Vast scale of child sex abuse inquiries revealed
by Judith Duffy
THE size and scope of the unprecedented number of inquiries into historical child abuse in the UK can be revealed for the first time today following a Sunday Herald investigation.
The Sunday Herald has learned that there are currently 14 major police operations, four public inquiries and six other investigations - including probes by the BBC, the police watchdog, and two government departments - are either ongoing or have been carried out to date.
Although, full details on cost are impossible to gather at this stage, it has been uncovered that nearly £66 million has or is being spent on half of the investigations.
Last week, Edward Heath became the latest high-profile figure to be linked to sex abuse allegations, with seven police forces alone investigating the former prime minister.
Gabrielle Shaw, chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC), said they were not surprised by the scale of the investigations into abuse.
“Society in general is waking up to the true scale and scope of the issue of child sexual abuse and exploitation,” she said.
“We have been going for almost 20 years and the main service that NAPAC offers is a confidential telephone helpline where people can call in for a number of different reasons.
“A large part of it is they want to disclose their experiences and we have heard many high profile names – so in terms of the fact it is high profile people that is coming to light now, it is not a surprise to us - and nor is the scale and scope of it.”
The Sunday Herald was able to obtain costs for half of the investigations which are or have taken place. The figures ranges from the estimated £20 million which will be spent on the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry to £17,140 which had been spent by April 2015 on Operation Garford, which is examining historic abuse allegations centred on schools in Suffolk.
An inquiry by the Government of Ireland into institutional abuse in 1999, which took 10 years to complete, cost around £70 million. The Royal Commission in Australia, which began investigating institutional child sex abuse two years ago and is due to complete in 2017, has a budget of around £180 million until next year.
Shaw pointed out it was important to recognise the toll on the victims and survivors when considering the cost of investigating abuse cases.
“There is the personal and emotional cost, but also we know adults who were victims of child sexual abuse are overrepresented in statistics on issues such as suicide, mental health, drug and alcohol abuse and homelessness,” she said.
“So what cost is that to society? If we can prevent that in the first instance it has to be better for everyone.
“We know that what most survivors want is the truth and surely there can't be a price on that.”
The police investigations are being co-ordinated by Operation Hydrant, led by the National Police Chief's Council. In May, it released figures that revealed more than 1,400 men are being investigated by forces across the UK over allegations of historical sexual abuse.
At that time Police Scotland said it was investigating 110 suspects including 37 high-profile figures. The cases date as far back as 1947 to 2013. The force has said it is not investigating any allegations linked to Edward Heath.
A Police Scotland spokesman added: "We fully recognise that it is often a number of years before victims feel able to report such crimes, and would wish to give reassurance that these reports will be treated seriously regardless of the passage of time or status of the perpetrator.”
Courtroom advocates: Standing up for the victims
by Andreas Rivera
OGDEN — The justice system can be daunting and confusing for crime victims, who are expected to be involved and become an intricate part of their cases. As lawyers prepare and deliver evidence and arguments, victims and witnesses may seem caught in the middle or forgotten when they're trying to seek justice.
The Weber County Attorney's Office employs a small team of social workers to guide victims through the process, to ease their fears, to make them comfortable and to help see justice done.
The Victim-Witness program is vital to the prosecution, which needs the cooperation of victims to convict the offenders, county Deputy Attorney Branden Miles said. A victim navigating his or her case can be a difficult role.
Jamie Pitt, who has been with the Attorney's Office for more than seven years, said the core of the victim-witness team's job is to care about the victims.
“We want to see them get past this hardship,” Pitt said. “We're with them from the beginning to the end of the case.”
It's the team's job to make sure the victims are informed and heard, Pitt said.
The three members of the team have been assigned about 1,000 victims in the last nine months.
The team keeps victims informed by sending letters and emails each time the cases are moved forward. The team sent about 6,000 messages this year.
Victims and witnesses have an array of rights, which the team explains and makes sure they're invoked. The right to be heard at a sentencing hearing is one of the few opportunities the victim has to address the court and the offender. In some cases, the victim-witness advocate will speak for the victim if it's too hard for the person to do so.
It's also their job to assist the prosecution by getting their witnesses to speak.
“Sometimes it can be very traumatic for these victims to relive what happened to them,” Pitt said.
Witnesses also may fear repercussions for their testimony, especially in cases that involve gang activity. It's up to the victim-witness advocate to assure their safety, and in some cases anonymity.
Pitt said some of the hardest cases concern child sex abuse.
“They don't understand what happened to them,” she said. “They just shut down around adults.”
Pitt said she's had to get creative. In one case, the 5-year-old victim was terrified of men and would not speak to the prosecutor, even on the day of a hearing when the child was supposed to give testimony. The victim felt more comfortable with Pitt, so she devised a way to help the child talk to the attorney by playing a board game and making a rule that at every turn, the prosecutor got to ask a question.
Eventually the child was comfortable enough to play the game with the attorney so he could ask what happened.
Pitt said fear can deter an adult victim from facing an attacker or rapist in court. One of Pitt's first cases involved a rape conviction that resulted in a mistrial.
“We take those personally. It's heartbreaking whenever a case fails,” Pitt said. “It's probably the hardest part of the job.”
After the mistrial, the victim left the state and initially refused to come back to testify in the retrial.
“To have to go up there and relive it again is horrible. She was ready to give up,” Pitt said. “It typifies the worst parts of our system. It's the victims that feel like they are on trial.”
Pitt convinced the woman to return. In the second trial, the defendant was convicted and sent to prison.
Another barrier to victim cooperation is that sometimes defendants and their supporters don't make it easy.
Jessica Willis, who has been on the team since January, recalled a child sex abuse case in which the defendant had a large group of supporters who harassed and threatened the victim's family. Willis worked with the Crime Victims Reparations program to help the family move out of their neighborhood, away from the friends and family of the defendant.
“At sentencing, the victim had her mother and two friends there for support. The defendant brought an entire row of people to the courtroom for support,” Willis said. “It soon became apparent to me that the people there in support of the defendant were using means to intimidate my victim and her support group.”
Willis said she confronted the harassers, telling them to leave the victim alone.
“The victim's mother said that nobody had ever really stood up for them before and she really appreciated me standing up for them in court when they were being bullied,” Willis said. “Knowing that no one had ever stood up for them before broke my heart and made me feel honored to be the one who finally did stand up for them.”
A victim-witness advocate requires a bachelor's degree in social work or criminal justice, but being a communicator is most important, Pitt said. An advocate also must learn not to be consumed by cases.
“It can be really tough, hearing these victims' stories. There's a lot of horrible stuff that we hear,” Pitt said.
The Victim-Witness program is funded by the state and is designed tu uphold the 2004 federal Victim Rights Act. That law specifies the right to be protected from the accused, to be informed of court proceedings, to be heard at certain court proceedings, to confer with prosecutors, to receive restitution, and to be treated with fairness, respect, dignity and privacy.
Sheldon Kennedy brings story of sex abuse to Durham
Retired NHL player recounts impacts and how they can be treated
by Keith Gilligan
The figures are staggering -- one in four people will suffer a mental illness; 93 per cent of child sex abuse victims know their abuser; mental illness costs the Canadian economy $6.4 billion annually in lost productivity; a child who has been sexually abused is four times more likely to be arrested as a juvenile and two times as likely to be arrested as an adult.
Those are sobering statistics, yet they only shed a dim light on the devastation felt by victims. Sheldon Kennedy, former NHL forward, is probably the most recognizable name in Canada when it comes to being a sex abuse survivor. These days, he's involved in helping youths who have been abused get the help they so desperately need.
He brought his message of hope to the Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences annual luncheon on July 22.
“Look at the impact of trauma of sex abuse. Connect the dots. It affected me all during my hockey career and for 10 years after. The only way for me to deal with it was with drugs and alcohol,” he told an audience of community leaders, at the ticketed lunch that drew about 250 people. “I went to eight treatment centres. But, nobody asked me what was going on.”
He was arrested for the first time when he was 16.
Too often, the health care system works in what Mr. Kennedy called “silos”, meaning isolated compartments. In one silo is suicide, another mental health, another addiction. The issues “are different, but yet they are all connected. Before, we only worked on a sexual abuse investigation.
“We were always working on the outer end of the onion. We have to work at the core.”
Often, it's the victim who feels the shame and guilt, Mr. Kennedy said.
“Once I told my story, I thought I would cruise on through life. The reality is the damage had been done. I was in treatment two more times after I told my story. Today, I'm impacted. What happened to me left me with mental health issues I have to be aware of. If I don't, I could be going down another road.”
The former hockey player was part of a group advocating for a facility to help other children in similar circumstances. The Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre, a Calgary based facility, has been open since May, 2013.
The centre “has been huge for us,” Mr. Kennedy said. “We're doing an investigation in a day that used to take months or years. We work as a team.”
The centre's partners, such as the police and Children's Aid workers, work collaboratively with physicians, counsellors and educators to provide care. “We actually have a provincial model of practice. This is the way we do business. Every frontline person will be trained in handling trauma.”
Using the holistic approach “allowed us to paint pictures of the child. When we started, it was like getting a sliver of an X-ray of a broken leg and having to fix it. Now, we get the whole X-ray.” Having information means “we understand who we are serving. We're usually the first point of contact.”
Mr. Kennedy's story of abuse began in April 1984 when he was 13. A hockey coach named Graham James invited the boy to Winnipeg to watch a hockey tournament. Being a hockey player was Mr. Kennedy's dream.
“Mom and Dad couldn't put me on the bus fast enough,” he recalled.
While in Winnipeg, Mr. James began asking questions, such as what his father was like. After going to dinner the first night, they went back to Mr. James's apartment, where there were newspaper clippings and photographs of hockey people Mr. James knew.
“I knew he was an important man,” said Mr. Kennedy. “He was open and caring for me and I wanted his respect.”
Mr. Kennedy spent a week in Winnipeg and “he abused me repeatedly,” he recalled matter-of-factly.
The abuse continued for five years, during which Mr. James served as a coach on the junior hockey teams Mr. Kennedy played on. Another NHL player, Theo Fleury, was also sexually abused by Mr. James, who would eventually plead guilty to charges involving both teenage boys.
“When I got back from Winnipeg, I was a different person,” said Mr. Kennedy. “I left as a goofy, slightly mixed-up person. I came back a zombie. Nothing in my experience prepared me for this. I was afraid my dad would be ashamed of me. I was afraid he would blame me for bringing this on myself. I stopped dreaming of playing hockey. I wanted to tell people I wanted to quit the game.”
Mr. Kennedy told his story for the first time in 1997 because he feared Mr. James would be abusing players on the Calgary Hitmen, a junior team the older man was coaching. “I can't let this happen. I went and told my story to the police. They believed me. The media didn't, but they did.”
People said Mr. Kennedy shouldn't have revealed his story, but when Mr. James pleaded guilty, that changed. “Today, we're understanding the issue. We're connecting the dots. There's been a social change. We're hearing stories. It impacts all of them the same. What these individuals are left with is all the same.”
Grandmother shares her heartbreaking tale
BREAK the silence. That's what Ardrossan woman Christine Smith decided to do after keeping her story of childhood sexual abuse to herself for years.
After raising more than £2,500 for Break the Silence – a charity which helps support adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse – the 54-year-old mother and grandmother has bravely come forward in order to give her backing to the charity which has helped her over the past two years.
Christine, who was born Christine McColgan, came up with the idea to do a 10 mile sponsored walk to help the charity, which is fully funded from voluntary donations.
She said: “I wanted to help raise funds, but more importantly awareness, and to give something back to Break the Silence.
“Despite there being a real need for these services they rely totally on donations with no government support.
“I wanted to put my story across to help encourage other female and male victims to contact Break the Silence.
“I want to break the silence on the subject that no-one likes to talk about, but we all know goes on.
“I was abused as a young child.
“I had my first realisation of this in my late 20s and lived with the guilt and shame of it, which led to me struggling with severe bouts of depression and other issues connected to abuse.
“Unfortunately, organisations like Break the Silence didn't exist and I carried on living like this until I finally cried out for help.”
Christine decided to contact Break the Silence after her GP gave her their contact number.
Two weeks later she found herself attending her first counselling session.
“Two and half years later I am strong and confident enough to speak out.
“It's not been easy. The first step is the hardest, but if you're willing to put in the hard work and talk about your experience, with the support of your counsellor, and in my case my husband, sons and close friends, you can stop being a victim and become a survivor.
“My next goal is to become a ‘thriver' – I want to thrive in my life.
“I still attend counselling sessions, but now I can see a new beginning.”
Susan Dickson, Christine's counsellor from the Break the Silence, explained a bit about her work with the charity.
She said: “A high percentage of our referrals come from GPs and the NHS but we don't receive any government funding.
“With all the media coverage over the last few years of historical child sex abuse, Break the Silence has seen an increase in calls from victims of abuse.
“No matter how long ago the abuse happened, victims have to live with the effects and it never goes away.
“In most cases the victim's abuser still lives in the same area.
“It can be difficult and as Christine has shown, it's been a real struggle at times and it took a lot of courage to speak out publicly about her abuse, but that's testament to Christine and her hard work and determination.
“She is now a survivor.
“It can and will be difficult, but at Break the Silence we hope to help victims become survivors – it could be life changing.”
Christine would like to thank Barclays Bank in Saltcoats for their donation, all her fellow walkers for their support, everyone who donated to her JustGiving page and, of course, everyone at Break the Silence for their continued support.
If you would like donate go to justgiving.com/christine-smith28.
Break the Silence is a specialist confidential service set up to support adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse and rape over the age of 16 years.
Referrals can be made through other agencies, self-referral, by email, drop-in or through a GP.
Appointments are open-ended giving the client the time and space to deal with their trauma in a safe, secure and trusting environment.
It is a unique service which has been delivering a range of support services in East Ayrshire since 2004 and in North Ayrshire since 2009.
Services include one-to-one counselling, focus group work, couple counselling, alternative therapies including reiki, support for partners and family members, art and craft groups, and they can deliver bespoke training packages to statutory, voluntary and other independent agencies.
They also offer telephone support to other front line staff who work with survivors on a daily basis.
Their main office is in Kilmarnock, however, they now operate from a range of outreach bases throughout East and North Ayrshire.
Volunteers play an important part in the running of Break the Silence and they will be having a volunteer recruitment drive later in the year.
CEO Alison Tait said: “Childhood sexual abuse is prevalent throughout all classes in society and not, as many think, specific to one group.
“CSA leaves survivors with a range of complex issues which have devastating effects on them, changing their lives forever.
“These can include depression, suicidal tendencies, self-harming behaviours, anger issues, drug and alcohol abuse, criminal behaviours, relationship difficulties, trust issues, lack of confidence and self-esteem, eating disorders etc.
“Support services are sparse throughout the country and, as with other charities, funding is an on-going problem.
“We have faced closure due to lack of funds several times over the years, however, we are now in the fortunate position of having Service Level Agreements with both East and North Ayrshire Councils.
“This will secure employment and the services we offer for the next year.
“In the meantime, we continue to raise awareness of survivor issues by delivering training to various organisations and companies.”
To contact Break the Silence go to breakthesilence.org.uk or phone 01563 559558.
Massive child abuse scandal unveiled in Pakistan
Citizens in Pakistan are clamoring for justice after a sex abuse scandal involving hundreds of children shocked the nation. Pornographic films allegedly show victims being forced to have sex and abusing each other.
Pakistan is reeling from the aftermath of a huge child pornography scandal, which came to light a few days ago when protesters clashed with police in Kasur, a town close to the country's eastern city of Lahore.
The demonstrators were protesting against the police for allegedly failing to arrest members of a gang suspected of raping hundreds of children, filming them and blackmailing their parents, Pakistani daily "Dawn" reported.
According to local media, most of the 280 children were below 14 years of age and were residents of Husain Khanwala village, near Kasur. A local gang began filming sexual exploits with the children in 2006, which allegedly continued until last year. The victims were forced to have sex and the videos were then circulated for 50 Rupees (40 US cents, 36 euro cents).
A journalist working for Pakistani website "The Nation" posted some information about the videos on Twitter:
Local media websites also quoted villagers saying some films had been exported to European countries and the US.
Kasur officials have ordered an inquiry, but District Police Officer Rai Babbar said only seven complainants had been made so far.
More than 10 people have been accused in a police complaint made by the children's parents, but nearly half are out on bail and six have been placed under judicial remand for 14 days. Punjab's Chief Minister, Shahbaz Sharif, has meanwhile ordered the accused persons to be arrested.
The government's handling of the case also has journalists and rights activists up in arms, especially after Punjab Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah denied the cases of abuse, saying the reports surfaced because villagers were fighting over land.
Police have also disputed media reports that the number of victims ran into the hundreds.
Numbers could increase
Speaking to Deutsche Welle, Pakistan's prominent child rights activist and lawyer Rana Asif Habib said the numbers were simply "the tip of the iceberg." The actual number of victims could be much higher, considering that Kasur was very close to Lahore, where slum children attract abusers in large numbers.
"Pakistan is not a signatory to the UN Child Rights Convention," Habib says, adding that children can therefore not complain to any authority in the event that they are sexually exploited. He recalls a 1999 case when child abuser Javed Iqbal surrendered himself to the police, admitting that he had sexually abused over 100 children and drowned them in acid afterwards.
And as far as the Kasur child abuse case is concerned, Habib is cynical. Officials will probably make a show of an investigation as long as the media focuses on them. "After that there is usually no follow-up and then it is brushed under the carpet," Habib says.
Americans Ending Abuse hears presentation on child sexual abuse prevention
by Anne Fox
Ellen White, child protection education specialist from the YMCA Dallas, gave a presentation regarding the prevention of child sexual abuse to Americans Ending Abuse on August 4.
White explained that at the YMCA, they want parents to know they are leaving their children in a safe place. To ensure this, they have strict protocols and policies to ensure the children's safety. White intends to carry the knowledge the YMCA staff is given about what to lookout for in terms of child abuse over to parents in the community.
“Our goal with this community initiative is to educate more parents on the signs — the red flags, how do predators act — so that you know, ‘should I be paying more attention to this particular person?'” White said.
White said one in four girls and one in six boys have been sexually abused before the age of 18; more than 90 percent of child sexual abusers and child predators are people the child and the family knows, while 35 percent are family members; and 60-65 percent of predators are friends, neighbors, coaches, teachers, mentors, older kids or older friends. Only one out of 10 children will speak up about being abused.
One of the problems, however, is that children don't tell — which is why parents need to know what to look for.
One example White provided was a man in Frisco who was molesting the soccer team he coached. She said he was loved and trusted by the parents. The boys went to his house, he had a family, a pool, video games, billiards — things children like.
But he was molesting the entire team as a group in his home.
“None of those boys said anything,” White said. “Why? Because this man was doing things to them that were very humiliating.”
A mother became suspicious from reading the text conversations on her son's phone. White said she acted proactively by taking her son's phone to the police department. The police agreed that an investigation was needed. They continued to text the coach, pretending to be a 14-year-old boy until the coach tried to meet him at a hotel room and they caught him.
White said what child sexual predators do is groom the community. They find the right jobs and the right places to integrate themselves into the community as a trusted member and gain access to children. Then they groom the parents, earning their trust, before moving onto children. That way, the child is already trained to think to trust the predator because they've seen their parents trust them.
“They need access to children, which they can groom the community to get, they need privacy with children, which they can groom parents to get,” White said.
Then they groom the children and do what they can to prevent the children from telling — humiliation, the parents like them, they don't want to be removed from their home, they don't want to get people in trouble.
White said one way to help children recognize or become suspicious of someone is for parents to talk about physical boundaries with their children. This includes who can touch the child, how much and where.
White said a child sexual predator will sometimes touch the child in front of the parent to show the child it is okay, like a coach talking with a child and their parent and keeping his hands on the child's shoulders throughout the entire conversation.
If this happens, White said the parent can always divert the attention away from the child in ways such as asking the child to retrieve something from the car or getting something from the concession stand — removing them from the situation — while looking the adult in the eye.
“We want children to understand what boundaries are and what violation is.”
Another important aspect is listening. If a child doesn't want to sit in a relative's lap or hug someone, the parents need to listen and not force the child into affection.
“Don't force them to do it. They have the right. They should choose affection.”
White said it should always be their choice because if a parent pushes them to hug aunts, uncles or other people all the time, the child is going to think they have to do that everywhere else — that it's being disrespectful or rude to not hug back or not give those kisses.
“So we have to teach kids it's their choice to give that affection to whomever they choose even if it's a parent.”
White also discussed emotional boundaries — how close a child is with someone and what kind of information you share. White said things to look out for are if a potential predator is playing favorites, making a child feel special or making them promises, employing guilt or shame and getting personal.
“We have to tell our kids it's okay to say no to adults. It's okay. If you don't like it, if you don't want it, say no — it's okay,” White said.
Behavior boundaries were another topic White discussed. This involves what a child will or will not do — rule-breaking, testing reactions, keeping secrets. White said if a child is breaking a rule and also uncomfortable, they won't say anything out of fear of getting in trouble with the parent. However, White said in cases such as these, the child needs to know that if they are uncomfortable with someone or what someone is doing, the child won't get in trouble.
Good child protection policies White suggested were visiting often and randomly — such as dropping in on a sleepover at someone else's house just to see what the environment was like; ask a lot of open-ended questions, but ask creatively to receive more than a one word response.
Other policies include talking to children and speaking up. Online monitoring is also important, White said. She said to set rules, monitor online usage and know who a child is contacting and who is contacting them online or on apps. White also said it is important to reinforce the message — short, quick conversations as reminders, asking more questions, listening for hints, noticing changes.
White said changes in behaviors that could be indicative of child sexual abuse is a drastic change such as not wanting to go to a friend's house they always liked, or quickly shutting laptop when a parent walks up.
White also talked about how to respond if a child tells you something regarding sexual abuse. White said to reassure them, tell them you believe they are speaking truthfully and then to report the incident.
“The key here is the poker face. We have to remember the priority is the child's feelings,” White said. “You have to believe kids. You have to pay attention.”
If child sexual abuse is suspected, White recommends calling the hotline at 1-800-252-5400.
“Our goal is to reach a tipping point in our counties, in our community, to start to see a change in the prevalence,” White said. “The only way to do that is to get more people educated and vocal and do these kinds of things so predators start to realize they are being watched, they're being recognized, kids are speaking up.”
For more information, visit americansendingabuse.org.
Elgin resident to be featured in TLC documentary on child sex abuse
by Erin Hegarty
Erin Merryn has encouraged schools to educate students on child sexual abuse for more than five years, and now she'll be featured in a TLC documentary on the topic set to air Aug. 31.
"It's definitely something moms and dads need to sit down and watch after putting the kids to bed," Merryn, an Elgin resident, said of the television show. "And extra points go to parents who then have a conversation on sexual assault with their kids."
While Merryn, who was sexually assaulted as a child, will be the documentary's main focus, several additional survivors of childhood sexual assault will speak about their experiences.
Merryn says TLC approached her in June after news broke that Josh Duggar, of the TLC show "19 Kids and Counting," had inappropriately touched his sisters when they were younger.
Before the news broke, Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar had encountered Merryn at an Arkansas speaking and book signing event and asked her to speak to their kids about child sexual assault.
Merryn says she spoke to nine of the Duggar kids in their living room regarding the importance of speaking up about sexual assault.
"I knew nothing about the family's secret then," Merryn said.
TLC reached out to Merryn after learning about her connection with the Duggars.
"Next thing I knew, I had 23 people in my house, and it was flipped upside down with camera equipment," Merryn said.
Merryn has traveled across the country asking states to adopt Erin's Law. Illinois adopted the law, which requires schools to teach students about sexual abuse, in 2013.
The goal, she says, is to to let people know sexual assault is something that should be reported.
"I've heard so many times when kids from the suburbs have come forward because of Erin's law," Merryn said.
Her law can only be adopted at the state level, Merryn explains, because states, not the federal government, set curriculum.
But now, Merryn is working with U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, to pass legislation that would provide funding for the child sexual abuse education programs in schools.
"The biggest hurdle right now is this is an unfunded mandate," Merryn says of Erin's Law.
That means right now, the 26 states that have passed Erin's Law and do provide child sex abuse education require their schools to do so without any funding from the state.
"With this funding, schools don't have to worry about how they'll pay to educate kids using Erin's Law," Merryn said.
The proposal was introduced in the Senate June 24, and was assigned to a health and education committee.
Merryn says this is the first time this part of her initiative has been introduced at the national level.
Las Vegas doctor faces sexual assault, child pornography charges
by Catherine E. Shoichet and Travis Sattiewhite
Police say their investigation started soon after a Las Vegas doctor's wife grew suspicious and searched through his phone and electronics.
Now Dr. Binh Minh Chung's license has been suspended and the family practice doctor is behind bars, facing sexual assault and child pornography charges.
In a 28-count criminal complaint, he's accused of drugging patients in order to sexually assault them. The complaint lists at least 11 alleged victims, including a minor.
On Wednesday, a judge set bail at $1 million after prosecutors argued Chung was a danger to the community.
Chung's attorney, Chris Oram, declined to comment on the case to CNN. In court, he asked for the judge to set bail at $100,000 and place the doctor on house arrest.
A police arrest report says Chung's wife came forward and showed investigators numerous videos she told them she'd found on a hard drive that belonged to her husband. The videos appeared to show a man in medical scrubs having sex with unconscious women. Chung's wife, police said, identified the man in the videos as her husband.
The police report also details the account of one of the alleged victims, a teen who scheduled a series of appointments with Chung to get treatment for acne.
The girl told police Chung picked her up from her home for her third appointment around 10 p.m. one night, then gave her a shot at his office that caused her to lose consciousness. She told police she awakened with her pants off and her feet in stirrups.
"She explained how she was ultimately revived by Chung, who told her she had a bad reaction to the acne treatment," the arrest report says.
From Chung's office, police said they recovered a hard drive that contained multiple child pornography videos.
A preliminary hearing in the case is set for October.
Romania's disappearing girls
Poverty, desperation drive girls from their hometowns & into the arms of sex traffickers
by Andrea Bruce
On a mud wall in the corner of the back room where Stefania Nastrut lives with her father, the names of the brothers and sisters she never sees are written in a colorful teenage scrawl. Nearby sits the car battery that is the family's only electricity.
“I'm staying here only to finish my school,” said Nastrut, 18.
“After I finish school, I will leave somewhere. I will not expect no one to give me money, to criticize me that he gives me money,” she said.
Nastrut is a rarity in this hilly region of Romania, among the poorest in the European Union, simply because she is still there. By the time they reach her age, most teenage girls there — as young as 13 — have long quit school, with many disappearing into the realm of sex trafficking. According to the U.S. State Department's 2014 “Trafficking in Persons" report, one-third of Romania's trafficking victims are underage girls.
There, traffickers have a keen eye for those made vulnerable by their desperation to leave, making the girls ideal victims. The Eurostat 2015 report notes that Romania was one of the top five countries of origin for victims of human trafficking in the EU, as registered by organizations (governmental and nongovernmental) throughout the bloc.
According to ADPARE, a nonprofit group working to prevent trafficking and protect its victims in Romania, fueling the problem is the region's emergence as a sex industry destination. The country is routinely listed as a top destination on websites promoting and rating sex tourism.
Since its 2007 accession to the EU, Romania has become a major sex market in Europe — a development that can be seen on the streets of the capital, Bucharest, and in online advertising of Romanian erotic massage parlors. Strip club owner Gheorghe Anghel Alin, 30, said the market is booming. He has invested in two strip clubs in the past couple of years.
Some girls are trapped and sent to Spain, Italy or elsewhere, but most are taken to Bucharest because of the city's newly renovated allure and the ease of transportation.
“[As a foreigner], if you get your contacts right, you land at 9 in the evening on Friday, and by 11, you'll be with a girl. So it's faster, it's safer, it's cheaper. Not only sex-working, but everything — the hotels, the wine, the cigarettes,” said Dan Popescu, the harm reduction coordinator for the Romanian Association Against AIDS, an NGO that offers needle exchanges, condom distribution and rapid testing for HIV and hepatitis B and C for at-risk populations in Bucharest.
Romania's response to trafficking, according to the Global Slavery Index, is among the worst in the EU.
“It is very difficult to find the real number of victims. You can identify a girl that's been trafficked for a year. You identify her this year, but she's been trafficked for a year. When do you report her — as being trafficked last year or this year? It's very difficult to keep track of victims,” said an anti-trafficking officer at the Romanian Directorate for Combating Organized Crime. She declined to be named because she works undercover on cases.
“Internal traffic is rising … its exploitation on Romanian territory,” she continued. “It's an invisible crime. Not only on the streets — in apartments as well as hotels … Most of the time, you can't walk by her on the street and recognize she's a victim.”
In Romania, people who testify in court against their traffickers are publicly named by the police, making combating trafficking — an enterprise with strong ties to organized crime — even more difficult. Compounding the problem is the fact that the Romanian parliament in 2014 reduced sentences for traffickers from five to 15 years to three to 10 years.
“With this new penal code changed last year, many people come here in our penitentiary, and they are accused of trafficking with minors and adults,” complained Viola Tudor, a convicted human trafficker serving his sentence at the Timisoara prison in western Romania. “They have been in prisons before, and they get three years. And you give me — arrested for the first time but arrested two years ago — eight years?” he said.
Sitting in a visiting room, he was not shy about explaining his role in trafficking, claiming that he “helped” the girls he sold — and boasting of the monetary temptations of an industry in which girls and women can be sold over and over.
“I had girls from the whole country. I had a guy in a nearby village, and he was looking for the girls for me. He was asking for 500 euros [about $750 at the time] per girl,” he bragged. “In the worst night, a woman would make you 300 euros. There were some nights when a woman made 1,500 to 2,000 euros.
Tudor was released in early May, after four years of imprisonment, for good behavior.
An air of shame and a culture of extreme privacy prevent most communities from confronting the traffickers who take away so many girls.
Despite the pronounced absence of young women in one village, when asked about sex trafficking, a local priest, who declined to be identified, whispered that the people in his community are very private.
“I've heard about it, but I've never seen evidence of it here,” he said.
Some police visit schools in an attempt to educate girls on the issue of sex trafficking, but it is often boiled down to a lesson to stay away from bad men.
Most girls remain unaware of the real fate that awaits girls who follow the often familiar faces of men known as lover boys.
The lover boy method is the technique most often used to recruit girls. A trafficker purports to fall in love with a vulnerable girl, offering romance, nice dinners, gifts and the promise of a fairy tale life far away.
The lover boy then claims to fall on hard times and persuades the girl to sell herself just to help make ends meet for a short time.
Once the girls are swayed into selling their bodies, manipulated into feeling obligated to repay the lovely meals and gifts, they are often too ashamed to return home, fearing they will no longer be accepted.
They are sometimes videotaped and threatened with blackmail, then prostituted from apartments, out of sight from police and society.
The local police are often involved in the trafficking, and the girls have no governmental protection. Romanian police declined to give an official response to Al Jazeera's interview requests.
And when they stay in the trap, they don't see the money they earn,” said Yana Matei, the director of Reaching Out Romania, an NGO.
“There are always some bad people,” said an anti-trafficking officer at the Directorate for Combating Organized Crime, who did not want to be named.
But, she said, she knows the work of only the 250 officers in her force, who, she said, are not involved in trafficking and are well educated in the different methods traffickers use.
For the police in Bucharest and across the rest of Romania, unless there is obvious physical evidence of restraint or coercion, sex trafficking is often conflated with prostitution. While both are illegal, prostitution implies consent by all (adult) participants; sex trafficking does not, and it frequently involves minors.
“We see only prostitutes on the street,” said a representative of the Bucharest police, who also declined to be named. He added that “those girls” do what they do by choice. “We don't see trafficking.”
Hidden in another small village just a few hours from Bucharest is one of the few shelters for trafficked girls in the country, run by Reaching Out Romania. Matei, who manages the home, houses girls ranging in age from 13 to 18.
She says the girls rarely talk with one another about the trauma they experienced. Instead, they attend school, learn how to be teenagers and discover the meaning of self-respect.
In the hallway of the shelter is a crib for girls who became pregnant while captives of the traffickers. Two sisters at the home tattooed the names of their family members on their bodies, “to keep them close,” one said.
The girls' stories are similar: Loveless homes. An attractive young man. Lost in guilt. Perhaps drug use, either forced on them by the traffickers or used as a means to forget. And a feeling that there is no one they can trust. Sometimes they are lured by another girl.
“I met a girl and mentioned my problems with Mom,” said one girl, who was 14 when she was trafficked from her village outside Timisoara.
“She then invited me to move into her house. I said yes because I couldn't live with my mother. The girl's father was invalid, in a wheelchair, and her mother was doing the exact same thing, like her daughter. I found later, everybody knew what was happening there,” said the girl, now 15.
“Even my doctor told me that the house was like a nightclub, a bar,” she said. The girl stayed at the house for four months before she could escape.
“The worst things are the beating and the reputation. The most painful thing is to hear people shouting at you on the street that you did this or that,” she said, adding that there were other girls in the house, all from broken homes, too ashamed to go back.
“The girls feel guilty. They feel they don't deserve any good coming their way,” said Matei. “They think they are stupid for falling for it … They have low self-esteem. No self-worth. That is the biggest hard thing to go through … and then to motivate to go to school.”
Although the shelter's location is kept secret, the local villagers know the girls there as the “whores on the hill,” said Matei's son, Stefan Matei, who also works at the shelter.
“It's organized crime. And they [law enforcement and government officials] choose not to react,” said Yana Matei.
“We should ask ourselves this question, ‘Are you going to do something about this, or are we going to look the other way?' Where is the police? Where is the interest to fight this crime? It's lip service.”
Some of the names in the story above have been changed to protect the privacy of the subjects.
Bill Cosby's deposition ordered in California sexual assault case
by Lindsey Bever
Bill Cosby has been ordered to answer questions under oath from feminist power lawyer Gloria Allred regarding sexual assault allegations from a woman who claims he abused her in the Playboy Mansion when she was a teen.
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge handed down the order Tuesday requiring Cosby, 78, to be deposed in October in the case brought by Judith Huth, a California woman who said the comedian molested her in 1974 in a bedroom at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles when was 15.
“We're very happy about the result,” Allred told The Washington Post in a telephone interview. “Our client wants to have her day in court.”
Cosby's attorney, Martin Singer, could not be reached for comment.
Huth, now 55, filed the lawsuit against Cosby last year, claiming Cosby molested her “by attempting to put his hand down her pants, and then taking her hand in his hand and performing a sex act on himself without her consent.”
The statute of limitations bars a criminal case against Cosby.
Cosby's attorneys have been trying to keep Huth's civil case from moving forward. Cosby first countersued Huth, claiming she tried to sell her story to the tabloids a decade ago, which, Cosby's attorneys argued, meant the statute of limitations barred her civil suit. Earlier this summer, his attorneys used a California law on childhood sexual abuse cases to argue that he should not have been publicly named in the suit. The California Supreme Court turned down the challenge last month, allowing the case to move to deposition — the second deposition of Cosby regarding sexual assault allegations against him. He he was deposed in another case in 2005.
The issue then became which side would be deposed first. The judge said that Cosby's deposition will take place Oct. 9 and Huth's on Oct. 15.
“It's important to us because we've been pushing to move forward and now we can,” Allred said. “We want to find out from Mr. Cosby what his position is.” Allred declined to preview questions, adding: “We want Mr. Cosby to be surprised.”
Cosby's attorney, Singer, said in a previous statement that the allegations against Cosby had “ escalated far past the point of absurdity.”
“These brand new claims about alleged decades-old events are becoming increasingly ridiculous,” he said, “and it is completely illogical that so many people would have said nothing, done nothing, and made no reports to law enforcement or asserted civil claims if they thought they had been assaulted over a span of so many years.”
Huth became the first woman to take legal action against Cosby since former Temple University employee Andrea Constand, who filed suit in 2005 claiming Cosby sexually assaulted her in 2004. In the deposition in the case, Cosby admitted that he used his fame and acquired drugs to help woo women. He said he once kept prescriptions of the 1970s party drug better known as Quaaludes on hand so he could give the drug to women in the same way “a person would say ‘have a drink.'”
Cosby has been accused of sexual assault by dozens of women; 35 appeared on the cover of New York magazine last month. He has denied the sexual assault allegations and has not been charged with a crime.
Bill Cosby attorney stresses women's ‘responsibility' to report rape in heated interview
by Justin Wm. Moyer
In a heated interview with Huffington Post Live last week, a representative for embattled comedian Bill Cosby said that women who have been sexually assaulted have a responsibility to report such crimes quickly — and those who don't can't expect justice.
In a lengthy discussion with HuffPost Live's Marc Lamont Hill, Monique Pressley, who was retained by Cosby just last month, responded to what Hill described as the perception that Cosby's defenders were blaming his alleged victims.
“People … are saying this feels like victim-blaming,” Hill said.
“Which is like a tag word,” Pressley said. “Yeah. It's a hashtag even.”
“Some hashtags are true, right?” Hill said.
“It's the prevailing way that we label things,” Pressley said.
Hill then tried to characterize the mindset of those who blame victims of sexual assaults for the crimes committed against them: “If you were raped, why didn't you fill-in-the-blank.”
Pressley filled in the blanks for him, offering a list of what victims should do.
“Report,” Pressley said. “Go to the hospital. Do all of the things that rape counseling centers tell women to do immediately. That's not coming just from me as Mr. Cosby's attorney. That's not blaming.”
Hill asked whether this mentality “plays into the idea that, on some level, rape victims aren't telling the truth.”
“Every person who says that something happened to them is not necessarily telling the truth,” Pressley said.
“Do you think it's possible that any of these women are telling the truth?” Hill asked.
“I don't have any thoughts about this case, Mr. Hill,” Pressley said. “… I represent a client and that my client has and continues to vehemently deny 1) giving drugs to a woman without her consent and 2) forcibly having sex or having non-consensual sex with a woman.”
She added: “I'm not speculating, I'm not thinking, I'm not opining, I'm not waxing poetic. But what I'm saying is women have responsibility. We have responsibility for our bodies, we have responsibility for our decisions, we have responsibility for the ways that we conduct ourselves.”
Hill asked whether Cosby's accusers had conducted themselves improperly.
“I'm not talking about these women,” she said. “I'm talking about all women.”
In the interview, Pressley also said women who don't report alleged crimes are, more or less, out of luck if too much time passes.
“If a woman is violated by a man and does not report for whatever reason,” Pressley said, “… in a court of law the entire situation will never be brought forward for the purposes of justice. So the only way for a woman to get the justice that she seeks and that, if her allegation is true, that she deserves is to come forward.”
Pressley said that her client is now being targeted by those who did not come forward earlier.
“And even if the reasons that the woman did not do that are legitimate ones,” she said, “what cannot happen in my opinion in the United states is that 40 years later there is a persecution tantamount to a witch hunt.”
She added: “To blame the person who is the target now of the attack for what [the alleged victim] chose not to do many years ago is improper.”
Hill pointed out that, by this logic, even if Cosby was guilty of sexual assault, the comedian could not be punished for it. Pressley agreed.
“There is no recourse in the law,” Pressley said, pointing out that time periods for reporting many crimes are limited by law. Of such statutes of limitation, Pressley said: “I don't really see anyone being up in arms about it.”
Cosby has been accused of sexual assault by dozens of women; 35 appeared on the cover of New York magazine last month. He has denied the sexual assault allegations and has not been charged with a crime.
In the interview, Pressley also said she found it hard to believe that many of Cosby's alleged victims did not come forward because they were intimidated by the comedian's celebrity, and she brought up the race of many of the accusers.
“I find it incredulous to believe that none of the majority white females who are saying that something was done to them that was inappropriate by an African American male in the late '60s and '70s, that none of them would have been believed,” Pressley said.
She also said that Cosby, who is being tried in the media and not in a court of law, had been thrust into an unfair situation.
“I believe that people are innocent until they're proven guilty, and if you can't prove them guilty in a court through prosecution, then you don't you get the option of persecution instead,” Pressley said. “I don't think that 10, 20, 30, 40 years later people get to decide to come forward.”
At the conclusion of the interview, Hill asked Pressley whether she thought Cosby was innocent.
“Yes,” Pressley said. “… Because I can only give you a legal answer.”
“Will Bill Cosby be vindicated?” Hill asked.
“I'm working on it,” Pressley said.
Addressing the lifelong effects of trauma
by Sara Arthurs
Educators, mental health professionals and other community leaders are about to conclude a year of education on how to make Hancock County more sensitive to the needs of people who have suffered trauma. But, they say, the work is just beginning.
The Hancock County Trauma-Informed Learning Community Team, originated by the Be Healthy Now coalition and the Hancock County Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services, includes representatives from schools, mental health, law enforcement, social service agencies and other nonprofit organizations. Their goal is to address long-term problems that may grow out of trauma.
Research over the past 20 years has shown that children who experience multiple traumas in their life will, even as adults, be more likely to have addictions or mental illnesses and more likely to attempt or commit suicide, said Dr. Mark Hurst, medical director for the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
Trauma also affects overall physical health, he said. Someone who has suffered trauma is more likely to get cancer or heart disease or die prematurely. In addition, autoimmune diseases, diabetes and obesity are linked to trauma, said Karen Johnson, director of trauma-informed services for the National Council for Behavioral Health. Johnson, based in Washington, D.C., traveled to Findlay twice to train area professionals in trauma-informed care.
Hurst said these illnesses may be the result of the impact of trauma on the developing brain, as well as trauma creating chronic inflammatory processes which can lead to both mental and other physical illness.
Johnson said when a person suffers trauma it affects their “stress response system” which will become overdeveloped and then “defaults very readily then to that fight, flight or freeze response,” even when there is no threat. It also affects the immune system.
Researchers have found the prevalence of trauma within homes, communities and families is “much higher than we had perhaps thought,” Johnson said. The Adverse Childhood Experiences study, a study of 17,000 participants in the 1990s, made professionals more aware of the prevalence of trauma and its impact on those who survive it.
Amber Wolfrom, director of planning and accountability systems for ADAMHS, said she has heard it explained as “Trauma trumps all.” That is, if a person is a survivor of trauma, even using well-researched theories to try to help them won't be effective unless the trauma is addressed.
So when the Be Healthy Now coalition, which is in charge of the community health assessment, identified obesity, substance abuse and violence as three health issues they most wanted to work on, it made sense to bring “trauma-informed care” to Hancock County, Wolfrom said. Handbags That Help gave a $30,000 grant and the ADAMHS board added another $10,000 to create the Hancock County Trauma-Informed Learning Community Team. The money allowed ADAMHS to contract with the National Coalition on Behavioral Health. The goal was to not just have a one-time training but “immerse the community in this learning experience,” Wolfrom said.
The agencies involved have held meetings as a group but have also each on their own come up with ways to address trauma.
Findlay City Schools is training teachers and staff on trauma.
Superintendent Ed Kurt said schools in Findlay, like schools nationwide, are seeing more trauma-related issues, and these keep kids from being able to get “to a point where they could learn.” Not only teachers but all staff — including bus drivers, cooks, lunch monitors and anyone who may come into contact with a child — will attend the trainings, which will include role playing as well as lectures.
Kurt said the sooner a situation is addressed, rather than letting it grow worse, the better.
Kelly Glick, assistant principal at Donnell Middle School, said not only can trauma affect an individual's health, but it even has economic implications, as a “tremendous” amount is spent on services for these adults.
Glick said a school district in Washington state did something similar to what Findlay City Schools plans, but on a smaller scale, and found that their rates of discipline and suspension decreased dramatically.
Another agency involved in the trauma-informed care initiative is Focus on Friends. Once a drop-in center for people with chronic mental health issues, it is now making the transition to becoming the community's recovery center.
This change includes a face-lift. Executive Director Wayne Ford said Focus on Friends' goal is to create an environment that is “warm and welcoming” by changing paint colors to give the building a less institutionalized look.
Also as part of the effort to become more trauma-informed, Focus on Friends has “changed our language,” Ford said. This includes emphasizing words like “mental health” rather than “mental illness.”
“We want to be inclusive,” he said. “We want everybody in Findlay to feel that they can come here.”
Of people with addiction or mental health issues, “90 percent of them have had some form of trauma in their early childhood,” Ford said.
This may affect their reaction to things that might not bother others. Hearing someone raise their voice might provoke a strong reaction if someone in their childhood raised their voice before a violent or abusive situation. Even the words “you'll be safe” can be difficult if “their perpetrator used those words,” Ford said.
Jennifer Swartzlander, executive director of Children's Mentoring Connection, said her agency looks at trauma from a non-clinical perspective. She said mentors and case managers are learning how to support children who may have been through a trauma. In October, Children's Mentoring Connection is hosting a presentation on the topic.
Swartzlander previously worked at Hope House, and had seen the results of trauma there, but she has learned about it from a new perspective. Trauma could include the loss of a parent, going to foster care or sexual abuse, as well as things like a family divorce. The sooner a child gets proper treatment or care, the greater the likelihood that their challenges can be reduced or minimized.
Swartzlander said another thing that came out of the yearlong effort is that a wide variety of agencies including law enforcement, social service agencies and the schools are all working together.
“All of those groups were part of this work, and so we all have a common language and we have a common knowledge,” she said.
Johnson said the work Hancock County professionals have done in the past year will give them tools so they can continue this process, and can determine what to do next to continue learning about the issue while bringing “more and more partners to the table.” The formal coaching from Johnson and others will come to an end but Hancock County participants will have ongoing access to the national council's email list and webinars.
Johnson said a goal should be “moving the question from ‘What's wrong with you?' to ‘What happened to you?'” She said it's important to understand that a person's behavior may be a result of what has happened to them.
ADAMHS has received an additional $35,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to continue the effort.
Wolfrom said that this is not simply a one-year project but will be an ongoing process. She said agencies that did not participate in the past year, but want to learn more about trauma-informed care, can contact ADAMHS, which is serving as a clearinghouse for this information.
Johnson said it's vital that everyone — not just clinicians and therapists but others in the community — be trauma-informed.
“There needs to be a sense of urgency around this work,” she said.
State's heavily redacted Tutko child-abuse report leaves more questions than answers
by Julianne Mattera
Slightly more than a year after police found his rotting, skeletal corpse, the state has released a heavily redacted recounting of the events that led up to Jarrod Tutko Jr.'s death.
By law, known as Act 33, the state Department of Human Services must review all suspected child abuse fatalities and near fatalities, and, within six months, provide a public report meant to shed light on what happened in the case.
A Dauphin County district attorney's certification that had barred the released of Jarrod's report for months expired last week. The report was posted online Monday, said Kait Gillis, spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services.
Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico said his office originally opted to bar the report's release to protect criminal prosecution and a grand jury investigation — the latter of which released a report with its findings on June 4.
"We feel that the substance of the information we wanted to keep protected with the Act 33 certification is contained in the grand jury report and therefore the release of the report will not jeopardize our prosecution/investigation at this time," Marsico said.
Gillis said the department can't release a fatality or near-fatality report to the public when a district attorney has certified that doing so would "compromise a criminal investigation or proceeding."
Previously, PennLive reported that the state report likely wouldn't come out until after the trial of Jarrod's parents, Jarrod Tutko Sr. and Kimberly Tutko of Harrisburg, who are facing charges in the 9-year-old boy's death, as well as endangering the welfare of his disabled sister, 10-year-old Arianna. The grand jury recommended the aggravated assault and child endangerment charges in Arianna's case.
While the Act 33 report has been released prior to the Tutkos' trial, redactions throughout the report muddle the narrative, which largely already has been revealed by the grand jury's report and criminal complaints.
For instance, the report redacts the name of the police department that contacted Dauphin County Children & Youth Services regarding Jarrod's death. Later, the report redacts what appears to be the location of an out-of-state "Division of Youth and Family Services" which sent a fax concerning the family to Dauphin County CYS.
Throughout the report, what appear to be references to Jarrod's mother and father are redacted. For instance, the report states that: "[ ] was reportedly fearful of her [ ] and [ ] reported that his [ ] is 'scary like a monster' and [ ] acted like a monster."
Cathleen Palm, founder of the state's Center for Children's Justice, referenced all three as examples of redactions that were difficult to understand. In particular, she said redacting the apparent location of Division of Youth and Family Services seemed to "negate understanding that this was a family with inter-state child welfare involvement."
Over redaction of Act 33 reports "continues to be an issue," Palm said.
When asked about the redactions in the Tutko report, Gillis said: "Fatality and near fatality reports must have redactions completed prior to dissemination to the public in accordance with the law."
"Unredacted reports are confidential under the provisions of the Child Protective Services Law and cannot be released to the public," Gillis said.
Palm has said that the center fought for Act 33, which was enacted in 2008 to reduce child fatalities.
But the law hasn't always worked out the way advocates hoped it would.
Child advocates thought Act 33 would be a vehicle for obtaining real data so that organizations in the private sector could do research and better respond to the issues at hand, Palm said.
Palm said the Tutko grand jury report exemplifies how little the public learns, at times, from Act 33 fatality and near-fatality reports.
"These are sentinel events. These kids are dying and they should be moments that stop us to really intentionally learn and work to prevent them," Palm said. "And you need reliable data to be able to do that."
Documents themselves are difficult to access, Palm said. When fatality and near-fatality reports become available, they're "pretty redacted" in key areas that would influence analysis.
"I think Act 33 has become more of a headache and more of a chore than really an opportunity to really make a difference," Palm said.
And in pondering, Palm answered her own question: "Do we know any more today about the kids that are dying and nearly dying than in 2008?"
"I would say not," Palm said.
DCF rolls out new policies for people required to report suspected child abuse
by Elizabeth Hewitt
The Department for Children and Families is reaching out to mandated reporters of child abuse across the state to inform them of policy changes related to the implementation of Act 60.
The new law, which was written in response to the deaths of two toddlers last year who had been in contact with DCF, encompasses a wide array of changes to Vermont's child protection system.
Medical professionals, school district employees, child care workers and many others are required by law to inform DCF if they have reason to suspect that a child is being abused or neglected.
The law took effect July 1, and DCF is raising awareness about how the policy changes affect mandatory reporters across the state.
Lawmakers clarified the list of professionals who qualify as mandatory reporters this year, as well as the policies for reporting.
Under the new law, mandated reporters are required to make a report directly if they have reason to believe a child is being abused or neglected.
DCF is also in the process of establishing an online training portal where mandated reporters can learn about the new policies.
Darren Allen, of the Vermont NEA, said that the new policies are in line with what the union has been recommending to educators for some time.
“They essentially codify what we have been recommending as best practice,” Allen said.
More information about responsibilities of mandated reporters is available on the DCF website.
Untested Rape Kits—Again
by Jean Reynolds
By now it's a familiar news story: Tens of thousands of rape kits have never been tested—despite the availability of criminal justice DNA databases that could potentially identify thousands of rapists. But now there's a new twist to this sad story. According to Steve Reilly, an investigator for USA TODAY, one of the main culprits is…the US Department of Justice.
Why do these kits continue to gather dust in evidence rooms around the country? There are many reasons (mistrust of victims, poor recordkeeping, and so on), but two stand out. First, there are no standard policies and procedures for processing these kits. Often it's left to an agency—or even a lone investigator—to make the decision to test. Second, the testing process is expensive—about $1,000 per kit.
I wrote my first article about the untested kits in March 2012. Since then the problem has made the news repeatedly, and I wrote follow-up articles in July 2014 and April 2015. Meanwhile USA TODAY has completed a nationwide investigation about the the problem, resulting in the largest study to date. The newspaper asked its partners—75 Gannett newspapers and TEGNA TV stations—to survey local agencies to count the number of untested kits still in storage.
More than a thousand agencies responded, and the results indicate that the agencies in the report have at least 70,000 kits still waiting for testing. No one knows what the total figure would be if all 18,000 agencies in the United States were surveyed, but it seems likely that the number would be huge. The report also found that most states and most agencies still have no written guidelines for processing sex-crime evidence.
Why hasn't Congress taken steps to solve these problems? The answer is that it has. In 2013 Congress passed the SAFER Act (Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting Act) to ensure that money is available for testing, and to set national guidelines for processing sexual assault evidence.
Fast-forward to July 2015, when USA TODAY released its report. Virtually nothing has been done, although the SAFER Act set a deadline of September 7, 2014, for the DOJ to develop and publish “a description of protocols and practices…for the accurate, timely, and effective collection and processing of DNA evidence, including protocols and practices specific to sexual assault cases.” A steering committee that met in March 2014 has not met again. The DOJ now says it plans to release a document in December 2016.
What about the funding problem? In the past 10 years Congress has allocated $1.2 billion for DNA testing that includes, of course, rape kits. But the funds have often been spent on more general DNA testing improvements, administration, and expenses only remotely related to DNA testing. A 2012 Congressional report found that some of the money was spent on polling, cellphone equipment, and payments to “entities of uncertain mission that employ heads of influential forensics policy advisory groups.”
Here's what's even more shocking: In addition to requiring “protocols and practices” for processing rape kits, the SAFER Act also established a grant program to fund inventories of untested sexual assault kits by state and local agencies. However, the Department of Justice has so far not awarded a single grant under the law.
Sen. John Cornyn is a Republican from Texas who authored the SAFER Act. In a statement to USA TODAY he said, “Victims of sexual assault deserve better than to have critical evidence that could help find their attacker left to sit on a shelf because the Obama Administration refuses to fully implement this law.”
Wouldn't it be wonderful if this were the last time we heard a news report about untested rape kits? Unfortunately I suspect I'll be writing yet another article before too long.
Large Youth Prisons Inherently Prone to Abuse, Casey Says
by Matt Smith
After a failure of earlier reforms that once seemed hopeful, the Annie E. Casey Foundation is renewing its push to close what it calls “youth prisons.”
A recent TEDx talk by Casey Foundation President Patrick McCarthy branded those correctional facilities “factories of failure” that wreck the lives of the kids they're supposed to help. And even where problems have been identified and cleaned up in the past, new ones have emerged, a recent report by the foundation says.
“The main point is that these places have proven themselves quite susceptible and prone to maltreatment of various types,” said Richard Mendel, a veteran juvenile justice scholar who wrote the Casey report. “Many states where abuses and maltreatment have been identified have been unable to clean and clear up those problems, or have cleared them up temporarily only to have them return. So the record is becoming impossible to ignore.”
The latest report is a follow-up to “No Place For Kids,” the foundation's 2011 assessment of conditions in juvenile correctional centers nationwide. Four years on, the Casey Foundation found 29 states were unable to prevent what it called “systemic abuse” to children in post-commitment facilities, with “substantial evidence of maltreatment” in three more.
It also described “an epidemic” of sexual abuse, citing a 2013 Bureau of Justice Statistics survey on the topic that found that more than 10 percent of young people had been victimized sexually by staff or other youth.
The earlier model of juvenile corrections is rooted in the reform schools of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Since the 1970s, when Massachusetts shut down its state reformatories — and increasingly in the past decade — states have either been moving away from prisonlike facilities or trying to substantially reform the remaining ones, according to the report.
The old model has few if any defenders left, said Paul DeMuro, who was Massachusetts' assistant youth services commissioner when the old reformatories were shut down. The debate today is more between people who think the old facilities can be cleaned up, and those who believe they should be closed altogether, he said.
DeMuro has been a court-appointed monitor overseeing juvenile facilities in several states — including some of those cited in the most recent Casey report — and he's skeptical about the prospects of long-term changes.
“It is extremely difficult to reform these places, and when you do get some progress, it's extremely hard to sustain that progress,” he said. “I think you can point to a variety of consent decrees that have brought some reform to a system which then have slid back.”
The new report found evidence of “ systemic and recurring maltreatment” of teenagers who had been committed to custody in seven states that hadn't been cited in the 2011 report and recurring problems in other states where reforms had been instituted in the past, like California and Ohio.
In Ohio, the state has shuttered most of its old-school juvenile correctional facilities. Its committed youth population has dropped from about 2,000 to 450, due to a long-running court case, said Kim Tandy, a lawyer for the plaintiffs in a lawsuit that led to extensive reforms there. The old facilities were violent, lacked medical and dental facilities and provided insufficient education for the teens housed there, she said.
The state has put the resources that used to go into the large, prison-style lockups into smaller, more locally oriented facilities and programs supported by years of research into juvenile justice. The use of isolation persisted, but it has undergone “really quite significant” changes since the U.S. Justice Department joined the case in 2014, said Tandy, who serves as executive director of the Children's Law Center in Covington, Ky.
The use of solitary confinement as punishment has been eliminated. Teens are isolated only for “the highest levels of misconduct,” such as assaults, “and 80 percent of the time, the kids are out within four hours.”
“They're really having a lot of success with safely releasing kids out of the room after they've calmed down and been able to sort of talk through it,” she said. Before, kids might have spent “weeks on top of weeks” in solitary, “because they'd be frustrated and they'd do something else.”
While Ohio's juvenile programs have undergone rapid changes, Tandy was sympathetic to the concerns raised in the Casey report.
“It's taken 12 years of really costly litigation to get to a point where we're seeing improvements in safety and programming,” she said. “There is always a danger, with a different administration or a different change in focus, that things could go back.”
And Barry Krisberg, a state-appointed safety and welfare expert monitoring California's juvenile justice overhaul, said California has gone “from the worst system in the country to probably the best” during the past decades — and the biggest changes have only taken root since 2010.
“Clearly, California was having tremendous problems, and what happened now is that things have gotten far better than they were,” he said. The state now houses only violent offenders, and the most problematic lockup — the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility near Los Angeles — has undergone substantial improvement, he said.
But he agreed with Casey's call for replacing large lockups: “Once you start looking at a facility with 200 or 300 youth, it's unworkable,” he said.
Mendel said that while court supervision has helped improve programs in many states, it can't solve problems with a system that Casey argues is inherently prone to abuse. He said states should start sending fewer kids to custody, and start thinking about how secure facilities should be run “for those few kids who need it.”
“I think it's clear that smaller, more therapeutic, closer to home, more involved with families, using staff supervision, eyes-on supervision and engagement with youth as the main provider of security, rather than the threat of isolation and punishment or restraint — that works much better than a more correctional approach,” he said.
California Mentorship Program Offers Comfort to Sexually Exploited Young Women
by Sarah Zahedi
Through times of trauma and distress, often all a child needs is to be showered with love. It may sound corny, but for the estimated 100,000 children who are sexually exploited per year around the country, it can be transformative.
The Lasting Links Mentorship Program at MISSSEY (Motivating, Inspiring, Supporting and Serving Sexually Exploited Youth), an Oakland, Calif., nonprofit, works to end child exploitation and help victims through the formation of healthy, supportive and loving adult relationships.
“Some of them will even just come in to the drop-in center for a hug; they've said that to us,” said executive director Falilah Bilal at MISSSEY.
In Oakland, MISSSEY's efforts are more than necessary. The San Francisco Bay Area is one of the top three epicenters of human trafficking in the United States along with Los Angeles and San Diego, with 46 percent of all prosecuted human trafficking cases in California coming from the Alameda District Attorney's office.
“People think that this is a problem that happens to kids ‘over there,' whether it's kids from other countries or poor black kids or boys from another place,” said Bilal. “People don't think that this is an American-bred issue that happens across all class and all gender. This is something confronting and impacting all of us.”
MISSSEY partners with Girls Inc., and the Mentoring Center to match people who wish to volunteer their time to provide advice and emotional support to sexually exploited young women in need.
“The goal of the program is to provide a restorative healthy adult relationship to youth who have experienced disruption and betrayal in adult relationships,” said mentoring and training coordinator Liz Longfellow.
To become a mentor, applicants must attend an information session, fill out an application, be interviewed, participate in a rigorous 20-hour training program and go through a criminal background check. From there, the match process can take a while, depending on what youth want from a mentor. MISSSEY works to have several mentors on hand so there is an individual mentor who meets the youth's specific requests as soon as the youth requests a mentor.
Some of the mentors are already connected to the field, therapists or social workers or nurses who have worked with sexually exploited youth in the past. Other mentors are simply people who want to help. The minimum duration of the mentor-mentee relationship is one year.
“It's a commitment to become a mentor,” Longfellow said. “The process of getting matched with a mentee takes so long because the mentor has to show they will give their time and commitment. If the relationships doesn't last a year, it's not going to be as effective for the youth.”
The sense of love and care the young girls can get from a mentor has proven to bring about monumental positive change, especially since many of the relationships last beyond one year, she said.
“The year is a great benchmark but it's great when it continues on,” Longfellow said. “We've had some of the youth come back and say [their mentors] are stuck with them for life. That's a successful relationship.”
Take Sheila (all clients' and mentors' names have been changed), now 18. After being exploited for many years in Oakland, she realized that in order to get out of the life, she needed to move away from the city. She wanted to be far enough away to feel safe, yet be able to visit family and friends every now and again. Her child welfare worker in Alameda County helped her find supported housing in the Antioch/Bay Point area. But when Sheila got there, she felt very alone and disoriented. She didn't know how to use the bus system to get to the store, let alone to look for a job.
Longfellow matched her with a mentor named Ena who is also a survivor of commercial sexual exploitation. Ena, who has lived in Antioch for many years, was able to show Sheila around. With Ena's support, Sheila eventually was able to find a job. Ena also helped her decorate her new apartment, which in part involved creating a vision board to give Sheila a daily visual reminder of her dreams and goals. Ena, who was a college student then, knew about many area resources to make school more affordable. She referred Sheila to several people in her support network so that she could feel more encouraged to take college classes and feel more connected to her new community. After many conversations about Sheila's traumatic history, Ena convinced Sheila to reconnect with a therapist.
“I wouldn't have been able to make it here without Ena,” Sheila said. “She has helped me so much and I feel really comfortable talking with her and telling her personal stuff about myself. That doesn't really happen for me. It's a relief.”
From 2007 to 2014, MISSSEY has served approximately 1,000 girls. And the organization's services do not stop at the mentorship program. It also offers case management for youth looking to get out of the life of sex trafficking and a foster youth program, funded by Alameda County Social Services to prevent and intervene in child sex work.
MISSSEY was founded by two survivors of commercial sexual exploitation of children along with two allies. It's staffed by a number of other survivors of sexual exploitation.
“Because we are survivor-led and survivor-informed, young people know that there are staff with these experiences,” Longfellow said. “So there is a less of bridge that needs to be crossed to reach the youth and they know there is an understanding on our end, which is profound for young people.”
The young women who request mentors through MISSSEY are usually first in the case management or foster youth program, like 18-year-old Mia. While doing a sentence in juvenile hall she was connected to a mentor named Linda.
While Mia served her sentence, she wrote to Linda. When Mia was released and sent to a group home placement in Sacramento, Linda drove to Sacramento from the Bay Area on weekends to spend the day with Mia, taking her away from the often hectic environment of a group home.
Telling her story to Linda, Mia felt open and comfortable enough to talk about her experiences. Even when Mia eventually moved back to Oakland, Linda never lost touch with her. She was eventually able to get permission from Girls Inc. to invite Mia to her home and introduce her to her own children.
“This is the most peaceful place I have ever been. I feel safe here,” Mia said during her visit.
Today, Mia has come to rely on Linda for support when times get difficult and for encouragement in moving toward her goals. They celebrate birthdays and holidays together. Linda knows that one of the main things she does for Mia is simply show up, consistently. No matter what is going on with Mia, Linda maintains their relationship and unconditional positive regard for Mia.
“The idea is that it's the responsibility of the mentor to do the reaching out and build up a relationship with at least a couple hours a week of available time for the mentee,” Longfellow said. “They have to schedule with the young person and there has to be regular contact so it can register as a sense of support” for the youth.
An essential part of this system of support, according to Longfellow and Bilal, is continuing to support the youth as they struggle with leaving a life of sexual exploitation.
“It's common in the first year that we work with someone that they are in and out [of the life],” Longfellow said. “They want help and we find them to provide it but then their exploiter often finds them again and maybe they're back in for a while and then they get back out.”
“We are strictly here for them. Even if you're in the life we will still work for you, be with you, support you,” Bilal said.
Roughly 89 percent of the young women who MISSSEY serves are black women. While most of the youth are referred to MISSSEY through the foster care system or the juvenile justice system, young girls are also able to drop in at the center to receive services.
Bilal stressed there is more MISSSEY wants to do if and when it can get the funding. Child exploiters can make up to $150,000 to $200,000 per child each year. Bilal frustratedly noted that MISSSEY and several other similar nonprofits suffer from a lack of financial resources in comparison.
“We need more funding, need independent donors to stand for us, people to put their money where their mouth is in terms of this issue,” Bilal said. “It's discouraging that we don't have more for young people in these circumstances.”
In the meantime, Bilal and Longfellow said they are thrilled by the positive change they have witnessed thus far for the young women and encourage other members of the community to volunteer.
“We are rooted in this idea that the young women are not their experience. They are bigger and brighter than their experience,” Bilal said. “We see them and accept them for where they're at and we move them from that place and they feel it so they stay connected to us. It's pretty awesome.”
“It's amazing when you see someone feels heard and seen and comforted and not judged,” Longfellow said. “Those are huge gifts to give to a younger person in need. And we get to witness the journey of how strong and resilient these young women are in their healing process.”
Duggar Family Outed For Child Endangerment And Maltreatment
Evidence of Duggar family child endangerment, maltreatment, and abuse surfaces as a civil suit is planned by Josh Duggar's molestation victim. On the heels of a possible lawsuit, the living conditions inside the Duggar family home may implicate parents Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, who could also be named in the suit.
When news broke last month by In Touch magazine that attorneys representing a non-family victim are preparing a lawsuit, evidence supports that the Duggar family fortune may be at stake. The young woman was a minor when she visited the Duggar family home, where she endured sexual contact by forcible compulsion at the hands of Josh Duggar.
The actions and inactions of the parents in the years 2002 and 2003 will be scrutinized and witnesses will be required to testify. Much can be made of the environment in which they raised their children at the time.
In police interviews of four of Josh Duggar's sisters who were also sexual attack victims, all four girls stated that the house where the incestual crimes took place was on Johnson Road in Springdale, AR. Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar also confirmed this during their police interrogations. (Son and perpetrator Josh refused to be questioned by police.)
The Duggar family moved into the home in March, 1993. At that time there were five children sharing two bedrooms. When the Discovery Health Channel began to film reality TV documentaries about the family, there were 14 children in the Johnson Street home and their mother Michelle was pregnant. This coincides with the years 2002 and 2003, which is the time of the known sexual molestations according to the police reports. The family remained in the Johnson Street home, with cameras still rolling, throughout 2004, the year the first hour-long TV special aired.
A series of three shows were filmed by the network which documented the family's living conditions: 14 Children and Pregnant Again!, Raising 16 Children, and 16 Children and Moving In . The main stage for the three scripted reality shows was the Johnson Road house of horrors, where 16 to 18 people lived in a 2,400-square-foot home built for a family of four to six.
Interestingly, Josh Duggar describes the sleeping arrangements in one of the TV shows.
“You try cramming 18 people into three tiny bedrooms with only two baths. There wasn't even room to fit enough beds. There wasn't even enough space for all of us to have our own beds.”
How did the ten brothers, five sisters, and a baby divide up into two bedrooms at night? Boys and girls slept in the same bedroom together and they even shared the same beds together.
The reality series narrator describes the cramped quarters.
“The small house where the Duggars currently live might seem crowded with half the people. With only two bathrooms and one standard size, residential water heater, the potential problems are obvious.”
Daughter Jessa Duggar is filmed describing the daily panic and anxiety the children endured due to the lack of inadequate housing provided by their parents.
“Probably the hardest thing about living in this house is that it only has two bathrooms. There's always a line – probably like three or four people going running back from bathroom to bathroom, knocking on every door saying ‘Hurry, hurry, hurry! I've got to go to the bathroom. Hurry, hurry, hurry!'”
Jinger Duggar complained, too.
“Trying to brush your teeth and everything is just really hard.”
Josh Duggar is caught on tape disclosing the unhealthy situation in the Duggar family home.
“Getting showers is just virtually impossible. We literally had to write out a schedule: OK, you get a bath on Monday and you get a bath on Tuesday. We've got just one washer and dryer… up to ten loads a day.”
The small hot water heater was inadequate for daily washing dishes, doing laundry, bathing, and for sanitary hand washing and diaper changing. The reality show narrator confirmed that the Duggar parents provided inadequate housing for their children.
“With only three small bedrooms, two bathrooms and a tiny kitchen, this was not a house for 18 people.”
Cramming that many people into a house that small is also against the law and violated Springdale city ordinances. Occupancy limitations are listed on building permits for all of the city's residential dwellings. The permits outline the maximum number of people allowed to live in a residence. The laws also prescribe the minimum amount of square footage necessary for each occupant of a bedroom. Did Michelle and Jim Bob know they were breaking the law? Absolutely, they did. Both were licensed real estate agents and Jim Bob was a fourth-generation real estate professional. Understanding occupancy laws is necessary to pass the examination to become an Arkansas real estate agent.
The home situation also violated Arkansas criminal laws as a failure or refusal to provide shelter necessary for a child's well-being. Under Code § 12-18-103 of the Maltreatment Act, this is child neglect for “failure or inability to provide for the essential and necessary physical, mental, or emotional needs of the child, including the failure to provide a shelter that does not pose a risk to the health or safety of the child.”
Under Arkansas law, “It is not considered neglect when the failure to provide appropriate care is caused primarily by the financial inability of the person legally responsible, and no services for relief have been offered.” Did the Duggars have the financial ability to provide for their children? Yes, according to Jim Bob Duggar who boasted about being a millionaire when he ran for the office of U.S. Senator. And the assets were not all bound up in non-liquid real estate. He plunked down $250 thousand dollars in cold cash to finance an egotistical and hopeless run against an incumbent in the Arkansas Republican primary election held in May, 2002, the year the known sexual abuse by Josh Duggar began in the family's home.
Duggar lost his megalomaniac campaign in the primaries, garnering only five percent of the votes. The money, which could have purchased a huge family home in Northwest Arkansas in 2002, was squandered. Duggar, who referred to his family as his “hobby,” was proud of his miserly attitude about providing for his children. He was filmed by the Discovery Health Channel smugly declaring that he always forced his children to wear second-hand shoes.
“We get 'em for $1.50 or $2 a pair and so we can buy shoes for our whole family for what most people spend on just one pair of shoes.”
The deliberate failure to provide adequate housing for the children was a contributory factor in the sexual abuse within the Duggar family home in 2002 and 2003. According to research conducted by Susan J. Zuravin (MSW and PhD, University of Maryland at Baltimore), overcrowding is found in 22 percent of cases of child sexual abuse.
The late Dr. John B. Calhoun proved that physical congestion produces stress, alienation, hostility, sexual perversion, and parental incompetence. He called this meltdown behavioral sink and referred to it as spiritual death . His experiments showed that overcrowding produces sexual deviation and destroys the natural parental instinct to care for one's offspring.
Although that might explain how the conditions were ripe for sexual abuse in the Duggar family, it doesn't explain why Jim Bob and Michelle refused to address their son's sexual attacks upon his younger sisters when they said they were first made aware in March, 2002.
For one thing, the primary election for Jim Bob's campaign for U.S. senator was two months away. (Jim Bob made the fantastic claim that he was ”called by God” to run for that office. Apparently there was never a “call by God” for Jim Bob to adequately care for his children.) Perhaps he didn't want to risk his reputation by seeking outside help for his sexually abused children and for their abuser.
Another reason might be that if the authorities were involved, he and Michelle would lose the right to homeschool their children if Josh remained living in the household. Jim Bob should have known about that law; he was one of its sponsors and helped to get the bill passed in 2001 as an Arkansas State Representative.
Yet another reason was that he and Michelle were in the midst of planning their reality TV specials with the Discovery Health Channel and the absence of the oldest son would be glaring. This is not to mention the possibility that the Department of Human Services might have removed all of the children from the Duggar home until the parents could provide adequate housing and adult supervision for them.
For whatever their reasons were, their parental failures allowed the abuse of their daughters to continue and to escalate for more than a year until Josh sexually attacked the non-family member who is now in the process of litigation as a result.
Under the Arkansas Child Maltreatment Act (§ 12-18-103), parents are guilty of criminal child neglect for “Failure or refusal to prevent the abuse of the child when the person knows or should know the child is or has been abused.” They are also culpable under the Act for “Failure to take reasonable action to protect the child from abandonment, abuse, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, neglect, or parental unfitness when the existence of the condition was known or should have been known.” Stiff penalties for child neglect include fines and imprisonment. In most cases, all children are removed from the home, at least temporarily, for their protection. Parenting rights can also be permanently terminated.
If the case against the Duggar family goes to trial, it will be up to a jury to decide if Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar are guilty of failing to protect a minor girl, visiting in their home, from their son - whom they knew was a sexual predator, molester and pedophile.
Task force considers new approach to fighting child abuse
Task force member: 'Moved inches, miles to go'
by Jessie Degollado
SAN ANTONIO - Annual reports from the Texas Department of Family & Protective Services are required reading for James Castro, who serves on the executive committee of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Child Abuse.
The task force formed in 2003 after a little boy named Jovonie Ochoa had been starved to death, helped to overhaul Child Protective Services.
“It feels like we've moved inches, yet we have miles to go,” said Castro, the executive director of St. Peter-St. Joseph Children's Home, best known as St. PJ's on Mission Road.
The latest report for the 2014 fiscal year showed of the 17 child abuse fatalities in a 20-county region, 13 of them occurred in Bexar County, three more than the previous fiscal year.
Castro said local and state partnerships are now in place, such as schools, hospitals, law enforcement and Child Protective Services, but a crucial element is missing.
“We've got the ingredients yet we're not accessing and communicating well enough with the community,” Castro said.
He said it was evident by the low attendance at a series of town hall meetings about the issue.
Castro said as a result, the task force will be relying more on social media and updating its website.
“We'll make that more user friendly, more current,” Castro said.
He said he wants to see information on how to recognize and report cases of possible child abuse, similar to what CPS has on its website.
Castro said more must be done to capture the public's attention beyond Child Abuse Prevention Month in April and the latest high-profile case of child abuse.
“That's not going to keep our attention, so we have to be in front of them all the time,” Castro said.
He said state lawmakers like Sen. Carlos Uresti of San Antonio, who created the Blue Ribbon Task Force, have increased CPS funding for more caseworkers and oversight by supervisors.
Castro also said child abuse prevention is back on track as well.
He said Commissioner John Specia of San Antonio now has the prevention and early intervention division reporting directly to him, instead of being buried within the agency.
Castro said, “This is the moment. I anticipate we can make things happen for children and families.”
However, he said the public must be urged again and again to report possible cases of child abuse before it's too late.
“We would run in front of the bus for our own children,” Castro said. “We all need to run in front of that bus for every child.”
Man accused of child abuse released from jail despite immigration hold request
A man arrested in Paso Robles last week on charges of felony child abuse for reportedly beating his girlfriend's toddler was released from custody despite a request from immigration officials to hold him.
27-year-old Francisco Javier Chavez posted a $100,000 bail and was released on Friday. Police say Chavez was arrested after they learned a two-year-old girl was hospitalized for multiple fractures.
The girl's injuries were so severe she had to be transferred out of the county to a specialized facility for treatment. Officials say their investigation led them to Chavez, the two-year-old's mother's live-in boyfriend.
Chavez was being held in the San Luis Obispo County Jail, but state law does not allow the sheriff's office to hold people after they've posted bail, unless a federal warrant is issued.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement says Chavez is from Mexico and has been previously deported once before, in February 2014. They also say Chavez has an extensive criminal background. According to ICE some of those include prior convictions for drug trafficking and assault with a deadly weapon.
An immigration detainer request is a non-binding request by the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.
ICE says they submitted the request to San Luis Obispo County on Thursday.
Sheriff Ian Parkinson says he's not happy with the current laws regarding this issue, and that it puts sheriff's in California in a very difficult position. Legally, he says, they can't hold inmates, even those with ICE hold requests, beyond their scheduled release date.
In this case, when Chavez posted bail, legally the jail had to release him.
He says efforts are underway to get the situation rectified.
Here is the entire statement from Sheriff Parkinson:
"Let me begin with stating that I am not happy with the state of our current laws regarding this issue. Recently in the news there was a tragedy that occurred in San Francisco that clearly highlights the dangers. As I am sure you are aware, the San Francisco tragedy is a different situation than most other counties, because they are a sanctuary City/County. San Luis Obispo is not. Unfortunately, the changes in the law have placed California's 58 Sheriff's in a very difficult position.
The law actually does not give us the right to place a ICE hold, unless there is a warrant for them. This was the result of a Court decision approximately one year ago. After this decision, California State Sheriff's Association reached out to the federal government and requested that this be rectified. As of today, it still has not been properly fixed. I am not aware of any County in California that is honoring detainers….simply because we can't. Here is the link to State Sheriff's Legal opinion:
Here is our policy explained:
The Immigration Detainer requests the Sheriff's Office notify ICE, prior to releasing the individual, in order for ICE to make arrangements to assume custody. When an Immigration Detainer is received from ICE, the requests will be honored but the jail will not detain someone beyond the date they would otherwise be entitled to be released. If the inmate becomes release eligible (posts bail, court ordered release, time served, etc.) the Sheriff's Office will not detain the inmate on the basis of an Immigration Detainer past his or her scheduled release date. Detainers and warrants are entirely separate. Duly issued warrants will be honored in all cases."
Newborn baby found in stroller on Los Angeles street
by Fox News
A healthy, newborn baby with the umbilical cord still attached was found abandoned in a stroller on a Los Angeles street on Tuesday.
KNBC-TV reports local residents saw the stroller near a church south of downtown Monday night but thought it was empty. Police were called about 1 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, according to MyFoxLA.com.
Father David Matz told KTTV the same person who called the police about the baby was the same person who came to him the night before asking for advice. Matz didn't give any other details about the conversation.
Police say the baby was examined at a hospital and is in good condition.
Los Angeles County's "Safe Surrender" law allows a parent or guardian to give up an infant at a hospital or fire station if the child is no more than three days old and shows no signs of abuse.
School resource officer sued for allegedly handcuffing disabled children
by Holly Yan
A Kentucky sheriff's deputy now faces a federal lawsuit for handcuffing elementary school children who were acting out as a result of their disabilities, the American Civil Liberties Union said.
The ACLU is suing Kenton County sheriff's Deputy Kevin Sumner, who works as a school resource officer at Latonia Elementary School in Covington. Sumner is accused of handcuffing an 8-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl, who both have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Cell phone video obtained by the ACLU captured one incident in which Sumner talks to a boy handcuffed in a chair. The boy is so small that he's handcuffed not around the wrists, but around his biceps.
"You don't get to swing at me like that," the deputy says as the boy cries. "You can do what we've asked you to, or you can suffer the consequences."
"Ow, that hurts!" the boy cries.
The deputy tells the boy what he'll need to do to get unshackled.
"If you want the handcuffs off, you're going to have to behave and ask me nicely," he said. "And if you're behaving, I'll take them off, but as long as you're acting up, you're not going to get them off."
The handcuffs were removed after about 15 minutes, the ACLU said, citing school records.
The ACLU said the girl was twice handcuffed behind her back by her biceps and was also in pain.
"Both children were being punished for behavior related to their disabilities," the ACLU said in a statement. The group is suing on behalf of the two children.
Read the ACLU lawsuit
"Shackling children is not okay. It is traumatizing, and in this case it is also illegal," said Susan Mizner, disability counsel for the ACLU. "Using law enforcement to discipline students with disabilities only serves to traumatize children. It makes behavioral issues worse and interferes with the school's role in developing appropriate educational and behavioral plans for them."
CNN has not reached Sumner or anyone representing him for comment.
According to an investigative report cited in the lawsuit, Sumner said the boy "swung his arm and attempted to strike him with his elbow," but the deputy blocked the boy's elbow with his hand.
Kenton County Sheriff Chuck Korzenborn is also named in the suit, accused of failing to properly train and supervise Sumner.
"Kentucky's school personnel are prohibited from using restraints, especially mechanical restraints, to punish children or as a way to force behavior compliance," Kim Tandy, executive director of the Children's Law Center, said in a statement. "These regulations include school resource officers. These are not situations where law enforcement action was necessary."
The Kenton County Sheriff's Office declined to comment to CNN.
In a statement to CNN affiliate WCPO, Covington Independent Public Schools said it will not comment on the lawsuit and will "fully cooperate with the children's legal counsel, as well as the Sheriff's Office, in looking into the complaints."
The school district added that school resource officers "are assigned in the schools to maintain the safety of students and staff" and "act in accordance with their training as law enforcement officers." But they "are not called upon by school district staff to punish or discipline a student who engages in a school-related offense."
Rape reports in Athens increasing, stretching resources of The Cottage
by Lee Shearer
A record number of rape victims came to The Cottage for help during the 2014-2015 academic year — 93 between Aug. 1, 2014 and May 1 of this year, said Cottage executive director Sally Sheppard.
That's up from 66 a year earlier, an increase of 41 percent.
And since Aug. 1 of this year, three days ago, the non-profit has already seen its first two victims of 2015-2016, both of them University of Georgia students, she said.
“It blew our minds last year. We were topped out. Our advocate was overworked and our resources overspent,” she said.
Sheppard doesn't believe the rising numbers mean rape is increasing much in the area The Cottage serves, metro Athens — Clarke, Oconee, Madison and Oglethorpe counties. It's that victims are becoming more willing to step forward, thanks to recent activism on UGA and other college campuses about how colleges handle sexual assault reports, and extensive media reporting on the issue, she said.
“More folks are talking about sexual assault on campus, and more people feel empowered to talk about it when they've been the victim of sexual assault,” Sheppard said.
But rape remains perhaps the most under-reported crime, she said.
“There's so much shame, secrecy and blame attached to survivors, I can see why people don't report it,” she said. “It's not like somebody broke into your car.”
But increasingly victims are willing to talk about what happened to them, she said.
Most but not all the adult victims of sexual assaults who turn to The Cottage for help are women; about 40 percent are UGA students, and that ratio has stayed the same as the number of victims asking for help has grown, Sheppard said.
Both the number of victims who are UGA students and those who are not is on the increase, however. “We don't expect it to lessen,” Sheppard said.
In fact, The Cottage has hired an additional advocate to work with adult clients — doubling the number of adult advocates. The group has also increased its budget for counseling. The Cottage provides counseling at no charge for rape victims who want it. The organization also helps victims who want to report the crime to police through the process.
“Our job is to lessen the trauma of victims of sexual assault and rape,” Sheppard said.
The Cottage also helps children who are victims of abuse.
The University of Georgia offers some adult services for rape victims, such as counseling, similar to those of The Cottage — full name The Cottage Sexual Assault Center and Children's Advocacy Center.
But unlike UGA, the Cottage also operates a 24-hour hot line and works with a group called SANE, the Athens-Clarke County Sexual Assault Nursing Examiners program — registered nurses are trained in gathering forensic evidence and DNA evidence that can be used in court prosecutions of rapists.
The Cottage also promises anonymity for its clients, if that's what they choose.
“We believe individuals have the right to choose who learns about their sexual abuse,” Sheppard said.
Pittsburgh Action Against Rape works to help women in community
by Natalie Bencivenga
Where would you go to heal from a painful past? It is not surprising that the building that houses Pittsburgh Action Against Rape in the South Side was an old church, a sacred space then and now, which holds yoga classes, children's play and art therapy, as well as rooms for adults to meet with counselors. “It's unique,” said Lisa Kadlecik, PAAR's executive assistant and development manager. “People don't really know what to expect when they come here for help...and they are pleasantly surprised by what they see.”
PAAR is one of the oldest rape crisis centers in the country, having been born of the women's movement 43 years ago. Started by Pittsburgh-based volunteers including lawyers, activists and healthcare professionals, the goal was for women of all walks of life to share their stories of abuse in a safe place. PAAR, a 501(c)3, is open 24-7 to work with survivors through every step, including going with them to the emergency room, providing legal advocacy and counseling. I sat down with executive director, Alison Hall, to learn more about the work being done to help survivors of rape and sexual abuse heal, while increasing prevention efforts in the community.
Why do you think “rape culture” still exists? The reality is, most men are not rapists, but do not have the tools to stand up with and for women. They don't know what signs to look for when they see a predator because for the last 35 years, prevention was all geared toward women. (Cover your drink, don't walk alone at night, stay in a group, etc.). The onus cannot be on women. Now we understand that men have to be a part of preventing rape, and encouraging them to get involved is the first step. These are their wives, girlfriends, sisters, friends, mothers and aunts. These women have names and places in their lives.
How does the influence of the media skew our views on rape? Counselors, like the wonderful ones we have here at PAAR, know that sex offenders are often charming and manipulative, not the shadowy strangers painted in television and books. In fact 70 percent of victims of sexual violence knew their rapist, and 90 percent of children who are assaulted knew their abuser. Rape is a crime of control, not of lust. The idea that we still blame the victim for what she was wearing, or how she was acting, is incredibly antiquated and just not accurate. Those committing crimes are our neighbors, our coaches, our celebrities; people in positions of power and control.
What has PAAR learned by serving survivors? It takes both men and women to end sexual violence. We need everyone included in on the conversation, which is why we now teach coaches and other men in positions of influence how to talk with boys and men and give them the tools they need to help and support women. We also have learned that men and boys do not speak up when they are victims of sexual abuse. Because of this, we have added a male counselor to our staff to make it easier to talk. We have also added a support group to encourage them to come forward in order to heal their pain.
What is a common misconception that people have about survivors of sexual abuse? It doesn't just get better with time. Being a victim of rape or abuse is a very lonely place, especially for children. They just want the issue to stop, to go away, and often families are torn apart by these issues, making it even harder for children to speak up. But, victims do heal. They can and they do with help.
What is your dream for PAAR over the next 43 years? I want to see an end to this suffering and violence so that all of our efforts can be preventive.
Want to help? PAAR is always in need of clothing. When someone goes to the emergency room, their clothes are taken as evidence. Children's books are always welcome. To learn more about PAAR, volunteer, or reach out for help visit: http://paar.net/ Together, #LetsMakeASEEN!
Edward Heath: police appeal for victims to come forward over child abuse claims
Metropolitan police detectives have spoken to a man who came forward more than two years ago and claims he was a victim of Heath when he was a teenager
by Vikram Dodd
Police have launched a public appeal for victims to come forward after allegations emerged of child sexual abuse by the late former prime minister, Sir Edward Heath.
The appeal was made as the police watchdog announced that it was investigating claims that officers dropped a prosecution against a man in the 1990s after he threatened to name Heath as a child abuser.
The Guardian has also learned that detectives have spoken to a man, now middle-aged, who says he was abused as a child by Heath on several occasions.
Wiltshire police made the appeal for “anyone who believes they may have been a victim” of the former Conservative leader to come forward.
The allegations against Heath, who died in 2005 aged 89, come amid a flurry of claims of establishment figures sexually abusing children, with their crimes being covered up.
Heath was unmarried and his private life has attracted speculation, some of which was lurid.
Detectives from Wiltshire police in western England, where the former prime minister had a home close to Salisbury Cathedral, are now leading inquiries about whether he was involved in child sexual abuse.
Officers from the Metropolitan police spoke to a man who came forward more than two years ago and claims he was a victim of Heath when he was a teenager.
The inquiries by the Met were not announced publicly, but Labour MP Tom Watson said: “I received information in 2012 concerning allegations of child abuse carried out by Edward Heath”, adding that the claims were passed to police and were “being investigated and taken seriously”.
The Met referred media questions to Wiltshire police.
Supt Sean Memory spoke on Monday about claims made by a former senior officer in Wiltshire that the threat of Heath being named in connection with child sexual abuse led to a prosecution being dropped against another man.
Speaking outside Heath's former home, Memory said: “The allegation is that a trial was due to take place in the 1990s and information was received in that trial that Sir Ted Heath was involved in the abuse of children and the allegation is from the result of that information that the trial never took place.
“A retired senior police officer has come forward towards the end of 2014 indicating that they were aware of this information.
“So between then and March this year we have worked tirelessly to establish the facts of that allegation to a point where in March  we have made a mandatory referral to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, who are leading the investigation into whether we did in fact mishandle that case in the 1990s.
“This is an appeal for victims: in particular, if you have been the victim of any crime from Sir Ted Heath or any historical sexual offence, or you are a witness or you have any information about this, then please come forward.”
The Independent Police Complaints Commission said it would investigate the coverup claims and what Wiltshire police did to investigate the claims about Heath.
The man who threatened to name Heath is believed to have been charged with a serious offence, though not to do with child sexual abuse, and was due to stand trial at a crown court.
He was not a political or establishment figure. The IPCC inquiry will look at whether there is any truth to the claims he made the threat and whether that affected the outcome of his criminal case.
The former officer making the allegations of coverup was a constable at the time, and rose through the ranks, reaching the rank of inspector or above.
The IPCC will have to seek information from the Crown Prosecution Service, over which it has no formal powers.
In a statement, the IPCC said: “It is alleged that a criminal prosecution was not pursued, when a person threatened to expose that Sir Edward Heath may have been involved in offences concerning children. In addition to this allegation, the IPCC will examine whether Wiltshire police subsequently took any steps to investigate these claims. The allegations were referred to the IPCC by Wiltshire police following allegations made by a retired senior officer.”
Heath was the seventh post-second world war prime minister, serving from 1970 to 1974. He took Britain into what was then the European Economic Community but his time in power was beset by industrial strife and his attempt to take on the then all-powerful trade unions plunged Britain into a three-day week.
He lost the Conservative party leadership to Margaret Thatcher, of whom he was a bitter and vocal critic.
In a statement, the Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation said: “We welcome the investigation by Wiltshire police, which we wholeheartedly believe will clear Sir Edward's name and we will co-operate fully with the police in their inquiries.”
Supt Memory said of Wiltshire police's inquiry into the former prime minister: “We are working closely with the NSPCC. I have a number of staff trained to deal with sexual offences waiting for any calls that come forward.
“Any calls that we do receive will be treated with the utmost confidence.”
The force added: “Whether abuse happened in the past, or is occurring today, whether those being accused are authority figures or not, allegations of crimes against children must be investigated thoroughly.”
The government has set up the Goddard inquiry to investigate the scale of child sexual abuse and of establishment coverup.
Gulf Coast Kid's House: No formula for child abuse
by Carlos Gieseken
Ninety percent of child abuse is perpetrated by someone the child already knows.
Anne Patterson, an assistant state attorney who prosecutes child abuse cases in Escambia County, will tell you it doesn't matter whether the child's family is rich or poor, or whether they are white or black. The pattern repeats itself.
“The scenarios are the same,” she said. “How the perpetrator gets close to the child. How he or she has access to the child. The human dynamic is the same no matter what the socioeconomic class is.”
Although reported cases of child abuse among wealthier families is lower than poorer families, the discrepancy is likely a result of social stigma rather than frequency of abuse, child abuse experts say.
The Gulf Coast Kid's House is a Child Advocacy Center, or CAC, where several agencies are housed under one roof so children only have a single destination for medical exams, interviews, depositions and therapy, thus reducing the number of times they must re-live the abuse by retelling their stories.
The Kid's House served 2,600 children in 2014.
Its prevention program aimed to educate and empower school children is in a handful of schools, but its leadership hopes it spreads to all schools, regardless of zip code.
“It includes sexual abuse and people are not normally comfortable talking about that so they want to pretend it doesn't happen,” said Teri Levin, a Kid's House board member. “But it does.”
Levin was abused by an uncle as a child growing up in Indiana.
“We were not poor. We were not rich,” she said. “We were middle class. An All-American family.”
She didn't tell her parents about the abuse until she was 40 years old.
“I was afraid to tell them. I didn't know what would happen,” she said. “I didn't know how they would perceive it.”
Children who are abused will weigh whether or not to talk to someone about the abuse depending on how safe they feel and how they perceive the perpetrator, according to Nancy S. Hagman, M.Ed., LMH, of Lutheran Services of Florida, a program manager and therapist at the Kid's House.
She said she will often meet victims who first speak of childhood abuse in their 60s.
“If they don't feel they will be believed or if the offender has set it up so that they think no one will believe them, for them to go to a parent is very challenging,” Hagman said.
A teacher at an elementary school on Pensacola's east side recently wrote the Kid's House to thank them for an education program at the school. As a result of the classes, the teacher said, a child felt empowered to tell a parent of sexual abuse occurring at home and the family is now receiving counseling.
Parents are resistant to the education programs, Patterson said, because they are afraid they will poison the child's minds. The programs should be seen the same way fire prevention or other safety lessons are taught, she said.
“These programs are designed to educate, but not to frighten,” she said. “To empower but not plant seeds of fear or distress.”
More than 90 percent of cases at the Kid's House are prosecuted. Bill Eddins, the state attorney for Florida's First Judicial Circuit is a big supporter of the Kid's House efforts, Patterson said.
Years of neglect? Greendale mother accused of tying her young son, who has autism, to a bed
by Katie Delong and Bret Lemoine
MILWAUKEE COUNTY — A 49-year-old Greendale mother is facing child neglect charges, accused of tying her son (who has autism) to a bed on at least two occasions. The criminal complaint indicates an officer found the boy alone in an apartment, tied to a bed, and a neighbor told investigators the mother “had done this more than 100 times.”
The charges filed in this case include felony child neglect (bodily harm) and misdemeanor child neglect.
FOX6 News is not naming the mother in order to protect her son.
A criminal complaint filed in this case indicates on July 21st, Greendale police initiated an investigation into the possible maltreatment of a 12-year-old child who has autism and is non-verbal and not toilet trained. He also suffers from a seizure disorder.
Police were called by officials with the “Child Protection Center” at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. The child was taken to the Child Protection Center by a social worker with the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare.
The social worker was notified by staff at “La Causa” (a social services agency that provides shelter, education and emotional support for neglected and abused children) that the child had been dropped off for respite care on July 18th, and that he had “visible ligature bruising” to his ankle.
The boy was examined by a nurse practitioner with the Child Protection Center at Children's Hospital, and that nurse practitioner observed “ligature shaped injuries” around both of the boy's ankles — with the bruising to his right ankle worse than the bruising to his left ankle.
The nurse practitioner indicated the boy's injuries were “highly concerning for abuse,” and “consistent with being forcibly restrained.”
The complaint indicates a social worker confronted the boy's mother about his injuries, and that she had “multiple explanations,” including that the boy cut his leg on a glass plate, that a bandage she had place on him was too tight, and that his socks were too tight.
Later that day, a detective went to the boy's home — a one-bedroom apartment in Greendale.
There, the detective found a queen-sized bed pushed into a corner of the room, and in another corner, a large eye bolt screwed into the floorboards with two bungee cords attached. The complaint indicates two large knots were holding the bungee cords together — and the bungee cords were attached to a twin bed.
The complaint indicates the room had a strong odor of urine, and there were urine stains on the twin mattress.
The boy's mother told the detective the bungee cords were attached to the bed because the boy likes to pick up the bed and throw it, but shortly thereafter, she changed her statement to indicate she uses the bungee cords to keep the boy out of the refrigerator, according to the complaint.
The boy's mother was interviewed by officials, and the complaint indicates she again said the boy's injuries were a result of him cutting himself with a plate, and a too-tight bandage and too-tight socks.
She said this first happened to his left ankle, but later stated it was his right ankle, police say.
As for the injury to the boy's left ankle, the complaint indicates the boy's mother said she “used to tie the boy to a handicap chair while she would shower or cook” so that “he would not injure himself.” The mother indicated the ligature bruising to the boy's right ankle was from tying him to the handicap chair, and that the bruising never went away.
The misdemeanor charge filed in this case relates to similar allegations dating back to 2012, when the child was eight years old.
The complaint indicates in February of 2012, Milwaukee police were called out to a home on S. 1st Street to check on a child who was reportedly tied up in an apartment.
An officer looked into a window of the apartment and observed the boy sleeping on a bed — tied to the bed by his ankle, according to the complaint.
The officer entered the apartment, and observed the boy was alone in the home — tied to the bed with a cloth strap.
Shortly thereafter, the boy's mother came home — and told the officer she and her adult daughter need to go to an appointment and the boy was sleeping, so they tied him to the bed and left him alone, according to the complaint.
A neighbor called his friend, who then called 911 after observing the boy's mother leaving the home without her son.
The neighbor's friend told police he had seen the mother leave her child at home alone “over 100 times before” — telling police he told the mother: “This is not Iraq. You cannot leave your child alone.”
The boy's mother has a preliminary hearing scheduled for August 11th. Court records show she is currently out of custody on a signature bond. She has been ordered to have no contact with her son.
Property managers at the family's apartment building tell FOX6 News the boy no longer lives with his mother.
Unseen wounds of abused children
by Khandakar Kohinur Akter
Child abuse or maltreatment constitutes all forms of physical and emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child's health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power. Child abuse is the crime of harming a child in a physical, sexual or emotional ways. There are other forms of child abuse like trafficking, child labor and commercial sexual exploitation.
Research shows that child abuse is caused by abusers who suffer from dysfunctions of biological, psychological, or socio-cultural nature. Significant family dysfunction of one sort or another is almost always present in the backgrounds of repetitive abusers. These dysfunctional patterns often do not stop when abused children grow up, but continue in modified form as long as the involved parents are still living. Additionally, borderline personality traits may be characterised by explosive impulsivity and extreme mood changes that whipsaw from loving feelings to hateful feelings when frustrated or angry. Drugs and alcohol unfasten controls, which may lead to abuse.
Poverty and social disparity are common widespread international issues, and no matter the location, show a similar trend in the correlation to child abuse. Although these issues can likely contribute to child maltreatment, differences in cultural perspectives play a significant role in the treatment of children. In certain nations, son preference is also a major reason of child abuse.
It is known that a child can be abused physically, sexually and psychologically. In consequence, children who had been psychologically abused suffer from anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, symptoms of post-traumatic stress and suicidal tendency at the same rate and in some cases, at a greater rate than children who are physically or sexually abused. Among the three types of abuse, psychological maltreatment is most strongly associated with depression, general anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, attachment problems and substance abuse. Psychological maltreatment that occurs alongside physical or sexual abuse is associated with significantly more severe and far-ranging negative outcomes than when children were sexually and physically abused and not psychologically abused.
In reference to Bangladesh, Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) has been conducted a survey supported by UNICEF in 2012-13. The multiple indicator cluster survey found that one in every three mothers believes that corporal punishment is needed to teach children family rules and social norms. It is also found that to teach discipline and order two-thirds of children aged 1-14 years, are beaten by parents. The survey reported that in Bangladesh over 65% children were assaulted in any way. 4-6 % of children are suffered through physically harsh punishment and 73.6% child are beaten who are under age of 4.
Parents, family members and also teachers physically abuses children which is socially accepted but this mental set-up must be changed as the supreme court also directed rules against such physical assault inflicted to children. Moreover, in 2013 the Children Act has been enacted for the purpose of implementing the rights and obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. According to section 70 of the act any person responsible for beating, torturing or abandoning a child and consequently if he suffers injury of any kind, will be punishable with five-year of imprisonment or a fine of one lac or both.
But these words seem meaningless when we see a child is killed by offenders in a broad daylight. Of course the rajon killing reminds us the importance of removing the cultural norm or mindset that 'beating children is nothing serious! While in the developed states, incidents of child abuse get utmost attention and care. So differences in these cultural beliefs demonstrate the importance of examining the legal and cultural perspectives while studying the concept of child abuse.
Local organization warns teens about risks sex trafficking
by Amber Worthy
AUGUSTA, Ga. – On Saturday, the Augusta community came together to help teach young women the dangers of sex trafficking in the CSRA,
The event was called “Eyes Wide Open” and was put on by SIS Young Women's Group. The group was founded at the Macedonia Church of Grovetown and hopes to inform young girls in the CSRA about the risk of being lured away and sold for sex right here in Augusta. Saturday afternoon was their first event outside of church to address this issue.
Shelley Williams, a co-coordinator for the group, expressed her passion for the issue. “Just seeing young girls have their bodies violated and its more than physical, emotionally, physically, spiritually; it just gripped me.”
The group warns that the circumstances leading up to a teen's disappearance isn't always like in the movies; they aren't always snatched off the street. Police say most times, the it's perpetrated by someone who has befriended the teen and the situation escalates to them being forced to perform sexual acts for money.
This group said their goal was to teach girls about how they can “walk in a positive self identity” because they believe that influences how they can be become a target.
Adrianne Fernandez, another coordinator, said, “I wanna give our girls an opportunity to, ya know, be able to know the signs and keep themselves from it. That way, we can keep our girls safe.”
Haahr, Human Trafficking Task Force gear up to fight modern-day slavery in Missouri
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Rep. Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, will chair a committee made up of more than 20 individuals from law enforcement, political, child well-being, and public safety groups designed to stop human trafficking in the state of Missouri.
“The task force is crucial to ensuring that Missouri is at the forefront of the war on human trafficking,” Haahr said in a statement. “I look forward to working with my fellow task force members to organize and augment our state's efforts to prevent these heinous crimes from occurring within our borders.”
Human trafficking typically takes the form of modern-day enslavement to force people into sexual slavery or exploitation or forced labor. It is also used to describe the illicit trade of organs.
Haahr says the task force will follow a three step process to combat human trafficking.
First, they will gather testimony from around the state with people involved in human trafficking. This group includes anyone from victims, to people on the committee, as well as the public at large. This phase should last through the end of 2015.
In 2016, Haahr and the task force will give specific recommendations for laws and statutes to combat human trafficking to the legislature.
“Next year, we'll really batten down the hatches and see what we can accomplish,” Haahr said. “Missouri has fairly good laws [regarding trafficking], so we can identify the problem and try to correct it. This task force will be crucial to doing that.”
Finally, they will attempt to raise awareness for human trafficking around the state with a focus on informing and educating prosecutors that may have to handle these cases.
While Missouri constantly straddles the middle line of all states in the country when it comes to sex trafficking cases, Haahr warned that though the issue may be seen as an East or West Coast problem, the crime still affects the Show-Me State.
According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center an offshoot of the Polaris Project, Missouri has experienced 253 cases of human trafficking since 2007, and Haahr cited a Department of Justice finding which named St. Louis as one of the top 20 trafficking “hot spots” in the country.
Haahr said the task force would look to other states with more significant trafficking problems, such as California, Texas, Florida and New York, to see how they combat the problem, but that Missouri would have to figure out its own solutions.
“What separates Missouri, we have an international airport, and two huge corridors on I-70 and I-44,” Haahr said. “What works in other states may not work in Missouri. We just have to use them as a guide.”
The creation of this task force coincides with a rising national epidemic of human trafficking. In 2007, the United States suffered from just about 1,000 cases of human trafficking. Last year, there was a 500 percent increase in the activity with over 5,000 cases of human trafficking in the US last year.
The crime disproportionately affects women. Women are more than five and a half times more likely to be victims of human trafficking cases in the United States and almost six times as likely in Missouri.
Is it easier to open up about sexual abuse online?
by Divya Kaushik
Hairstylist Sapna Bhavnani recently chose Facebook to reveal that she had been gang-raped, but she's not the only victim of sexual abuse choosing social media to talk about it and reach out to others.
The reason I spoke out about my sexual abuse is not to get people to feel sorry for me, but to give others, who have (faced) similar circumstances, the confidence to talk about it," Kalki Koechlin wrote on Facebook, when she explained her decision to go public about the sexual abuse she faced as a child. Both - rape/abuse/harassment, and staying silent about it - have been a depressingly common part of women's lives. Though posts like these can't change the former, they might help with the latter - through social media, because it allows women to narrate their experience with full control over how their story goes out, and what they wish to reveal.
Most recently, hairstylist Sapna Bhavnani said she came to the decision of telling all online after she spoke about being raped in an autobiographical play and on a Hindi channel. "The only thing that I had not done before was putting it on social media, because I was not looking for that 'hero' or 'rape survivor' tag. But I wanted to reach out to the masses with my story and make an impact and therefore, I was a part of the play, and then a show on a Hindi channel, to reach out to people who would never go to watch a play".
"After I felt I had done some ground work in villages with women and children, I put my story on social media and ever since then, so many people have written to me about their stories of domestic violence and sexual harassment and that they are afraid to speak about it. I want to help them, but if they are not ready, we need to accept that. It was also important for me to talk about my experience and share the fact that rape is a global issue. While India is called 'the rape capital of the world,' my story happened in Chicago. I wanted to tell women to speak up. I think that change is coming through social media and that's fabulous," says Sapna.
It is the reach and impact of the internet that's encouraging women to opt for social media and similar platforms to talk about cases of sexual abuse, rape and harassment, feels psychologist Aroona Broota. She says, "The psyche of the urban, educated woman is very different today from what it was a few years ago. They may take time to come out of the trauma that they suffered, but they realise that they are not guilty and helpless victims, who happened to undergo an unfortunate incident in their lives. At the same time, given the social system and rigid family norms that we have even today, it is almost impossible for them to talk about sexual assault or harassment with their immediate family members, especially in cases where the culprit is someone known to the family. In such situations, social media becomes the ideal platform. They can choose to hide or reveal their identity, so they can remain anonymous and yet speak their hearts out. Secondly, celebrities have always been role models. In the last one year, an increasing number of actresses have been bold enough to talk on different public platforms about cases where they suffered sexual harassment, and that has encouraged other women too."
For instance, Sonam Mittal, an employee of an environmental NGO, wrote an article on its website to reveal that she had been repeatedly sexually harassed by a male colleague. On another website, Priya Jason shared that she was a survivor of child abuse and gang-rape.
Here is an account of what Sapna and many others like her shared online to inspire other women to come out of their closet.
"I allowed someone to have sex with me at the age of nine, not understanding fully what it meant and my biggest fear after was that my mother would find out. I felt it was my mistake and so I kept it hidden for years. If I had had the confidence or awareness to confide in my parents, it would have saved me years of complexes about my own sexuality. It's important that parents remove the taboo around the word 'sex' or 'private parts,' so kids can speak openly and be saved from potential abuse. I believe in being myself every step of the way and not hiding my true self from society, whether that means getting a divorce because me and my husband didn't want to pretend for other people or wearing shorts because it's a hot day or choosing a career which is unstable but creatively satisfying or admitting to my weaknesses because learning from them has led to my strengths".
"An online essay on Twitter trolls I am a survivor of sexual assault, rape and incest. I am greatly blessed that in 2006, other thriving survivors introduced me to recovery".
"When you break silence, you break the cycle of violence. My first encounter with sexual violence was probably when I was nine. There was a neighbour and family friend who got his hands on me. He obviously told me not to tell anyone. I have encountered so many incidents as a child and as a young adult. They were violent, but I wouldn't speak about it. There was a code that you wouldn't talk about it. I always thought that silence was the best, safest, most acceptable way of coping".
As a child, I suffered sexual and emotional abuse for several years at the hands of a man my parents trusted implicitly. Growing up, like most women I know, I suffered various forms of groping, touching, verbal abuse and other things (that) I didn't know how to deal with, I didn't know I could change. As a woman, I find I am frequently living in fear. Afraid to walk alone at night, afraid to answer a man who asks for the time... and enough is enough.
How schools are teaching students about domestic violence and respect
by Louise Pascale
Right now, in a handful of Victorian High Schools, students are talking about Zoe and Sam. They are a fictional teenage couple that has sex at a party - however Zoe has not consented.
'She didn't say no', 'she didn't put up a fight', 'she was wearing a short dress' are the responses Curriculum Consultant Emma Hardley is hearing around the classroom.
"It is really interesting time and time again students overlook that (she did not consent)," Hardley said. "They are focusing on her behaviour, on what she did and did not do. They are making assumptions many adults make.
"A light bulb moment happens when we shift our focus from Zoe to Sam's behaviour. There they realise the focus in society when we talk about violence against women is about what the survivor did and did not do and not what the perpetrator did and did not do. "
When Rosie Batty called on state leaders to introduce respectful relationship programs into the curriculum this is what she meant. Called Respectful Relationships, it is two units of eight lessons each with discussion, activities and group work. The first unit is about gender, respect and relationships taught to year eights while year nines have lessons on power and control.
But this is not all. With this model teachers are also given intensive training around these issues and the school's culture is examined through its policies, gender dynamics, even language in the staff room.
"The most important thing is that there is principal leadership, that the principal is one hundred per cent behind it and in fact driving it," she said. "If they are not driving it, it is hard to get the school community on board and it to be meaningful."
The classroom is also where the New South Wales government wants to start tackling domestic violence. As of next year, grades seven to ten will be taught what domestic violence is.
Louiza Hebhardt is a school counsellor who counsels both teachers and students. She has seen a lot students impacted by domestic violence and teachers who are ignorant to it.
"I've received on more than one occasion, from different teachers at different sites, a kind of sense of exasperation, frustration with the mother in particular," she said. "(They) comment along the lines of 'I just don't understand why she just doesn't leave if he is hitting her'.
"These comments tell me there is a limited understanding of what domestic violence actually entails and what it means. This lack of understanding around control that these women are under and that it may not necessarily be physical abuse."
While she believes teaching respectful relationships is necessary in schools she questions the priority it is given.
"You know you also need to fit in a certain amount of science, and a certain amount of English and a certain amount of Maths and a certain amount of all these other areas," said Hebhardt. "When and where is the time for this kind of important information to be taught?"
Schools who sign up for the Respectful Relationships program in Victoria do so voluntarily through Our Watch. So far around thirty out of Victoria's 2,226 schools have taken it on.
The Australian Childhood Foundation runs professional development for teachers working with children who have experienced trauma and domestic violence. CEO Joe Tucci says there are states like South Australia where close to 10,000 teachers have gone through their program compared to other states where it has not been a priority at all.
While he acknowledges teaching respectful relationships is necessary, he questions its effectiveness when adults - who children model their behaviour on - are not acting respectfully.
"If the outcome is we want children of this generation to learn to be more respectful adults as they get older, then what we need to do is make sure that the adults around them are engaging in respectful relationships between each other," he said.
While Hardley has seen the positive impact the Respectful Relationships program is having, she also knows that schools are a reflection of our society.
"Now, I doubt there's a single school in the State that doesn't drill the notion of respect into its students on a daily basis," she said. "Yet walking around on yard duty I've witnessed numerous counts of gender-based violence."
Hardley cites discovering year 11 boys throwing fruit at year eights girls because they 'liked them' only to discover they had coerced the girls into oral sex at a party.
"This sort of thing is incredibly confronting for a school to deal with, but these things do happen, and it's the way they deal with it that will largely determine whether that sort of behaviour happens again," she said.
Records: Louisiana lags behind other states in releasing information about child abuse, neglect
by Steve Hardy
When a Louisiana child dies or is critically injured by abuse and neglect, the state Department of Child and Family Services typically releases very limited information about what happened, even in cases where the agency itself might have failed to protect a child.
DCFS officials over the years have emphasized that this is required by state and federal law, saying they are prohibited from making public more details by broad confidentiality regulations. But other states are more open, releasing far more information about child abuse and neglect, including records about past agency contact with a family.
Earlier this month, after a police officer discovered an emaciated 15-year-old covered in filth living in a Baton Rouge home, DCFS released a report that acknowledged DCFS staff had previously looked into the child's condition. But the document shed almost no light about how child protective workers evaluated the case of the 47-pound, special-needs child whose mother was subsequently arrested on a juvenile cruelty charge.
Louisiana's rules aim to prevent survivors and other victims in the family from continued cruelty should reports of their torment be released to the public, causing shame and ridicule, DCFS employees have said. Furthermore, workers can be charged with a felony and jailed if they release too much information, though state law does not spell out where they should draw the line between public and confidential documents.
Louisiana's laws are “vague and unclear” according to a 2012 study that graded each state's child abuse public records laws. The Pelican State earned a C, placing it in the bottom third. The Louisiana statute allows only “limited public disclosure of summary information contained in the child abuse or neglect records of the (DCFS).”
Other states provide much more detailed guidance. In New Hampshire, the statute lists a dozen items the commissioner of Health and Human Services is legally bound to release to the public when a child dies or is critically injured by abuse or neglect.
New Hampshire must release all dates previous reports of abuse were filed, when they were referred to a local office, when that office made contact with the family, whether the department could substantiate the allegations and any actions the state took or services they provided, among other details.
In comparison, earlier this year, The Advocate requested from DCFS a summary statement in the 2012 death of a Livingston Parish child who drowned while under the supervision of a relative. DCFS summarized the agency's prior contact with the family in two sentences, acknowledging that a complaint of “inadequate shelter” of the child had been made and sustained. “DCFS provided services, details of which DCFS is prohibited from providing by Statute 46:56,” the statement concluded.
When asked if changes to the law such as more specific directions would be helpful, DCFS officials declined to take a stand.
“We don't make laws. We just follow the laws,” Chief of Staff Tia Embaugh said. “Our position is that we have to do whatever we can to protect kids within the law.”
“I didn't draft it. We just have to live with it,” said attorney Charlie Dirks, the department's executive counsel.
DCFS errs on the side of caution because the state has written a felony offense into the law for anyone who releases too much information, he continued.
“That doesn't make it very easy when you're trying to figure out what's summary or not summary,” Dirks said. “You'd be foolish to not be cautious when criminal liability is attached.”
State Rep. Alfred Williams, D-Baton Rouge, called for an outside review of DCFS after news of the malnourished child surfaced in media reports, saying people had since approached him about other agency failures. Since then, DCFS referred its internal view to the state Inspector General's Office, which is taking a look at the case. Inspector General Stephen Street said he could not comment on the scope of the investigation or how long it might take.
Williams' legislative aide, Brittany Bryant, said the representative, who is recovering from knee surgery, has no plans to push for a records law revision but that it could be an avenue for exploration.
If state leaders do consider change, they may look upriver to Minnesota, which will roll out Monday. The revisions remove vague directives and outline specific information that must be released to the public, such as previous investigations of abuse and neglect that preceded a child's death or critical injury. The state also will have to provide the results of those investigations and services provided to the child.
The governor formed a task force after a high-profile child abuse death in 2013, said Marcia Milliken, executive director of the Minnesota Children's Alliance. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune published stories with headlines such as “Fumbled warnings cost kids their lives,” and “Judge ‘sickened' by abuse program's failures.”
The task force came back after six months with recommendations for stricter laws, a permanent monitoring group to make sure the laws were implemented and $30 million in new funding to hire more child abuse investigators, Milliken said.
Open records allow lawmakers, advocates and members of the public to determine whether agencies are providing adequate services to children in danger, said Amy Harfeld, the national policy director for the Children's Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego School of Law and coauthor of “State Secrecy and Child Deaths in the U.S.,” the study that graded each state.
“We can only fix what we know is broken,” she said. “If states are not disclosing what they should, who's going to do something about it?”
She provided a fictional example of a city that finds that most child abuse fatalities occur within six months of a child being returned to a parent after being placed in foster care due to the parent's drug use. Such a finding would indicate that the drug treatment program may be inadequate and that parents may need to be sober longer before they can be reunited with their children to prevent future deaths, Harfeld said.
State laws governing abuse records vary widely, said Michael Petit, who serves on the federal Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities. The most secretive states often have strict laws to protect their own employees, but child services, which Petit said are “in crisis across the country,” will be improved by institution-wide changes, not witch hunts.
When a report surfaces of a child in the system suffering or dying, “frequently it becomes a feeding frenzy. … (The public is) just gonna ask for someone's head,” Petit continued.
Commission members realize there are problems with public records laws — resulting from unclear federal direction and states' reluctance to roll out meaningful legislation — but Petit said the group has not yet determined what steps are needed to improve the situation.
One state that has received consistently high marks in Harfeld's studies is trying to maintain transparency by automatically posting reports of child deaths on the Internet .
In 2005, Nevada experienced an “alarming number” of child fatalities in Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, said Chrystal Martin, spokeswoman for the state's Department of Health and Human Services. The state Legislature convened a panel of politicians, law enforcement officers and members of the judiciary to overhaul the system, and they decided to make records more easily accessible.
Nevada did decide to keep children's names and addresses off the Internet, so the focus is on the child protection system, rather than the victims.
“I think it's improved public perception because we're working toward being as transparent as possible without breaking any confidentiality laws,” Martin said. “I think the outcome of the Blue Ribbon Panel and the changes to the revised statute are giving us more of an opportunity to look at the systemic issues. There's always room for improvement.”
The justice system already has a precedent for cases that attract public attention and require privacy for victims, Harfeld said.
Politicians should look toward existing procedures surrounding rape investigations to inform their treatment of child abuse, she said. The aim, then, should not be to publicize the identities of victims but to ensure that the system is working to protect the community to prevent the next attack.
“We've sort of figured out how to do that in a respectful way,” Harfeld said. “More or less we have figured out how to … achieve that appropriate balance.”
New Training For Mandatory Child Abuse Reporters In Missouri
by Sam Zeff
Most adults in Missouri who work with children are required by law to report any suspected child abuse to the state. Too often, child advocates say, reports don't get made but they hope to fix that later this year.
Two years ago the law requiring child abuse to be reported to the Children's Division of the Department of Social Services drastically changed.
For years teachers, coaches or other youth workers had to report suspicions to a supervisor. Now state law requires those reports to be made directly to state investigators.
Cherisse Thibaut with Missouri Kids First, a leading child advocacy organization based in Jefferson City, says new online training she's working on will help those individuals.
“It's a very stressful time to be concerned about a child that's experiencing abuse. So we want these adults to have all the tools that they can to feel empowered to make that report,” she says.
Thibaut says many times supervisors chose not to call the state. "So maybe it was the school principal or school counselor did not believe that that call should be made or maybe didn't call or maybe had a relationship with the family and decided to handle that internally."
The Missouri General Assembly changed the law after a 2012 report from the Task Force on the Prevention of the Sexual Abuse of Children.
“It should be made clear that there is both a legal and moral duty to report child abuse and not just to an up-the-line supervisor. There is simply too much at stake to pass the buck," Greene County Prosecutor Dan Patterson said in the report.
A draft of the online training is complete and they hope to make it available statewide by the end of the year.
William Balser And Robin Robinson: ‘America's Most Wanted' Child Sex Abuse Fugitives — Busted!
William Balser and Robin Robinson eluded the law for almost 20 years, fleeing charges of committing horrific acts of child sex abuse against Robinson's two daughters in Manteca, California, throughout much of the 1990s. At one point, Balser — who police say not only repeatedly raped the young girls as their mother watched, but severely beat them as well — called police to taunt them, declaring that they would never catch him.
But “never” is a long time, and despite his arrogant prediction, the United States Marshals Service finally caught up with the fugitive accused molesters, who have been on the lam living under fake identities since 1998, arresting the 56-year-old Balser and 59-year-old Robinson at their home on Dean Street in West Valley, Utah, on Wednesday.
Though Robinson made a run for it as U.S. Marhsals with the Violent Fugitive Apprehension Strike Team moved in, Balser barricaded himself in the home with a shotgun and a handgun — but the marshals were able to talk him out of a potentially deadly confrontation and he finally gave up without any shots fired.
Manteca Police have been searching for the perverted couple ever since they fled in 1998 after the two girls reported the abuse to police and Balser was charged with unlawful intercourse with a child, lewd acts with a minor, and continuous sexual abuse.
Manteca Police at the time issued these photos, below, which shows what the couple looked like in the late 1990s.
In 2006, the Manteca police teamed up with the Marshals service, and in the following year, the sicko lovers were featured on an episode of America's Most Wanted .
One of Robinson's two young daughters first reported Balser's unrelenting sexual attacks on her and her sister back in 1994, but police say that the girls' mother, who is said to have watched the assaults, pressured the girl to recant her accusations against Balser.
The girl relented and police had no choice but to release Balser from jail — allowing him to continue raping, molesting, and beating the girls for another four years, according to the allegations against him.
Early this year, investigators — after fruitlessly searching numerous states for Balser and Robinson — received information that the fugitive couple were living under assumed identities in the Salt Lake City area. After months of surveillance, they became certain that they spotted the wanted couple, and moved in to make the arrests.
Earlier in July, an Alabama couple was arrested for allegedly molesting the mom's young daughters in ways that local authorities described as “too heinous” to make public.
William Balser and Robin Robinson are now awaiting extradition back to California where they will face the multiple child sex abuse charges.
PTSD Support Group Advocates Coloring As Therapy
by Rebecca Vogt
TOWN OF TONAWANDA, N.Y. -- It appears cartoonist Hugh MacLeod was on to something when he said, “They're only crayons. You didn't fear them in Kindergarten, why fear them now?” As coloring books for adults gain popularity, PTSD Survivors of America hopes to expose those affected by the disorder to this growing trend.
"Coloring has some therapeutic benefits, especially for people for PTSD. We wanted to highlight coloring as a stress reducer,” said Erin Maynard, PTSD Survivors of America President
On Sunday, the organization hosted "Color Across America" events across the nation, coinciding with National Coloring Book Day. Locally, the group met at Coffee Culture in the Town of Tonawanda.
Maynard told us the process of sitting down to color causes a part of the brain called the amygdala to slow down. The amygdala controls memory and emotional response, and it tends to run on overdrive for those diagnosed with PTSD.
"There's an element of mechanization to them. You can just do it without really thinking about it. That can be helpful. It's really hard to get out of your head with PTSD. So anything where you can concentrate on the activity itself is good,” Maynard remarked.
Katherine McKeon Longest, a veteran living with the disorder, added that some of the vets she knows work on drawings with patriotic themes.
"The event brings a lot of camaraderie back, so they don't feel so alone and helps them express their coloring with people who are in the same boat, so it's not just 'Me against the world,'” she said.
"Color Across America" also brings increased awareness to PTSD. Maynard said many people see veterans as the "face" of the disorder and forget that civilians, like herself, can also be diagnosed. Maynard was involved in a fatal car accident seven years ago.
Maynard explained, "Sexual assault, child abuse, refugees, accidents, firefighters, cops, social workers, nurses... happens to a lot of people. It's truly isolating."
"We're just these crazy medicated people who are going to do something out of nowhere... and that's not the case at all. This allows them to show what they really are about. Helps them and the rest of the population understand there's nothing wrong with us. We're healing,” McKeon Longest said.
For more information on PTSD Survivors of America, click here .
What Fueled the Child Sex Abuse Scandal That Never Was?
by Lizzie Crocker
A wave of scandals about brutal child sex abuse in the 1980s caused widespread panic. But many of the stories, pursued with zeal through the courts, were false and extremely destructive.
It started in August 1983 with Judy Johnson, a resident of a wealthy and bucolic Los Angeles suburb, who told police she suspected her three-year-old son, Matthew, was being molested by one of his preschool teachers.
Matthew had been complaining of an itchy anus and was obsessed with playing doctor, a game he said he played at school. Johnson believed one of his teachers, Ray Buckey, had sodomized the boy with his “thermometer.”
Soon after, other parents of children under Buckey's care at the McMartin Preschool in Manhattan Beach alerted police that their children had confessed to being fondled, sodomized, and forced to participate in pornographic films.
There were reports that McMartin teachers slaughtered animals and babies in front of the children before abusing them.
Five McMartin teachers were ultimately arrested and charged, along with the school's administrator Peggy McMartin Buckey and its 76-year-old founder Virginia McMartin, with what detectives and child therapists determined was ritualistic satanic abuse.
The school shut down for good in January 1984. But no evidence--no pornography, no semen, no corpses--was ever recovered.
The McMartin case was symptomatic of a nationwide panic about an “epidemic” of child sexual abuse at daycare centers in the '80s, with other high-profile cases in Minnesota, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, and Texas all fomenting media hype, legislative changes, and mass hysteria.
It would be a decade before the panic that led to more than 80 convictions proved to be largely unfounded.
In his new book, We Believe the Children, author Richard Beck--also editor of n+1 magazine--revisits these Kafkaesque cases involving child pornography rings and devil-worshipping cults.
Drawing on interviews, archival research, and court transcripts, Beck illustrates how “therapists, social workers, and police officers unintentionally forced children to fabricate tales of brutal abuse” that spoke to American society's deepest fears and introduced the stereotype of the playground pedophile.
Beck argues, convincingly, that the sexual revolution of the '60s and '70s provoked a conservative backlash in the '80s, fueling parental paranoia. The social and political conditions at the time set the stage for the most destructive moral panic since the Salem witch trials.
Indeed, the daycare investigations in the '80s echoed several specific aspects of the 1692 witch hunts.
“In each episode,” Beck writes, “children were thought to have been abused by a secretive group of conspirators, and each time it was the adults who first began to suspect that a conspiracy was at work.”
Those accused in Salem were said to possess such demonic powers that their victims were re-traumatized during the trials, frequently crying out in pain in the courtroom.
Concern in the '80s that children would be similarly re-traumatized led the state of California to pass a law allowing children under 14 to testify outside the courtroom via closed-circuit televisions.
While the judge and jurors who presided over the Salem trials eventually apologized and awarded monetary reparations to the accused, very few of the major players who relentlessly pursued the daycare cases apologized to those who were wrongfully convicted.
Many innocent people whose lives were ruined, including the children, have been denied reparations.
When the McMartin trial finally ended in 1990 with no convictions, the McMartin family filed a slander suit against one parent who led the witch hunt in Manhattan Beach back in 1983.
The judge ruled in the McMartins' favor, but determined that the defendant couldn't have damaged their reputations any more than the subsequent six-year-trial--the longest and most expensive ($15 million) in U.S. history to date--and national media coverage of the sex abuse accusations. The plaintiffs were awarded one dollar each.
Much of We Believe the Children centers on the McMartin Preschool case, with Beck devoting four of the book's ten chapters to the McMartin allegations, preliminary hearing, trial, and verdict.
Coercive interview and interrogation tactics were used on children in many of the child sex abuse cases across the country. (Predictably, these led to false confessions.)
To be sure, We Believe the Children does not set out to prove that child abuse never happened in the '80s.
The Minnesota sex ring panic in 1983 began with a single allegation against James Rud, who turned out to have two prior child sex abuse convictions--one in Virginia and one in Minnesota.
And the charges against Arnold Friedman, a “beloved and award-winning” teacher in Great Neck, New York (the Friedman family was the subject of Andrew Jarecki's 2003 documentary, Capturing the Friedmans ) were not entirely unfounded. In 1987 the Feds found a stack of child porn magazines in his basement.
“Whether Arnold Friedman was a child abuser became a very controversial topic in the late 1980s,” Beck writes, “but there is no question that he really was a pedophile.”
While there was ample evidence that Arnold Friedman was attracted to children, it was never clear that he acted on it.
After Friedman's son Jesse was also accused of abuse, he deliberately played into the hysterical narrative perpetuated by police and the media, claiming his father had homemade pornographic videos. But the hysteria ultimately obscured whether or not Arnold was guilty of abuse.
The recent Jerry Sandusky molestation scandal at Penn State demonstrates the imperative of reporting allegations of child sex abuse.
But Sandusky got away with serially molesting young boys for years not because people mistrusted children's accusations, but because those accusations were covered up by the corrupt bureaucracy at the University.
We Believe the Children focuses largely on the children in the McMartin Preschool case--beginning with Judy Johnson's son--who were grossly manipulated and even threatened by adults until they confessed to what the adults wanted to hear.
A therapist named Kee MacFarlane, who was hired by the Manhattan Beach district attorney's office to help investigate the case, designed sessions with three, four, and five-year-old children to mimic forensic interviews.
Her priority was not children's emotional well-being but ensuring that they recalled events accurately.
Digging through transcripts, Beck finds that MacFarlane told one five-year-old boy “you're just a scaredy cat” when he repeatedly denied that he and other children had been inappropriately touched.
“Well, what good are you?” she asked another child who wouldn't confirm her suggestion that he had participated in sexual games with Ray Buckey. “You must be dumb,” she added, speaking to him through a puppet.
Even when she wasn't bullying her preschool patients, MacFarlane frequently interpreted children's statements that were “clearly made in the context of some imaginative game as straightforward accusations of abuse,” Beck writes.
By the end of December 1983, MacFarlane had interviewed more than 30 McMartin children, a number that would eventually balloon to 375.
Like most people, MacFarlane genuinely believed these children were abused. But after jurors in the McMartin case reached a “not guilty” verdict, they told reporters that MacFarlane's tapes made it impossible to distinguish less plausible accusations from more plausible ones because they “never got the children's story in their own words.”
After the McMartin trial wrapped, MacFarlane admitted in a 1990 interview with the New York Times that she was "naive in never having been part of a case like this," but defended her controversial interviewing techniques.
"Neither in tapes [sic] on the witness stand do children just say what happened. Some children said they never went to the McMartin School, even though they did.''
MacFarlane was at least partially influenced by the psychiatrist Roland Summit, who rose to prominence in the '70s and theorized that children were not psychologically capable of lying about sexual abuse.
Beck points out that corroborating evidence then became “a superfluous adjunct to a truth the therapist already knew.”
Many other therapists and social workers who worked with children on ritualistic sex abuse cases in the '80s operated on the same dangerous assumption. So did parents and law enforcement officials.
“Believe the Children” was not just an oft-repeated mantra in Manhattan Beach, but a community banner through which which some parents formed an organization and advocacy center where any and all information on ritual abuse was discussed.
It gave many parents, particularly stay-at-home mothers, a sense of purpose and a role in bringing about political and social change.
The irony, of course, was that their fevered determination to protect children caused them harm and suffering instead.
It's impossible to know the extent of the emotional damage that the McMartin children and others across the country suffered into adulthood (very few have spoken out publicly).
But Beck interviews one pseudonymous woman, Jennifer, who was seven when her mother first took her to the police in 1984, when her former daycare teacher was accused of sexual abuse.
She began going to therapy shortly afterward and tells Beck “that was where all the trauma happened.”
No matter what Jennifer said, her therapists insisted she had been abused. This led her to question her own memories of what had happened (she still questions them to this day), though she initially told the police she wasn't molested.
“I had rooms in my brain where I needed to think very clearly, and be honest with myself, and try really hard to remember if anything happened,” she tells Beck. “And at the same time, I had to keep it completely hidden and protected from my mom and the therapists.”
The young children in the McMartin case also underwent forensic testing developed by a physician named Bruce Woodling: anal examinations (“wink tests”) in which he swabbed a spot near the patient's anus that supposedly determined abuse.
If the child's anus opened during wink tests, the child had been sodomized; the further the child's anus opened, the more frequent the abuse.
Woodling hired an inexperienced assistant, Astrid Heger, to examine young girl's hymens for microscopic abrasions and variations which, according to Woodling's (now-discredited) findings, often indicated sexual trauma.
Heger determined that 80 percent of the 150 children she examined had been abused, but she sometimes arrived at that conclusion even when she found no abrasions or variations.
“This was based on a conviction--one she shared with Roland Summit--that medical professionals had a special social role to play in bringing the problem of child abuse out of the shadows,” Beck writes.
In cases across the country, medical professionals, detectives, prosecutors, parents, and therapists simply believed children had been sexually abused: they manipulated “the truth” to fit their version of the truth and fabricated evidence where none existed.
When cases went to court, the judicial system's “innocent until proven guilty” model was seemingly inverted: as Beck puts it, “the pursuit of justice demanded the suspension of disbelief.”
In the court of public opinion, the only just verdict was a guilty one.
The number of convictions that came out of these cases, almost all of which were eventually overturned, shows how easily we can deceive ourselves and others--how the pursuit of justice results in gross injustice--when “the truth” is preconceived.
Beck attributes society's unwavering belief in the ‘80s child sex abuse cases to a number of forces that came together in America at that time: a conservative backlash against the counterculture that had dominated the 60s and 70s, with its rejection of law enforcement and authority; a similar backlash against the sexual revolution and feminism, which dismantled the nuclear family, sending women to work and children to daycare centers; homophobia linked to the AIDS epidemic and an attendant fear that men who were caretakers outside the home were pedophiles; the rise of conservative Christian evangelicals, many of whom had helped elect President Ronald Reagan and feared the proliferation of pornography.
“Social hysteria is born of an unmanageable surplus of anxiety and fear,” Beck writes, “and as a result panics themselves behave in excessive ways, improvising a series of crises and fabrications that build until the whole process breaks down under the weight of its own internal contradictions.”
It took a while for this particular panic to break down, and even then it occasionally resurfaced: in the mid-90s, forty-three adults were arrested on more than 29,000 charges of child sex abuse in a pedophile ring operation in Wenatchee, Washington.
There were also people like Ellen Bass, a poet turned activist, who piggybacked on abuse rhetoric at the tail-end of the ‘80s hysteria, spinning off the 1988 bestselling self-help book, The Courage to Heal .
The self-help element was grounded in the idea of healing through recovered memory, which therapists capitalized on in the mid-90s.
Beck notes how the book recast victims as survivors and “made victimization into an identity with its own kind of bleak attractiveness...the testimony of some survivors suggested that much of what made the process appealing were the crises themselves.”
But recovered memory therapy had its own traps, and many argued that the women who sought it out were not healing as much as they were simply being taken for a ride.
Beck doesn't suggest that the rhetoric in The Courage to Heal is echoed in some of the rhetoric surrounding sexual abuse today. Perhaps he did not want to be wade into that fraught feminist debate.
But the desperation to protect children at all costs in the ‘80s is not unlike the desperation to protect women on college campuses today amidst what many have declared an epidemic of campus rape.
We Believe the Children should serve to remind us of the dangers of the “we must believe the victim” mindset in the case of any criminal offense. A faith-based pursuit of justice can lead to a miscarriage of justice.