From the Department of Justice
Departments of Justice, Labor and Homeland Security Announce Phase II of Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team Initiative
Phase II Will Build on Momentum of Highly Effective Phase I to Further Enhance Interagency Anti-Trafficking Efforts
The Departments of Justice, Labor (DOL) and Homeland Security (DHS) today announced the launch of Phase II of the Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team (ACTeam) Initiative aimed at streamlining federal criminal investigations and prosecutions of human trafficking offenses.
Phase II ACTeams will be convened in up to six selected districts around the country, following a competitive, nationwide, interagency selection process. The ACTeams, comprised of federal prosecutors and investigators representing multiple federal enforcement agencies, will implement a joint strategic action plan to develop high-impact federal investigations and prosecutions, vindicate the rights of human trafficking victims, bring traffickers to justice and dismantle human trafficking networks.
“Human traffickers prey on some of the most vulnerable members of our society to exploit them for labor, for sex and for servitude of all kinds,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch. “Their crimes, appropriately described as modern-day slavery, have no place in a nation that has overcome the scourge of slavery. That's why the Department of Justice is committed—and I am personally determined—to hold human traffickers accountable, provide support to trafficking survivors, and stand up for the rights and the dignity that they deserve.”
“Labor trafficking affects workers who are vulnerable to exploitation for a number of reasons, who may not know their workplace rights, and may be afraid to raise their voices,” said Secretary Thomas E. Perez of DOL. “The challenges we face as a nation and a government demand unprecedented levels of interagency collaboration. Through these ACTeams, we're bringing our respective departments' collective resources and expertise to bear, building a whole even greater than the sum of our individual parts. DOL will remain a vigorous and unfaltering partner during phase II. Together we can ensure workers receive the wages they've earned, restore victims' basic human rights and bring traffickers to justice.”
“The ACTeam Initiative has been an important tool in our collective ability to combat sex trafficking, forced labor and domestic servitude here in the United States,” said Secretary Jeh Johnson of DHS. “This is not a problem that we can afford to ignore which is why, under a banner of shared responsibility and collaboration, the Departments of Justice, Labor and Homeland Security are recommitting ourselves to the fight against human trafficking by expanding the ACTeam Initiative. Through the unified voice of the Blue Campaign, the Department of Homeland Security will continue to combat human trafficking through the guiding philosophy that we are at our best when we work together.”
These departments collaborated to develop the ACTeam Initiative to streamline rapidly expanding human trafficking enforcement efforts, focusing on forced labor, international sex trafficking and sex trafficking of adults by force, fraud and coercion. Project Safe Childhood and the Innocence Lost National Initiative continue to focus on sex trafficking of minors and sexual exploitation of minors.
Drawing together federal prosecutors and federal agents from multiple investigative agencies, ACTeams streamline coordination on the front lines of federal human trafficking investigations and prosecutions, while also enhancing collaboration between front-line enforcement efforts and national human trafficking subject matter experts in the Justice Department's Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys and FBI Civil Rights Unit, DHS's Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations, DOL's Wage and Hour Division and the Office of the Inspector General. In 2011, the Attorney General and the Secretaries of DHS and DOL announced Phase I of the ACTeam Initiative and the designation of six Phase I Pilot ACTeam sites in Atlanta; El Paso, Texas; Kansas City, Missouri; Los Angeles; Memphis, Tennessee; and Miami, following a rigorous interagency selection process.
During the ACTeam Phase I period, Fiscal Years 2012-2013, federal human trafficking prosecutions involving forced labor, international sex trafficking and sex trafficking of adults rose by 35 percent nationwide, reflecting strong partnerships among U.S. Attorneys' Offices, the Civil Rights Division's Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, and non-governmental victim assistance organizations and task forces led by U.S. Attorneys' Offices.
The ACTeams played a significant role in leading these nationwide advances. In ACTeam Districts, prosecutions of forced labor, international sex trafficking and adult sex trafficking rose even more markedly than they did nationally, due to the force-multiplier effect of interagency commitment to implementing coordinated, joint anti-trafficking strategies and due to advanced training, expertise and operational support provided to the Phase I ACTeams. Comparing federal forced labor, international sex trafficking and adult sex trafficking prosecutions during the ACTeam Phase I period of Fiscal Years 2012-2013, to the pre-Phase I period of Fiscal Years 2010-2011:
Cases filed increased by:
119 percent in ACTeam Districts,
18 percent in non-ACTeam Districts; and
35 percent nationwide.
Defendants charged increased by:
114 percent in ACTeam Districts,
12 percent in non-ACTeam Districts; and
28 percent nationwide.
Defendants convicted increased by:
86 percent in ACTeam Districts,
14 percent in non-ACTeam Districts; and
26 percent nationwide.
ICE, UK National Crime Agency enhance joint efforts to combat child exploitation
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Sarah R. Saldaña and U.K. National Crime Agency (NCA) Director General Keith Bristow officially signed an agreement June 25 in London to provide information on the travel of convicted child sex offenders between the two countries.
The agreement between ICE and the NCA establishes their intention to provide each other with known international travel of individuals previously convicted of a sexual crime against a child. The information is to be used for the purposes of enhancing the interdiction or investigation of these convicted child sex offenders, as well as making informed decisions regarding their admittance to the respective countries.
The agreement, believed to be the first of its kind between two countries, also notes the intention of the two national law enforcement agencies to offer support and best practices to each other for the purposes of combatting the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism as part of each country's efforts to protect children from sexual abuse.
The exchange of information on the international travel of convicted child sex offenders is a priority for ICE. In fiscal year 2014, ICE provided notice of travel from the U.S. of approximately 2,300 convicted child sex offenders to over 120 countries. This information exchange effort, managed by ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) as “Operation Angel Watch,” is in support of ICE's role in the criminal investigations of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents traveling to a foreign country for the purpose of engaging in unlawful sexual conduct with someone under 18 years of age, which is a serious violation of U.S. law.
In the U.S., HSI's Child Exploitation Investigations Unit conducts, manages, and coordinates national and international child sexual exploitation investigations, including sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism. In the U.K., the NCA's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command (CEOP) works with child protection partners across the U.K. and overseas to identify the main threats to children and coordinates activity against these threats to bring offenders to account. CEOP protects children from harm online and offline, directly through NCA led operations and in partnership with local and international agencies.
Young sex abuse victims and families get help at Safe Harbor
Sex Abuse Healing Starts at Children's Advocacy Centers
by PAMELA GARRETT
With so much attention in the media recently regarding the Duggar family and the actions of their eldest son, Josh, when he was a teenager, numerous issues have been raised surrounding sexual behavior problems in youth, and how parents and caregivers can appropriately respond.
For children's advocacy centers, many of our most heart-wrenching cases involve families in which sibling abuse has occurred. Parents are distraught about the victimization of one child, while terribly worried about the legal consequences to another child. The anguish of parents as they struggle to provide emotional support and effective intervention to both the child victim and the child with sexual behavior problems is real and palpable.
Thankfully, child advocacy centers such as Safe Harbor and our multidisciplinary teams can help Fredericksburg-area families navigate this difficult time. Our center and MDTs serve as a gateway to services that can help victims heal and ensure youth with sexual behavior problems receive effective treatment and are held accountable for changing their behavior.
It is important to note that youth with sexual behavior problems are more common than most people realize. Some 18 percent of the more than 315,000 sexual abuse cases seen by children's advocacy centers across the nation last year involved an offender under the age of 18—most often a sibling, cousin or friend from the neighborhood or school.
There are many reasons children and youth may develop a sexual behavior problem: lack of privacy and boundaries; exposure to sexualized materials or environment; curiosity that gets out of hand; a sexual abuse history of their own and others.
Whatever the reason, it is critical to ensure these youth receive evidence-supported treatment to interrupt this cycle of behavior, so that all children in the home can be safe. If we can identify these issues and interrupt this behavior early and appropriately with treatment, we as a society may ultimately prevent future child sexual abuse from occurring.
One excellent resource for parents and professionals is the National Center for the Sexual Behavior of Youth, which provides public awareness, training in evidence-based treatments and technical assistance all tied to managing and responding to youth with problematic sexual behavior. Helpful information for parents and links to treatment providers can also be found through the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, a network of mental health experts in child trauma intervention.
Finally, and most importantly, at the heart of every child sexual abuse case are the child victims. We should not minimize the trauma young victims suffer as a result of abuse by youth with sexual behavior problems. Whether the offender is a sibling, friend or extended family member, the victims suffer a betrayal of trust and a loss of personal safety that is deeply wounding.
Similar to other forms of child sexual abuse where the offender is within the family, these child victims struggle with both their fear of continued abuse and their love for the family member who has harmed them.
As a society, we have failed to protect these victims and we owe them the evidence-based treatment needed to heal, as well as our support as they go through the challenging healing process. Critical to that healing process is the privacy and space to heal outside of the glare of the television camera and 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 public scrutiny. The loss of privacy and control over this most intimate part of their life can mirror the loss of control felt at the time of the abuse. Some adult survivors find speaking out about their experiences empowering. However, the common thread in this experience is one of choice—the victim made the decision to tell the story, and exerted some control over the timing and narrative, and, is psychologically ready for such 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 (Safe Harbor has provided intervention/services to over 1,000 children since opening in 2009), I hope this instance will only further draw attention to the issue of child abuse and how we all are responsible for protecting our communities' children.
I also encourage parents and caregivers to visit the National Center for the Sexual Behavior of Youth, and to learn more about the services offered by local children's advocacy centers. With more than 800 children's advocacy centers across the country, there are intervention and prevention services readily available so those in similar situations to the Duggar family may seek the help and treatment they need and deserve.
Pamela Garrett is executive director of the Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center in Fredericksburg.
The Hollywood Sex Abuse Documentary That You Almost Couldn't See
A year after an underage Hollywood sex abuse scandal dominated headlines, Amy Berg's documentary about a pedophilia ring in the industry is finally making its way to theaters. But it was a maddeningly difficult road to get there.
by Adam B. Vary
There is a moment in the new documentary An Open Secret that puts into sharp relief how one of the most notorious convicted pedophiles of the last 15 years, Marc Collins-Rector, was able to ingratiate himself within Hollywood's elite, and those close to them. In a grainy, desaturated shot pulled from what looks like an old VHS tape, we see a young actor walk up to the entrance of Collins-Rector's lavish Los Angeles mansion. It is likely 1999. Collins-Rector greets the actor with a hug, and a not-that-subtle pat on the butt.
“Hi, honey,” says Collins-Rector. “Your buddy's here.”
“Who's that?” says the actor.
“Mr. Huffington,” says Collins-Rector — a presumed reference to Michael Huffington, one of the wealthy and well-connected investors in Collins-Rector's doomed internet venture Digital Entertainment Network (or DEN).
“I'm very excited,” says the actor, but sounding like the opposite.
The short clip is from the DEN docuseries Rawleywood . And the actor is Boy Meets World star Ben Savage, who is now 34 years old. (A representative for Savage did not respond to multiple emails from BuzzFeed News seeking a comment.) And it's just one of many uncomfortable moments in An Open Secret .
The documentary creates a stark and sobering portrait of a loose network of Hollywood professionals — some outsize personalities like Collins-Rector, others Hollywood insiders with far smaller profiles — who use their positions of power and influence to sexually abuse and exploit underage (in the film's case, male) actors whose nascent careers they're supposed to be supporting. The movie, directed by the Oscar-nominated filmmaker Amy Berg ( Deliver Us From Evil ), premiered to some fanfare last November at the DOC NYC festival. But despite Berg's pedigree and its startling, headline-grabbing subject matter, no top-tier distributors picked up the film for release.
While there isn't a particularly robust distribution market for independent feature documentaries, there is a healthy pipeline of brand-name theatrical, VOD, and television outlets that regularly pick up standout feature documentaries and make it relatively easy for a wide, mainstream audience to see them. But that has not been the road An Open Secret has traveled.
Instead, the film sat on a shelf for seven months as its producers hammered out an unusual distribution strategy with Vesuvio Entertainment, which typically releases low-budget horror films, and Rocky Mountain Pictures, a distributor of politically conservative films best known for releasing 2016: Obama's America . The result is a slow platform release that started in Seattle and Denver on June 5, expanding to New York the following weekend, with the film ultimately working its way through at least 20 cities for as long as there is theatrical demand. (A digital release is tentatively planned for the fall.)
But it's Los Angeles, the next city on An Open Secret 's docket, that matters most to Berg, and the victims and victims' advocates who appear in her film. The majority of the documentary is set there, all of the abuse detailed in it happened there, and, of course, it is where most everyone in the entertainment industry who could do something to prevent child sexual abuse lives and works.
An Open Secret will be released in Los Angeles on July 17 — opening in one theater, the Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills.
This is, to be sure, a welcome turn of events for a film that may never have been seen by the public at all. But looking into why it has been so difficult to allow people to see An Open Secret provokes some vexing and complicated answers, including the film's use of the man who accused director Bryan Singer of sexual abuse, objections from one of the most powerful labor unions in Hollywood over its presence at all in the film — and, it seems, the abiding stigma of child sexual abuse itself.
Perhaps the most obvious and glaring complication facing Berg and An Open Secret is what to do with Michael Egan, the former child actor who famously filed lawsuits in April 2014 accusing director Bryan Singer and Hollywood executives Gary Goddard, Garth Ancier, and David Neuman of sexually assaulting him when he was a minor. All the lawsuits were eventually dropped, however, and earlier this month, Egan's former lawyer, Jeffrey Herman, issued a public apology to Ancier and Neuman for filing the suits: “Based on what I know now, I believe that I participated in making what I now know to be untrue and provably false allegations,” Herman said. He also reportedly paid a settlement to Ancier and Neuman of at least $1 million. (Herman did not, however, issue apologies to Singer or Goddard.)
Egan, meanwhile, was indicted in December 2014 for unrelated wire and securities fraud in North Carolina. And yet, despite the cloud of serious doubt Egan's own actions have cast over his trustworthiness, he remains a sizable presence in An Open Secret — he even gets the literal final word in the film, in which he references his alleged abusers, just not by name. “I've still never seen any retribution towards those assholes,” he says. “Never seen a damn thing. I mean, you look at them as they still sit on their pedestals… The same thing's probably going on — could've went on last night with someone. Who knows?”
In a phone interview with BuzzFeed News, Berg said that she first met Egan roughly a year before he filed his lawsuits against Singer , Goddard, Ancier, and Neuman. Berg's interest, she said, was in Collins-Rector and DEN, and Egan was named as a co-plaintiff in a 2000 lawsuit against Collins-Rector and his business partners, alleging systematic sexual abuse. She wanted to interview Egan about his experiences there.
“Mike Egan was about a year sober when we met him,” said Berg. “Did I think he was on the up-and-up? I mean, I knew that he was abused by Marc Collins-Rector. His story matched with all the other kids that we spoke to [who had been] at [Collins-Rector's] house.”
Berg clearly still believes Egan's account of his experiences with Collins-Rector and DEN in An Open Secret, and has used a great deal of it in the final version of her documentary. Most poignantly, Egan connected Berg with Mike Ryan, another plaintiff in the suit against Collins-Rector, whose life disintegrated after he entered DEN's orbit.
Even so, BuzzFeed News has screened both the version of An Open Secret that premiered at DOC NYC in November and the version that debuted publicly this month, and several sections of the film involving Egan have been cut for the theatrical release. They include any mention of Ancier or Neuman, as well as Egan's personal account of breaking into Collins-Rector's home to copy as many documents as he could find. (Journalist John Connolly, whose reporting on Collins-Rector and DEN is featured extensively in An Open Secret , now recounts this effort instead.) While clips of Singer remain in the film — including an interview with the director for the DEN series Rawleywood — Egan's allegations against Singer have been cut as well. There is no mention of any of Egan's lawsuits, nor of his indictment for fraud.
Berg declined to speak on the record about the cuts to her film, but she did emphasize that she never set out to make a movie about Egan. Along with experts and advocates, she interviewed five other victims on camera for An Open Secret , and said that she spoke with many more who just were not ready to tell their stories on the record. But Egan's lawsuits consumed enormous media attention last year just as Berg was in the process of editing the first cut of her movie. “My film was never going to be about lawsuits and settlements,” she said. “This is about an issue that we are trying to get attention for in terms of how children are being policed within the industry.”
In a way, however, Egan's tarnished reputation also underlines just how destructive child sexual abuse can be for its victims. “Mike Egan is a great example of what happens to a person who doesn't resolve his issues at the right time,” Berg said, choosing her words carefully. According to Anne Henry — co-founder of BizParentz, a nonprofit resource for parents of child actors that consulted extensively with Berg for An Open Secret — those issues also shouldn't nullify Egan's experiences with Collins-Rector.
“We believe Michael Egan, and we did from the beginning,” she told BuzzFeed News in a phone interview. “It was frustrating to see that the public doesn't always see that victims of abuse do other things they shouldn't do. They're not going to ever be the perfect witness. We knew that [Egan] had a difficult, difficult road. But just because he had a difficult road in other areas doesn't mean that he is lying about this. It just doesn't.”
Henry's outlook stems from years of speaking with abuse victims and their parents, collecting what she called “file cabinets of information” on alleged sex abusers of children in Hollywood. (That process started roughly 10 years ago, when Henry and her business partner noticed that headshots of their kids were being sold on eBay, a chilling practice also detailed in An Open Secret .) And, as is the case with so many allegations of other forms of sexual assault, Henry has seen blame rebound back onto the child actors who try to come forward about their abuse. “They end up not being able to prosecute lots of these cases because the instant thing that lawyers will say is, ‘Well, you're an actor, aren't you? You're a trained liar,'” Henry said.
She said she wouldn't have gotten involved with An Open Secret — let alone turned over BizParentz's voluminous files on sex abusers and victims to the filmmakers — had Berg's approach fallen into familiar victim-blaming tropes. “We wouldn't have done it had it turned into, Those evil stage parents, they should know better ,” said Henry, who is interviewed in the documentary as an expert. “Or, Child actor gone bad , when, behind the scenes, we knew there probably was more to the story about [that] child actor gone bad. But you just can't come out and say that.”
As it happens, Berg said she did meet with Corey Feldman, one of the most prominent examples of a child actor who wrote a memoir about “going bad” with a serious drug addiction after experiencing sexual abuse as a child. And former child star Todd Bridges appears in the film's opening sequence discussing how an infamous “very special episode” of his sitcom Diff'rent Strokes about pedophilia struck a disquieting chord with the sexual abuse Bridges had himself already endured.
But neither of those actors are featured heavily, because Berg didn't want her documentary to become overwhelmed by celebrity. “This film was always about the voices that you haven't heard of,” she said. When Berg first met Egan, no one had heard of him, but his lawsuits transformed him into a quasi celebrity. By cutting much of his material out of the film, Berg could pull the focus back to where she felt it was most needed: on the plight of anonymous child actors whose dreams of show-business success were exploited and destroyed by sexual predators working in the entertainment industry.
By coming forward about their abuse, however, this small group of unknown child actors had the potential to make a major splash. “We knew that there would be backlash,” said Henry. “We knew that some of the perpetrators wouldn't appreciate it, and some of them have some powerful friends.”
For Berg, that pushback appeared to manifest most acutely with the actors union SAG-AFTRA. The union's objections stem from Berg's interview with Michael Harrah, a manager of child actors, and co-founder and former chair of the guild's Young Performers Committee. In the film, Harrah admits to having underage actors live in his home unsupervised. One of those actors, identified in the film as Joey C. and now an adult, alleges in An Open Secret that Harrah abused him while he stayed there. When Joey calls Harrah on camera to confront him about his abuse, Harrah appears to admit to it, saying, “If there's something unwanted, I shouldn't have done that. And there's no way I can undo that.” In his subsequent interview with Berg, Harrah backtracks. “I don't know what Joey is remembering,” he says, “but I don't remember anything that would have caused him to feel that way.”
Harrah also tacitly admitted he himself was abused when he was a child actor. “Well, I guess so,” he says. “It wasn't uncommon, let's put it that way.” But he also repeatedly downplays the severity of child sexual abuse in Hollywood. On the phone with Joey C. in the documentary, Harrah says, “When I've had the opportunity to talk to somebody about it, I've said, ‘Look, this is not a terrible thing unless you think it is. It's just something that happens to you in your life.'” In his interview with Berg, Harrah goes even further. “So much of what goes on in these situations happens almost by accident,” he says. “A lot of the ones that I at least was aware of, they just sort of fell into it.” Berg asks Harrah point-blank if he is attracted to young boys. His response: “Not particularly, no.”
Meanwhile, Henry alleges that in Harrah's capacity as a member of the Young Performers Committee, he opposed sending out a bulletin to union members warning them about Bob Villard, a publicist who had been selling online head shots and photographs of child actors, often not wearing shirts. (Harrah has said he cannot recall specifically blocking this effort.) Although Harrah has since left the Young Performers Committee, it is his historical connection to SAG-AFTRA that caught the guild's attention, and its ire.
“We were concerned about the accuracy of the portrayal of our organization throughout the film,” said Pamela Greenwalt, chief communications and marketing officer for SAG-AFTRA, in a phone interview with BuzzFeed News that also included the union's COO and general counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. They mainly contended it was misleading of the film to identify Harrah as a member of the Young Performers Committee, since he had left the committee by the time it was completed, and they objected to a brief shot of the SAG-AFTRA headquarters in Los Angeles.
As first reported by Deadline, after An Open Secret screened at DOC NYC in November, a lawyer for SAG-AFTRA's lawyer sent a letter to Berg and her producers demanding that the film stop identifying Harrah as a member of the committee, and remove all references to and mentions of SAG-AFTRA from the film. “Whatever allegations may have been leveled against Mr. Harrah have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with SAG-AFTRA or any of its committees,” SAG-AFTRA's lawyer told Berg's lawyer, in a letter provided to BuzzFeed News by Greenwalt.
After some exhaustive back and forth, Berg ultimately decided to insert a title card at the end of the film that reveals Harrah resigned from the committee soon after his interview with Berg.
“It turned into a legal exchange instead of a human exchange,” she said. “I don't think that's the right way to deal with an issue like this. … The film is not about Hollywood lawyers and lawsuits. This film is about child abuse. That's what this discussion should revolve around.”
After her interview, Berg subsequently emailed BuzzFeed News to further emphasize her point. “By obfuscating the film based on lawsuits and a Hollywood power game in the media (just like the Bill Cosby story), we are further invalidating these kids' voices from being heard and condoning further bad behavior in the industry,” she wrote. “The point of the film is to ask the question — should people who have abused in the past be allowed on movie sets. If the answer is no, we have to find a way to stop it. Kids are not going to stop pursuing a Hollywood dream, even more so with the prevalence of young kids programming so readily accessible. So how do we protect them better in their pursuit of this dream?”
That is a sentiment that Greenwalt and Crabtree-Ireland said that SAG-AFTRA shares with Berg. But multiple times over the course of their lengthy conversation with BuzzFeed News, they both expressed frustration that they believe Berg was not forthcoming to the guild with all the details she knew about Harrah, who, Greenwalt was sure to specify, was “not connected to us.”
In truth, SAG-AFTRA's presence in An Open Secret is used, at most, as a backdrop to understand Harrah's significant position within the ecosystem of child actors in Hollywood. But the “scant information,” Crabtree-Ireland said, with which Berg allegedly provided them drove guild officials into a state profound apprehension about the documentary.
One of the guild's legal letters to Berg underlines this anxiety perfectly: “The reason why we have asked that references to … SAG-AFTRA and to any of its committees be removed from An Open Secret is because of the possibility that a reasonable viewer of this documentary will falsely conclude that the union or its Young Performers Committee somehow has some relationship to Mr. Harrah's allegedly improper conduct.”
There is a reason why a powerful organization like SAG-AFTRA wants to erase any connection they could have to An Open Secret or its subject matter, and why Michael Egan's presence in the film is so problematic. For many, the stain of pedophilia is like the plague crossed with leprosy, an infection of simultaneous shame and horror that seems to permanently disfigure and dishearten anything it touches. Why wouldn't SAG-AFTRA want to do everything it could to avoid it? How could Egan possibly escape unscathed?
And yet somehow, Evan Henzi, a pedophilia survivor whose story is covered in great detail in An Open Secret , appears to have done it. “Child abuse in general, there's such a taboo around the subject, people are even nervous to talk about [it],” the 21-year-old told BuzzFeed News in a phone interview. “ I'm so nervous to say ‘child sexual abuse' out loud. It's insane.”
It turns out, however, that talking about child sexual abuse out loud is precisely how Henzi believes he's been able to get past it.
As explicated in An Open Secret , Henzi signed with his former manager Martin “Marty” Weiss when he was 11, driven in part by his passion for singing, and also because Weiss also represented Henzi's cousin. In the film, Weiss is presented as a rather dogged advocate for his clients, and a near constant presence in Henzi's life, appearing in family home videos during holidays and birthday parties.
He was also sexually abusing Henzi. “He showed me porn,” Henzi says about Weiss in the film. “And he said, ‘Oh, these are clients having sex with their managers.'” The sections of An Open Secret about Weiss are bracingly stark and intimate. In one scene, taken from a home movie of Henzi's birthday party, Weiss gives another young boy a back massage against a chair. “I'm getting a massage and it feels great, and I don't care whether or not it looks bad,” says the boy, provoking nervous laughter from Henzi's mom, who is shooting the video.
“It's above the waist,” says Weiss. “It's not bad.”
Another crucial scene, however, proves how uncommonly resourceful Henzi proved to be in taking action against his abuser: Henzi convinces Weiss to take him for a drive, records their conversation, and gets Weiss to confess to abusing him. “Look at it this way, Evan. I never would have done anything to you if you hadn't expressed interest,” says Weiss in the recording. “That situation that happened at Penn State? Those kids didn't want it.”
Weiss was arrested in large part due to Henzi's actions, and Weiss ultimately pleaded no-contest to two counts of lewd acts with a child, and two counts of sexual abuse.
Henzi can't explain how he had the wherewithal to confront his abuser, come forward to testify at his trial, and then talk about it at length in a feature documentary. “It's just such a personal thing to go through, and then to hand over your story to somebody to have them tell it, there's a lot of trust involved,” he said. “And I think a lot of victims have trust issues. I know I do.”
He was also wary of talking in public about his abuse because Weiss was released from jail six months after his arrest. And while he is now a registered sex offender, Henzi is not quite sure where Weiss is. “I was worried that he could try to harm me, because he threatened me before when I was younger,” Henzi said.
Henzi and Henry both said they have heard that Weiss was attempting to work in the entertainment industry again, and a title card at the end of An Open Secret alleges that Weiss is still managing Evan's cousin, and has been working with an organization to help lighten sex offender laws in California. When reached by BuzzFeed News via email, however, Henzi's cousin Darian Weiss (no relation) said, “Marty Weiss does not manage me now nor has he since the day of his arrest.” When asked whether he still runs a production company with Marty called Two Weiss Guys Productions, Darian said, “No we do not,” and then said he had hired legal counsel who had advised him to no longer respond to any media requests. (Marty Weiss' lawyer has not responded to multiple emails, and did not return a phone call to his office from BuzzFeed News seeking a comment.)
Despite the uncertainty of Weiss' whereabouts, Henzi has been out in front promoting An Open Secret in TV interviews and on social media, and he even co-wrote and recorded an original song for the film. Henzi told BuzzFeed News that in college, he wants to focus on studying how to help other victims come forward, a process he hopes can be spurred on if enough people get to see An Open Secret . “We know that there's other victims, but it's not our place to call [them] out,” he said. “I'm just hoping that these victims do see this [film], and decide to come forward. … I think that the more that I talk about it, the easier it will be down the line to help other people to communicate in general about the subject and not feel like we have to keep it inside.”
With his focus on helping victims, Henzi seems to have set aside his childhood interest in an acting career for now. But he refuses to allow what Weiss did to him define what he makes of his life.
“Music is always going to be a part of my life,” he said. “I'm not going to let me being abused by these guys just destroy that. I'm not going let that destroy anything I want to do in my life.”
Sandusky Fine Money Available for Pennsylvania Child Abuse Organizations
by Zach Berger
The fruit of state senator Jake Corman's lawsuit against the NCAA is ready for distribution -- in the form of $48 million dedicated to child abuse efforts.
Corman's lawsuit led to a settlement that voided sanctions against Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. That defense of the Endowment Act ended up with the NCAA agreeing that a big chunk of the $60 million fine it imposed on the university would be spent in Pennsylvania.
Some $48 million will go exclusively toward child abuse efforts, including prevention, victim services, and more. And the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) is currently accepting applications for grant money from the Endowment Act fund.
With a July 24 deadline coming up, organizations dedicated to the battle against child abuse are filing applications, hoping to win a piece of the sizable fund. The application process opened just shy of two weeks ago, and the PCCD says plenty of organizations have expressed interest already.
"It's been too early for any submittals, but to date, we have received several questions from interested parties," PCCD communications director Matthew Leonard says.
One of the organizations vying for Endowment Act money is the Mount Nittany Health Children's Advocacy Center of Centre County. The CAC, which works with medical professionals and law enforcement, is focused on a multi-faceted approach to the prevention, identification, intervention, and treatment of child abuse.
Kristina Taylor-Porter, the executive director of the CAC, says the organization feels fortunate to have this funding opportunity available.
"Children's advocacy centers were not recognized within the state budget ever, so to have that opportunity to apply for funding is something we feel very fortunate about," she says. "There was no funding prior to this, so we're sort of piecemealing some things together. This will allow us to focus more on our services and strengthen what we're doing."
Specifically, Taylor-Porter says the funds could help the CAC further train its three medical professionals, allowing them to assist in other areas in the treatment of child abuse victims.
"That money could help us continue to encourage the three professionals we have to go for additional education in their specialized fields," she says. "One of our main goals is to make sure that children aren't just healthy physically, but also mentally through their healing process, so we'd like to be able to help fund mental health professionals in the area so that we can provide that type of help to children as well."
Penn State was allowed to keep $12 million of that NCAA fine to fund its own child abuse research programs. That money was used to start The Network on Child Protection and Well-Being, which Taylor-Porter is pleased to see. She says the emphasis on a team approach to the issue of child abuse is extremely important.
"That's really crucial to make sure we're continuing to provide evidence-based programs to not only respond to child abuse, but also prevent it," she says. "We need to have that funding to continue that team approach in fighting child abuse. It enhances that collaboration through training funds, victim services, research, and elsewhere. That recognizes that it isn't just a single agency responded to child abuse but a team approach."
As the application process moves forward, the PCCD will eventually review the applications before doling out Endowment Act funds to Pennsylvania organizations such as the CAC.
"At that time, we will begin scoring and reviewing all of the applications that came in," Leonard says. "Due to the interest in these funds, we anticipate that the scoring and reviewing process will take a few months to complete."
The review team will then give final recommendations to the Children's Advocacy Center Advisory Committee -- which oversees accredited CACs -- in November. If an application is approved at that point, it will move to the commission for final approval at its December 2015 meeting, and grants will go out starting January 1, 2016.
Child abuse clearance law being clarified
by TOM RAGAN and KELLY MONITZ
Gov. Tom Wolf has waived the fees required by the Child Protective Services Law for volunteers who work with children.
Wolf said earlier this month he was waiving the fees for the volunteers' child abuse clearances and criminal background checks as a matter of policy. Additionally, the Department of Human Services and the Pennsylvania State Police will reduce the cost of those clearances from $10 to $8 for all other applicants, effective July 25.
As of Wednesday, volunteers are required to obtain both the Child Abuse History Clearance from the Department of Human Services and the Criminal History Record Check from state police.
In addition, FBI clearances also are required for all employees and for volunteers who have not been a continuous resident of the commonwealth for the last 10 years. Since those clearances are administered by the federal government, current fees of $27.50 for a clearance through Human Services and $28.50 for one through the Pennsylvania Department of Education will continue to apply.
The administration is not issuing refunds to volunteers who already obtained their clearances, noted state Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-116, Butler Township, whose office has been flooded with questions regarding who needs the clearances and who doesn't need them.
Earlier this month, the House approved legislation that aims to address the unintended consequences created by the child-protection laws. The measure would limit background checks to volunteers and employees at schools, child-care facilities and similar places that have direct contact and routine interaction with children.
The current law, Act 153, requires clearances for people with direct contact or routine interaction, which wasn't clearly defined. Under House Bill 1276, direct contact is defined as care, supervision, guidance or control of children, while routine interaction is regular, repeated and continued contact that is integral to a person's employment or volunteer responsibilities.
“H.B. 1276 is an effort to clarify who needs clearances and who does not,” Toohil said. “For example, right now, due to the confusion we have people getting clearances that do not need to get clearances. A parent who wants to bring cupcakes into their child's class for the child's birthday does not need to get clearances.
“The law applies to parents who frequently become a volunteer in the classroom in a chaperoning capacity,” she said.
Similarly, volunteers from a nonprofit organization, such as a Veterans of Foreign Wars post, hosting a one-time event for children, such as a holiday party, would not need clearances, Toohil said. Also exempted would be volunteers working in an administrative capacity behind a desk for a nonprofit, she said.
But people with more direct and frequent contact with children, such as a Little League coach or volunteer in a classroom or field trip, would need clearances, Toohil said.
She believes most people working with children want to know those children can't be exposed to people with a record of abuse against children and will make the effort to ensure the children are safe, she said.
“Child predators will do anything they can to avoid having a light expose their history or background,” Toohil said. “Typically, child predators do not want to answer questions about who they have resided with and where they have resided. The requirement of having to complete a child abuse clearance has a deterrent effect and many times people will just refuse to complete the process.”
Toohil encouraged anyone with questions about the clearances or H.B. 1276, which is now before the state Senate, to contact her office.
Wolf credited the Legislature for its bipartisan efforts “to develop needed clarifications” to the law.
“Through that process, the General Assembly expressed concerns of many members about the cost of background clearances, particularly for volunteers. I share those concerns and that is why I am excited about this announcement,” he said.
State Rep. Doyle Heffley, R-122, Lower Towamensing Township, one of nine lawmakers who voted against H.B. 1276, said he did so because it was amended to exempt college and university employees from the background check requirements.
Heffley said the laws were created in response to atrocities committed on a university campus, referring to the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State.
“As the laws began to take effect, it became increasingly clear that the General Assembly needed to revisit them to clarify definitions and, in some instances, make the requirements less onerous,” he said.
“I am disappointed that, in the process of cleaning up the laws ... in a manner that is not prohibitively costly to our valued volunteers, an amendment was added that exempts college and university employees from the background check requirements. By exempting the very people these laws were initially intended to cover, this amendment rolls back important protections that were included in the original laws.”
If the Senate amends the bill to remove the exemption for college and university employees, Heffley said he would gladly vote for it.
Too late for this year
Hazleton Little League President Ed Shoepe said the changes are fine for next year but this year it still affects coaches participating in all-star tournaments and others.
“It still affects five teams this year plus Little League board members, volunteer workers (at) the concession stands, you're talking 30 to 40 people who must pay the fees” because the waivers don't go into effect until July 25, Shoepe said.
While existing volunteers who did not previously need the clearances have one year to obtain them and will be able to obtain them free after July 25, new volunteers needed to obtain both the criminal record and child abuse history clearances before July 1 to work with children.
The league, with more than 300 children on 24 teams, adds new volunteers every year, Shoepe said. It needs about 130 volunteers, including more than 80 coaches and 24 team moms or team parents, to function, he said.
Some of those volunteers were required to get the nearly $30 FBI clearances, in addition to the two state clearances, because they haven't lived in the state for 10 years, which is common in Hazleton, he said.
Shoepe pointed out that a Hazleton police officer working as a coach in Little League tournaments had to have the required background checks.
“The average cost was about $50 for volunteers to get the background checks for both state and federal requirements,” he said.
Shoepe admits the rules are confusing, especially when it comes to something like the Challenger League where the parents are on the field with their children alongside volunteers. Hazleton Little League also requires parents to be at the children's games, albeit not on the field, he said.
“Don't get me wrong, I'm glad the governor and state lawmakers are making the changes, but it is too late for this year. Those changes won't kick in until next year,” he said.
Programs aim to prevent child abuse
by Alyssa Harvey
Child abuse is becoming more prevalent in Bowling Green.
Just recently, Cori Michelle Tobitt, 23, of Bowling Green, pleaded guilty in Warren Circuit Court to first-degree criminal abuse of her 3-year-old son, who required life-saving surgery. She faces a 10-year prison sentence.
A couple entered pleas in the death of a toddler in 2012. Tiffany Dawn Sampson, 30, of Greenbrier, Tenn., pleaded guilty Monday in Warren Circuit Court to two counts of second-degree criminal abuse. Her case has been set for a jury trial Tuesday. She accepted an agreement that recommends a five-year prison sentence.
Robert Roger Dishman, 40, of Bowling Green, entered an Alford plea June 18, in which he denied wrongdoing but acknowledged that enough evidence existed against him for a jury to return a guilty verdict to two counts of second-degree criminal abuse. Dishman's agreement dismissed an additional charge of second-degree manslaughter. Prosecutors recommended a 10-year sentence for him. His case also has been set for trial Tuesday.
Help is available
As the number of child abuse victims grows, more people need help. There are many child abuse programs available in Bowling Green.
Nickie Jones, executive director of the Family Enrichment Center said one of its programs used to help prevent child abuse is the Wee Care Nursery. The center's program founded 36 years ago will soon move to 1135 Adams St.
“We will be licensed for 49 kids, but we'll have space to grow it even more. We're licensed to have 29 now,” she said. “The average ranges about 31 children a month. We do drop-in care and have some who are part time. When we expand, we could average 60 a month. We could almost double our enrollment.”
Participants have to meet certain criteria. If they have a history of abuse, then they qualify regardless of income. Other criteria include low income, family crisis – which can include domestic violence or substance abuse issues – income referral from a social service agency, if the parent is a student or a Welfare-to-Work participant or in some kind of training, a single parent or the parent of a special needs child.
“They have to have two (criteria),” Jones said.
There is a family advocate on site that helps them with case management, including looking for a job, going back to school or getting help with clothing, rent or food.
“We get the things they need to help them be self-sufficient,” Jones said.
The center offers 12-week parenting classes that are free for any parent in the community. Child care is provided. The classes meet weekly at the center at 1133 Adams St. and at the Allen County Public Library at 106 W. Main St. in Scottsville. For more information, call 270-781-6714.
“We target where the child is developmentally, what to expect, how to react, how to communicate,” Jones said. “It shows them how to replace abusive behaviors with nurturing ones.”
Another program is Parents as Teachers, in which someone works with mothers who are pregnant or who have a child getting ready to enter kindergarten. They do screenings and let parents know what to expect in the coming months, Jones said. The program is done in Warren and Allen counties.
“It's the philosophy that parents are the first and best teachers of their children. Parents of all nationalities and levels of income can stand to have knowledge. They don't come with a manual on how they operate,” she said. “If parents know what to expect, they're less frustrated and less stressed because they know what to do. The earlier you can intervene, the less likely a negative behavior is going to be repeated.”
The center also has supervised visits and adoptive and foster programs. Staff are willing to visit community groups to give them information on how to report child abuse.
Having all services available in one area will help with the fluidity of services, Jones said.
“We're about a month out for moving in there. We can't wait,” she said. “It's just more suitable for a child care setting. We were getting more calls than we had space for.”
Barren River Child Advocacy Center's mission is to reduce trauma to child abuse victims by providing one safe, child-friendly location where teams of professionals work together to pursue justice and offer treatment, according to its website.
“Our target population is sexual abuse and exploitation,” said Dawn Long, executive director. “Offenders are not allowed on site.”
Each of the 10 counties served has a multidisciplinary team that consists of a law enforcement officer, a child protection services worker, a prosecuting attorney, a physician, a therapist, a victim advocate and the center's crisis intervention counselor.
“Advocates track cases,” Long said. “We may see a child for a short period of time, and others we may see for several years until they go to trial.”
The number of cases that go to criminal trial is not high, Long said.
“We help them heal and start moving forward,” she said. “The center does not do the investigation.”
The average number of children who use the center ranges from 450 to 500 a year, Long said.
“One-third come from Warren County and the rest is distributed throughout the region,” she said. “We routinely serve kids from those counties on a regular basis.”
The center also provides forensic interviews for children who suffer from severe physical abuse and those who witness violent crimes, Long said.
“If we were to do more physical abuse cases, it could double overnight, but we don't have the resources,” she said. “We do 275 to 300 forensic interviews a year.”
For more information, call 270-783-4357 or visit bracac.org
Hope Harbor has a variety of programs to help children. One is an education program in which two educators go into schools.
“They talk about good touch and bad touch and make it OK to take away that stigma so that they will understand what's healthy and what's not,” said Kameron Simmons, temporary assistant at Hope Harbor.
Hope Harbor also offers legal advocacy if the victim decides to prosecute, crisis intervention to support victims while they are receiving medical exams at the hospital, counseling services and a 24-hour crisis line – 800-656-4673 – if abuse happens. The organization relies heavily on volunteers and is always looking for more.
“All our services are free,” Simmons said. “We are funded by the state and United Way.”
Londa Stockton, Hope Harbor community educator, talked about the Green Dot program, a bystander intervention program used at Warren East High School.
“We've been at Warren East for six years now,” she said. “We're currently in the process of reaching out to other schools.”
Green Dot is a moment in time, Stockton said. The program is designed to make bystanders responsible for intolerance of sexual violence, dating violence and stalking.
“It's an individual choice to make the world safer. It promotes safety to all citizens,” she said. “It helps them find a way to intervene safely and help out both parties. We give them scenarios based on what they see. It's a very curriculum-based program.
“When we go out, we make sure we tie it to sexual trauma,” she said. “Our education department goes out and does programs on the prevention of trauma.”
For more information, call 270-782-5014 or visit hopeharbor.net .
At LifeSkills, mental health is the primary service, said Robin Gregory, supervisor of outpatient services for children in Warren County. The services include individual and family as well as services in homes, offices and schools.
“We tailor it to the needs of that particular child and how best to meet those needs that they have. We will see them as long as they need us,” he said. “That varies from case to case. We have some case management services if that is needed.
“We have early childhood mental health specialists who primarily work with kids birth through 5,” he said. “We can provide services to a child who's even younger than a school-aged child.”
For more information, call 270-901-5000 or visit lifeskills.com
Community Action can help
Carol Belcher, family and community partnership manager of Community Action of Southern Kentucky said the nonprofit has several programs to help prevent child abuse.
There are in-home visits where a parenting curriculum is done in the home so parents with risk factors can learn things such as budgeting and home management.
“We try to help them stabilize their home so that they're less likely to encounter those things,” she said. “They typically visit once a week.”
There are community parenting classes in all 10 counties that Community Action serves.
“It gives parents more skills and gives them strategies to use in the home so they don't have to resort to physical punishment or other types of punishment that would be detrimental to the child,” Belcher said.
There is the access to the visitation program, which is supervised visitation, as well as the Community Collaboration for Children's Network.
“There are 50 to 60 people per meeting,” Belcher said. “The group is charged with coming up with activities and events to help provide awareness of child abuse.”
Some of the staff is trained for the two-hour program “Darkness to Light” to recognize child sexual abuse and how to work with civic groups and churches about putting measures in place to prevent children from being sexually abused.
“It's free of charge to any groups in the 10-county area who would like it presented to their group,” Belcher said.
For more information, call 270-782-3162 or visit casoky.org
‘Know your emotions'
Lynn Fred Clark, a Bowling Green psychologist, said perpetrators of child abuse have poor control of their emotions and try to get child compliance using anger and threats.
“If the child doesn't obey, they explode on the child,” he said. “If the parent gets angry at the child, the child improves their behavior in the short term and rewards the parent.”
The perpetrator is often a father or boyfriend. Regardless, the person committing the abuse needs to be in a domestic violence program and in the court system, Clark said. A video component to his book, “SOS for Emotions,” has been used in prisons.
“The first step is to know your emotions,” he said. “The second step is to manage your emotions.”
The perpetrator gives excuses for his behavior, Clark said.
“They say the reason they beat the child is because they're under a lot of stress and hope to be excused from this violent behavior,” he said. “It misleads the therapist or minister who is helping them with their behavior. That doesn't help anything.”
They need to spend time in jail, Clark said.
“That motivates a person to change their behavior,” he said. “Therapy is really not enough.”
Cosby fighting efforts to unseal 2005 lawsuit documents
by Maryclaire Dale
PHILADELPHIA -- A lawyer for Bill Cosby argued Friday that it would be "terribly embarrassing" for the comedian if documents from a 2005 sex-assault lawsuit were unsealed.
Cosby is fighting efforts by The Associated Press to unseal motions from a lawsuit he settled with a former Temple University employee.
The lawsuit accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting the woman at Cosby's home. The settlement is confidential.
Cosby's lawyer argued that his client's deposition could reveal details of Cosby's marriage, sex life and prescription drug use.
"It would be terribly embarrassing for this material to come out," lawyer George M. Gowen III argued.
He said the public should not have access to what Cosby was forced to say as he answered questions under oath from the accuser's lawyer nearly a decade ago.
"Frankly, ... it would embarrass him, (and) it would also prejudice him in eyes of the jury pool in Massachusetts," Gowen said.
More than a dozen women have since accused Cosby of sexually assaulting them, and three have a defamation lawsuit pending against him in Massachusetts. They allege that he defamed them when his agents said their accusations were untrue. Cosby is trying to get their case thrown out before discovery. He has never been charged with any related crimes.
U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno asked Friday why Cosby would be embarrassed by the release of his sworn testimony, given that the accusations in the Temple woman's lawsuit are already in the public eye.
"Why would he be embarrassed by his own version of the facts?" Robreno asked.
The lawyers also argued over whether Cosby was a public figure entitled to a lesser degree of privacy.
Lawyer Gayle Sproul, representing the AP, called him "an icon" particularly in Philadelphia, who "held himself out as someone who would guide the public in ways of morality."
Robreno had never decided whether the temporary seal on some filings should be made permanent before the case settled in 2006. Under local court rules, Cosby has the burden to show why seals should not be lifted after two years, the AP argued.
Gowen argued that Cosby might not have forged the confidential settlement if he thought his deposition testimony and other motions would someday get out.
The judge did not indicate when he would rule. He could side with Cosby, with the AP, or strike a middle ground and release some of the documents, perhaps with redactions negotiated between Cosby and a lawyer for the ex-Temple employee, Andrea Constand.
"Every case about sex and drugs involves a certain amount of embarrassment," Robreno noted.
How David Holthouse Decided to Name the ‘Bogeyman'
A high profile case about an alleged child rape from 1978 is at an impasse because of Alaska's old statute of limitations.
When David Holthouse retold his story of being raped as a child to lawmakers in February, he had no idea it would set off a chain of events that would lead to filing a police report and publicly naming his rapist in the Anchorage Press last week.
Writer David Holthouse had never publicly identified the person who raped him in Eagle River when he was 7 years old.
“I did not want to destroy his life by naming him,” he says.
But Holthouse's 2004 article "Stalking the Bogeyman" gives clues, including one to throw people off. According to Holthouse, the perpetrator was a star athlete at Chugiak High School and was profiled in the Anchorage Daily News. As an adult, he moved to Broomfield, Colo., a Denver-area suburb. Holthouse also wrote that his rapist was about 17-years-old. Now, Holthouse says he deliberately misrepresented the age and his perpetrator was 14 at the time.
In the story Holthouse describes the traumatic experience, his plans to kill his rapist and finally confronting him as an adult.
“After meeting him in person and hearing him swear to me that he had never raped a child before or after he perpetrated the crime on me, I decided that it was possible that he was telling the truth,” Holthouse says.
There was a caveat though. Holthouse followed up with a letter, which said,
“If any other victims come forward at any point in the future, I'm going to write a second article and this one will name you,” Holthouse says.
Nearly 11 years after writing that letter, Holthouse was in the Alaska State Capitol Building sharing his story. He spoke in support of a law that would require public schools to teach sexual abuse prevention.
After the talk, Holthouse says two people in the Capitol told him they might know other victims of his rapist.
“I was very careful about the way I dealt with the situation,” Holthouse says. “I sort of heard them out. In both conversations, it got to the point where they said, ‘I'm going to say the name and you tell me if it's the same person.'”
It was. Holthouse says he felt relieved.
“I guess the relief was just in finally knowing. The question of whether or not he was telling me the truth – it haunted me for more than a decade and I felt like I finally know,” Holthouse says.
Since that day in the Capitol, Holthouse says he's wanted to write the story naming him, but “I needed to meet one on one with people and have them tell me their stories for me to feel like I had the information to go through with it.”
He tracked them down.
“Eagle River in the late 1970s and the 1980s was an even smaller town than it is now, so once I had a couple of leads and a couple of names of kids, now adults, but kids who ran in the same social circle, it took me a couple months but I could sort of gently reach out to them and point them to my original piece and say, ‘Is this something that you would like to sit down and talk to me about by any chance?'”
Holthouse says he's convinced his rapist sexually assaulted two other boys and a girl. He's heard about other suspicious incidents as well.
KTOO could not reach the man for comment. According to property records, he owns a home in Broomfield, Colo. Holthouse says he still lives there. Phone numbers listed for the man were out of service. He's not listed in sex offender registries in Alaska or Colorado.
Holthouse wrote "Outing the Bogeyman" in the Anchorage Press for himself “to just finally tell on him, just to finally give that 7-year-old a voice and tell on him.”
And to let other survivors know “no matter how much time has passed, when someone rapes you when you're a kid, they give you the power to avenge yourself and that power is you know their name and you can use it,” Holthouse says.
It could be online, it could be in a letter, it could be confronting the person, it could be reporting them to the police.
Holthouse has done all of these things.
He recently reported the rape to the Anchorage Police Department.
“My report alone is not going to prompt a criminal investigation let alone an arrest or prosecution, but they said reports like this are still important because if other victims were to come forward it would help corroborate their accounts,” Holthouse says.
In 1978, the year Holthouse says he was sexually abused, the statute of limitation on child rape was ten years. Lawmakers eliminated that time constraint in September of 1992. There's currently no statute of limitation for child rape cases.
Holthouse's case may not be viable for prosecution. But if someone comes forward with an incident that occurred after 1982, that's fair game.
Breaking the cycle: Inside a high school that is reimagining indigenous education
by Madeleine White
More than 150,000 children were forced into residential schools — a system designed to strip them of their identities. As Madeleine White discovers, a new generation is trying to reimagine indigenous education.
I n the girls' washroom on the first floor of Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School, the lighting is harsh. There's a communal sink for handwashing and a row of aging toilets. In the stall at the end of that row, the door doesn't quite fit the frame. In other words, it's like high-school girls' washrooms everywhere – right down to the graffiti on the wall of that final stall. But rather than calling someone a slut or spelling out random vulgarities, this bit of scrawl asks a simple (if exuberantly punctuated) question: Do you know your potential?!
Getting students to answer that question in the affirmative is what DFC High is all about. The school is one of two (the other is almost 400 kilometres away in Sioux Lookout) run by the Northern Nishnawbe Education Council, a First Nations nonprofit organization established by the bands of more than 20 fly-in reserves in Ontario's northwest.
The organization's “vision statement” aims to help bring into being “a world in which First Nations people succeed without the loss of their identity, and have the courage to change their world according to their values.”
DFC students come from those same reserves – some of the most isolated communities in Canada. The school sets them up in Thunder Bay boarding homes, assigns them a “prime worker” (equal parts guidance counsellor, social worker and parental figure), and enrolls them in courses approved by the Ministry of Education.
It also strives to have graduates leave not only with a diploma but the skills, knowledge and confidence to help their home communities heal – by setting positive examples, showing a pride in indigenous culture and identity, and fostering employment on reserves.
About 2,000 students have walked its halls in DFC's 15 years of existence. They come from families that have survived the destructive legacy of the residential school system, but DFC is a residential school in name only. It is funded by the bands it services, its direction and administration is run by aboriginals, and the students leave home to attend this high school by choice, and with their families' permission.
“Most of us, as parents, would not choose to have their kids up and moved from their community and home at the age of Grade 9,” says Sonia Prevost-Derbecker, vice-president of education for Indspire, an indigenous-led charity based in Toronto. She realizes that boarding schools present a challenge to remote communities but, in some cases, sending children away to school is their parents' only option.
“The experience can be most isolating and terrifying and, without some sense of belonging, kids fall through the cracks all of the time,” she says. “It's a risky time in a kid's life to be doing that.”
Unfortunately, many of the grandparents of the students at DFC are all too aware of this, as they are survivors of a residential school system that saw more than 150,000 youngsters torn from their homes. For the century it was in existence, it employed shame, violence and deprivation to teach indigenous children that their traditional way of life was not only wrong, but evil.
That abuse, disguised as legitimate education, led to the loss of countless cultural traditions and many indigenous languages. It also left a legacy of broken families. Students were robbed of the experience of growing up in a loving home; then when they had children, they often didn't know how to be parents. It is a pattern, survivors say, that continues to repeat itself.
“How do you learn in an environment of trauma, fear and shaming?” asks Marie Wilson, a member of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC), which released its momentous final report on the legacy of the system this month.
Ms. Wilson sees in experimental initiatives like DFC the potential to help to heal the lasting trauma. As well, the new schools can play a role in erasing the stigma around education for many indigenous people who still distrust the system.
DFC has had its share of tragedy, and is by no means a perfect solution – but Ms. Wilson says any experience that “helps to put students' minds to learning as opposed to protecting themselves and surviving,” is a great opening, adding that schools like DFC “definitely have to be better than the historic alternative and [should] be appreciated in being bold and therefore important.”
Principal Jonathan Kakegamic also believes his school can help with the healing, and says the key to that process is rebuilding a connection between culture and identity because, without it, students can't be successful.
“For residential schools to say, ‘You're no good, you can't speak your language' – that does something to your identity, to your psyche,” he adds.
Mr. Kakegamic is originally from Keewaywin First Nation northwest of Thunder Bay near the Manitoba border, but grew up in the city. Although his parents went to residential school, they didn't tell him about their experiences until he was in his 30s. Hearing their stories of survival helped him to solidify his identity. And he hopes that fostering a positive learning experience for the kids at DFC will have a similar effect.
“They know who they are when they leave here. … They need to know they are First Nations, that you can be proud of who you are.”
Appearances and assumptions
DFC is housed in a former vocational school that, from the street, doesn't look much different from nearby Sir Winston Churchill Collegiate. But around back is the first clue that this is a unique place. There is an open tepee and fire pit, where Bella Patayash, the in-house elder responsible for teaching traditional skills, sometimes cooks.
When the bell rings in the morning, students funnel in after cascading off public buses. They shuffle-walk down the halls, and file neatly into their classrooms. With only 150 kids (ages 14 to 21) in the entire school, the classes are smaller than normal, maxing out around 20. That allows for more bonding between teachers and students.
DFC follows a curriculum the province sets out and has a full roster of teachers for all the standard topics: English, math, business, gym, science and shop. In addition, students study indigenous language and spend their spares in the Elders' Room, where they sip Red Rose tea and practice traditional activities, such as beading and bannock-making.
In so many ways, however, it is just like every other high school – kids hang out in the hallways during lunch, goofing off and giggling; they populate the gym after school, practicing basketball. If one thing sets the atmosphere apart, it's the quiet, calm vibe that permeates the building. The students are soft-spoken and more polite than most teens – opening doors for teachers, patiently waiting in line for lunch, and paying attention during school assemblies.
“When the school first started, the Thunder Bay police wanted to put an office in here – a gang office,” says Mr. Kakegamic. “They thought they knew us. They had assumptions of how it was going to be.”
But the school has not been without its troubles.
Since it opened, seven students have died while enrolled, in many cases found in one of the rivers that run through the city. Students and staff believe these deaths were accidental – the victims were probably intoxicated and fell in. But one student was found hanging from a tree in a public park with a noose made of Christmas lights around his neck. In 2011, the province's chief coroner heeded indigenous leaders and called a joint inquest into the deaths, with hearings to begin this fall.
Two years earlier, the situation was so grim there was talk of closing the school. Instead its leadership was changed – Mr. Kakegamic was put in charge – and new support teams were developed to help the students deal with some of the challenges they face: loneliness, addiction issues and depression.
“For students who are away, it doesn't change one element of the residential-school period, which is that emotional distance between the student who is away and the parents left behind,” says Ms. Wilson. “The issue of homesickness is still a factor.”
Daniel Levac wasn't homesick.
“He was one of the students I never had to worry about, whether he was in class or at home at night,” says his prime worker, Lyle Fox. “He was the kind of guy who would ask how your day was – but he wasn't just asking, he would sit and listen. And he did that to everybody. It wasn't just me or just his friends. It was the quiet student in the corner, too.”
But Daniel's time at DFC ended abruptly last fall, when he was fatally stabbed on the steps of the SilverCity cinema. A young man also from a remote northern reserve has been charged with second-degree murder.
Mr. Levac, 20, was set to graduate this year. In his honour at last month's ceremony, the school had a memorial cap and gown placed on a chair alongside the other grads as his parents watched from the audience.
The cap and gown were brought on stage by his grieving prime worker. “It took a lot out of me because I have a lot of guilt that comes with it,” says Mr. Fox, 32.
He realizes he couldn't have stopped what happened. “But I was responsible for him; he was in our care.”
Breaking the cycle
Juliet Aysanabee's favourite saying is “Just kidding.” In fact, she says it after pretty much every sentence, whether she means it or not. It's almost like a special teenage punctuation – part goofy, part shy, part playful.
She is tall and thin, mostly limbs. Her long brown hair is pin-straight and generally hangs over her glasses. She likes to wear leggings and hoodies, and she carries headphones wherever she goes. When she arrived, she was shy, but has opened up, and especially enjoys drama and gym classes. After school, she hangs out with her friends at the mall; in the evenings, she plays sports.
Like some of her classmates, Ms. Aysanabee, 18, came to DFC after spending most of her youth in foster care. She cannot pinpoint exactly when she left home in Sandy Lake First Nation (across the water from Keewaywin, about 600 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay) and her six siblings, but knows she spent eight or nine years being bounced from foster family to foster family, sometimes spending as little as a month in one home. “For as long as I can remember, I was always moving around,” she says. “But here I am.” She is embarrassed by this part of her history. “When my friends talk about what their moms did when they were younger,” she says, “I don't really have anything to talk about.”
Ms. Aysanabee wasn't reunited with her mother until she was in Grade 8. And then, just two years later, she was off again. But this time, things were different. This time, the move was her own choice, part of a bigger decision she had made: to get her high-school diploma.
Since arriving, she has integrated herself into the school's family. She has participated in plays, joined the broomball team, made friends. She even got a job with the foot patrol, a group of current and former students hired to walk the downtown core and riverbanks Thursday, Friday and Saturday night during the fall and spring terms – on the lookout for classmates up to no good.
“We're walking around and telling on people who are drinking. Being a rat – a snitch,” she says with a giggle. “I just hope I don't bump into any of my friends.”
Prime worker Lyle Fox's sister Clarissa is part of another team, one made up of adults who patrol the city in minivans all night responding to student emergencies. She, too, is motivated by personal experience. “My father has shared his stories with me,” says Ms. Fox, 39, referring to the “mental, emotional, physical, sexual and spiritual” abuse he says he endured while at Shingwauk, a residential school in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. “He was basically broken down.”
After growing up, “my father didn't know how to be a parent ... how to love people. So when he and my mom got together, all they did was drink and fight. I think a lot of families were like that.”
By understanding this legacy, Ms. Fox is able to relate to the students who come to DFC. She knows what it is like to be stuck in the destructive cycle from the residential school system. She knows what it is like to have a broken family and loved ones who struggle with addiction. But she also knows that people can be healed, as her father has. And as a result of his strength and his story, she and most of her siblings don't drink.
“We are breaking that cycle,” she says.
Finding roles within the school
Mr. Fox also understands the importance of breaking that cycle and reclaiming his indigenous identity. He says that learning about a traditional way of life saved his life when it was spiralling out of control.
Now he is working to bring cultural teachings to the school that go beyond the current program, through which an in-house elder teaches students such traditions as beadwork and bannock.
But at 21, he had been an addict for nine years. Using drugs (such as cocaine and Percocet) and alcohol, he says, “filled a gap in my self-esteem. It made me feel good, made me feel better about myself. It gave me courage so I didn't have to walk home at night feeling scared.”
Mr. Fox hit bottom after three suicide attempts that followed his 19th birthday – the day his older brother, Darryl, died of lymphomatic cancer. But his life turned around at the Benbowopka Treatment Centre in Blind River, Ont., a facility that combines traditional indigenous health practices with Western medicine.
“That's where I was introduced to the traditional side of me. I started to learn about my culture, my identity and the spiritual side of our life,” he says. “My culture saved me. My teachings saved me.” Now sober and a father of four, Mr. Fox is being initiated into the Midewiwin, a society that practises traditional medicine and healing through ceremony.
For him, part of the antidote to the poison that was the residential-school system is providing students with opportunities to discover their heritage of harmony, respect and spirituality; his efforts at DFC have prefigured part of what the TRC has asked for in its report. The 64th of its 94 recommendations calls on all levels of government to work to provide indigenous students with instruction in traditional spiritual beliefs and practices.
This past school year, Mr. Fox built a grandfather drum (big enough to be played by several people) with the help of students, many from reserves where traditional lifestyles are neither common nor celebrated. Next year, he hopes to hold after-school sessions so students can learn to make and play smaller drums of their own.
But he has a lot of convincing to do. “In our area in the North, a lot of young people are following the footsteps of their parents and grandparents – the residential school system told them that our ways are evil,” he says.
In fact, the first time he held a drumming session, only four or five students came by and, the next time, there was just one. “I think that whole mentality is still lingering.”
The lingering is hardly limited to indigenous people. The residential schools were built on racism, and created ripples of damage, violence and entrenched prejudice.
“Sometimes, I feel like people judge me cause I'm aboriginal. I don't like the way they look at me. They look so grossed out or something,” says Ms. Aysanabee. “I was walking on the sidewalk, and some person walked by me and pointed at me and called me a butthead.”
To say she feels alienated from the city at large is an understatement, and perhaps not surprising, considering the existence of something like Thunder Bay Dirty. Comprising several Facebook pages, a Twitter feed and YouTube channel, it is effectively an online forum for shaming indigenous people who are either in desperate situations or appear to be.
Thunder Bay Dirty is full of racist assumptions, one of which had a direct impact on DFC student Frank Kakepetum, a friend of Ms. Aysanabee. He was featured in a photograph that was snapped as he happened to being leaning against a brick wall, his head tilted back, his mouth agape and his eyes closed.
In person, he seems very much like a normal high-school kid – as the spring term wrapped up, he kept busy by building a tikinagan , a traditional bassinet, for his sister's baby. But the caption for the photo on Thunder Bay Dirty accused indigenous people of being so lazy, they can sleep on their feet. “Ha ha lil Oxy nod,” read one particularly caustic remark.
Mr. Kakegamic realizes that stereotypes die hard. “A citizen of Thunder Bay, a non-native – if he doesn't know anything about us, he is probably going to be on guard. And he is going to have these presumptions of how Indians are. When you have that assumption, you're already eliminating any acceptance.”
There are, though, benefits to having DFC located in Thunder Bay, according to Ms. Prevost-Derbecker of Indspire.
“They have the ability to retain teachers and they are in a city with a fairly significant indigenous population, so they have the ability to get some demographic representation in the classroom, which is very important,” she says.
Having indigenous teachers, even if they are from the city and not from the students' home communities, she adds, can make it easier for the kids to connect, build trust and act as a role model.
But one criticism of the school is that even city residents who want to get to know its students don't have the opportunity. To one observer, it's a “reserve bubble” sitting in the midst of the city.
And it's true, says Mr. Kakegamic, that, when classes are out for the day, many students stay on the property. Rather than, say, participating in local sports leagues, they take part in after-school programs run with the help of the Dilico Anishinabek Family Care group.
When the bell rings at the end of the school day, Dilico workers set up shop in a dedicated room. What they offer is more somewhere to hang out – with TVs, video games, and plenty of popcorn and hot dogs – rather than a set of activities. They also help out with the sports teams and attend school dances.
But in reality, at least part of the reason the school shelters its students so closely is to provide a greater degree of safety. If they go to after-school jobs or an outside community centre for programming, there are many unknowns to take into account.
In 2011, the National Household Survey conducted by Statistics Canada showed the high-school graduation rate among non-aboriginal Canadians sat at about 89 per cent. In 2012, Statistics Canada found that the graduation for off-reserve indigenous people was 72 per cent.
At DFC, though, Mr. Kakegamic doesn't measure success using percentages, in large part because his students arrive with a broad range of educational backgrounds and progress at a pace that is more fluid than in a regular high school. Instead, he points to the actual number of students that his team has managed to help make it through to graduation. This spring, there were 20 – about the average in recent years, although 2014 reached 29, setting the record.
Graduation rate is only one measure of success, says Ms. Wilson of the TRC.
“There is room at this point in our history for lots of [indigenous education] models. I think this is a time for bold experimentation and patience for things that may or may not be perfect off the top.
“But we do know that doing things the same old way, with the same old structures and the same old people in charge is not leading us to good results.”
And it is true that the school is not perfect yet. Every year, anywhere from 30 to 50 students return home before classes end. Some leave by choice, usually citing homesickness; others, because of their behaviour (usually related to acting recklessly while intoxicated).
Getting to the roots of that behaviour can be a complex task, but according to many who work with DFC students, it can also involve basic building blocks, such as one truly important part of their identity: the Oji-Cree language.
Sarah Johnson teaches it and says that “the federal government's aim” with the residential schools “was to have the language disappear. But it survived because those students that survived were able to speak the language among themselves under their blankets in their beds.”
Respecting language is one of the key elements of healing pointed to by the TRC, which calls for “protecting the right to aboriginal languages, including the teaching of aboriginal languages as credit courses.”
Ms. Johnson is originally from Weagamow Lake First Nation, and her classroom looks like any language-teaching space.
At the beginning of each term, DFC students are given a worksheet and a speaking activity to assess what they know. “Most come in with very little knowledge,” she says. “There are some who understand what is being said, but they cannot speak it. It seems language is not valued, especially by young parents – and the elders are slowly dying.”
One encounter still bothers her a decade later. She was working at a language centre in Sioux Lookout when a young boy asked: “How come you're teaching us a foreign language?”
“It was upsetting,” she says, “because that's who we are.”
For Ms. Johnson, it's simple: If you erase the language, you erase the culture.
It's a sunny Wednesday afternoon as this year's 20 graduates shuffle into a conference room – a space usually off-limits to students – to change into red and black gowns and don feathered and beaded mortarboards. Once everyone has put on the celebratory garb, the photos begin: both official group shots and then a whole lot of selfies.
As the graduates spill out into the hallway – giddy, and a bit nervous – as smiling, teary-eyed staff fuss with the caps and gowns, making them just right.
But with the arrival of summer, there is also a tinge of worry in the air. “We do so much work with them through the year and then they have to go back,” says prime worker Saturn Magashazi. “There's no continuity through the break.”
Still, for the students, summer promises exciting times – and a chance to be with their families. Ms. Aysanabee is especially pumped to see her mom and her siblings back home. And this summer, she plans to work so she can save for her final year at DFC.
After that, she has big plans. “Sometimes, I think about what I can do when I grow up – I mean, I am grown up – so when I get older,” she says with a smile, sitting on the floor in the hallway, her legs wrapped up under her. “Maybe I'll be a teacher. I've been thinking about that. Or a hair stylist. I don't really know yet.”
One thing she does know is that graduating is key to even the most basic of her goals. “I am the first one to come out for school. My mom and my older sister dropped out when they were in high school,” she says. “I don't think anyone in my family ever graduated.”
Despite their long separation, Ms. Aysanabee's mother fully supports her life in Thunder Bay, and hope it brings her daughter closer to her dreams.
“She is proud of me,” says Ms. Aysanabee. “She was telling me over the March break that she wants me to do this for me.”
Tackling the trauma: Male survivors of sexual abuse hope for more understanding
by Elizabeth Saewyc
Given proper support, male survivors of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation can rebuild and heal, says UBC professor
As Canada marks Men's Health Month, a UBC nursing researcher is calling for greater understanding and support for male survivors of sexual abuse.
Elizabeth Saewyc, director of the Stigma and Resilience Among Vulnerable Youth Centre at UBC, a research centre that examines youth health issues , says men who experience sexual violence as children or adolescents may go on to experience mental and physical health issues. However, young men who receive support from family and other adults are more likely to recover from the trauma.
What are some of the unique issues surrounding sexual assault and young men?
The definition of sexual abuse is the same for everyone. It's when a person performs a sexual act that the other person doesn't want or cannot legally consent to. These acts range from exposing themselves sexually, to showing porn, all the way to forms of sexual assault and sexual exploitation.
The difference is many people don't think it can happen to boys and young men, so they end up dealing with a different kind of stigma. Men are raised to be stoic and self-reliant. They're not considered potential victims. They're also expected to want sex, so if an adult — and it's often an adult or someone in a position of authority — seduces them or coerces them into sex, the reaction of others might be disbelief, or something more like “Lucky you!” So when sexual violence happens to them, they often don't know how to talk about it.
How often does this happen in Canada?
It's really difficult to get accurate numbers, especially since as much as 85 per cent of sexual assaults aren't even reported. Among boys and young men, there's even less likelihood of disclosure because of the stigma. Anonymous surveys in Canada suggest the percentage of youth who experience some form of sexual abuse by age 18 is around 15 per cent for girls and young women, and about five percent for boys and young men.
Among street youth, as many as one in three have been sexually exploited and the rate is the same for boys as for girls.
What are the long-term impacts?
The effects include mental health issues: post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts. People may turn to drugs or alcohol to erase the pain and shame. They may have difficulty with romantic relationships, and trusting adults, including teachers or employers. This in turn may affect their schooling, ability to earn a living wage, and life satisfaction.
The stress can also lead to long-term health issues, including heart disease.
How can society support male victims of sexual violence?
Most crisis centres and related services are designed by women for women, and may not know how to reach boys or young men. We do have services in Vancouver that are designed for males, females, and sometimes also transgender people, but even then, the services still mostly see women.
Some of that has to do with the stigma and the lack of words to explain the experience. We need to raise awareness that boys and young men, just like girls and young women and transgender young people, are at risk of being sexually abused or exploited. It's important to tell them that it's not their fault.
We also need to understand better how we can help the survivors heal. Research suggests that some of the methods we use to help girls and women may not work for boys and men.
Are some people better at dealing with the trauma?
Our research shows that not everyone who has been sexually abused ends up with the whole cascade of negative health effects, and we focus on trying to figure out what helps them. Some youth seem to recover more quickly because they receive support from people they care about—family, friends, trusted adults. This information can help community services to develop new interventions for victims.
Pay attention to the signs of child abuse
by Claudia Quigg
I was astonished recently when a lovely, successful middle-aged man I know shared with me that during the years he was growing up he suffered some pretty harsh child abuse. He described the abuse in some detail, literally bringing me to tears.
I was moved by his story especially because I knew him during those years. I was enough older that I was an adult when he was yet a 12-year-old. I knew him during the years when this abuse was occurring regularly. I might have been able to help.
And I didn't suspect a thing.
Moving through my own guilt about this, I have looked into the signs of child abuse that I might have missed. Sure enough, he did exhibit some of these characteristics, but I never connected the dots.
It seems to me that if I could have missed this, others may also look right past it. After all, unless we have experienced abuse ourselves, why would we imagine the unthinkable?
And yet, every adult in any society must serve as a guardian of all the children growing up in it. For this reason, I would like to share some of the signs that a child may be a victim of neglect or abuse, published by the Federal Children's Bureau.
A neglected child may lack adult supervision, miss a lot of school, beg or steal food or money or lack hygiene or medical care.
An abused child may show sudden changes in behavior or school performance. A former A-student who fails to turn in assignments should have a second look.
An abused child may not receive help for physical or medical problems brought to the parents' attention. These parents may want to avoid discovery.
An abused child may have learning or concentration problems. If a formerly attentive child seems hard to engage, adults would do well to pay attention.
An abused child may seem always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen. These kids are often “on edge.”
An abused child may bully other children or abuse animals.
An abused child may be overly compliant, passive, or withdrawn. These children often go to great lengths to avoid drawing negative attention to themselves.
An abused child may come to school or other activities early, stay late and not appear to want to go home.
An abused child may be reluctant to be around a particular person. There may be a very good reason Tommy doesn't like Uncle Jerry.
Finally, an abused child may eventually disclose maltreatment. If a child actually speaks up, he is hoping an adult will help.
The confusing thing is that often abused children seem great. In fact, some abused children are overly responsible and eager to please, hoping to avoid punishment by their perfection. These children may seem model citizens, pleasing adults in such a way that no one thinks to wonder about abuse.
If you see signs of neglect or abuse in any child, talk to someone else who knows the child and compare notes. Don't be afraid to ask the child about it if you suspect abuse. Convey that you are a safe person to confide in. And if you have a good relationship with the parents, ask them if everything is OK at home.
Child abuse is a terrible thing, but it can be stopped and both children and adults can find resilience with the right help. The first step is usually supported by a loving adult with open eyes who simply cares enough to get involved.
Raising Awareness of Child Sex Abuse Through Art
by Angelina Perez
AMARILLO-- An Amarillo man is expressing his feelings and healing his wounds with art.
Adam Gonzales was sexually abused as a child, he says to get passed some of the pain in his life, he started expressing himself by painting.
"A lot of my art is really just a way to distract myself, to distract from stress, to distract from bad memories, nightmares things like that,” added Gonzales.
Gonzales' art isn't dark and gloomy like some would expect, it is full of bright colors and interesting figures.
He says he does that to encourage people that good things can come out of bad experiences.
"My painting is one way I do that, I try to take these dark things, these sad things and flip them, and sort of almost to make comedy and to show that, good things can come out of bad experiences,” said Gonzales.
Gonzales is debuting his art at The Chalice Abbey and parts of the proceeds from the art show go to The Bridge Advocacy Center to help provide help for more children.
He also wants to encourage others to find an outlet to express themselves the way he did.
For those who may be struggling through abuse, Gonzales has a message.
"There is hope, there is the chance of healing and to just look for others to help them,” said Gonzales.
Gonzales' art exhibit is open through July 31st at the Chalice Abbey in Amarillo.
They are located at 2717 Stanley Street across from the Hasting's on Georgia.
Priest sex abuse allegations lead to Pa. AG agents' monastery search
by Andrew Conte and Brad Bumsted
HOLLIDAYSBURG — The only way to stop Catholic clerics who abuse children is to prosecute the people who oversee them and let it continue, said an Altoona lawyer who has successfully represented dozens of victims across Pennsylvania.
Attorney Richard Serbin said he thinks agents with the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office were pursuing a broader investigation Thursday near this Blair County borough when they raided St. Bernardine Monastery, where a Franciscan friar accused of molesting children killed himself two years ago.
“If they knowingly allow children to be abused or place them in situations where they were likely to be abused, they should be prosecuted,” he said.
Brother Stephen Baker, 62, worked in various roles as a religion teacher and baseball and wrestling coach at Catholic facilities in several states. He was athletic trainer at Bishop McCort Catholic High School in Johnstown from 1992 to 2001.
In late January 2013, he fatally stabbed himself in the heart at the monastery, where he had been living.
Nine days before, the Catholic diocese in Youngstown, Ohio, said it settled with 11 former students who claimed Baker abused them while at John F. Kennedy High School in Warren, Ohio, from 1987 to 1990.
In October 2014, Serbin represented some of 88 former Bishop McCourt students paid $8 million to settle a lawsuit over alleged sexual abuse by Baker. More victims have since come forward, he said.
“In my opinion,” Serbin said, “there were individuals who knew about Stephen Baker and didn't take proper action.”
About a half-dozen investigators wearing black T-shirts with the attorney general's logo appeared Thursday morning at the monastery with search warrants. The agents, who arrived with a white box truck marked “Attorney General Special Investigations,” took photos and carried out computer equipment and documents.
The investigation began in early 2014 to look at the priest's death and may be expanding to examine the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, where more than 20 priests have been accused of abusing children over nearly three decades, sources told the Tribune-Review.
Deputy Attorney General Dan J. Dye said at the monastery he could not comment because the agents' actions have been “sealed.”
Trib telephone and email messages left with the Third Order Regular Franciscans in the Province of the Immaculate Conception at the monastery were not returned. Two men at the front door waved away a reporter and said the property is private.
Tony DeGol, a spokesman for the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese and Bishop Mark Leonard Bartchak, said he wasn't aware of an investigation involving the diocese. He said the monastery is not part of the diocese.
“I am not aware of anything the Office of Attorney General is doing,” he said.
“We have had priests suspended amid accusations,” DeGol said. He said he couldn't immediately provide details.
Jeff Johnson, a spokesman for Attorney General Kathleen Kane in Harrisburg, said he could not comment.
“To this day, to my knowledge, nothing has been filed criminally. But I'm also of the understanding that the investigation is ongoing,” Serbin said.
David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said the organization is “glad law enforcement are searching a Catholic institution where a serial child-molesting cleric spent time.”
The Altoona-Johnstown Diocese operated Bishop McCort Catholic High School in Johnstown until Oct. 8, 2008, when the school became an independent nonprofit operated under a board of trustees.
Attempts by the Trib to reach several members of the Bishop McCort board of trustees Thursday for reaction to the raid at the monastery were unsuccessful.
Serbin, who filed his first lawsuit alleging sexual abuse by a priest in 1987, said he personally identified more than 20 priests connected to the diocese who have been accused of molesting children since then.
The website BishopAccountability.org , run by an advocacy group based in Waltham, Mass., identifies 27 priests connected to the diocese who have been accused of molesting children.
Cases linked to the diocese include Serbin's initial lawsuit claiming abuse by former priest Francis Luddy. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania ordered the diocese in 2006 to pay the victim $1.7 million.
More recently, in September, federal officials arrested the Rev. Joseph D. Maurizio and charged him with sexually abusing boys while traveling to orphanages in Central and South America for the purpose of relief work. He had served as pastor of a Somerset County church in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese.
“It's an ugly truth that these priests that sexually abuse and that allow sexual abuse are acting criminally and they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” said Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston lawyer who represented 33 of Baker's accusers in Pennsylvania and others in Ohio and Michigan.
As part of the attorney general's ongoing investigation, witnesses have been subpoenaed to testify before a statewide grand jury in Pittsburgh.
Dye, an assistant attorney general since 2012 who is leading the investigation, is a career prosecutor who handled child abuse and sex crimes for several years as an assistant district attorney in Lancaster County.
Where Strip Clubs Thrive In Portland, So Does Child Sex Trafficking
by Andy Campbell
PORTLAND, Ore. -- In late August last year, a 15-year-old girl was forced to strip off her clothes and dance naked at Stars Cabaret in nearby Beaverton.
She had been missing since early July, after running away from a drug abuse treatment center. It took less than two months for her pimp, Anthony Curry, to find her, allegedly rape her repeatedly, advertise her body on escort sites like Backpage and force her to dance on stage in several area strip clubs. Each night, Curry would take the money and repay her in shopping trips and a false sense of security, according to court documents.
Curry was arrested in September and convicted earlier this month in neighboring Washington County on seven counts of using a child to display sexually explicit conduct. He faces additional charges of rape and compelling prostitution in Multnomah county, where Portland is located.
The Huffington Post doesn't name the victims of sex trafficking, especially minors. But in many ways, this teen had her childhood taken away from her. She struggled through addiction and was bought and sold on the sex market -- all before she could legally drive a car. Her innocence is gone.
She shares her story with hundreds of other children who are trafficked in and around Portland each year. Between 2009 and 2013, 469 children were identified as victims of commercial sexual exploitation in the Portland metro area, according to a study by Portland State University Associate Professor Chris Carey. And those are the victims that were referred to the state Department of Human Services and local nonprofits -- the number of cases that go unreported is much, much higher.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg. The problem is real," said Sarah Ohlsen, who works on a county Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) steering committee dedicated to tackling the area's sex trafficking issues.
Victim advocates say Portland is a hub for such exploitation, due to its abundance of strip clubs and online services -- as well as a high demand for sex online. But it's hard to know for certain because nationwide statistics are elusive. Sex trafficking is a transient crime, local police say -- pimps and gangs will sell victims from California to Portland and when business is slow, they'll move to Seattle or Vegas. For that reason, it's difficult to compile sex trafficking stats in any given community, or to argue definitively that Portland's issues are worse than, say, Seattle's.
But local agencies were surprised at just how prevalent Portland's problem is. Recent high-profile trafficking cases like Curry's have put child sex trafficking back in the media spotlight.
"I was surprised when I saw the numbers," Carey said. "Is Portland a 'hub' or is it media hype that's bringing these cases to light? It's hard to say. What we do know is that these 469 cases are only the ones that made contact with the state system," he said. "The next step is trying to find a predictive model for this crime."
The Tip Of The Iceberg
In addition to Carey's findings, the sheriff's office identified 421 suspected sex traffickers between 2009 and late 2014 in a Multnomah County annual report. Each one of those suspects, Ohlsen said, is likely trafficking more than one victim. It's hard to catch and convict those suspects because their cases require a victim willing to testify -- and pimps and gangs can intimidate witnesses.
Police say it's easier to trade humans than drugs.
"You can't intimidate an ounce of crack into not testifying against you — you can intimidate a person," said Sgt. Chris Lindsey with the Portland Police Sex Trafficking Unit. "You can threaten them; you can threaten their family. I'd put the number at higher than 50 pimps trafficking at any given time."
The fact that police are finding more traffickers is a sign of progress -- it means that more resources are being funneled toward identification and prosecution.
Carey and Ohlsen's studies were unprecedented before local police began to characterize child prostitutes as sex trafficking victims in 2009. It's a step in the right direction: the classification places more of the burden on trafficking suspects than victims. Here are some more of Carey's findings:
469 child sex trafficking victims were identified between 2009 and 2013.
The average age of victims was 15. The youngest was 8.
96 percent of the victims were female.
40 percent of the victims were white, 27 percent were black and 5 percent were Hispanic.
Nearly 17 percent of victims had a child of their own when they were identified.
62 percent of victims were dealing with addiction issues.
Police say most of the adults working on the streets in Portland started as minors. Most victims are young and vulnerable when they're lured in by pimps and gangs and many become addicts if they weren't already.
The Strip Club Problem
Portland has more clubs per capita than any U.S. city, according to Willamette Week. Each has its own protections in the form of a free-speech clause in the state constitution that makes strip clubs difficult to regulate. Article 1, Section 8 forbids laws "restraining the free expression of opinion, or restricting the right to speak, write or print freely on any subject whatever." The constitution allows clubs to pop up almost anywhere, unlike in other states where they can be heavily restricted by zoning regulations. Moreover, dancers are considered "contractors" and not required to have permits that would make it easier for police to identify underage victims, The Oregonian reported.
Curry's case is an example of how strip clubs can be used for the trafficking of minors. The pimp used Stars Cabaret in Beaverton and other clubs to pimp out his 15-year-old victim, Washington County Prosecutor Kevin Barton said. All Curry had to do was get her a fake ID and she could dance nude for patrons.
Just before Curry's arrest, Stars Cabaret manager Steven Toth was convicted in an unrelated but similar case. Toth turned a blind eye when a 13-year-old girl was being pimped out in Toth's club by Victor Moreno-Hernandez. Toth and Moreno-Hernandez were both convicted and Toth was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Their cases prompted a Stars manager to identify Curry's victim as a minor to police.
Current Stars Cabaret owners -- who are currently fighting the state Liquor Control Commission's proposal to cancel their liquor license because of the club's connection to criminal activities -- declined to comment.
"Strip clubs serve as fertile ground for the problem to fester," said Sgt. Charles Lovell of the Portland Police Bureau. "Generally speaking, you have guys there, with money, already looking for sex. If you are a pimp or a sex trafficker, it's a good place to peddle your services."
Because the demand to pay for sex is high at strip clubs, it's still easy to sell sex in public, he said.
"If you're in a gang and you're selling drugs to make money, if you get caught with those, you're in trouble right off the bat -- just possessing them is illegal," Lovell said. "For sex trafficking, if you have a girl working and they're loyal and not willing to cooperate with the police or tell on you, it's very difficult to get them in any trouble. The risk is much lower."
But even more underage sex trafficking occurs online, police say. Hundreds of ads are placed on Backpage.com and other known trafficking sites each week, Ohlsen said.
What's Being Done
The CSEC steering committee Ohlsen sits on was created in 2009 to allow educators, sexual assault aid and advocacy groups and law enforcement agencies to coordinate in fighting child sex trafficking. Awareness of the issue has allowed for more state and federal funding to be funneled to victim advocacy and criminal education.
"People think sex trafficking is an international situation. I don't think people are fully aware that seemingly legal industries can be hotbeds for this type of crime," Ohlsen said. "We have made a lot of progress in education and awareness and better understanding that we do have a problem."
Indeed, her annual report shows more victims and perpetrators are being identified each year. Since the Sex Trafficking Unit's inception in 2009, more buyers are being arrested while the arrest numbers for women working in the sex trade are falling.
The report states:
It is important to note that the reduction we see in the arrest of women does not indicate that demand is being reduced. It is instead a conscious choice by the officers of the Sex Trafficking Unit to handle these cases differently – meaning women are treated as victims, not criminals. As a collaboration, we understand that victimization does not stop because someone has become a legal adult. The Sex Trafficking Unit officers' primary goal for the women they encounter is to offer them support services and treatment options. The goal is to support them in recovery. Because of that, officers spend a lot more resources working with victims.
Prosecutors have taken a victim-centered approach to focus on convicting traffickers and helping victims, Ohlsen said. The state's Department of Human Services also has a dedicated CSEC unit, started in May 2011, to identify victims and help them. That unit helps about 65 youth at any given time.
Police, meanwhile, are trying to get ahead of the problem by going into schools and educating both potential victims and criminals. Educators are teaching children as young as 13 -- the average age that prostitutes start as sex trafficking victims -- to look out for signs of trafficking, Lovell said.
"Part of what we have to do as a community is change people's mind about purchasing sex," Ohlsen said. "We have to disrupt transactions, identify sex trafficking when it happens and build an environment where it's not ok to buy."
Higher risk of migraine in later life for children who suffer trauma from witnessing domestic violence or suffering sexual abuse
by Colin Fernandez
Witnessing domestic violence or suffering traumatic experiences as a child makes you around 60 per cent more likely to suffer from migraines as an adult, according to a new study.
Researchers found that simply witnessing domestic violence in childhood was enough to increase risk of suffering migraines later in life.
They found that men were 52 per cent more likely to suffer migraines following a traumatic childhood experience, and women 64 per cent more likely.
The researchers at the University of Toronto examined a sample of 12,638 women and 10,358 men aged 18 and over from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health. Some 14 per cent of women suffered from migraines, compared to 6.5 per cent of men.
They looked into three types of childhood adversity –witnessing domestic violence, and being a victim of physical or sexual abuse.
Having suffered all three together made a person three times more likely to suffer from migraines as an adult.
But the most unusual finding, was that simply being a witness to domestic violence raised the risk of suffering migraines as an adult.
Esme Fuller-Thomson, professor at University of Toronto's Faculty of Social Work said: ‘The most surprising finding was the link between exposure to parental domestic violence and migraines.
‘Even after accounting for variables including age, race, socioeconomic status, history of depression and anxiety, and childhood physical and sexual abuse, men and women who had witnessed parental domestic violence had 52% and 64% higher odds of migraine, respectively, compared to those without such a history '
Witnessing domestic violence was defined as reporting seeing or hearing three or more times one of their parents, step-parents or guardians hit another adult aged 18 or over in their home.
Among sufferers, the chances of getting the extremely painful headaches were broadly equal for men and women.
Two thirds of the people studied had no experience of abuse or domestic violence.
Lead author Sarah Sarah Brennenstuhl said: ‘We found the more types of violence the individual had been exposed to during their childhood, the greater the odds of migraine.
‘For those who reported all three types of adversities--parental domestic violence, childhood physical and sexual abuse--the odds of migraine were a little over three times higher for men and just under three times higher for women.'
The authors speculate that the reason observing violence and being the victim of it cause stress is that they both involve feelings of being under threat.
The mechanism that could cause a link is still not known, but the researchers suggest that it is stress that alters the structure of the brain and the immune system and development of the growing child's genes. The second possibility is that the stress has an impact on the general health of the child.
The study stresses that they have not uncovered a causative link, but an association.
The study was published online this week in the journal Headache.
Sex offender working as principal of private tutoring program
Yusuf Ali Talukder was convicted of sexually assaulting a student in 2010. Because provincial authorities have no jurisdiction over private education, he can work at his own after-school program.
by Olivia Carville
A convicted sex offender banned from working in public schools is tutoring children in a private classroom in Toronto.
Yusuf Ali Talukder, principal of the Dhaka Learning Centre, was sentenced to six months in jail in 2010 for sexually assaulting a female student under the age of 14.
He was found guilty of putting his hand inside the student's bra, squeezing her breast on multiple occasions and rubbing the zipper of her pants during class, according to the court decision.
Talukder, 52, pleaded not guilty, and in an interview last week he told the Star he was innocent.
The Dhaka Learning Centre is an afterschool tutorial program owned by Talukder.
Because it is a private business, provincial education authorities had no power to stop the principal, who is on the sex offender registry, from walking out of jail and back into his office.
The court forbade Talukder from being in a public area where children would likely be present, such as a park, playground or school. It also banned him from working “in a position of trust or authority towards persons under the age of fourteen” for 10 years, according to his prohibition order.
But, in a handwritten amendment to the order, Justice Donna Hackett granted Talukder the right to be employed around children — only if he was “in the immediate presence of another adult in the same room.”
When the Star visited the one-classroom learning centre last Tuesday, Talukder said a 22-year-old university student was acting as his adult supervisor. The alleged supervisor told the Star he was only 18.
Talukder had been a voluntary member of the Ontario College of Teachers since 2005. After he was released from jail, he was summoned to a disciplinary hearing, which he declined to attend.
The college, which regulates public school teachers, revoked Talukder's licence and registration, preventing him from ever teaching in a public school again.
But because the college has no jurisdiction over the private sector, its watchdog powers fall short of the Dhaka Learning Centre.
The Ministry of Education also has no role in the regulatory oversight of private tutoring programs or any of the 900 private schools that operate in the province, a ministry spokesman told the Star.
The independent tutorial centre, which primarily caters to Toronto's Bengali community, offers after-school tutoring for children as young as 6, according to the centre's website.
It is tucked away inside a block of shops, up a narrow flight of stairs and down a corridor, on the corner of a busy intersection in Scarborough.
Its charges are taped to the front door: $90 for four lessons a month and $320 for 20 lessons a month. A poster on the door advertising the centre has two spelling mistakes, one corrected with a black marker.
When the Star visited the centre last week, Talukder was sitting in his office, surrounded by paperwork, while six students aged 15 to 21 quietly studied in the bare-walled classroom next door.
He moved from his office to the classroom, where he helped students with math and physics homework.
Talukder, who was born in Bangladesh, spoke softly as he explained his view of the incident that led to his conviction.
“I was teaching the person and maybe sometimes I may, my body can touch the students. So there is a complaint that things, you know here in Canada are sometimes a problem, like those things,” Talukder said in his office.
He continued: “Somebody complained about things here and, yeah, it is very difficult to work with teenagers, right. Anybody can complain.”
According to the court decision, Talukder started grooming the victim when she was 12; he would point to her bra strap and ask her what it was and then trace his hand around the neckline of her shirt.
During a tutorial period in the late 2000s, when the victim was sitting at the back of the room, Talukder put his hand into her bra and “squeezed her breast on 5 –7 separate occasions,” the decision says.
He also lifted the bottom of her shirt and “told her to sit properly when she had her legs crossed and rubbed the zipper of her pants lightly with his knuckles,” the court decision said.
“She elbowed him a little at one point to get him away from her, but it did not work. Once, he pulled his hand away quickly when one of the [other students] turned around,” it said.
The student started to cry silently in class and the decision says Talukder “gave her his notebook on which was already written in pencil, ‘Never tell anybody.'”
In court, the victim's mother and aunt testified that when they confronted Talukder at the centre the next day, he asked for forgiveness and told them he had “misbehaved and had not slept all night.” He asked the women not to tell anybody, but to hit him instead, which the documents says is “a sign of profound disrespect in Bengali culture.”
Talukder rejected this account in his own testimony, but the judge ruled he was an inconsistent and unreliable witness. He was convicted of sexual assault and sexually touching a person under the age of 14.
The father of two said he never considered closing the Dhaka Learning Centre after his conviction because he believed he was helping students and his Bengali community.
“I already learned a lesson. I am always careful, even like, that my hand doesn't touch to the student,” Talukder said.
When the Star asked where Talukder's supervising adult was last Tuesday, he said: “There's the big guy in the room there,” pointing at one of the six students seated at a desk.
Talukder said the student was 22 and in his second year of university, but when the Star asked the student how old he was, he said 18. Talukder then told the student he was 20, to which the student replied: “Yes, I am 20.”
The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services told the Star it was “inappropriate to comment on the details of any specific case,” including the last time an officer checked in on Talukder or whether his prohibition order was being actively monitored.
Talukder declined to tell the Star if his staff members or the parents of his students were aware of his conviction.
“I don't have any conviction now. I am free of everything now,” he said.
“Probation is over, but always for my own safety, I always keep the adult person in the room. I am always alert, always alert.”
The Star contacted Talukder on Thursday to ask if the university student was aware of the fact that he was acting as an adult supervisor, but Talukder said he was “not interested to tell anything.”
“I spoke to my lawyer and she said I couldn't,” Talukder said.
Talukder's lawyer, Vanessa Christie, did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls from the Star.
What is FGM?
by Fionnuala Bourke
Everything you need to know about female genital mutilation
Female genital mutilation (sometimes referred to as female circumcision and shortened to FGM) refers to procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
More than 600 West Midland women have been affected by the procedure, which has been illegal in the UK since 1985, within six months from last September and March of this year.
As West Midlands Police and Crime Panel has set up a new task force set up to deal with the horrific practice, here is everything you need to know about FGM.
What is it?
Female genital mutilation, sometimes referred to as female circumcision, incorporates a number of procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs without medical necessity.
What do the procedures entail?
There are four major types of FGM as identified by the World Health Organisation (WHO). These are:
1. Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris.
2. Excision: removing part or all of the clitoris and the inner labia (lips that surround the vagina), with or without removal of the labia majora (larger outer lips).
3. Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening by creating a seal, formed by cutting and repositioning the labia.
4. Other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, including pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area.
Who is at risk?
FGM is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and the age of 15, although adult women are also affected. The practice is mainly found in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East, where more than 125 million women are thought to be currently living with the consequences of FGM.
In Africa in particular, more than three million girls are estimated to be at risk of being cut each year.
Who carries out the procedure?
In many communities where FGM is prevalent, there is a traditional circumciser. However, more than 18 per cent of all FGM is performed by health care providers, and the trend towards medicalisation is increasing.
What are the health risks?
The WHO states that there are no health benefits to FGM – removing and damaging healthy female genital tissue interferes with the natural function of women and girls' bodies. The health consequences can be high-risk and vary from immediate problems to long-term, damaging effects.
The initial procedure can result in severe pain, shock, bleeding, tetanus or sepsis (bacterial infection), inability to urinate, open sores in the genital region and injury to nearby genital tissue.
But girls are also at risk of abnormal periods, recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections, cysts, pain during sex and lack of sexual pleasure, infertility, childbirth problems and new-born deaths. Young women who have had their vaginal opening sealed will also need to have it cut open again later to allow for sexual intercourse and childbirth.
Victims also suffer psychological problems following the very often traumatic procedure.
Why is FGM practised?
The procedure is the result of a combination of cultural, religious and social factors within families and communities.
FGM is often considered a necessary part of bringing up a young girl properly and a way of preparing her for marriage. It is thought to reduce a young woman's libido, thereby ensuring pre-marital virginity and marital fidelity.
In many communities the long-standing prevalence of the procedure leads to pressures to conform to tradition, making it difficult to end the abuse.
Where does the law stand on the issue?
FGM is considered a gross violation of the human rights of girls and women. In December 2012 the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution of the elimination of FGM.
The practice is illegal in the UK – it is also illegal to arrange for a child to be taken abroad for FGM. If caught, offenders face a large fine and a prison sentence of up to 14 years.
What can be done?
If you know a young girl or woman who has undergone or is at risk from FGM , you should contact the police.
If the victim has already been taken abroad, you should contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Experts Identify Critical Elements to Spot Child Abuse
by Yael Waknine
A panel of child abuse experts has defined critical elements for medically evaluating three common presentations of suspected physical abuse among infants and young children.
The findings, published online June 22 in Pediatrics , are intended to serve as a starting point for developing child abuse assessment protocols.
Diagnosing child abuse is often a matter of excluding alternative diagnoses, a process with no clearly defined end point. This uncertainty is reflected in the overly broad nature of previously published recommendations, write Kristine A. Campbell, MD, from the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, and colleagues.
Lack of guidance may lead clinicians to "pick and choose" among the options, contributing to bias and reducing diagnostic reliability, the authors suggest.
Researchers therefore convened a panel of 28 child abuse pediatricians (CAPs) to participate in a Delphi Process, with the goal of defining key elements for evaluating the potential role of abuse in cases of intracranial hemorrhage, long bone fracture, and skull fracture among children aged 0 to 60 months.
Consultation notes were used to identify an initial set of 96 elements for CAP evaluation on a 9-point Likert scale. Those elements given a score of 9 or 8 by more than 75% of participants after 3 rounds of survey, summary, and feedback were classified as "required" and "highly recommended," respectively.
The resulting diagnostic model was, for the most part, consistent with published guidelines suggesting the need for an extended medical history that includes the source of said history, the caregiver present at the time of injury and their response to symptoms, and any changes or discrepancy in the history provided.
"In contrast to traditional pediatric practice, CAPs recognize the potential misalignment of caregiver and physician goals in reaching the 'correct' diagnosis for a child. Broad inclusion of elements from the medical, developmental, and family history reflect the wide differential diagnosis entertained in cases of suspected abuse," the authors write.
Required historical elements included past injuries and/or fractures, estimated gestational age and birth complications (age < 6 months), developmental stage, and parental concerns for development. Some were specifically related to the nature of the injury, such as a history of easy bleeding or seizures (intracranial hemorrhage) or potential dietary insufficiencies (long bone fracture).
Laboratory elements focused on screening for coagulation disorders and occult abdominal trauma in children with intracranial hemorrhage, and for bone health in those with long bone fracture. Head computed tomography and skeletal survey were recommended radiologic procedures in all three settings.
The nature of psychosocial elements required in the evaluation constituted the greatest divergence from published guidelines. Although a description of the child-care setting (intracranial hemorrhage or skull fracture) and a prior history of abuse (skull fracture) were deemed "required," most "highly recommended" elements were directly related to violence in the home as a risk factor for abuse and mechanism for injury.
Notably excluded were any descriptions of caregiver mental health, substance abuse, pregnancy planning, and parent perceptions of child temperament or behavior.
"Experts worried about narrowing a medical evaluation to exclude elements that might help to reduce future adversities for the child and family, yet acknowledged the potential for bias introduced by the psychosocial history. The final consensus guideline reflects uncertainty regarding the reliability of these psychosocial factors in shaping early diagnostic decisions," the authors comment.
The authors acknowledge that the findings may not reflect the opinions of the wider CAP community, and that opinion may change as scientific truths emerge over time.
"Additional research is required to determine whether these consensus guidelines can reduce previously described variability, decrease potential bias, and/or improve reliability in the evaluation and diagnosis of child physical abuse," the authors conclude.
The study was supported by a grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health. Study data were collected and managed using Research Electronic Data Capture, hosted through a grant from the Center for Clinical and Translational Science at the University of Utah. Dr Campbell's institution receives financial compensation for expert witness testimony provided in cases of suspected child abuse for which she is subpoenaed to testify. The other authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.
Broward Leads Florida in Child-on-Child Sexual Abuse
by Jess Swanson
Pedophiles are some of the most hated members of society. But what happens when the person sexually abusing a child is himself a child? It's a disturbing thought — children sexually abusing other children — but unfortunately, it is more prevalent than most people imagine — especially in Broward, where there are more incidents reported than in any other county in Florida.
"People don't realize it's an epidemic," James DePelisi, CEO of the Broward Crime Commission, tells New Times . "People don't understand the magnitude of the problem."
The number of reported incidents has drastically increased in the past few years. According to DePelisi, the Child Protective Investigations Section at the Broward County Sheriff's Office reported 593 child-on-child sexual abuse cases in 2014. That is more than a 100 percent increase from five years before, in 2009, when there were 248 cases. The graph above charts the number of cases reported each year from 2006. Between 2013 and 2014, there is a clear spike in numbers. And it isn't a fluke. As of June 2015, 284 cases had already been reported, putting the year on track to be even higher than the year before. That is the reason DePelisi and the Broward Crime Commission have honed in on this problem.
It is estimated that minors account for half of all child-molestation cases each year. And, according to DePelisi and other child advocates, this is happening mostly among younger children, not teenagers. The majority of incidents happen when both children are between 5 and 8 years old. Unlike other cases of child sexual abuse, the perpetrators are oftentimes victims too. DePelisi points out that they are referred to as the "child initiator" and not more stigmatized terms like "juvenile sexual offender" for that reason. Most of the time, if the child is not being abused, he or she is neglected and is witnessing pornography, domestic violence, or parents performing sexual acts not behind closed doors.
Almost all cases (99 percent) happen during school hours. Government officials and investigators are aware of the prevalence of child-on-child sexual abuse. It's "Main Street" that DePelisi says needs to be more vigilant. Most parents and teachers don't know about this issue unless they've been involved in an incident. The Broward Crime Commission is launching a study to further explore the issue. The findings will be released in August.
"We're talking about helpless victims," DePelisi says. "We tell our kids to make nice and learn how to play, to develop social skills, but there might be some other boy who was abused who is going to act that out on the innocent child you're sending to school every day."
After Sandusky, A Debate Over Whether Sex-Abuse Law Goes Too Far
by Jeff Brady
University professors in Pennsylvania are upset over a new law that requires them to get a child abuse background check every three years and have their fingerprints taken.
The law was passed after the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal. In 2012 Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant football coach, was convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period. He'll likely spend the rest of his life in prison.
Most of Sandusky's crimes took place off campus. But this law, enacted because of his crimes, affects all college and university campuses in the state. The law applies to anyone at schools and colleges who interacts with people under 18 years old. This includes elementary school teachers, preschool workers and college professors who might teach 17-year-old freshmen.
"I don't consider my students to be children," says Penn State art history professor Brian Curran. He's also president of the local advocacy chapter of the American Association of University Professors. Curran says the law's intentions are good, but including college professors doesn't make sense to him.
"Standing in some line and being fingerprinted — it just doesn't feel right. It seems intrusive in some sort of basic way," he says. And it's expensive. Penn State expects to spend up to $3 million for this first round of fingerprints and screening.
While professors have been the most vocal critics so far, the law applies to a wide range of people on campuses, from secretaries to janitors. Among the criminal convictions that would prevent someone from getting a job: prostitution, drug offenses and sexual abuse.
Cathleen Palm, founder of the Center for Children's Justice, says advocates waited decades before the Sandusky case to strengthen Pennsylvania's child abuse laws. She supports this law, but said it may need some changes.
"We struck a pretty good balance the first round. We didn't clarify things enough. So now we're back trying to clarify it," Palm says. But she warns, "There's a difference between clarifying and walking back protections."
Pennsylvania lawmakers are debating how the language should be changed. Palm says the standard for who falls under the law should be based on the kind of contact a person has — not where it takes place.
"Where there are young people who will have interaction with adults — especially unsupervised interaction — it shouldn't matter that it's a college campus. ... We need to get those folks screened," she says.
This is just one of the nearly two dozen changes to Pennsylvania law prompted by the Sandusky case. Even the definition of what is child abuse has been changed in the state. That's creating some uncertainty and charges in cases that would not have been considered child abuse in the past, according to Janet Ginzberg, senior staff attorney at Community Legal Services. Her group provides free legal services, in civil matters, to low-income Philadelphians.
"I know of some cases where people have been charged with child abuse under the new standards, but they haven't worked their way through the courts yet," Ginzberg says.
As details of those cases become public, she predicts years of legal battles ahead. In this post-Sandusky-scandal era, Pennsylvania now must sort out exactly what is child abuse and who should face extra screening because they work with kids.
Prison terms for child sex offenders have not lengthened despite royal commission
by Jane Lee
Prison sentences for child sex offences in Victoria have largely stayed the same in recent years despite expectations they would rise following the establishment of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Sexual penetration of a child under 12 was the only one of the five child sex offences where the average imprisonment term grew, from three years and four months in 2011/12 to four years and seven months in 2013/14.
The maximum penalty for the crime is 25 years' imprisonment together with, or separate from, a $442,830 fine.
The average sentence for the persistent sexual abuse of a child under 16 went down to five years six months last year from 8½ years in 2011-12, the latest sentencing trends from the Sentencing Advisory Council revealed on Friday. The imprisonment rate for this offence has fluctuated over the past five years, with the median term of imprisonment six years.
The council's chairman, Emeritus Professor Arie Freiberg, said the figures defied expectations sentences would have grown in recent years.
?"Given the concerns about sexual offences against children ... the levels have not changed significantly," he said. "I would have thought the average sentence lengths may have gone up whereas they've been stable, [particularly] given what courts have been saying about the seriousness of such offences and how courts should respond to them."
The former Napthine government last year introduced baseline sentences for a range of serious offences, including sexual penetration of a child under 12, which aimed to lift the average sentence for that crime from 3½ years to 10 years. Former attorney-general Robert Clark then said the law aimed to increase the length of "appallingly inadequate" sentences.
Professor Freiberg said it was "too early" to assess the full impact baseline sentences have had on the offence since taking effect this year.
Prison terms for rape were, by contrast, consistently higher in the same period, with the average imprisonment length ranging from four years, 10 months in 2011/12, to five years, one month in 2013/14.
Yet the total effective sentences for rape and sexual penetration of a child under 12 – which includes time served for other crimes offenders are convicted of at the time – were closer to each other. The median total effective prison sentence for people convicted of rape was six years, compared to six years and five months for sexual penetration of a child under 12.
Professor Freiberg noted that unlike child sex cases, consent was often debated in rape cases, where both the victim and alleged perpetrator are adults. This issue could affect sentencing outcomes.
"There are absolutely no issues with consent for [victims] under 12," he said.
In November 2012, former prime minister Julia Gillard first announced the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The commission began hearings in 2013 and is expected to conclude in 2017, with its final report due on 15 December of that year.
The commission has exposed the widespread nature and severity of historic child abuse in a variety of different institutions including schools, churches, sporting groups and hospitals.
It has also revealed the long-term impact of child sexual abuse on adult victims decades on, as well as their families, who are considered secondary victims.
Average length of imprisonment for people sentenced for:
Sexual penetration of a child under 12
2011/12: three years four months
2012/13: three years, 11 months
2013/14: four years, seven months
Indecent act with a child under 16
2011/12: one year, nine months
2012/13: one year, 10 months
2013/14: one year, nine months
Persistent sexual abuse of a child under 16
2011/12: eight years, six months
2012/13: six years, five months
2013/14: five years, five months
Sexual penetration with a child aged 12 to 16
2011/12: two years, nine months
2012/13: two years, six months
2013/14: two years, four months
Indecent act with a child under 16
2011/12: one year, nine months
2012/13: one year, 10 months
2013/14: one year, nine months
Source: Sentencing Advisory Council
Teacher's Aide Caught Groping a 13-Year-Old With Down Syndrome
by Ashley Feinberg
According to the NYPD, a 69-year-old teacher's assistant was arrested on Thursday after he was caught “fondling” a 13-year-old girl with Down syndrome at a park in Williamsburg.
From the New York Daily News:
A witness called the cops on Jesus Lorenzo, a teacher's assistant at IS 318, after spotting him groping the teen in the De Hostos playground — directly adjacent to the junior high school — on Walton St. and Harrison Ave. in Williamsburg around 11 a.m. Thursday, authorities said.
Police are still unsure whether the victim was one of Lorenzo's students or if he even knew the girl at all. And though still awaiting formal arraignment, Lorenzo is being charged with forcible touching, endangering the welfare of a child, and sexual conduct with an individual less than 17.
Public hearing into out-of-home care to resume
The Royal Commission will resume its public hearing in Sydney from Monday 29 June 2015 at 10:00am. The hearing is currently scheduled to run for one week.
This is the second stage of the Royal Commission's public hearing examining preventing child sexual abuse in out-of-home care and responding to allegations of child sexual abuse occurring in out-of-home care.
Evidence will be received from care leavers, representatives from organisations which provide advocacy and support services and oversight bodies (Children's Guardians, Public Advocates, Children's Commissioners and Ombudsmen).
The scope and purpose of the public hearing is to inquire into:
- The incidence of child sexual abuse in contemporary out-of-home care settings.
- Recruitment, assessment and training of carers in out-of-home care.
- Monitoring and oversight of children in out-of-home care in the context of preventing child sexual abuse and responding to allegations of child sexual abuse.
- Systems, policies, practices and procedures for
a. reporting allegations of child sexual abuse in out-of-home care
b. responding to allegations of child sexual abuse in out-of-home care, and
c. supporting children who have been sexually abused in out-of-home care.
- Any related matters.
Report Helps Police Protect Kids While Arresting Their Parents
by Stell Simonton
Each year in the United States, several million children witness the arrest of a parent.
These arrests are most likely to be for domestic violence, drug-related incidents and property crimes, according to a report from the Office of Justice Programs Diagnostic Center, an agency of the U.S. Department of Justice.
The experience can be excruciating for children.
“It turns their world upside down,” said Lisa Thurau, founder and executive director of Strategies for Youth: Connecting Cops & Kids, a Cambridge, Mass.-based nonprofit that provides training to both police and youth.
Thurau wrote the report “First Do No Harm: Model Practices When Police Arrest Parents in the Presence of Children.”
“[Children] often want to see domestic violence against the mother stopped, but the way the police conduct the arrest … can scare and traumatize them,” she said.
The majority of police departments don't have protocols that guide police in dealing with children at the scene of an arrest, she said.
“Police are not supported or equipped to address the interaction with children,” Thurau said.
In some cases, children have come home from school and found no one to care for them because parents were arrested.
In addition, police are often not trained to recognize the signs of trauma in children and youth, she said.
Thurau's report describes model practices that make arrests less traumatic for children. The guidelines call for police to make sure children are accounted for and left with competent adults. Police should have contact with social workers and child advocates to connect the children with services they may need.
Among the protocols:
Police should avoid pointing weapons at children.
Police should avoid handcuffing compliant parents in front of the children.
When police have secured the situation, they should let parents comfort their children and explain what has happened.
Police in Manchester, Conn,. are already using a set of procedures developed by researchers at the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut.
Manchester police carry a reference card that guides them in taking steps to deal with children.
The department has a partnership with a team of six therapists, who can come to the location of the arrest and assist with the children while police are dealing with the adults, according to a January 2014 article in the Hartford Courant.
The therapists also follow up with the family, according to the article.
The first job of police is to stop violence or potential violence and make necessary arrests, Manchester Police Lt. Sean Grant told the newspaper. After that, police can consider the effect on children, he said.
Arrests "can be very troubling, confusing and scary to [children] because they don't comprehend if their parent is ever coming back,” Manchester police spokesman Capt. Christopher Davis told the newspaper.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police released a set of guidelines in August 2014 in the report “Safeguarding Children of Arrested Parents.”
It will be discussed at their conference in October, Thurau said. “It's really in the hands of police chiefs to show leadership,” she said.
The Hunt for Child Sex Abusers Is Happening in the Wrong Places
by Abigail Jones
It's late March when Lauren Book and I head into the bowels of the Florida Civil Commitment Center (FCCC), armed with loose-leaf paper, pencils and the knowledge that we are about to sit face to face with three of the most dangerous sexually violent predators in the state. “This is the most manipulative crowd on the planet,” says Kristin Kanner, director of the Florida Department of Children and Families' Sexually Violent Predator Program. And one of the men we're seeing today has been sending Book and her father angry letters for the past few years.
The FCCC is surrounded by seemingly endless stretches of sugar fields, cow pastures and orange groves. Wrapped in 12-foot barbed wire fences and guarded with more than 200 cameras, it is where Florida keeps 640 of its worst sexually violent offenders. About half have committed crimes against just children, a third against just adults.
Visits like ours are rare. Aside from prosecutors, defense attorneys and legislators, the last time anyone from the general public was granted this kind of FCCC access was in 2013, Book's first visit. Her father, Ron Book, routinely referred to as one of the most powerful lobbyists in Florida, was not happy about that trip. “I just don't like exposing her to the population,” he explains. “These are people one step away from killing a kid. People who stole children's childhoods.”
Lauren Book, who's 30, is one of over 42 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse in the U.S. For six years, starting when she was 11, her family's live-in nanny sexually abused her. Today, she teaches children, parents and educators about child sexual abuse and prevention through her nonprofit, Lauren's Kids. “There was a prevailing thought that child sexual abuse only happened in those neighborhoods over there, with those kids, not in our private school, in our gated community,” says Book, who grew up in a wealthy part of South Florida. “It was important to say, ‘Yes, it does happen to blond-haired, green-eyed kids who go to the university school.'”
When we walk into the FCCC's main entrance, the first thing we see is a large poster announcing a sexual-abuse awareness fundraiser among residents and staff. Book, Claire VanSusteren (communications director of Lauren's Kids) and I had already agreed to background checks, so all that was left to do was present our IDs to the guard and hand over our personal belongings. We walk through a metal detector and into an interior hallway, where a reassuringly large security guard leads us to the visiting room. “Do you stay for the interviews?” I ask, hoping his answer is yes. He nods.
The room is large and sterile, with white tables, blue chairs and vending machines pushed up against one wall. Defense attorney Jeanine Cohen; Brian Mason, a lawyer with the FCCC; and the security guard sit nearby, but it's clear that Book, VanSusteren and I will be the ones sharing a table with each of the sex offenders. I immediately flash to a piece of advice an expert gave me: “Odds are, in a facility you'll be safe. But don't let [the sex offenders] sit between you and the door.” He added, as if reading my mind, “It's right out of the movie—Hannibal Lecter!”
In Florida, it's legal to lock up sex offenders after they've served their sentences, as long as they've been deemed too dangerous to rejoin society. The process, called civil commitment, has existed here since 1999, when the Jimmy Ryce Act took effect in honor of a 9-year-old boy who was abducted on his way home from school, then raped, decapitated and dismembered. When sex offenders complete their time in prison, Florida's Sexually Violent Predator Program reviews their cases, looking for evidence of “a mental abnormality or personality disorder—something that makes them likely to reoffend,” Kanner says.
Once civilly committed, residents spend six to seven years, sometimes longer, undergoing extensive treatment, and they need to show rehabilitation before they are considered for release. While it's unlikely someone would be let out without participating in treatment, special situations do occur—as when a resident is “severely medically compromised,” Kanner says, or “‘ages' out of the risk to reoffend.” For some residents, refusing treatment means spending the rest of their lives inside those 12-foot barbed wire fences.
Today, civil commitment is legal in 20 states and under federal law, and it's deeply controversial. “If you ask any psychologist involved in [civil commitment], they'll tell you that treatment is the only thing we know that will change someone,” says Kanner. Since 1998, 932 sex offenders have been civilly committed at the FCCC, and on average, 85 percent of them opt for treatment. “Research shows that sex offenders who receive specialized treatment services reoffend at lower rates than those who don't get treatment,” says Jill Levenson, an associate professor of social work at Barry University who researches sex offender policy and treatment. “Is it perfect? No. Treatment doesn't work equally for everyone. People die after getting chemo, but we don't say it doesn't treat cancer.”
Indeed, the civil commitment system doesn't always work as it's supposed to. A recent investigation by the Sun Sentinel found that over a 14-year period, Florida considered committing but then released 594 sex offenders who were later convicted of other sex crimes. These men went on to molest over 460 children, rape 121 women and kill 14, the Sun Sentinel reported. The rate of recidivism among child sexual abusers is 13 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and research shows that sex offenders with stable jobs, housing and social supports are far less likely to reoffend. Yet Florida does not offer supervision programs to offenders after they are released from the FCCC. “They're just let out, which I think is counterintuitive and counterproductive,” says Kanner. “You're setting them up for failure.”
Civil commitment is also expensive—the FCCC cost $62 million to build and now needs about $24 million a year to operate. In 2010, the 20 states with civil commitment programs spent nearly $500 million on 5,200 offenders, according to an Associated Press analysis. Another concern is that civil commitment violates offenders' rights. In Minnesota, a federal judge recently ruled that the state's sex offender treatment program, which holds more than 700 people, is unconstitutional. Since the program launched in the 1990s, no one has been fully discharged.
David Lisak, board president of 1in6, a nonprofit for male victims of child sexual abuse, is a leading psychologist who studies child sexual abuse and non-stranger rape. “What frightens me,” he says, “is when I see people winking at each other so we can all pretend this really does pass constitutional muster, because— wink, wink —we're treating these people for a mental illness, when the same people will tell you in the next breath, especially off the record, that they view these people as untreatable.”
A man starts walking toward Book, VanSusteren and me. We don't know much about him other than he's 51 years old and his public record includes two offenses, one for kidnapping and the other for lewdly fondling, assaulting, or committing or simulating sexual acts on or in the presence of a minor. Since he asked to remain anonymous, I'll call him Jesse. His shiny bald head, thin mouth and short-sleeved collared shirt make him look more like a wimpy uncle than one of the state's most dangerous predators. Book stands up, extends her hand and says, “Thank you for taking the time to talk with us.”
“Anything to give back to the community and advocate for the kids,” he says, shaking her hand, then mine and then VanSusteren's.
We sit down, and Jesse adjusts his chair, smiling hesitantly. “What led you here?” Book says.
“My awareness,” he says, sounding as if he's regurgitating treatment literature. “Realizing the pain I've caused in my victims' lives and in their families and communities. Everyone is affected. I didn't want to come here, but I knew I needed help.” He explains that he was raped at 13, sexually abused by his brothers and beaten by his father for over a decade. Later, he drank. “Offenders don't go out and rape someone because a lady in the bar won't have sex with them. Realize [that] there's always something going on in that person's life that they never addressed.”
When he talks about his father's abuse, his mouth starts quivering. “Feeling that inadequate, I didn't know how to ask for help. My dad always taught me to resolve things through anger, and I became a master at that. I'd go to any length to get what I needed.” It dawns on me that Jesse was exactly the kind of child Book now works so hard to reach.
He looks at us with hazel eyes that seem to be getting bigger, sadder and wetter with each second, and as I scribble down his words, I remember something Kanner told me a few days earlier: “Listen to what they say with a grain of salt. Most psychopaths are very charming. You want to like them.”
‘That's What I Did Wrong'
Growing up, Lauren Book was the eldest and self-professed “goody two-shoes” of the three children. Her father was often traveling or working long hours, and her mother was busy running a chocolate shop. As she writes in her memoir, It's OK to Tell: A Story of Hope and Recovery, she often dreamt about breaking her leg “so I could be the center of attention for a day.”
Then her parents hired Waldina Flores through a reputable nanny agency. At first, Flores doted on Book, giving her extra dessert, letting her stay up late and telling her how pretty she was. This is called grooming: A predator identifies his or her prey—typically a lonely, shy child whose parents aren't paying attention—and showers him or her with special attention. Book latched on to Flores as a surrogate parent. “Love and consistency and stability, that's all I wanted in my entire life,” Book says.
One day, Flores told her to stop chewing gum. “I said in my 11-year-old sassiness, ‘What are you gonna do about it?'” Book recalls. “She proceeded to stick her tongue in my mouth and take the gum with her tongue.” The abuse escalated from there.
Over the next six years, Flores performed oral sex on Book and forced Book to do the same on her. She penetrated her young victim with vegetables and forks, threw her down a flight of stairs and urinated and defecated on her. Flores was so controlling, she chose Book's clothes, did her hair and picked which feminine hygiene products she could use. “She wanted me to use pads because she wanted to be the only thing inside me,” Book says. Flores also convinced her that they were going to get married and have children one day. The sexual, physical and emotional abuse occurred daily, in bedrooms, bathrooms and closets, often with Book's parents and siblings in the next room.
“Waldina didn't hurt me 24 hours a day. If it was an hour a day and 23 hours being wonderful, it doesn't make the one hour less bad, but that's what I had to pay for being loved and having consistency,” Book says. “To be honest, the trade-off was OK.”
Book was 17 when she told her boyfriend about the abuse, then her therapist and finally her father. “My dad is not a crying person,” she says. “He was hunched over and said, ‘I'm sorry, Pip. I'm so sorry.' I knew that it was gonna be OK. It would be over, and I didn't have to do it anymore. Those were three of the best words in my life: I'm sorry, Pip .”
Book was lucky; many parents side with the abuser, especially if it's a spouse or family member, or they are immobilized by guilt for bringing a predator into their family. Ron Book immediately filed a police report and forced Flores out of their home. She was arrested three months later in Oklahoma City, where she'd gotten a volunteer job coaching a girls' soccer team. In January 2002, the Books offered Flores a plea deal of 10 years in prison. Her response (through her attorney): “Please tell Mr. Book to go fuck himself.”
Ten months later, just one day before Book's 18th birthday—the same day the trial was set to begin—Flores decided she wanted to take the original 10-year offer. “On behalf of Mr. Book, no deal and please tell Ms. Flores to go fuck herself,” Ron Book said through his lawyer. Flores ended up accepting a 15-year sentence for child molestation charges and had to apologize in open court. In 2004, she received an additional 10 years when she wrote Book love letters from prison, violating an order not to contact her.
Even after Flores was arrested, Book's suffering continued—anorexia, self-mutilation, depression, sleepless nights, post-traumatic stress disorder. Her recovery stretched out over years, and she still experiences night terrors. Even her upcoming wedding this summer carries an extra heavy weight: She may never be able to carry a baby to term due to the scarring from Flores's abuse.
Despite all this, Book considers herself one of the lucky ones. “I have tremendous support from my family, and without them I couldn't do this. I wouldn't have lived,” she says. “Those really tough years made me the person I am today—not just living through them but living beyond them.”
This year marks Book's sixth annual Walk in My Shoes, a 1,500-mile, monthlong journey that takes her and tens of thousands of survivors and supporters from Key West to Tallahassee. Her robust education curricula, Safer, Smarter Kids, is in over 16,000 kindergarten and pre-K classrooms across Florida and select schools in New York, California, Georgia and Illinois, and across the Caribbean through a partnership with UNICEF. Experts don't always agree on the success of such educational programs, yet testing shows that Book's has improved kids' safety knowledge by 77 percent.
Ron Book, who still cries when he talks about everything his daughter endured, has spent more than a decade transforming Florida's sex offender laws, making it one of the harshest states for sex offenders. Along with his daughter, he has been an advocate for nearly two dozen legislative victories. As Levenson puts it, “If Lauren Book had been shot by somebody, we would have very different gun laws in Florida. If she was hit by a drunk driver, we would have very different drunk driving laws.”
“Not too long ago, the penalty in Florida for failure to report animal abuse carried a stiffer penalty than failing to report child abuse,” Ron Book says. Legislation he lobbied for made it mandatory for all Floridians—not just parents or guardians—to report known or suspected child abuse. Those who fail to do so are charged with a third-degree felony, and colleges and universities face up to a $1 million fine for not reporting. He also advocated for laws that make it a crime for convicted felony offenders to contact victims or their families (the Lauren Book Protection Act) and imposed mandatory 50-year sentences on those who knowingly sexually assault individuals with disabilities. When his local-residency restrictions prohibited registered sex offenders from living, on average, 2,500 feet from schools, day care centers and other places where children gather, a colony of homeless offenders popped up under Miami's Julia Tuttle Causeway.
For all Ron Book has done to protect Florida's children, he carries an immeasurable grief from what happened to his family. He has never been able to read more than a few pages of the official police report, but he's pored over thousands of photos and 100 hours of video, looking for a clue he might have missed. “I probably have stayed in a state of denial about guilt. Why else would I be crying?” he says through tears. “I'll tell you about what I did wrong: I told my children, all three of them, ‘The nanny is in control. Do what the nanny says. Follow her lead! Obey! Respect! Listen to her!' My middle daughter and son would say, ‘She's mean to us.' And I attributed it to them simply wanting to be children. I wasn't listening. I didn't hear them. That's what I did wrong.”
‘The Land That Time Forgot'
“Girls and boys, why do we have rules?”
Lauren Book is standing in front of 30 kindergarteners in a colorful classroom at Glades Academy, a charter school in Pahokee, Florida. She's wearing black sweatpants, running shoes and a teal Lauren's Kids T-shirt with the organization's signature butterfly on the front, and her blond hair is pulled back in a tight ponytail. “Because rules help us stay...” She pauses. “What?”
“Safe!” the children shout back. They sit in pairs and wear matching khaki pants and collared shirts—one of a few sets of uniforms the school gives each child at the start of the school year.
“Yes, rules help us stay safe. I'm here today to talk about some of my favorite rules to help all of you stay safe, OK?”
In unison: “OK!”
Book is almost monomaniacally focused on keeping children safe. In her sweet, high-pitched voice, she asks the kindergarteners to close their eyes and imagine what a stranger looks like. “Is your stranger tall or is your stranger short?”
“Is your stranger a man or a woman?”
Book asks about his eyes (“Angry!”), nose (“Pointy!”), mouth (“Mean!”) and clothes (“Messy!”). Then she asks what he's holding.
“Guns!” shouts one boy. “A knife!” says another. “An ax! A shotgun!”
“Now let me ask you a question, boys and girls,” Book says. “Am I a stranger?”
“No? When did you meet me?”
“How many minutes ago? Like, five minutes ago! Why do you think that I'm not a stranger?”
“'Cause you're nice and pretty!” says one girl.
“No pointy nose! No knife!”
“Boys and girls, let me tell you something. I am a stranger! Just because I have neat hair, that doesn't mean I'm not a stranger. A stranger is just someone you don't know well. Can you tell if someone is good or bad from how they look on the outside?”
For the first time all morning, the room goes silent.
Book hasn't come to preach about stranger danger; she talks about trusted adults and what children can do if someone makes them feel “icky, confused, scared or not quite right.” These are important, although rare, lessons here at Glades Academy.
Surrounded by thousands of acres of sugarcane, Pahokee is a place where churches abound and poverty reigns. In 2009, the Palm Beach County Economic Development Office announced that Pahokee had reached “Depression levels,” with 32 percent unemployment—nearly three times the countywide rate. All that for a city that's just an hour west of glitzy Palm Beach.
“This is the drug and sexual abuse capital of the world out here,” says Don Zumpano, principal of Glades Academy. “These children, the great majority of them don't have fathers in the house. The mothers or the grandmothers raise them as best they can. As far as parent participation, it's just hurting. I don't know exactly how to explain it.... It's the land that time forgot.”
Dr. Z, as the students call Zumpano, has worked as a special educator for over 40 years, the last 10 at Glades Academy. “What we do here is not all about reading, writing and arithmetic,” he says in the privacy of the teacher's lounge. “It's a lot of socialization. Feeding the kids. Buying them clothes.”
He lets out a full-bellied sigh when I ask if abuse is a problem among his students, then tells the story of a boy who came to school with a large burn on his stomach. It looked to be the size of a curling iron. Zumpano struggled to contact the boy's mother—many parents in the community work multiple jobs, or have disconnected phone lines, or don't have transportation to get to the school. When he finally reached her, she said she had no idea why her son had a burn on his skin. “We did the best we could,” he says.
Like Book, Zumpano's childhood inspires his work. “My mother raised four boys by herself. So I know what...” he pauses. “I was once one of these kids,” he says, eyes filling with tears. He stares at the ground, then quickly stands up, apologizes and walks out.
Down the hallway, Book and the Lauren's Kids team help the kindergarteners come up with three trusted adults (what Book calls their “Trusted Triangle”). “How do I spell Grandma ?” one asks. “How many M's in Mom ?” asks another. In the back row, a girl with braids is zoning out. VanSusteren kneels down and asks her whom she wants to put in her Trusted Triangle. The girl rests her head on her desk. “Who are the adults in your life who make you feel safe?” VanSusteren asks. The girl covers her head. “Your mommy or daddy?” The girl shakes her head no.
After class, VanSusteren mentions the exchange to the teacher, who explains that the girl had just been removed from her parents' home and now lives with her aunt. It's not the first time one of Book's school visits has led to such a discovery. “I'm glad to know the teacher is in the loop, because sometimes when we've done activities like that, unsafe situations have been disclosed that were not previously known,” says VanSusteren. “So many times, children want to tell you something isn't quite right, but they don't have the words to do so.”
Just 10 Percent of the Problem
The myth of stranger danger—“dirty men” lurking in parks or malls, luring our children away from us with puppies and candy—is itself a danger. The reality is, the overwhelming majority of predators are in the victim's family photo album or social circle. Ninety percent of children who are sexually abused know their abuser. A 2000 study found that family members account for 34 percent of people who abuse juveniles, and acquaintances account for another 59 percent. Only 7 percent were strangers.
Yet conversations about child sexual abuse often focus on horrific examples of stranger danger. We find comfort in searching registries to find out whether registered sex offenders live in our neighborhoods. We tell our children not to talk to strangers. And we label men and women who abuse children as monsters. This demonizing of strangers is extremely dangerous, considering that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys are sexually abused by the time they turn 18, and around 90 percent of individuals with developmental disabilities will be sexually abused at some point.
“We have an idea that I would know [a sex offender] if I saw one, and I can avoid it and keep my child away,” says Karen Baker, director of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. “We need to get over the idea that we can tell who's a good and bad person.”
The Catholic Church sex abuse cover-up and the Jerry Sandusky case, in which the former assistant football coach at Pennsylvania State University was convicted of sexually assaulting 10 boys, prove just how wrong that notion is. So do two more recent revelations: Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert allegedly paid a former student millions of dollars to cover up allegations of sexual abuse, and Josh Duggar, the eldest son on 19 Kids and Counting , TLC's popular Christian family values reality show, molested five girls when he was a teenager, including four of his sisters.
“It's a hard idea to keep in the forefront of your thinking,” says David Finkelhor, who directs the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire and has been researching child victimization and family violence for nearly 40 years. “You can't be interacting with your neighbors and then thinking all the time about whether they're molesting your kids.”
The good news is that, for more than two decades, the rate of child sexual abuse has been declining in the U.S. Between 1992 and 2013, the number of cases fell 64 percent, according to a study headed by Finkelhor. Costly criminal justice initiatives—like sex offender registries, community notification and civil commitment—are often credited for this dramatic change, but Finkelhor argues that “these came online after the decline had already started.”
Still, those big-ticket criminal justice efforts tend to get all the money and attract all the headlines. Yet these initiatives, Finkelhor says, “mostly pertain to people already identified and arrested—and only about 10 percent of new cases of abuse involve someone who has a prior record. Even if you lock up everybody who had been convicted of an offense, you'd only be taking care of 10 percent of the problem.... We need more prevention and treatment in this area, but that costs money and legislators don't want to do that.”
Sex offender registries, for example, demand huge fiscal and human resources, yet “the abundance of research appears to say they aren't really successful,” says Levenson, who has met more than 2,000 sex offenders in her 25 years as a licensed clinical social worker. “However, they are successful in making people feel safer.” By comparison, sex offender management and prevention programs receive far less funding.
“Wouldn't it be better to stop child sexual abuse before it starts? Everyone says yes, and then I hear we don't have the money for that,” says Elizabeth Letourneau, director of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “We have money to spend millions of dollars on [prosecuting and punishing] sex offenders, but no money to prevent these things from occurring in the first place.”
‘I Am Fearless'
By 10 a.m., the hot Florida sun is beating down on all of us—Book, the Lauren's Kids team, the pack of walkers. It's the 22nd day of Walk in My Shoes, and we've all but stopped traffic on a local road in Bradenton, Florida. Behind us rolls Book's souped-up bus, a confection of pink, teal and white with a gigantic photo of Book emblazoned across the side and the phrase “Walk in My Shoes: Come Walk With Us.” Miley Cyrus's pump-up anthem “Party in the U.S.A.” blasts from its speakers.
Some days, the walk attracts hundreds of people. Today there's about two dozen, and Book cycles through the small crowd like the Energizer Bunny, introducing herself to newcomers and hugging walkers who have become part of the extended Lauren's Kids family. Everyone is wearing a teal Lauren's Kids T-shirt, each with an empty white box on the back for the person to write his or her reason for walking. “For my wife :),” says one. “I'm a survivor,” says another. Book's T-shirt reads, “For all of our kids.”
A tall, beefy young man with a black bandana over his head wrote one word on his T-shirt: “Kriss,” with a heart over the “i.” That's his girlfriend, and they're walking hand in hand. “I was molested as a child, and I was also raped twice, so I walk for that,” says Kriss, 26, who has short blond hair with streaks of pink. “In my family, they don't understand so they blame me. It's OK to open up. It's gonna suck, but that's the first step: admitting what happened. It took me almost 10 years.”
This is a familiar refrain today. Ken Followell, 57, was sexually molested by various family members starting when he was 2. The abuse continued until he was 14, and he didn't speak up about it until his late 30s. Followell was raised in a large extended family in Gary, Indiana. “They kept all the female cousins away from [one male family member] because they knew he had abused” girls before. “They never thought boys would be at risk, but he was flexible,” says Followell, who is a board member and former president of MaleSurvivor. “Because he was a pedophile, he wasn't interested in gender. He was interested in children.”
I'm walking with a young woman named Patty when we hear the indie rock hit “Pompeii,” by Bastille, with its recurring chorus, “How am I gonna be an optimist about this?” She explains that she was sexually abused by her father but repressed the memories until her younger sister, then 4, told her she was being molested by their mother's boyfriend.
“I had flashbacks to what I had to endure—my mother not believing me and me having to deal with it for 10 years. It was at that point that I said, ‘I'm not going to let this child go through what I went through,'” Patty says, breathing heavily. “By the grace of God, I had the strength to call [Child Protective Services] on her and take my three sisters.” Patty still has custody of one of them, but the other two live with their mother. “Maybe I couldn't help all of my sisters, but one is OK.”
Every person I meet during the walk has a similar story of tragedy and resilience. There's Chuck and his son, Chris, who has Williams syndrome, a genetic disability. They came up from Sarasota to walk because, three years ago, Chris disclosed that he had been sexually abused by a relative. There's also JR, a 41-year-old woman with an intellectual and developmental disability. As a child, she was adopted by a family that treated her as a sex slave, forcing her to endure sadistic sexual, physical and emotional abuse. When Book first met her a few years ago, JR weighed 90 pounds and refused to speak to anyone other than Ninja and Ozzie, her stuffed animal penguins. Today, thanks to trauma therapy and Book's friendship, she's gained about 20 pounds and talked to me while we walked. She was one of less than a dozen people who crossed the finish line that day, and she did so holding Book's hand and saying, “I am strong! I am brave! I am fearless!”
In the evening, after walking nearly 25 miles, hosting a children's event at a bookstore and talking with families at a cookout in a strip mall, Book collapses in her bus. She wraps a pink blanket around her shoulders and places enormous bags of ice on her shins. After calling her fiancé and doing a quick FaceTime with her father, Book says to me, “Do you know how many people came to my first wedding? Eight hundred! This time, we only ordered 125 invitations.” After gushing about the guy, the dress and the locale—and explaining that, in her early 20s, she was briefly married to her high school sweetheart—she tells me about two of her favorite things: “Spoelstra and Birdman,” she says.
“ Birdman , the movie?” I ask, because at the time I had no idea what a Spoelstra was. (Erik Spoelstra, the coach of the Miami Heat, apparently.)
She looks at me as if I had suddenly sprouted three heads. Her Birdman, I learn, is not the 2015 Academy Award winner for best picture but rather a heavily tattooed, mohawk-sporting basketball player on the Miami Heat named Chris Andersen. She explains all this, then bursts out laughing. It's the first time in three days she hasn't been on. (Ironically, in 2013 Andersen was ensnared in an elaborate Internet hoax involving underage girls and child pornography. He was cleared of all involvement.)
“The walks are so hard,” says Book, who has trekked across Florida on scorching hot days and through downpours, all with severe shin splints and other injuries. “I'm in pain, but that doesn't matter, because that's what matters: Being there in that moment to help set JR on a better path.... There is a greater purpose for us, with what we're doing. It's JR. It's Ken [Followell]. It's Chris and Chuck. Just because these terrible things happen, it doesn't mean we're not still incredibly strong, powerful people. We're not damaged goods.”
‘Your Triggers, Your Fantasies'
“I have five victims—two minors and three adult females. I'd walk up from behind, grab their breasts and then flee the scene.” That's what Jesse says when Book asks him about his crimes. Later, we can't help but wonder whether he committed any others, because, as Book says, “you don't end up in civil commitment just for groping a few women and children.”
Jesse, who is in treatment and close to being considered for release, believes in the civil commitment process. The FCCC's four-phase treatment program aims to help predators learn control. That means increasing their empathy for other people, helping them understand the factors that led them down a path of abuse, and teaching them to recognize their triggers, like drinking or feeling lonely.
“It's changed my life and changed my future,” Jesse says. And he has a lot to work for: a 31-year-old daughter in Pennsylvania and a grandson, who's 5. He talks to them every day, he says, and dreams of getting better, getting out and living with them. “Success is having a support group, and they have to be fully aware of your past,” he says. “They need to know your triggers, fantasies, dislikes.”
Book is sitting perfectly still, listening to Jesse talk about what his life will be like on the other side. I can already tell she's concerned about his grandson—and the fact that he's putting the onus on his family to keep watch on his weaknesses, not himself. She asks him how he'll keep his grandson safe if he moves in with them. “I wouldn't trust anybody,” he says. “You really need to know the people your kids are with.”
The next resident we meet—I'll call him Michael—looks like a guy you'd find at a Brooklyn coffee shop wearing Warby Parkers and sporting a 5 o'clock shadow too manicured to be the result of laziness. As Book put it later, “If you met him at a Starbucks, you would have been like, ‘Hmm, he's kinda cute.'” But Michael, 41, says he's spent just nine months outside of prison since 1998; it all started when he was 25 and served two years in California for what he calls “the first felony offense I was ever caught for.” His victims ranged in age from 8 to 50.
“I'm a public masturbator,” he says. “As I escalated, I graduated to touch victims and masturbating when they were sleeping and unaware.” The bolder he got, the less fulfilling these acts became. “I attempted to rape a woman in California. In Florida, I manipulated my neighbor's teenage daughters into watching me masturbate through a window.”
“How did you do that?” Book says.
“I was smooth, charming and cool. I played on their desires to be liked, played on the fact that they liked attention from a 24-year-old guy.” One day, Michael heard someone singing a lewd song next door. “Instead of being an adult and ignoring it, I said, ‘Aha!' I knew then I'd try to exploit the situation. I'd talk to [my neighbors' daughters] at night through the windows.... I started getting out of the shower and dressing in my room so they could watch me.”
“Do you remember the song?”
“Something about balls,” he says. “I honestly don't remember.”
This is Michael's 10th year at the FCCC. He's been in treatment for eight, and like Jesse, he links his crimes to his childhood. “I didn't grow up in an abusive home, but my mom had a shallow emotional vocabulary,” he says. “As I grew up, I didn't grow up.... I had secret sexual thoughts and horrible ideas. I thought what was otherwise normal behavior, like masturbating, was bad for me.” At the word masturbating , he looks us straight in the eyes. “That was my 12-year-old heroin.”
Michael wants to go to trucking school, but says leaving the FCCC “will be like a blind person seeing for the first time. This is like practice here, but only at half speed. I'll have to get up to full speed, and that's my fear. We're not monsters. We were monsters.”
Our final interview of the day is with Donald (a pseudonym), who has been described as one of the five most manipulative men here. He's the one who sends Book and her father letters complaining about Lauren's Kids, civil commitment and the FCCC. He walks into the room wearing a checked shirt, a red tie and thick black glasses, looking like a used car salesman who woke up one day and decided to run for mayor. His gray hair is combed back, and before he sits down, he confidently reaches his clammy hand across the table and shakes Book's hand, then mine and says, “I want to take the time to thank you for wanting to interview me.”
Everybody—defense attorney Cohen; Mason, the FCCC lawyer; and the security guard—has intense, visceral reactions to Donald. The guard gets up from his seat near the wall and sits next to Book and Mason. Another guard comes in, says we have five or 10 minutes, max, and then stands on the other side of the room for the duration of the interview. Even Jesse, when he learned we were meeting with Donald, chuckled and covered his eyes with one arm.
When Book asks Donald why he's at the FCCC, he says he was convicted of four counts of sexual battery, committed against his girlfriend. “I was 39 and she was 46. She discovered I had an affair. We had a 50 Shades of Grey type of relationship. I must say, the movie is disappointing.” He looks at Book when he adds, “Have you seen it?”
She shakes her head no. (“Of course I've seen 50 Shades , and read it, but I wasn't going to give him that satisfaction,” she tells me later.)
Donald continues, “We had a kinky relationship. She retaliated because of the affair, and I ended up being convicted of sexual battery.”
Donald, who's 58, has not yet been civilly committed, but if he is, he plans to refuse treatment. “It takes six to eight years. I'll be 65!” he says. “They call this a state-of-the-art treatment center. It's a state-of-the-art prison under the guise of treatment. I'm gonna put my feet up and retire. A gated community in Florida is one hell of a way to retire!”
Before Book and I have a chance to ask many more questions, the guards signal that the interview is over. Donald looks at Book and smiles. “Tell your dad I say ‘hi!'” To VanSusteren and me: “Ladies, thank you.” Then he raises one hand up in the air and gives us a single, solid wave.
Back in the bus, Book sits cross-legged beneath her pink blanket and picks red and white gummy bears out of a bag. “When you start the day in Pahokee with these kids who are so underprivileged and at a greater risk for a lot of things... They had never seen you and didn't know your name, but they run up and hug you,” she says. “Then you go to the center and talk with those guys and you're looking into evil.... You unleash that [in Pahokee]? That's a recipe for horrific, horrible outcomes....
“Seeing these men in plainclothes sitting across from me reminds me that they are people. But they're lions in sheep's clothing.”
Take steps to prevent child sexual abuse
by Eden Roberts and Kimberly Dudik
In recent weeks, the media has covered the reality television show “19 Kids and Counting,” starring the Duggar family, because of the discovery that, as a teenager, Josh Duggar sexually abused up to five females, including some of his sisters. Unfortunately, many media outlets are politicizing this event, using their platform to discuss what will happen with the show or what should happen to Josh Duggar. The better discussion we should have is how do we, as a society, build knowledge and awareness to prevent other children from being sexually abused.
It is not shocking that Duggar was personally acquainted with his victims. Eighteen to 24 percent of child sexual abuse cases seen in child advocacy centers involve youth to youth abuse. Over 90 percent of child sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator, up to 40 percent of perpetrators being family members. While the concept of “stranger danger” has a role to play in teaching children safety, it is insufficient as a stand-alone preventive strategy. The trust a child and their family has in the perpetrator often contributes to opportunities for victimization.
Regardless of who the abuser is, all sexual abuse is serious and should be reported to authorities immediately to help all involved; delay causes more victims and repeated trauma. Effective evidence-based treatments exist to stop this behavior in youths, preventing further abusive behavior. We must take this opportunity to raise our awareness levels as adults and build preventive safeguards into our family's lives.
With one in four girls and one in six boys estimated to become a victim of sexual abuse, our society needs to take action to prevent this abuse. Of the 74.5 million children in the U.S., that equates to over 9 million female and 6 million male child victims of sexual abuse currently living in the U.S. With Missoula County's population, this will be approximately 2,716 female and 1,810 male victims of child sexual abuse (not including adult survivors).
Fortunately, many individuals, groups and organizations are working hard to empower people to prevent child sexual abuse. One of the most effective forms of prevention is preventing opportunity. Whether the perpetrator is an “opportunity-maker” whose offenses are premeditated or an “opportunity-taker” who offends when the situation allows for it, structuring your child's life and developing interventions to prevent opportunity will help keep children safe.
Ask questions of the people in your child's life. Whether friends, acquaintances or in a professional setting, ask what type of supervision is provided and what measures are in place to prevent child sexual abuse. If you are uncomfortable with a situation, or the rules seem unsatisfactory to protect your child, say no. You are the ultimate authority in the life of your child – do not become complacent or afraid to challenge others.
You can have the greatest impact on prevention in your own home. Call body parts by their appropriate names and become comfortable talking about age-appropriate sexual topics with your children – like teaching and explaining physical boundaries and body respect. Never force your children to engage in physical interaction with anyone, even hugs with family members. Children must feel empowered to set their own physical boundaries. Proper terminology and comfort level will also help foster an environment where children feel comfortable asking questions and you feel comfortable answering them. It may take awhile for your children to become comfortable asking questions, so your job is to initiate conversations and teaching moments. Ask hard questions and demand answers. Operate a no-secret household with a policy that doors always remain open when other children or adults are over. Your home should be your sanctuary and your children's safest place – put in the hard work to always know what is going on there and ensure you children are safe.
Keeping children safe is an individual and community commitment. The Missoula Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Team, a group of professionals dedicated to improving community awareness of and preventing child sexual abuse, is available to help. To learn more or request a presentation about preventing child sexual abuse, email MCSAPT@gmail.com.
Trauma: The Heart of the Matter
by Tanya Morshed
When we read about sexual abuse and assault incidents in the news, what is often missing is information about the long-term impact of those experiences, particularly trauma.
A new global study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in four women and one in 10 men experienced sexual abuse as a child. It also found that high levels of sexual abuse compounded with low levels of support could cause long-term trauma and negative outcomes. Further, the National Center for PTSD (NCPTSD) reports that five out of 10 women experience a traumatic event in their lifetime and the most common trauma for women is sexual assault or child sexual abuse.
As a clinical social worker for 14 years, I have regularly witnessed the heaviness and darkness that girls and women who have been sexually molested, abused, and/or assaulted live with every day. While everyone's experience and response to trauma is different, depression, substance use, self-harm, and fear are common.
What I have observed is that at the core, a survivor may feel like their heart has been ripped out of their chest, leaving a gaping hole -- feeling empty inside. I also see people believe the lie that they are their abuse and internalize the negative things the perpetrator(s) said about them. They come to believe that they deserved to be treated with abuse, disrespect, and contempt. Or even believe that the abuse is love.
Healing from these deep wounds require a network of nourishing approaches, occurring the most fruitfully in the vessel of self-discovery. This is because trauma makes us reject or never connect with parts of ourselves, like our bodies, intelligence, talents, emotions, and spirit. But empowerment through self-discovery allows us to regain and integrate these parts of ourselves and be authentic. I recommend that, when possible, it occur with the support of a professional specializing in trauma care because bringing up painful memories and reactions can be overwhelming to process alone.
Practices for self-discovery are varied and can include: affirmations of strengths, daily successes, gratitude, introspective questioning, journaling, writing (songs, poetry, free association, letters), visualizations, meditation, yoga, spiritual and psychological readings, prayer, music, dancing, artistic expression, sensory exploration, play, humor, honest conversations, grounding techniques, self-soothing, and more.
I have seen self-discovery work. For example, a female client who had experienced multiple accounts of sexual violence and emotional neglect throughout her life experienced depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation for numerous years. We worked through her trauma in the context of it being a journey of self-discovery and finding her true self. She bravely delved into facing realities and distressing emotions, with constant practicing of safety, grounding, affirmations, and compassion.
She came to understand that the labels of her diagnosis and the abuse and neglect she endured did not occur because there was something wrong with her or that she did something wrong. She learned to separate and see more clearly who she was as an individual and began to see her creativity, humor, care for others, intelligence, thoughtfulness, and interests as a true reflection of her identity. She found confidence, stability, security, and love in who she was, instead of self-loathing for who she thought she was.
An exploratory study of adult female survivors of incest demonstrated that the process of self-discovery contributed to healthy management of their trauma, and that, "The capacity to protect the integrity of the self appeared central to the adult developmental process of integrating the incest experience."
Through traumatic experiences, many choices are taken away, but evolving through self-discovery is the choice to embrace your personal power and control. John Briere, Ph.D. states "By facilitating self-exploration and self-reference, abuse-focused therapy potentially allows the survivor to gain a greater sense of personal identity".
Engaging in self-discovery can be scary because it is real, but the power and wisdom that comes from knowing, accepting, and loving one's self is worth it. Believing and trusting you are the essence of love and loveable is a constant and stable source of security and connection. It releases the need for external attachments to be the source of these things. Vulnerability is also reduced because the process requires awareness, accountability, and action.
Self-discovery is not about ego, it's about authenticity. Having the courage to be genuinely you. Being empowered to liberate your true self. To honor your spirit.
Finding the love that is within oneself is what I have seen give people back their heart. This is how I have seen pain transform into healthy pleasure. For many of my clients, the freedom from trauma has come from learning to live their life with respect and dignity as their whole and authentic self.
To survivors of sexual abuse and trauma, I encourage you to consider the path of self-discovery as a way to heal. From my heart to yours I say:
Your power is in who you are. The innate good and capacity in you. You are in control of defining yourself. Find the courage to be authentic.
Note: Information in client scenarios have been modified to protect client confidentiality and privacy
If you -- or someone you know -- need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.
Call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline for help with substance abuse issues.
Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Call 1-800-656-HOPE for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.
Call 1-800-DONTCUT for the S.A.F.E. Alternatives hotline for help with self-harm issues.
An advocate for victims and survivors of trauma; mental health activist; global human rights defender; and self-evolution enthusiast
New Program Designed to Curb North Country Child Abuse Needs Volunteers
by Matt Hunter
GLENS FALLS, N.Y. -- Watching in disbelief as nearly a half-dozen cases involving the severe abuse or death of young children made headlines in recent years, many North Country non-profit and law enforcement leaders noticed a pattern.
"The parents were younger in age, they were single parents that the abuse was happening at the hands of a parent substitute, maybe mom's boyfriend," said Kassia May, the outreach coordinator at the Warren-Washington C.A.R.E. Center, an organization that provides support to families whose children suffer from physical and sexual abuse.
In response, the Family YMCA of Glens Falls, C.A.R.E. Center and WAIT House formed the Healthy Parenting and Mentoring Program early last year. By pairing young or expecting families with trained advocates and volunteer mentors, community leaders believe they can substantially reduce child abuse.
"We started seeing some deaths, so we knew we had to address this issue," said WAIT House Executive Director Duane Vaughn, whose organization runs a homeless shelter for youth ages 16 to 21, along with a program for new and expecting mothers of the same age.
"Even if we can impact one family's life, one person's life or a little one's life, that certainly is a win but the reality is, it has to be bigger than that," said Brian Bearor, CEO of the local YMCA.
While a $100,000 grant from the state last year will allow for three part-time staff, organizers are now in need of volunteer mentors to get the ball rolling. They're targeting established families who have raised young children.
"We need mentors so the families that do want to participate in this program know they are going to have support along the way," said May, who will serve as program coordinator.
"We've contacted or got contact with 50 volunteers so far,” Bearer said. “We're hoping to double that."
By showcasing examples of a healthy environment through completely free and voluntary program, organizers believe fewer children will end up in potentially dangerous situations.
"The way we look at it, you are investing in your community, you are investing the young people in your community," Vaughn said.
"I can't imagine how hard it must be for a parent to say ‘look, I need help, I need some extra support,'” May said. “We are there to offer the extra support."
For more information on how to be a part of the program as either a mentor or family in need fo assistance, contact May at (518) 792-2731 or email@example.com.
'Hundreds' of potential suspects in Rotherham child sexual abuse scandal
by Rose Troup Buchanan
As many as 300 possible suspects have been identified so far by an investigation into child sexual abuse in Rotherham, the National Crime Agency has said.
The inquiry, named Operation Stovewood, was started in December after Professor Alexis Jay's report into the sexual abuse of 1,400 children in the town between 1997 and 2013.
Senior investigating officer Steve Baldwin said Professor Jay's report, published in August last year, painted a “very good estimate” of the scale of the “horrific” abuse.
“We have gathered a huge amount of information which details some very disturbing events,” he told the Rotherham Advertiser.
Mr Baldwin continued that his team of 32 officers had identified more than 3,300 lines of inquiry after examining 47 boxes of material – including some 1,500 files from the organisation Risky Business, which attempts to help victims of abuse, alone.
He went on to say that the majority of potential suspects were Asian men, with most victims white girls and women.
Mr Baldwin, who emphasised his investigation intended to “listen to victims”, will reportedly “prioritise action against suspects who may continue to pose any risk of harm today and those who caused most harm in the past.”
NCA Director Trevor Pearce cautioned that some of the reported names “will be duplicates of other details, names, nick-names or street names.”
He continued: “Others may not prove to be offenders at all, or may be witnesses to abuse.”
Mr Pearce added that it would be “some time” before the investigation would be able to give “a precise figure” on the number of people directly and indirectly involved in the exploitation.
Professor Jay's report led to a wave of high-profile resignations and recriminations as the horrific scale of the abuse was revealed.
Child sexual abuse statistics point to urgent need for help, Sudbury doc says
Sudbury's hospital says it treats about 100 children each year for sexual and physical abuse.
by CBC News
Sudbury's hospital is planning to expand its services for child victims of sexual abuse, as it grapples with a grim statistic.
At the Health Sciences North annual general meeting last week, a pediatrician said at least 30 per cent of Canadian children suffer sexual abuse.
Dr. Nicolas Steinmetz said one-in-three girls are sexually abused in Canada. He says the number for boys is one in eight.
"If they all had meningitis or something, there'd be panic in the streets. But this goes totally under the radar. Nobody knows about it."
The statistics are probably higher because sexual assault is under-reported, he added.
At Sudbury's hospital, about 100 children are treated for physical or sexual abuse every year.
That's a small fraction of the kids affected, according to Nancy Horan, who runs the treatment program.
"They may be in situations where they can't come forward," she said.
"The abuser may be a parent or a close relative."
'So far, nothing has been done'
The hospital wants to put its services for child victims of sexual abuse in a new children's treatment centre, known as NEO Kids.
But the provincial agency that oversees health care in the northeast said it needs to see a stronger business case before the $55-million project goes ahead.
Steinmetz said he wants regional public health departments — like the North East Local Health Integration Network — to do more about child sexual abuse. He'd like to see more advocacy and counselling given to victims.
"The more you talk about it, then maybe people will be prosecuted and it becomes known and maybe we can reduce the incidents of something like this," he said.
"But so far, nothing has been done."
Fr Brendan Smyth confession: I had hundreds of child sex victims
by Deborah McAleese
Ireland's most notorious paedophile priest Brendan Smyth admitted to having potentially abused more than 200 children during his years in the priesthood, it has been revealed.
The full extent of the serial sex abuser's offending has never been revealed.
However, Smyth himself believed the number of victims he abused could be in the many hundreds.
In his own words, which were yesterday made public for the first time during a hearing of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry, Smyth told a doctor in 1994: "Over the years of religious life it could be that I have sexually abused between 50 and 100 children. That number could even be double, or perhaps even more."
The inquiry heard that Smyth received psychiatric treatment many times during his time in the priesthood.
Smyth was convicted of more than 100 indecent assaults against children across Ireland, offences which took place over a 40-year period. He died in prison in 1997 after a heart attack.
The inquiry heard he distanced himself from the severity of his crimes and the effect they had on his victims.
During a police interview in the 1990s with RUC detectives, he said that "in some cases" the abuse "will have hurt or damaged" his victims "somewhat psychologically".
He added, however: "In some cases it hasn't done any harm."
Fr William Fitzgerald of the Norbertine Order, of which Smyth was a member, said that the "inexcusable actions of Brendan Smyth have caused incalculable damage".
In a statement provided to the inquiry he added: "Suspicions should have been reported immediately to the police authorities. Brendan Smyth should not have been permitted to exercise ministry after it had become known that he was perpetrating acts of child sex abuse."
Fr Fitzgerald said there did not appear to have been any real appreciation of the harm Smyth was causing.
The Archdiocese of Armagh said in a statement that the "single greatest failure in this appalling saga was not reporting these matters to the civil authorities in both Northern Ireland and Republic so that they could investigate the allegations and monitor the movements of Brendan Smyth in order to minimise the risk to children".
The statement continued: "There was a failure to exert vigilance over Brendan Smyth and ensure he was not free to continue this abusive behaviour. The Church today can only look back on all of this with shame and in disgrace.
"The diocese acknowledges that Brendan Smyth perpetrated the most heinous and deplorable crimes against children on a prolific scale."
Fr Timonthy Bartlett of the Diocese of Down and Connor said in a statement that the "consequences for the children has been catastrophic".
The hearing was told yesterday that Smyth abused children in Northern Ireland and the Republic and also faced similar allegations in Scotland, Wales and the United States.
Several allegations of child sexual abuse were brought to the Church's attention throughout the 1970s, the inquiry was told yesterday.
In 1974 a senior priest confronted Smyth about a complaint from a Belfast family of child sexual abuse.
Smyth did not deny the complaint.
However, it was another 20 years before he was eventually jailed.
Instead, he was moved between parishes, dioceses and even countries where he would prey on victims as young as eight.
Campaign launched to combat sex trafficking
Goal is to get business owners and staff to help identify human trafficking
by KOTA TV
The campaign "Tough On Traffickers" prompts hospitality staffs to report situations that could deter incidents of human trafficking.
The goal is to bring awareness and education to local business owners and staff (mostly in places such as hotels) who are uniquely positioned to identify potential victims.
Capt. Corey Brubakken of the Pennington County Sheriff's Office chairs the West River Human Trafficking Task Force. He says it is regretful that the task force did not come together sooner, but now it is time to take action.
"Shame on us for not doing it three years ago," Brubakken said. "We're to a point now where we have to acknowledge it. We have to get out in front of this before it has an opportunity to take root in our community."
New campaign uses shock value to combat human trafficking
by Allison Dikanovic
Those who approached what appeared to be a working vending machine at North Avenue and 27 th Street last week looking for a Snickers bar or a Diet Coke were in for a surprise when they found it filled with an image of two young girls available for purchase.
Rather than candy or soda, the machine contained informational fliers about sex trafficking in Milwaukee as part of an awareness campaign launched by the Human Trafficking Task Force of Greater Milwaukee called “Children Are Not For Sale.” The fliers highlighted warning signs to look for and appropriate action to take in the case of suspected human trafficking.
“Children are not property to be sold for someone's pleasure. Children should be playing, learning and growing to be positive contributors in our community, not victims of force, fraud and coercion to perform sex acts for the love of money,” said Dana World-Patterson, chairperson of the task force and executive director of Foundations for Freedom, Inc.
The awareness campaign is the result of a partnership among the task force, Serve Marketing and Clear Channel Outdoor. It featured vending machines placed at the corners of 27 th Street and North Avenue, 12 th Street and Historic Mitchell Street, and Kinnickinnic Avenue and Lincoln Avenue for one day, as well as displays on 15 bus shelters around the city that will stay up for a month. The campaign launched during the last week of school because children are least supervised in the summer.
Last year's campaign, called Unlucky Thirteen, was named after the average age of trafficking victims.
“I hope the images serve as a wake-up call to parents and teens that sex trafficking really does happen in our city,” said Gary Mueller, the founder and creative director of Serve Marketing. He explained that the campaign's objective is to make the problem of human trafficking feel urgent and relevant.
“We want parents and neighbors to pay attention. If you see something, say something and do something,” added World-Patterson.
She noted that sex trafficking is taking place in every county in Wisconsin, but “Milwaukee has been considered a hub for human trafficking.” It's difficult to document the extent of the problem, said World-Patterson, because it is an “underground business.”
Cathy Arney, vice president of community services and a specialist in human trafficking issues at Pathfinders, agreed that the issue is pervasive. “We see youth who have experienced this in every program that we have,” she said.
Jasmine Whiting, a social worker at La Causa, works with victims of trafficking and at-risk youth. She said that girls with low self esteem or an unstable home life are prone to exploitation because traffickers target their vulnerability and offer to support them. “(These youth) get lost in a world that is hard to get out of,” she said.
Arney said that young people who have a history of sexual abuse, have run away from home or are not accepted in their families after coming out as LGBTQ are at the greatest risk. “These are youth who are confused about life and what it means to have someone love them,” she said.
U.S. Attorney Jim Santelle explained that Wisconsin is working to address these types of crimes, but noted, “This is not just a law enforcement problem, and we will not prosecute and investigate our way out of it. The reality is that all of us … are involved in the answers to this problem.”
County Executive Chris Abele said that the outcome of a campaign such as this should be increased action on the issue. “I hope that viewers see these images over the summer and ask themselves, ‘Is this something I want to tolerate in my community?' and ‘What can I do about it?'” he said.
On the day of the campaign launch, Lauren Wagner, an account coordinator with Serve Marketing, organized a group of interns to facilitate discussions with community members who passed by the vending machines. She said that peoples' initial response was confusion or curiosity and then they were jarred by the images and surprised to learn sex trafficking exists in Milwaukee.
Laurel Swedowski waits at the bus stop on 27 th Street and Forest Home Drive five days a week, and she noticed the new signs on the shelter near her stop. “It's sad,” she said. “You used to think (human trafficking) was happening in other countries, but it's scary to think that it could happen right where you live and could happen to kids that you know.”
From the Department of Justice
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces Arrest More Than 1,000 Child Predators in Operation Broken Heart
Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces arrested 1,140 child predators from 41 states during a two-month, nationwide operation, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) announced today.
The 61 ICAC Task Forces, funded through an OJJDP grant program, conducted Operation Broken Heart, a coordinated investigative operation to intensify efforts to identify and arrest child sexual predators during the months of April and May 2015.
“Predators use technology in sinister and inventive ways to reach their child victims across state and national boundaries,” said Administrator Robert L. Listenbee of the OJJDP. “Through collaborative efforts such as Operation Broken Heart, ICAC Task Forces and their law enforcement partners are countering these attacks by pooling resources and investigative expertise, increasing their ability to identify and arrest sexual predators and protect children.”
More than 3,000 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies participated in the operation, which targeted offenders who: possess, manufacture and distribute child pornography; engage in online enticement of children for sexual purposes; engage in the commercial sexual exploitation or prostitution of children; and engage in child sex tourism – traveling abroad for the purpose of sexually abusing children in other countries. ICAC Task Forces first conducted Operation Broken Heart in 2014. The task forces also delivered more than 2,200 presentations on Internet safety to more than 186,000 youth and adults during these two months.
“By arresting and prosecuting child predators across the country, our task forces are sending a clear message that we are working together better than ever before to bring these perpetrators to justice,” said Lt. Andrea Grossman of the Los Angeles Police Department, Commander of the Los Angeles Regional ICAC Task Force and chair of the ICAC Public Awareness and Outreach Committee. “The ICAC Task Forces' dedicated efforts and professionalism help fulfill the ultimate goal of keeping children safe.”
In 1998, OJJDP launched the ICAC Task Force Program to help federal, state and local law enforcement agencies enhance their investigative responses to offenders who use the Internet, online communication systems or computer technology to exploit children. To date, the ICAC Task Forces have reviewed more than 516,000 complaints of child exploitation, which resulted in the arrest of more than 54,000 individuals. In addition, since the ICAC program's inception, more than 465,000 law enforcement officers, prosecutors and other professionals have been trained on techniques to investigate and prosecute ICAC related cases.
For more information on local cases, the list of ICAC Task Force Commanders is available at: www.icactaskforce.org
OJP, headed by Assistant Attorney General Karol V. Mason, provides federal leadership in developing the nation's capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice and assist victims. OJP has six components: the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, OJJDP, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking. More information about OJP can be found at: www.ojp.gov
From the Department of Homeland Security
Secretary Johnson Swears-in U.S. Military Veterans at ICE HERO Graduation Ceremony
Military vets train for a new mission: rescuing children and bringing predators to justice
WASHINGTON – Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson today swore in 22 U.S. military veterans entering into the Human Exploitation Rescue Operative (HERO) Corps program, a program designed to allow wounded, ill or injured warriors the chance to continue serving their country on a new battlefield – the fight against child predators. Secretary Johnson was joined by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Sarah Saldaña, Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Dr. Laura Junor, and National Association to Protect Children (PROTECT) Executive Director Grier Weeks.
HERO Corps was developed in 2013 by ICE, the Department of Defense U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and PROTECT. Initially begun as a pilot initiative in 2013 and 2014, the HEROs sworn in today will be the first class to graduate since the passage of the HERO Act, under the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015, signed into law by the President on May 29.
“These heroes have all served their country with honor and distinction, and despite the traumas of war that they all endured, they have answered the call yet again, volunteering for the HERO Corps and the challenging task of identifying and rescuing victims of child exploitation and abuse,” said Secretary Johnson. “The HERO Corps is a testament not only to the spirit of the military veterans we are honoring here today, but also to the effectiveness of government agencies partnering with the private sector and non-government agencies.”
This year's class is made up of 22 veterans of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and National Guard from all over America – Connecticut, California, from Vermont to Florida, from North Carolina to Colorado. Some served in Iraq, others in Afghanistan, as infantrymen or tankers, as military police or photojournalists, as mechanics, repairmen or engineers.
“The HERO Corps gives a special group of wounded warriors the chance to join a new mission,” said Director Weeks. “They protected our nation, now they are protecting our nation's children.”
“This program is a great example of what the federal government and non-government organizations can do together to provide a new purpose and a new mission for service members who have had their military careers cut short and must transition to civilian life,” said Dr. Junor.
The HEROs have completed the first phase of the intensive, one-year training program to prepare them to assist ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents to identify and rescue child victims of sexual abuse and exploitation, and to arrest their perpetrators.
HEROs attend three weeks of training provided by PROTECT, which provides an overview of the child sexual abuse problem specifically covering child abuse and trauma, child sexual abuse prevention, prosecution of child sex offenders and coping with the stresses of working in the field of child sexual exploitation prevention.
The HEROs next complete eight weeks of digital forensics and child exploitation investigation training, conducted by HSI – the same training given to special agents.
Upon successful completion of both training courses, the HEROs are deployed to HSI field offices across the county for 10 months to train with and assist HSI special agents with criminal investigations. HEROs will work under the direct supervision of HSI special agents, conducting computer forensic exams, assisting with criminal investigations and helping to identify and rescue child victims.
Funding of the program is provided by ICE and PROTECT. PROTECT, a non-profit organization, covers the costs of participant travel, equipment/software and relocation expenses while ICE provides the computer forensic training, procures vendor-specific training and provides hands-on field experience and mentorship. Private partners like Wounded Warrior Project have joined the effort to help PROTECT continue to fund much of the cost of the program.
In fiscal year 2014, more than 2,300 child predators were arrested by HSI on criminal charges related to the online sexual exploitation of children. Since 2003, HSI has initiated more than 30,000 cases and arrested more than 10,000 individuals for these types of crimes.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form.
Please visit www.ICE.gov for more information.
'Only voice that child has'
by Lynne McLean
Imagine you are 5 years old, and a person you love and trust does the unthinkable.
Imagine you are alone, told by this loved and trusted adult that the thing they did to hurt you was in fact your fault.
Imagine being afraid to go home at night because someone in your family has made it an unsafe place.
For too many children, this bleak scenario is not the stuff of imagination. It is stark reality.
Recent allegations and news stories centered on prominent TLC reality TV star Josh Duggar bring to light a chilling fact: child abuse is tragically underreported.
More than 4,800 Collin County children were reported to Child Protective Services as victims of child abuse last year. Across North Texas counties last year, more than 18,000 children were confirmed by CPS as victims of child abuse. And statewide? 66,572 CPS-confirmed victims of child abuse. Many more children were victimized in law enforcement-only cases that did not involve civil proceedings with CPS. Both adults and minors perpetrated these crimes, and in fact, youth-perpetrated crimes against other children are on the rise.
Only one in 10 children will ever tell of their abuse. Given these startling statistics, imagine how many more children may have suffered abuse alone. When a child finds the courage to tell a trusted adult they have been a victim of child abuse, they have given that adult a profound responsibility. The child has chosen a person with whom to share their secret. What will that trusted adult do with the information they have been given?
Every adult in the state of Texas is mandated by law to report suspected child abuse. You don't have to be certain abuse has occurred. Suspicion of abuse is reason to report.
Unlike in some states, there is no statute of limitations for criminal cases of aggravated sexual assault of a child, continuous sexual assault and sexual assault in the state of Texas.
The tireless efforts of Collin County legislators working with the Children's Advocacy Center during the 2015 legislative session have led to systemic changes that will better protect children, families and communities from sexual predators. For example, Texas now counts voyeurism not as trespassing but as a separate criminal offense, thanks to House Bill 207 (Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, and Rep. Matt Shaheen, R-Plano). This distinction allows Texas communities to crack down on potential sex offenders and hopefully curb more violent crimes.
These recent changes advance the cause of child protection, but even these positive steps will do little to help keep children safe if adults do not follow the state mandate to report suspected abuse. It's up to us – all of us – to work together to keep children safe from harm and to make sure they receive help if they are hurt by abuse.
What can you do to help?
Educate yourself and others. Contact a Children's Advocacy Center in your area to learn about educational opportunities for children, parents and child-serving professionals and volunteers. Go to onewithcourage.org to find a Children's Advocacy Center in your county.
Talk about it. Once you have educated yourself, talk with your children. Make sure they know that you are a safe person to talk to about any concerns they have about their bodies. Don't use scare tactics, and don't shy away from uncomfortable topics. Keep open lines of communication with your children. Children begin hearing about sexuality from their peers between 9 and 11 years old. Start the conversation earlier so you are the person who introduces the topic. Don't wait.
Write down this number: 1-800-252-5400. Memorize it. Save it in your phone. Post it on the fridge. This is the number for the state's child abuse reporting hotline. If you do nothing else, save this number. Should you suspect a child is being abused – your own child included – call the hotline and make a report. Reports made to the hotline may remain confidential. Making a report sets off a chain reaction that allows abused and neglected children to get the help they need to heal as soon as possible and ensures a non-threatening, child-focused response to abuse. Help is available. You are not alone.
When it doubt, make a report. Know that because of your actions, a child will be better protected and justice will be possible. Look up and not away if you think a child is being harmed. You just may be the only voice that child has.
Lynne McLean is the CEO of Children's Advocacy Center of Collin County, caccollincounty.org
New Washington, Warren Co. program aims to reduce child abuse cases
by Trishna Bergam
GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – There's a new anti-child abuse program starting up in Warren and Washington Counties.
The program is called “Healthy Parenting and Mentoring.” It was able to secure $100,000 in state funds to help get started.
It was first spear headed by Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan after a number of child abuse cases. The aim of the program is to help put an end to the vicious cycle of child abuse.
Organizers are calling on successful parents to mentor new ones and teach them ways to raise a child. The program has been in the planning stages for about a year. The Warren-Washington Child Advocacy Resource Center is teaming up with the Glens Falls YMCA and Wait House on the program.
Parenting classes will take place at the Glens Falls YMCA. The program will also feature home visits and offer support from the volunteers.
New mom Natasha Suba-Prosser understands the stresses that come along with being a young parent. She gave birth to her baby girl just four months ago at the age of 19.
“When you have all this going on – screaming, crying – you don't know what to do,” she said.
Suba-Prosser isn't alone. And what's more troubling is when a caregiver or parent takes their stress or frustration out on a child.
In 2012, Gary Carpenter, 5, was killed by injuries he received after being thrown against a wall. In March 2015, Dillin Nelson was accused of shaking his infant son.
“We're trying to create something that's new and fresh to get down to the root of the problem,” Wait House Executive Director Duane Vaughn said.
Program Coordinator Kassia May said child fatalities in Warren and Washington Counties is what brought about the idea for the program, and they are looking for volunteers to work with and impact the lives of young families.
“The parents weren't making the healthiest decisions for their children,” she said. “We found child care was tough for the parents, and their children may not have been left with the most appropriate people.”
The program will team families with trained advocates offering training classes at the YMCA to educate parents on life skills and to help them find better jobs as well as visiting them at home to see what they need help with.
“I think it will help people that are young parents like me,” Suba-Prosser said. “It will be really helpful for them.”
If you're interested in being a part of the Healthy Parenting and Mentoring program to mentor young parents and guide them, please e-mail Program Coordinator Kassia May at firstname.lastname@example.org
The program is free for families who wish to take part in the classes.
2 educators who suspected child abuse say they were told to check with parents first
by Martha Stoddard
LINCOLN — A dispute sparked by a student arriving at school with a scratched face and dried, smelly feces on his hands and wrists wound up in court Monday.
North Platte teacher Christie Copper and school guidance counselor Stephen Spiehs reported the late March incident to state authorities as suspected child abuse or neglect.
On Monday, the two filed a complaint in Lincoln County District Court claiming that school administrators responded to the case by directing them to check with parents before making future reports.
The complaint contends that such instructions violate state law and school district policy.
“The school district's directive ... is contrary to Nebraska law and potentially places children in danger,” said Scott Norby, their attorney.
Copper, who is a middle school special education teacher, and Spiehs, a middle school counselor, asked the court to rule that the North Platte district cannot set such conditions for reporting child abuse and neglect.
North Platte Interim Superintendent Larry Ramaekers said Monday that he had not seen the petition and could not comment on the particular allegations because of the pending litigation.
However, he said a requirement to contact parents before reporting abuse and neglect is not part of district policy. The policy requires only that staff contact an administrator or supervisor before making a report.
“We are bound by law to report,” Ramaekers said.
According to the district court petition, the issue arose after a student arrived at school on March 24 with a red scratch on one side of his face, a black, soot-like substance on the other side of his face and unkempt hair.
The petition identified the student only by the initials K.R.
It said he had dried, smelly feces on his palms, wrists and fingernails, acted very tired and was licking his hands and rubbing his eyes excessively.
He appeared thirsty and very hungry, quickly downing the milk that was offered to him and immediately wanting cereal.
Copper and Spiehs contacted the school resource officer and then the State Department of Health and Human Services, the state's child welfare agency.
Later that day Danny McMurtry, the school principal, emailed the two, saying that the child's father was “extremely displeased” about getting a phone call from police without notification.
McMurtry told them that in future cases of suspected abuse or neglect they should contact the child's parents unless the child was in immediate danger. He said the parents would be told at that time that protocol required a report to authorities.
Nebraska law mandates that school employees, among others, who have “reasonable cause to believe” that a child has been subjected to child abuse or neglect to report the incident to law enforcement or HHS.
The law is silent on whether school employees can or should contact parents. An HHS spokesman declined to comment on the question, citing the court case.
Along with the court filing, Copper, the president of the North Platte Education Association, and Spiehs filed a petition with the Nebraska Commission of Industrial Relations on Monday.
The petition alleged that Ramaekers had accused them of insubordination and threatened disciplinary action for their efforts in reporting suspected child abuse.
The petition also alleged that the North Platte school board had refused to hear their grievance, in violation of the bargaining agreement between the teachers union and district.
Ramaekers called the accusation against him “false” but declined to comment further because of the litigation.
According to the petition, Copper and Spiehs met and talked with the principal about their concerns with the email and the requirement to contact parents.
When he refused to change the requirement, they filed a formal grievance.
The complaint said Ramaekers expressed anger at the two for filing a grievance and accused them of insubordination. The two then filed a grievance with the school board.
In the grievance, the two said Ramaekers told Copper he had been informed the student had chocolate on his fingers from eating a toaster pastry. It also claimed that Ramaekers said the manner in which a situation should be handled depended on the identity of the parent.
Neither the complaint filed in court nor the petition filed with the industrial relations commission detail what happened with the child.
Omaha Public Schools officials faced controversy about child abuse reporting four years ago, when it became public that they had not reported allegations that a middle school teacher, Shad M. Knutson, had sexually abused students.
Administrators said their policy called for internally investigating such allegations and not reporting allegations if the investigation proved inconclusive.
The OPS board later changed the policy. It now requires that employees make a report to authorities within 24 hours after a student alleges sexual misconduct by teachers or staff members.
Knutson is serving 9 to 14 years in prison after being convicted of two counts related to sexual abuse of a former student.
Social Service Workers Lose 92 Cases of Possible Child Abuse
by The Associated Press
Louisville, Ky. More than 90 cases involving possible child abuse or neglect in Northern Kentucky have been lost, with some languishing for months before being recently discovered, state social service officials said.
The Courier-Journal (http://cjky.it/1LfkpcF) reported Monday officials from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services have been scrambling to assign 92 cases that were found in the Boone County office earlier this year, according to the records. The cases included babies born with drugs in their system, children living with heroin addicts — one in a home where an adult overdosed — and children exposed to violence, firearms and other hazardous situations.
Under Kentucky law, if average caseloads per worker rise above 25 for more than 90 days, the cabinet is required to report that to the governor and the legislature. National accreditation standards limit caseloads to 18 per worker.
Department commissioner Teresa James says she has been trying to recruit workers, reduce caseloads and improve working conditions, but the relatively low pay — social workers start at about $32,000 a year — and stressful work make it difficult.
"The job is demanding," she said. "This is hard work."
Some workers say that wasn't why they left. They cited unrealistic demands of supervisors and lack of support as they struggled to keep families together and protect children from harm.
Traci Coleman, who worked as a social worker in Fayette County for 10 years before she abruptly quit in March, said it was her growing belief that constant churn of cases and workers, endless paperwork and pressure to meet deadlines were not helping troubled families the agency is supposed to serve.
"They turn a blind eye until a worker goes on an extended sick leave — or quits," said Coleman, who now works in banking. "I'm just glad to be away from it."
Ban names U.N. sex abuse scandal panel
by George Russell
A former Canadian Supreme Court judge who earlier this year conducted an official review of sexual harassment in her country's armed forces will head a three-personal panel that will look into the United Nations' handling of allegations of child sexual abuse by non-U.N. peacekeepers in the Central African Republic, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced today.
The panel is expected to start work in July and report its findings within ten weeks—or roughly at about the same time that President Barack Obama intends to hold a summit of world leaders in New York in September to bolster support for U.N. peacekeeping operations.
Marie Deschamps, who retired from the top court in 2012, and who critiqued the “sexualized culture” of Canada's armed forces in a report issued in Ottawa last March, will be joined on the U.N. review panel by the head of a South African human rights foundation and a prosecutor for the U.N.'s International Criminal Court Tribunal in Rwanda, according to Ban's announcement.
The “external, independent review” panel is intended to defuse a growing furor at the U.N. over handling of the Central African sex abuse scandal, which involved French and African peacekeepers who were not under U.N. command engaging in sex acts with hungry children as young as nine during 2013 and 2014.
The troops were mandated by a U.N. Security Council resolution and were replaced by a full-fledged U.N. peacekeeping force in September 2014.
The scandal erupted after U.N. investigators interviewed the abused children and a U.N. human rights official, Anders Kompass, passed on the raw testimony to French diplomats whose government subsequently launched an investigation.
After a long delay, the U.N. asked Kompass to resign, then launched its own investigation of his leaks —leading to criticism that the world organization was more focused on hushing up leakers than in protecting young and starving children from rape, sodomy and other predatory behavior. LINK HERE TO
According to Ban's announcement, the panel is tasked to look at the U.N. response to the sexual abuse allegations “and assess the adequacy of procedures in place,” as well as “any allegations of abuse of authority or retaliation by senior officials” and “mandated to make recommendations on how the U.N. should respond to similar allegations in the future.”
The panel also has a catch-all mandate to “look at any shortcomings in existing procedures covering serious crimes by United Nations and related personnel,” along with others “that it may become aware of during its review.”
That mandate may also cast daylight on the U.N.'s own deficiencies when it comes to handling charges of sexual exploitation and abuse, which the U.N. claims are limited and steadily improving.
But an internal panel of experts charged a year ago in an internal report—only made public when leaked—that such U.N. peacekeeper crimes were under-reported, under-investigated, and often protected by a culture of impunity among peacekeepers when it came to sexual offenses.
The new probers will get “unrestricted access to all U.N. records and full access to staff members and other UN personnel,” Ban has promised. Additionally, “ the U.N. will make its best efforts to facilitate the access of the panel to non-U.N. personnel.”
Among other things, the last statement may be a veiled reference to a former U.N. official, Miranda Brown, who was Kompass' No. 2 at the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the time he passed on information to the French. Brown has charged that she was squeezed out of her job one day before she was supposed to testify in a U.N. internal inquiry into the Kompass leak, and has demanded reinstatement as a condition for testifying in the internal probe.
Brown declined to comment specifically to Fox News while welcoming establishment of the panel.
The announcement was hailed by Paul Donovan, executive director of a non-government organization known as AIDS-Free World, which first leaked the U.N. expert panel report and a large number of documents relating to the Central African Republic scandal.
Donovan welcomed the panel's “flexible scope” and access to U.N. personnel, and said her organization would “immediately submit our request to brief the panel on everything we have learned since we first exposed the story of abuse in late April.”
A more skeptical reaction came from Bea Edwards, executive director of the Washington-based Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower protection organization. She found the broad terms of reference “encouraging,” but also noted that two of the three members—Rwanda prosecutor Hassan Jallow of Gambia, and human rights executive Yasmin Sooka of South Africa—had previously served in U.N. positions.
“To be truly independent, the panel must not include anyone with current or former ties to the United Nations system,” Edwards observed. Nor, she noted, did the “parameters of the review” specifically include the issue of retaliation against an official like Kompass “who in good faith acted on behalf of the victims of sexual abuse,” while breaking U.N. rules about passing on un-redacted testimony to outsiders.
“If a human rights officer can be punished for attempting to stop abuse, who is going to report ongoing exploitation now?” she asked?
(At the U.N., Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric responded to a question about Jallow's independence that cited Edwards' letter; he called the Rwandan prosecutor “a jurist of impeccable reputation” who had been elected to his prosecutor position by U.N. member states, and was completely independent of Ban's Secretariat.)
On the other hand, there appears to be little concern about the independence of ex-judge Deschamps, whose March, 2015, report took Canada's armed forces to task for a “disjunction” between the “high professional standards established” by Canadian military policies concerning “inappropriate sexual conduct, including sexual assault and sexual harassment, and the reality experienced by many members day-to-day.”
Among other things, Deschamps noted “a strong perception” in those forces that senior non-commissioned officers were “responsible for imposing a culture where no one speaks up and which functions to deter victims from reporting sexual misconduct.”
She also noted “a broadly held perception in the lower ranks that those in the chain of command either condone inappropriate sexual conduct, or are willing to turn a blind-eye to such incidents”—not too different from the feelings of the U.N.'s own experts as expressed in their year-ago internal report.
CLICK HERE FOR THE CANADIAN REPORT
Deschamps' report was limited to accusations of harassment and abuse within those armed forces, and did not deal with the m issues involved in protecting civilians using troops supplied by other countries, as the U.N. panel must do.
But at least readers of the new panel's report will be able to make some kind of comparison: Secretary General Ban has promised that the Deschamp panel's document will be made public—“subject to due process and confidentiality considerations.”
Paedophile sexually abused girl aged 2 on webcam boasting 'Peppa Pig kept baffled child calm'
by Lucy Thorne
A sick paedophile sexually abused a two-year-old girl during a Skype chat session and discussed having a child of his own to molest.
Mark Ahmed, 37, has been jailed for 17 years and four months after a judge heard of his “grotesque” chatroom abuse and discussions with a woman in Arizona in the US.
Judge Stephen John heard the pair abused young children in front of a Skype camera as they encouraged each other's depravity, reports Get Reading.
Ahmed exchanged sick images of himself abusing a toddler and asked to have a baby with the woman so they could abuse it, Reading Crown Court heard.
The former member of the armed services began speaking to the woman over an instant messenger service, before exchanging photos and videos of themselves abusing children for hours over one day.
He was caught out just hours after sending images to Roxanne Chapin when Arizona Police contacted officers in the UK.
Ahmed told arresting police: “I am not coming back for a long time am I?”
The judge heard Ahmed committed the offences after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
"The abuse all took place on January 23.
Nicholas Barraclough, prosecuting, said: “He abused her (the child) very seriously throughout the day.
“Ahmed sent 20 images to the woman showing sexual activity with the child.
“He used Skype to contact Chapin and provided a running commentary of the abuse.”
The court was given details of the messages sent between the pair, with Ahmed telling Chapin: “Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would meet someone as sexy and likeminded.
"I want us to have a baby together, you should come here, we should get married.”
When Ahmed sent images of himself abusing the girl, Chapin, who was charged in the USA with assaulting two boys aged three and six, replied: “Oh my God babe, that is so sexy.”
The court heard she asked Ahmed what the child was doing during the abuse and he replied: “She is a bit baffled by it, but Peppa Pig is keeping her calm”, before asking Chapin to send him more disgusting images.
Mr Barraclough told the court: “The defendant was undeterred when Chapin suggested the boy had fought her a lot and told her “no.”
“There was reference to next time and Ahmed said ‘babe, if we have a baby together, will we still play with it from birth?
"Boy or girl, it is better to start from newborn'.
“There was discussion of having a baby for the purpose of abuse.”
The court was told sick Ahmed also watched pornography with the toddler and refused to give police the PIN code to his mobile phone when he was arrested the following day.
Ahmed, formerly of St Johns Road in Newbury, admitted attempting to rape a child aged under 13, three counts of assaulting a child aged under 13 by penetration, and one count of making indecent photos of a child and one count of distributing indecent images of a child, at a previous hearing.
In mitigation, the court heard the sex attacker was under the influence of drugs when the offences took place.
Alistair Grainger, defending, said: “Mercifully, no injuries were caused and one can hope and pray she is too young to remember this and hope and pray it has no long-lasting effects on her.
“He is sufficiently realistic and feels deeply ashamed.
"He will apply to go on the necessary programmes and his time in custody will be productive.”
Judge John, sentencing, said: “The facts are chilling and of the most disturbing nature.
"The only positive feature in this case is that it provides a very clear demonstration of how determined and speedy action by the police here and abroad can safeguard young children and bring offenders to justice.
“The child abuse communications can only be described as grotesque, as she was seen to be encouraging you in the sexual abuse and expressing pleasure at doing so.
“You both discuss having a baby together whom you and she could then abuse.
"That woman has made admissions to the Arizona Police of sexual abuse of children and of making and receiving images from you.”
“The victim of these offences was only two years of age, scarcely more than a baby.
"It is too early for anyone to be able to assess the psychological effects of your offending upon her, one can only hope that memories are not laid down so as to affect her future.
“The account you gave about feeling emotionally attached to the woman in the USA and that you acted as you did only because you wished to keep her happy, is one I reject.
"You had never met this woman, living thousands of miles away.
"Your only interest was in sharing chat-log discussions about the abuse of small children and exchanging images with her.
“Your claim to have never been sexually attracted to children is patently false and self-deluding.
"You even go so far as to suggest that this woman was grooming you.
“It is quite apparent that you are a long way from confronting your behaviour.
"The images are close to those of the most serious kind and I have absolutely no doubt that you pose a significant risk of serious harm to children.
"You are plainly a danger to the public.”
3 Ways to Discipline Your Child More Effectively—and With Love
by Ty Phillips
Disciplining your child is hard. I think it is safe to assume that the emotionally healthy parent struggles to find balance between anger and teaching and never enjoys the process of discipline. We want to see the smile, the glimmer in the eye, and we want to hear giggles and laughs. The need to correct our children when they go wrong can, at times, feel more like a punishment for us than it is for them.
We raise our voices, we say no, we take items away or we leave an area that was intended to be a fun outing in the hopes that we instill the fact that actions have consequences. Sadly, these lessons leave us staring into the eyes of a crying child—a child who seems to be suffering and languishing away in torment because we wouldn't let her throw stones, tree bark, or toys at the shiny new BMW that is parked near the swing set.
Young children are still in that stage where cause and effect do not yet meet in their minds and what seems harmless to them can cause undue stress and consequences for us. So as we drag them, kicking and screaming, away from the mess they are making and try to explain in words they understand, we are often left feeling terrible … because they don't.
I have recently been dealing with this stage myself with my toddler. With my oldest children are nearing college, I had almost forgotten the struggle of a three-year-old (nearing 30 in her own mind) who thinks the world revolves around her. I have heard far too often from parents who think the solution is to just “Beat their little asses!” or fall back on the old reliable phrase that many of us grew up with, “I'll give you something to cry about!”
So how, as modern parents do we deal? How do we engage with our misbehaving tots in a way that expresses what they are doing without it being directed by our lack of patience or our anger? How do we encourage the truth of cause and effect without turning to authoritarian ideas like “Spare the rod spoil the child,” or taking the other permissive extreme of just letting them do whatever they want and we just follow along cleaning up mess after mess without instilling a sense of consequences and responsibility?
1. Explain Don't Explode
One of the hardest things to do when we are at the end of our rope with our toddler-turned-terrorist is to sit down and calmly explain in words they will understand, why what they are doing is not acceptable. When we are upset, flying off of the handle may seem reasonable. Yet, this reaction from us will be mirrored by them as what it means to be an adult. What is acceptable behavior from mom and dad must be okay. We sit in confusion when we see them doing the very same thing.
Okay, so the toilet is filled to overflowing with pee and My Little Pony toys, and yes, we will have to fish them out and probably take a shower afterwards, but what good will it add to the situation if we lose our cool and create a memory in a child who doesn't fully understand why this is wrong; that mom or dad just hit me or swore at me or told me I was stupid or worthless.
Take a breath, and take a break. Pick up your little pirate and walk into another room. Barring the fact that the toilet is spilling into the adjacent rooms and dripping into the basement, we can deal with this in a few minutes. Right now, what is important is explaining why this isn't okay. Reinforce the idea that the toilet is where dirty things go and when My Little Pony is covered in pee, it will be sad and we also won't have a place to use the potty. Of course, not every situation will be easy to explain, but an attempt is better than an emotional scar.
2. Trust vs. Fear I see all too often that parents want to be their child's best friend instead of their child's best parent. Parents with no rules and no boundaries are not showing a sign of trust but rather showing a lack of concern. This will never lead to the bond and security we are hoping for. While it is okay to be our child's friend, we need to be their parent, first and foremost.
We need to be able to convey to our children that just because something is wrong and we are upset, our love for them remains steadfast and ever-present. We also need to remember that instilling fear creates walls instead of healthy boundaries. We want our children to be able to trust us and talk to us because we offer support and guidance as well as structure and direction. Fear does not offer this.
and direction. Fear does not offer this.
When our children fear us, they will end up deceiving us. Going around something you fear is much easier than going through that object. My oldest children tell me things that make me cringe, and there are certain things that a dad doesn't want to hear. They also know that I will be honest with them. I tell them when I don't agree and why I don't agree and I give them explanations and advice—even the dad look that lets them know they crossed a line and I don't approve. But I also offer them love and security within the same conversation.
They know they can walk away without questioning my support and faith in them and with a chunk of advice they know they need to chew on. They don't always listen, much like I didn't when I was their age, but they also know that when the truth of what I said bites them in the butt, they can come tell me I was right and that they are hurting.
3. Instruct by Action
The response, “ because I said so,” is never an acceptable answer. This is a fall back for the unprepared. When it comes to instructing our children, we do so primarily in how we behave. The majority of human communication is done non-verbally. As a parent, knowing this about non-verbal communication, don't say things, do the right things! We need to teach our children not only how to act but how to interact.
Is there a mess? That isn't the end of the world. I find my children are most readily willing to engage the lesson when I am down on the floor with them, helping and explaining how to resolve the situation.
We tell our kids not to swear, to respect each other, to behave and then we turn around and use an expletive-laden sentence on the phone, degrade our spouses, and refuse to cooperate with our own peers. What is likely the end result that our children will learn? We are likely to face the mirror of our own actions when we live the motto of “do as I say, not as I do.” If we want our children to model patience, kindness and forgiveness, they need to see this lived out in our lives first.
If you tell your child not to fight with his sister he may respond, “Why, you fight with mom all the time.” We will always be at fault for what we don't do yet ask of them. Teaching with hypocrisy is not an effective tool. It stems from a desire to control instead of teach.
Teaching also means that we are not afraid to say we were wrong. It means to apologize to our children. Being a parent doesn't mean always being right, but rather being open to what is right. It means trial and error and using our own mistakes as they happen, as teaching tools for our children. We have to look back at our own foolishness and even the foolishness we still exhibit, and be willing to be honest about it.
In the end, our children need love. They didn't ask for this life, and so it is up to us to help them feel whole in it.
Real Men, Real Crimes: The Underreported Sexual Abuse Of Boys
by Susan Scutti
Imagine yourself 6 years old once again and then try and picture your former (tiny) self within the world.
At that very young age, Rick Goodwin was lured by a construction worker into a vacant house and sexually assaulted there. As his profile reads, Goodwin just “somehow knew that he could not tell his parents.” He did, then, what he believed a boy is supposed to do and kept quiet, burying the hurt as deep as he could. Though he maintained good grades in school, he became involved with drugs, yet instead of an unchecked downward spiral, his drug use surprisingly led to epiphany: a college acid trip triggered memories of the abuse and from there he sought counseling. Today Goodwin is a therapist who runs the Men's Project, a free-standing clinic treating male survivors in Ottawa.
Far too automatically, people associate childhood sexual abuse with girls yet boys suffer as well. Quite possibly, they do so in greater numbers than you might expect.
The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey notes “11.7 percent of men have experienced unwanted sexual contact.” Based on cited research, the website 1in6 reports “16 percent of males were sexually abused by the age of 18.” A report from the Crimes Against Children Research Center reports five to 10 percent of adult men recall an incident of childhood sexual abuse or assault. There are clear discrepancies here, certainly in part due to how you might describe sexual abuse.
“We use the word unwanted in our mission statements, since many men cannot get their arms around the fact that they were abused, but they can get their arms around unwanted,” Steve LePore, founder and executive director of 1in6, told Medical Daily . In his organization's mission statement, these experiences are referred to as " unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood.” As he further explains, this covers a range of experiences, including exposure to pornography, touching, and assault.
Experts say such crimes against boys are difficult to determine primarily because they often go underreported.
“Men have a very difficult time talking about it," LePore said. "Even after very high profile cases, like Sandusky, it's still difficult for men to look at and work on this issue.” LePore is referring to Jerry Sandusky, the convicted serial child molester and retired football coach.
“No man wants to say they were abused,” LePore said. “That's just how we're hard-wired, it's part of the masculine code.”
Because boys (and the adult men they someday become) too often fail to notify others of these incidents, to get an accurate picture of the abuse of boys, it is helpful to look at a variety of reports including this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention datasheet which notes 4.5 percent of boys between grades 9 and 12 reported forced sexual intercourse — just one form of sexual abuse — at some time in their lives. The same report estimates 6,526 males between the ages of 10 and 24 received emergency medical treatment as a result of nonfatal injuries sustained from a sexual assault between 2004 and 2006.
Finally, a study of the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests found 81 percent of total victims were male and over 40 percent of all victims were males between the ages of 11 and 14. More generally, 22 percent of both male and female victims were under the age of 10.
In the end, the numbers matter only as much as they translate back into people. For men who have experienced abuse, the main point underlying any statistic is that others have suffered the same. Whether it is 4 in every 100 men or 16, many men's lives have been affected in some way by abuse.
Each man's response to childhood abuse is unique, still many survivors share quite similar reactions whether they are boys or girls. Many abusers commonly tell children both that it is their fault and they should not tell anyone, as a way to shift the blame onto the child and unfortunately, these ugly tactics work. As Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network describes it, survivors of childhood sexual abuse experience a toxic cocktail of intense negative emotions, including shame and guilt, betrayal and distrust. Men, in particular, often worry about their masculinity and secretly fear they are not masculine enough following any unwanted sexual experiences in childhood. Later in life, depression and anxiety are common as are sleep disturbances and self-injury. Formerly-abused children often struggle with addiction.
“It could be substances, it could be pornography, it could be a work addiction,” LePore said.
Until the issue is confronted and problems sorted, the real work of healing does not begin. So the very first step for almost all men is dismantling the taboo that prevents them from speaking up and saying, This happened to me, I need some help. This happened to me and I'm afraid of what it is doing to my family.
"There's a universal response that we hear," LePore said. "Almost every man will say they thought they were the only one."
Once acknowledge, the relief begins. LePore says some men are ready to jump into a support group immediately, while others must work slowly before they take next steps in the healing journey. In the meantime, 1in6 provides a 24/7 support line for those who want anonymous information about anything concerning childhood abuse. Looking ahead, the organization recently won a grant from the Ahmanson Foundation of Los Angeles to provide an online support group with a therapist. Though healing takes time, the connections help, and in time, many a former abused child finds his way to happiness.
"This is not hopeless, this situation can be worked through," said LePore. "Many men have reclaimed their lives."
Prison, a treacherous place for a child
by Carolyne Willow
Thirty-three children have died in English child prisons since 1990. A powerful new book exposes how Britain's most vulnerable children are routinely damaged by the state.
When Alex Kelly was six years old, medical examinations revealed that he had been repeatedly raped over many years. He was subsequently taken into the care of Tower Hamlets council.
In January 2012, when Alex was 15, he hanged himself at Cookham Wood young offender institution in Kent. He'd been there for four months. For most of this period, Alex had no allocated social worker, and council workers argued with one another over their responsibilities to him.
Late last year, after an inquest jury concluded that “systemic failure” by the local authority and inadequate safeguarding within the prison had contributed to Alex's death, the solicitor Mark Scott, speaking for Alex's father, said: “Alex was extremely vulnerable and a child in need of care but instead was treated as a child in need of custody.” (PDF here)
Children who have suffered the most horrendous hardships in their early lives find little mercy in the state-organised punishment of penal incarceration. From everything that could be known about a child, we select a fraction of his or her behaviour – that which has breached the law – and construe their ‘master status' as young offender.
Many other descriptors could be used (if label we must) to more accurately reflect children's lives and circumstances, including victims of poverty, maltreatment, bereavement, educational exclusion and institutional racism. There is no question that the vast majority of child prisoners will have suffered serious human rights violations.
Alex was one of 33 children to have died in English child prisons since 1990. That's when the UK signed an international children's rights agreement to use detention only as a measure of last resort.
There has been a massive reduction in the number of detained children over the past five years but, still, the UK remains one of the chief child incarcerators in Europe.
In 1991, there were 572 children held in prison service institutions; in March 2015, there were 706. A further 186 were detained in three secure training centres run by the international security company G4S. (Children were moved out of Hassockfield secure training centre, run by Serco, at the end of last year).
Just 11 per cent of children in custody (112) were kept in secure children's homes, establishments governed by the Children Act 1989 and run by local authorities.
Only two of 47 Council of Europe member states, Russia and Turkey, detained more children than the UK in September 2013, the latest date for which Council of Europe figures are available.
They are children
A few years ago I set out to write a book about two boys, Gareth Myatt and Adam Rickwood, who died following ‘restraint' in secure training centres in 2004. I wanted to find out what they were like as people, what made them laugh, what they enjoyed doing, what plans they had for their lives. I hoped to be able to write about them in such a way as to encourage policymakers to make connections with the children in their own lives they love and cherish, and to thereby stimulate radical action.
Then I read Cruel Britannia, Ian Cobain's book on the British state's use of torture, and I decided to widen the scope of my work to examine the many harms caused by child incarceration. Having been a children's rights campaigner for many years, I was already well aware of many of the scandals. But I knew there was much more to investigate and expose.
My early career as a child protection social worker had equipped me to ask uncomfortable questions, to interrogate information and ‘facts' presented by adults in positions of power and to always stay firmly focused on the child's feelings and perspective. Several hundred FOIs, analysis of dozens of parliamentary questions, 24 interviews and months of research and writing, and here we are.
My book, Children Behind Bars, catalogues the mistreatment of vulnerable children held behind perimeter fences and banged up in cells for 14 or more hours a day, sometimes over a hundred miles from home.
These are children banished to young offender institutions known to be violent and unsafe, and secure training centres found by the High Court to have been sites of “widespread unlawful use of restraint”.
Child prisoners are exposed to practices that would invite state intervention were they to happen in the community. A parent who locked a child in a tiny room for more than 20 hours a day would, at the very least, be sent on a compulsory course to correct his or her abusive behaviour. Yet such mistreatment is routinely perpetrated by a punitive state that abandons child protection norms when it comes to young offenders.
What else might explain the lack of public outcry following an inspection report on a Staffordshire prison in March 2014? This told us children were being locked in cells that were “the worst [inspectors] had seen for some time. Some cells were filthy, gloomy and covered in graffiti, and contained offensive material, heavily scaled toilets, damaged furniture and smashed observation panels”. [PDF]
Many of the cells holding children on their first night in the prison were “in an uninhabitable state”.
Three quarters of child inmates were held in pairs in cells designed for single occupancy. The inspectors noted: “Cells were cramped with not enough furniture and inadequate toilet screening.”
Another inspection report that same month tells of children at Wetherby young offender institution in West Yorkshire locked in cells so small they had to sleep “in close proximity to the toilet”. [PDF]
In a third report — released in August 2014 — inspectors who visited Hindley young offender institution, near Wigan, expressed concern about the prison's punishment and rewards scheme. At weekends, children on its lowest level spent at most 135 minutes out of their cells. Boys sometimes had less than 15 minutes' daily exercise in the open air. [PDF]
Here's how Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, sums up the effects of imprisonment on children:
“It's intellectually stultifying, it's emotionally inhibiting, it's sexually inhibiting, it's frightening, your educational opportunities are restricted. In every aspect it's negative.”
Six years ago, after investigating the treatment of children and adults with mental health problems and learning disabilities by the police, courts and prisons, Labour peer Lord Bradley reported:
“The prison environment, with its rules and regimes governing daily life, can be seriously detrimental to mental health.”
The Children's Commissioner for England documented the case of a primary school girl who had suffered domestic violence and family breakdown. As a newly imprisoned teenager, she refused to leave her cell for the first six weeks.
Imagine a child in the community spending the whole of the school summer holidays locked in an austerely furnished room with a toilet, and food trays delivered to the door.
The experience of being sent to prison is deeply traumatic, as this boy told the Howard League for Penal Reform:
“My first night in custody was the worst night of my life. I'd never been lonely before. I felt so lonely.”
Joseph Scholes left his parents a note before he hanged himself in prison a month after his 16th birthday: “I'm sorry, I just can't cope.”
See no evil. . .
How can we explain the lack of outrage shown by the general public, the media and among politicians, in response to 33 children dying in institutions run by the state? Do people know?
Information drips from different sources. It is difficult to get the full picture.
There is research and testimony published by campaign groups, human rights bodies and academics. Some of the most shocking evidence is in court reports, inquest transcripts, coroners' notes and other official documents that take some tracking down.
Then there is the use of euphemism and what psychologists might call avoidance techniques. Officials rarely use the siren call of child abuse when it comes to prisons.
“Inappropriate” was the adjective chosen by the prisons inspectorate to describe the routine handcuffing and strip-searching of vulnerable children brought to a specialist unit because they could not cope in an ordinary prison.
“Significant weakness” was how Ofsted noted the absence of nurses, in contravention of the rules, during the use of restraint in a secure training centre. Inspectors gave the commercial contractor G4S three months to rectify the breach. In February 2015, inspectors who had visited another G4S-run secure training centre communicated their “concern” that a child with a fracture was denied medical treatment for 15 hours.
Former head of the prison service, Martin Narey, told parliamentarians of “the possibility that the public greatly underestimates the full extent of the discomfort, pain and deprivation of liberty for anyone of any age”. He said: “For a child it is particularly traumatic.”
Knowingly causing children discomfort, pain and trauma fits the definition of significant harm in the Children Act 1989 – the part of the law sending social workers to front doors.
Harm in the 1989 Act means ill treatment or the impairment of a child's health or development, including, for example, impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill treatment of others.
Development encompasses a child's physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development. Health means physical or mental health. Ill treatment includes sexual abuse and other kinds of mistreatment that are not physical.
For many years Chris Callender has worked with children in prison, as a solicitor in law firms in Leeds and London and as the legal director of the Howard League for Penal Reform. I asked him if any of his cases involved a child suffering significant harm in prison. He said:
“Most of the cases are likely to be bullying or intimidation or risk from either other prisoners or officers within the context and confines of the imprisonment. I can't think of many cases where those young people were free from those issues.
“So I just think that incarceration in YOIs [young offender institutions], particularly YOIs, the risk of harm – whether through fights, through turf wars, through bullying, threats from officers to children, or children to children – is endemic.”
According to government child protection rules, physical abuse encompasses hitting, throwing and “otherwise causing physical harm to a child”.
Emotional abuse can include “conveying to a child that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued insofar as they meet the needs of another person”. It may include silencing the child, belittling them and having inappropriate expectations. Serious bullying, and making children feel frightened and in danger a lot of the time, is a form of emotional abuse.
Sexual abuse can include “forcing or enticing a child to take part in sexual activities”. Neglect is the persistent failure to meet the child's most basic needs.
You'd be terrified
In July 2013, the chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that parents would be ‘terrified' were their child to be incarcerated in Feltham young offender institution in London.
Had this been a statement from the head of the Care Quality Commission about an older people's home, or a hospital for people with learning disabilities, the establishment in question would have been closed down. Prison service managers seem to have superhuman resilience to exposures that would topple other organisations.
Feltham young offender institution was the prison in which Zahid Mubarek, a British Asian teenager, was placed in a cell with profoundly disturbed Robert Stewart of the same age. On 21 March 2000, Stewart battered Mubarek into a coma with a table leg. Such was the minimal staffing in the institution, and the physical layout, that it was Stewart himself who first drew attention to the ferocious attack by ringing his cell buzzer.
Zahid died in hospital. The public inquiry into his death heard that prison officers had devised a game called ‘Coliseum', whereby incompatible inmates would be deliberately detained in shared cells to incite violence and staff made bets on the outcome.
The inquiry was unable to substantiate those claims. However, it discovered that three white prison officers had handcuffed an ethnic minority prisoner to the bars of his cell, removed his trousers and smeared his bottom with black shoe polish. The officers were given official warnings.
Two white trainee prison officers who urinated on a black trainee during a training course were dismissed.
The then head of the prison service Martin Narey admitted: “It goes beyond institutional racism to blatant malicious pockets of racism.”
Sexual abuse of child prisoners
There were 181 boys in Feltham at the time of the ‘terrified parents' inspection. Almost a third of children reported victimisation by a member of staff. And 300 acts of violence had been perpetrated by children on each other in the six months preceding the inspection. The inspectors found a segregation unit, which also held young adults, with “ingrained dirt on floors and walls”. [PDF]
The prisons inspectorate's survey of children held in 11 prisons the previous year found 32 per cent of boys and 22 per cent of girls had felt unsafe. More than one in 10 boys and almost a quarter of girls reported being subject to insulting remarks by prison staff. Physical abuse by staff was reported by 4 per cent of the boys. [PDF]
At least nine boys reported sexual abuse by staff and the same number said other boys had sexually abused them. In one prison unit staff sexual abuse was alleged by 6 per cent of the boys. One in every 20 boys reported racial or ethnic abuse by staff. Nearly one tenth of children reported bullying by prison officers in another piece of research; child-on-child bullying was even higher. [PDF]
An FOI request I made to the prisons inspectorate revealed that, between July 2009 and March 2014, inspectors reported 130 child protection allegations from 112 children to prison child protection staff or managers following 30 routine inspections of young offender institutions and secure training centres in England.
Surveys in only two of the inspections resulted in no allegations of child abuse.
The actual incidence of abuse may be much higher. Surveys of children in unsafe surroundings are unlikely, on their own, to elicit the true level of abuse and other concerns.
The Ministry of Justice agency that runs prisons is called the National Offender Management Service, or NOMS. Early in 2014 NOMS disclosed that it had paid £252,370 in compensation over the past five years to individuals detained as children or young adults in 12 English prisons.
Payouts in respect of two child prisons — Warren Hill and Hindley young offender institutions — amounted to £76,000 between 2008/09 and 2012/13. Officials refused to disclose the nature of the claims, supposedly to protect the identity of claimants.
No data was provided for Ashfield young offender institution (which held children until 2013). As a private prison, it is obliged to provide information only as specified in its government contract, I was told. Nor can such data be unearthed using FOI requests, since private prisons are not covered by FOI legislation.
Imprisoning children means more than depriving them of their liberty. It squanders precious time that could be spent investigating what has gone wrong in their lives and changing it. Adolescence is a period of massive transformation, when even teenagers living happy lives require careful handling. Imprisonment is a deliberate act of rejection, banishment and exclusion – the very antithesis of what these children need.
Child prisoners rarely move from being fully included in society one day, to outsiders the next. Barrister and peer Lord Carlile, who conducted an inquiry into the treatment of child prisoners, described the “animalised, brutalised structure” of prison life that compounds what has been missing in the lives of these children.
Hard lives, inside and out
Our prisons are filled with the poorest, most disadvantaged children who often have considerable mental health and learning difficulties. Even before they begin the admissions process, which involves being given a number, removing clothes and answering questions about suicidal thoughts and substance misuse, the lives of most child prisoners will have told them that they are worthless – certainly worth less than other children.
Analysis of the forms completed when a child has contact with the criminal justice system shows more than a third of girls have been abused and many have endured significant bereavement or loss (29 per cent) or witnessed family violence (24 per cent). Only 17 per cent live with both their parents. [PDF]
Children learn in prison that suppressing their feelings and being outwardly tough is the best way to survive. The chances are they believe this already.
Hunger is a common complaint. In January 2014, prisons minister Jeremy Wright told parliament the prison service spent an average of £1.96 a day on prisoner meals in 2013/14, an 11 per cent reduction on the previous year. Even hospitals spend three times as much.
In a recent study of food in young offender institutions, only one of the nine prisons achieved the policy requirement of having no more than 14 hours between evening meal and breakfast.
In June 2014, children were served mouldy bread in Cookham Wood young offender institution — while inspectors were on the premises. [PDF]
I can't breathe
Coroners and judges have ruled that unlawful restraint regimes continued unabated for many years in secure training centres. Human rights bodies have criticised the UK's reliance on pain infliction as a tool of restraint.
INQUEST, the charity that supports the bereaved families of children and adults who have died in police and prison custody, told the government in 2007: “the violation of the rights of this large body of children goes worryingly beyond inhumane and humiliating treatment. It has been proved forensically that it presents a persistent risk of injury, suffering or death.” [PDF]
It is a matter of public record that large numbers of children have been injured, many very badly, following restraint in penal institutions over the past decade.
In November 2011, parliament was told that 285 ‘exception reports' had been submitted to civil servants since 2006 by commercial contractors G4S and Serco in respect of the four secure training centres. The two companies are required to produce these reports whenever children's breathing has been compromised during restraint, or they have suffered serious injury requiring hospital treatment.
There are details that do not make their way to parliament, such as the five children who suffered six wrist fractures during restraint in Castington young offender institution between January 2007 and September 2008. A reply to a question in parliament in December 2007 reported that only one child had suffered such an injury after restraint in that prison that year. Even the government's correction in September 2009 did not result in the true figure being recorded.
The internal report I obtained through an FOI request states that none of the five children was restrained because they were fighting and that most of the injuries were sustained in areas without CCTV.
A separate internal prison review was undertaken after six incidents in which children were thought to have suffered a fractured or broken bone during restraint in Hindley young offender institution (one suspected fracture was later found to have been wrongly diagnosed). The injuries occurred between February 2009 and April 2011, and only one of the situations arose because a child was fighting. One boy made an official complaint to the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman after he was moved to another prison. It was upheld.
Information obtained from the Youth Justice Board records, on average, 84 self-harm incidents in young offender institutions, and 16 in secure training centres, every month throughout 2012. Between 2007/08 and 2011/12, 81 children in young offender institutions and 17 in secure training centres required hospital treatment following self-harm.
One teenage girl incarcerated in a women's prison in Wakefield self-harmed so badly she needed blood transfusions. She was passed back and forth between prison segregation and hospital until her lawyer at the Howard League for Penal Reform obtained a High Court injunction in 2005 preventing her return to prison.
Her barrister, Ian Wise QC, said:
“There were women prison officers who were trying to do the right thing for [the girl] I'm sure, but they were just totally out of their depth. I mean these people have got no training on mental health issues.”
As a child protection social worker, I worked with children who had been sexually assaulted in their own homes. I spent a lot of time reassuring children they were not to blame and no-one had the right to hurt them. Some years later, during my work on Lord Carlile's inquiry, I met children who had been strip-searched in secure training centres. They said they felt embarrassed, degraded and uncomfortable. One girl told me about being strip-searched during her period; she had to pass her sanitary towel to staff for inspection. [PDF]
Had I still been a social worker, and these children were telling me about their fathers, uncles or children's homes workers, they would have been officially classed as victims of child abuse. But as child prisoners such routine attacks on their integrity were authorised by the state.
Children in young offender institutions have reported being made to squat in front of officers without their underwear.
Routine strip-searching was banned for female prisoners several years before the same policy change for children.
When Lord Carlile concluded that strip-searching is not necessary to maintain good order and safety, the Youth Justice Board promised a review. Its then chair, Rod Morgan, argued in The Guardian: “Some young people arrive in custody with drugs or weapons hidden on their bodies and clothing. The consequences of drugs or knives inside a secure establishment are not hard to imagine, and every precaution, including searching, has been taken to stop this.”
So Morgan and the Youth Justice Board must have had robust evidence that strip-searching was necessary?
The Youth Justice Board began collecting strip-searching data only in 2011, five years after the Carlile Inquiry reported and eleven years after it was given legal responsibility for booking children into prisons.
Rod Morgan resigned in January 2007, telling BBC Newsnight: “I have to say to you that a custodial establishment, no matter how good we make them, is the worst conceivable environment within which to improve somebody's behaviour.”
How to dehumanise
In June 2011, inspectors observed “petty and restrictive” rules operating in Lancaster Farms young offender institution. Only children on the highest level of the behaviour management scheme could wear their own clothes and even this was restricted to their cells and during other very limited periods. [PDF] Earlier inspection reports showed this to be institutionally entrenched.
Five months into the new millennium, inspectors found the prison was experiencing “problems getting Prison Service clothes small enough for many of the residents” and recommended: “Small clothing should be available from Central Prison Service Stores.” [PDF]
This was five years after the NSPCC had published a report from survivors of abuse in care. One of the violations depicted in the report concerned the humiliation of being forced to wear communal clothing:
“If we did not achieve so many points we were not allowed to wear our own clothes.”
The final inspection of Warren Hill young offender institution in Suffolk before it became an adult prison in April 2014 reported that children were made to wear prison clothes but could keep their own underwear and socks. The only washing facility for underwear and socks was cell basins, so “many chose to wear prison-issue underclothes”. [PDF]
A children's charity was asked to review safeguarding in child prisons and its 2008 report observed that journeys to the young offender institutions “get them off to a frightening start. They often arrived late after hours spent in a small, uncomfortable cubicle within a van, frightened not only about where they are being taken to but what will happen to them if the van crashes”. [PDF] Some children were given plastic bags to urinate in, a demeaning practice reported by inspectors as recently as March 2014.
Deborah Coles is the co-director of INQUEST and has been working for the charity since before teenager Philip Knight hanged himself in an adult prison in Swansea in 1990. She told me:
“I didn't have children when I was involved with Philip Knight, and 1994 was when [my son] was born and I do think that, as my kids have grown up, and you see the vulnerability of your own kids who are in supportive environments with food on the table, have got a home, are relatively stable or go to a nice school, and then you look at these kids who are in prison, it just makes you ... it hits you in a different way actually, it makes you even more ashamed.”
Since Philip's death, inquests have recorded a verdict of suicide for 12 children's deaths in penal custody, and accidental death for eight of the children. There were four narrative verdicts, five open verdicts, three verdicts of misadventure and one unlawful killing. Accidental death and misadventure are verdicts given when juries decide a death was unintended; narrative verdicts are detailed statements of the background issues surrounding a person's death; and an open verdict means there was insufficient evidence to return another verdict.
All but four of the children whose deaths were judged to be suicide were known to have self-harmed in the past or were being monitored at the time of their death. You wouldn't have to be a child psychiatrist to doubt whether the remaining four could withstand imprisonment. One had developed serious alcohol problems after the death of his mother from cancer on his 14th birthday. Another had severe learning difficulties and was worried about his parents who both had cancer. A third child had endured chronic bullying and requested to be placed in segregation for his own safety. The parents of the fourth child criticised the prison for not allowing their son his medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Two of the 33 children who died as prisoners, 15-year-old Gareth Myatt and 14-year-old Adam Rickwood, were held in secure training centres run by G4S and Serco respectively. These boys died four months apart, 10 years ago, after being subject to appalling forms of restraint.
Before he lost consciousness, Gareth told the three guards holding him down that he could not breathe. The response was that if he could speak he could breathe. He died minutes later from positional asphyxia. The Youth Justice Board suspended the use of the seated double embrace, the authorised hold used on Gareth, two months later.
Adam was subject to ‘nose distraction' — the official euphemism for a severe assault to the nose — just hours before he was found hanging in his cell. Adam's nose bled for about an hour, and his request to go to hospital for an X-ray was refused. He left behind a note asking what gave staff the right to hit a child in the nose.
Ministers eventually withdrew this particular technique. However, the deliberate infliction of pain by other methods remains.
None of the 33 child deaths in prison has been dignified with a public inquiry. Adam Rickwood's mother told me she is still not certain what her son was wearing when he lost consciousness, since the prison had mislaid some of his clothes.
She described Hassockfield secure training centre in County Durham as “the scariest place I have ever witnessed”. Adam himself, in one letter home, described “a 30-foot wall and cage all around me”.
Politicians and large unpleasant thugs
Michael Howard, the home secretary who signed the first contract for a secure training centre, famously said in 1993 that child offenders “are adult in everything except years”.
Fifteen years later, Labour's secretary of state for justice, Jack Straw, was asked whether he would reverse the UK's standing in Europe as the greatest child incarcerator. He replied:
“Most young people who are put into custody are aged 16 and 17 – they are not children; they are often large, unpleasant thugs, and they are frightening to the public.”
On that very day, Straw's prisons minister told parliament there were 458 children in young offender institutions and secure training centres who were known to be at risk of self-harm, 419 at known risk of drug dependency, 310 with known mental health problems and 91 at known risk of bullying. Nearly 400 children were in prison for the first time.
The justice secretary should have been aware that, of the 30 child deaths in custody there had been at the time of his speech, 24 were children aged 16 or 17. All 30 of the dead children were boys.
The coalition government's justice secretary Chris Grayling announced through the Daily Telegraph in July 2013 that his department was reviewing the punishment and rewards scheme in child prisons: “It seems ludicrous to me that we dole out privileges regardless of how children behave,” he wrote. “Luxuries must be a reward for good behaviour not an automatic right.”
An international review of prison mother and baby units observed that girls in the G4S-run Rainsbrook secure training centre “can even earn the privilege of putting posters on the walls”. [PDF]
Grayling asserted that children would “face tough sanctions” for breaching a 10.30 pm lights and television curfew.
There are many reasons children come to rely on artificial light and television and radio into the early hours, including fear, loneliness and restlessness.
I have spoken with children who have had everything removed from their cells as a sanction, including photographs and education certificates from walls. Not one of them has ever told me that this helped improve their behaviour.
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Nonprofit moves from living rooms to storefront
by Mardi Suhs
CADILLAC — Healing Private Wounds is hosting an open house to celebrate the opening of a new office and walk-in center located in the Wexford Plaza at 856 N. Mitchell St. in Cadillac.
The open house takes place from 2:30 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, June 24.
“We want to welcome the community and introduce them to the new, Healing Private Wounds center,” stated non-profit founder Shirley Petersen. “We want them to know that there's a safe place for those who have been wounded from sexual abuse.”
Since 2007, HPW as been offering free sexual abuse prevention education and recovery programs. The non profit started out in Petersen's living room, expanded to a basement and then to a church. A donation allowed them to rent a space to call their own. After much volunteer remodeling, the center opened in January.
With daily office hours from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., volunteers have seen increased demand for free services that include sexual abuse recovery groups for parents, children and adults, plus counseling and workshops.
“It's amazing how people walking by see us and walk in,” Petersen said. “We've had parents come in and ask how they help their children heal.”
During the open house, there will be survivors ready to share their healing stories and volunteers to answer questions. There will also be refreshments.
To learn about the Healing Private Wounds services, visit www.healingprivatewounds.org.
“We want to be the information hub for sexual abuse prevention and recovery in Northern Michigan,” Petersen added.
What you need to know:
Healing Private Wounds is hosting an open house on Wednesday, June 24 at the new location at 856 N. Mitchell St. in the Wexford Plaza. The open house is from 2:30 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, June 24. There will be refreshments.
HPW is a non profit that offers sexual abuse prevention education and recovery programs.
Anti-child abuse program ready to go, seeking mentors
by Bill Toscano
GLENS FALLS A year after the state Legislature approved $100,000 in funding, the planning is done and the Healthy Parenting and Mentoring Program is ready to start helping parents and their children.
“We're there. We're ready to go,” said Brian Bearor, chief executive officer of the Family YMCA of the Glens Falls Area, which is joining forces with the WAIT House and the Warren-Washington Child Advocacy Resource Center.
The program is designed to teach parents how to better care for their children and prevent child abuse. The idea first came up last year following the deaths of four children at the hands of their male caregivers in the past five years.
State Sen. Elizabeth Little, R-Queensbury, was able to get $100,000 in funding for the program, and with the structure in place, program coordinator Kassia May said the group is looking for experienced parents to serve as potential mentors and for young parents who want to learn about taking care of their children.
“We want it to be a mentoring program for the parents of young children,” May said. “We want them to be able to make better and healthier choices for their kids.”
May said the program will focus on the extended family, because some young parents are living at home with their own parents.
The program will include volunteer mentors as well as paid advocates — professionals from WAIT House, the Glens Falls facility that provides for homeless teens and young mothers.
There will be three core components to the free and voluntary program, May said.
“There will be home visits, where we will work on what the family needs and wants organized,” she said. “We will do group-based education on broader topics, using a program called ‘Parenting Now!” and we will do life-skill activities, such as resumes, food-shopping on a budget or other things parents need.”
To be successful, the groups will need to attract mentors, and May detailed what they are looking for.
“We need people who are willing to commit 10 hours per month, per family, which will include training and staff meetings,” she said. “We need people who have been the parents of small children, have strong communication skills are 18 and older and understand boundaries and how to advise families.”
As far as referrals for the program go, May said she expects to hear from schools, pediatricians' offices, hospitals and organizations such as the Department of Social Service, which deal with parents with young children.
She said parents can request to be part of the programs themselves.
For more information about any aspects of the Healthy Parenting and Mentoring Program, contact May at 792-2731 or by email at Kassiamcc@yahoo.com.
Mom accused of hiding son's body in car since 2004
by Eric Kane
HAMPTON, Va. — Human remains found during a traffic stop are those of the driver's son, missing since 2004, Virginia State Police said.
Tonya Slaton, 44, of Richmond, Va., was driving a Ford Mustang when she was pulled over about 8:30 a.m. June 6 on Interstate 64 in Hampton. The trooper noticed a large white spot on the floorboard behind the driver's seat that Slayton said was from the beach, according to a search warrant.
Slaton told the trooper she only had clothes in her trunk, but when the trooper opened it he smelled "rotting flesh," according to the document. Slaton began throwing clothes on top of the spare tire, which is where the trooper found two plastic bags wrapped in duct tape full human remains.
No witnesses have seen her son, Quincy Jamar Davis, since 2004 when he was in seventh grade at Virginia Beach Middle School. Davis would have turned 25 this past Tuesday.
Slaton was charged with concealment of a dead body and remained Monday in Hampton Roads Regional Jail without bond. Additional charges are pending.
She is due Monday in court here, according to online court records.
This is not the first time Slaton faced charges here.
She pleaded guilty to shooting at, but not injuring, a man inside a home in 2007. According to a press release from the time of the shooting, Hampton police said they were searching for Slaton in a 2003 black Mustang convertible.