal's responsibility for judging bishops would include questions of omission: “what one should have done and didn't do,” he said. “This is another kind of responsibility and shortcoming, and has to be judged in an appropriate way with appropriate rules.”
Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, a support and advocacy group for victims, said in a statement that she suspected that the new panel “won't make a difference” because it relies on church officials to judge other church officials. She said that a more effective move would be for the church to support the reform of secular laws to strengthen the prosecution of those responsible for abuse.
Voice of the Faithful, a church reform movement first created to respond to the abuse scandal, said, “These steps are the most promising the Vatican has yet taken.” Terence McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org, a Boston-based group that documents cases of sexual abuse by priests, called the development encouraging because it “provides a structure, personnel, a budget and a brief for actually acting.”
In the United States, where the church has been struggling with the question of sexual abuse by members of the clergy since the first case of serial abuse became public in Louisiana in the 1980s, the problem remains far from resolved.
Last year, there were 37 allegations of sexual abuse made to the church by those who were currently minors, and another 600 “historical allegations” made by those who are older, said Francesco C. Cesareo, chairman of the United States bishops conference's National Review Board on sexual abuse, in his report to the bishops on Wednesday. Six of the current allegations made last year were substantiated, and other cases were still open, he said. l
Given that, he said, “it should not be concluded that the sexual abuse of minors is a problem of the past that has already been addressed.”
“This is the missing link in the church's response to the abuse crisis,” said the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor at large of the Jesuit weekly magazine America. “It is a long overdue and delayed response to this problem, but it's an absolutely indispensable step. This is what everyone was waiting for and all were calling for in all quarters of the church.”
Father Martin suggested that action had been slow to come because there was a “lingering reluctance to hold bishops accountable if they themselves had not committed the abuse” and because, after the Second Vatican Council shifted greater power from Rome to the bishops, of “the traditional authority of bishops over their dioceses.”
Whistleblower's Letter Reveals Office Of UN Secretary General Knew Of Child Sex Abuse Months Before Taking Action
(WASHINGTON) – On June 11 th , a letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations from Miranda Brown, a former senior official at the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva and a client of the Government Accountability Project (GAP), revealed that his office was aware of child sex abuse allegations involving French and African troops in the Central African Republic (CAR) in August, 2014.
According to Brown, who was Acting Director of the Africa Branch at OHCHR last summer, the handling of allegations of the sexual abuse of children was elevated to the Secretary General's Office when Anders Kompass, a senior official at the OHCHR, sent the report Sexual Abuse on Children by International Armed Forces in the M'Poko IDP camp in Bangui, Central African Republic to French authorities through the French Mission in Geneva.
Miranda Brown's testimony in the child sex abuse case
Brown lost her position at the OHCHR on May 21, the day before she was to be interviewed by investigators from the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) in connection with the retaliation against Kompass for reporting child sex abuse to law enforcement in France, which had jurisdiction over the issue. Brown's testimony in the investigation and an imminent external inquiry is crucial. According to her letter, released today:
[T]he Special Assistant to Deputy High Commissioner Flavia Pansieri, Ms Linnea Arvidsson, sent an email to the Executive Office of the Secretary General informing the UN leadership about the allegations of child sexual abuse in the Central African Republic and advising the UN leadership that the unredacted MINUSCA [Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic] report had been transmitted to the French Government. Thus the UN leadership, including your Executive Office and the Deputy Secretary General, was aware that the unredacted MINUSCA report had been transmitted to the French Government.
Kompass was suspended by the OHCHR in April, 2015 for what the United Nations Spokesman characterized as a leak eight months earlier of the MINUSCA report. Both Brown and Kompass maintain that the transmission of the report was in fact an official communication acknowledged at the time by the French Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Ambassador Nicolas Niemtchinow. Moreover, both the report and the official acknowledgement of receipt in the French Mission were sent immediately to the Executive Office of the Secretary General and of the Deputy Secretary General; both were informed of the report's transmission shortly after Kompass took action.
Bea Edwards, GAP Executive Director said:
"We can only wonder now, why Mr. Kompass was accused of breaching disclosure protocols eight months after the highest officials at the United Nations were officially made aware of his actions and accepted them. Thus far, there is neither a coherent nor a consistent explanation from the UN Secretariat."
CONTACT: Andrew Harman, GAP Communications Director
Phone: (202) 457-0034 Ext. 156
About the Government Accountability Project
The Government Accountability Project is the nation's leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP's mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. GAP was consulted by U.N. management when the organization created its initial protection against retaliation policy and has advised several staff associations within the U.N. system about whistleblower protections.
Letter to the Editor
Organization can help protect children from sexual abuse
by Heather Ross
Most likely you have read something recently regarding the Duggar family and sexual abuse among siblings. At the Children's Advocacy Project, many of our most heart-wrenching cases involve sibling sexual abuse. Parents are often distraught to learn their child has been victimized at the hands of another sibling. The anguish of parents as they struggle to provide emotional support and effective intervention is very real.
CAP, with local investigators and prosecutors, can help families navigate this difficult time. CAP can help victims heal and ensure youth with sexual behavior problems receive treatment and are held accountable for changing their behavior.
Nearly 40 percent of children are sexually abused by another child. There are many reasons a child may develop a sexual behavior problem: lack of privacy or boundaries, exposure to sexualized materials or environment or a personal sexual abuse history . Whatever the reason, it is critical to ensure effective treatment. Early identification can help protect the victim and prevent future sexual abuse.
At the heart of every child sexual abuse case is the child victim. We cannot minimize the trauma victims suffer at the hands of another child. When the offender is a sibling or a friend, victims suffer a betrayal of trust that is deeply wounding, often struggling with fear of continued abuse and their love for the family member. As a society we owe them the treatment needed to heal as they go through the healing process.
At CAP we have witnessed countless cases of child sexual abuse over the years. We hope continued dialogue will draw attention to the issue and how we all are responsible for protecting our children.
CAP is designed after a national model that is committed to ensuring there are intervention and prevention services readily available, so families in similar situations may seek the help and treatment they need and deserve. I encourage you to visit the Children's Advocacy Project's website and Facebook page to learn more about child sexual abuse and how you can be part of the movement to stop child sexual abuse in our communities across Wyoming.
HEATHER ROSS, Casper, executive director, Children's Advocacy Project
Trauma can overwhelm a child's ability to cope
by Dana Carroll
I attended a session while at a conference in New Orleans this week, on trauma, children and quality experiences to reduce the impact of adverse experiences. Being an early childhood conference, it is not surprising that high-quality preschool and other nurturing early care experiences were cited as key to remediating the trauma. Trauma comes in many forms, from chaos and loss to extensive and persistent physical or emotional abuse at the hands of a caregiver. Traumatic events overwhelm a child's ability to cope and express feelings of fear and powerlessness. Many of the “out-of-control” behaviors we see in kindergarten can be attributed to trauma experienced earlier in a child's life.
Why does trauma impact a child so pervasively? It begins prenatally, when a baby's brain is developing. The child will be born with all the neurons he/she will ever have. Brain growth in the first years of life is in the myelination and neural connections. That just means that connecting brain cells together is the work of the developing infant brain. The connections are completely dependent on interactions with caregivers and the environment. These connections will allow for skill development and memory formation, including cognitive, emotional and physical memory. When a child's brain is consumed in survival mode due to repeated trauma, their neurons are easily excitable, and the thinking brain is smaller. Also, the child begins to self-protect by shutting down the excitable neurons and pulling away from their environment and caregivers. This can lead to attachment problems, lack of empathy, aggression and impulsiveness. The child reacts with an emotional response to challenges. They will draw incorrect conclusions about how and why things happen. Their ability to accurately interpret is compromised.
Trauma can elicit intense fear, anger, shame and helplessness, overwhelming the child. Overpowering emotions delay the development of self-regulation. It is difficult for a child to express the emotions, particularly if they have had little opportunity to learn to identify, address and express the feelings appropriately.
Familiar, positive people, including teachers, neighbors and relatives, play such an important role in supporting children who have been exposed to trauma. It is critical to minimize the disruptions in a young child's life, while maintaining positive attachments. Children must feel safe in order to take risks — healthy risks that will help them develop physically, emotionally, and finally cognitively. Safety means consistent, predictable schedules with a variety of appropriate opportunities. It might be important for a child to come into a classroom and slowly acclimate to the environment, after experiencing a traumatic night at home. Preschools can be the equalizer, the refuge for children who otherwise would go through life trying to cope with adult issues with very few tools. Every Child Promise supports early childhood programs in helping children acquire the tools to deal with trauma and prepare for school and life.
Dana Carroll is Springfield's child advocate.
State rolling out child-first intervention program
by Crystal Garrett
North Carolina will become the third state in the nation to replicate an innovative, home-based early childhood intervention model called Child First. The program will be based in Greenville and offered through East Carolina Behavioral Health (ECBH).
“The goals of Child First are to decrease the incidence of serious emotional disturbance, developmental and learning problems, and abuse and neglect among the most vulnerable young children and families,” according to a release issued by ECBH.
Child First is a model, which serves children from birth to age 6, who have experienced trauma and/or who display emotional or behavioral challenges, said Robyn Mooring, a spokesperson for the agency.
“The model is two-generational. That means it works with the children and caregiver together,” she said.
Child First accomplishes its goals through a home-visiting program, which means that rather than having to commute to an office, staff members are easily accessible by going to families in their homes, sometimes as often as three or four times a week,
“The first priority is to address tangible problems like poor housing or lack of medical care, which sometimes means connecting families with public programs,” the release says. “The focus then shifts to improving relationships within the family, particularly between the parents and children, through a combination of advice and therapy.”
The program will serve children with all types of insurance, Mooring added. Provider agencies which will offer services to children in the area include Easter Seals UCP of N.C. and Virginia, Kids First and The Power of U, Mooring said.
“There are no other two-generational models in the mental health and substance abuse service array in North Carolina,” she added. “This model focuses on mental health, substance abuse and domestic violence. There is no other models in the state that serve children birth to 6 with the parent for these issues. Other early intervention models that are available are often not equipped to handle mental health, substance abuse or domestic violence trauma.”
Child First was developed initially in Connecticut and is one of 12 national models to receive the designation of an evidence-based practice by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HSRA), according to the release.
“North Carolina was selected over 25 other states to replicate the model, making it only the third state in the country to do so,” Mooring said.
ECBH's Chief Executive Officer Leza Wainwright said the agency was thrilled to be chosen as the management authority, which serves 19 eastern counties in the state, to model the program.
“We became aware of the model in 2013 when the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust sponsored an information session featuring Dr. Darcy Lowell, the developer of Child First,” she said. “Our staff immediately saw the benefits of the model and knew we needed to have it available for families in our area. We have worked tirelessly since then to ensure that North Carolina and ECBH were selected for this replication.”
Lowell's model is based upon the most current research on brain development.
“Extremely high stress environments - such as poverty, maternal depression, domestic violence, abuse and neglect, substance abuse, homelessness - are ‘toxic' to the developing brain of the young child,” Lowell states in her research. “The presence of a nurturing, consistent, and contingent parent-child relationship is able to buffer and protect the brain from these damaging insults,” Lowell states.
The selection criteria for identifying Child First replication states include a commitment to young children and specifically to early childhood mental health; a high level of need; the potential for multiple funding sources; a strong interest from state leaders of child welfare; education; public health; social services; and the fact that the state is recognized as a national leader in early childhood system development and innovation, the release says.
The service, which will begin in January, is expected to serve around 510 families a year, according to Mooring.
The counties that comprise the ECBH area include Craven, Pamlico, Jones, Beaufort, Bertie, Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hertford, Hyde, Martin, Northampton, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Pitt, Tyrell and Washington.
For more information about Child First, visit www.childfirst.com.
NS Home for Coloured Children apologizes to former residents
by Marieke Walsh
HALIFAX – It was an emotional scene as a current board member for the Nova Scotia Home for Coloured Children apologized to the former residents of the orphanage, Friday.
“We are deeply sorry for the physical, emotional and other harms that you have experienced,” said Sylvia Parris, chair of the Home's board.
The province released the terms of reference for an inquiry into alleged abuse at the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children, at an event at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Upper Hammonds Plains.
Premier Stephen McNeil was joined by former residents of the Home and members of the Home's board for the announcement.
The inquiry into the NSHCC stems from of allegations by former residents of the Halifax-area orphanage that they were subjected to physical, psychological and sexual abuse over several decades.
Tony Smith, a former resident of the home, was part of the group designing the terms of reference said the inquiry is not about pointing fingers, but about looking at what happened, why, and what to do next.
“We want to make sure that what we're saying is not just some book of stories that stays on the shelf. What is that we can do effectively, right now, with this information to make a difference,” Smith said.
The apology is a major step for all parties involved in the restorative process.
“The Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children's apology to us former residents of the Colored Home is something that a lot of us never thought would happen,” said Smith.
The restorative inquiry will be overseen by several parties, including representatives from the government, former residents of the home, the home's board and African Nova Scotian community members. It will catalogue evidence from former residents, staff and others.
A trained facilitation team will help former residents and others participate in the restorative process in a safe way without doing any further harm. A Reflection and Action Task Group, made up of government and community partners, will meet throughout the inquiry process to discuss what has been learned, and decide what next steps should be taken.
The inquiry will be lead by a consensus-based commission, to be appointed over the summer. They will begin their work in the fall.
“Along this journey we will have deputy ministers that will be at the table to look at what are the lessons we're learning along the way. And if we can make changes in six months we'll make them,” said premier Stephen McNeil. “If we see there are issues where we can make improvements, we will do them, we won't wait for the end.”
“Its my hope at the end, we'll be able to say here are the things we did over the last 30 months to make a difference in the lives of African Nova Scotians. And quite frankly, in the lives of communities who feel marginalized by government.”
Two people from VOICES (Victims of Institutional Child Exploitation Society) will be on the council, one of them will serve as a co-chair.
Jennifer Llewellyn helped design the restorative inquiry, she said the inquiry covers the years between 1921 and into the early 1980s. The budget for the inquiry is $5 million.
The inquiry is expected to be complete by late 2017 or early 2018.
After Josh Duggar revelations, 19 facts about child sexual abuse
by Cara Courchesne
News reports, blog posts, TV interviews, social media posts and more have covered recent reports of Josh Duggar, oldest of the Duggars to appear in their reality TV show “19 Kids and Counting,” admitting that as a juvenile he repeatedly sexually abused his sisters.
When high profile cases like these surface and more people become aware of child sexual abuse, it's important to be clear about the facts surrounding the issue.
Here are 19 facts about child sexual abuse to keep in mind as media coverage continues.
Over 50 percent of calls to Maine's sexual assault crisis and support line relate to incidents of child sexual abuse. These calls range from concerned parents or caregivers to adult survivors of abuse.
The majority of offenders are known to the child.
Many child sexual abuse victims never tell, or delay telling, about the abuse. Many children do not tell because offenders successfully convince them that they will get in trouble or no one will believe them. The closer the relationship between the victim and the offender, the more difficult it is for the victim to come forward.
Because child sexual abuse is so underreported, it can be difficult to understand the actual scope of the problem. Best available research suggests that one in four girls and one in six boys are victims of sexual abuse before they turn 18.
There is no profile for someone who offends against children. Portrayals of sex offenders in popular culture may make us think that we could easily identify a sex offender. However, offenders are often respected community members with access to children.
Being sexually abused as a child does not cause people to become sex offenders.
Juvenile sex offenders who access effective treatment generally do not go on to reoffend. Reoffending rates over several years of study show that about 10 percent of juveniles go on to reoffend.
Child maltreatment (which includes physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect) cost the United States approximately $124 billion in 2008.
The signs of child sexual abuse vary, and it's important to recognize that the absence of signs and symptoms. For a list of signs and symptoms, visit the Maine Network of Children's Advocacy Centers.
Prevention is possible. We know that there are many risk and protective factors associated with child sexual abuse, and protective factors include a supportive family environment and social networks.
Setting and respecting boundaries within a family, such as privacy in dressing, bathing, sleeping and other personal activities can help prevent abuse. This helps children understand the boundaries of others and helps them set their own.
Using the proper names of body parts can help your child understand their body, open the door for them to ask questions, and provide a space for them to tell you about any behavior that could lead to sexual abuse.
Demonstrating boundaries is a great way to show children how to say “no.” Teach children that their “no” will be respected, whether it's in playing, tickling, hugging or kissing.
There is such thing as age-appropriate sexual behavior. Being aware of these behaviors will help parents and concerned adults understand what is appropriate and what is not.
It's not up to the children in our lives to protect themselves from abuse. The evidence is clear that programming for children does not prevent child sexual abuse, but it is important because such programs provide children tools to respond if they are abused. Maine's sexual assault support centers provide prevention programming to thousands of children each year.
Adults can prevent child sexual abuse. If you are worried about another adult's behavior, there are steps you can take, including learning about child sexual abuse and warning signs, learning to have conversations about the issue, and speaking up to create safety plans and make a report.
There is support available to you, whether you experienced child sexual abuse yourself, you are worried about someone in your life who has, or you are concerned about a child in your life. Maine's sexual assault support centers are available to answer questions and provide support and advocacy to you.
In addition to sexual assault support centers, Maine has an increasing number of children's advocacy centers, which are designed to bring law enforcement, child protection, prosecution, mental health, medical and victim advocacy, and child advocacy together to conduct interviews and make team decisions about investigation, treatment, management and prosecution of child sexual abuse cases. Children's advocacy centers help increase prosecution rates and reduce the cost of child sexual abuse investigations.
The most effective kind of prevention happens before there is a victim to heal or an offender to punish.
The Duggar cases aren't going to be the last high-profile child sexual abuse cases in the media. The first step toward prevention is knowing the facts – and working toward turning the tide of child victimization. We can pretend it's the Duggar's religion and culture, but let's be real. It's our culture, too.
Let's put kids before politics
by Robert Hockema
For the second year in a row, it seems as if Erin's Law, a bill implementing a prevention-oriented child sexual abuse program, is doomed to die in a tied-up legislature — again. Even despite support from our last two governors, senators like Kevin Meyer, Mike Dunleavy and Anna MacKinnon have led an effort to barricade the original text of the law from reaching Gov. Walker's desk for its promised signature.
Specifically, our opponents of the bill's original passage have decided that politics ought to take a more precedented role than the protection of survivors of child sexual assault. Erin's Law is straightforward and implements an evidence-based curriculum to bring a voice to children who have been sexually assaulted; it has been passed in nearly half of U.S. states, and has received praise from schools and social workers all across the country. Rather than embrace its success, our senators have ignored the epidemic Erin's Law addresses and instead created a political battle over it.
That being said, I'd like to provide five simple facts about sexual assault among children to remind our senators how real the issue truly is.
1. Every year, approximately 8,000 children in Alaska are physically or sexually abused. (Child Welfare League of America)
2. Adult retrospective studies show that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men were sexually abused before the age of 18. (CDC 2006)
3. Alaska's child sexual assault rate is six times the national average. (FBI Uniform Crime Report)
4. Only 1 in 10 sexually abused children tell someone. (Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children 2012)
5. Every 6 minutes a child is sexually assaulted in the United States. (Erin Merryn)
Contrary to our Legislature's belief, Erin's Law is not political. Erin's Law is a bill that addresses a vastly underreported concern in this country. Erin's Law gives children a voice that should not be undermined by the petty politics of our budget brawl. Passing this is a step forward in mitigating a severe crisis in Alaska, and rising above the fog of ugly congressional gridlock.
Above all, I'd also like to personally call on the mentioned senators as well as others in the Legislature who believe playing politics is more important than protecting Alaska's children. Sens. Meyer, Dunleavy and MacKinnon: please put Erin's Law above the politics of this session's legislative battle for the good of our state and our children's futures. Help the Legislature put Alaska on the growing list of states protecting children from sexual assault.
Law gives agencies broader power to enter homes where child abuse is suspected
by DAVID SOLOMON
CONCORD — A bill that gives social service agencies broader powers to enter homes in cases of suspected child abuse was signed into law by Gov. Maggie Hassan on Thursday.
SB 244 was introduced by state Sen. David Boutin, R-Hooksett, after the death of a 3-year-old girl in Nashua last November raised questions about state oversight and child abuse reporting.
Brielle Gage was killed in November following assaults over a two-day period, allegedly at the hands of her mother, Katlyn Marin, 25, of Nashua, who has been charged with second-degree murder in the case.
Court records showed the girl, along with her four brothers, were initially removed from Marin's Nashua home in the spring of 2014 after allegations of child abuse first surfaced. But all of the children were eventually sent back home despite a pending second-degree assault charge pending against Marin for allegedly beating her 8-year-old son with a studded belt.
Boutin worked with a friend of Brielle's family, along with New Hampshire Kids Count and other child advocacy groups to develop the legislation, which also creates a commission to investigate how child abuse reports are handled and to recommend changes.
The new law says that upon notification that the safety of a child may be endangered, the court “shall,” upon finding probable cause, order a home visit for further investigation. The existing law gave the court broader discretion in making that decision.
The new law also states that the child “shall not be returned” to the home unless the court finds that there is no threat of imminent harm and that the parent or parents are actively engaged in efforts to address the circumstances that led to the removal.
The commission will include government representatives, state agencies and nonprofits like Kids Count and the Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.
The law calls for an interim report from the commission on Nov. 1, and a final report by June 30, 2016.
“We must always be working to do everything that we can to prevent child abuse and neglect so that every child can secure their fundamental right to be safe, to be cared for and loved, and to seize his or her vast potential,” said Hassan after signing the bill into law. “Senate Bill 244 helps ensure that all of our children have this opportunity, giving state officials another tool to help prevent child abuse and neglect.”
New child abuse prevention training program
BUFFALO, NY - A new program to help local law enforcement better respond to child abuse cases is now available statewide.
Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul was in Buffalo Thursday as the free on-line training began. She explained why it's so important.
"Of the 157,000 cases reported in 2013, 12 percent were repeat cases. That should be zero. We need to get that down to zero," said Hochul. "This information can be the key to make sure that we have successful prosecutions right from the get-go."
The training program was developed by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services along with the New York State Children's Alliance.
Children's Advocacy Center holds regional training for child abuse responders
by MAX BENNETT
SAYRE - The Bradford County Children's Advocacy Center held a day-long regional training seminar at Guthrie's Sayre campus Thursday where those on the front lines of child abuse learned how to better cooperate, mitigate child trauma, and how to cope with the potential horrors of their careers.
"It's bringing training in so they can better equip, not only themselves, but their personnel how to handle a child that has come out with a disclosure of abuse," CAC Director Edith Jordan said.
Jordan said children are "delicate" and their abuse cases need to be handled differently than adult abuse cases.
And that's just what the day's seminar focused on.
Three speakers held presentations for about 35 attendees that included local and county law enforcement, social workers, medical professionals, and county officials.
Jim Holler, a retired police chief and an active member of the CAC community, discussed how various agencies and organizations need to work closely together to ensure children are kept safe.
"The biggest thing is the team effort and rallying around these kids," Holler said.
Holler told his audience that they are superheroes to the children who suffer abuse.
But he said they aren't like Superman or Batman in that they aren't insular.
He said they are more like Buzz Lightyear in the Toy Story films because, while Buzz saves the day, he has his group of supporting toys to back him up.
And making sure law enforcement, the district attorney's office, and medical staff - among other involved groups - communicate well is integral to keep children out of harm's way.
"Sometimes it boils down to the communications between agencies," Holler said.
He said, for example, when one agency is aware of a case detail while another isn't, that disjunction "frustrates the process" of handling the case.
Holler said relaying information so all agencies involved are informed can be difficult because any one case can contain numerous factors.
In his presentation, Holler showed examples of how an abuser might contact a victim, discussed the types of predators, and telltale signs of child abuse such as extreme fear of certain people or locations, violent behavior, and hiding soiled clothes.
But another aspect of child abuse investigations is what experts call "minimal fact finding."
Sue Ascione, Lawrence County's CAC director, showed her audience the importance of minimal fact finding, which is initial questions asked to establish if a child suffered abuse.
"It's helping first responders know how to use minimal facts interviewing to find out if a child is going to disclose abuse or not," she said.
A key part of minimal fact finding is relating the information gathered by the first responder to the forensic interview with the child.
In minimal fact finding, Ascione said the most important detail is knowing "what to do and what not to do."
"We don't want (first responders) to be suggestive," she said. "We don't want to put any ideas in (children's) heads."
She said leading questions can put words in a child's mouth and children often comply with authority figures despite the truth.
Ascione said the goal is a clean interview, as well as limiting the number of times a child is interviewed about an abuse case.
"We can really protect them from the beginning if we do a minimal facts interview and get a disclosure," she said.
"We don't want in depth interviews being done in the field or at police stations," she said. "We want it done in a neutral setting, so we're just trying to help first responders identify child abuse victims and then get them referred to processes so that Child Advocacy Centers can step in and take over."
Ascione said in minimal fact finding, once a child discloses he or she suffered abuse the interview is done and, relating to Holler's communication discussion, the information gathered is relayed to the CAC where investigators can build the case based on the initial interview.
But what about the men and women who see these cases regularly?
Dealing with abuse cases can damage a person's psyche, said Karen Hangartner, deputy project director of the Southern Regional Children's Advocacy Center.
"We know that working in the field of child maltreatment has a pretty profound impact on the professionals that do the work," she said.
That's why Hangartner's discussion centered around "vicarious trauma" and "secondary traumatic stress," which are essentially post traumatic stress disorder for the professionals dealing with child abuse.
Hangartner spoke about what vicarious trauma means and looks like as well as strategies professionals can use to continue working in their field.
"The numbers are staggering," she said. "It's like 35 percent of child protection workers have full blown PTSD according to one research study."
Unfortunately, Hangartner said most of the time people are hired in child protection jobs "without warning" about what to expect and how the job will affect them.
"You're just kind of hit with it and left to deal with it on your own," she said.
She said developing environments where people feel comfortable discussing their traumatic experiences is important to keeping professionals healthy and capable of doing their jobs.
"We don't do enough to talk about psychological safety for people who do this work," she said.
Judge elect Evan Williams was present at the seminars and said the information given is integral to educating people about the issues in child maltreatment work.
"I know I learned a lot and I know there's a lot more for me to learn," he said. "It is so, so important to protect the kids. It's such a critical issue."
Williams said it's too late when law enforcement and judges need to be involved in child abuse cases.
"Education of the children and education of the parents has to happen earlier," he said.
Jordan thanked Guthrie for donating the space in the Patterson Building and the refreshments provided by hospital's the dietary department.
"Dr. (Joseph) Scopelitti and Dr. (John) Scalzone have been great in helping us," she said. "I can't say enough about them."
Cancer doctor 'could have abused up to 800 children'
Dr Myles Bradbury abused patients in his care aged as young as eight and hundreds of other families have been warned that their children could be victims
by David Barrett
15 Sep 2014
Up to 800 children could have been abused by a paediatrician who is facing jail after admitting a string of sexual offences, it emerged.
Dr Myles Bradbury abused patients in his care aged as young as eight and hundreds of other families have been warned that their children could be victims, it was reported.
Bradbury, 41, a paediatric haematologist who worked at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, pleaded guilty to 25 counts including seven of sexual assault and 12 of engaging in sexual activity with a child.
Police said the doctor carried out unjustified medical examinations on young boys “purely for his own sexual gratification”.
Some of Bradbury's victims were suffering from grave illnesses, including cancer.
He also admitted three counts of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, one count of voyeurism and two counts of making indecent images of a child.
John Farmer, prosecuting, told Cambridge Crown Court that the offences involved 18 complainants aged eight to 17 over a four-year period from 2009.
A spokesman for Cambridgeshire Police confirmed there were likely to be more victims of Bradbury who have yet to come forward.
The total of 800 possible victims include those he treated during his five years at Addenbrooke's and at two other hospitals in Colchester and Ipswich, where he held outpatients clinics between 2008 and 2013, the Daily Mail reported.
One parent whose son was treated for leukaemia by Bradbury for 14 months before his death at the age of three said she feared she would never know if he was molested.
Claire Yeoman's son Declan was not among the victims named in court but she told BBC Look East: “It made me feel physically ill. Obviously you think ‘was your child involved?'
“You go through every single day of his treatment and basically relive the whole memory of 18 months.” Addenbrooke's has opened a helpline for families who fear that they might have been affected.
It also emerged that more than 16,000 indecent images of children were found on a computer disk in Bradbury's home in Herringswell, near Bury St Edmund's, Suffolk.
Bradbury pleaded not guilty to a count of sexual activity with a child and a count of sexual assault.
Judge Gareth Hawkesworth said those two offences will lie on file and told Bradbury that he could expect a “substantial” custodial sentence.
He was ordered to sign the sex offenders' register immediately.
Bradbury was bailed to a later date for sentencing and said “I'm so sorry” to reporters as he left court.
Dr Keith McNeil, the chief executive of the NHS trust which runs Addenbrooke's, said: “As chief executive of the trust, I am so deeply sorry these incidents have happened and I am also deeply saddened, as a doctor, that one of my own profession has placed himself and his patients in this position.
“There is a very ancient and sacred trust that exists between a doctor and his patients and, quite frankly, it sickens me to think that trust has been breached.”
Ann-Marie Ingle, the trust's chief nurse, described the defendant's crimes as a “cold and calculating abuse of trust” which had left staff “deeply shocked”.
Child abuse doctor Myles Bradbury has jail sentence cut by six years
Court of Appeal reduces 22-year prison sentence for children's doctor who abused 18 boys at hospital in Cambridge to 16 years
A children's doctor who abused 18 boys in his care has had his 22-year jail sentence reduced to 16 years.
Myles Bradbury, 42, from Herringswell, Suffolk, who worked as a paediatric consultant haematologist at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, had his custodial term reduced by three judges at the Court of Appeal in London on Friday.
Lady Justice Hallett, Mr Justice Haddon-Cave and Mr Justice Goss announced that they were "restructuring" the original 22 years, replacing it with a custodial element of 16 years with an additional six years on licence.
Bradbury, who was described by the trial judge at Cambridge Crown Court as one of the worst paedophiles he had ever seen, watched proceedings via video-link from prison on the Isle of Wight.
He was jailed in December after pleading guilty to more than 20 offences, including sexual assault, voyeurism and possessing more than 16,000 indecent images, involving boys aged between 10 and 16.
All of the victims suffered from leukaemia, haemophilia or other serious conditions. Some have since died.
Bradbury filmed some of them using a spy pen and abused others behind a curtain while their parents were in the room.
Lady Justice Hallett, who described Bradbury's offending as "wicked", said the court agreed with the sentencing judge that "a total figure of 22 years was appropriate".
But she said they believed that a "better way both to punish the appellant and protect the public" was to "restructure the sentence".
She described Bradbury as "dangerous" and said the consequences of his offending had been widespread and "devastating" for the victims and their families.
Bradbury must serve two-thirds of the 16 years imposed as part of the extended sentence before he can apply for parole.
Training on prevention of child sexual abuse to be held in Fluvanna
The sheriff's office, office of the commonwealth's attorney and victim/witness assistance program in Fluvanna County are hosting a free public training on the prevention of child sexual abuse.
The Stewards of Children training is scheduled to be held from 6 to 8 p.m. June 25 at the Fluvanna County Library in Palmyra. The training will be presented by Rachel Thielmann, an authorized facilitator from the Foothills Child Advocacy Center.
The program is designed for every adult concerned about the safety and well-being of children, and will teach them to prevent, recognize and react responsibility to child sexual abuse, according to a news release.
To register, contact Trudy Harris at email@example.com or 703-314-7060 or contact Jane Tirrell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 971-7233 no later than June 22.
Sexual Abuse of Children Remains Prevalent, Unreported, Study Says
by Gary Levine
A recent study, performed on behalf of “Lauren's Kids” this past April, both reveals and confirms some disconcerting sexual abuse data.
Lauren's Kids, a South Florida 501(c)(3) founded by Lauren Book (a victim of sexual abuse for 6 years), “educates adults and children about sexual abuse prevention through in-school curricula, awareness campaigns and speaking engagements around the country and the world.”
The study's conclusions confirmed and validated that which those of us who have served as Child Protection Professionals already knew…a staggering percentage of Floridian children admit to having been sexually abused prior to the age of 18. 1 in 3 females and 1 in 5 males surveyed made this admission.
While sexual molestations such as the alleged incidents involving Josh Duggar and former Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, generate significant media interest, the majority of incidents that occur go unreported. The Sachs study claims that 59% of females and 47% of males surveyed stated that their molestation/abuse went unreported.
Sexual abuse, which does not require physical contact, leaves the deepest and most mortifying of wounds…wounds that often never heel. Suffering sexual abuse dismantles one's self-concept and shatters self-esteem. Victims are made to feel a sense of worthlessness…a feeling that often leads to self-injury and/or suicide.
While victims of such abuse desperately require counseling from trained professionals, this study revealed that only 1 in 5 children received counseling to address this trauma.
Lauren Book believes that 95% of childhood sexual abuse is preventable through education and awareness. While that is speculative and subjective, as well as an extraordinarily high number, I am in agreement that a need to educate parents, caregivers and children exists regarding types of abuse, potential for abuse, the need to report and the importance of intervention.
Many years ago, while serving as a Family Services Counselor for the Florida Department of Children and Families, I received instructions to investigate allegations of sexual abuse made by a 17-year-old female. Although I had participated in investigations of childhood sexual abuse so many times before, this particular incident was so troublesome that I recall it to this very day.
Mom greeted me at the door as I arrived unannounced. Reasonably shocked and alarmed by my visit, she allowed me to enter. She chose to sit at where the modular, perpendicular sofa pieces met…ironically pressed into the corner of the couch. This was but the first corner that she would be wedged into that day.
The two parents were raising four daughters, ages 6 to 17…the eldest was not the father's biological daughter. Nevertheless, mom met her current husband during her pregnancy with this first child and “dad” has been present since the child's birth…”raising her as his own.”
A day prior to my visit, this eldest child disclosed sexually-inappropriate behavior during a conversation with a friend…allegedly that her step-father had climbed into her bed and fondled her. Additionally, she indicated that this had occurred several times in the past. Her friend subsequently reported the offenses to a school staff member who, as mandated, contacted the Florida Abuse Hotline.
It was now my burden to interview the 3 other siblings and to share this horrific information with an unknowing and uninformed mother.
Over two decades later, I regretfully recall mom's harrowing expression…the desolation in her eyes…her diminished posture…the emptiness of a woman now needing to choose between a husband of 16 years and her first born.
As part of our safety plan, dad was asked to temporarily leave the home so as to ensure the safety of the children and to allow for the completion of the investigation. Sadly…and shortly thereafter…I found dad's vehicle parked after midnight, in the family's driveway…resulting in the instant removal of all four children.
I have chosen to share this particular investigation so as to illuminate the plight of families struggling with issues relating to childhood sexual abuse. Familial sexual abuse isn't about an incident but rather about the dynamics of the entire family. It breeds secrecy…embarrassment…fear. It crosses all socioeconomic lines.
Numerous studies have revealed that most parents and caregivers prefer to deal with familial sexual abuse internally…keeping their issues within the privacy of their own home. They often feel confident that they can address and resolve the issues, are fearful of shame and ridicule from others, and go to great lengths to avoid judicial involvement. Families often question the credibility of the child.
Additionally, many children have revealed, to me, threats made by perpetrators…threats to kill a family pet…threats to hurt or kill the child…too many threats to even recall and list.
Lauren Book is committed to teaching children how to seek help. She strives to educate the community as to what constitutes childhood sexual abuse. She insists that everyone understand that Florida law requires everyone to report such abuse:
Florida Statute 39.201(1)(c) Any person who knows, or has reasonable cause to suspect, that a child is the victim of childhood sexual abuse or the victim of a known or suspected juvenile sexual offender, as defined in this chapter, shall report such knowledge or suspicion to the department in the manner prescribed in subsection (2).
The Sachs Media Group survey went on divulge that, of the children surveyed, 30% of female respondents and 14% of male respondents indicated that their first sexual experience was forced upon them. Moreover, 34% indicated that the abuse that they suffered was at the hands of a family member or friend. According to the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public web site (Dru Katrina Sjodin was a 22 year-old University of North Dakota student raped and murdered by a recently released Level 3 registered sex offender) 75% of female rape victims (minors and adults) knew the identity of the offender(s).
With nearly 2 million adolescents in the United States having reported sexual abuse, and an untold number of unreported victims, we owe it to our children to protect them and to expose all known cases of sexual abuse.
For additional information…for purposes of education…to learn how to discuss sexual abuse with your child(ren)…or to search the National Sex Offender registry, please visit the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Web Site (part of the U.S. Department of Justice) at nsopw.gov. To report abuse, neglect or abandonment of a child in the State of Florida, please call the Florida Abuse Hotline at (800) 96-ABUSE or (800) 962-2873. Florida Statute 39.202(1) states that “all records held by the department concerning reports of child abandonment, abuse, or neglect, including reports made to the central abuse hotline and all records generated as a result of such reports, shall be confidential.”
Dennis Hastert, the Duggars, and the Light at the End of the Tunnel
by Professor Marci Hamilton -- (Justia.com), Hamilton and Griffin on Rights
The Josh Duggar and Dennis Hastert cases highlight the need to reform criminal and civil statutes of limitations (SOL) so that victims of childhood sexual abuse can seek justice in the courts of law when they are ready, even if it is years after the abuse against them occurred. In fact, I dare anyone to name the never-ending list of perpetrators and institutions that have cheated justice and gotten a free pass from this legal technicality—Penn State, the Olympic swim team, Catholic and Latter-day Saints bishops, Jewish rabbis, the Horace Mann School in New York, and the Boy Scouts, among others. All these, and thousands of others show how perverse the current SOLs can be when it comes to this horrific crime. There is hope, though.
An SOL is nothing other than a deadline for going to court. And when it expires, a victim—regardless of the strength of the case—is shut out of the justice system. There are good reasons for SOLs in many contexts, like contract and property disputes, but no good reason for an SOL when the victim is a child. We know that the average age for victims to come forward is 42, which is several decades after the abuse occurred. So, the only beneficiaries of short SOLs are sex offenders themselves, and entities that aid and abet and cover up their crimes.
The criminal charges filed last week against the Minneapolis Archdiocese show the light that shines at the end of the SOL tunnel.
The SOLs Prevent Justice for Hastert's Victims
Three of Dennis Hastert's victims have come forward. So far, no one is remotely within the Illinois criminal or civil SOLs. When Hastert was a coach at Yorkville High School in Illinois from 1965 to 1981, the child sex abuse SOLs were cruelly short. The criminal SOL ran three years after the abuse, and the personal injury SOL ran two years after the event. That's right; victims had to race to court to get justice.
But for these short SOLs, Hastert's victims could have pressed charges or sued Hastert for the abuse when they were ready, which is more often than not in one's 40s. According to the indictment, Hastert's payments to one of his victims began in 2010. If that man was 15 in 1980 (to use round numbers), he was 45 in 2010.
We don't know if any of his victims went to prosecutors before then. It is unlikely because until the turn of the century, victims were nearly uniformly silent. As Steven Reinboldt's sister reports, he didn't think anyone would believe him. Sadly, he died of AIDS in 1995, before he reached the age at which many victims are able to come forward. Even if they did, the odds are nearly 100 percent that they would have missed the SOL deadline.
Imagine the public consequences had a prosecutor been able to file charges earlier. With Hastert unmasked, he might not have been in the position in 2006 as Speaker of the House to cover up Rep. Mark Foley's sexual abuse of high school pages. When Hastert was criticized for that cover up, he shrugged and said, “would have, should have, could have,” a hard-hearted response that now sounds like a confession.
The Duggars Endangered Their Children and Then Benefitted From the SOLs
The Josh Duggar case creates an echo chamber on SOLs. Arkansas prosecutors say that they could not go forward due to the SOL in that state. The law required prosecution within three years of a report, or seven years after the age of majority. Without more information, it is difficult to know which governs, so the prosecutors must be taken at their word.
What few are paying attention to, though, is that Josh was not the only wrongdoer. Parents are required to protect their children from abuse and neglect. What were Jim Bob and Michelle thinking when they waited until Josh had told them three times that he had abused his sisters (and apparently a babysitter) before they took action? Giving an abuser a pass constitutes neglect, and doing so makes a person complicit in the abuse that happened after the first abuse. But the SOLs on those charges also expired long ago.
By the way, the fact that the girls were asleep does not solve Jim Bob, Michelle, or Josh's problems anymore than it solves Bill Cosby's. Taking advantage of defenseless girls and women is classic sex offender behavior, not a kinder way to do it. For all four of them, the SOLs are their “solution.”
The Minnesota SOL Reform Shows the Door to Real Justice
Before survivors everywhere despair, the movement for SOL reform is the light at the end of the tunnel, and the recent criminal charges against the Minneapolis Archdiocese should give each and every one of you hope. In 2013, Minnesota joined the growing number of states that have enacted new laws that revive expired SOLs. Minnesota's version is a three-year window from 2013–16 that bars the statute of limitations defense even if the SOL had previously expired. The state also has eliminated its civil SOL and its criminal SOL where DNA has been preserved.
The revived civil SOLs pushed buried evidence to the sunlight, and prosecutors were able to file criminal charges against the Archdiocese for gross misdemeanors endangering children. This is the first criminal prosecution of a diocese for endangering children, despite the nationwide endangerment by the bishops, who have banked on (and invested in) short SOLs.
While it is unconstitutional to revive a criminal SOL, when the civil SOLs are revived, victims come forward and point to trails of evidence that in turn can lead to criminal charges that are within the SOL. That is precisely what happened in Minnesota, and that is the sole reason that prosecutors have filed charges against the Minneapolis Archdiocese for the predatory priest, Curtis Wehmeyer.
High-profile cases or not, the time is now for each and every state legislature and Supreme Court to do an SOL gut check and start choosing children over predators and institutions, especially the four states at the very bottom of the barrel: Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi, and New York. Why is it so difficult to move SOLs aside? Powerful lobbyists—including the Catholic bishops, the Latter-day Saints bishops, and Jewish rabbis—invest millions against the victims, and the insurance lobby enjoys collecting premiums while it avoids having to pay out. Legislators have listened to the lobbyists and not the victims in too many states for too long. Predators know SOLs and they gravitate to the states with the worst SOLs. Thus, SOL reform really is a choice: predators or children.
Let's take the SOL out of the child sex abuse picture.
Marci A. Hamilton
Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
55 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10003
Direct : (212) 790-0215 | Secretary: #0326 | Cell: (215) 353-8984
Fax: (215) 493-1094
Author of God vs the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty (Nominated for a 2015 Pulitzer Prize) and Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children
Columnist for www.justia.com
PA To Waive State Background Check Fees For Volunteers Who Work With Children
by Tony Romeo
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Governor Wolf has announced the waiver of state background check fees that were to be charged to volunteers working with children in Pennsylvania.
As part of the changes passed by the legislature in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, volunteers who work with children will be required to get background checks beginning July 1st.
Now, Governor Wolf has announced that effective July 25th, the fees for volunteers will be waived. In addition, the $10 fee for both child abuse and criminal history checks required of those seeking employment for work with children will be reduced to $8.
FBI clearances are required of volunteers and employees who have not lived in Pennsylvania continuously for ten years. Those fees cannot be waived.
Organizations have expressed concerns that the costs of background checks might discourage volunteering.
Pittsburgh Public Safety launches parental mentoring program
by Robert Zullo
Pittsburgh is launching a new mentoring program intended to connect struggling parents with information and resources, part of a broader approach to public safety that aims to make homes safer and get children ready to learn at an early age.
“A lot of people don't get this information until they get a court order. They don't have a tendency to go reach for the information they need,” said Maria Bethel, nuisance and disruptive properties coordinator in the city's Department of Public Safety. “Sometimes it's not that they don't want to learn, it's that they don't know how to access it.”
Called Promised Beginnings, the program was approved Tuesday by city council as a new initiative under the existing Safer Together community partnership program. It won't cost the city any money and will take place in each of the city's six police zones to link parents with speakers from child welfare agencies, Pittsburgh Public Schools, the Pittsburgh Promise education fund and police, among others, Ms. Bethel said.
“There are a lot of resources throughout the city operating in their own little vacuums,” said Public Safety Director Stephen Bucar.
The goal is “better kids, better adults and better neighborhoods,” said Ms. Bethel, a former child advocate for Court Appointed Special Advocates.
“If we are working to provide these services and information beforehand, from a very early age, we can reduce the crime and violence that's occurring in our city through those teenage years,” she added.
The city conducted a pilot version in the East Hills neighborhood in April that drew about 10 parents and grandparents and included information on stages of child development, child care, safe sleep positions for infants and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, as well as kindergarten registration packets. It also featured remarks from Assistant Police Chief Maurita Bryant and Zone 5 Cmdr. Jason Lando, part of a broader effort by Mr. Bucar and Chief Cameron McLay to repair community relationships with the police bureau.
“I always feel that if we are to have these better relationships, then we need to create the occasion for them to have those experiences with police officers,” Ms. Bethel said.
The property manager and education director at East Hills could not be reached for comment.
City council members were enthusiastic about the initiative during a discussion last week.
“We need to do more on the preventative side and not just the reactionary side,” said Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith, who represents the West End. “There's a lot of kids who could achieve a lot higher if we would just set the standard a little higher and expect better behavior from our kids. … People don't know where to turn for any of these programs or any of these services.”
In Response to the Duggar Family: Responding to Sexual Behavior Problems in Youth
by Teresa Huizar -- Executive Director, National Children's Alliance
With so much attention in the media this past week regarding the Duggar family and the actions of their eldest son Josh when he was a teenager, numerous issues have been raised surrounding sexual behavior problems in youth, and how parents and caregivers can appropriately respond. For Children's Advocacy Centers, many of our most heart-wrenching cases involve families in which sibling abuse has occurred. Parents are distraught about the victimization of one child, while terribly worried about the legal consequences to another child. The anguish of parents as they struggle to provide emotional support and effective intervention to both the child victim and the child with sexual behavior problems is real and palpable.
Thankfully, nearly 800 Children's Advocacy Centers and their multidisciplinary teams (MDT) around the country can help families navigate this difficult time. Children's Advocacy Centers, and their MDTs, serve as a gateway to services that can help victims heal and ensure youth with sexual behavior problems receive effective treatment and are held accountable for changing their behavior.
It is important to note that youth with sexual behavior problems are more common than most people realize. 18 percent of the over 315,000 sexual abuse cases seen by Children's Advocacy Centers last year involved an offender under the age of 18 - most often a sibling, cousin, or friend from the neighborhood or school. There are many reasons children and youth may develop a sexual behavior problem: lack of privacy and boundaries; exposure to sexualized materials or environment; curiosity that gets out of hand; a sexual abuse history of their own, and others. Whatever the reason, it is critical to ensure these youth receive evidence-supported treatment to interrupt this cycle of behavior, so that all children in the home can be safe. If we can identify these issues and interrupt this behavior early and appropriately with treatment, we as a society may ultimately prevent future child sexual abuse from occurring.
One excellent resource for parents and professionals is the National Center for the Sexual Behavior of Youth, which provides public awareness, training in evidence-based treatments, and technical assistance all tied to managing and responding to youth with problematic sexual behavior. Helpful information for parents and links to treatment providers can also be found through the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, a network of mental health experts in child trauma intervention.
Finally, and most importantly, at the heart of every child sexual abuse case are the child victims. We should not minimize the trauma child victims suffer as a result of abuse by youth with sexual behavior problems. Whether the offender is a sibling, friend, or extended family member, the victims suffer a betrayal of trust and a loss of personal safety that is deeply wounding. Similar to other forms of child sexual abuse where the offender is within the family, these child victims struggle with both their fear of continued abuse and their love for the family member that has harmed them.
As a society, we have failed to protect these victims and we owe them the evidence-based treatment needed to heal, as well as our support as they go through the challenging healing process. Critical to that healing process is the privacy and space to heal outside of the glare of the television camera and the reporter's news cycles.
When victims are "outed" publicly in the way the Duggar sisters were, this can be experienced as traumatic as the abusive incident. Victims routinely report media attention as stressful and many are ill prepared for the consequences of such media scrutiny. The loss of privacy and control over this most intimate part of their life can mirror the loss of control felt at the time of the abuse. Some adult survivors find speaking out about their experiences empowering. However, the common thread in this experience is one of choice - the victim made the choice to tell their story, and exerted some control over the timing and narrative, and, is psychologically ready for such a public disclosure. We can all help victims become survivors by sending a clear message to media that we do not want the names of victims shared without their permission, nor should victims be hounded to tell "their side" of the story.
As a professional who has witnessed countless cases of child abuse and neglect over the years, I hope this instance will only further draw attention to the issue of child abuse and how we all are responsible for protecting our nation's children. I also encourage parents and caregivers to visit the National Center for the Sexual Behavior of Youth, and to learn more about the services offered by local Children's Advocacy Centers. With more than 800 Children's Advocacy Centers across the country, there are intervention and prevention services readily available so those in similar situations to the Duggar family may seek the help and treatment they need and deserve.
Why So Many Domestic Violence Survivors Don't Get Help -- Even When They Ask For It
by Melissa Jeitsen
On Sept. 10, 2014, a woman arrived at a domestic violence program in Nevada desperately seeking emergency shelter. She had been living in her car with her four kids for two weeks, she said, hiding from an abusive partner.
The program turned her away. Its shelter was too full.
Her plea was just one of almost 11,000 requests for help that were denied that day because of a lack of funding, according to a report released Monday by the National Network to End Domestic Violence.
Each year, the organization does a one-day survey of domestic violence programs nationwide to calculate how many people are accessing help and what services they need. Almost 90 percent of domestic violence programs in the U.S. participated in the 2014 census.
The result is a heartbreaking snapshot of the lack of domestic violence services in the United States, a country where 1 in 4 women are estimated to experience domestic violence and three women are killed in a domestic homicide on average each day.
Over the course of a single day last year, 67,646 adults and children received help from local domestic violence programs. But during that same 24-hour period, 10,871 other requests were not met because advocates did not have enough resources.
While the findings were consistent with the last few years of the census, advocates say it's simply more evidence that federal funding for domestic violence services is at an unacceptably low level -- a predicament with a devastating human cost.
“Without a disruptive amount of funding, not just a little bit more every year, but an actual disruptive change -- double the money we are currently getting, triple the money -- we are not going to see an increase in services and a decrease in unmet requests,” said Cindy Southworth, executive vice president of the National Network to End Domestic Violence. “Victims are going to continue to be turned away unless Congress truly prioritizes victims of domestic violence as a public health, public safety crisis.”
Of the 10,871 requests for help that were not met, over half were for housing.
"When funding is scarce, one of the first things that local programs are forced to cut are the most expensive services, which are typically going to be your shelter services and transitional housing," Southworth said. "They are extremely expensive to offer, with rent, utilities and heat.”
Advocates say that emergency shelter and housing are critically important for survivors to safely escape abusive relationships.
"In an ideal world, the victims would be able to stay in their own homes and live without fear, but unfortunately that is not possible," Southworth said. "The most dangerous time for victims of domestic violence is when they are leaving the abusive partner or soon after. More homicides occur during that window than during any other time."
Southworth said many women escape with only the clothes on their backs, and may not have access to money to pay for accommodations. Women may be subject to financial abuse, a common tactic used to control victims, which can make it even more difficult to leave. If a woman has been isolated -- another hallmark of abusive relationships -- she may lack a support system to assist her.
"There has to be that safe place to flee to," Southworth said, otherwise women may find themselves in extreme danger or even homeless. Research shows that domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness for women and their children across the nation.
The second-most common request for help that was not met was for legal representation.
Survivors of domestic violence often face complex legal proceedings when leaving an abusive relationship, Southworth said. They may need to get a divorce, file for custody, get a protection order or pursue criminal charges. A woman may also need legal assistance to ensure her abuser does not have illegal access to firearms, depending on what state she lives in.
Navigating the court system can be confusing and overwhelming, especially if a survivor is struggling with high levels of stress, PTSD and in some cases, traumatic brain injury from head assaults.
"We know that victims need attorneys, and if they don't have them they end up in dire straits when they go to court," Southworth said.
Only 11 percent of programs across the country reported being able to offer legal representation. Over the last year, 74 programs reduced or eliminated their legal advocacy offerings and 66 reduced or entirely cut their legal representation services.
According to the domestic violence programs that were surveyed, 28 percent of the unmet requests were caused by reduced government funding. Southworth said that when adjusted for inflation, federal funding for local domestic violence shelters has flatlined since 2007.
“My heart breaks each and every time I have to tell a courageous survivor that we don't have a safe place for her family to sleep, an attorney to help her file for a desperately needed protection order or a children's counseling session to debrief the nightmares her child saw at home,” Southworth said. “I know times are tough, but women are dying.”
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Child abuse calls to hotline rise, but so do dropped calls
by Teri Sforza
A call came in to the child abuse hotline: The neighbors keep an autistic child caged in their home.
The social worker who took that call relayed the information to the Anaheim Police Department. Officers went to a South Garrett Street house and found a large pet cage with a mattress and bedding inside, and they arrested the 11-year-old boy's parents on suspicion of felony child endangerment and false imprisonment.
The parents were not criminally charged, but that incident last summer showed the system working as intended. An alarming amount of the time it does not work at all, however, with more than one of every four callers to the child and elder abuse hotline hanging up before a social worker can talk to them, according to an investigation by the Orange County grand jury.
That's dangerous and unacceptable, concluded the report released Wednesday.
“(T)he primary cause for dropped calls was the long waiting time experienced by the caller,” the grand jury said. “Some callers choose to hang up rather than continue to remain on hold. Of particular concern are callers, such as neighbors or family acquaintances, who may have mixed feelings about getting involved in the first place. If they hang up in frustration because no one is responding, they may never call again. This could result in a child being left in jeopardy, and ultimately harmed or even suffering fatal injuries.”
The Child Abuse Registry hotline, run by the county Social Services Agency, had a huge increase in calls in the course of a single year – from 43,888 calls in 2013 to 59,676 in 2014. That's an average of 164 calls a day, or more than one every 10 minutes.
The increase in calls can be chalked up to merging an “adult protective services” hotline with the child abuse hotline, the grand jury said. But the rising volume doesn't explain the problem.
Dropped calls exceeded 25 percent in some months of 2014, after being as low as 5 percent in preceding years.
The main culprit may be a new practice started in the spring of 2013, the grand jury said. Before then, when a hotline social worker concluded that a call didn't rise to the level of abuse, that contact was finished.
Now, however, social workers must document all calls, even if those calls don't result in investigations.
The new procedure requires more time and paperwork, and social workers don't take new calls while finishing up the old ones.
The county has 90 days to respond in writing. Meantime, the Social Services Agency said it recognizes the problem and “has been analyzing data and trends as well as consulting with other Southern California county registries to identify ways to improve the rate and speed of answered calls,” said spokeswoman Jean Pasco in a statement.
It is taking action, including hiring 10 new social workers and two new supervisors to man the hotline. In the past three months, dropped calls have not exceeded 4 percent, Pasco said.
Everyone needs to be more nimble at multitasking, putting down paperwork to grab calls as they come in, the grand jury said. Supervisors have to pick up the phone when there aren't enough social workers, and the county needs to beef up staffing.
Whatever the reason, many reports of child abuse are not being heard, the grand jury said. Ultimately, the key is for management “to commit to having staff do whatever is reasonably necessary to improve responses to incoming calls,” it said.
Although the new paperwork requirements and the combined hotlines may explain some of the dropped calls, the problem isn't new. It dates back at least 20 years, when the 1994 grand jury blasted the county over the same issue. Since then, the county has installed a sophisticated new telephone system and hired additional staff.
“The percentage of dropped calls ebbs and flows, but the problem persists,” the grand jury said.
Bills to help child abuse, revenge pornography victims
by Marcella Corona
Three “victims' rights” bills that recently passed the Legislature could help victims and prosecutors in child abuse and revenge pornography cases.
Nevada will be the 36th state that won't require victims to testify when determining probable cause in certain child abuse cases. It will also be the 15th state to consider revenge pornography a crime.
Attorney General Adam Laxalt was joined by nearly a dozen local law officers at a conference Wednesday morning in the Reno Justice Court to speak on the bills, which will be in effect in early October.
Assembly Bill 193 would allow hearsay evidence at preliminary hearings, but would only apply to sensitive cases like child sex abuse or domestic violence, Laxalt said. It would also apply to children 16 or under, he said.
In prior cases, a child would have to recount their experiences at a preliminary hearing and would be subject to cross-examination.
“Mind you, they've already told that story to a cop, they've told that story at least two or three times,” Laxalt said Wednesday. “Then they would have to do it again at trial. The only thing the Constitution says is that a person has right to be cross-examined at trial.
“At the preliminary stages when we're just determining probable cause, so now you can use hearsay evidence,” he said. “We're going to save that person from revictimization.”
Assembly Bill 49 would increase penalties for child assaults, and it creates an “A category” felony. That means the accused could face up to life in prison for certain child offenses, Laxalt said.
It will also mean revenge pornography will be considered a crime.
“You need to prove that there is an intent to hurt this person,” Laxalt said. “It's simply not just a picture that gets out there.”
Before the bill was passed, prosecuting revenge pornography cases was difficult, he said.
“Attorneys had to find specific hooks and other angles to find a crime, but now there is a specific crime in revenge pornography,” Laxalt said.
SJR17 is a proposed constitutional amendment that would enact a “victims' rights bill” and is commonly known as Marsy's Law.
“They get to be active, and they get warned if the perpetrator is out,” Laxalt said. “They get a chance to speak anytime when we're trying to figure out sentencing and things like that.
AB 193, also known as the “Hearsay Bill,” wouldn't violate a defendant's Constitutional rights, Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks said.
In a recent case, Reno resident Robert Downs was convicted on multiple counts of child abuse and one count of first-degree kidnapping after a recent four-day trial was held in the Washoe County District Court.
Downs was accused of beating a 7-year-old boy.
“He beat him, he choked him to the point of unconsciousness and he would tie him up, put a rag in his mouth and dunked him in a bath tub until he nearly drowned,” Hicks said at the conference. “That boy was required to stay here in Washoe County as opposed to being reunited with his father, who lived in the United Kingdom, to move on with his life because we needed him here to testify to a grand jury.
“We needed him to testify to merely a probable cause determination,” he said. “That would not happen now.”
Hicks said the court will be able to play a video of police interviews or have the interviewing officer testify.
“(The victim) will still have to testify at trial, and that's a reality and a constitutional right of the defendant,” Hicks said. “For them to have to do it at those types of hearings, it just isn't fair to the victims.”
In Reno, about one in four to one in six women and one in 33 men will be abused, said Justine Hernandez, chair for Alliance for Victims' Rights and University of Nevada, Reno.
“I think it shows that our state really does care about victims, and we're moving toward a victim-centered approach,” Hernandez said.
“It's so wonderful that the state is making this pre-emptive move before we see a huge influx,” she said. “We know this might happen, so we want to do something to stop it before it starts.”
Possible warning signs of child abuse
by Sally Pitts
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - In the last week, we have unfortunately reported on at least five child abuse cases.
Child Protect sees 500 children who are victims of abuse every year. Executive Director Janna Bailey says they are seeing more and more horrific cases.
"In the summer, it's weird because when kids are not in school, a lot of times things don't get reported as much," Bailey said.
That's why she says its important for us all to be the eyes and ears of children.
"As family members and as neighbors, just people that care for kids, we need to look out for them and make sure they are safe," Bailey said.
There are warning signs that a child is being abused. Signs of physical abuse include unexplained bruises, welts, cigarette and rope burns. Children may be withdrawn, aggressive or depressed, and expressing fear towards the abuser.
"If you are use to seeing a child playing in the front yard or out with your kids and then all of a sudden a couple of days go by, you know the people are home, but you don't see that child, take it upon yourself to knock on the door and say 'Hey, I haven't seen Susie out playing. Just wanted to check and make sure everything is okay," says Bailey.
Bailey adds other signs could be, "If they seem to be very clingy and they are at your house and playing and mom and dad comes to get them or some other family member and they don't want to go."
Unlike physical abuse victims, Bailey says there's often no physical evidence in a sex abuse case.
Experts say if a child is sucking his thumb, wetting the bed, having nightmares or an inappropriate interest in sex, he might be a victim of sexual abuse.
"A lot of times with sex abuse, it's going to be the behavior of a child," Bailey said. "If the child is acting out at another child sexually or says things and you overhear it that are inappropriate for their age."
If you see any of these warning signs, Bailey says speak up and alert authorities. She says you can always call child protect at 262-1220. Visit
Child Protect's website for more resources.
If you are a parent who is feeling stressed and fear you may harm your child, there's also help available for you. Call Alabama's Parenting Assistance Line at 1-866-962-3030. You can also find tips on the PALS website.
The Greatest Myth of Child Sexual Abuse
by Paul Mones -- Attorney for Victims of Sexual Abuse
Perhaps the most enduring and pervasive American myth concerning child sexual abuse is that nice guys don't molest children; and it's a pernicious myth because it denies the reality of a victim's suffering.
I thought that the Jerry Sandusky case would have put to rest the naïve and groundless notion that a child molester is easy to pick out of the crowd: he's the slovenly, leering, grizzled guy dressed in a dirty rain coat sitting outside a playground trolling for children. But the reaction by many who knew Dennis Hastert in his hometown of Yorkville, in Congress and elsewhere to the news that he allegedly paid hush money to a former student he had molested decades ago, showed me that the myth is alive and well.
Despite a steady stream of screaming headlines of exemplary high school teachers, devout priests, popular youth leaders and dedicated coaches sexually abusing countless children and teens, we stubbornly stick to the belief that kindness, solicitude and overall good 'guy-ness' are inconsistent with the character of a child molester. In the over thirty years I have spent representing victims of sexual abuse all over the nation, I have learned the reality is quite the opposite.
The great curve ball of sexual abuse that most folks completely miss, is simply this: in order to be successful at what they do, child molesters have to bend over backwards to be kind, caring and generous - not just their victims - but everyone within their targeted victim's universe. Being kind-hearted is essential to the abuser carrying out her grand scheme to draw the child into her web. Aggressive and antisocial behavior simply doesn't work because it stands in the way of gaining the child's trust: the molester's key ingredient to control. In fact, most child abusers know from experience that they don't need to explicitly threaten their victims (though some do) in order to get what they want, because the world they have created into which these children descend, engenders its own fear and confusion.
Child molesters are a patient lot, especially those in trusted and respected positions of authority. They are typically in no rush to achieve their goal and thus will spend weeks, even months working their way into the fine fabric of a child's life. They deliberately exploit the child's trust, innocence and inherent lack of life experience by lavishing him or her with gifts, special privileges and praise - and children who lack parental support or who have low self-esteem are the most susceptible to this kind of treatment. And though it is very difficult for the casual observer to appreciate, this course of conduct actually binds the child closer to the molester, resulting in the child's belief that this adult is actually a good friend. The molester soon makes physical touching - the stroke of a knee, a rub of the shoulder, the tussle of the hair - a normal part of his 'relationship' with the child. Soon the more invasive forms of abuse begin and the child's fate is sealed. If the molester has done his job right, he can count on the silence of his victim who is in most cases too embarrassed, confused and frightened to reveal the abuse at the time it is occurring. This tragic emotional trap was summed up perfectly by a high school student whose sister alleged in an ABC interview that Dennis Hastert abused her brother. In the interview his sister Jolene Burdge, quoted her brother as stating the reason he didn't tell anyone about the abuse was: "Who is ever going to believe me?"
While some victims can muster the strength to report the abuse when it is happening or very soon thereafter, for most justice is a word most will never know. And it is not just the horrendous psychological effects of the abuse that silences them. It takes years, even decades to muster the emotional strength to take action. And when that time comes, it is not their abusers who silence them, it is the law. Regardless of state criminal law, the reality is few prosecutors are willing to take on a sexual abuse case from twenty or thirty years earlier. (The recent criminal charges by the Ramsey County district attorney against the Archdiocese of Minneapolis for failing to protect children are the exception to the rule but perhaps it will motivate more prosecutors to rethink their strategies.) In the civil arena, only a few states have humanely recognized that the conventional Statute of Limitations for civil actions was conceived for completely different types of cases; most states deny justice to child sexual assault victims - unless these people act by age 18 or 21, they have no grounds for legal recourse. Not only do these laws prevent people from getting their rightful day in court, but in some cases they permit predators to go on molesting other children until someone manages to file an action. It is simply not in our society's interest to make it so difficult for these victims to get through the courthouse door. Unlike so many issues which we feel are out of our hands, this is one in which we can have an impact. If you live in one of the states with an unforgiving statute of limitations like New York, New Jersey or Pennsylvania and at least a dozen or more other states, you can support legislative reforms which have been effective in other states, like opening a one or two-year window (California led the way in 2003, followed by Delaware, Hawaii, and Minnesota), giving a person until his 48th birthday to sue those responsible for his abuse (Connecticut) or having a liberal discovery rule (Oregon and Washington).
It's never too late for justice.
Child's Letter to Jesus Tells of Sexual Abuse, Leads to Conviction
by Cathy Burke
A little girl's heartbreaking note to Jesus asking for help after enduring two years of sexual abuse was finally discovered tucked away in a Bible at the child's Covington, Ky., elementary school — and has led to the conviction of her 37-year-old abuser.
The letter was found by a school worker in October 2013, allowing police to question the girl, who told stunned investigators the abuse began when she was 6 and lasted for two years, WLWT-TV reports.
"It makes you cry… It's hard not to, as a human," Kenton County's assistant Commonwealth Attorney Kate Bennett told WLWT-TV. "Your instinct is to be compassionate and to take care of children."
“Every case is hard, but when a child comes so honestly to ask help from God, it's a tough thing to swallow," she added.
The child told police Eric Rivera, 37, showed her pornographic magazines and cell phone pictures — and told investigators exactly where they'd find the evidence, the station reports.
Rivera last month pleaded guilty to sodomy, sexual abuse and distribution of obscene matter to a minor, and faces up to 25 years in prison, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.
He'll be sentenced July 13.
"Although 25 years doesn't seem like enough for the defendant to serve based on the heinous and unspeakable crime he committed, it saves the child victim from being further traumatized by reliving her nightmare of abuse," Bennett said in a statement.
We teach Alaska kids about many dangers, why not sexual abuse?
by Rev.Matt Schultz
My children casually mention their lockdown drills, as if the threat of a school shooter is a minor annoyance. They also know what to do in the event of a fire or an earthquake, how to cross a street safely, and to always wear a life jacket when on the water. The schools have done a good job in educating them. They have been equipped to protect themselves.
But this is not self-defense -- it is ethical adults protecting children. It is the active choice of adults taking steps to prevent a clear and present danger. These dangers are predictable and preventable, and so we are ethically compelled to take action to prevent them.
This is the guiding ethic behind Erin's Law, which would require that all public schools teach a prevention-oriented child sexual abuse program. Why is it so important that this education is given to all children? Because according to the U.S. Department of Justice , 93 percent of children who are abused are abused by people they know and trust -- approximately 30 percent of them by family members, including parents. In Alaska, according to Providence Health and Services, that could amount to more than 2,000 cases  of parental abuse per year. But if it were an opt-in program, it is unlikely that offending parents would sign the permission slip -- and the children who need it the most would not receive the education about how to protect themselves.
From an ethical point of view, if we understand that harm will come to a child and yet refuse to take action, then we are just as guilty as the perpetrator. If we see a person on the railroad tracks, unaware of the approaching train, and choose not to call out a warning, then we are responsible for his death. This is the ethical logic behind mandatory fire drills, background checks, seat belts, and many other things we do to protect the most vulnerable. In the words of German Lutheran pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
This is why in Alaska, which has highest rates in the country of sexual assault, the passage of Erin's Law is an ethical imperative. We must act, because we understand that child abuse will continue. We also understand that, just as we can reduce deaths with fire drills, we can reduce abuse by educating children. If we choose not to equip children to recognize abuse and get help, then we are responsible for their abuse, just as surely as if our children drown because we did not give them a life jacket.
Sen. Mike Dunleavy has endangered these protections by changing the law to make it an opt-in program. This will cause many Alaskan children to remain uneducated about how to defend themselves. A politician who claims to be pro-family has taken a decidedly anti-family action in order to advance his own agenda, using the safety of children as a political bargaining chip.
Those hundreds, possibly thousands of children that would have been helped by this law, but instead are abused, are the man on the railroad track. They are the child on the boat without a life jacket. They are our responsibility. But there is hope: If Sen. Dunleavy shirks this ethical responsibility, Sen. Anna MacKinnon can still advance HB 44 in its original form. In order to protect children from the horrors of sexual abuse, I call on her to do the morally right thing, and bring it to a vote.
In an opinion piece published by ADN in Febuary 2013 , Sen. Dunleavy said the following: “As parents and grandparents, we believe the protection of children ought to be our top priority, which is why it is essential for law-abiding citizens to have the means to defend themselves.”
I hope that he can see that for a child, this means education, and that as adults, we are all ethically responsible for providing it for all of Alaska's children.
Ann Arbor shelter works with teens to warn peers about dating violence
Verizon grants and cellphone donations help fund programs like Teen Voice around the country
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- One in three teenagers is the victim of abuse from a dating partner, according to loveisrespect.org. The abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional or verbal.
One in 10 students has been purposely hit or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, victims are often too afraid to tell anyone about it. The abuse can affect them for the rest of their lives, leading to issues like depression, anxiety and unhealthy behaviors like smoking and drinking.
SafeHouse Center in Ann Arbor started a program called Teen Voice that uses teenagers to teach their peers the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships and dating violence.
"The Teen Voice program was started about 13 years ago when we realized there were so many teens in our community who didn't understand what domestic violence and sexual assault is and needed some information to better understand it; teach their peers about it," says Barbara Niess-May, executive director of SafeHouse Center.
Madeline Qi is a Teen Voice volunteer and a senior at Washtenaw International High School.
"I do it because I'm really passionate about women's issues. It's an issue that's important to me for personal reasons," said Qi.
Qi makes it her job to educate her peers on what to do if they know someone in an unhealthy relationship.
"Sometimes people don't know what to say, and they don't know how to help," Qi said.
Teens Voice volunteers meet weekly to plan out their presentations. They speak to students in schools and through other groups.
"When you have someone else who's your own age and talk talk to you about certain issues that include interactive presentations, then it's easier to pay attention and hear it from someone who's similar to yourself because you can relate more," Qi said.
Ali Shahin is also a Teen Voice volunteer. He said hearing the information from peers can have an impact on teenagers.
"When you walk in there most of those kids don't know how common it is, but they walk out knowing that it is a third of all adolescence who have been through an unhealthy relationship at some point. It puts it in perspective for them, and I feel like it would be more difficult to do that if its just an adult telling you this," said Shahin, a senior at Skyline High School.
He is personally motivated to help.
"Growing up, a lot of people in my life, some friends, some family, had been through some unhealthy relationships," Shahin said.
Presentations include defining dating violence, acting out scenarios, a discussion on the issue and how to bring about change, and signs to look for. Teens also learn that dating violence does not just happen in person, it can happen digitally, and parents need to be on the lookout as well.
"It becomes even more dangerous for teens partially because parents and adults don't always take it very seriously because they think of the puppy love syndrome or it can't be that bad or he can't be threatening her in that way because they're all being really dramatic anyway right," said Barbara Niess-May, director of SafeHouse Center.
What signs should parents be on the lookout for?
"When you notice the texting is going all night long or they're calling them in the middle of the night, especially if they have a test the next day, or keeping them out past their curfew," said Niess-May.
Parents should also look for changes in mood, sudden weight loss and isolation. Even changes in social media could be a clue something is not right.
"The constant attention and the constant interaction they seem to be with this person 24/7 and when they're not they're calling and texting," Niess-May said.
Qi hopes her peers walk away from a Teen Voice presentation with the knowledge of how they can help.
"I want them to not feel like they have no control over the situation, and if they are personally experiencing an unhealthy relationship or they know somebody who is, I want them to feel like they have something that they can do or that they can understand somebody who is in that situation," Qi said.
Verizon donates money and phones to help stop domestic violence through its HopeLine program.
"The reality is even if we're just saving one life, that's so important to us and it can't be underscored enough," says Trevor Thomas, a public relations manager at Verizon.
The company said domestic violence is a national problem that affects everyone, including its own employees.
"We have lost employees to domestic violence throughout our company, multiple employees, and we have recognized that it impacts our communities, our friends, our neighbors, our churches," said Thomas.
Nationwide the company has provided $29 million in grants, which help fund programs like the SafeHouse Center's Teen Voice program.
Verizon has donated 190,000 phones to shelters with free minutes and texting that victims and survivors of domestic violence can reach out to the help resources they need.
The public can donate their old phones at any Verizon Wireless location. Before you donate your phone, Verizon said to erase any data from the phone and disconnect the phone's service with the provider, remove any storage cards or SIM cards, power off the phone and please include the battery, charger and accessories in a plastic bag with the phone when it's donated. For more information, click here.
SafeHouse Center serves more than 5,000 people every year in the Ann Arbor providing services including it's help line, counseling, support groups, legal advocacy, obtaining PPOs, shelter for women and their children, and answering questions from loved ones and friends about how they can help. For more information, click here.
SafeHouse Center's 24/7 hotline is (734) 995-5444.
Abolish time limits on sexual assault prosecutions in Oregon
by Lori Allen
The Oregon House and Senate have unanimously passed a bill extending the statute of limitations on sexual assault — yet Gov. Kate Brown should veto the legislation, and it should be immediately rewritten. Instead of getting it right the first time, legislators have proposed a stopgap solution that involves convening a committee to waste time and resources on an issue that should be resolved right now.
The bill lengthens Oregon's statute of limitations for sexual assaults by six years. Even with the increase, this proposal arbitrarily limits prosecution for sexual assault. Oregon has one of the narrowest timelines for bringing charges in cases of rape and other sexual assaults. Twenty-eight states have no statue of limitations for rape charges.
Currently, the statute of limitations for sexual assault — a category that includes rape, incest and using a child for pornography — limits prosecution to within six years after the commission of the crime. Somewhat longer limits apply if the victim was under 18 years of age.
The law is confusing, and the timelines are arbitrary. Having clear guidelines and laws related to reporting and prosecuting sexual assaults is imperative for the protection of the 1 in 4 females and 1 in 8 males who will be sexually abused by age 18.
Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, has said he's puzzled about how to determine the correct statute of limitations, saying, “It turns out, there isn't any way to decide in any systematic way how you balance the crime with the statute of limitations.” Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, stated that part of the reason for creating a stopgap bill was to examine criminal justice statistics to determine a research-based limit for prosecuting sexual assaults.
I have worked with many survivors of sexual abuse; very few have reported the crime. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that only 36 percent of rapes and sexual assaults perpetrated against women and girls in the United States between 1992 and 2000 were reported to the police. Each case is complex, and each person requires differing levels of protection, consequences and care.
Some survivors are adults who go to the hospital within 24 hours because they have been educated about sexual assault. Others don't even know about rape kits. Some are 3 years old. Many are in families that fear the perpetrator and cope by rationalizing that it was probably just a one-time thing — and why ruin someone's life over a mistake? Others don't feel mentally and emotionally prepared to relive the experience by reporting it or going to trial. Some aren't even sure that it wasn't their fault when, at age 5, their step-brother touched their privates.
I have also worked with sex offenders. Some will be highly dangerous throughout their lifetime. Others are 18-year-old boys who made poor decisions after drinking too much, but know it was wrong and feel terribly about it. All perpetrators need consequences that fit the crime and their psychological profile. Many have been sexually abused themselves. Ideally, all should be assessed so that their behavior and mental health issues can be addressed and others can be protected.
Of course false accusations occur, yet this is extremely rare. Only 2 percent to 8 percent of all sexual assault accusations reported to law enforcement turn out to be false. In his paper “Understanding the Predatory Nature of Sexual Violence,” Dr. David Lasiks states that “Most rapists who are prosecuted are convicted on a single count of rape. However, when researchers have granted immunity to offenders in exchange for a truthful accounting of their sex offending history, the reality of rape emerges. In one study, the average number of victims for each rapist was seven, and in another study it was 11.”
Myths surround this issue — the myth that perpetrators are people we don't know, the myth that they most likely just made one bad decision, or the myth that many people will take advantage of extended statues of limitations by falsely accusing someone of rape. We must create laws that are not based on myth, but reality. Leave it to the court system to determine whether there is cause for prosecution based on evidence, not based on how much time has passed.
More than any other crime, sexual assault affects women and children — and it's a crime that is complicated by issues of power dynamics, shame and secrecy. Given what we know about how many perpetrators never get prosecuted and how many survivors never get justice, we should be focusing on finding a way to help survivors feel safe enough to report rather than closing doors on them.
We don't need our Legislature to create a committee to explore this further. We need Gov. Brown and our elected officials to act now to abolish the statute of limitations for sexual assault.
Lori Allen of Eugene is a licensed psychologist
Sexual abuse survivor finds strength in speaking out
by Hannah Spray
When Bud Sambasivam learned he was going to be a dad, he decided it was time to speak out about the sexual abuse he suffered as a child.
"The more conversations I've had with my wife, or in counselling, or with friends, the easier it's become and the better I've felt about it, and the less shame I've felt," he said.
"I 've found it's not my shame to carry; it's not my embarrassment. It's his shame and embarrassment."
His abuser, Guru Sandirasegaram, was convicted after a trial last week in Saskatoon Court of Queen's Bench of five criminal charges, including sexual assault and sexual touching by a person in a position of authority.
Sandirasegaram, 57, was a trusted family friend who repeatedly molested Sambasivam in the early 1990s, when Sambasivam was in his early teens.
Victims of sexual assault are normally not identified, but Sambasivam, 34, asked the Crown not to request a publication ban on his identity and he gave permission to The StarPhoenix to print his name. He said it's important to him to be an advocate for other victims and that's hard to do while being anonymous.
"Keeping (sexual abuse) underground helps perpetuate it," he said. "I'm a new dad. I reported this when I became a dad. I think it's important for parents to talk about this with their kids. If something happens that shouldn't, or someone touches you where they shouldn't, or comes into your personal space, you should tell an adult about it."
One of the reasons Sambasivam didn't report the abuse when he was a teen was that Sandirasegaram threatened him, court heard at trial.
"He had been victimized by a trusted family friend, who was an adult who was known to him. (Sandirasegaram) was a special person to him in his life ... And (Sambasivam) was repeatedly threatened with physical violence to him or to people close to him," Justice Brian Barrington-Foote said while delivering his verdict on Friday.
Reporting the crimes to police was a difficult step for Sambasivam.
"You go into a sterile room with a video recorder running, and you just sit in front of somebody you don't know and disclose everything that happened to you," he said. "It's kind of a hard, crappy thing to do. There's sort of a revictimization in going back into those memories."
Getting on the stand at the preliminary hearing in provincial court was "pretty horrific," Sambasivam said. However, it did help him be better prepared to testify in Queen's Bench last week.
He plans to be in court again on July 15, to read his victim impact statement at the sentencing hearing for Sandirasegaram, who was taken into custody following the guilty verdict on Friday.
Reporting abuse to police and potentially going through the court process isn't going to be the choice of all sexual abuse survivors, Sambasivam added. "I don't think everybody's next step is to go to the police and report it. That's not what I'm suggesting," he said. "What I'm suggesting is everybody has a natural next step, and I'm encouraging everybody to take that. They probably know in their heart what that next step is for them."
One step Sambasivam took was reaching out to a fellow sexual assault survivor. He contacted Greg Gilhooly on Facebook after Gilhooly went public in 2010 with his story of abuse at the hands of Graham James when the now notorious hockey coach was in Winnipeg in the late 1970s.
Gilhooly said Sambasivam is one of between 100 and 200 people who have reached out to him.
"Sexual assault makes the victim feel all alone, and specifically preyed upon and unable to share the story, because there's so much pain that goes on," Gilhooly said. "It's far easier to reach out and speak to someone who's gone through it."
Sambasivam, who said Gilhooly has been a "wonderful help" to him, offered this advice to anyone who encounters someone trying to reach out.
"If you're a friend who someone's disclosed something to you, I think the questions that are helpful are, 'How are you doing with that? Have you sought professional help? Have you told your spouse or partner? Have you told your parents?' " Sambasivam said.
"What I'm saying is, it isn't all on the survivor. It's on the community that surrounds them."
Committee on child abuse meets at the state capitol
by Joe McLean
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- One state agency went before lawmakers Tuesday to discuss its role in Missouri and its future.
The Joint Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect held an informal hearing with representatives from the Juvenile Justice Center.
Missouri is the only state that uses a juvenile officer system and it has actually been that way since 1957.
"This is an ongoing effort by the committee to determine what we're doing right in the state of Missouri and what we're not doing so well," said Representative Bill Lant.
Most states have two departments that regulate child services. Missouri has three.
"Missouri is unique in that we don't just have a child welfare system that stands alone and we don't have a juvenile justice system that stands alone. Missouri has a unique component called the juvenile office," said Tammy Walden, Chief Juvenile Officer.
Based on investigations done by the children's division, juvenile officers oversee legal actions in child abuse and neglect cases.
Legal actions can be anything from coordinating a foster home to removing a child from the custody of parents.
Each case is unique and the state sees almost 16,000 of them a year.
Because of this, a system of checks and balances is a huge help.
"It's always nice to have another set of eyes, especially when you're talking about something so serious as removing children from the custody of their parents," said Walden.
Other states have just recently taken a closer look into Missouri's method.
The next step according to lawmakers is to implement consistent rules and procedures for all the offices across the state.
Facebook removes baby-dunking video after criticism
by Marc Schenker
Facebook has finally addressed critics after coming under fire for its slow response to a controversial video being called an example of child abuse. The video at issue shows a baby held by its limbs and being dunked into a bucket of water, as a woman keeps swinging it around. The baby's then held upside down and then finally shaken. After this, the baby immediately falls silent, which is in stark contrast to its continuous screaming during the ordeal.
When initially confronted about the presence of this video on Facebook, the company defended it and termed it “baby yoga,” according to the Guardian.
Facebook, however, reversed itself completely. After different child abuse charities and child welfare organizations complained to the company, Facebook has begun scrubbing its site of the controversial video – with a caveat. It's only removing these baby-dunking videos where users are actively encouraging this activity, but it's allowing the videos to remain on posts that are condemning its use. Videos that condemn this behavior are marked with a “disturbing” label as well. We were able to find the video still posted by one user, but Facebook pulled it the next day.
The video is believed to have originated in Indonesia, and more information about its origins will come to light as Toronto police start an investigation to determine the baby's location and where the video was shot, according to CTV News.
While this situation has been a public relations predicament for Facebook, it is not the first time that the company has been in the spotlight for allowing questionable videos to be posted on the site.
Back in 2013, the company initially let a beheading video stay up. However, after a campaign led by Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom, Facebook removed the graphic video and reconsidered its policy on allowing violent videos to stay up on the site.
Judging what videos are deemed acceptable or offensive can sometimes be a gray area, as Facebook's struggles over the years have demonstrated. That's why it's a smart idea for users to exercise some discretion when posting videos to the social media site.
Child abuse warning signs
Law enforcement agencies are highlighting the following indicators of child abuse to look out for:
Physical Indicators of Physical Abuse
Bruises, welts, cigarette and rope burns
Infected burns indicating delay in treatment
Behavioral Indicators of Physical Abuse
Withdrawal, aggression, regression, depression
Substance abuse, truancy, running away, and fear of going home
Inconsistent explanation for injuries
Physical Indicators of Sexual Abuse
Torn, stained or bloody underclothes
Frequent sore throats, yeast or urinary infections
Bruises or bleeding
Behavioral Indicators of Sexual Abuse
Disclosure of sexual abuse
Thumb-sucking, bedwetting, fear of the dark
Inappropriate interest in sex
Avoidance of undressing/extra layers
Sudden decline in school performance, truancy
Difficulty walking or sitting
Investigators are urging the public to contact them if you are even just the least bit suspicious.
Child sex abuse counsellor exposed as paedophile who enjoyed chatting about molesting children online
by Mark Branagan
A married father who counselled child sex abuse victims has been exposed as a paedophile who enjoyed chatting about molesting kids online.
Balding Robert Fothergill, 47, discussed his vile fantasies with other online perverts while running his own business that provided counselling to a number of schools.
Today he was jailed for six years at Teeside Crown Court after he admitted a string of sexual offences against children.
The disgraced ex-primary school governor confessed to living a sordid double life when police caught one of the vile men he had befriended on line, a court heard.
When police experts examined his computer, they found he had shared indecent images and discussed abusing children in chat sessions.
He sobbed in the dock at as he admitted inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, and the sexual assault of a child during an earlier hearing.
He also admitted distributing indecent images of children, possessing indecent images, and attempting to cause or incite a child to engage in sexual activity.
The court heard Fothergill, of Whitelands in Richmond, North Yorkshire, used to work as a mortgage adviser but his job was axed in 2005 after 18 years.
He set up his Footprints Counselling and Support Service Company in 2012 after requalifying as a counsellor.
He told prospective clients: “I am honest, hard-working and conscientious, applying myself fully to the job in hand.
“Following redundancy in 2012 I have established my own consultancy and counselling business and aim to develop this into a fully-functioning enterprise within the Yorkshire and Durham Dales.”
Among the children he claimed to help were victims of child abuse, bullying, domestic abuse and youngsters with low self-esteem or communication problems.
Before starting the business, he had worked with police on a scheme to encourage children to get more involved in the local community.
Defending barrister Tom Mitchell claimed the talk was just "fantasy" and underlined that the abuse charges were based entirely on his client's own confession.
James Bourne-Arton, prosecuting, said Fothergill worked as a counsellor specialising in vulnerable people aged five to 18.
Police became aware of his illegal online activity after investigating a man in West Yorkshire with whom he had been communicating in a chat log.
The pair discussed abusing children and detectives traced his IP address.
When he was interviewed in February he made a string of confessions, the court heard.
He admitted using a particular website where he would watch children as young as nine perform sex acts.
Mr Bourne-Arton said Fothergill told police it was "one of the worst sites and someone should do something about it".
Tom Mitchell, defending, told the judge: "You deal with a man who has no previous convictions who has managed in the absence of any complainant to confess to the police substantially more than could ever be proved against him."
The defence said he was not weeping for himself, but for his "family and those he has offended against".
He said Fothergill took medication for "restless leg syndrome" and a known side effect was to make those who took it less able to combat urges that they faced.
Nevertheless, as a counsellor he should have taken steps to stop himself, Mr Mitchell said.
Despite numerous written testimonials, Judge Tony Briggs jailed him for six years, placed him on the Sex Offenders' Register and made an indefinite Sexual Harm Prevention Order.
He told the defendant: "It is plain on your public side there are very many good things to say about you.
"There is indeed an impressive collection of letters from people you have assisted and from people who obviously regard you highly."
The judge added: "Unhappily, you have a darker side which is illustrated by your admission to these matters."
Judge Briggs said it was right to say that Fothergill had confessed, but only after the police had begun investigating him.
Outside court, North Yorkshire Police said self-employed Fothergill worked in schools in North Yorkshire, Durham, Cleveland and Tyne and Wear.
Investigating Officer, Detective Inspector Fiona Wynne of North Yorkshire Police's Serious Crime Team, said: "Fothergill's admission of guilt has at least spared his victims the ordeal of going through the criminal justice system and a Crown Court trial.
"However, nothing can ever undo the harm he has caused both to the children he has directly abused or those whose pictures he has shared.
"Children's safety is of paramount importance and they should be protected at all times from those who want to abuse them, particularly those who are in a position of trust.
"It is everyone's responsibility to ensure they are kept safe, from parents to professionals, and I urge anyone who suspects a child is being abused to contact the police, or if they prefer, one of the many other agencies who can help."
Fothergill worked with children and young people across a number of schools in the North Yorkshire, Durham, Cleveland and Tyne and Wear areas but all the offences happened in North Yorkshire.
They came to light during an investigation by West Yorkshire Police into suspected sex offenders in their area.
A police spokesman added: “Anyone who is affected by sexual abuse, whether it is happening now, or occurred many years ago, should not hesitate to come forward.”
Sexual assault backlog frustrates victims
Broader probes slowing campus sex crime cases
by The Associated Press
Olivia Ortiz was elated when the U.S. Department of Education contacted her in June of 2013 to tell her it was opening an investigation into her complaint that the University of Chicago had mishandled her sexual assault case.
A junior at the time, she had run out of options on campus after a dean decided against an investigation and instead recommended an informal mediation between her and a student she said had assaulted her in the spring of her freshman year.
Finally, Ortiz said, she felt someone was on her side. Two years later, Ortiz is still waiting.
The reason: A burgeoning backlog at the education department that advocates say is leaving victims to languish longer without resolution, and could discourage others from coming forward at all.
“I definitely appreciate the Department of Education taking their time,” said Ortiz, who has since left campus and moved back in with her parents in Arizona, citing anxiety about continuing her studies in an environment where she felt unsafe.
“But for me, I just wanted some immediate relief. I feel like sometimes there's no light at the end of the tunnel.”
College students who believe their schools mishandled their allegations of sexual assault have increasingly opted to use the federal gender discrimination statute known as Title IX to press the institutions for stronger action.
Last May, the department made public a list of 59 schools under investigation for Title IX complaints. As of May 27, the agency had 123 open sexual assault cases at 113 schools across the country. Those complaints are not criminal cases, but if a university is found to be in violation of Title IX, it risks losing federal funding, a massive piece of most schools' budgets.
At the same time, the department has altered its approach to investigating such complaints. Instead of assessing them as isolated cases, the agency now sees each one as an opportunity for a broader assessment of a school's overall compliance.
Advocates praise the department's commitment to evaluating the culture of each college under investigation. But the spike in complaints and the broader scope of the responses have swamped the department's investigators. Groups that support victims worry that the lengthy reviews, which may bring improvements to the universities in question, wind up stranding the people filing the complaints. And it frustrates schools as they seek vindication of their efforts to make campuses safer.
Even before the department adopted its more comprehensive approach, Title IX investigations could take years. Part of that lengthy timeline has to do with a lack of funding and, more specifically, staffing.
In 2014, the education department received more than 10,000 complaints under Title IX, a broad law that bans gender-based discrimination in federally funded programs. Less than 10 percent of those complaints related to sexual assault, but the department's Office of Civil Rights had to field all 10,000.
There is no special unit to handle sexual assault complaints despite their sensitive nature, and investigators juggle dozens of cases at once dealing with all aspects of gender discrimination.
Today, the department is opening more sexual assault investigations than it is closing, with some still pending after four years.
In his 2016 budget, President Barack Obama proposed a 31 percent increase for the Office of Civil Rights, which would allow it to add 210 full-time staff members to its roster of 544.
“Do we need more people? Absolutely,” Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary of the Office of Civil Rights, recently told The Associated Press. “My staff are carrying 20-25 cases a person on average at any given time, that's a very, very burdensome caseload.”
When she was appointed in 2013, Lhamon decided that instead of focusing on the specific incident that spurred a particular complaint, investigators should solicit as much information as possible from a school to identify any patterns. “We are more systemic in the way we evaluate because I think that's the way to get at civil rights compliance more effectively,” Lhamon said.
But Colby Bruno, senior legal counsel at Victim Rights Law Center, a nonprofit that offers services to sexual assault victims, said the downside is that “now, OCR will look at everything, from soup to nuts. That's a great thing, but it's terrible for victims.”
Emily Kollaritsch, now 21, is a recent graduate of Michigan State University, which has been under investigation since 2011.
Kollaritsch said she was assaulted by a fellow student during her freshman year, and school officials ultimately held him responsible. But the administrative review took 285 days, she said, and the student was not even suspended.
Instead, he was placed on probation and made to write an essay about changing his behavior, and had his on-campus movements restricted, according to a copy of a disciplinary letter that Kollaritsch provided to the AP.
The AP generally does not identify victims of sexual assault, but Ortiz and Kollaritsch have come forward to help draw attention to the problem.
After the university closed her case, Kollaritsch filed a complaint with the Department of Education in October of 2013. In February of last year, the department opened an investigation.
That's when school administrators began antagonizing her, Kollaritsch said, by questioning whether her case was serious enough to warrant a Title IX complaint. It got so bad, she said, that she took a semester off and returned with a service dog to help manage her stress.
Jason Cody, an MSU spokesman, however, said there are resources in place for sexual assault victims on campus, and said the administration encourages students to reach out to federal officials if they feel it is necessary. He said, “There is no retaliation. We support those victims.”
Ortiz, the Chicago student, says she wished federal officials had done more. While she hopes to return to school in the fall, she said her academic career hangs in the balance while she waits for her complaint to be resolved.
Several messages left for the University of Chicago's Title IX coordinator were not returned.
“I thought this would be a way to hold my school accountable and make it better,” Ortiz said. “But it's heartbreaking to see my classmates graduate. I've had to turn my entire life around for this, move back to my hometown and in with my parents. I didn't sign up for a several years-long battle.”
Michigan summit underway
LANSING (AP) — Michigan first lady Sue Snyder is hosting the state's first campus sexual assault prevention summit in Lansing.
Snyder and Gov. Rick Snyder gave opening remarks on Monday.
Sue Snyder says that as a mother the well-being of young adults and students "has always been a priority" for her.
The summit is co-hosted by Sens. Tonya Schuitmaker and Rebekah Warren and Reps. Laura Cox and Marilyn Lane. The bipartisan group of legislators will be accompanied by college and university representatives, law enforcement officials and students.
The U.S. Education Department said last year dozens of schools nationwide, including the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Grand Valley University, were being investigated for the way they handle sexual abuse allegations.
Make sure kids are safe online
Summer time often means more free time, and for many Minnesota children, more time spent online.
The Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension encourages parents to continue conversations with their children about making smart decisions online. Whether children use the Internet for social networking, games or other apps it's always important to follow some basic safety guidelines.
Beware of sharing too much -- whether its private emails, candid photos (even those that only appear for a few moments) or social media posts meant only for friends -- once it's out there, never assume you can control where it goes.
Keep your guard up during games and chats -- the casual nature of these activities lend themselves to innocent sounding questions from strangers. Guard all private information, including your name, age, school and hometown.
Follow the Golden Rule online -- don't say it about someone else if you wouldn't want it said about you.
Avoid meeting with someone you don't know -- treat any requests of this nature with extreme caution.
While parents can't stay up-to-speed on all of the apps, games, websites and cell phone offerings, they can take steps to help their children think critically about their interactions with others online.
“Don't focus on a single platform with your children,” said Minnesota Internet Crimes Against Children Education Coordinator Karina Hedinger. “Instead, get them thinking about how they'd respond to certain scenarios no matter what type of social media they're using.”
“Ask them what they'd do if they're playing a game or chatting and someone asks them how old they are, or what school they attend. This opens the door for parents to help children rehearse safe responses without it feeling like a lecture.”
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children offers many tips for children and conversation starters for parents. More info at www.missingkids.com.
State must not cut lifeline for the most vulnerable in society
A victim of childhood sexual abuse was saved by the assistance she received from the Rape Crisis Centre. Attempts to cut funding for these centres will cost lives and silence victims, says ‘Rosie'
I WAS a client of a Rape Crisis Centre many, many years ago as a result of chronic childhood sexual abuse. The abuse was within the family circle. It was also outside the family, a priest in the community, and was suffered later again, as a young adult woman.
There was no aspect or part of my adult life that was left unaffected by that experience. It deeply affected the lives of my late partner and our adult children. It rendered me emotionally and physically paralysed for a long, long time. The beginning of recovery was the moment I made a decision for myself, while under psychiatric care, to attend a counsellor.
I could not have foreseen what was ahead for me or what it would cost or what it would take. The journey was death-defying. It has been done, despite it all, and thanks in no small part to my connection with the Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI).
So is it easier to be a survivor of childhood abuse or sexual violence these days? Are we in danger of creating a response which focuses on getting things legally correct so that there can be no future questions. Such a child protection focus may be creating another unsafe world for both vulnerable children and adults.
From my very first contact with a Rape Crisis Centre I knew I was in safe, capable, and believing hands. The service is free. The ethos and stance of the centre I attended was political and clear. I knew where they stood with me. How I was listened to, responded to, how my safety needs were attended to, let me know that these women knew what they were about with no ambivalence.
Some years later, I was part of a small group of women who set up another rape crisis centre. So, for the last 20-something years, I have had the privilege of helping other women and men work through the after-effects of sexual violence, be it in childhood or adulthood.
Rape crisis centres, as part of the original women's movement, have been listening to, sitting with, and advocating for victims and survivors for well over 40 years. It was the voices of survivors of sexual violence and childhood abuse that first gave us glimpses of the truths we have come to know over the last two decades. Is it any easier today?
Consider what is still asked of the child who needs to disclose abuse within the family. Consider that, while they will be thankfully much better treated than ever before, they will still have to reveal what has happened to them, in detail, to a garda or to a social worker in Tusla. Perhaps in court.
Consider how hard it is, if you desperately want your mother, but she is standing beside the person who has raped you. How do you square that in your heart?
Consider how long it took me to speak about what had happened in childhood — the guts of 30 years, and the main abuser was dead. Consider
the 17-year-old girl who desperately wants to report a rape by a peer, but who withdraws not just from making a complaint but from all services, because the gardaí say they have to contact her parents.
The vast majority of victims and survivors do not report the crimes committed against them because their own experiences tell them it is still not safe. Rape crisis centres have been witness to these dilemmas for many years. RCNI has been listening and evolving appropriate, client-led responses for years. The patterns of contact, the way someone comes to make a disclosure, what they need to make it and what someone needs after a disclosure.
All have been part of the RCNI response. Over and over, week after week, we have seen clients, having previously withdrawn, go back to the gardaí or social workers or their families, because they have got the right supports. Many go on to make the disclosure they need to make.
The changes quietly being imposed on rape crisis centres are nothing short of decimations of services that have greatly informed our treatment of survivors. In particular, cutting RCNI funding is probably one of the most short-sighted and damaging acts of the current Government. The vast majority of survivors do not report and do not access services. The vast majority get on with their lives, often never telling anyone. What is the hidden price of their silence? Rape crisis centres and services like them are a pivotal piece of the jigsaw, helping someone become secure enough to take action.
We are still leaving children and traumatised survivors unsafe by withdrawing support and silencing one of the most professional, visionary, and effective partners that have been part of the real sea change in the response to sexual violence. Yes, there has been much change but sexual violence has not gone away, child abuse has not gone away. We need to consider what we are still asking of the abused child and the abused adult. Is it making it safer for them or for us?
I must continue to be shocked by what the child, the victim, is saying. I must say: “You may not do this to any child.” That is the response that is needed. Not the message that “we will protect you when you tell me what has happened to you”.
The Danger of 'It Wasn't Really Rape'
by Pamela Jacobs
Speaker, advocate, and attorney dedicated to empowering women and ending sexual and domestic violence.
I watched in horror along with most of America as "19 Kids and Counting" parents Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar talked about their son, Josh's, molestation of their young daughters. Josh has admitted to sexually abusing five young girls, including his sisters, Jessa and Jill. And a recently-released police report shows that Josh told his father on three occasions that he sexually abused four of his sisters as well as a family friend.
Yet, horrifically, Jim Bob claims that, "This wasn't rape or anything like that. This was touching over the clothes." This perception that touching is somehow less traumatic that penetration is not only false, it is incredibly damaging to victims, and helps perpetuate a culture of victim-blaming and lack of accountability for perpetrators. The fact is that children who are sexually abused often face lifelong consequences, whether or not that abuse involved penetration.
Each victim's experience and response is unique, but common impacts of child sexual abuse include guilt, shame, depression, sleep disorders, difficulty trusting, low self-esteem, flashbacks, disassociation, eating disorders, substance abuse and difficulty forming intimate relationships.
And, as the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network states, "The reaction of a survivor's friends and family to the disclosure of the abuse also has the potential to trigger immense feelings of guilt, shame and distrust, particularly if those individuals denied that the abuse was taking place, or chose to ignore it."
Disbelief and minimization by family members is often very re-traumatizing to victims, and can make the impact of the abuse far worse and longer lasting. I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. And for me, my family's reaction was as painful and destructive as the abuse itself.
I was 15 years old when I disclosed sexual abuse by a family member -- my step-grandfather. Like many victims, my disclosure was first met with disbelief. My grandmother told me I was lying and kicked me out of the house. Years later, as I tried to rebuild connections with my family, my mother eventually admitted that she believed me, and knew I was telling the truth. But, she said that I should "just get over it," since "it's not like he raped you or anything."
This "it wasn't really rape" claim is one of the most damaging forms of victim-blaming and minimization. It causes victims to doubt their own feelings and memories, and to feel ashamed for being so hurt by the abuse.
In my experience, while it is true that there had not been penetration (that I remember), I was violated by someone whom I loved and trusted -- as were Josh Duggar's sisters. This type of betrayal is just as painful as rape by a stranger, sometimes more so.
In fact, two years after I left home, I was raped by an acquaintance in college. And while this act did involve penetration and was very traumatic, it did not have the same lasting impact on me as the abuse by my grandfather. The specific act that was committed is not as important as the impact it created.
This is not at all intended to downplay the impact of rape by a stranger, acquaintance or anyone else. All sexual assault is traumatic. Each victim's experience is unique, and each reaction will be different. It's impossible to say what type of sexual violence is worse or will be more damaging. And that's truly not up to us to decide.
The fact is that any sexual touching or behavior without someone's consent, or before someone is old enough to consent, is sexual assault. Period. All perpetrators need to be held accountable. And all victims need to be believed and supported.
I have worked with survivors of sexual abuse for 15 years. And many of the survivors I speak with are afraid to come forward because they have been told that what happened to them was "not really rape." They doubt their own definition of their own experience , because they have been told they are overreacting.
We have to stop diluting rape and telling victims that only some acts are bad enough to justify outrage. We have to stop trying to define someone's experience for them, because we simply don't want to -- or can't handle -- the painful truth. All sexual assault is wrong, painful, damaging and illegal.
Jessa, Josh's younger sister and one of his victims, is defending her brother. She has stated that referring to Josh as a child molester is "so overboard and a lie." It doesn't matter whether Jessa sees -- or is ready to see -- her brother as a perpetrator. The fact is that what he did is not just a "mistake," as his parents claim, it was a crime -- multiple crimes. Sending him away to work for a summer is not an adequate punishment. It will not change his behavior. And it certainly will not help his sisters, and other victims, heal.
I cannot imagine how agonizing it must be to know that several of your daughters were sexually abused, and the perpetrator is your own son. I am sure this is very difficult for the entire Duggar family. And I imagine the desire to defend their son is strong, as it would be for any parent. But, to defend one child at the expense of your other children is tragic and unacceptable.
Children (and adults) who are sexually abused or assaulted need to know that they are believed, that the abuse was not their fault, and that they have support from friends and family. Having your experience validated is one of the most important steps toward healing and surviving. I can only hope that Jill, Jessa, and the other victims receive this support from someone, if not from their own parents, very soon.
To Jessa, Jill, and all survivors of all forms of sexual violence: I believe you. It was not your fault. And you are not alone.
If you or someone you know has been sexually abused, the National Sexual Assault Hotline is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
How Josh Duggar and Dennis Hastert could change the laws on sex crimes
by Janell Ross
Two days after former House speaker Dennis Hastert's (R-Ill.) indictment became public, a small group of sexual abuse survivors gathered at Federal Plaza in downtown Chicago. The group, made up of members of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), was there say thank you to prosecutors for exposing Hastert's alleged crimes.
It was also there to issue a distinct challenge to Illinois lawmakers.
One year after pushing state legislators to enact changes in the criminal statute of limitations – the time during which a person can be prosecuted for sex crimes involving minors -- sex abuse survivors and their advocates, some legal scholars and anti-rape activists are pushing Illinois and other states to go further. Much further.
They want to see Illinois and other states extend, eliminate or -- at the very least -- temporarily lift the often short time frames during which alleged victims have to report sex crimes and the system has to pursue these cases in criminal and civil court. And some of these same forces are now pushing Congress to use its ready weapon – federal funding – to incentivize states that do so. In late May, just hours before the charges against Hastert became public, retiring Senate minority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told a Nevada newspaper that he is seeking co-sponsors for just such a bill.
At first glance, the statue of limitation reform movement can seem like the kind of push for civil and criminal procedure reform with meaning to only a small subset of Americans involved in such cases. To others, it might seem like one of those causes so deep in the legislative weeds that rallying support will be difficult. And the reforms do have their critics.
Civil libertarians worry that extending criminal and civil statues of limitation will lead to wholesale violations of the constitutional rights of the accused. Over time, memories fade, evidence disappears and witnesses and victims die, they say, making mistakes more likely. And large institutions such as the Catholic church have lobbied against the reforms in states around the country because of the damage that long-term criminal and civil culpability can do to reputations and church coffers.
But advocates of statute of limitations reform – a movement that has picked up considerable steam over the last decade – say that even as the nation's understanding of sex crimes and their effects on victims has progressed, those arguments have helped both the legal system and culture to remain woefully offender-friendly and, in some ways, retrograde. Still, each time a name is added to the list of once well-regarded, seemingly wholesome and in some cases self-appointed arbiters of sexual morality -- the other big recent examples, of course, being Bill Cosby and Josh Duggar -- the details of state and federal laws that limit or prevent potential punishment also get pushed into the spotlight, Marci Hamilton, a law professor and statute of limitation reform movement expert at Yeshiva University's Cardozo School of Law told me.
And by that measure, 2015 has already been quite the year.
In the wake of the string of allegations made against Cosby and revelations about reality TV-personality-turned-conservative-political-operative Duggar, terms like statue of limitations and, “mandatory reporter" no longer seem obscure. Instead, they feel closely connected to public safety.
("Mandatory reporters" are people -- most often doctors, nurses, teachers, funeral directors and mental health care professionals -- legally obligated to report suspected child sexual abuse to authorities. They became a major issue in the Jerry Sandusky-Penn State case in 2011.)
So far in 2015, 13 states have contemplated civil or criminal statutes of limitation reforms. Only a handful have moved to do so. Another 36 states and Guam have already done so, to varying degrees.
Advocates for the reforms, though, say some bills were essentially gutted before they were passed due to powerful lobbying efforts. In 2012, Colorado Catholic lawmakers who sponsored a statute of limitations reform bill were criticized from the pulpits of their own parishes before a measure in that state failed. And in New York, a measure to eliminate the state's criminal statue of limitation on sex crimes against children has passed the state Assembly four times but never reached the full state Senate for a vote because the bills faced serious opposition from Orthodox Jewish and Catholic groups. They warned that resulting criminal charges and civil law suits would force many religious schools, churches and synagogues to close.
Still, high profile cases do seem to spur all sorts of action.
Some legal experts, including Hamilton, have questioned Arkansas officals' decision to close the investigation into Duggar based on what they say is a faulty reading of that state's civil and criminal statues of limitation on sex crimes involving minors.
In late May, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) signed a bill that that expands that state's once four-year window to report an alleged rape or sexual assault against an adult to 20 years. Lawmakers cited concerns about the string of women who had accused Cosby of raping, drugging and/or sexually assaulting them during the comedian's once-frequent visits to Las Vegas. One such woman even testified in front of state lawmakers and lobbied for criminal statue of limitation reforms.
The new Nevada law, much like those in other states, will not apply retroactively to Cosby or any others accused of long-ago sex crimes. In 2003, the Supreme Court ruled that no state law can do so when it comes to criminal matters.
But some states do come close to the line. Just last year, Illinois joined a small group of states that have completely eliminated the statue of limitations for prosecuting sex crimes against children if one of two conditions can be met; if there is physical evidence of the alleged crime or proof that a so-called mandatory reporter failed to do so, a criminal case can be brought at any time. But in most states, criminal law does not function this way, and in Illinois, that has so far meant that Hastert will not face sex-crime charges beyond the financial ones for which he was indicted.
That's part of the reason that reforms which create temporary windows where the civil statues of limitation are lifted – laws put in place in just four states so far -- have become so critical, David Clohessy, the executive director of the Chicago-based SNAP told me. Civil cases draw attention and often additional, sometimes even more recent, victims report their abuse to authorities, leading prosecutors to cases and evidence which they can sometimes prosecute. Even when that doesn't happen, serial perpetrators are often exposed and because of this, removed from roles that give them access to new potential victims.
There's some evidence to back up Clohessy's claims.
In California, a temporary window during which the civil statue of limitation was lifted generated about 1,000 cases involving about 300 alleged perpetrators. And in Minnesota where a similar three-year window opened in 2013 has also produced a number of civil suits.
And it's done something else. On Friday, information obtained by prosecutors as a result of some of those suits led state prosecutors to indict the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis on criminal charges related to the repeat “mishandling” of sex abuse complaints against a single priest and failure to root out other child sex abusers working for the church.
Elder abuse is a silent, but significant, problem in society
by Tammy Langley
Kindness met “Mary” at the door of the Nampa Family Justice Center. Trembling fear from abuse, combined with courage, brought her in. “I was so afraid of ending up alone under a bridge,” she recently recalled. “In my wildest dreams, I never thought at 62 I would be in this situation.”
For Mary, going through abuse was like sitting in a pool of dark water. Any movement would cause ripple effects. Her concerns were monumental. The struggle to survive was exhausting. Isolation, lack of support and Mary's age all formed a frightening picture in her mind. What would happen to her? Where could she go?
“Elders suffer in silence,” reports Linda Wakefield, elder abuse coordinator at the NFJC. “Preventative efforts need to assist elders in feeling confident to reach out and seek assistance.”
This is being accomplished on a daily basis at the Nampa Family Justice Center. Mary received encouragement and found a renewed sense of hope, enabling her to create her own plan. Legal assistance, counseling, support groups, transportation assistance and ongoing case management were all part of Mary's plan. Today, Mary is a survivor, attending a women's later-in-life support group and reaching out to inspire others who have walked in her shoes.
“I don't know what I would have done without the Nampa Family Justice Center,” Mary tearfully said. “I felt connected to people who really cared about me. I want others to receive the same help I did.”
Mary is not alone. Elders in our community face abuse every day. This abuse comes in many forms. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, one in 10 Americans age 60 and over are abused. Tragically, 90 percent of abusers are adult children, spouses, partners or other family members. The following types of abuse are commonly accepted as major categories of elder mistreatment:
Exploitation — Illegal taking, misuse or concealment of funds, property or assets of a vulnerable elder.
Emotional Abuse — Inflicting mental pain, anguish or distress on an elder person through verbal or nonverbal acts.
Sexual Abuse — Non-consensual sexual contact of any kind, coercing an elder to witness sexual behaviors.
Neglect — Refusal or failure by those responsible to provide food, shelter, health care or protection for a vulnerable elder.
Physical Abuse — Inflicting, or threatening to inflict, physical pain or injury on a vulnerable elder, or depriving them of a basic need.
Abandonment — The desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of that person.
We have a shared responsibility to protect those most vulnerable among us. From first to final breath, every person deserves dignity, respect and compassionate care. Margaret Mead, an American cultural anthropologist, said, “Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever had.”
If you suspect an adult is being abused, seeking help is critical. In the Treasure Valley, report elder abuse to Idaho Area III Agency on Aging at 332-1745 or 1-844-689-7562. In case of emergency, dial 911.
Please join the Nampa Family Justice Center by wearing purple in observance of Elder Abuse Awareness Day on Monday.
The Nampa Family Justice Center, a partnership of agencies dedicated to ending family violence and sexual assault through prevention and response, provides services to victims of any age. For further information, or to get help, contact the Center at 475-5700 or visit nampafamilyjusticecenter.org.
Not Just The Duggars! ‘Duck Dynasty' Star Jep Claims He Was Victim Of Sexual Abuse At Age Six
Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and 19 Kids & Counting have both gone down in flames after their young stars revealed they were victims of sexual abuse as children. Now, Duck Dynasty star Jep Robertson has come forward to reveal his own claims of sexual abuse, and RadarOnline.com has all the details.
Robertson, now 37, told Entertainment Tonight he was molested by an older student when he was just a child.
“I was 6 and it was on a school bus and it was an older girl,” Robertson told ET . “Back then the high school students would ride on the same bus as the grade school. There was this girl there that was just real mean…I don't know, but it was a lot of things took place — scary stuff. It was tough.”
“She'd take my hands and push them up under her shirt and tell me I was tickling her,” he writes in his new book, The Good, The Bad, The Grace Of God . “Then she started making me pull down my pants.”
As a result, Robertson told ET , he often skipped class.
“My mom always thought I was sick,” he admitted. “…I think for a while I just tried to bury it so deep that I kind of forgot about it for a while.”
And he credited his wife, Jessica — who has her own dark party girl past — for bringing him back into the light.
“It made our relationship stronger once we talked about it,” he said.
“I know it sounds weird but it's helped me now that I have a bunch of girls,” he continued. “I think it helps us really communicate with them on what's right and what's wrong — where you should be touched or not be touched. It's a tough thing to go through.”
Robertson claimed he did not know the Duggar family, but wife Jessica said, “I think they're staying close-knit and I think they'll be fine, but it'll be a long road.”
Poll on sexual abuse conducted by Lauren's Kids offers some startling insights
by Peter Scharsch
As any reader of this blog already knows, I am an unabashed fan of the work being done by Lauren Book and her organization, Lauren's Kids. As a policy wonk, I really like what they are doing to educate people on spotting, preventing and reporting child sexual abuse. But as a father of the most beautiful little girl who has ever lived, I genuinely appreciate and applaud their efforts at an even deeper level.
But enough about me and what I like…
As part of their work, they conducted a poll of over 1,000 Floridians to see what regular folks think, feel, and know about the sexual abuse of children.
Are you sitting down?
One of the areas of the poll focused on the cause of sexual abuse of children (those under 13) and it discovered that about one in five Floridians think that abuse – and specifically sexual abuse – could be the child's fault.
Who ARE these people?
Let's just get this out there: NO! NEVER! NOPE! And NO WAY!
A child is a child. The adult is in control. No child “wants it.” No child “asks for it.” And in all frankness, folks, nobody (of any age) ever asks to be abused, and I don't know how to be more adamant here, but especially when we are talking about children, NO! NO! and NO!
If that's not freaky enough, those are the numbers of people that freely admitted to believing that children can bring it on themselves. Who even thinks like that?
And if that wasn't enough, consider these other jaw-dropping factoids:
More than a third of female respondents and more than a fifth of male respondents reported being victims of child sexual abuse yet less than one in five victims ever sought counseling or help even though they said it has significantly affected their adult lives.
Nearly one in three women said their first sexual experience was forced upon them.
More than one in five parents of girls suspect that one of their own children “definitely” or “probably” have been subjected to some form of sexual abuse.
In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky, Denny Hastert and now Mr. 1st of 19, Josh Duggar revelations, it seems the public is badly in need of education. This jumps off the page when you consider that in all three of these circumstances – and what makes each of those stories so insanely maddening – is the lack of reporting, the lack of awareness and a general absence of people knowing what to do.
Which brings me to what might be the most important conclusion of this survey.
It seems that only one in five respondents recognize that most child sexual abuse is preventable through education or safety training, when in fact, it is generally recognized among experts that most child sexual abuse is preventable through education and awareness training.
Thus the mission of Lauren's Kids: to teach, to empower, to prevent.
Keep up the good work – it is badly and sadly needed!
'One-stop shop' for WA children reporting sexual abuse not going ahead, Government says
by Andrew O'Connor
The Western Australian Government has shelved a key recommendation of the Blaxell inquiry into child sexual abuse at state-run school hostels in regional WA.
The inquiry, headed by former Supreme Court judge Peter Blaxell, examined widespread abuse of boys at St Andrew's hostel in Katanning during the 1980s.
Serial paedophile Dennis McKenna sexually abused 11 boys while running the hostel as the warden between 1975 and 1990.
The inquiry found authority figures failed to intervene, even after being told about the allegations of abuse.
It was later expanded to examine child sexual abuse at other school hostels.
In 2012, the Barnett Government endorsed Justice Blaxell's recommendations, including setting up a "one-stop shop" for children to report child abuse.
In that recommendation, Justice Blaxell called on the State Government to "develop a function and role within or across central and independent agencies to fulfil a robust child-focused central complaints system that is a 'one-stop shop' for any complaint concerning child abuse regardless of the public sector agency that the matter relates to".
The recommendation was seen as critical to improving the process for reporting allegations of abuse, and providing sympathetic support to the child making the complaint.
One-stop shop not practical: Barnett
But Premier Colin Barnett has told a budget estimates hearing in Parliament that the Government has abandoned its early commitment to adopt the idea.
"We did endorse the recommendation [but] on further examination, the concept of a one-stop shop or point for reporting child abuse was not seen to be practical," he said.
Mr Barnett said there were already a range of agencies involved in handling child protection issues.
"If you were to have a one-stop shop, and the children's commissioner was suggested at one point, it was on careful consideration decided that would not be effective," he said.
The Government had previously flagged its reservations about the "one-stop shop" approach.
Attorney-General Michael Mischin expressed his concerns when he gave evidence to the Parliamentary Committee on the Commissioner for Children and Young People in November.
He told the committee a review had raised concerns about "the idea of duplicating any investigative role. That is one of the things that had exercised my mind and that of Government and those conducting the review".
"Superficially, it is a bit hard to know what [Justice] Blaxell had in mind in detail, but if he had in mind an investigative-type role or a gloss over the current investigative roles that are performed by police and others, it does raise significant problems," Mr Mischin said.
Justice Blaxell himself gave evidence to the same committee just weeks ago, reaffirming his support for the recommendation.
In his submission to the committee, he highlighted the importance of the key recommendation which he said would provide "a 'one-stop shop' in the sense that the victims can go to one place where all aspects and consequences of their complaints of sexual abuse will be properly and appropriately dealt with."
He also made clear that the role would complement, rather than overlap, with investigative agencies.
"It was never my intention to suggest that the proposed support role would involve any investigation of complaints," he said in his submission.
Traditional lines of reporting adequate: Barnett
But Mr Barnett believes the existing structures are adequate.
"There were traditional lines of reporting, particularly child protection and police, and we didn't want to disrupt that," he told the budget estimates hearing.
"The fear was that we would actually have lower rates of reporting than we currently have."
Speaking outside Parliament, Lisa Baker, the Labor chair of the Committee on the Commissioner for Children and Young People expressed deep disappointment at the Premier's statement.
Ms Baker said it was a major setback in efforts to improve the reporting of child sexual abuse.
"The reporting system, the way it is at the moment, it does not work efficiently. I think Peter Blaxell has been the judge of that," she said.
"The Premier has to accept Peter's recommendations and to hear him now say that he's not going to progress them is a complete betrayal."
Ms Baker said the absence of a one-stop shop leaves the reporting of child abuse in the same state as it was prior to the Blaxell inquiry.
"The system is broken at the moment. There are very big gaps in it. For a child or an adult coming forward to report abuse, there is no partisan voice that works with that person through the whole of the journey of reporting, to an outcome," she said.
"The thing that concerns me most is that we don't know if a child is any more supported now than they were in the 1970s and 1980s."
Game changer: Hastert accuser transforms coverage of sexual abuse allegations
by Howard Kurtz
Up until the moment that Jolene Burdge appeared on the television screen, the Dennis Hastert scandal had a strange and remote aura about it.
The former House speaker was charged with illegally structuring a $3.5 million payoff to cover up past misconduct, but who was getting the cash? Leaks to the media said it involved past sexual abuse, but who was involved? Hastert wasn't talking, he'd been out of power a long time, and the whole case seemed shrouded by fog.
But there was Jolene talking to ABC's Brian Ross about her brother, Steve, and how Hastert had ruined his life. She said her brother told her that Hastert had abused him throughout his high school days back in Illinois. Jolene's emotion filled the screen as she described confronting Hastert at Steve's funeral and saying she knew the dark secret.
Now the scandal had a face. Steve was not the man receiving the hush money—he died of AIDS 20 years ago—but according to his sister, his teacher had betrayed his trust.
I had a similar feeling as I watched two of the Duggar family's daughters, Jill and Jessa, tearfully describe the unwanted touching by their brother Josh. The uproar over the TLC reality show, and the polarized reaction to this conservative Christian family, seemed more of a political story. But watching these two young women who had been victimized twice—once by their brother, and again by a tabloid that published a confidential juvenile police record—was heartbreaking.
We live in a world awash in charges—brutal crimes, political misdemeanors, financial chicanery, police misconduct—and it's easy to become desensitized. When the Hastert case surfaced, people were initially shocked that the genial former congressman could be accused of such heinous acts. But that quickly faded as the media moved on to other outrages.
It takes a name and a face to remind us that there are victims behind the legal accusations, in this case a high school student. And that changes the media narrative.
The same thing happened as one woman after another emerged to accuse Bill Cosby of rape or sexual assault, until there were more than 30. Could they all be lying? CBS is already reporting that the FBI knows of a total of three victims. NBC sent out an alert saying it had the first video since the indictment of Hastert on his property in Plano, Ill.
At the same time, my "Media Buzz" panel was skeptical yesterday. Jolene Burdge provided no definitive proof of the sexual abuse, but she was interviewed by the FBI not long before the indictment was returned. Nine years ago, speaking off the record, she told the same tale to ABC, but Hastert denied it and the network was unable to find corroboration. You can't publish a hugely damaging allegation like that without definitive proof. And so Hastert skated—until now.
He is, of course, entitled to the presumption of innocence. But I can't help but wonder, why has he remained silent? Who, if he was not guilty of such terrible acts, would not issue a denial?
It is hard to imagine that prosecutors would have pursued such financial charges against an ordinary person who had not been a Washington power broker, since the statute of limitations on the underlying conduct has long since passed. But even if the legal strategy is flawed, there is the moral question: What kind of man is Denny Hastert, the compromise choice to run the House after Newt Gingrich and Bob Livingston were viewed as too morally compromised to do so?
The pain in Jolene's eyes goes a long way toward answering that question. And I suspect we will hear from others as well.
Scotch College sex abuse victim breaks silence over cover-up of 'hero' molester
by Steve Lillebuen
A former Scotch College student who was sexually abused by a teacher has taken his case to the royal commission, saying the elite school community helped cover up abuse and glorify his molester for decades.
In breaking his silence after 36 years, abuse survivor Matthew Stuart says the top Melbourne school presided over a painful history of denial and omissions, including naming an award after the perpetrator, before finally apologising for what happened two years ago.
"It was outrageous what they did," he said. "I guess this is the way these kinds of schools and institutions think they can behave. They hide behind their prestige and do stuff that is absolutely disgraceful."
Mr Stuart decided to speak out after The Age revealed how the school acknowledged, for the first time, that students had been abused on school grounds.
The 51-year-old, one of five abuse survivors to reach a settlement with the school, is now urging others to come forward, hoping his story gives them the courage to seek help.
"I was an innocent kid. I've got nothing to be embarrassed about," he said.
Mr Stuart's abuse occurred in June 1979, less than six months after he moved from his family's NSW farm to begin his studies at the Presbyterian-run boys' school.
He was 15 years old and staying at one of the secondary college's boarding houses when he woke up to find Michael Achurch, his house master and a respected geography teacher, standing beside his bed.
His teacher was indecently assaulting him.
In the morning, Mr Stuart reported the sexual abuse to then principal Philip Roff, who removed Mr Achurch as house master, despite opposition from senior members of the school community.
But Mr Achurch remained teaching, meaning Mr Stuart had to see his abuser on a daily basis. He wasn't offered counselling over what happened either.
Police were called and a second student then came forward, saying Mr Achurch had done the same thing to him.
But the credibility of Mr Stuart has been repeatedly questioned for decades, which still makes him angry.
There were threats, too. Shortly after the incident, four men arrived at his parent's farm with a warning for his mother.
"They had told her that if my parents took any further action on the Achurch matter they would lose the farm," Mr Stuart said in written submissions to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Police spent five months investigating Mr Achurch before notifying his lawyer on November 9, 1979, that his client was going to be prosecuted. Hours later, Mr Achurch crashed his car into a pole and died.
One of investigators on the case, now a retired detective, said Mr Achurch was going to be charged with offences involving multiple victims.
Police had no doubt he took his own life to avoid a trial, he said. A coronial inquest, however, ruled it a death by misadventure.
Mr Stuart has never been the same again. Haunted by the abuse and his teacher's death, he has suffered from severe depression and anxiety, requiring counselling and therapy for most of his life. "I felt like I had died and that this empty person had no control over who they were," he said.
His popular teacher's sudden death, however, propelled him into a revered status.
Death notices in The Age described him as "a true gentleman" while one of the school's magazines ran a glowing three-page tribute. In 1980, the school's rowing club named one of its boats after him.
There was even an award. More than 25 years later, the Michael Achurch Award was still being given out to boys who competed in Scotch College's 24 Hour Hike. Recipients were never told of the sexual abuse cases.
"He was basically made into a hero," Mr Stuart said. "It's this fantasy thing. And I guess this incident didn't fit with their fantasy – they just didn't want it to be true."
Mr Stuart said the school's 2001 history book, A Deepening Roar , then downplayed the abuse and questioned, again, if he was lying about it. The discovery plunged him into a deep depression.
In 2012, he contacted lawyer Vivian Waller, whose firm acts on behalf of more than 600 survivors of child sexual abuse.
Dr Waller said the number of abuse claims, most dealing with Catholic clergy, is expected to grow due to public awareness. "We can expect many more adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse to come forward," she said.
In Mr Stuart's case, Scotch College apologised and paid out compensation in April 2013. The school no longer disputes that Mr Achurch was a child molester. It has cancelled the award and decommissioned the boat bearing his name.
Mr Stuart said the apology was genuine, with the school writing that it helped perpetuate a lie about the teacher's activities. "It's been incredibly healing," he said.
A school spokesman said it has been continually building a school culture that prevents abuse of any kind, with regular reviews of training and procedures, while settling historical abuse cases in the best interests of victims.
"It is not possible to imagine the suffering caused by those who betrayed the position of trust granted to them through the privilege of working with young people," he said.
Mr Stuart said Scotch College should be commended for this work. He's hopeful principal Tom Batty, who joined the school in 2008, will do even more.
He said the whole experience, however, reveals the disturbing truth of institutional responses to abuse: while there are those who do the right thing, they can be easily overpowered by others who perpetuate a culture of silence and denial.
That's why he's gone to the royal commission and given evidence in private hearings, he said. He hopes it shows everyone that abuse can happen anywhere.
"Institutions don't have feelings, but institutions can really hurt people," he said.
"But within these institutions there are good people. And I don't want to stop the good work that they're trying to do."
For help or information visit beyondblue.org.au, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Adults Surviving Child Abuse on 1300 657 380.
Sexual abuse victims need understanding, not outrage
by Michael Crawford
The Josh Duggar case continues to unfold and to shock people across the country. News stories, opinions and outrage dissect the Duggar family's attitudes toward sex, their worldviews and how they contributed both to Josh Duggar's actions and to shielding him from legal accountability while keeping his victims silent.
The truth is while the circumstances surrounding Duggar and his victims may have contributed to the abuse, people who commit sex offenses and survivors of sexual abuse don't need extraordinary factors to keep these crimes hidden. Our collective societal reactions often unintentionally help to do just that.
In 2002, Duggar's father, Jim Bob, stated during his run for the U.S. Senate that “rape and incest represent heinous crimes and as such should be treated as capital crimes.” It is easy to hold these views, to label individuals who offend as “predators” and “monsters” while the reality is they are often brothers, fathers, sons and friends.
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar had an obligation to report the abuse that was happening in their home and to ensure that their son did not present an ongoing risk to others. It is difficult to accept that more than 80 percent of people who commit sexual assault are known to the victim. Despite this, most of the current policy is focused on preventing sexual violence committed by strangers.
We don't support or acknowledge victims grappling with shame, confusion, love for the perpetrator and guilt. We don't want to view this through the eyes of children who are afraid they will break up their families if they take action to make the abuse to stop.
We don't want to accept the real human actors and emotions that accompany these situations; we seem only capable of labeling them as inhuman crimes committed by inhumane people.
Society has created an expectation that once someone has committed a sex offense he or she should be hated, but this attitude leaves little room for victims to come forward.
Sometimes, a victim's experience is, “I want the abuse to stop, I want the abuser to be accountable for his actions, but I care for this person, and I'm afraid people will try to make me hate him.”
There are few resources that will provide help for the victim and intervention outside of the criminal justice system. Insisting on all-or-nothing intervention creates barriers to holding offenders accountable and to survivors' healing.
We have to accept that there are as many different experiences as there are survivors. We have to accept that child sexual abuse, especially within the family circle, isn't unique to wealthy, religious, home-schooled people on TV; it's experienced by hundreds of thousands of families across the country.
While it appears the Duggars' wealth, privilege and political power allowed them to circumvent the justice system, other families confronting sexual abuse within their homes face an unfathomable crisis, limited resources and the reality of never knowing if the decisions they'll make are the right ones.
With limited opportunity for people concerned about the sexual behavior of another to reach out for treatment and intervention services before being brought into our criminal justice system, parents are forced to report their child to law enforcement or keep the rest of their family at risk of further harm.
The criminal justice system is an essential component of community safety and it is imperative that individuals who cause sexual harm are held accountable for their behaviors. However, current policies — for example, mandatory minimum sentencing, community notification and community registration — tend to be inflexible, and punishments for adults now are broadly applied to youth, though research shows that not only are these policies ineffective in reducing reoffending, they can unintentionally raise an individual's risk of reoffending.
Research findings indicate rehabilitative efforts with most youth are effective and therapeutic interventions, rather than social control strategies, are likely to be more successful in preventing future sexual abuse. They are cost-effective as well.
As a society, we must invest in public policy strategies that provide for the needs of people who have been victimized. Policies must offer effective interventions to prevent sexual reoffending and hold those who have caused sexual harm accountable for their behaviors.
Most people do not have the social, financial and political privilege of the Duggar family and so children are often faced with social and legal consequences that impact the rest of their lives and make it more difficult to realize their potential to lead an offense-free life.
Victims of sexual abuse need us to make room for their emotions, even when they include love, concern or confusion about the offender. Until we do, we are contributing to an environment that unintentionally silences them.
Our outrage does not offer support to the many thousands of victims who love the person who has harmed them and simply want the abuse to stop.
Michael Crawford is a communications assistant for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. This op-ed was co-authored by Kristen Houser, PCAR's vice president of public relations.
The 24-hour sexual assault hotline: 392-7273
Spartanburg area agencies seeing more child abuse victims
by Kim Kimzey
Few people want to consider that the most vulnerable in society endure abuse at the hands of those responsible for their care and wellbeing.
But a local organization that assists abused children says it continues to see more victims.
The Children's Advocacy Center of Spartanburg, Cherokee and Union counties could outpace last year by 14 percent if they continue receiving referrals at the current rate.
“In 2014, we had 512 referrals. That was 13 percent more than we saw in 2013. … So the numbers are continuing to go up,” Suzy Cole said.
Cole is executive director of The Children's Advocacy Center (CAC), which assists children subjected to severe physical abuse, sexual abuse and those who have witnessed violent crimes.
Referrals almost always come from law enforcement agencies and the state Department of Social Services.
Cole said it's difficult to determine why the number has increased.
Is it more abuse or better reporting?
“History tells us it's probably better reporting, but it's hard to know that for sure,” Cole said.
The Crimes against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire released a report in 2012 that concluded sexual abuse has likely declined since the 1990s, but notes controversy over data. The same report concluded that contradictions in data made it difficult to determine whether physical abuse has declined during the same time period.
Cole said cases of abuse seem to be reported on a near daily basis by local media.
She said people are “taken aback” to realize abuse could be happening next door.
“I think it's just so unsettling to think about a child being physically or sexually abused. People don't want to hear about it. It's an uncomfortable topic, especially sexual abuse,” Cole said.
She thinks education and awareness are integral to disrupting a generational cycle that comes at tremendous cost. The fallout extends far beyond traumatized children.
Jennifer Parker is a professor of psychology at the University of South Carolina Upstate, where she directs the Child Advocacy Studies Program.
She said the cost to treat those who have had adverse childhood experiences such as abuse is “enormous.”
“We know that individuals who grew up in violent and traumatic households are at much higher risk of lifelong health problems — mental health as well as physical health,” she said.
Parker said many live shorter lives due to chronic illnesses. They're at increased risk to become teen parents or being incarcerated.
“It's just a huge public health impact,” Parker said. “The costs are catastrophic when you think about all of those health indicators and loss of their potential.”
Parker and Cole both say awareness and education are crucial in stemming abuse.
Parker said the Child Advocacy Studies Program is focused on prevention.
The university has launched a Child Protection Training Center that includes a mock house with simulated crime scenes and a mock courtroom. The center will provide students and professionals with hands-on simulated training.
“Many professionals in the field don't even have relevant coursework to do the jobs that they're hired to do, so that's why we started the Child Advocacy Studies program,” Parker said.
The Child Protection Center is a collaborative effort of multiple agencies to better train responders, such as law enforcement officers, first responders, educators, social workers and others. Students also will gain more knowledge.
Parker said the closest place to receive a similar level of training is in Minnesota.
As difficult as it is to hear about abuse, Parker said people need to know that it exists and is unacceptable in order to increase awareness and protect children.
“Even though everyone is not a mandated reporter, everyone should report. Morally, we should all report when we know something's not right,” Parker said.
Parker believes that increased numbers at CAC may indicate better reporting.
She said child abuse has received more publicity, including through high-profile cases like the Duggar family of reality TV fame. She said publicity brings more attention to abuse that may have been quietly dealt with in the past.
Cole said abuse cuts across socioeconomic, racial and religious lines.
She thinks abuse is underreported in more affluent families. “They're better able to conceal abuse because the authorities are not in and out of their lives. Law enforcement and DSS are mandatory reporters, obviously, of abuse and so if law enforcement is in and out of your home, or in and out of your life, there's a greater chance that abuse in your family is going to be exposed.”
The Spartanburg County Sheriff's office provided statistics on juvenile crime victims from 2012 to 2014. There were 377 victims in 2012; 435 in 2013; and 513 in 2014, respectively.
Most were victims of child abuse and neglect, but there were many sexual crimes reported.
There were 43 victims of rape in 2012 versus 54 in 2014, according to the statistics. It's important to note that accused perpetrators are presumed innocent until found guilty, officials say
Cole said that almost half of the offenders they hear about at the CAC is someone in a parental role. At least 95 percent are a known person, such as a relative, a parent's significant other, a babysitter or neighbor.
“Almost every time we have an incidence of child abuse, it's by somebody the child knows, and usually it's somebody the child trusts,” Cole said.
“In many of these families, there is a cycle of abuse,” Cole said.
After a child comes to the CAC, staff may discover other family members also were abused.
Cole is hopeful that as referrals to the CAC increase and more children get services they need, those children will break the cycle and number of abused children will decrease.
“It's going to be a long time before we see the impact of that,” Cole said.
She said people need to open their eyes to the problem. Awareness about the issue, she said, is needed before there are solutions.
“It will take the whole community coming together to really do anything about it,” Cole said.