9 Ways to Teach Your Kids About Love Without Saying a Word
by Joanna Schroeder
Kids learn more about how to give and receive love from what we do than from anything we could ever teach them with words.
1. Disagree with your partner in front of them.
Experts have been saying for a long time that parents shouldn't fight in front of their kids, and I can't disagree with that at all. At least not the highly emotional, private or loud kind of fighting. But parents should absolutely be disagreeing in front of their kids, even if it gets a little heated.
Why? Because kids need to learn how to fight fairly and with compassion for others. They need to see what a healthy fight with a partner looks like - that there's not belittlement, intimidation, name-calling, manipulation, or abuse happening - in order to know how to behave with their own partners and how they should be treated.
2. Make up with your partner in front of them, too.
Too often, parents start to argue in front of their kids and then table the rest of their discussion for later, so as to not upset them. This seems like a great idea, but the problem is that then your kids don't get to see how the argument was resolved - they may not even know that there was a resolution, and they may internalize some stress over the fact that they're not sure how or when their parents made up.
Remember to say “I'm sorry” and “I love you” and “I will try to do better” and all the other phrases that show compassion and love, even when you disagree, and try to find a resolution in front of your kids - even if it's just temporary.
3. Help those in need as part of your daily life.
Saying, “Today you kids are going to learn that there are people who are less fortunate than you!” and marching them down for a once-yearly visit to the food bank or soup kitchen is not the way to teach kids to be giving.
It's better to show them that others' needs are important in our day-to-day lives by including them in small but frequent acts of giving, like bringing old blankets and towels at the animal shelter, dropping coins in the donation bins by the grocery store check-out, volunteering at school, and every other act of giving your family takes part in. The trip to the soup kitchen is great in concept, but the people who work there and those who are eating are not a “scared straight” program for you to use and abuse for your kids to learn to appreciate eating their green beans.
It's better to take a trip to the offices when they're not busy prepping or serving and asking them how you can best help. Take the kids with you. Offer to cook or clean or, if they ask and you're able, write them a check. Ask what you can buy weekly and deliver to them that they can always use. Listen to the professionals about how you can help, they know how to get the most good work done.
Whatever it is that you do, make it a regular activity, and don't make a big deal out of it to your kids. Just make giving, as an act of love for all, a part of life.
4. Treat your friends the way you hope they'll treat theirs.
The way you treat the people in your life is a daily lesson to your kids about how love people. No matter what it is you tell them to do, if your kids hear you gossiping, they'll become gossips. If they hear you badmouth someone they know, they'll think that's normal and okay.
What's more, they'll also expect people to treat them this way, and accept the presence of crappy people in their lives.
If you absolutely must vent about a friend in front of your kids, do so constructively, in a way you'd like to hear them talk about a problem. Saying, “When Bob said that, it really hurt my feelings,” is a way better lesson on how to talk about a problem than, “Bob is such an a**hole, I hate that guy.”
5. Treat strangers the way you hope they'll treat strangers.
I can't tell you how many times I've watched a parent command their child to say, “Please” or “Thank you” but then treat people (especially baristas and other service staff) like crap right in front of their kids.
Do you think your kid is going to grow up polite because you forced them to say “Thank you”? No, your kid will look straight through people or snap at them the way you do.
You should treat strangers politely because it's the right thing to do. But if that's not reason enough, do it so your kids don't grow up to be rude. Take a moment before interacting with people to remember the humanity of every person in front of you. Look them in the eye, smile, and greet them as you would a friend. Your kids will gain this skill and it will take them far.
6. Be an up-stander, not a bystander.
Whenever you get the opportunity (if the situation is safe for you, with your kids), be the person who steps in to help or to advocate for people. Call 911 if you see a drunk driver, report domestic violence if you see it, assist someone injured in a car accident, help someone who has dropped their bags, or catch a loose grocery cart that's headed for another person's car.
And let your kids know that you stand against injustice by being vocal in your community. If somebody is being harmed or discriminated against, be the person who raises their voice against it and tries to make change.
One thing that can help end bullying among young people is a community's unwillingness to accept bad behavior. There are great anti-bullying programs that can help, but parents can teach these values, too. Kids on the playground standing up for someone who is being picked on can make real change, even if they just quietly tell a teacher.
One major act of love is to teach your kid to say, “Hey, that's not cool” when someone makes a sexist, racist or homophobic joke. But more importantly, be that person yourself.
7. Don't be a snob .
First, don't be a snob simply because snobs are terrible. But if that's not reason enough for you, think about how your kids are internalizing your snobbish behavior.
Snobbery, or any other form of elitism, operates by making a person feel superior for having something that's supposedly better than another person. You may not think you're teaching your kids this value, but if you're judging others based upon things like having a run-down car, “tacky” clothes, living in a “bad” area, or a different body shape than yours, you're teaching them to be a snob. And judging someone like this is not love.
On top of that, your kid will think that people judging them based upon something shallow. Your child will worry about not being good enough, having nice enough clothes, or having enough money for the rest of their lives if this is your value. After all, there'll always be someone richer, prettier, stronger, or with a nicer car. That's just the way life goes. Snobbery teaches kids they have to be the best, or they are less-than.
Empower your kid to look past surface judgements by doing so yourself. Keep your comments about other people to yourself, and always be an example of not only how you'd like your child to judge others - but also how you'd like others to judge your child.
8. Look them right in the eye.
We're parents, I get how busy we are. We come home from work with our heads spinning and the boss still buzzing us on our phones. It's hard to connect.
But as soon as you meet up after time apart, take a moment to get face-to-face with your child, and connect with your eyes. Smile, tell them you love them, and ask them how their day was. Your attention, with your eyes on their eyes with softness and love, shows them how important they are more effectively than any words of affirmation you could offer.
And when you can, put down that phone. It's hard for me, too, but I'm trying. I want my kids to learn how to listen effectively and with a whole heart, and when I'm on my phone or distracted, I'm not teaching them that skill. So much of love is about truly listening. It's a gift.
9. Always offer unconditional love.
Love for your child is not conditional. It doesn't go away when you're mad and it doesn't hinge upon how they're behaving. In order for your child to know that he or she deserves respect from others, you need to offer the same to them. That means not withholding love or attention from your child as a means of punishing them.
Show them how to set healthy boundaries by setting your own, even when that means enforcing consequences to bad behavior. But always keep your love for your child at the center of everything you do, and let them know it. If you don't, they will spend a lifetime tiptoeing around their friends and partners, afraid of losing their love.
A father's love
Modern American society has always understood the importance of mothers in a child's life. However, the same cannot be said of fathers.
In the early part of the 20th century, a father's primary role was to provide for his family. The mother was often responsible for nurturing and raising children.
Societal opinions have changed in the past few decades, though. Research now shows that a father's love is just as important as Mom's love.
Last year, Dr. Gail Gross wrote about “The Important Role of Dad” in an article which was published by the Huffington Post.
“Studies show that if your child's father is affectionate, supportive, and involved, he can contribute greatly to your child's cognitive, language, and social development, as well as academic achievement, a strong inner core resource, sense of well-being, good self-esteem, and authenticity,” she wrote.
Gross also cited a recent study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), which states that dads are more engaged in caretaking than ever before.
“The reasons for this are varied, but they include: mothers working more hours and receiving higher salaries, fathers working less, more psychological consciousness, coping skills, mental illness intervention, self-worth issues, intimacy in marriage, social connection, and better role modeling for children,” she wrote.
“Further, children who are well-bonded and loved by involved fathers, tend to have less behavioral problems, and are somewhat inoculated against alcohol and drug abuse. Yet when fathers are less engaged, children are more likely to drop out of school earlier, and to exhibit more problems in behavior and substance abuse. Research indicates that fathers are as important as mothers in their respective roles as caregivers, protectors, financial supporters, and most importantly, models for social and emotional behavior.”
Indeed, many East Alabama fathers are taking active roles in their children's lives. They help with homework; coach sports teams; take their children to the doctor's office; and read bedtime stories. Later in life, they offer financial advice; assist with home projects; and hold back the tears as they walk their daughters down the aisle.
They show their love in many ways. To the fathers, grandfathers and fatherly figures who love and nurture, we wish you a Happy Father's Day.
Father's Day peace of mind
I wish I had known more about child sexual abuse before it happened to my daughter.
by Bill Watson
Happy Father's Day! I wish that for all fathers, but this dad is struggling to make sense of it this year.
My daughter is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, and it was just about two weeks ago on June 8th, in a Prince William County, Va. Superior Court, that my daughter's former gymnastic coach was found guilty of Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor in her case. For the record, he pleaded, "Not guilty," but the judge found him guilty, based on a plea agreement and recommendation to satisfy the original Aggravated Sexual Battery charge.
His name isn't important. A Google search will likely reveal it. What he did isn't that important either. Three other young women had raised accusations against him over the years, which never resulted in any charges. Without his testimony, or theirs, we'll never know: Were his actions predatory or horribly mistaken?
So, this is my focus is on this Father's Day: The young girls like my daughter (boys too) in the shadows of sexual abuse. Based on statistics from the Darkness to Light Foundation, whose training for me was very meaningful on this journey, only four in ten victims ever disclose and that's mostly to friends. Just one victim in ten tell parents or the authorities — I'll never know if my daughter was a lone victim, one of four or forty.
The experts estimate that one in seven girls and one in 25 boys are sexually abused by the time they reach age 18. If you do the math, childhood sexual abuse and resulting physical and mental issues that follow are the worst health problem American children face — worse than cancer or autism, which get lots more publicity. We just fail to recognize it; don't want to recognize it.
One more personal fact: My daughter is 34. The events discussed in court happened when she was seven. Her mom died of cancer when she was 16. She disclosed to me when she was 19. So, we struggled together over what to do, if anything, for twelve more years.
I tried to approach this as the journalist, but so many questions led to dead-ends. I wanted to go back and re-construct what might have happened, if only... Finally, I found the Child Advocacy Center in Rochester, NY — the Bivona Center. I took the Stewards of Children training program, designed to help prevent childhood sexual abuse and deal with its consequences. It made me look at the present.
That experience convinced my daughter and me that we should finally disclose to the police no matter the outcome. A determined detective sensed there was enough evidence to investigate, discovered additional victims' allegations. A prosecutor agreed to advance the case through arrest, preliminary hearing, grand jury indictment and the resulting plea agreement.
In at least 20 states the statute of limitations would have run out, though delays in disclosure, as long as my daughter's, are not uncommon. How uncommon? It is hard to say, when only 30% of childhood sexual abuse makes it into any database.
No matter how pervasive these acts may be, false accusations are not common. The experts estimate that only 4% of disclosures are not true.. I never, ever doubted my daughter. I was shocked that a trusted adult could be responsible. Our knowledge of the serious nature of the allegation for everybody involved was a large factor in additional delay.
Why don't young victims disclose? That's something for professionals and victims to write about — not this father. In our case, a busy mom with a journalism career at USA TODAY and Gannett and a father, who wanted his daughter to always take personal responsibility, did not create a comfortable place for a seven year old to deal with an extremely traumatic event. I would not recommend, however; dads should ease back or moms quit work. That won't protect your children.
What will protect them is knowledge — not for them, but for you. Education programs, such as the one at at the Bivona Center in Rochester, NY make a huge difference.
They make disclosure less traumatic after abuse, but they also educate the community about prevention. The Stewards of Children program, which many centers offer from the Darkness to Light Foundation can bring child sexual abuse out of the shadows.
I taught CPR for the American Red Cross for more than 15 years and was always proud of the potential for saving lives. But after I completed my training in identifying and responding to the sexual abuse of children I couldn't help thinking: "If every parent and teacher took this course, think of the difference we could make."
And it would make a difference. It's surprising, but 66% of teachers received no training in childhood sexual abuse during their education or in professional development. If we can change that number and back it up with as many parents as possible, the difference will make Father's Day happier in hundreds of thousands of homes every year.That's how many of our children face some form of sexual abuse annually.
Just the thought of changing that makes my Father's Day brighter this year, and just maybe adds a measure of comfort and meaning to the 15-year journey my daughter and I have just completed.
Remembering the children: Quilter honors child abuse victims with her craft
by Mary Canrobert
Some peoples' stories turn out to be almost too heartbreaking to hear. Such was the case when Linda and Dave Henson of Morganton described a vigil held annually at the Conover-based Children's Advocacy and Protection Center in memory of all the North Carolina children and teens who died the previous year due to neglect or abuse by a parent or guardian.
Linda explained that people gather at the center in October – attendees such as area officials, county employees and occasionally relatives of some of the deceased children. They stand outside, remaining still and silent as a CAPC employee calls out each child's or teen's first name, age, and how he or she died. A Lenoir-Rhyne sorority member strikes a bell after each name is called. Then a member of the community hangs a decorated T-shirt on a clothesline. Various individuals take turns affixing the shirts, each of which is the size the child would have worn. Linda said the smallest ones are tiny like clothing worn by newborns. The largest are the size an older teen would wear.
By the end of the vigil, some 20 to 30 T-shirts flutter gently, reminders of precious young lives that ended tragically. “It's so very emotional,” said Linda, “realizing that there are so many little ones.”
“And they always do one unknown,” Linda added.
After the shirts hang for a period of time, the Hensons receive them into their care. Their daughter, Karen Brown, who works as a CAPC therapist, carries them to her parents. Linda spreads them on a bed in a spare room of the Henson home, and for as long as a month, she studies them, thinking about how best to incorporate them into a quilt which Linda, a quilter for 20 years, will make.
“I just go in periodically, and they talk to me, and it comes to me what the pattern and theme will be,” she said.
Once she's made her decision, Linda shares her idea with Dave, who then starts thinking about a title for the quilt.
Linda and Dave consider two things as they work on ideas. First, each memorial design is very different. Before the vigil, the T-shirts are in the hands of Hickory High School art students -- one shirt per student, who paints a picture on the shirt in memory of the child assigned to that student. The art students' images include the deceased children's and teens' first names and ages.
Second, the Hensons think about a quilt pattern and title that “give the feeling that the children are free from abuse and pain,” Linda emphasized.
To make the quilt, Linda cuts the art students' designs from the T-shirts. The paintings are all the same size. In her first effort, Linda produced a quilt using the pattern known as the attic window. “It's used when you want something to look like it's behind a window,” she explained. Each memorial design appears to be behind one pane of a multi-paned window. “I wanted them to be behind a window, so the children were protected – protected from further abuse,” Linda offered. She also incorporated angels into the quilt.
Dave titled the quilt In the Arms of Angels. It hangs at Catawba County Pubic Health in Hickory.
Linda took on the task of making an annual quilt for CAPC five years ago when Karen Brown asked her mother if she'd consider becoming CAPC's volunteer quilt maker.
The following year, Linda decided to use another common quilting pattern called flying geese, which includes triangles all pointed in the same direction. Dave suggested that Linda vary the direction of the triangles, “because they're flying free,” said Dave, who titled the quilt Flying Free. Among this quilt's memorial designs is one for Zahra Baker, the 10-year-old Hickory girl whose stepmother killed and dismembered her.
“There was no question that [Flying Free] was going to hang at the Hickory Police Department,” said Dave. “Chief Tom [Adkins] was adamant that he wanted it there.”
For the third quilt, Linda requested that the HHS art students produce circular designs on the T-shirts. She then turned each into a hot air balloon. Dave titled the quilt Up, Up, and Away. It is displayed at the Catawba County Parenting Network.
As Linda planned quilt number four, she “wanted something totally different,” she shared, “so I made a train.” Each of the 30 train cars includes one memorial design. “I think 19 [of those children] were a year or younger,” Linda recalled. Dave's title: Happiness Bound. It hangs at the Music Factory in Hickory.
Linda's fifth and most recently completed quilt is called Butterfly Haven. “Well, that was a little bit of a challenge,” said Linda, who researched butterflies to get a better understanding of their body parts. On a field of yellow, Linda sewed one large butterfly with 23 memorial designs plus one unknown worked into its wings. After its presentation during the Hancock-Settlemyre Award ceremony in April (an annual event that recognizes a local person or organization that has worked to reduce the chance of child maltreatment in Catawba County), the quilt went to the CAPC offices on County Home Road in Conover.
After memorializing more than 100 children as lovingly and carefully as any quilter could, Linda prays for the day when her services are no longer needed.
750,000 UK men want child sex, say crime chiefs: Astonishing figures from UK's 'FBI' reveal that 'one in 35 men may be child abuser'
by Ian Birrell
Up to 750,000 men living in Britain may have an interest in having sex with children, the Government has been warned.
A shocking analysis by the National Crime Agency reveals that about one in 35 adult males poses a potential risk of being a child abuser or of seeking out child sex images online.
Horrifically, as many as 250,000 men may be sexually attracted to pre-pubescent children – defined as those under 12 – according to the findings disclosed exclusively to The Mail on Sunday.
Phil Gormley, the deputy director general of the National Crime Agency (NCA), said: ‘We are starting to get a real sense of the scale.'
He also warned that paedophiles are so numerous that ‘the reality is that we are all living not far away from one'.
Calling for an urgent new approach to safeguard children from potential abusers before they strike, he said: ‘If all we have is arrest and incarceration that will not help them come forward.'
Among new measures being developed is a system that would alert minors when they are being groomed by men posing as fellow children when talking to them through Facebook or other social networking sites.
Software will look for clues in the pattern of behaviour being used by predators before raising the alarm with a ‘traffic light' system of warnings.
Senior police, politicians and child protection groups want to spark debate over the best way to encourage paedophiles to seek assistance before they harm children – but Mr Gormley accepts that this is an ‘uncomfortable discussion' for the public.
The shocking figures come from estimates based on academic research and the best available evidence from other sources. They indicate that between one and three per cent of males have paedophilic tendencies, and match figures from other countries in Europe.
Not all the men act on their deviant desires. One expert dealing with paedophiles estimated from his experiences that about half of such men recognise the dangers and want help controlling their urges.
However, the NSPCC warns that the figures, though shocking, may still be an underestimate of the number of potential abusers. The charity says at least one in 12 children has suffered assault.
Last year alone, a warning that pops up in response to Google searches for illegal images of children was set off three million times in Britain.
Yet Google is used in only about half the searches for child pornography. A Home Office source described the scale of the problem as ‘mind-boggling', with huge implications across child protection services, courts, police, prisons, probation services and schools.
The NCA's disturbing disclosure comes as public bodies grapple with the scale of child abuse highlighted by scandals including the Jimmy Savile affair and assaults committed by gangs in Rotherham.
Official bodies are coming under increasing strain in dealing with the problem.
Investigations by police in England and Wales into child sex abuse have risen by 71 per cent since 2012, with the number of cases this year projected to reach 113,000.
Meanwhile, child abuse investigations by the NCA – the body dubbed ‘Britain's FBI' as it has a far wider reach than local police forces – have risen from single figures when it was set up almost two years ago to more than 150 today.
More than one in six prisoners is now a sex offender. Many of them are housed in eight specialist jails, up from five just two years ago.
The Government is so alarmed that it has appointed a Minister dedicated to preventing child abuse, the first such post in British history.
Karen Bradley said: ‘One of the biggest challenges is that the country doesn't yet appreciate the true scale of the problem of child abuse, whether that is abuse that has happened in the past or that is happening right now in our communities, in our homes or online.'
In an article for today's The Mail on Sunday, Ms Bradley says this is ‘a watershed moment' and called on the British public to come to terms with the issue. In her first public intervention since taking the job she says: ‘We must look unblinkingly at the reality. Raise our voices when we suspect a child is at risk and work together to find solutions.'
Three months ago Home Secretary Theresa May issued a stark warning that Britain did not yet realise the massive scale of sexual exploitation of children, adding that abuse runs through every level of society. Last week, the NSPCC issued a report revealing soaring levels of sexual offences against minors and of children taken into care.
The majority of abuse victims were aged between 12 and 16, but more than one in four were younger.
‘This is just the tip of the iceberg,' said John Brown, who heads the charity's sexual abuse programme. ‘So much abuse and exploitation goes undetected when the only witnesses are the offender and the child. It only emerges years later, as we saw with Savile.'
During 28 years as a detective, Phil Gormley thought he had seen it all, from vicious rapes to brutal murders. Like other police officers, he has also had to confront sickening evidence of child sex abuse.
Yet the former chief constable – now deputy director general of the National Crime Agency – was horrified to discover just how many British men have a sexual desire for children.
‘Like most people, I am shocked by the estimated number who have this interest,' he says. ‘It tells us some unhealthy things about human nature.'
Sitting in their London office, Gormley and his colleague Johnny Gwynne, head of Child Exploitation And Online Protection, disclose to me figures that are simply astonishing.
Gwynne says there are no absolute figures given the furtive nature of this proclivity. But based on detailed research, he believes at least one per cent of adult men may have sexual interest in minors. But he adds: ‘Some go up to three per cent. The number I would put on it is 750,000 men in this country.'
Of these, he says, about a third are ‘true paedophiles', as defined by scientists for having an interest in pre-pubescent children – those under 12.
‘Whatever the exact figure, it is big,' adds Gormley. ‘Every day another group of young men are coming to puberty and developing this interest.'
The disturbing data is based upon academic evidence and current consensus among experts. The Mail on Sunday has established it is accepted as accurate within senior police ranks and child protection bodies. Not all the men act on their urges, they say.
A senior Home Office source says such figures seem ‘unfathomable' at first. ‘But once you get involved in the area you realise this is such a vast problem. It is just incredible.'
Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP and campaigner on the issue, adds: ‘This is just horrifying and gives us an indication of the size of the problem. We have to really come up with a national strategy to handle this.'
In recent years the authorities have been coming to terms with the scale of child sex abuse and exploitation. Prisons are now overflowing with sex offenders, who make up more than one in six inmates. This followed the slew of historic cases such as revelations surrounding celebrities such as Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall, along with details of grooming gangs in Rotherham and Oxford, plus allegations of abuse at highest levels in Westminster.
During 28 years as a detective, Phil Gormley thought he had seen it all, from vicious rapes to brutal murders. Like other police officers, he has also had to confront sickening evidence of child sex abuse.
Yet the former chief constable – now deputy director general of the National Crime Agency – was horrified to discover just how many British men have a sexual desire for children.
‘Like most people, I am shocked by the estimated number who have this interest,' he says. ‘It tells us some unhealthy things about human nature.'
Sitting in their London office, Gormley and his colleague Johnny Gwynne, head of Child Exploitation And Online Protection, disclose to me figures that are simply astonishing.
Gwynne says there are no absolute figures given the furtive nature of this proclivity. But based on detailed research, he believes at least one per cent of adult men may have sexual interest in minors. But he adds: ‘Some go up to three per cent. The number I would put on it is 750,000 men in this country.'
Of these, he says, about a third are ‘true paedophiles', as defined by scientists for having an interest in pre-pubescent children – those under 12.
‘Whatever the exact figure, it is big,' adds Gormley. ‘Every day another group of young men are coming to puberty and developing this interest.'
The disturbing data is based upon academic evidence and current consensus among experts. The Mail on Sunday has established it is accepted as accurate within senior police ranks and child protection bodies. Not all the men act on their urges, they say.
A senior Home Office source says such figures seem ‘unfathomable' at first. ‘But once you get involved in the area you realise this is such a vast problem. It is just incredible.'
Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP and campaigner on the issue, adds: ‘This is just horrifying and gives us an indication of the size of the problem. We have to really come up with a national strategy to handle this.'
In recent years the authorities have been coming to terms with the scale of child sex abuse and exploitation. Prisons are now overflowing with sex offenders, who make up more than one in six inmates. This followed the slew of historic cases such as revelations surrounding celebrities such as Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall, along with details of grooming gangs in Rotherham and Oxford, plus allegations of abuse at highest levels in Westminster.
Three months ago, Home Secretary Theresa May warned, ‘We will never look at society in the same way again' once an inquiry she set up into such child abuse reports back. Now it becomes clearer why she made such grim comments.
Gormley admits child sex abuse has not been ‘centre stage of policy' for most of his three decades in policing, but says there have been huge steps forward in the past two years. When the National Crime Agency was established to confront organised crime in October 2013, it had fewer than ten cases of child abuse. Today it is investigating more than 150, with 300 dedicated detectives in its child protection unit.
Almost 750 people were caught in one major case involving 520 children, while the NCA is also seeing growing evidence of ‘abuse to order‘ – British men paying as little as $3 (£1.90) to observe sexual attacks streamed online from Asia.
‘Before, you had to go to a place such as Thailand,' says Gormley. ‘Now you can sit at your computer and type commands for abuse.'
This is a horrendous concept: paedophiles picking out child victims from a line-up and ordering their abuse from the other side of the world.
It underlines how much investigatory work now focuses on the dark side of the digital world.
‘I don't know if there is a massive increase in the number of people with a proclivity for child sex,' says Gormley. ‘There used to be a physical connection for paedophilia but the internet allows people to pursue that interest without having to go into public spaces. It also normalises such behaviour because there are online communities of such men. And it facilitates an interest in a way that was not possible before.'
Before the internet arrived, paedophiles were found in possession of an average 150 images. Today there are 100 million child abuse pictures online and individuals may have hundreds of thousands downloaded. There could be a dozen digital devices in an offender's house, each needing intricate examination with specialist software that can take six months to carry out.
Each picture is a potential crime scene. A new computer system was installed this year to co-ordinate examination of child abuse images, which will be linked to Interpol; the NCA alone will have 12 officials whose only job is to identify victims in these unsavoury images.
There are also big projects under way to find fresh ways to track paedophiles online, including using sophisticated software to warn children in chatrooms if there is an adult masquerading as a youngster.
Already if a person searches for up to 1,000-word combinations on Google a warning of illegality pops up with details of help available.
It was triggered a worrying three million times last year.
The NCA and police are also starting to spot possible abusers based on their online behaviour.
This opens up two controversial areas. The first – the current row over the ‘snooper's charter' – highlights the issue of law enforcement versus privacy.
‘Policing was not looking in these areas 15 years ago,' says Gormley. ‘We are having to consider how we police the private space.'
The second is how can society in the current fearful climate offer help to men seeking to control their urge to sexually abuse children?
‘If all we have is arrest and incarceration that will not help them come forward,' says Gormley.
‘If we can reduce the harm done to children by aiding people to recognise and control their urges that must be a good thing. But this is a very uncomfortable discussion for society.'
Simon Bailey, the Association of Chief Police Officers spokesman on child protection, recently suggested ‘non-contact abusers' – those solely viewing images online – might be treated by mental health specialists on the NHS.
The Lucy Faithfull Foundation in Birmingham offers counselling to potential molesters.
Donald Findlater, its research director, says: ‘Right now we have a strategy of waiting until a child is harmed and then we do something. We need to do something before children are harmed.'
The NSPCC agrees. John Brown, who heads the charity's sexual abuse programme, says: ‘It's not about being nice to paedophiles but about preventing child abuse.'
Most child abuse takes place within the family, but some offenders prowl for vulnerable victims or exploit positions of trust.
Last week the NSPCC issued a report revealing the number of children in the child protection system had risen 80 per cent in just over a decade to 570,800 – while it estimates that for every one child officially identified as ‘at risk', eight more suffer abuse.
These are terrifying figures. Most victims were aged between 12 and 16, although more than one in four were younger.
A study by police chiefs into their caseload of child sexual abuse showed a rise in incidents from 66,120 in 2012 to a projected 113,291 cases in 2015. Historic cases have risen by 165 per cent.
Little wonder when I asked Gormley about the odds of living next door to a paedophile, he gave me a chilling response.
‘If these numbers are accurate the reality is that we are all living not far away from one.'
WHERE TO GET HELP ON CHILD PROTECTION
Information and advice is available for parents and carers on how to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation at the NCA website thinkuknow.co.uk.
If you have concerns a child has been sexually abused or exploited, even if you are unsure, it is important to seek help and support. If you have immediate concerns for a child's safety call 999.
You can also report concerns to the NCA via the Safety Centre ceop.police.uk/safety-centre\, or to local police by calling 101.
Advice is also available on inappropriate behaviour at the Stop It Now website, stopitnow.org.
UK Abuse Minister: Our battle
by Karen Bradley, UK's first minister for preventing abuse and exploitation
Some crimes, particularly involving children, are so appalling it is human nature to want to turn away. Some victims' and survivors' experiences are so shocking they are almost unbearable to hear. And some failures by those who should protect the most vulnerable have been so inexcusable and systemic it is tempting to despair.
However, my job, as the first ever Minister for Preventing Abuse and Exploitation, is to confront these issues. I look at this as a Minister, but also as a mother. While I feel lucky to be well-informed about child sexual abuse, the scale of it is astonishing.
When I was at school, a man walked past a group of us girls with his genitals on show. There were giggles and when I got home I told my mum. She phoned the police. The police found him, he was locked up and he was never allowed to go near the school again.
But now the internet gives such people anonymity. They can go online and be somebody else. The internet normalises this behaviour because people with this interest find others who share their interest. There's a market for it and the internet helps to feed that market.
My post is a new one, the first time responsibilities for protecting children and vulnerable adults from sexual abuse and exploitation, tackling child trafficking and modern slavery, and preventing violence against women and girls have been brought together under one ministerial portfolio.
The spectrum of abuse is vast and varied. It goes from people who think it is acceptable to look at illegal images online to those who want to have sex with children and even babies. One victim I met who had been trafficked to this country to be a sex slave was found dumped on the side of the M25. A gang that had prostituted her out no longer wanted her as she was pregnant.
Many young people have been failed by police, and social and health workers, who saw vulnerable teenagers as ‘difficult' and ‘problematic', and who lacked the curiosity to explore underlying reasons for challenging behaviour.
We must make sure these failures are not repeated. This year we prioritised child sexual abuse as a national threat, alongside terrorism and organised crime. It is one of the greatest threats of our time.
We have allocated an additional £10million to track down offenders and protect children. The Home Office has set up a database, to reduce the time taken to identify illegal images; we are setting up a centre of expertise on child sexual abuse, and a whistleblowing helpline for public sector workers.
This is only the tip of the iceberg, which is why the Home Secretary established an independent inquiry to examine failures to protect children; to get to the truth, expose what has gone wrong in the past, and learn lessons for the future.
As a society we are at a watershed. Victims and survivors of abuse are, more than ever before, feeling confident to report their experiences. This is encouraging, but also an immense challenge. Because coming forward is never the end of it for a victim; because the damage of those experiences is so hard to undo; and because it is clear that far too many children are being damaged in the first place.
But the Government can't solve everything and, more importantly, I don't believe that it should. We must all look unblinkingly at the reality. Raise our voices when we suspect a child is at risk and work together to find solutions. It will not be easy. But it can and must be done if we are to protect our children.
Emotional Abuse Is Inadequately Defined and Measured
by Sara Oon
In Michigan, 46 percent of child abuse victims in 2013 suffered from emotional abuse, according to the 2013 report on child abuse and neglect data collected by the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System. In neighboring Illinois, however, emotional abuse accounted for less than 1 percent.
How can two states generate such different rates of substantiated emotional abuse?
“Different states have different definitions for emotional abuse,” said Diana English, a Research Scientist at the University of Washington's School of Social Work and a Senior Director at Casey Family Programs. “There is no consistent approach regarding how to ask for information and how information is used.”
Researchers believe the disparity in rates can be attributed to a difference in how emotional abuse is defined and measured instead of a difference in actual incidence rates. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) broadly defines abuse as: “Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or, any act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”
Each state interprets the federal definition independently in order to provide its own definitions of the specific types of maltreatment, including emotional abuse.
Emotional abuse has gained visibility in recent years within academic and policy spheres as a result of new research suggesting that emotional abuse can leave long lasting scars comparable to physical abuse, as well as a number of high profile cases of abuse and neglect in the media. This has placed increasing pressure on regulators to develop policy responses to address the issue.
Within the Department of Health and Human Services, the Children's Bureau advises the Administration for Children and Families on matters of child welfare. Over the years, the Children's Bureau has received many calls for more consistent definitions across states and jurisdictions, and more recently, there has been a clearer recognition of mental and emotional health.
While all states provide specific definitions for physical and sexual abuse, only 33 states currently define emotional abuse or mental injury. Many of these definitions include language such as “injury to psychological capacity” and “impairment in the child's ability to function.”
However, actual definitions vary widely across states. For instance, Delaware's definition includes specific actions that constitute abuse, including “threats to inflict undue physical or emotional harm, and/or chronic or recurring incidents of ridiculing, demeaning, making derogatory remarks, or cursing.” Some states such as Arizona, Iowa and Pennsylvania even require an official diagnosis by a physician or psychologist in order to substantiate emotional abuse.
Additionally, states have different standards for determining if a case of maltreatment has occurred or if a child is at risk of maltreatment. Some states also use alternative response systems which allow for lower risk cases to be handled differently from the traditional investigative response.
In particular, states often vary in the level of evidence required to substantiate a case. Most states currently require a “preponderance of evidence” to substantiate a report, meaning that evidence in favor of maltreatment should outweigh evidence to the contrary. However, six states will substantiate a report when there is probable or reasonable cause to suspect abuse or neglect, while two states require clear and convincing evidence.
Policy makers and researchers acknowledge that improving definitions would help in the identification of optimal responses. “We need a better and more consistent way of addressing physical and emotional traumas in case planning,” English of the University of Washington's School of Social Work said.
However, there are structural hurdles to reaching a more consistent approach. In particular, the responsibility for overseeing child welfare and response lies at the state and local levels, while efforts at the federal level have been focused on identifying and communicating best practices to help state and local communities plan their programs.
The limitations of federal agencies to exert control over state and local jurisdictions was a subject debated by Shame on U.S., a report by the Children's Advocacy Institute of the University of San Diego School of Law. According to the report, “Congress must expressly direct the executive branch to engage in formal regulatory activity to implement and interpret federal child welfare laws through the adoption of binding federal regulations — not simply send memos or adopt policy manual provisions which states are free to ignore without consequence.”
In other countries, the public discourse has succeeded in generating concrete policy changes. In the United Kingdom, for instance, an existing law was amended to take into account emotional abuse and neglect of children. The law, which previously stated that a person should be punished for treating a child “in a manner likely to cause him unnecessary suffering or injury to health,” was amended to state that a caregiver could be punished for impairment of a child's “physical, emotional, social or behavioral development.” Dubbed the “Cinderella Law,” this recent change is expected to reduce overall rates of emotional abuse.
Sara Oon is an MBA candidate at U.C. Berkeley's Haas School of Business. She wrote this story as part of the Journalism for Social Change class at U.C. Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy.
by CBS 48 Hours
Kristen Cunnane loves her job. As the associate coach of the women's swim team at Cal Berkeley, one of the top ranked programs in the country, she gets to work with elite athletes like four-time Olympic gold medal winner Missy Franklin.
"Swimming is different than any other sport. There is a sense of peace that I never experienced anywhere else. Growing up, I've just have had so much passion for sports," she said.
Her home life is pretty sweet, too. Kristen is married to her high school boyfriend, Scott Cunnane, now a prosecutor in the San Francisco Bay area.
At the age of 32, Kristen seems to have life licked. But look closer and there is darkness around her, a residue of painful memories that were long buried.
"I really didn't know if I was going crazy," she told "48 Hours" correspondent Tracy Smith.
It was 2010 when Kristen began having disturbing flashbacks.
"When I first started going through the flashbacks and remembering everything that had happened to me, I didn't wanna live anymore," she said. "It was like I could see the stuff that had happened to me happening again ... stuff that I had been able to completely black out for more than 10 years."
The flood of memories transported Kristen back to Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School in the wealthy suburb of Moraga, in the San Francisco Bay area. Back in the mid-1990s, Kristen was a student there and her favorite teacher was Julie Correa, who taught physical education and coached the girl's sports teams.
"For some reason during lunchtime we would hang out in her office ... in the women's locker room. Make our lunches in there, eat our lunches in there. Kristen would store her books in there," said Maggie Rinow, who was Kristen's classmate and is still a good friend. "The fact that we got to do that was so cool. We loved it."
Julie Correa was a young married woman in her mid-20s. The girls looked up to her and Kristen trusted Correa implicitly.
"I was ... taught that, 'Teachers are good. Respect them ... be a ... good student.' And so I think a lot of ... the things she did ... taking me to get a Slurpee or those little things ... I just trusted them because she's a teacher. And of course she has good intentions," said Kristen.
Correa was not the only standout teacher at Moraga. Her colleague, Dan Witters, also was a favorite -- at least to some students.
"He was an interesting teacher. I mean, he was funny. I actually liked him as a teacher ... but he definitely had a different way of teaching," Rinow said. "... he would make inappropriate comments to girls who were blooming, you know, had breasts and who were blooming faster than other girls. He would smack girls on the butt with rulers, the yardstick."
Witters, a married father in his early 30s, taught science and liked to experiment with students to see just how far he could go.
In 1995, a woman who asked that "48 Hours" not identify her, met Witters in his science class when she was only 12 years old. She is telling her story here for the first time and asked "48 Hours" to be called Jane Doe.
"He was always very nice to me. I thought he was great. He was fun to be around," she said. "He paid a lot of attention to me ... it was flattering and it was nice.
When Jane turned 13, Witters made his move.
"It started out with a hug or a kiss on the cheek ... and he would touch me -- through my clothes and under my clothes," Jane explained. "From there things just kept going farther until he asked me if I would give him a b---job and I did and he would touch me as well."
"Where were you when this is happening?" Smith asked Jane.
"Almost always in his classroom. He had a supply room -- that was attached to it and a lot of the times it was in there," she replied.
"Did you ... feel like you had a relationship with him?" Smith asked.
"I did. He would tell me that I was special and what we had was special and what we were doing was just between us," Jane replied.
But that same spring of 1996, unbeknownst to Jane Doe, Witters also took a liking to Kristen Cunnane. She was 14 and a grade above Jane.
"He noticed when I got my braces off and he would squeeze my arm and tell me, 'Oh you're getting so strong' and pet my hair," said Kristen.
One afternoon, Witters told Kristen that he wanted to see her after class.
"I remember walking to his class ... and the blinds were drawn and then ... something happens," she said.
Whatever happened in that room was so traumatic that Kristen has blocked it out.
"I remember walking in and I have no idea what happened inside," she continued.
Traumatized and confused, Kristen confided in Julie Correa.
"...my next vivid memory is crying and sobbing to Julie and telling her," Kristen recalled. "She told me, 'You don't have to tell your parents ... I can help you through this.'"
"So her reaction was, 'let's not tell anyone'?" Smith asked.
"She told me that she would take care of it," Kristen replied. "All she did was use it to get me closer to her and isolate me..."
Correa's single-minded focus on Kristen did not go unnoticed. Kristen's mother, Jeanne Lewis, was concerned.
"You did start to get suspicious," Smith noted to Lewis.
"There was just a part of me that didn't like the intensity of how interested she was," she replied. "So I just told her ... 'I think that you need to not see Kristen anymore. I think it's affecting her friendships with other kids.' So she goes, 'I totally see where you're coming from and I totally respect that.' She's a charmer, she knows exactly what to say."
Kristen was mortified by her mother's behavior. At that point, nothing inappropriate had happened.
"It made me angry with my mom. Like, 'how could you think that she is being inappropriate?' or 'How could you think that she's spending too much time with me? You don't understand,'" said Kristen.
But Kristen's mother was onto something because, soon enough, Julie Correa cornered Kristen in her car.
"I remember when she dropped me off at home ... she kissed me. But it was, like, half on my mouth," Kristen said. "That's when I knew that ... she wanted something else. I felt like my life was over at that moment."
TWO TEACHERS - ONE SCHOOL
"When she kissed me and I didn't tell anyone ... she just felt like she had free rein," said Kristen Cunnane.
Kristen felt repulsed by that first kiss from Julie Correa, but, at the same time, felt powerless to do anything about it.
"I had been so devastated by what had happened with Mr. Witters that I didn't have my spirit anymore," she said. "I had no voice anymore. It was just gone."
That one kiss fueled Correa's desire. She rented an isolated apartment to be closer to the middle school.
And before her husband moved in, she invited some of her favorite students over to take a look.
"Me and Kristen and a few other girls went to the apartment," Rinow recalled. "... and then Julie said, 'OK girls, go wait at the car and Kristen, stay here. I want to show you something.' And we just went to the car."
The moment Maggie Rinow and her classmates left, Kristen said Correa literally pounced on top of her.
"She was molesting me and kissing me and stuff," Kristen told Smith, "all I could think about were my friends down there and I was just so scared that someone would ... walk in or find out what was happening."
Kristen told Smith the abuse progressed "really fast after that point."
That summer, before Kristen's first year in high school, Correa used her apartment to initiate Kristen into sex -- something Kristen knew virtually nothing about.
"I didn't know what she was doing to me," Kristen said. "I was really young -- pretty sheltered."
She was sheltered and very confused.
"I remember being so young and not understanding what she was doing that I was really worried that she could get me pregnant," she continued.
"That's heartbreaking," said Smith.
"Yeah .... that was really hard," said Kristen.
At 14 years old, life was moving way too fast.
"Without going into too much detail, can you tell us some of the stuff that she did to you?" Smith continued.
"She abused me in every way I think she could've ... digital penetration, oral copulation," she said.
"Were there moments where you thought, 'I should tell my mom?'" Smith asked.
"No," Kristen said. "Not at all."
"This whole thing, the whole Julie thing, it just did not feel right," said Lewis.
But Kristen's mother could not even imagine that Correa was sexually abusing her daughter.
"It never occurred to me that it was anything of the nature that it was," she told Smith.
Jeanne Lewis now regrets she never reported Correa to the school principal or anyone else.
"It's my fault. I should've acted on it. I should've been more forceful," she said.
Kristen had her own reasons for not reporting Correa.
"The minute I told someone, my whole life would change. She would be arrested," she explained.
"People would probably know it was me ... I didn't want my friends to know all of this horrible stuff was happening to me. And so it was just easier and safer to do what she said."
"Did you have any hint at all that this was happening to Kristen?" Smith asked Rinow.
"No," she replied. "She was better than ever. She got better grades ... was better at sports. She hid things really well."
Kristen kept quiet about Correa, but back at her middle school, the silence surrounding Dan Witters was shattered when several girls stepped forward to accuse him of wildly inappropriate behavior.
"Another girl in my class came forward and from there everything just seemed to fall apart," Jane Doe told Smith.
It was the fall of 1996. Witters was immediately suspended and then he vanished. He went missing and Jane wished she could too.
"I was confused and scared and I didn't want to talk to anyone. I just kind of wanted to fade away," she told Smith.
But that was not an option. One girl told administrators that Jane was close to Witters and Jane was called in.
Asked what that was like, Jane said "it was horrible."
"I was embarrassed and ashamed and I didn't wanna talk about it," she explained. "I was scared that my parents would find out and be mad."
And Jane felt like all her classmates knew her secret.
"How bad did it get for you?" Smith asked.
"I often thought of killing myself and I did try on two occasions," Jane replied.
Jane turned to the one person she felt she could trust. Ironically, it was Julie Correa.
"Did Julie help you through this?" Smith asked.
"She did, she was the one who was there for me," Jane replied
"Just to be clear, did Julie ever do anything inappropriate with you?" Smith continued.
"No," said Jane.
The Moraga Intermediate School was filled with whispers and innuendo, but then the police found Dan Witters. He had driven his car off a cliff at Big Sur. His death was ruled a suicide and the investigation into his behavior died with him.
"After he was found dead, everything just kind of stopped and people didn't ask any more questions and things just went back to normal. The school just moved on," said Jane.
"The school moved on, but did you?" Smith asked.
"No, and I don't think I ever really did," Jane replied.
Kristen, now a high school student, was never questioned or mentioned during the investigation into Dan Witters, but it affected her anyway. She said Julie Correa took Witters' death and used it to cement her power.
"...that became, like, her trump card. She would say things to me like, 'I'm gonna have to do what Mr. Witters did' or 'I'm gonna take you with me and do what Mr. Witters did,'" she explained. "I was just so scared. And, like, I thought, 'If I don't do what she says, she's gonna kill herself. She's gonna kill me. She's gonna kill my family.' So I just did whatever she told me to do."
And that included having sex after hours inside the middle school, in a parked car and wherever Correa wanted.
"She would always have a place picked -- to take me in her car and abuse me," said Kristen.
To further tighten her grip on Kristen, Correa got her a cell phone to keep Kristen on call all the time. But to keep it a secret, Correa made an elaborate cutout inside a Spanish-English dictionary.
"She made me carry the cell phone everywhere so I could talk to her and she could talk to me when she needed to," Kristen said. "She would say things like, 'I have to see you tomorrow. Like, 'I can't handle it if I don't see you ... I'm goin' crazy if I don't see you.' Like, 'I can't breathe.'"
And the abuse was about to reach a new unthinkable level.
"A SICK & TWISTED GAME"
In high school, Kristen dove head first into swimming to escape the relentless pursuit of her teacher, Julie Correa.
"Swimming became a place for me to have my own thing ... because Julie didn't know anything about swimming," Kristen explained, "and so swimming was still pure and mine."
But by nightfall, Kristen became terrified as she realized the extent of Correa's obsession. The teacher began sneaking into Kristen's home. Her parents always left the front door unlocked.
"She would sneak in while my mom was, like, pickin' me up from practice or school," she explained. "...she would just sit in my closet usually. And wait for hours sometimes."
Kristen says Correa forced her to have sex in Kristen's childhood bedroom as her parents slept right down the hall.
"I just felt this grab around my ankles," Kristen recalled of Correa hiding under her bed. "I like lost my breath and shook, like shook. She abused me in like every way she could have - I was just paralyzed with fear.
"...it was ... like the thrill of not being caught," Kristen said. "It was all part of a game ... a sick and twisted game to her."
"Do you have any idea how many times she abused you?" Smith asked.
"It was around 400 or 500 times," said Kristen.
That number sounds incredible, but remember, the abuse took place over a three-year period. Correa's fixation on her one-time student is shocking, but sadly, these types of cases are all too common.
"This is hardly an isolated incident, not just in this school district, but across the state, across the country?" Smith asked Dave Ring, an attorney in Los Angeles who represents former students abused by their teachers. "
"It's an epidemic. There's no doubt about it," he said. "You would think school districts put the children and their well-being first and a lot of times, they don't."
The most recent study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education found that up to seven percent of middle and high school students are the targets of sexual abuse by teachers and coaches, putting the total number of victims in the millions.
The study's author found there are differences between female abusers and their male counterparts. For women, sex is usually not the motivating factor. For them, it's love or what they believe to be love.
"An adult female abusing -- a younger female girl-- seemed to be a rarity 10, 15, 20 years ago," Ring told Smith. "And now ... you see it happening a lot. And that doesn't mean it wasn't happening back then. I just think it wasn't reported back then."
And back then, Kristen did not report her abuse. But in the fall of 1999, her senior year in high school, Kristen's life changed dramatically when she began dating classmate Scott Cunnane.
"She was in a different science class and I got her to take geology with me," said Scott.
"You convinced her to take geology with you? That was your strategy?" Smith asked with a laugh.
"It was a great move," he replied, smiling.
"He teased me and he was fun and ... he just made me question that life didn't have to be bad," Kristen said, wiping a tear from her eye.
Her new relationship gave Kristen the strength to finally confront Julie Correa.
"The night after my 18th birthday," Kristen explained, "I told her that I knew what she was, I knew what she had done to me, and that, like, 'never contact me again, or I'll tell the police.'"
After graduating high school in 2000, Kristen left home to attend UCLA where she became a three-time all-American swimmer. As time went on, she blocked out the horrific memories until they re-surfaced in 2010.
"There are memories where all of a sudden ... it'll take my breath away 'cause I'll remember her doing something really horrible to me," Kristen told Smith.
As the memories flooded back, Kristen knew she had to reveal her long-buried secret to Scott, who she married in 2007.
"I remember being so scared of telling Scott what happened to me and just thinking... 'He'll never want to be near me physically again,'" said Kristen.
"I'm trying to imagine what it must have been like to realize what had happened to her," Smith said to Scott.
"It was just hard because you knew how much pain there was for her," he said.
Kristen sought a therapist who diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress syndrome.
"I was a wreck. I was having a hard time not killing myself," she said.
"She would have night terrors, shaking," Scott explained, his eyes welling with tears. "You know, sometimes she wouldn't even eat."
"He said, 'I love you. We're gonna get through this. And we have two options ... We can find her and kill her [sighs] or we can go to the police,'" Kristen recalled. "I didn't even think about it - I just said, 'we'll go to the police.'"
Deputy Berch Parker, then a detective assigned to the Lafayette Police Department, was the lead investigator in the Kristen Cunanne case.
"What was your first thought when you heard Kristen's story?" Smith asked Det. Parker.
"I think my first thought was that she was very brave," he replied.
Parker believed Kristen's story right away.
"She was able to describe even the clothes that Julie wore on certain days," he told Smith.
Kristen was also able to provide important physical evidence, like the cut-out Spanish-English dictionary Correa made for Kristen to hide that secret cell phone.
Kristen also gave Det. Parker a handwritten love note Correa once gave to Kristen.
"When I woke, I felt her next to me," Parker read the letter to Smith " ...Overcome by a deep feeling of adoration, I leaned over and kissed my little angel and promised myself I would always be hers."
That love note and the dictionary were great pieces of evidence.
"I thought that that ... would be enough because why in the world would anyone make up stuff like this," said Kristen.
But to arrest Julie Correa, Det. Parker would need more. He asked Kristen to call Correa after all these years. He needed her to pretend to have feelings for Julie - the woman Kristen considers a rapist.
The last thing Kristen Cunnane wanted to do was to get back in touch with Julie Correa - the woman who'd allegedly abused her for three years. But Kristen agreed to make the call.
"I just felt like I had already taken a step down this road ... and there was no turning back, that I had to finish what I started and ... that it was my only chance of getting my life back," Kristen told Tracy Smith.
Ten years had passed since the two had been in touch, and Correa was now the mother of two young boys. She had moved out of this part of California and was living with her husband and children outside Salt Lake City. She had stopped teaching but was very involved in her sons' sports teams.
"I really, really struggled ... with the fact that she had kids," Kristen said. "I thought about it. I've cried about it."
But Kristen was determined to get justice.
"These kids have a mom that committed horrible acts towards me. And it's my responsibility to hold her accountable for those," she said.
Julie Correa : Hello?
Kristen Cunnane : Hi.
Julie Correa : Hi. ...I can't believe you called me.
"Right when I heard her voice," Kristen explained, "I could feel what it felt like to be that
young and being manipulated by her."
"How hard was it to have those conversations?" Smith asked.
"Oh, it was horrible," Kristen replied.
Julie Correa : There are some things I can convince myself of
Kristen Cunnane : Mmhm. Like what?
Julie Correa : That I was doing good. That I was a little bit over it.
Kristen Cunnane : Over me, you mean. It's OK.
Julie Correa : I'm finding that it's not true.
Kristen Cunnane : You touched me or kissed me or whatever and like, I can't get over it.
Julie Correa : I just want you to know I'd do it all over again.
The emotional phone calls took place over the next two weeks. Kristen was coached on what to say by police who carefully monitored the conversations. Newspaper reporter Malaika Fraley covered the story and would later piece together what happened.
Asked how Correa reacted to hearing from Kristen, Fraley told Smith, "Her gut -- you could tell she thought she was being set up, and she was."
Julie Correa : I'm worried that you're trying to get me to say what concretely happened because somebody's trying to pin something on me.
"But, y'know, at the same time, she couldn't resist Kristen," Fraley continued. "She played perfectly into the trap set up by Detective Parker and Kristen."
Julie Correa: I don't know if I could see you and not have to touch you and if I touched you I don't know if I could resist. I just don't know. I don't know about you but for me there will always be an attraction. A physical attraction, like a burning inside attraction.
It wasn't only what Correa said that was important. It was also what she did not say.
"Did Julie at any point say, 'What are you talking about?'"Smith asked Det. Parker.
"No," he replied.
"Did she at any point deny--anything that had happened," Smith continued.
"No, she did not," said Parker.
Julie Correa : And just because I don't share things doesn't mean I don't remember things.
Kristen Cunnane : OK.
Julie Correa : I remember everything.
Detective Parker thought they had enough and decided to visit Julie Correa at her home near Salt Lake City. The police recorded that visit with a hidden video camera.
"I flew out to Utah and knocked on her door. And she invited us into the home and we spoke for about -- about 30 minutes," said Parker.
Julie Correa [to police]: I'm just, like, dumbfounded by this whole thing. Of course there's more to the story. ...I honestly felt like, she was trying to get me to say things...
Parker said Correa appeared nervous and asked officers to leave. They left, but soon returned and brought her in for questioning:
Julie Correa [to police]: Kristen was very manipulative, and you know, she just manipulated the heck out of me ... it was always, y'know, like I'm going to do bad things to myself. Every time I said not to call me anymore, it was like, "I can't deal with it."
Correa, who was handcuffed throughout the interrogation, denied that she and Kristen had had sex. She claimed to be a caring teacher, confused by her own feelings:
Det. Parker : So you guys talked about waiting until she was 18?
Julie Correa : I was like, let's wait and see where this goes. I don't know how I feel ... I knew that I loved her but in what way? And I didn't know what way that was because it was all so confusing to me, you know? I was married.
Detective Parker - a former teacher himself - presented Correa with the handwritten love poem she had once written to Kristen:
Det. Parker : That's your writing, isn't it?
Julie Correa : Yeah, you could say that's my writing but that's a lot more involved than I thought it was. But there's nothing there that says that I did what you are saying I did (nervous laughter).
Det. Parker : Well I haven't really said you did anything yet.
Julie Correa: Well, I know what you're leading to -- I'm not...
Correa claimed Kristen was always the aggressor:
Julie Correa : She would come on to me and kiss me or whatever and I would push her away and I would say, 'we can't, this is wrong.' ... I am trying to help her and she has had these delusional thoughts before.
Det. Parker : She has described the two of you having sex upstairs in her house while her mother is downstairs and you say, "Yes, I think about that too." That's your response to her.
Julie Correa : I don't recall saying that. I mean, I'm sure maybe you have the tapes ...
On Aug. 3, 2010, Julie Correa was arrested and later charged with 28 counts of felony child abuse -- charges that could put her behind bars for the rest of her life.
"What did it feel like when Julie was arrested?" Smith asked Kristen.
"It was a catch-22, because I didn't have to be scared anymore but then immediately my fear came to ... is my name gonna be out there, are people going to know this was me, I was terrified ... like what the media would be like," she replied.
A preliminary hearing was held in March 2011 to determine if there was enough evidence to hold Correa over for trial.
"I tried to look at her and everything just got really blurry and I got really dizzy," Kristen told Smith. "I couldn't make eye contact with her."
Correa's lawyers went on the attack. They argued that the sex was consensual. Then, Kristen took the stand.
"Every time I would get scared by a question ... I would just really quickly glance at Scott and know that he was there for me and that-- I just had to tell the truth," she said.
It wasn't easy. One of Correa's lawyers even asked Kristen if she had enjoyed sex with Julie. Scott was furious.
"That was despicable. It's despicable that someone made -- that attorney made money to make those arguments," said Scott.
In the end the judge ruled there was plenty of evidence. Julie Correa would have to stand trial. But the harsh questioning ignited Kristen's anger. She decided to go public, allowing reporters to use her face and her name. And that decision uncovered long buried secrets at Moraga Middle School.
"Very quickly ... we realized there was really a big cover-up that had gone on there," said reporter Matthias Gafni.
"I think the school said we don't want to deal with this, we don't want the hassle," attorney Dave Ring said. "They knew exactly what was going on."
"I think coming forward has been the hardest thing that I've ever faced," Kristen Cunnane said. "It's always been about telling the truth."
"Kristen changed everything," her husband, Scott Cunnane said, "because if she hadn't come forward-- there would have been no investigation."
Once Kristen made that difficult decision to go public, she told her story first to reporters Matthias Gafni and Malaika Fraley of the Bay Area News Group.
"She felt a responsibility because she is a role model to young people. She wanted to let other people know that it's OK to stand up for yourself," said Fraley.
Acting on a tip from Kristen, the reporters fought to unearth secret documents the Moraga School District had long kept hidden.
"With the hundred or so documents we received," Gafni explained, "we realized there was really a big cover-up that had gone on there."
The documents revealed that former school administrators knew that science teacher Dan Witters was sexually abusing middle school girls for two years before he drove his car off a cliff in 1996. In 1994, a former student of Witters wrote the school a detailed letter outlining the abuse.
"...she basically says ... Dan Witters drove me home from a school event and sexually molested me," said Matthias.
That letter was only the first written warning the school received about Witters. In 1995, there was another memo, which gave clear examples of Witters' criminal behavior. The memo was written by Julie Correa who, incredibly, would begin her own abuse of Kristen a year later.
"Many people think that-- that Julie was testing the waters with the administration-- by reporting Dan Witters," said Fraley.
"To see if they would do anything?" Smith asked.
"Right. And when they didn't -- many people think that that gave Julie a license to ramp up this -- inappropriate relationship that she had with Kristen," Fraley replied.
California law - even then -- required that teachers and school officials tell police if they suspected a minor was being abused. Despite that law, neither Correa nor the school principal reported Witters to authorities.
On May 28, 2012, reporters Gafni and Fraley exposed the cover-up in a devastating story.
"My first reaction -- absolute outrage," lawyer Dave Ring said of reading the article. "They concealed everything they knew about Dan Witters."
"I just couldn't believe ... that all of these people knew for so long what he was doing ... and just chose to do nothing," said Jane Doe.
"And they could have stopped it," Smith commented.
"I think they absolutely could have stopped it," said Jane.
Jane Doe, who had attempted suicide twice after being abused by Dan Witters, hired lawyer Dave Ring. And in February 2013, Ring and his legal team filed a civil lawsuit against the school district.
"If Moraga and the administrators had followed the law ... Dan Witters would have been fired ... and most likely would have been arrested and imprisoned. And Jane Doe and those other girls that came after him would never have been exposed to him," said Ring.
"What did they do to you by not reporting Mr. Witters?" Smith asked Jane.
"They made me live my life like this, faking relationships [pauses] and acting like everything is OK," she replied.
"When in reality?" Smith asked.
"Nothing is OK," Jane replied. "...this is something that will probably be with me forever."
Jane Doe was one of three women who came forward saying they had been abused by Witters in the mid-90s.
"Do you believe that if the school district would have stopped Mr. Witters, this whole thing might not have happened to you with Julie?" Smith asked Kristen.
"I 100-percent believe that," she replied.
Current administrators at the Moraga School District apologized to the women who were abused and gave "48 Hours" a statement noting that it has learned from past mistakes and is fostering a "new culture."
But the sins of the past came to a head in December 2011. Nine months had passed since a judge had ruled there was enough evidence to hold Julie Correa over for trial.
"What was it like being in court with Julie and Kristen both there?" Smith asked Fraley.
"It was intense ... I mean, the courtroom was stuffed with people," she said. "And Julie faced over a hundred years in prison."
Facing life in prison, Julie Correa instead worked out a plea deal with prosecutors. She pleaded "no contest" to four felony counts, including one charge of rape. In her remarks to the court, Correa told Kristen, "It was never, never my intention to hurt you. I cared deeply for you."
"What she did to me is unforgivable and I'm not -- I have no plans on forgiving her," Kristen said. "That's just not who I am."
In December 2011, Julie Correa -- the former P.E. teacher and coach who had never been charged with sexually abusing any other children -- was sentenced to eight years in prison. Correa did not respond to "48 Hours"' repeated requests for an interview.
"I mean, there will still be scars for the rest of my life, but I think I'm learning to live with my scars," said Kristen.
The truth is that Correa's crimes continue to impact Kristen and her family.
"She has nightmares of being in this house. She cannot go be on the stairs or up into her bedroom," said Kristen's mother, Jeanne Lewis.
For years now, Kristen has been unable to visit the house where she grew up.
"There's millions of good memories of growing up there, but the hundreds of bad memories of what she did to me there, just is like overwhelming," she said.
Through all the pain and upheaval, Kristen has always had swimming -- the sport she loves -- to fall back on.
She also has the support of her "little army" as she likes to call them -- the women of Cal Berkeley's swim team where she's the associate coach.
"I get to coach swimmers transitioning from adolescents and to being college adult athletes and it's a wonderful job and it's gotten me through some really hard times," said Kristen.
In perhaps the ultimate irony of this story, Kristen is now the coach everyone looks up to ... the coach she had always hoped Julie Correa would be.
The school district paid out a total of $18.65 million to Kristen Cunnane and the three other victims who filed civil lawsuits.
Julie Correa is eligible for parole in 2018. Her husband has filed for divorce.
In May 2015, Kristen gave birth to her second child, a baby boy.
LEARN RED FLAG BEHAVIORS
While these warning signs do not always indicate abuse, they do cross appropriate athlete-coach boundaries:
Spending one-on-one time with children such as in private practice sessions.
Singling youth out for special attention or gift giving.
Touching children in ways not related to training for the sport.
Telling youth sexual or inappropriate jokes and stories.
Commenting on children's appearances when not related to the sport.
Source: The National Center for Missing & Expoited Children: Tips for Protecting Child Athletes from Sexual Abuse
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, it's not your fault. You are not alone. Help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE .
Click here for more organizations offering important prevention information and support.
Google to remove 'revenge porn' images from its search engine upon request
by Stephanie Barry
Google on Friday released a statement that the company will honor requests to remove "revenge porn" images from its search engine.
"We've heard many troubling stories of 'revenge porn': an ex-partner seeking to publicly humiliate a person by posting private images of them, or hackers stealing and distributing images from victims' accounts. Some images even end up on 'sextortion' sites that force people to pay to have their images removed," Amit Singhal, senior vice president of Google Search said in a statement on it public policy blog.
The statement continues that the philosophy of Google Search is that is should reflect "the whole Web" but that pall of the degradation and humiliation that revenge porn brings, overwhelmingly to women, eclipses that theory.
"So going forward, we'll honor requests from people to remove nude or sexually explicit images shared without their consent from Google Search results. This is a narrow and limited policy, similar to how we treat removal requests for other highly sensitive personal information, such as bank account numbers and signatures, that may surface in our search results," Singhal's statement continues.
Google Search will in the coming weeks make available a web form people may use to submit requests. The company concedes it won't solve the problem but may mitigate it.
Several states have criminalized revenge porn; Massachusetts is not among them.
However, Fall River state Rep. Alan Silvia, once a police officer for 22 years, has co-sponsored a bill in the House that would subject adult revenge porn perpetrators to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine.
Individuals under 18 years old would be fined for a first and second offense; a third offense or subsequent offense would carry a $1,000 fine or imprisonment term of no more than 60 days.
The bill defines revenge porn as "intending to cause substantial emotional distress or humiliation by means of a electronic communication device, and without consent of the other person, electronically distributes" nudity or a sexual act.
Silvia told the Statehouse News Service: "Young people are especially at risk," noting that they often are the most frequent users of social networking applications including Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook.
"We have nothing to protect people from what goes on electronically," he told a reporter for the outlet.
Silvia testified on the topic before the Joint Education Committee earlier this month.
The former child abuse investigator cited the suicide of a Taunton high school student last year after a nude photo was posted on Facebook.
The bill also calls on school districts that provide a sexual education curriculum to address the dangers of distributing sexually explicit photographs of themselves or other students.
Courts, law enforcement in WV work to protect at-risk kids
by Linda Harris
Those tasked with protecting West Virginia's youth from predators say it would be naive to think at least some at-risk children in the Mountain State aren't being victimized by sex traffickers.
But before they can address the problem, they first need to figure out how bad it actually is.
“We don't really know what the extent of the problem is in West Virginia,” said Lt. D.B. Swiger, commander of the West Virginia State Police Crimes Against Children unit. “We know it exists, but we're still (trying) to identify what kind of a problem we have here.”
What he does know: More than 900 children, many of them already in the child welfare system, were runaways in 2014; at least 31 of them ran away three times or more, putting them on the WVSP Crimes Against Children unit's radar.
Survivors of child sex trafficking say that combination — being in the child welfare system and running away more than once — puts those kids at high risk of being victimized by traffickers.
“Kids typically aren't running away from a happy home,” Swiger pointed out. “When we identify a child who has run away three or more times we try to do a follow-up with that child, figure out why the child is running away, what they are running from.
“It's a fluid number — at any given time we have between 70 and 100 juveniles that are runways, but the number changes daily. Our hope is to intervene in that child's life before they end up in the criminal just system or become a victim of human trafficking or sex trafficking.”
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children said traffickers will target vulnerable runaways, manipulating them physically and psychologically — sometimes resorting to violence. Children in the child welfare system “are particularly vulnerable to traffickers who target and take advantage of the emotional and physical needs of these youth,” NCMEC said. “Often, traffickers/pimps will create a seemingly loving or caring relationship with their victim in order to establish trust and allegiance ... (ensuring) the youth will remain loyal to the exploiter even in the face of severe victimization.”
NCMEC states one in every six endangered runaways is the victim of child trafficking.
“We need to identify how many children from our child welfare system aren't in the appropriate place, how many are missing from their placements, then insert a protocol to track them down so we can make sure they're not being trafficked,” said 28th Judicial Circuit (Nicholas County) Judge Gary L. Johnson. “We want to try and get them the tools they need to succeed as adults, to not be taken advantage of by these people.”
Johnson chairs the West Virginia Court Improvement Program, which is partnering with the West Virginia Center For Children's Justice to implement legislation and protocols to protect children in the Mountain State from falling prey to sex trafficking and to treat children who have already been victimized.
“One child is too many, that's one of our slogans,” Johnson said. “We want to try to get them tools they need to succeed as adults, not be taken advantage of by these people. One of the national statistics that stood out to me is that 68 percent of children who are being trafficked were once in the child welfare system — I was shocked by that.
“That tells us we need to do a better job of making sure when our children run away, that we find them and get them back in care. They're all running away from something, a lot of the time there's a good reason for them running — we just need to figure out what it is and fix it.”
Both men said survivors of human trafficking spoke at a recent White House conference they attended on child welfare, “and being runaways was a common theme: A lot of victims — survivors, as they prefer to call themselves — were runaways. That's become a large focus of the Missing Children's Clearinghouse, taking a closer look at runaways.”
Swiger said it underscored the need for collaboration among the courts, law enforcement and child protective services, something they're already working on here in West Virginia.
“We shared some good ideas with other states, information we gained from them and information we provided to them,” Swiger said. “I think we gained a lot of perspective listening to survivors and thinking about the approach we need to take when we encounter someone during an investigation who may be involved in child sex trafficking or labor trafficking.
“The survivors gave us tips on how to engage them, how to work with them to conduct our investigation — from their perspective, how we could gain their trust, the questions we should ask, how we should treat them to engage them. It's not going to be easy for them to tell you they're involved in something like that.”
Also taking part in the conference was West Virginia Bureau for Children and Families Deputy Commissioner Sue Hage.
“We had some success here, cases where we've identified children who were being sexually abused and made an arrest in one case once we identified why the child was running,” Swiger said. “If we had the personnel to accurately put more time to this, we could identify more children before they become victims. That's our biggest obstacle right now, personnel.”
The Crimes Against Children unit has six sections: child protection, internet crimes against children, digital forensics, missing children's clearing house, West Virginia Center for Children's Justice and the West Virginia Cybercrimes Cooperative, manned by 21 troopers and nine civilian support staff members. Ideally, Swiger said he'd like to see three times that many working at keeping kids safe, though he concedes “that's a pipedream right now.”
And he said law enforcement as a whole hasn't been trained to identify and handle a youthful population caught up in trafficking activities.
“Some states are far ahead of where we are at, some are behind,” he said. “I felt good about some of the initiatives we've taken.”
He also said older runaways on the verge of “aging out,” or turning 18, too often slip through the cracks.
“In 2014 we had in excess of 40 runaways who had aged out,” he said. “Part of our initiative is to follow up and try to locate those children, the ones who've aged out for a year or two years, and find out where they were at during that time frame, what they were involved in.”
For now, he said some troopers are trying to “engage” kids they see as being at-risk of getting pulled into sex or human trafficking, “talk to them before they get involved in criminal activity or run away ... and offer them a card with their phone number so they can call if they have issues or are thinking about running away.”
Let's Talk About It: Breaking the silence: When someone you know is being abused
It's tough to sit by and watch a family member or friend be abused. And you shouldn't. One tactic used by an abuser is isolation – keeping the victim away from support systems and making her believe that his behavior, and her abuse, is “normal.” Don't wait for her to bring up her situation....
by Karen Bota
It's tough to sit by and watch a family member or friend be abused. And you shouldn't. One tactic used by an abuser is isolation – keeping the victim away from support systems and making her believe that his behavior, and her abuse, is “normal.” Don't wait for her to bring up her situation. When the abusive partner isn't around, and it's safe to do so, bring up the subject yourself.
Let her know you are there to listen and that she is not alone. Let her know that you are not judging her. Let her know that you may not have all the answers, but that together you can find the help she needs to end the abuse. No one has to put up with abuse. She has the right to be respected and safe, to put herself and her children first, and to focus on her own needs.
Here are some things you can tell her to break the silence and get your message of concern for her safety across without blaming her or criticizing:
- Domestic abuse is completely unacceptable. She has the right to live a life free of intimidation, fear, abuse and violence, and she does not have to put up with it. - The abuser is the only person responsible for the abuse. She isn't “asking for it” and she doesn't deserve it. - No woman deserves to be abused, regardless of what she says or does. It is not her fault. - Domestic abuse is intentional. The abuser intends to intimidate and scare her into doing something she doesn't want to do, or not doing something she does want to do. - Domestic abuse is about power and control. There are many types of abuse, and some are more subtle (rather than overtly violent), but the purpose is to control the victim's thinking and behavior. - The abuse is the abuser's problem and his responsibility alone. Alcohol, drugs, unemployment, stress or family history are excuses for abuse, not causes of domestic abuse. Domestic abuse is caused by the abuser. - The only person who can put a stop to their violence is the abuser. She cannot make him stop abusing her. - Domestic abuse is common. One woman in four will experience domestic abuse at some point in her life. - Domestic abuse is extremely dangerous. 1 in 3 female murder victims are killed by their current or former partner each and every year. - Domestic abuse absolutely has an impact on children.
Even if they are not being directly abused themselves, domestic abuse has both short- and long-term effects. Without help, girls who witness domestic violence are more vulnerable to being abused as teens and adults; and boys who witness domestic violence are far more likely to become abusers of their partners and/or children as adults, thus continuing the cycle of violence in the next generation.
Be patient, and don't give up if she isn't ready to confide in you right away, or follow the path that you think is best for her. This is her decision, and it's a difficult one to make. Let her know she isn't alone, and when she is ready to talk, decide or take action, you'll be there for her.
And then make good on your word.
Relief After Violent Encounter – Ionia / Montcalm, Inc. (RAVE) offers free and confidential services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence as well as victims of homelessness. RAVE's 24-hour crisis and support line is 800-720-7233 (SAFE). For more information, visit www.raveim.org.
COPE offers domestic violence services in Lincoln County
by Dianne Stallings
In 2013, domestic violence was responsible for 18,954 responses by law enforcement in New Mexico and the district courts issued 5,352 domestic violence-related protection orders, according to statistics from the state Health Department.
Domestic violence was the reason that 8,387 adult survivors sought shelter and other needed services.
In Lincoln County, the Center for Protected Environment is one of the oldest and most active organizations providing services to victims of domestic violence and offering some hope of rehabilitation for offenders.
"COPE is a nonprofit agency established in 1980 in Alamogordo, and incorporated in 1983," COPE Executive Director Kay Gomolak said. "Our mission is to help people affected by domestic violence and other forms of abuse in Otero and Lincoln counties. COPE has a 13-member board of directors and an agency staff of 30, and we have four staff in Ruidoso, specifically. We have several staff who work in both offices.
"Our services in Lincoln County started in 2003. Our agency is part of the New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence."
The coalition received a grant to provide services to low income domestic violence victims throughout the state.
"Various organizations had been providing services over the years before 2003, but at that time there wasn't anybody," Gomolak, who joined COPE 17 years ago, said. "So we said we would take half of Lincoln County."
A group in Roswell was to serve the other half of the county, but that didn't occur, she said.
"We just did it," she said. "We started out providing advocacy services. We started going to protection order court to see victims of domestic violence there. We had an opportunity to get a Stop Violence Against Women grant and with that we did some community organizing and assessed what the community need was, and provided education. At that point, the county's rate of domestic violence was the highest in the state."
While COPE officials moved to secure grants to cover advocacy and counseling services, another element in the community pushed ahead with creating a domestic violence shelter under Help End Abuse for Life, HEAL.
"We have an office at Suite 12, 1204 Mechem Drive," she said. "COPE offers crisis intervention, advocacy, counseling and legal services for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking,and human trafficking. We also have the 52-week state certified domestic violence offender program, and we offer a community education program. We have a community educator who provides training and information about date violence, domestic violence, bullying and all the other behaviors. He will go anywhere to talk about it, including the schools. These crimes are ones that are misunderstood and often, unfortunately, victims are blamed for the victimization they've experienced in a relationship."
People in violent relationships often are busy living their lives and surviving, she said.
"They don't even stop to think about what they are experiencing, the full range of violence on so many levels," she said.
Few victims seek help for their situations and domestic violence knows no economic boundaries, she said.
"Some people have resources so they do not have to go to shelters, but they worry about putting their friends and families at risk for the violence," she said. Others worry about a partner being jailed, but Gomolak said police don't have to be involved, depending on the circumstances.
"Anyone can call the Nest or COPE and get help and it doesn't cost anything," she said. "We have an attorney on staff who represents victims of these crimes at order of protection hearings, for child custody, dissolution or marriage and other related issues, such as landlord-tenant and financial issues. The services are free."
Those who trudge on without help she called the walking wounded.
"They've been told that they are no good, been blamed by their partner for the abuse they and their children have suffered," Gomolak said. "These are messages they've heard in their minds over and over again and it makes it difficult for them to function. I want folks to know it is not their fault and to seek help. This trauma is real and has such an everlasting effect."
Much of the work with victims centers on safety planning, she said.
"A lot of people don't want to leave these relationships and it's not for us to say," she said. "It's for us to help them think about their experience, understand it and decide what is best."
"Usually people come to us (for the offender program) because they have to, because it was court ordered, but on occasion and in Lincoln County in particular, we've had individuals come of their own accord," Gomolak said. An assessment of the offender, which could determine the individual only used violence as a defense, and some one else wielded the power and control, is completed and a course of treatment determined, she said.
For most, it is a 52-week group program with on-going assessment, she said. The curriculum is based on a model that creates a process of change for men who batter, that covers a variety of aspects about individuals' lives, creates awareness of power and control issues and focuses on changing that behavior to one of fairness, Gomolak said.
"We think the time allows people the time to incorporate those changes in behaviors to become changes in attitudes, as well," she said. "But the effectiveness of the program is not exactly known and is difficult to monitor."
COPE's program is not the end-all, she said. "A successful resolution requires law enforcement, courts, probation and parole, substance abuse and mental health service providers working to change behaviors, she said.
Finding funding to keep the COPE program going is tough and grants constantly are sought. An advisory board has stepped in with events and projects to help, but at times Gomolak said she gets discouraged. What keeps her going are the survey responses from victims and offenders the office receives, she said.
"Some say it is the first time anyone really listened to them instead of assuming the nature of the problems, and they were able to speak the truth." she said. "It's what inspires me."
Man's billboards broadcast personal messages on breast cancer, child abuse
by Jim Stingl
Jack Maier and I sat on stars-and-stripes lawn chairs in a Hyundai dealer parking lot this week, and we watched his latest message go up on a billboard high overhead.
This is how Jack, 79, implores the world to act on topics that have affected him personally and painfully.
Drivers passing on N. 76th St. near Dean Road will now read: "In doubt? Listen. Please get a 2nd opinion. Start testing at age 40."
There's no mention of breast cancer, but the pink ribbon on the sign makes that clear. The disease took Jack's wife, Myrna, five years ago. The cancer first appeared in 1999 and, despite all the treatments, returned as a metastatic menace throughout her body a decade later.
"What burns me up is that she had a mammogram done every year and it looked all right. I don't know what happened," Jack told me. "What a beautiful woman she was."
It's unusual for an individual person to buy billboard space. This is the third time Jack has done it, paying Lamar Advertising about $2,200 for each one. That's for a month, though the company has left them in place longer and even moved them to other locations if no one else wanted the space.
"We're happy to be part of what he's doing. It's a good cause," said Lamar's local vice president and general manager, Kurt Weis.
Jack pays for the signs from a rainy-day fund he created after winning a SuperCash jackpot of a couple hundred thousand bucks in 2006. He has a habit of picking numbers to match birthdays in the family, his wedding anniversary date from 1970, and 25 for Christmas Day.
"I changed it to number 24 and, by golly, three days later I won it. Baby Jesus was born on the 25th. I just felt he did not like that I gambled," Jack explained.
His first billboard, which went up last July, urged people to be alert for sexual predators who target kids. "Please don't let another childhood be stolen," it said, next to an image of a disappearing child on a swing.
When he was about 10 years old and growing up on a Wisconsin farm, Jack was molested by a stranger who gave him a ride in his car. Jack kept that assault a secret for more than 65 years, not even telling his wife for fear of upsetting her.
He finally revealed it to Jessica Ceille, who works at Krause Funeral Home and follows up with families they serve. Krause handled the arrangements for Myrna. Jack had coffee with Jessica at that time, and they have talked many times since then until Jack eventually trusted her enough to say it out loud.
Then he told a trusted niece and finally his sons, Jay and Jerry, and other family members. It was a great relief for him, and a long road from his secret to the openness of a billboard.
"The day they erected that billboard for dad was special," Jerry said. "It really got me choked up. I was never so proud to be his son."
The second billboard, in the same 76th and Dean location not far from where Jack lives, went up last October and urged women to get mammograms. It remained there through the spring. The ideas for the signs come from Jack, and then he collaborates with Lamar artists.
There was a tailgate atmosphere this week when Jack and his family gathered in the parking lot to watch the new north-facing sign installed. It took little more than 15 minutes for three workers in hard hats to complete the job, with the message printed on a single vinyl sheet that's secured to the sign frame.
The effect on Jack was clear as his warning to women was unfurled for people in passing vehicles to see.
"There it is," he said and clapped his hands. "Oh my heavens. Wonderful. Praise the Lord. Beautiful."
Will there be more billboards of hope from Jack Maier? Probably, he said. "Until I run out of money."
Foster parents accused of sexual abuse may have earned $1.6 million from state
by Aaron Martinez
An El Paso couple arrested in April on suspicion of sexually abusing two foster children might have earned as much as $1.6 million from the state as foster parents over 14 years, documents show.
The actual amount is not exact because three child-placing agencies took a share of the money in administrative fees.
Sandra Huerta, 55, and Antonio Huerta, 62, had been foster parents to 36 children since they were licensed in 2000, officials said.
The Huertas were arrested after two former foster children in September reported to police that they were sexually abused by the couple 13 years ago, officials said.
One of the victims told police she was 7 years old at the time, while the other victim said he was 10 years old when the incidents happened, an arrest affidavit states.
The woman told police that Sandra Huerta would take her into a bedroom, force her to watch pornographic movies and then tell her to mimic what she was watching, the affidavit states. The victim claims she was forced to touch both the Huertas and have sex with Antonio Huerta while his wife watched, according to the affidavit.
The man told police he was forced to watch porn in the couple's bedroom, watch the Huertas engage in foreplay and then have sex with Sandra Huerta, according to the affidavit.
Sandra Huerta was arrested April 24 on suspicion of indecency with a child and aggravated sexual assault of a child, officials said. She was booked into the El Paso County Jail on a $175,000 bond. She bailed out of jail the same day.
Antonio Huerta turned himself over to El Paso police April 30. He was arrested on suspicion of two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child. He was booked into the El Paso County Jail on a bond totaling $175,000. He bailed out of jail the same day.
Attempts to reach the Huertas were unsuccessful.
El Paso District Attorney's Office officials said the cases against the Huertas are still being reviewed. If the cases are approved, they will be presented to a grand jury, which will decide if they will be indicted.
According to records released by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, the Huertas were paid, either directly from the department or through a private child-placing agency, about $1,684,000 during their 14 years as foster parents.
The money is given to foster parents to help cover child care related costs such as food, clothing, recreation, transportation and housing, officials said.
Between 2000 to 2002, Sandra Huerta was paid by the department about $79,187, according to the payment records.
Beginning in January 2002, the Huertas were moved under the management of several child placing agencies, officials said. The agencies are in charge of placing children in foster homes and managing the homes.
The state pays the agencies, which then pays the foster parents. Each agency takes a portion of the money as an administrative fee before giving the rest to the foster parents, officials said. The amount taken by each agency was not disclosed.
The Huertas were placed under the Bair Foundation of Texas between January 2002 to May 2003. During that time, the state paid $92,766 to the Bair Foundation to help pay for the cost of the children under the care of the Huertas, according to the payment records.
Officials from the Bair Foundation, which is headquartered in New Wilmington, Pa., said their office in El Paso is closed. They declined to comment on the amount of money paid to the Huertas while they were foster parents under the Bair Foundation.
Between May 2003 to July 2014, the Huertas' foster home was under the El Paso Center for Children. The state paid $1,495,525 to the Huertas through the El Paso Center for Children, according to the payment records.
Officials from the center could not be reached for comment on how much of that money went to the Huertas.
The last few months of the Huertas' time as foster parents were under the Children's Hope Residential agency. The state gave Children's Hope Residential $16,628 to cover the cost of children under the Huertas' care.
James Aldrich, director and founder of Children's Hope Residential, said the payments made to the Huertas were private information and could not be released.
"I am not able to release the payments made to any foster family," Aldrich said. "I can tell you that we pass through DFPS funds to verified homes in the amount required by statute to the families and often times it is in excess of the minimum pass through rate."
According to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services' website, the minimum daily amount paid to a foster family varies from about $23 to $92, depending on the needs of each child.
Duggar scandal renews focus on child sexual abuse
When sexual abuse occurs between siblings and other young family members, the situation becomes even more complicated.
by Donna Strickler
The issue of child sexual abuse rose to the surface abruptly last month when “19 Kids and Counting” star Josh Duggar admitted to repeatedly sexually abusing his sisters when he was a teenager. The results have included suspension of the reality TV show from the lineup of the TLC cable network and increased attention to child sexual abuse.
Among the issues that have been raised include sexual behavior problems by young people, and how parents and caregivers can respond appropriately.
Many of the most heart-wrenching cases at the Children's Advocacy Centers involve families in which sibling abuse has occurred. Parents are distraught about the victimization of one child, while worried about the legal consequences to another child. The parents struggle to provide emotional support and effective intervention to both the child victim and the child who committed the offense.
Staff at Children's Advocacy Centers and their multidisciplinary teams can help families navigate this difficult time by serving as a gateway to services that can help victims heal.
Young people who have sexual behavior problems are more common than most people realize. In fact, 18 percent of the more than 315,000 sexual abuse cases seen by Children's Advocacy Centers last year involved an offender younger than 18 — most often a sibling, cousin or friend from the neighborhood or school.
Among the many reasons children and teens may develop a sexual behavior problem are lack of privacy and boundaries, exposure to sexualized materials or environment, curiosity that gets out of hand and a sexual abuse history of their own.
Whatever the reason, however, it is critical to ensure these young people 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 treat it appropriately, we as a society ultimately may 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 also can 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 is the child victim. We should not minimize the trauma child victims suffer as a result of abuse by other young people. 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 who has harmed them.
As a society, we have failed to protect these victims, and we owe them the treatment they need 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 media glare.
When the abuse is made public, as it was in the case of the Duggar family, the exposure can be as traumatic to the victims as the original 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. The common thread in this experience, however, is one of choice. The victim chooses to tell her or his story, exerted some control over the timing and narrative and is psychologically ready for such a public disclosure.
We all can help victims become survivors by sending a clear message to media that the names of victims should not be used without their permission, nor should they be hounded to tell “their side” of the story.
As executive director of the Sexual Assault Crisis & Support Center and the Children's Advocacy Center of Kennebec and Somerset counties, I have witnessed the effects of countless cases of child sexual abuse over the years, I hope this most recent instance will draw additional attention to the issue of child sexual 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 and now including Maine, intervention and prevention services are readily available so those in similar situations to the Duggar family may seek the help and treatment they need and deserve.
(A 24-hour confidential sexual assault crisis and support line: 800-841-7741.)
Donna Strickler is executive director of the Sexual Assault Crisis & Support Center in Winthrop.
A 'Savile effect' spotlight on Hollywood? Considering ‘An Open Secret'
by Bolt Burdon Kemp
"Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains taken to bring it to light.” – George Washington
Child abuse is the great shame of the modern world. From a purely sociological perspective, we have made a singular cultural habit of ignoring, repressing and even denying its scale and impact. It is as if the proverbs ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil' and ‘out of sight, out of mind' were created with child abuse in mind. It is only through the bravery of survivors who speak out about their experiences, overcoming public prejudice and numerous other personal and societal pressures, that we are now aware of the extent of this evil in our society – and that is just the tip of the iceberg. The social impact of shining a public light on the darkened private places of our world cannot be overestimated.
The Savile Effect
“The Savile Effect” refers to the considerable increase in disclosures of abuse made since the UK media first reported in October 2012 on Operation Yewtree's investigation into the sexual assaults inflicted by Jimmy Savile and by other media personalities. By December 2012, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre was reporting a 30 per cent rise in reports of abuse, while calls to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children had increased by 200 per cent. Scotland Yard also reported that the publicity surrounding the Savile scandal had prompted a fourfold increase in reports of sexual abuse in London. We commented on this effect in a recent blog.
Anecdotally, in the Bolt Burdon Kemp Child Abuse team we have noticed a significant increase since late 2012 in people wanting our assistance to pursue claims against those responsible for their abuse. A similar result was seen when, following media appearances in December 2014 discussing the claims our firm is taking against the Scout Association, we fielded several hundreds calls from people enquiring about pursuing their own claims against the Scouts.
Accused abusers have been quick to label the Savile Effect as simply people jumping on a bandwagon in the hope of obtaining monetary compensation, such as in Rolf Harris' recently leaked letter from prison, but nothing could be further from the truth. The reports of Operation Yewtree gave abuse survivors a voice. It made them feel that they would be believed and supported – when for years, their abusers had told many of them that they would be considered liars if they told anyone, or that the victims themselves were the ones to blame for the abuse. Sexual abuse and all that accompanies it – grooming, physical and emotional abuse – is about power, above all, and power survives and thrives on the disenfranchisement of others.
The recent phenomenon of near-daily media reports of sexual abuse by those in power has started to shift the scales here in the UK, leading to many successful civil claims, criminal prosecutions and public inquiries, including the Statutory Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. Would a similar approach work in other counties, such as the United States?
An Open Secret
On Friday 5 June 2015, the documentary ‘An Open Secret‘ was released in the United States, initially screening in New York, Seattle and Denver, following a limited New York release in November 2014. Marketed as “the movie Hollywood doesn't want you to see”, the film alleges the abuse of child actors by a paedophile ring within the American film industry, consisting of managers, agents, publicists and directors. The abuse is said to have often occurred at drug and alcohol fuelled parties, following grooming of both the victims and their families, and the film apparently pulls no punches in revealing the identities of the accusers and the accused.
The film suggests that this is common knowledge within the industry, but that the high profile predators are protected by the studio system in order to avoid a scandal and to protect their profits. They are the Hollywood Establishment.
Sadly, this is far from the first time such allegations have been made. The allegations against Michael Jackson are probably the most well-known example. More recently, in his 2013 autobiography Coreyography, Corey Feldman disclosed the abuse that he and fellow child actor Corey Haim had suffered as child actors (incidentally, in his book Feldman denied ever being abused by his close friend Michael Jackson). Feldman reported a conversation in which Haim had told him that, while filming in 1986, at age 14:
“…an adult male convinced him that it was perfectly normal for older men and younger boys in the business to have sexual relations, that it was what all the guys do. So they walked off to a secluded area between two trailers… and Haim [was] sodomized.”
As perhaps might be anticipated, ‘An Open Secret' has struggled to gain distribution. It has been rejected by numerous festivals, including in the UK. It has been cut to remove any refence to the abandoned 2014 lawsuit against director Bryan Singer. Director Amy Berg released the current version without making all of the cuts demanded by the Screen Actors Guild under the implied threat of litigation – which is a fascinating story in itself.
While to date I have been unable to see the film – which, as yet, appears to have no release date outside the US – some reviewers describe that the reported legal and industry apathy towards the abusers is in some ways more shocking than the abuse and its devastating lifelong effect on the victims. For instance, the film notes that certain convicted and registered sex offenders are apparently still allowed to work with children in Hollywood.
An Open Secret – Reviews
Critical reviews of the film have been largely favourable. Indiewire calls the film:
“a bold, incendiary look at a topic many people would rather avoid. In an ideal world, Amy Berg's daring exposé “An Open Secret” will launch uncomfortable conversations and start an intelligent, long-overdue dialogue about sexual abuse in Hollywood… an incisive and utterly unflinching look at a subject too rarely scrutinized.”
Filmjournal.com describes the film as:
“Devastating and disheartening… paints a chilling portrait of endemic child abuse at all levels of the movie and TV industry and the lack of any appetite for corrective action… The systemic and routine nature of what they describe is the film's most disturbing aspect…”
With comments that could just as easily be applied to accusations made against the Establishment and media personalities on this side of the Atlantic, the Hollywood Reporter's review describes the film as:
“A sober look at accusations that lend themselves to sensationalism… with any luck it will encourage other victims to speak up, and enlighten the parents of showbiz aspirants about the industry's dangers… With such minor consequences for those who've been convicted, is it any wonder that so few relatively powerless youths are willing to endure the shame and professional consequences of coming forward?”
An Open Secret – Impact
While challenging documentaries can have an enormous societal impact, such as Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, this depends on the documentaries being widely seen. Unfortunately, An Open Secret has not been a success in that regard to date. One of the Denver cinemas at which it is screening calls it the lowest-grossing film the cinema has had in 26 years. This is probably a result of the confronting subject matter, and our cultural apathy towards it, as described above.
Whatever the reason, it may be that this film may better reach an audience by being released on a service such as Netflix or by being otherwise distributed online. Hopefully, somehow, this important film will be seen by enough people that dialogue – and action – will ensue, and that Hollywood will experience its own version of the Savile Effect.
Michigan must stop 'growing perpetrators,' report says
by Justin A. Hinkley
LANSING – State and local agencies, courts, schools and others need to develop "comprehensive and evidence-based" methods for preventing the sexual abuse of children, according to a report released today by the state Department of Health & Human Services.
The state's Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children, created through 2013 legislation known as "Erin's Law," on Wednesday issued its first report to Gov. Rick Snyder and lawmakers. In addition to comprehensive planning across public and private agencies, the report says Michigan must stop "growing perpetrators" by focusing on "the norms, behaviors and practices" that lead to sexual abuse, must make all adults responsible for prevention, must raise awareness and educate people on the issue, must develop best practices and train schools and others and how to respond to sexual abuse, and must provide mental health treatment to survivors, perpetrators, families and those who respond to sexual abuse.
In 2013, 8,350 children were sexually abused by 7,295 perpetrators in Michigan, the report says.
Visit michigan.gov/erinslaw for more information.
Supreme Court allows children's indirect testimony in child abuse cases
by Richard Wolfe and Brad Heath
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that teachers' reports of child abuse based on conversations with young children can be admitted as testimony, despite a defendant's constitutional right to confront his accuser.
The unanimous judgment came in the case of a 3½-year-old Ohio boy whose wounds were visible to teachers at his day care center. Upon questioning, he said his mother's boyfriend was to blame.
Although the boy was too young to testify reliably in court, the teachers' reports were admitted at trial, resulting in Darius Clark's conviction and 28-year prison sentence. Clark was sprung in 2012 when Ohio's Supreme Court ruled that allowing the teachers' testimony violated his constitutional rights under the 6th Amendment's confrontation clause.
Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the court's majority, said that the teachers' "primary purpose" in asking about the abuse was not to help the prosecution, so allowing their testimony did not violate Clark's constitutional rights.
When police take children's statements out of court and present it as testimony at trial, it can violate the confrontation clause. But in this case, Alito said, the child spoke to teachers immediately after his wounds were discovered, in an emergency setting on school grounds -- not in preparing courtroom testimony.
The ruling stopped short of saying that all such statements, delivered to people not associated with law enforcement, are admissible in court.
Educators' groups applauded the decision allowing teachers to protect their students. "This case could have had a chilling effect on teacher-student interactions," said Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association. "Teachers aren't cops. To confuse those two roles could have hampered educators' ability to help their students."
Ohio, supported by the federal government and 42 other states, had contended that an adverse ruling would make it more difficult to prosecute child abuse when the child is the only witness but cannot testify in court. They said teachers should not be equated in those cases with police.
Attorneys for Clark argued that they should get equal access to the boy before statements made to the other side are allowed in court. Only then can the reliability of the child's story be tested, they said.
Acting like child abuse victim
by Tina Dupuy
In the wake of the Duggar molestation scandal and now the quirky case of Rachel Dolezal, one thing is clear: We as a public don't know what child abuse looks like.
The CDC estimates that one in four American children experience some form of abuse and yet we're not quick to spot it or identify with it. Instead there's a tendency to be irked that “this stuff” is even being discussed publicly. Or as we've seen with the Duggars and the Dolezals, we default into our preexisting paradigms of partisanship: The Duggars are rightwingers and are typical of those people and Dolezal is a liberal Obama's America “transracial” fruitcake.
But both these cases also feature fringe Christian movements protecting their ideals over their daughters.
The saga of reality show subject Josh Duggar, who admittedly sexually abused five girls (four of whom were his own sisters), was a grotesque display of what religious zeal conditions people need to be able to rationalize. “They didn't even know he had done it,” said Michelle Duggar during the soft-focus Fox News Megyn Kelly interview.
I've talked to sexual abuse victims who didn't realize what had happened to them until decades later. They had fears and phobias and things they just avoided, seemingly without reason—but they didn't put two and two together. So the idea of child abuse being contingent on the victim's memory, identification or understanding is just wrong. Being asleep, unconscious or blocking it out—doesn't make one not a victim. And it surely doesn't mean it didn't happen.
Kelly, to her credit, repeatedly asked the Duggars about their daughters and they repeatedly answered by talking about their son, the abuser. To me it was Christian-based traditional gender-role activists valuing the man and his sexual proclivities over anything their own daughters might undergo.
And another painfully public tale of throwing your daughter under the bus is Rachel Dolezal. While the national discourse instantly tee-heed and tsk-tsked at a white woman identifying herself as black, immediately branding her as a freak, a fraud and a phony — we all missed the real story. Why are her parents on TV at all? Their daughter wasn't hurting anyone. She had adopted a new persona. She had found another father who loves her — a community who embraced her. She didn't get a salary from her position at her local chapter of the NAACP. She was fighting for the marginalized as an unpaid volunteer. She was trying to help people and further a cause of justice. Loving and compassionate parents don't go on media tours calling their daughter a liar and a disappointment — especially when, by every measure, she was successful and just living her life.
Then it came out that this is yet another story hinging on child abuse. “Joshua Dolezal, 39, was charged in 2013 with four felony counts of sex abuse of a victim who was a minor at the time, sources and court records confirmed,” reported the NY Daily News. Rachel is, of course, supporting the victim and that threatens these home-schooling young Earth fundamentalists. To them, if Rachel is a liar, everything can go back to the way it was.
Rachel's birth parents are abusive. Two of the other children in the family (so far) have corroborated Rachel's claims of abuse: physical labor, forced isolation and physical violence.
Rachel is acting like an abuse victim acts. She's estranged from her birth parents for a reason. And when she says she can't prove that Ruthanne and Larry Dolezal are really her parents, she's divorcing herself from them. She's trying to move on and move past them. I haven't called my neglectful and emotionally abusive birth parents “mom” and “dad” in over a decade. And if you ask me if they're my parents, I'll say no. I have parents; they didn't give birth to me.
When Rachel says she identifies as a black woman and says she understands struggle, I think she does. Something about oppression resonates with her. Also, in seeing herself as black she becomes the opposite of the people who hurt her. She's running away from them — and she's told us why.
Surviving is messy. It's complicated and it compels people to do seemingly absurd things. Some recreate their trauma by acquiring different abusers; some pass on their trauma by abusing others. Some hurt themselves, or in my case blame themselves. One became Oprah. And some vow to protect others—advocate for others—and dedicate their lives to helping others sporting a spray tan and a weave to tap into a culture noted for strength, endurance and triumph in the face of adversity.
Tina Dupuy is a nationally syndicated op-ed columnist
Pa. House Votes To Tweak Background Check Requirements For Those Who Work With Children
by Tony Romeo
HARRISBURG, Pa., (CBS) — The state House has sent the Senate a bill designed to ease some background check requirements for people who work with children in Pennsylvania.
The bill approved by the House is in response to the concerns of organizations that work with children about background check requirements that were based on a task force formed after the Jerry Sandusky scandal. The House voted for the bill despite concerns on behalf of some members, including Montgomery County Republican Todd Stephens, who feel the bill goes too far in exempting personnel at higher education facilities who don't interact with students under age 16.
“I think that was a mistake… I think it rolls back some of the protections that the task force intended, and frankly, this legislature intended when we adopted the bills last session. And I certainly would hope that the Senate would take action to remove that provision.”
Just last week Governor Wolf announced that fees for some mandatory background checks will be waived or reduced.
Pastor charged with failure to report child abuse sentenced to probation
by David Harris
A Seminole County pastor was trying to prevent a man from sexually abusing children with religion and prayer, according to prosecutors.
But the abuse continued for at least a year despite the pastor's efforts, prosecutors said.
As a result, pastor Cesar Chin was charged with failure to report child abuse in July. He pleaded guilty to the charge on Wednesday and was sentenced to two years probation, prosecutors said. He also must write letters of apology to the victims, prosecutors said.
The alleged abuser, Normail Reynoso Perez, was charged with sexual battery on a child. Deputies said he was abusing three girls for at least seven years, sometimes on a weekly basis. His wife, Irma Gallegos Torres, also is facing charges for not reporting the alleged abuse. She even walked in on it once, deputies said. Both are awaiting trial.
Chin told police he did not go to authorities because he did not have proof, according to the affidavit. Because Chin was acting as a counselor, pastor confidentiality does not apply, authorities said. Prosecutors said the abused children are receiving counseling.
Ex-Phoenixville sentenced for ‘worst' child sexual abuse case in Chesco
by Michael P. Rellahan
WEST CHESTER >> A former Phoenixville man who a prosecutor said, “perpetrated one of the most egregious and horrific cases of child sexual abuse ever seen in Chester County,” was sentenced Wednesday in Common Pleas Court to a term that will see him confined in a state prison until the day he dies — however long into the future that may be.
Legally barred from imposing a full sentence of life in prison because of the nature of the charges that Warren Earl Yerger Sr. was found guilty of, Judge William P. Mahon nevertheless crafted a sentence that will last until the 52-year-old breathes his last breath, and beyond.
Mahon sentenced Yerger, who maintained his innocence at the four-hour long hearing in the Chester County Justice Center, to a total term of 339 to 690 years in a state prison. He handed down consecutive jail terms for each of the four victims on the multiple charges of rape and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, both first-degree felonies, that he was found guilty of.
It is believed to be the longest sentence ever handed down in a criminal case in the county.
Mahon also sentenced Yerger to additional prison terms on lesser charges such as aggravated indecent assault and conspiracy, but ran those concurrently.
“Each of these charges is horrific,” Mahon said before imposing his sentence, a process that took the better part of half an hour because of the number of counts he had to work through. “What I was looking for, Mr. Yerger, was for you to accept responsibility. You have not. But the jury has imposed responsibility on you.”
The judge said that to impose any lesser sentence, or run all the terms concurrently, would diminish the impact that the crimes had on each of the individual victims.
At his trial in December, Yerger was found guilty of raping and sexually molesting four young children — one boy and three girls — over a period of years starting in the late 1980s. Each of the victims testified at his trial in December in detail about the sexual acts Yerger made them perform — sometime with one another — when they were less than 10 years old.
He also physically abused them, starved them, and heaped emotional abuse on them almost daily, they said.
“This abuse amounted to a decades-long reign of terror and humiliation for these children,” Deputy District Attorney Deborah Ryan, who prosecuted Yerger, wrote in her 17-page sentencing memo. “This case is one of the worst criminal cases in Chester County. Through every degrading act he forced upon these innocent children, the defendant has earned a sentence that resonates through the fabric of our society.”
Three of the victims, the women, now all in their 20s with families of their own, presented lengthy statements to Mahon detailing how the offenses Yerger committed against them had impacted their lives. And each, in their own way, offered forgiveness for the man they had at some point looked up to in their childhood but who betrayed them.
The names of all the victims are being withheld by the Daily Local News.
The oldest of the women, now 28, who chose not to attend the hearing said she had been able to get through the pain of her life with the support of a family who accepted what had happened to her.
“Love is how I was able to get through this,” she said in a letter that Ryan read to the court. “As the years continued to pass I knew we would have our justice. Now, I actually pity him.”
The youngest of the three, now 23, said in a statement read by a victim's advocate that because of Yerger, she was “deeply deprived of the childhood I was supposed to have. I would cry myself to sleep at night”, praying that I would not wake up the next day. But God would not allow me to end my life. He had bigger and better things in store for me.”
The male victim chose not to appear and not send a statement.
Ryan, in her presentation, gave a blistering account of the horrors that Yerger had visited upon each of the victims and the way in which their lives had been altered. “He treated these children like sex slaves,” she said, stopping to glance over her shoulder at Yerger, seated in handcuffs and shackles at the defense table.
Ryan asked Mahon to impose a sentence on Yerger that would keep him behind bars for the “rest of his natural born life,” since he, “has caused a lifetime of pain and misery for these victims. It would be just and fitting to sentence (him) to the equivalent of four life sentences, one for each child.”
The prosecutor noted that simply sentencing Yerger in the standard range of the state guidelines and running each sentence one after another would result in a life sentence, even though there was sufficient evidence to show that his crimes could be considered as falling into the aggravated, and thus higher range. The statutory maximum for each of the more than 150 counts that the jury found Yerger guilt of approached 2,000 years.
“Understanding the vile nature of choosing to repeat this conduct over and over again on innocent and defenseless children, the resulting aggregate sentence accurately captures the horror of this case,” she wrote.
In Yerger's defense, his attorney, Laurence Harmelin of West Chester, said that the former security guard continued to maintain his innocence, denying any allegations of sexual or physical abuse. He said the prosecution was overreaching in asking Mahon to sentence Yerger for crimes he had not been charged with, such as accounts of starvation and physical assaults.
Yerger was found guilty by a jury on Dec. 22, after a weeklong trial of 155 counts of rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, corruption of minors, endangering the welfare of children, and conspiracy.
“The commonwealth is asking for additional punishment, without any fair and public trial, for allegations that cannot lawfully be brought,” Harmelin wrote in his sentencing memo. “Fortunately for the defendant, he was not prosecuted in Iran, Russia or North Korea, where such punishment ... is routine.”
Stating that Yerger does not pose a danger to recommit the offenses for which he was found guilty since he will be housed in a state prison for several years, and noting that his health is failing making him “a prisoner of his own body,” Harmelin asked Mahon to impose a sentence of 10 to 20 years.
“The defendant should be given a sentence that is long enough to, but not longer than enough to, realistically protect society,” Harmelin wrote.
In his own statement to the judge, Yerger, a hefty man with short cropped graying hair, gave a rambling account of his life with the victims, at times expressing fondness for them and at the times accusing them of lying about him.
“I did the best I could” he told Mahon. “I would never let anybody hurt any kid.”
When pressed by the judge, however, on whether he would accept responsibility for the crimes he was found guilty of, he refused.
“I am not wrong,” he declared. “I still have my verdict, that I am not guilty. I know it is the difference between a lighter sentence and a harsher one. But if no one believes me, I can't help that.”
His declaration drew gasps from the two female victims who sat listing to him, and they left the courtroom in tears, returning after a brief moment outside.
The case began in December 2012, when state Trooper Heather Heffner of the Reading barracks was notified of the abuse of four child victims. One of the girls, after attempting suicide and being committed to a psychiatric hospital, had confided the abuse to a college professor who directed her to a woman's shelter, and eventually to the police.
Heffner learned that Yerger had abused the children between 1989 and 2012, first the boy and his younger sister and then the two other girls. In that 23-year period, Yerger moved eight times to four different counties in the state, living in Phoenixville, Spring City, Lower Pottsgrove, and elsewhere. He began abusing the young boy when he lived in Chester County when he was 4 years old, and continued on an almost daily basis until the child was 8 and the girl was 6 years old.
The sexual abuse of the youngest girl began in 1995 when Yerger returned to Chester County after having lived in McLean County in north central Pennsylvania. She was 4 or 5 years old at the time. Yerger moved to Montgomery County, living with Deborah Keeley, a girlfriend with whom he had two sons. The abuse of that girl and the other, two years older, lasted until 2012.
Keeley abused the girls, as well when they were young, and Yerger also made his wife, Leslie Yerger, with whom he has two daughter and who testified against him at trial, to also join in the abuse.
The three were arrested in July 2013 when the Yergers were living in Birdsboro, Berks County and Keeley was living in Douglassville, Berks County. They have been incarcerated since.
Keeley, 49, who pleaded guilty to the charges against her just prior to the December trial, has already been sentenced. In March, Mahon ordered her imprisoned for 22 to 44 years, a term she is appealing. Leslie Yerger, 46, who testified against her husband at the trial, is awaiting sentencing.
After an evaluation by psychologist Thomas Haworth, Warren Yerger was also found to be a sexually violent predator, and will be subject to state reporting as such under Megan's Law.
Yerger “perpetrated one of the most egregious and horrific case of child sexual abuse ever seen in Chester County,” Ryan wrote. “Along with Keeley and Leslie Yerger, he “engaged in a systematic and calculated pattern of inhumane violations of young, innocent and helpless children.
“He stole their innocence,” she said. “He deprived them of a normal childhood. When these children cried out in pain or for him to stop he not only ignored their pleas for help, he demeaned them further.”
Yerger's “brutality and evil have changed the lives of all these victims, and their families, irrevocably. They will live with the ravages of his actions for the rest of their lives.”
Mahon, after listening to the two victims who were present read their statements, praised them.
“The depths of your statements were amazing,” he said softly. “You need to remember that this is not your fault. Your feelings of forgiveness are going to lead you to health and to peace.”
State commission offers funds for child sexual-abuse victims
A top state commission has taken steps to aid the victims of child sexual abuse.
The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency voted Wednesday to make those who treat child sexual-abuse victims eligible for extra resources to help them in their efforts.
“Today's funding announcements are the first of many aimed at protecting our most vulnerable citizens — our children,” said the commission's chairman, Josh Shapiro.
The commission has been made responsible for distributing $48 million in penalties imposed on Penn State University by the NCAA in a way that helps child sexual-abuse victims.
The funding was announced in a commission news release, which did not include specific details on agencies that are to receive funds.
For more on the commission, visit www.pccd.state.pa.us
Sexual abuse of children is now so common in parts of Britain 'they view it as a normal way of life' says NSPCC
by Hugo Gye
Sexual abuse of children has become so common in parts of the UK that it is seen as a 'normal way of life', the NSPCC has said in a shocking new report.
Police recorded a total of nearly 40,000 sex attacks on children last year, the highest number for at least a decade.
The culture of child sex abuse has become engrained in some places, the children's charity warned, which could complicate efforts to crack down on it.
Experts claim that the internet has fuelled a rise in abuse, because potential sex offenders are now able to 'indulge their fantasies' more easily.
In a report titled How Safe Are Our Children?, the NSPCC said: 'In some areas of the UK sexual abuse has become so common that it is seen by children as a normal way of life.'
The charity pointed to scandal in Rochdale, Oxford and Rotherham, where gangs of abusers were allowed to rape young girls for years without the authorities stepping in.
And the report also highlighted how 'trusted individuals' including GP Myles Bradbury and TV presenter Rolf Harris were found to have carried out a string of sex attacks.
In total, police recorded 36,429 sex offences against children in the UK last year, with the vast majority of victims below the age of 16.
The numbers have soared since last year - in England, 39 per cent more offences were reported in 2013/14, the latest year for which figures are available.
Authorities have credited wider public awareness of child sex abuse with making children more likely to report crimes to police.
However, the NSPCC suggested that police figures 'do not reflect the actual number of offences committed' because a large number of sex attacks are never reported.
Simon Bailey, who is responsible for leading police efforts on child abuse, said that child abuse was becoming increasingly common, partly because of the rise of the internet.
'Increased reporting means we are dealing with an unprecedented number of investigations but it is my belief that more abuse is being perpetrated,' he told the Guardian.
'The internet has given people the ability to sit in their room and indulge fantasies in a way that simply was not available to them two decades ago.'
In the wake of revelations about the sexual abuse carried out by Jimmy Savile and other public figures, New Zealand judge Lowell Goddard is heading a major inquiry into claims of an Establishment cover-up of sex crimes.
Last month it emerged that police are investigating 1,400 men over allegations that they have abused children in the past.
Overall, the number of children at risk of abuse has increased by 80 per cent since 2002, according to the report, with 48,300 on child protection plans.
In England almost half of CPPs were administered for neglect, a third for emotional abuse and 10 per cent for physical abuse. One in 20 were introduced because of sexual abuse.
Research also showed that the number of children being referred to social services in England reached a record high of 570,800 in 2013/14.
Launching the report in London yesterday, NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said Britain faces a 'watershed moment' on child abuse.
'These startling figures must not be ignored,' he said. 'The challenges in keeping future generations safe are myriad and complex.'
In a speech, he added: 'We must ensure that when children and adults speak up about the abuse they suffered, the support they need to rebuild their lives is available. Too often this remains sorely lacking.'
Karen Bradley, the minister for preventing abuse and exploitation, said more and more young people are reporting their experiences of abuse, adding: 'As much as this is an encouraging sign of the times, it is also an immense challenge.
'Because reporting that experience to police is never the end of it, because the damage of those experiences is so hard to undo and because it is increasingly clear that far too many children are being damaged in the first place.'
Nun Tirelessly Fights Human Trafficking
by Kim Lewis
The UN's International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that forced labor generated annual profits of $150 billion in 2014. They also believe that one quarter of the world's 20.9 million victims of human trafficking are children. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says about one in six children are endangered runways who are likely to fall victim to the sex trafficking.
Sister Judith Sheridan is a nun and nurse at the Marist Missionary Sisters in San Diego, California. She joined the convent at the age of 18. Now in her 70's, she has worked as a missionary around the world and knows the effects of child trafficking – She calls forced sex, labor and organ donation modern-day slavery and believes it's the second-biggest money maker in the world.
Sister Judy counsels teenagers on the dangers of falling prey to today's sex slavers. “Human trafficking depends on people having to give a service, either a sexual service or labor of some sort because of threats or coercion or fraud,” she says. “And it has become a major 34-billion dollar industry globally. It's driven by supply and demand. And you have to ask yourself, of course, why there is such a demand for sexual favors and for cheap labor.”
The internet has been a major driver of the demand, she says, and this digital connection offers a global network of buyers and sellers and it is the children in desperate conditions who become their product.
The desperate conditions constantly occur. “For instance, where you have the tsunamis, or where you are having wars,” Sister Judy says, “you know the children become orphans, or they're unsupervised or they're going to be easily a prey to being taken and used for trafficking.”
American children on the Internet
The Marist nun says that in the United States commercial sexual exploitation of children takes place between the ages of 12 and 14. “And these children are being recruited through the internet. They're being recruited actually outside their middle schools or their high schools, in the malls, so it's wherever you are going to find children. You're going to find these predators who are looking to charm them, recruit them, deceive them.”
Because of the covert nature of human trafficking, Sister Judy says the crime must be fought through a classroom curriculum that alerts parents to the risk.” Parents have to know what's happening with their children and who they're talking to on the internet.
“The police, law enforcement, immigration, homeland security, FBI, they're all more and more aware of this problem,” she says. “They have vice squads. They have units looking for traffic victims but, you see, it takes so long to follow-up on an ad, say for an under-age minor being prostituted.”
In addition, she said you have to be able to catch the pimp and have him prosecuted in court, which could be a very long and labor intensive process.
“For such a huge global problem, you're only getting a few of the criminals. So something has to be done on a much more broad level, raising of consciousness in people. We need gender respect, a new kind of look at how we're going to raise our boys and girls.
“I mean, it's not a simple answer and it's going to take a lot of people looking at how we're going to be able to help each other and help out children,” Sister Judy said.
How YOU Can Help End Child Sex Trafficking
by Sara Kim
In order to expose the crime of minor sex trafficking in the United States, filmmaker Tim Matsui has created a documentary about the issue. Matsui has already been accredited for documenting and journaling sexual exploitation in Southeast Asia over a span of 15 years. This time, however, he produced a film based on sex trafficking crimes in Seattle, Washington, called “The Long Night.”
Matsui has spent a total of six years producing “The Long Night,” which already won three awards for its artistry and message. In the documentary Matsui followed policemen in Seattle as they uncovered and arrested minors in the sex trade. The film's plot centers on two teenage girls, Lisa and Natalie, who grew up with two different backgrounds, yet shared the same sexual exploitation. Through the lives of these two girls and their different views towards their exploitation, Matsui illustrates the difficulty of getting out of the cycle; victims are often treated as criminals rather than victims, decreasing their ability to rehabilitate from the trauma of their experiences and make the changes they need to leave. The film takes the audience on a first-hand look into what reality these young sex trafficking victims face each day. Perhaps the most eye opening thing about the film is the fact that the main characters are so similar to the average American girl in looks, action and feeling.
Although the film is available online, there is a high demand for the film in different forms of media. Matsui has started a Kickstarter campaign, through which anyone can financially support the cause. Matsui describes the goals of the Kickstarter as:
1. To raise money for file conversion into different forms
2. To create social change
By allowing the film to be readily accessible in DVD, Blu-ray, and theaters, it would receive a broader audience and raise greater awareness about domestic human sex trafficking. The documentary could also be more easily shared within communities, such as in schools and governments, giving the issue of American sex trafficking more attention from the public. Through the project, Matsui hopes to start a movement that engages the community into action to combat child sex trafficking in our country.
You can get more information or support Matsui and his project at: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/930201389/seattle-streets-to-main-street-end-child-trafficki
Minnesota Sex Offender Program: Public safety or public policy?
Ten factors in favor of federal court intervention. (A decision is imminent.)
by Jon Brandt
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank is expected to issue a decision on the constitutionality of the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP). It is likely that the federal court is going to rule that Minnesota has failed to achieve a constitutional balance among public safety, effective treatment and the civil rights of MSOP clients. There is, understandably, public angst about the uncertain future of the MSOP, and the likelihood of the federal court ordering releases. However, mounting evidence indicates that the MSOP is less about veritable public safety and more about misguided public policy. Here are 10 reasons why Minnesotans should welcome, and not fear, federal court intervention.
1) The MSOP was created in 1994 to identify certain sexual offenders who might be at high-risk for reoffending and lock them up to prevent future crimes. The courts have ruled that sexual offender civil commitment (SOCC) is constitutional only if clients have a mental disorder that contributes to them being “highly likely” to reoffend, and if the goal of incarceration is treatment. After 20 years, and about 740 clients, no one has completed treatment and been fully released, resulting in constitutional concerns that treatment is disingenuous and that the MSOP is really "preventive detention."
2) In 2011, the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor identified multiple problems at the MSOP. This federal lawsuit followed in December 2011. In 2012 and 2013, a SOCC task force recommended changes. In a February 2014 ruling, Judge Frank admonished state leaders, saying: “The politicians of this great State must now ask themselves if they will act to revise a system that is clearly broken, or stand idly by and do nothing, simply awaiting Court intervention.” Since then, two legislative sessions have passed, and state government remains largely unresponsive.
3) To distinguish the “civil process” of incarceration for treatment from the “criminal process” of our prison system, forensic psychology is called upon to give SOCC medical legitimacy. Psychologists determine whether clients have a relevant mental disorder and use actuarial science to assess risk for future offending. Predicting future human behavior is highly speculative, raising concerns about whether the field of forensic psychology has the scientific capabilities to meet the constitutional integrity needed for SOCC.
4) Research conclusively indicates that, post-intervention, the vast majority of sexual offenders do not reoffend. Recent studies now indicate that those considered to be of? “higher risk,” even MSOP clients, are unlikely to sexually reoffend. Most offenders can be safely treated and managed in the community. One study, specifically involving the MSOP, comes from the Minnesota Department of Corrections.
5) Thirty U.S. states and most countries around the world manage sexual violence without SOCC. The 20 states that have SOCC have mixed reviews. Wisconsin is demographically similar to Minnesota, yet has twice the prison population and half the number of individuals under SOCC; it has successfully released more than 100 clients back into the community. Texas, to save money, uses an outpatient system, but more than half of its clients are returned to prison for failure to cooperate with treatment. New Hampshire has screened hundreds of sexual offenders over several years and has civilly committed only a few. Missouri, like Minnesota, is facing a federal lawsuit for failure to treat and release clients. Vermont lawmakers considered SOCC and rejected it.
6) Sexual abuse is a serious problem in every society, and we should dedicate appropriate public resources toward prevention. However, over the last 20 years, Minnesota has spent $2 billion in infrastructure and operating expenses to keep about 740 individuals under SOCC. It costs Minnesota taxpayers more than $120,000 per year to confine each of the 715 clients currently in the MSOP. This effort toward secondary prevention draws public funds away from the primary prevention of sexual abuse. First-time offenders are responsible for 95 percent of sexual abuse.
7) The MSOP was designed to be completed in about three years, with the understanding that some clients might need more or less treatment. Among the issues that will be decided by the federal court is whether clients have a constitutional right to treatment, what constitutes adequate treatment and whether clients need to complete treatment in order to be released from the program. In most states with SOCC, clients are assessed annually to determine whether they are sexually dangerous; if they are not, they are released. The MSOP has done forensic risk assessments on only about 10 percent of MSOP clients and therefore cannot tell the court which clients in the MSOP meet criteria for release.
8) The MSOP was intended to treat the “worst of the worst,” or the most dangerous sex offenders in Minnesota. However there are more than 60 MSOP clients who were sent there on the basis of juvenile-only offending, 78 clients over age 65 (the oldest is 93), many clients with intellectual disabilities, and some who are in wheelchairs or otherwise infirmed. While it is likely that some clients in the MSOP should remain confined, SOCC in Minnesota appears to be greatly overreaching.
9) The MSOP staff and/or multiple experts testified at the federal trial that there are many MSOP clients who could be safely and successfully treated in less-restrictive settings, and others who could be conditionally or unconditionally released. One challenge that the court will have to confront is that the MSOP has acknowledged that it has community-based resources to provide housing and treatment to only about 5 percent of its current clients. Despite inadequate alternatives, there is no expectation that the court will indiscriminately “open the doors” at the MSOP.
10) A system that overreaches and the conditions at the MSOP caused Judge Frank to write in an August 2014 ruling: “It is obvious, that but for this litigation, [clients …] would likely have languished for years in the prisonlike environment of MSOP-Moose Lake without any realistic hope of gaining freedom. And of course it is of great concern to the Court that this may not be an aberrant case [but] symptomatic of a larger systemic problem.”
It now seems certain that the federal court will tell the leadership of Minnesota what is required to achieve constitutional balance to avoid further federal intervention, as happened in the state of Washington from 1994 to 2007.
Unless we believe that individuals who have sexually offended are evil rather than broken, and treatment is meant to be banishment in disguise, the MSOP must be a legitimate vehicle and opportunity for clients to return to their homes and families. Communities that have sent clients to the MSOP should prepare for them to return, creating support, not hindrances, for housing and employment. If rehabilitation is to be sincere and effective, we must both demand and facilitate recovery. If public wrath, sex-offender registries, residency restrictions and other civil regulations make it impossible for individuals to recover, they won't. We should not use what “they” did to “us” to justify what “we” do to “them.” They come from us.
Reclaiming offenders is not only good public policy, it is the responsibility of a just and compassionate society. Successful treatment of offenders is not a zero-sum outcome for victims. When we help people rebuild shattered lives, as victims or offenders, it honors society's promises to all its citizens.
Jon Brandt has been providing assessments and treatment for sexual offenders, as well as consultation and training on the prevention of sexual abuse in Minnesota, for more than 30 years. He is a clinical member of the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA), writes a blog for ATSA's journal, Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, and is the lead author in The Sex Offender: Insights on Treatment and Policy Development; Volume 8, Barbara K. Schwartz, Ed. “Doubts About SVP Programs — A Critical Review of Sexual Offender Civil Commitment in the US” (Civic Research Institute, 2015).
Crimes Against Children Are Now Being Exposed, But the Challenges in Keeping Future Generations Safe Are Myriad and Complex
by Peter Wanless - Chief Executive of the NSPCC
Our third annual state of the nation report: How Safe are our Children? takes an overview of the child protection landscape and compiles the most robust and up-to-date child protection data that exists across each of the four nations in the UK.
Over the past year, child abuse has rarely been out of the public eye. We've seen the continued fallout from decades of horrendous sexual abuse committed by Jimmy Savile, grooming and trafficking in Rotherham, greater awareness of the dangers of online abuse and a concerted attempt to tackle it alongside an increasing awareness of the impact of emotional as well as physical abuse.
Our reports go further than merely allowing us to understand how many children are being abused and neglected. They also help us to track the progress of how we, as a nation, are dealing with these issues, and remind us of our responsibility to children. Only by monitoring the extent of child abuse and neglect in the UK can we judge whether efforts to prevent maltreatment and to protect children are working.
In some ways this is a watershed moment in the UK. The nations are listening and child abuse is top of the agenda. We need to seize the moment and use this opportunity to help adult survivors who have suffered in silence for years and children who are being abused today to get the help they so desperately need.
Child abuse comes in many forms - from neglect to physical, online to sexual - and at the heart of tackling it lies a need to provide a loving and supportive environment for all children. Listening to them properly when they need to be heard and then helping to equip them with an understanding of abuse and develop resilience against it. Preventing abuse before it can take hold is how, together, we will end cruelty to children.
Crimes against children are now being exposed - past and present - and as individuals, communities and a society we need to ensure that this appalling exercise of power over young people is made very much more difficult, and those who suffer get immediate help and support. Every day the NSPCC is inundated with calls from adults worried about children, while children are contacting ChildLine with increasingly challenging issues. It seems that awareness of child abuse has never been higher, and the feeling that victims who come forward will be believed has never been stronger. It's essential that we meet this heightened sense of hope.
As our report shows, the challenges in keeping future generations safe are myriad and complex. But we at the NSPCC believe abuse can be prevented and damaged lives can be turned around. As a country, we must work together, listen to the voices of those that have suffered, and protect those who cannot protect themselves. Every childhood is worth fighting for.
Meth, Child Abuse Increases in McDowell County Call For Stricter Law
by Jerrika Insco
MCDOWELL COUNTY, N.C. -- With meth on the rise in McDowell County, child abuse has increased as well.
Now, the district attorney is lobbying to make sure those who put children in harm's way have to pay.
Ted Bell, the district attorney in McDowell County, says the problem is child abuse laws aren't strict enough when it comes to cases involving drugs. That's something he wants to change come new legislation in September.
The recent increase in the use of meth and its effects on children in McDowell County have been this district attorney's main focus.
"With the ingestion of the drugs, we're seeing some kids and some toddlers coming in with drug tests with concentrations in their body that would be high enough to kill an adult," Ted Bell said.
Bell says the problem is that misconduct in North Carolina results in drug charges and misdemeanor child abuse charges, not felony, for parents.
"We still have DSS getting involved with regards to the children and working that end of it, but criminally I think we need to address the conduct from the criminal side," Bell said. "It's a lot more than just a misdemeanor."
Bell is hoping to lay down a law that makes it a felony charge. He says he has already lobbied with law enforcement, state representatives, and senators to make those changes while his cases are still pending.
"They basically barricaded their kids into a kid's room. For the most part, they were naked, feces everywhere, and in just complete and utter filth while mom and dad are allegedly doing drugs in the other part of the house which resulted in an overdose death for the one parent," Bell said.
So far, Bell says the support is there for stricter legislature that would protect kids in troubled homes full of drugs, like meth.
"If nothing else, keeping them off the street for a longer period of time with a felony sentence, so they can't do that kind of harm to children or themselves," Bell said.
The district attorney also says there's a need for more and better accessible treatment programs for drug users. That way they don't get out of jail and just go back to drugs.
Differences between Child abuse and discipline
by Kristin Nill
SHERMAN, TX- A Sherman man was sentenced to ten years in prison yesterday after pleading guilty to injury to a child. Chris Murphy admitted to hitting and kicking an 8-year-old boy left in his care in 2012. Prosecutors say abusers often claim they're just discipline children.
Maybe the most famous example is Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson who used a switch to discipline his four year old son and was charged with child abuse.
While some were shocked, it's not a foreign concept to many people in Texoma.
Chris Murphy will spend the next 10 years in prison for kicking and hitting an 8-year-old boy in his care. District Attorney Joe Brown says he believes Murphy was abusing the child for years.
"This was a bad guy that was terrorizing a kid," Brown said.
But Marisa Gonzalez with child protective services said sometimes the lines aren't that clear and upbringing has a lot to do with it.
When Minnesota Viking's Adrian Peterson was accused of abuse,after hitting his four year old with a switch, Peterson said he was just disciplining the child the way he was disciplined as a boy.
"Every case is different so we have to look at things on a case by case basis but there are some things that you can look at in general when trying to determine if um something is corporal punishment or if your crossing the line into an abusive situation," Gonzalez said.
In Murphy's case, signs of abuse were evident.
"This was leaving bruises,hitting in the head, the grandparents a noticed a long history of this man abusing this child," Brown said.
According to Chapter 261 of TEXAS Family Code: child abuse is an act or omission that endangers or impairs a child's physical, mental or emotional health and development.
According to the state's Attorney General: The law specifically excludes "reasonable" discipline by the child's parent OR guardian.
"Something that you considered disciple but is leaving actual injuries on the child, marks, bruises, if the child requires medical attention obviously it could be going to far," Gonzalez said.
Brown says they always give parents the benefit of the doubt when it comes to discipline but there are times when it goes to far.
Adrian Peterson agreed to a plea deal reducing his charges to reckless assault and is back playing for the Vikings.
Marion Co. Juvenile Court Judge speaks on child abuse epidemic
by James Cherardi
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. In the ten years, Marion County Juvenile Court Judge Marilyn Moores has served on the bench; she says this is the worst she has ever seen the child courts system.
“Overwhelmed is one word, bursting at the seams, straining at all joints; every piece of the system is completely overwhelmed,” she said.
Many DCS case workers are slammed with 30, 40, even 50 cases each. Moores says those overwhelming numbers are causing havoc in the court room.
“What it has caused, is judicial officers and court staff to be here till all hours because the cases are that important and it takes that much time to address them because the downside isn't a criminal gets so many months in jail, it's a kid might die,” she said.
Marion County, Moores says, is in the midst of a child abuse crisis. This time last year, there were just under 1,300 child abuse and neglect cases in Marion County. Today, there are just fewer than 2,000. That is a 50% increase. Moores predicts we'll see 60% more cases by the end of the year.
“It has been a huge issue and we have been crying to the wind for over a year; the court system itself here has not received any additional resources,” she said.
Moores attributes the spike to an increase in heroin use, and domestic violence. But says the state isn't pulling its weight in helping solve the surge in abuse.
“The system only moves as fast as its slowest moving part and state government is always the slowest moving part,” she said.
Moores says there are new cases added to the system every single day, with judges hearing upwards of 60 cases a day. The system as is she says is not sustainable. Moores says she'll continue to push lawmakers for adequate funding to hire adequate staff.
Child abuse can inflict lifetime of pain
by Sarah Navoy
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - - It's estimated about five children die every day in America from abuse or neglect.
Experts say the ones who survive often deal with the impact of abuse for a lifetime.
"The children have this sense of trust that becomes violated," said licensed clinical social worker Stan Long of Empower Behavioral Health.
Long has investigated child abuse in the past and works with children who've been abused. He said children often can't understand what and why they're being treated a certain way.
"There is the internalization," said Long. "There is the sense of 'What did I do? Why did this happen to me?'"
Getting those children help early on should be the first priority, according to Long. If they don't receive counseling, it is possible that the negative, learned behavior may repeat itself later in life.
"It escalates to the point where I am inflicting physical abuse on a child or even my spouse or partner, for that matter," said Long.
Long said physical scars can be a constant, lifetime reminder of abuse. But, it is how the child or person abused chooses to look at the scar that makes all the difference.
"It is not something to be ashamed of, more something of, this is what I have overcome," said Long.
If you know of a child being abused or even have a suspicion, it is vital you tell someone. There is also a 24-hour tip line available for victims.
Child abuse suspected cases soar with figures revealing 85 reports a day
by Emily Dugan
The number of sexual offences against children recorded by police in England and Wales has rocketed by more than a third in the last year, police figures show.
A total of 31,238 sexual abuses against under-18s were reported in the year to March 2014 – equivalent to 85 reports a day – according to official figures released to the NSPCC.
Many of these could be historic victims coming forward in the wake of high-profile cases in the news, such as the Jimmy Savile abuse scandal.
Some police forces have also improved their recording methods and are under instructions to make child abuse a priority.
For victims who do speak out, there is not enough help, according to the NSPCC. The charity's research shows there is a shortfall of 55,000 places a year for those needing therapeutic support after being sexually abused.
In 2012-13 there were 22,654 sexual offences against minors recorded by all but two of England and Wales' police forces. The surge in recorded cases of rape, sexual assault and grooming of children reveals the scale of child abuse in Britain and suggests a shift in people's willingness to go to the authorities.
The majority of victims were aged 12 to 16, although more than one in three were younger than 11, including 2,895 under-fives and 94 babies.
NSPCC chief executive, Peter Wanless, said: “These figures are disturbing and clearly illustrate child sexual abuse is a continuing and widespread problem that needs urgent action.”
The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) lead for child protection, Chief Constable Simon Bailey, said: “There's no doubt that Savile has been a watershed for the police service, because victims have the confidence to come forward. I don't have the evidence at this time that more abuse is being perpetrated but my belief is that's what's happening... I can't help feeling that the internet has allowed people to abuse children in a way they couldn't before.”
A Government spokeswoman said: “Children must be protected from the systemic and appalling cases of abuse we have seen… That is why the Prime Minister hosted a Downing Street summit earlier this year to launch … new measures to better protect victims and survivors, bring more offenders to justice and ensure those who are charged with protecting our children are held properly accountable.
“We have given child sexual abuse the status of a national threat so that it is prioritised by every police force. We will shortly launch a new Child Sexual Abuse Taskforce and Centre of Expertise to improve local responses and we have provided £7 million funding to organisations that support victims.”
Child Abuse Prevention in Lamorinda
School districts' Speak Up and Be Safe program marks two-year anniversary
by Sophie Braccini
Carol Shenon recently completed two years facilitating the "Speak Up Be Safe" child abuse prevention program at all the Lamorinda elementary and middle schools. The three school districts in partnership with the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Contra Costa County fund the program. According to Shenon and Carol Carrillo, the council's executive director, the program gives children lifelong skills to prevent all kinds of abuse.
"What we want is for the communities to get together and be trained to prevent abuse," says Carillo, "and the one thing we can start with is to talk about it."
A key component of the prevention program is the children themselves, says Shenon. "We teach kids what is and is not appropriate, to set boundaries, to learn to speak up, to understand that it is never their fault, and to have a safety network they can pull from if something happens."
Shenon was hired by the Child Abuse Prevention Council after the school districts decided to partner on this project. The Moraga mom's first job was to research available programs. "We chose the program Speak Up Be Safe that had been developed by a team of researchers at Arizona State University," she says. The school districts also asked Shenon to add a sexual harassment component to it, which she did.
Shenon visits all first-, third-, fifth-, and sixth-graders twice a year. "The lessons are age appropriate, they get a little longer, and the content is built upon by adding more information as the kids gets older," she says.
Shenon starts by talking to the students about private body parts. "Those are the parts covered by a swim suit," she says, "and those parts are called private because they should not ever be touched or seen by others." She does explain that a doctor, in the presence of parents, could check private parts. "What I really try to get the first-graders to really understand is that show or touch of a private part is never a game, no matter what someone might tell them," says Shenon.
A lot of the teaching is done using age-appropriate games that engage the children and play down the seriousness of the topic. "With the first- and third-graders we go through a game of safe and unsafe secrets," tells Shenon. "A safe secret is one that's safe to keep, an unsafe one involves a child being hurt in some way, and the child should tell a safe adult about it." An unsafe secret would be a kid being bullied at school, for example.
"With the fifth- and sixth-graders you get some very good conversations going about why a child would still not tell," she adds. "It can be because they are embarrassed, because they are afraid of becoming a target, because they don't want to be a tattletale. I tell the kids that they have to look out for each other." She thinks that kids have more power to stop sexual harassment or bullying than adults do because they know what is going on.
Also, starting in first grade, Shenon works with the students to have them choose one or more safe adults in their lives that they would go to if something happens that makes them uncomfortable, worried or scared. Shenon said that some kids asked her to be their safe adult, but she could not because she was not going to see them for a while.
"One little kid asked me if it could be his dog," she says with a smile. She recommends someone who is a good listener, someone who will believe them. The chosen adults get a card from the kids listing their responsibility as a safe adult. The children are also given tactics if they feel threatened and there is no safe adult nearby.
During the past two years, Carillo says kids have disclosed abuse. A middle schooler was sexually harassed by a number of other children. The teacher she confided to reported it to address the situation and engaged a Title IX procedure (federal act against sex misconduct). In another instance, suspected child abuse within a family was reported. Shenon believes that the outcome was very positive, with the child and the family getting the services and help they needed. A caretaker who was abusing several kids was also stopped.
All teachers and staff members received a survey about the training, and over 90 percent said that the program was age appropriate and child-friendly. The same percentage wanted the program back next year. The Child Abuse Prevention Council has also been asked to duplicate the program in other school districts within the county.
Rachel Dolezal's brother, author Joshua Dolezal, faces trial for alleged sexual abuse of a black child
by Justin Wm. Moyer
The saga of the Dolezal clan, a family at war with itself, is getting more complicated.
Even as Rachel Dolezal, the Spokane NAACP president whose parents outed her as white, resigned from the organization on Monday ahead of a “Today” show interview, another Dolezal was thrust into the spotlight.
It was revealed Monday that Dolezal's older brother Joshua Dolezal is awaiting trial on charges he sexually abused a black child — charges that the Dolezal family, in their own television appearance, implied Rachel Dolezal may have helped orchestrate. Joshua Dolezal is contesting the charges and is free on $15,000 bail while awaiting trial, according to the Denver Post.
Joshua Dolezal's troubles could perhaps explain at least one piece of the complicated puzzle behind this saga, the question of why Rachel Dolezal's parents would expose their daughter to such public humiliation and perhaps legal jeopardy.
Joshua Dolezal, 39, is the eldest child of the Dolezal clan. Rachel is his only biological sibling — Lawrence and Ruthanne Dolezal have four adopted children, some of whom are black. Joshua now faces four felony counts of sexual assault in Colorado, according to reports in the New York Daily News, the Denver Post and other local outlets that have been confirmed by The Washington Post.
The alleged incidents of sexual assault, according to a Clear Creek County affidavit in support of an arrest warrant obtained by the Daily News and reviewed by The Post, occurred at Lawrence and Ruthanne's house in Colorado “in 2001 or 2002.” The victim, whose name was redacted in the affidavit, “was 6 or 7 years old,” and Joshua Dolezal was “19 years older.”
Among other accusations: On two occasions, according to the affidavit, Joshua Dolezal allegedly forced the victim to perform oral sex on him. On "7 or 8" other occasions, Dolezal performed oral sex on the victim.
“Don't tell anyone or I'll hurt you,” Joshua allegedly said.
The affidavit included claims that an older incident of alleged abuse of another victim in 1991 had a racial element.
“The family had a subscription to National Geographic magazine,” it read. “… Joshua Dolezal showed [redacted] his collection of photos of topless and naked African women.”
It continued: “Joshua Dolezal was turned on by the black body and was curious about black women sexually.”
The abuse was reported in 2013, and Joshua Dolezal was arrested last year. The victim, according to the affidavit, “wanted to report the incident now because Joshua Dolezal has a one year old daughter and [redacted] does not want the daughter to be victimized.”
Dolezal will be tried in August, as ABC 7 Denver reported.
The allegations against Joshua Dolezal are significant because, in interviews with The Post and other outlets, the Dolezals alleged Rachel orchestrated them to win custody of her brother Izaiah. Izaiah, who is black, lives with Rachel Dolezal in Spokane — and Rachel says he is her son, the family alleged.
Lawrence and Ruthanne Dolezal, without specifically addressing the charges against their son, broadly denied such behavior as well as Rachel Dolezal's allegations that she was physically abused as a child.
“If she's alleging there was abuse in our family from years past, then it's false and there's no need no comment on anything of that nature,” Lawrence Dolezal told The Post last week. “That's just utter falsehood.”
“The allegations are totally false and malicious,” Ruthanne Dolezal told Megyn Kelly of Fox News when she asked about them Monday. “They're fabricated.”
Rachel Dolezal and Joshua Dolezal have not responded to requests for comment on the Colorado charges. However, Rachel Dolezal has spoken to the Spokane Spokesman-Review.
“Rachel Dolezal dismisses the controversy as little more than an ugly byproduct of contentious litigation between other family members over allegations of past abuse that has divided the family,” the paper said. “She's particularly suspicious of the timing, noting that the allegations broke on her son's birthday and come as the Colorado lawsuit … nears a key juncture.” While she referred to a lawsuit, the charges in Colorado are criminal.
Though its not clear when and how the Dolezals became so divided, insight into the warring family comes from an unlikely source: the published writing of Joshua Dolezal, the accused.
Joshua Dolezal is an English professor at Central College, a private liberal arts college in Pella, Iowa. His work, much of it nonfiction, has appeared in respected publications such as the Kenyon Review, and the University of Iowa Press published his memoir — which includes many references to his sister Rachel.
Here's how the University of Iowa Press explained “Down from the Mountaintop: From Belief to Belonging” in a 2014 press release:
A lyrical coming-of-age memoir, Down from the Mountaintop chronicles a quest for belonging. Raised in northwestern Montana by Pentecostal homesteaders whose twenty-year experiment in subsistence living was closely tied to their faith, Joshua Doležal experienced a childhood marked equally by his parents' quest for spiritual transcendence and the surrounding Rocky Mountain landscape. Unable to fully embrace the fundamentalism of his parents, he began to search for religious experience elsewhere: in baseball, books, and weightlifting, then later in migrations to Tennessee, Nebraska, and Uruguay. Yet even as he sought to understand his place in the world, he continued to yearn for his mountain home.
One of the memoir's first references to sister Rachel Dolezal comes as Joshua Dolezal watches his mother praying while listening to his father read an entire chapter of the Bible before dinner, “as is customary.” Lawrence Dolezal is reading about Joshua, he who slew Goliath.
“I know she is praying silently, trying to envision me as my namesake — the firstborn leader of his people — the way she thinks of my sister, Rachel, in relation to the Jewish matriarch who wept for her exiled descendants,” it reads.
The book is filled with such imagery of a pious childhood in rural Montana. This family seemed close.
Joshua wrote that he and Rachel were born at home. He wrote of the time “when my mother dressed my sister and me in homemade corduroy overalls and plaid shirts with elk-antler buttons and the four of us went to church, where the other Jesus People struck up folk tunes on their guitars.”
And he wrote of his sister's appearance: “Pale light washes through the window over her neck. Wisps rise from her hair. They are the color of the light.”
The memoir also offers the most complete picture heretofore of Rachel Dolezal's broken marriage. According to Lawrence Dolezal, she was married to a black man, Kevin Moore, and the couple divorced in 2004.
“My sister met her husband in Mississippi while she was finishing an Art degree and sorting boxes for UPS,” Dolezal wrote. “He was the sorter, she the loader.”
Joshua Dolezal saw signs of trouble. In many passages, Rachel Dolezal is portrayed as the victim of domestic violence whose husband won't let her and their young child leave the house — a woman who does what her spouse says when he says it.
“When my sister brought her husband home after they had eloped, she brought the project of their love,” he wrote. “Her job was to say, ‘Baby, could you wash while I dry?' His job was to play along. Our job was to ignore the muffled shouts behind the bedroom door.”
It wasn't just shouts. Without naming Moore, Joshua Dolezal also wrote Rachel reported being “thrown by the hair” and sexually assaulted by her husband while she was asleep.
Joshua Dolezal was angry.
“I murdered him hundreds of times in my sleep,” he wrote of his former brother-in-law.
Eventually, the couple separated.
“Flanked by two paunchy officers,” Dolezal wrote, “she served him the papers and the restraining order, then — because she had no legal right to her son and no proof of the danger he faced — she walked alone down the driveway and slid into the back seat of the deputy's car.”
Of course, a memoir isn't a fact-checked, reported news story. But Joshua Dolezal said he did his best.
“To remember is to reconstruct and interpret,” he wrote in an author's note, “and this is as truthful as story as my memory can tell.”
From the White House
Supporting Survivors Across the Lifespan: World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, 2015
by Carrie Bettinger-Lopez
Today, the international community unites to recognize World Elder Abuse Awareness Day: a time to bring visibility to the issue of violence experienced by older adults, express intolerance for abuse, and work toward prevention.
A serious human rights violation that too often goes ignored, elder abuse can include physical, psychological, or sexual abuse; neglect; and financial exploitation. Global data indicates 4 to 6% of adults over the age of 60 have experienced at least one of these types of abuse in the past month alone—a conservative estimate that amounts to 36 million cases worldwide. In a 2010 study, 1 in 10 community-residing older adults in the United States reported experiencing abuse the previous year.
Though both women and men can experience abuse in later life, greater female longevity, coupled with women's higher risk for poverty and social isolation, suggests that elder abuse is a gendered category of violence. In many respects, violence against older women is an extension of the same social norms that perpetuate violence against women and girls earlier in their lives: entrenched gender bias; impunity for abuse; and unhealthy conceptions of masculinity. In fact, violence by an intimate partner or spouse is a common form of elder abuse, though perpetrators can also be a caregiver outside the family, an adult child, or any other person with whom the victim has a relationship of trust.
We know that abuse transcends cultural, racial, and socioeconomic boundaries, yet conversations about violence against women and girls too often exclude older women, overlooking the impact of age and aging on survivors' help-seeking behavior, perceptions of abuse, and approaches to healing. Earlier this month, the Office of the Vice President and the White House Council on Women and Girls hosted a conversation aimed at ending this exclusion.
Together, we met with leading advocates in the fields of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking to explore how organizations and Federal agencies working to end violence against women can support older victims. Our discussion featured an overview of the nexus between domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and elder abuse; explored how service providers can address age as a part of ongoing efforts to develop more comprehensive and victim-centered services; and identified remaining gaps and barriers for our field to build awareness and responsiveness to the needs of older survivors. Advocates working with older adults highlighted the overlap between age, dependence on a caregiver, and a history of trauma on an individual's increased vulnerability to abuse. Indeed, in some cases, older women who have experienced domestic violence earlier in life face continued abuse in later life; though abusers may change tactics as they grow older, reducing the frequency of physical violence and instead controlling their partners through economic coercion, psychological abuse, and verbal threats.
Acknowledging the intersection of age with gender violence is becoming increasingly important as our world, and our country, is aging. Adults over the age of 65 will represent 20% of the total U.S. population by 2030. Today, women over the age of 50 represent more than one-third of U.S. women. While aging can bring new vulnerabilities and risks for victimization, women remain subject to abuse throughout their lives as a consequence of the same social norms that tolerate violence against women and value female lives to a lesser degree. These constructs also operate within a hierarchy of privileges based on race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender identity, and sexual orientation.
Just as women and girls age and survivors grow older, abuse can continue throughout the life cycle. So, too, can the consequences of trauma and exposure to violence. While victim service providers play a critical role, policymakers must also demonstrate leadership in raising awareness and enhancing the capacity of communities to respond to elder abuse. This year, the Administration is answering that call with a focus on elder justice as a part of the 2015 White House Conference on Aging. This focus reflects Vice President Biden's lifelong commitment to ending violence against girls and women of all ages, and to ensuring survivors of all ages receive the support, care, and services they deserve to heal from violence and abuse throughout their lives.
This World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, I invite you to join the Vice President and our team in the White House in supporting survivors across the lifespan.
Caroline Bettinger-López is the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women.
Help available in cases like Duggar family
by Lynn Ayers
With so much attention in the media these past few weeks 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 the Child Advocacy Center, 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.
It is important to note that youth with sexual behavior problems are more common than most people realize. Fifteen percent of the nearly 825 sexual abuse cases seen at the Child Advocacy Center 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 (www.ncsby.org) which provides public awareness, training in evidence-based treatments, and technical assistance all tied to managing and responding to youth with problematic sexual behavior. Darkness to Light (www.d2l.org) is another excellent resource with prevention tips for parents and youth serving organizations.
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 the abuse. Whether the offender is a sibling, friend, teacher, coach or extended family member, the victims suffer a betrayal of trust and a loss of personal safety that is deeply wounding. Every day at the Child Advocacy Center we are picking up pieces of damaged lives.
As a society, we have failed to protect these victims and we owe them the specialized 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. Too often, the victim blaming that follows in social media is deafening and serves to discourage other victims from coming forward.
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 community's children.
I also encourage parents to learn more about the important work of the Child Advocacy Center by visiting our website at www.smallvoices.org. Professionals working at the center provide forensic interviews, medical evaluations, immediate and ongoing advocacy/support, case coordination and trauma-focused mental health services. 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.
Lynn Ayers is executive director of the Child Advocacy Center.
Cutting lifeline to vulnerable victims of rape is a callous move by the State
by Colette Browne
Last week, during the launch of its annual report, Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) revealed the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, had stripped it of all of its funding - €184,000. After valiantly managing to stay afloat despite funding cuts of 30pc in recent years, RCNI will not be able to withstand this devastating decision. Why should you care? Let's start with the money. In 2014, the entire health budget was €13.1bn. Out of this, Tusla was given a budget of €609m. Of that, 16 rape crisis centres and RCNI, cumulatively, received €4.2m - or 0.7pc. As a proportion of the entire health budget, it comprises just 0.03pc. Apparently, this derisory allocation has been deemed too generous.
Now, consider the prevalence of sexual crime in Ireland today. According to the Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland (SAVI) report, one in five girls and one in six boys experience sexual abuse as children. For adults, the figures are even worse; 42pc of women experience some form of sexual abuse and 10pc are raped, while 28pc of men endure some form of sexual abuse and 3pc are raped.
Behind those sterile numbers, are hundreds and thousands of real people suffering real pain, real trauma and real grief. Yet, the Government has determined that the organisations who help them; who support them when they attend hospitals for invasive rape examinations; who assist them during Garda interviews; who mentor them through the adversarial criminal justice system; who provide education programmes in schools and training to prosecutors and who collate reliable, independently verified statistics to try to highlight gaps in services and improve the efficacy of existing supports; deserve just €4.2m a year. That's how much victims are worth.
These figures are important, because the cut to RCNI, according to Tusla, was due to "funding pressures" in its 2015 budget, which necessitated "efficiency requirements" in all areas. These efficiency requirements already resulted in RCNI's budget being slashed from €292,770 in 2010 to €183,878 in 2014. As of April 1, that meagre allowance has been "discontinued" in its entirety. Tusla has tried to put a positive gloss on this announcement, saying that front-line services to rape crisis centres have not been impacted and that "an additional investment of €500,000 in dedicated resources" will be made as part of its response to issues of sexual violence. However, CEO of Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) Ellen O'Malley Dunlop said she doesn't know where this €500,000 will be spent and her organisation has not been told of any increase in its allowance this year.
Set up in 1985 as a means for rape crisis centres to pool expertise and share information, RCNI has myriad functions but perhaps its most important is its role in data collection and research. It has spent a decade building and perfecting the most comprehensive database in the country in which to detail the experiences of those who visit rape crisis centres. These statistics have been used to inform policy, to create legislation and to highlight gaps and inadequacies in existing support services. They tell counsellors in rape crisis centres what kind of treatment and intervention works best and, by tracking the people who use services over time, provide valuable longitudinal information that informs research. None of this statistical work is very glamorous, but it is just as important as front-line services in the long term because it paints an accurate picture of sexual violence in Ireland and tells policymakers how they can best tackle and prevent it. In fact, as recently as January, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald described RCNI's work as "invaluable".
Tusla's decision to cut RCNI's funding has, however, highlighted some genuine problems in the sector. Currently, the biggest rape crisis centres, in Cork and Dublin, do not use the database. This is nonsensical. In a small country like Ireland, where there are only 16 centres, it is vital that each one is collecting identical data and inputting it into a centralised system. According to Dr Maureen Lyons, Research Manager with the School of Social Justice in UCD, who has worked with RCNI for a decade, unless this is done it makes it impossible for researchers like her to meaningfully compare and use the data. The failure of some rape crisis centres to engage with RCNI has given Tusla an excuse to scrap it. DRCC had been using RCNI's database, but according to Ms O'Malley Dunlop, stopped using it as it believed RCNI was about to lose its funding and, consequently, felt it needed to concentrate on its own database. She also stated that, in an ideal world, she would like to see RCNI retained, but if funding cuts threatened services it was better for the axe to fall on RCNI than on front-line services like counselling. Ms O'Malley Dunlop's concerns are understandable, given DRCC has lost €300,000 and had to reduce its therapy staff by 20pc in recent years, but why should those working in the sector have to choose between front-line services and an independent national body that advocates for victims - especially when the amounts of money involved are so puny?
People should also ask themselves why Tusla is so determined to destroy RCNI instead of working to ensure all of the rape crisis centres use its internationally acclaimed database. Once RCNI closes, an independent voice, which advocates for the victims of sexual violence and holds the Government to account, will be silenced and its functions transferred to a state agency. Does anyone seriously believe that Tusla will be issuing critical reports about the Government's provision of services for victims of rape and abuse? Is it credible that Tusla will release condemnatory statements detailing the failures in its own service?
According to RCNI acting director, Dr Cliona Saidlear, Tusla wanted it to sign a document specifying that it owned the data it collected. Is this because Tusla wanted to ensure that critical information, which embarrassed it and the Government, was not released to the public? It should also be remembered that Tusla's primary function is child protection. Services for adult rape victims are not high on its agenda.
This Government professes to care about gender-based violence, but the National Steering Committee on Violence against Women, which used to hold four meetings a year, hasn't met in over a year. Meanwhile, Dr Saidlear has stated that Minister for Children James Reilly, whose department has responsibility for Tusla, has refused to meet with her to discuss RCNI's fate. It's not too late to save RCNI. All that is needed is some political will, but that has been sadly lacking from this Government to date.
The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre can be contacted on its 24-hour helpline: 1800 77 88 88
New advocacy center for abuse victims opens
PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- A center specifically designed for child victims of sexual assault held an open house Monday.
The Cumberland County Children's Advocacy Center will allow law enforcement, prosecutors and social workers a place to meet and interview alleged victims in a kid-friendly environment. Employees said it will speed up the investigation process into child abuse allegations.
The goal is to reduce trauma to children and families during investigations and to increase prosecution rates.
Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew was the keynote speaker at Monday's event and said the Office of Child and Family Services received more than 19,000 referrals for possible child abuse and about 2,300 cases of child abuse. She said facilities like the new center are an important resource for victims and their families.
"As we continue to work to make the environment safe for children and to protect children from abuse and from neglect the center is a critical component in those efforts," said Mary Mayhew.
Officials at the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office have also expressed their support for the center.
New website offers accessible training for reporting child abuse and neglect
by Shayla Patrick
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Community Partnership of the Ozarks, in collaboration with several local partner agencies, has created an online course to certify caretakers in mandated reporting.
A mandated reporter is anyone in the care, custody, or control of a child. They're obligated to report suspected abuse and neglect to authorities.
The new mandated reporter training website takes users through six interactive modules with video demonstrations and quizzes. The lessons are designed to teach caretakers how to spot signs of possible abuse and neglect, how to make a hotline call, and how the legal system will proceed after a complaint is made. The training takes between 2 - 3 hours to complete and can be stopped and started at any time.
Prior to this, mandated reporter training was offered in-person only, 4 times a year at the Library Center. Creators of this new online program say the digital format makes the information more accessible to all.
"We know everyone has busy schedules so we really wanted to open it up to everyone that fits this target audience and make it a 24/7, 365 day-a-year program that people could really educate themselves on," said Amber Allen, Prevention Specialist for the Community Partnership of the Ozarks.
While this training is not designed to be a replacement of the in-person training, it does comprehensively cover the same materials and allows the user to print a unique certificate showing completion of the course; if a persons schedule would not permit them to attend an in-person training.
Community Partnership worked with Greene County's Children's Division, Greene County Prosecutor's Office and the Child Advocacy Center on the creation of this website.
The training is completely free. Participants are not required to re-certify, unless state statutes related to child endangerment change.
Click here to access the Mandated Reporter Training website.
Catholic priest gets no prison time in Minnesota child sex abuse cases
by Sarah Volpenheim
A Catholic priest convicted of sexually abusing a 16-year-old Minnesota girl will walk free and be deported to India immediately.
Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul, 60, was sentenced Monday to one year and one day behind bars—time he already served while awaiting court proceedings—after taking a plea deal last month. As part of the deal, Jeyapaul pleaded guilty to 4th-degree criminal sexual conduct in Roseau County District Court.
eyapaul had been in custody since he was arrested in his home country of India in March 2012 to face criminal charges he sexually abused two girls while serving as a priest in the Catholic Diocese of Crookston in 2004 and 2005.
The conviction coincided with the Monday resignation of John Nienstedt, the archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, which came 10 days after criminal charges were brought against the archdiocese in connection to sexual abuse of youths by a former clergy member.
There was no conviction in a second case against Jeyapaul, in which he was charged with two counts of 1st-degree criminal sexual conduct. In that case, charges were filed in 2006 after Megan Peterson, who has spoken publicly about the alleged abuse, accused Jeyapaul of sexually abusing her when she was 14 and 15 years old in 2004 and 2005.
Prosecutor Heidi Fisher Davies said she dropped the charges in that case because "there were issues that arose that would have made it very difficult to get a conviction."
She declined to discuss any specifics, saying the information that led to the dismissal is confidential under Minnesota law.
Fisher Davies spoke on behalf of the unidentified victim Monday, saying the victim was hesitant to give a statement in front of Jeyapaul.
She did not want to disclose personal information to him, Fisher Davies said, as she had done before he assaulted her.
Fisher Davies said Jeyapaul had exploited information the victim had disclosed to him, such as the fact the girl wanted to become a nun, to get closer to her in 2005.
The girl first met Jeyapaul on a bus ride to a conference in 2005 when she was 15 years old, where they talked about her interests and aspirations, according to court records.
She told police that shortly thereafter Jeyapaul began calling her at her home and telling her he would marry her if he were younger, court records say.
Then, on her 16th birthday, Jeyapaul forced her to touch him, kissed her and pulled her on top of him while at his home in Greenbush, Minn., she told police.
The girl also told police Jeyapaul later sent her emails asking for forgiveness and declaring his innocence, according to court records.
Fisher Davies pointed to witness testimony and the emails sent between Jeyapaul and the victim as evidence leading to Jeyapaul's conviction in the case.
She said the victim's mother had kept "a really good record of what happened," including copies of emails sent between Jeyapaul and the victim.
The mother had also overheard phone conversations between Jeyapaul and the victim.
A friend of the victim also noticed red flags, Fisher Davies said.
Meanwhile, Peterson expressed frustration with the dismissal of the criminal case in which she was the victim.
"The truth is, this hurts," she wrote in a statement posted on the website of the advocacy group Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. "There are moments when it doesn't feel fair or right at all. Moments when it is hard to swallow and even harder to breathe. When the full weight of this comes barreling at me like a freight train, hits and knocks me down."
At the same time, she also expressed relief that Jeyapaul has been exposed as a pedophile.
"I'm grateful he's a convicted felon at this point," she said by phone.
But Peterson and other members of SNAP also voiced concern about what will happen when Jeyapaul returns to India.
"We worry now about the safety of girls in India near Fr. Jeyapaul," SNAP in a news release said. The organization urged Catholic leaders in the U.S. and India to warn the public about Jeyapaul and other predatory priests.
Jeyapaul was an administrator of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Greenbush, St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Middle River, Minn., and St. Edward's Catholic Church in Karlstad, Minn., in 2004 and 2005.
Vatican to try former ambassador on child porn, sex abuse charges
by Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN
The Pope's former ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Jozef Wesolowski -- accused of offenses related to child abuse -- will be tried at the Vatican beginning next month, the Vatican said Monday.
Wesolowski, 66, is the highest-ranking former Vatican official to be arrested for allegations related to the sexual abuse of minors and the first to be tried on such charges at the Vatican.
Wesolowski is accused of possession of child pornography as well as offenses related to the sexual abuse of minors during his time as papal nuncio to the Dominican Republic.
Before arriving in the Dominican Republic in 2008, Wesolowski was nuncio to Bolivia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. He began his career as a priest in Krakow, Poland, in 1972 and became a bishop in 2000.
In August 2013, the Vatican said it was investigating Wesolowski and removing him from his post, but it did not give a reason. Monsignor Agripino Nunez Collado, a Catholic University rector, said an internal church report linked Wesolowski to child abuse and pedophilia.
"We have formally opened an investigation," Dominican Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito told reporters at the time. "Here we have to work with two legal aspects, first national laws and also international laws in his status as a diplomat, which implies other mechanisms of investigation and judgment."
In January 2014, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi confirmed to the National Catholic Reporter that the Vatican's criminal court was investigating Wesolowski. Pope Francis had announced in July 2013 that he was extending the court's jurisdiction in sex abuse cases to include papal diplomats, making Wesolowski's case the first test of the ruling, the newspaper reported.
The Holy See defrocked Wesolowski in June of 2014.
Wesolowski is not only charged with offenses during his five years as nuncio of Dominican Republic, but also with child pornography charges committed in Rome between August 2013, when he was recalled, and September 2014, when he was arrested, a Vatican statement said. He also faces charges in the Dominican Republic and in his native Poland, Vatican Radio reported in August.
Per the pornography allegations, Italy's Corriere della Sera reported in September that Wesolowski's laptop contained more than 100,000 files with pornographic images and videos, some showing naked teens, between the ages of 13 and 17, forced to have sexual relations with each other or with adults. Some had been downloaded from the Internet and others appeared to have been taken by the victims, the paper reported.
Three minors and their mothers are among the prosecution's witnesses, according to Corriere della Sera. When Wesolowski was presented with a detention order in September, the paper reported, he issued a statement: "I can clear my position and explain the mistake."
Though the Vatican provided few details on the sex abuse charges, Dominican investigative journalist Nuria Esperanza Piera Gainza reported in 2013 that her sources alleged Wesolowski was a regular in Santo Domingo's Colonial Zone, where he would drink alcohol and pay children to perform sexual acts in the Monument to Friar Antonio de Montesinos, on the outskirts of the zone.
"This will be a delicate and detailed procedure, requiring the most careful observations and insights from all parties involved in the trial," the Vatican said.
Wesolowski's trial will involve information technology experts and international legal experts to evaluate evidence gathered in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. The first hearing is scheduled for July 11.
It's been reported that rather than being held in an Italian prison or Vatican detention cell, Wesolowski is under house arrest at a Vatican apartment for medical reasons.
The church's sexual abuse guidelines allow local dioceses to make the initial decisions on the removal of accused priests. Papal nuncios, however, are appointed and supervised by the Vatican.
Before he was elected pope, Francis said he supported a "zero tolerance" approach to clergy sexual abuse.
In 2012, when Francis was still Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, he said that when he was asked for advice by another bishop, "I told him to take away the priests' licenses, not to allow them to exercise the priesthood any more, and to begin a canonical trial in that diocese's court."
Shortly after his election to the papacy, Francis told a senior Vatican official to "act decisively" against sexual abuse and carry out "due proceedings against the guilty."
In July 2013, the pope made it a crime to abuse children sexually or physically on Vatican grounds. The acts were already crimes under church law, but are now specifically outlawed within the Vatican city-state, which is home to hundreds of people.
Child sexual abuse requires a community response and culture change
Prevention also begins with adults, from recognizing the warning signs to parental discussions.
by Amy Stanley
High-profile cases of child sexual abuse surface over and over again. Recently, “19 Kids and Counting” star Josh Duggar admitted to repeatedly sexually abusing his sisters when he was a teenager. The results have included suspension of the reality TV show from the lineup of the TLC cable network and increased attention to child sexual abuse.
As more bloggers and news outlets report on the different aspects of the Duggar case, it's important to understand the issue of child sexual abuse – and what can be done to prevent it.
The best available research suggests that one in four girls and one in six boys are victims of sexual abuse before their 18th birthday. We know that child sexual abuse is severely underreported and that many children delay telling or wait until they're adults to tell about the abuse they suffered.
We know that the closer a child is to the offender, the less likely they will come forward . In addition to the confusion they may experience as a result of being victimized, they may also be fearful of what will happen to them if they disclose the abuse. Many offenders use threats and intimidation, and for some victims, sexual abuse may happen so often it becomes normalized.
Child sexual abuse causes individuals and families significant emotional and physical harm. Child maltreatment costs the United States billions of dollars annually.
The outlook seems bleak, and the issue practically unsurmountable. However, there are several reasons to be hopeful:
• Juvenile offenders are more easily rehabilitated than adult offenders. Juvenile offenders, like Josh Duggar, are less likely to re-offend when they access effective, evidence-based treatment. Studies demonstrate that fewer than 10 percent of juveniles go on to re-offend, and there are many resources available for juvenile sex offenders.
• Child sexual abuse victims are not on a path to being offenders. Some sex offenders have experienced sexual violence of some kind, but most child sexual abuse victims do not become sex offenders. Having been sexually abused as a child does not cause a child to grow up to be a sex offender.
• Support is available. Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine supports child sexual abuse survivors in Cumberland and York counties – both in childhood and adulthood. In fact, over 50 percent of calls to Maine's sexual assault crisis and support line relate to incidents of child sexual abuse.
Sexual Assault Response Services is also an active member of the Cumberland County Children's Advocacy Center (a program of Spurwink), which is a multidisciplinary team committed to making team decisions about the investigation of, response to and prosecution of child sexual abuse cases in Cumberland County.
• Networks across Maine are mobilizing to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse. There are several Maine-based organizations working to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse. Visit the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the Maine Network of Children's Advocacy Centers for more information.
• Prevention is possible – and it starts with adults. Adults who work with children and who have children play a critical role in child sexual abuse prevention. Research demonstrates that programming for children is helpful for children to respond to abuse, but does not prevent it in the first place.
Adults have several opportunities to create change, including knowing the warning signs about child sexual abuse, knowing how to talk about sex and bodies with their children, understanding age-appropriate sexual behavior and modeling good boundaries.
n Family support is paramount. There is still a lot of research being done about what exactly helps to prevent child sexual abuse, and a lot remains unknown. However, we do know that one of the most important protective factors in preventing child sexual abuse and child maltreatment is a supportive family environment.
Child sexual abuse is a community problem with many community solutions. However, it takes a commitment to culture change to prevent child sexual abuse. Our community can and should work together to protect our children before abuse is perpetrated.
Vatican's announcement on tribunal to hold bishops to account on how they dealt with clerical sex abuse complaints should be broadly welcomed
The speed with which commission recommendations were acted on underlines pope's commitment to bringing accountability
The announcement by the Vatican that it is to set up a tribunal to hold bishops to account where they fail to protect children and vulnerable adults from sexually abusive priests, is to be welcomed.
Based at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, but headed by its own secretary, it will examine all cases of bishops accused of abusing their office and failing to report crimes committed by priests in their care. The announcement indicates that Pope Francis is serious about the issue of sexually abusive clergy. It is also important for the credibility of the Commission for the Protection of Minors, which he set up.
As significant was the speed with which the commission's recommendations about such a tribunal were acted on. They were received by the Council of Cardinals, which advises Pope Francis, last Monday and his decision was announced on Wednesday. A similar body will be set up to hold superiors of religious congregations to account.
Both tribunals will include lay people. Not unnaturally, survivor groups have greeted these developments with caution. They've been let down too many times, but indications are positive. It's been a long journey.
Almost 14 years ago the then head of the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy, Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, wrote to Bishop Pierre Pican of Bayeux-Lisieux in France congratulating him after he received a three-month suspended sentence for not co-operating with civil investigations into an abuser priest. Cardinal Hoyos's letter was circulated to Catholic bishops' conferences worldwide.
As long has been the journey of Dublin abuse survivor and member of the Commission for the Protection of Minors, Marie Collins. When she first went public about her abuse she was denounced at Mass in her local parish by a priest who told the congregation she was not to be believed. Last week she was explaining the new tribunal to church authorities. As Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin put it last Friday “. . . the tables have turned”.
Child abuse royal commission puts spotlight on entertainment industry
by Claire Aird
The royal commission into child sexual abuse has launched an investigation into the entertainment industry.
It follows revelations of abuse perpetrated by a number of high-profile entertainers in Australia and abroad, including Hey Dad! star Robert Hughes, children's entertainer Rolf Harris, BBC presenter Jimmy Savile and glam rocker Gary Glitter.
Royal commission chief executive Philip Reed said anyone who had experienced child sexual abuse in the Australian entertainment industry, or had information about it, should come forward.
"Institutions within the royal commission's scope may include television networks, film and television production companies, theatrical production companies, dance, drama and performing arts schools or colleges, casting agencies or any other company, agency or organisation, public or private," he said in a statement.
"Anyone thinking of coming forward should rest assured that the confidentiality of their information will be protected."
Hughes, 65, is serving a minimum sentence of six years' jail after being convicted last year of 10 sexual and indecent assault charges dating back to the 1980s.
He had pleaded not guilty to 11 charges of sexually or indecently assaulting five girls, aged between seven and 15, between 1985 and 1990.
Harris is serving more than five years in a British prison after being found guilty of indecently assaulting four girls.
He recently generated further controversy by reportedly writing a song mocking his victims and calling them "woodworms".
The royal commission has conducted 28 public hearings across Australia into religious and state-run institutions and schools, sporting bodies and a yoga ashram since the Gillard government announced its creation in November 2012.
Last week the commission called for anyone with information about abuse at Geelong Grammar School to come forward.
Child sexual abuse cases don't develop out of ‘thin air,' detectives say
by Jay Meisel
SEBRING — A mere accusation that someone sexually abused a child doesn't automatically result in the accused being arrested on child abuse charges, investigators said Friday.
“We don't just pluck a case out of the air and take it to the state attorney's office, said Sgt. Anthony McGann of the Highlands County Sheriff's Office's Special Victims Unit.
In a couple of recent cases where someone was charged with child sexual abuse, the charges have been debated on Facebook. Some vociferously defend the accused person, saying he's not the type of person to hurt a child. Others say such comments deter victims from coming forward.
Lt. Greg Pearlman, who is with the unit, said it's not unusual for family members of the accused to be skeptical. Often times, he said, the reaction is that, “He's a great guy. He can never do something like that.”
McGann said they get cases where they suspect a parent in a child custody case has coached a child. And they also work cases where they don't end up bringing charges, although in some instances, the detective has “a gut feeling” that something is going on, he said.
There's just not enough evidence to take the case to the state attorney's office, he said. Pearlman said that of the cases presented to the state attorney's office, which resulted in charges bring filed, the vast majority of the accused ended up taking a plea deal.
Pearlman and McGann said they only remember a couple that have gone to trial. Pearlman said cases come from multiple sources, including deputies and the Florida Department of Children and Family Services.
When they get a case, he said, often times a forensic interview is held with the alleged victim, if the child is old enough for that.
After getting basic information for the investigation, such as the statement from the child, the parent or whoever has become aware of the situation, investigators seek evidence to corroborate the accusation, he said.
In some cases, Pearlman said, physical evidence may be available. But often times that's not the case, he said, because the allegations don't stem from a recent circumstance.
“A lot of times the allegations don't come out for days, weeks, months or years,” he said. “The longer the case has been unreported the less likely we're going to have success recovering physical evidence.”
They backtrack and see if it's possible for the crime to have occurred as alleged by the victim, he said.
Pearlman said investigators talk to acquaintances of the victim, as well as family members, who can provide information.
Although Pearlman was reluctant to talk about controlled interviews where the victim and law enforcement may work together to get information from the suspect, he said, that during his career that technique has been used.
Recently, a law was passed that allows victims to present law enforcement with secret recordings of conversations with alleged abuse perpetrators. But, Pearlman said, no cases in Highlands County so far have included that type of evidence.
Assistant State Attorney Steve Houchin said investigators must present authorities with enough evidence to establish probable cause for the allegations. He said that is determined by not only the victim's statement, but also other evidence that supports the allegation.
Massage parlor raids believed to be the biggest human trafficking bust in Utah history
by Ben Winslow
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's attorney general has said he believes raids on massage parlors is the largest human trafficking bust in state history.
More than a dozen women were taken into custody and two people were booked into jail on Tuesday after members of the Utah Attorney General's SECURE Strike Force served warrants on 11 massage parlors from Ogden to West Jordan.
Changfeng Lin, 35, was arrested in a traffic stop in Salt Lake City and booked into the Weber County Jail on suspicion of exploitation of a prostitute and pattern of unlawful activity. According to a probable cause statement filed with the jail and obtained by FOX 13, Lin admitted to owning some of the parlors that were raided.
“SJ, an Asian female located inside Changfeng Lin's Ogden massage parlor, indicated that she performs sexual acts in exchange for money and that her boss is Changfeng Lin,” police wrote in the booking statement, adding that customers told them they were given sexual favors in exchange for money.
Under questioning, police wrote, “Changfeng Lin stated he does not have any other means of income and he gets half of what each worker makes inside his massage parlor.”
In an interview with FOX 13 on Tuesday, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes called the businesses “fronts for human trafficking,” where women were brought in to work in the parlors to pay off debts to people who got them into the United States. The women were initially being treated as crime victims.
One woman, Lihua Huang, was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail late Tuesday on suspicion of misdemeanor prostitution and unlawful conduct at a massage therapy practice. A jail booking statement said that she was found in a room in a Salt Lake City massage parlor with a naked man who told authorities he went there “for the sole purpose of being sexually stimulated by Ms. Huang.”
In recent months, the SECURE Strike Force has begun putting more scrutiny on the massage parlors. On Tuesday, state lawmakers were observing things. Rep. Sophia DiCaro, R-West Valley City, was at the bust of a Midvale massage parlor on April 30.
“I was disturbed,” Rep. DiCaro told FOX 13 on Wednesday.
In the April 30 bust, police handcuffed several women. One woman, Chun Xiang Yu, was charged with exploiting prostitution, a third-degree felony, and misdemeanor unlawful practice of massage therapy. According to charging documents, Yu is the owner of the parlor who also paid for an apartment where several of her workers lived.
Prosecutors accused one of Yu's employees of offering an undercover officer a sexual favor.
Rep. DiCaro said watching the raid opened her eyes about the nature of sex trafficking in Utah.
“That was really hard for me to learn that there are people in our state living like this,” she said of the women who are rounded up in the raids.
Rep. DiCaro said lawmakers have discussed ways to combat human trafficking — and will continue to examine the problem. She said they may look at whether more needs to be done to help women who may be forced to work in the sex trade, and whether more should be done to crack down on customers who keep perpetuating the illegal activity.
“I think there's opportunity to evaluate everything — the level of fines, the ways we can disincentivize this kind of activity,” Rep. DiCaro said. “I definitely think there is appetite to look at this at a more close level.”
Safe house for sex trafficking victims creates a stir in Valrico neighborhood
by Mark Douglas
It looks like many other two-story houses in this middle class Valrico bedroom community, but it's purpose is quite different than any other home in the neighborhood.
It's a safe house for victims of the sex trade, and some neighbors want no part of it. "They may try to steal my car," Marilynn Madson said. "They may try to steal something from my house to get some money."
But the people who operate the Sarasota-based advocacy group, Selah Freedom, disagree. "Give me 10, 15 minutes with that group to help them understand," Elizabeth Fisher said about the safe house for human trafficking victims. "They would be moved to tears with compassion wanting to help."
Fisher says no more than four sex trafficking victims will occupy the home at any given time for up to two weeks before transitioning to a 12-month recovery program at another location. Fisher insists the point of this home is to give the women peace and quiet and a place to reflect on their future after escaping a life of abuse spent in the sex trade.
"These girls are not going to be out walking dogs and roaming the streets," Fisher said. "I'd be more worried about the guy down the street drinking too much and getting rowdy."
Some homeowners in the Valrico neighborhood fear pimps will come looking for their former sex workers, cause trouble and endanger their own sons and daughters in the neighborhood.
Fisher says that's not the case. "That is so Hollywood," she said. "No one comes after these girls."
Maybe so, but Madson questions how the safe house will impact property values by introducing a group home into what is now a family neighborhood. She questions whether Selah Freedom organizers would like living to it. "I would ask each and every one of them if they would want it right next door to them,"Madson said.
"I'm crying because I'm thinking about my own daughter," said Cindy Epstein, another neighbor who opposes the safe house because she thinks it's as a threat to kids in the neighborhood. "There is the highest probability that something can backfire."
Vanessa Morris has never worked in the sex trade but says her mother did. Morris says she escaped a similar fate by going away to live with other relatives to distance herself from her mother's lifestyle. Now, she spends her life helping women escape the sex trade through Selah Freedom, online at selahfreedom.com.
"Selah Freedom is here to help women who were much like my mother who were forced into things that the never thought they would be forced into or coerced into," said Morris. "They have nothing to fear about Selah Freedom being there."
Majority of Utahns Think Child Sex Trafficking Should be Punishable by the Death Penalty
by Bryan Schott
Most Utahns agree with Rep. Paul Ray's proposal to make child sex trafficking a capital offense.
A new UtahPolicy.com survey finds 68% of Utah voters want to impose the death penalty for people convicted of child sex trafficking. Nearly a majority (48%) strongly agree with the idea. 28% oppose the plan. Just 3% are undecided.
Ray (R-Clearfield) was behind the measure to bring back the firing squad as a method of execution in Utah. That bill passed during the 2015 session after sparking global outrage.
Ray has said in numerous interviews that he hopes to bring his current proposal to an interim committee for consideration sometime this summer.
Support for the plan breaks sharply along partisan lines. A majority of Democrats (53%) oppose the idea while Republicans overwhelmingly favor capital punishment (76%) for child sex trafficking. Independent voters also are big supporters of the proposal as 68% say they are in favor.
Every single religious demographic in our survey favors Ray's idea.
- 72% of very active members of the LDS Church say they like the plan
- 82% of somewhat active Mormons are in favor
- 65% of inactive Mormons express support for the idea
- 80% of Catholics favor the plan
- 76% of Protestants back the idea
- Even 67% of those who subscribe to no religion say they are in favor of Ray's proposal.
The survey was conducted June 2-8, 2015 among 601 registered Utah voters. It has a margin of error of +/- 4%.
The Four-Pinocchio claim that ‘on average, girls first become victims of sex trafficking at 13 years old'
by Glenn Kessler
“On average, girls first become victims of sex trafficking at 13 years old.”
–Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), speech on the Senate floor, May 29, 2015
Defense attorneys sometimes warn that bad legal precedents are created through criminal cases against organized crime, because prosecutors take advantage of the fact that most people are willing to overlook legal niceties when hardened criminals are charged.
A similar dynamic appears to involve statistics and sex trafficking. Because sex trafficking is considered horrific, politicians appear willing to cite the flimsiest and most poorly researched statistics — and the media is content to treat the claims as solid facts. After Klobuchar made these remarks, publications across Minnesota, including the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, repeated them without any due diligence.
Many politicians have touted this statistic, but Klobuchar appears particularly fond of it. She even cited it in an opinion article, co-written with Cindy McCain, that appeared in The Washington Post in 2014.
But, if you think about it for half a minute, this statistic makes little sense on its face. After all, if it is the “average,” then for all those who entered trafficking at age 16 or 17, there have to be nearly equivalent numbers who entered at age 9 or 10. But no one seriously believes that. Upon investigation, this claim crumbles to dust.
Klobuchar's staff claimed they got the statistic from U.S. government agencies such as the FBI. Indeed, when the stat was mentioned in her Washington Post article, a link was provided to the Web site of the FBI, though not to any particular study.
But FBI spokesmen say this is not their figure. The Justice Department also says it is not a DOJ figure.
The FBI did once post on the Web an opinion article, written by Baltimore prosecutors, that mentioned the claim that the average age was 13. That article cited as a source a 2001 report written by Richard J. Estes and Neil Weiner of the University of Pennsylvania. But that's not the same as an “FBI number.”
We have previously examined the 2001 report, as it was the source of another false claim — that more than 300,000 children were “at risk for commercial sexual exploitation.”
The data in the report, which was not peer-reviewed, is almost two decades old. The primary author no longer supports it, saying it is outdated. “The world of the 1990s … was quite a different one from that in which we live today,” Estes told The Fact Checker.
In any case, there is just a brief mention of the “average age” in the 260-page report, and the number was derived from only 107 interviews with girls, found either in the street or in the care of human service agencies. So it's pretty slim research for such a widely cited statistic.
Yet somehow this figure lives on in the echo chamber of Washington discourse. The worst example we found was a Department of Homeland Security pamphlet for school administrators that boldly displayed both the claim about 300,000 children and the average age of 13. It listed two sources: The Department of Justice and the congressionally mandated Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
But the DOJ reference was to another opinion article that cited the Estes/Weiner report, not an official DOJ finding. And the CMEC fact sheet referred to a report by Shared Hope International, an anti-trafficking group, which in turn relied on … the same Estes/Weiner report.
So one government agency appears to cite two other government entities — but in the end the source of the data is the same discredited and out-of-date academic paper. It would be amusing if it were not so sad.
The Estes/Weiner report is also uncritically cited in other government documents, such as a Health and Human Services 2009 review of the literature on human trafficking.
By their nature, surveys of sex workers are mainly anecdotal and only provide a snapshot of a particular situation in time. So it's a mistake to generalize so broadly from any such survey.
If anything, there is some indication that the “13” number may best refer to the average age of a street sex worker's first sexual encounter. This was reflected in a 1982 survey of 200 current and former juvenile and adult street sex workers in the San Francisco area in which the average age of first intercourse was 13.5 years, as well as in other surveys. But entry in the sex trade is more likely to be between 15 and 16 years old.
A careful 2008 study of 329 sexually exploited youth in New York City for the National Institute for Justice, by researchers at John Jay College, found that the average age of entry into the sex trade was 15.15 years for females and 15.28 years for males. But the researchers warned that the data is fuzzy because there is no way to check the veracity of the accounts offered by the youth. Interestingly, 90 percent of those interviewed reported not having a pimp.
Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, an associate professor at Arizona State University and director of the Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research, makes a distinction between those who enter sex work before and after age 18. (The Federal Trafficking Victims Act of 2000 set 18 as a dividing line for the sale of sex, no matter the age of consent in a state.) That makes a difference, because surveys indicate that most sex workers enter the business after the age of 18.
She surveyed nearly 500 adults who were arrested and sent to a court-ordered diversion program. About 30 percent engaged in sex work before age 18, and reported their average age of entry was 14.7 years. The rest, who engaged in sex work after age 18, reported an average age of entry of 25.1 years.
New Zealand has legalized prostitution and regularly issues reports on the sex trade in the country. A 2007 survey found that fewer than 20 percent of those surveyed entered the sex trade before the age of 18.
In fact, a 2011 John Jay study, also funded by the National Institute of Justice, of the sex trade in Atlantic City found very few examples of commercial sexual exploitation of minors. (Here, again, nearly 90 percent of workers reported they had no pimp.)
Klobuchar's staff expressed surprise at our findings and said the senator should not be singled out because she had relied on what she considered to be government data. “We need to look more closely at the statistics,” said one aide. “There has been no reason until now to question the data that we have used from government agencies.”
“Members of Congress, including Senator Klobuchar, relied on data currently available on the Web sites of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Health and Human Services, among others,” said spokeswoman Julia Louise Krahe. “There is a need for better data in this area, that is why the recently passed Cornyn-Klobuchar legislation to combat sex trafficking includes an effort to identify data gaps that can help prevent children from becoming victims of trafficking.”
The Pinocchio Test
All too often, politicians, the media and government agencies have cited thinly sourced and dubious statistics when speaking about human trafficking, apparently because numbers such as “13” have shock value. But advocates hurt their cause when they cite numbers that are easily debunked.
The Fact Checker expects politicians to verify data before using it in public statements, and that certainly means taking an extra step to determine the source of the information. But The Washington Post and other news organizations also failed by allowing Klobuchar's claim to be published as an actual fact. And Homeland Security should withdraw its inaccurate pamphlet. This is a Four-Pinocchio statistic and should no longer be cited.
Previous fact checks on human trafficking statistics:
The bogus claim that 300,000 U.S. children are ‘at risk' of sexual exploitation
The false claim that human trafficking is a ‘$9.5 billion business' in the United States
Why you should be wary of statistics on ‘modern slavery' and ‘trafficking'