National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Every day we bring you articles from local newspapers, web sites and other sources that constitute but a small percentage of the information available to those who are interested in the issues of child abuse and recovery from it.

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Here are a few recent stories related to the kinds of issues we cover on the web site. They'll represent a small percentage of the information available to us, the public, as we fight to provide meaningful recovery services and help for those who've suffered child abuse. We'll add to and update this page regularly.

We'll also present stories about the criminals and criminal acts that impact our communities all across the nation. The few we place on this page are the tip of the iceberg, and we ask you to check your local newspapers and law enforcement sites. Stay aware. Every extra set of "eyes and ears" makes a big difference.
Recent News - News from other times

September, 2015 - Week 1
MJ Goyings
Many, many thanks to our very own "MJ" for
providing us the majority of the daily research
that appears on the LACP and NAASCA web sites.
Ms. Goyings is a retired Registered Nurse from Ohio.

From ICE

ICE provides warnings for back to school safety

It's that time of the year again. The time when summer vacation comes to an end and kids across the country start preparing for another school year.

Since the beginning of August and up until the Tuesday after Labor Day, the back-to-school rush will be in full effect with school shopping and parent-teacher conferences taking the place of family vacations and lazy days filled with playing video games.

While school is supposed to be a safe haven for children when they're away from their parents for 8-9 hours a day, there are dangers families never consider.

According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Columbus, Ohio Special Agent Cameron Bryant, many of the same threats that children face during their summer vacations remain as schools get back in session.

“As much as kids use the Internet in schools, online threats are always going to be an issue,” Bryant said. “Those threats can come in the form of online predators or cyberbullying from their own classmates.”

The beginning of the school year marks the first time many classmates have seen each other since they departed for the summer break. These first few days and weeks of school present opportunities to rehash old beefs that have lingered for weeks and often make their way to the online space.

The cyberbullying can result in altercations at school, on buses or in the neighborhoods where students live, all of which can present dangerous situations.

“Students have to know who their friends are,” Bryant said. “It's easy to just say ‘stay off the Internet,' but that's not happening in this era. Parents just have to be mindful of what their kids and their classmates have going on online.”

Social media sites are prime stalking grounds for online predators. Bryant warns parents and students to be mindful of what they're posting on their Facebook and Instagram pages, for example, and to be mindful of fake profiles attempting to “friend” them.

With many schools now requiring students to wear uniforms and excited parents posting “first day of school” pictures, predators can easily figure out where to go to target for potential victims.

“We hear the question ‘how did the pedophile figure out that this was the same child [in the pictures],'” Bryant said. “These predators will look at the school name on the uniforms, go to that school and watch the kids.”

The beginning of a new school year is an exciting time. As long as children are mindful of their surroundings as they commute to and from school and are smart in the online activity, the 2015-16 school year will be a successful one.

HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.

For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page.

HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.


In Mississippi and Idaho, sexual assault laws lag far behind the mainstream

by Bernice Yeung

At a chain restaurant in Vicksburg, a manager pulls a waitress into a walk-in freezer, where he fondles and tries to kiss her. In Jackson, the boss at a grocery store sticks his hands down female workers' pants. And at a chicken-processing plant in rural Morton, at least a half-dozen women say their supervisor routinely came up behind them to grope them.

In California, fondling carries a punishment ranging from a fine to four years in prison.

But in Mississippi, it's not spelled out as a crime under state law.

As a national discussion has refined how we think about sexual assault, Mississippi offers a stark example of how laws related to sexual violence have not kept pace with modern ideas about the crime. It is one of two states, along with Idaho, that doesn't have criminal laws that clearly forbid unwanted sexual touching such as groping and fondling.

At last count, nearly 30 percent of U.S. women experience this kind of unwanted sexual contact in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The U.S. Justice Department describes it as sexual assault, and in most states, this behavior would be a misdemeanor or felony crime.

The other 48 states have created sexual assault laws that address the spectrum of sexual violence for many reasons. They more accurately describe the crime and recognize what the victim has experienced. They create a clearer path for reporting and prosecuting the crime. They may be tied to punishments that more closely align to what happened. And they establish a standard for acceptable behavior.

These laws send "a powerful message that a butt grab and a boob grab are not a funny thing," said Erin Murphy, a law professor at New York University. "Society can condemn this behavior through criminal law and say, 'You pay a penalty for this.' It may be a small penalty, but you pay a penalty."

The two states' silence on this level of sexual assault points to a larger issue: States frequently are behind in keeping laws in line with changing ideas and attitudes toward sexual violence. For the first time in 50 years, the sexual assault section of the Model Penal Code -- the go-to document for lawmakers who are rewriting their criminal laws -- is being revised. Developed by The American Law Institute, the code is also taught in almost every first-year criminal law class in the United States.

How courts think

The debate over changing the code largely centers on how courts should think about victim consent, said Michelle Anderson, dean of The City University of New York School of Law. While some portions of the Model Penal Code were forward thinking for the time, the code still allows men to rape their wives. In practice, though, the so-called "marital exemption" has been outlawed in all 50 states since the 1990s.

Today's sexual assault laws emerge from a fraught legacy. The country's earliest criminal statutes had vestiges of the English legal tradition in which rape was grounded in ideas of property law, when violating a woman was the equivalent of stealing her chastity from her father or husband. While American sexual assault laws always have viewed rape as a crime against a person, victims needed to prove their chastity for their cases to be taken seriously up until about the middle of the 20th century.

Indeed, rape in Mississippi still is defined as the intent to "forcibly ravish any female of previous chaste character." Although state courts now presume that all rape victims are chaste, most prosecutors rely on a newer part of the state's penal code that tackles sexual battery and statutory rape.

While there are criminal laws related to the sexual abuse and touching of children, for most adults, Mississippi sex crimes laws don't say much beyond crimes involving rape. Short of that standard, law enforcement officers may charge the perpetrator with attempted sexual battery, though the victim would have to show that the attacker was planning to rape her.

For adults, all other types of sex crimes have to be pursued with more creativity. The Mississippi attorney general's office has instructed police and prosecutors to rely on criminal laws such as simple assault and disturbing the peace, misdemeanor charges typically associated with people who are drunk in public or get in a fistfight.

This can minimize the crime for victims and fail to hold perpetrators accountable.

"It is disheartening sometimes," said Lt. Mark Little of the Southaven Police Department, at the state's northern border. "We know it's more serious than someone striking someone when they grab someone on the rear end or the breast, but with the ways our laws are stated, especially on the adult side, it goes in as an assault through misdemeanor court."

And because 16 is the age of consent in many cases in Mississippi, law enforcement officials have had to pursue fondling cases of 16- or 17-year-olds as a misdemeanor. In other states, where the age of consent is 18, those cases would be considered more serious felonies.

Nevertheless, prosecutors across Mississippi said fondling and groping cases are not a large part of their docket. Ron Peresich, a Biloxi city prosecutor, said he takes a few cases like this a month. Others, like his colleagues in Tupelo, Oxford and Gulfport, say groping cases rarely are referred to them by law enforcement.

This is in part because victims -- like victims of all types of sexual abuse ­-- are hesitant to come forward, law enforcement officials say.

"Because of the nature of the complaint, these are underreported crimes," said Billy Sollie, sheriff of Lauderdale County, which borders Alabama. "But law enforcement can't stop it if we don't know about it. And if there is one victim, there may be many others."

Toni Marek was a 35-year-old Texas community college student in April 2013 when she traveled to Mississippi for an honor society meeting.

A student leader of the society, Marek said the organization's executive director grabbed her buttock and squeezed while they posed for a photo. At another meeting in Jackson a few months later, Marek said he touched her inner thigh and crotch while they were seated next to each other at a dinner.

Marek said she didn't report the incidents to police -- "You feel like you're going to be laughed at," she said -- but she had no idea the state didn't have laws to specifically address them.

"There's a gap here where it doesn't matter if someone forcibly shoves their hand between my legs. They say it's like disturbing the peace, but it's disturbing more than the peace," she said. "It's violating."

Shifts over time

As they have with same-sex marriage, American laws around sexual abuse have shifted over time, following public opinion and social trends.

Until the latter part of the 20th century, to gain a rape conviction, victims often needed independent corroboration and had to prove their chaste character. Estelle Freedman, a women's history professor at Stanford University and author of the book "Redefining Rape," said the laws have tended to reflect problematic power imbalances based on race and gender. White and well-to-do women tended to more easily meet the definition of chastity than women of other backgrounds, she said.

It would take decades for requirements on third-party corroboration and chaste character to fall away, but their legacies persist today, including the tendency to disbelieve sexual assault victims and expect eyewitness testimony.

"Those things go very long and deep in our history," Freedman said.

In most states, the laws have expanded beyond rape to protect against different kinds of unwanted sexual contact. Some of the earliest American statutes related to unwanted touching were drafted in the 1920s, though they weren't applied widely until the last few decades, Freedman said.

Forty-three states and the District of Columbia have drafted laws specifically prohibiting unwanted sexual contact, according to Reveal research and an analysis by NYU's Erin Murphy and Stephen Schulhofer as part of the Model Penal Code revisions. Five states specifically address the issue under more general laws that prohibit battery, public indecency or "lewd and lascivious" behavior.

There are people trying to bring Mississippi's laws in line with the rest of the country's. In 2013, Democratic state Rep. Kimberly Campbell introduced a bill that would have created a misdemeanor crime called "indecent assault."

The bill came out of questions the attorney general's office had received from law enforcement about how to deal with adult fondling cases. Campbell said the state effectively was telling perpetrators that "this is not a big deal."

Lt. Chris De Back of the Biloxi Police Department said a law forbidding fondling could stop more serious crimes, too.

"It could be viewed as an escalating crime, where someone starts by grabbing and then escalates to fondling, and they could escalate to rape," he said. "If you can stop the act early on, maybe it may save a victim down the road or deter the suspect from escalating things."

The bill died. Opponents argued that it did not include language about intent and, in a state currently grappling with prison overcrowding, lawmakers were wary of passing a law that they said could criminalize accidental touching or bumping. Even proponents of these types of laws acknowledge that if applied inappropriately, they could be used to disproportionately target minorities. They also may stigmatize people who are not lifelong deviants, because in some states, convictions for indecent assault might land a perpetrator on a sex offender registry.

Although there still is no clear way to report, charge or prosecute cases involving adult groping and fondling in Mississippi, some criminal prosecutors said they have all of the legal tools they need to pursue the cases that come to them.

"With the laws we have in place, we've got, for the most part, the whole gamut of what we would see on a daily basis is covered," said John Champion, district attorney of Mississippi's 17th Circuit Court District, which covers counties near the Tennessee border. "There are a lot of options available to us."

Others, such as Jamie McBride, the sexual assault prosecutor for Hinds County, said that while a new sex crimes law might complicate matters, it also would help fill in a legal gap.

"It is different in my mind if you are on the street and someone pushes you versus if someone gropes you," he said. "Though it would be difficult to prove, it would be nice to have a tool in certain circumstances."

In contrast, Pennsylvania has had an indecent assault law on the books since the 1970s. In Allegheny County, the district attorney's office handles several dozen of these cases a year, said Deputy District Attorney Janet Necessary.

Last year, Necessary's office successfully prosecuted an indecent assault case involving multiple charges against a 19-year-old man who pulled down the running shorts of a woman jogging in a park. He also had tried to lift the skirt of another woman before running off earlier the same day.

Necessary said her office also has used the indecent assault law in workplaces to prosecute cases in which supervisors have sexually harassed workers in a physical way. For these types of cases, Necessary said indecent assault more accurately described the crime.

"A victim knows when someone is touching them in an intimate part, and that's for sexual gratification," she said. "The law fills a need."

Not a match

Sometimes, the limited statutes available for prosecuting sex crimes in Mississippi means the punishment for the crime doesn't always match the misdemeanor laws that police and prosecutors have at their disposal.

About eight years ago, Steven Jubera, a prosecutor in northern Mississippi, handled a case involving a jail inmate who said he woke up to find his cellmate fondling his penis. Because there was no penetration involved, the only option was to pursue the case as a misdemeanor simple assault, even though Jubera believed the crime was more serious.

Jubera said that as the stigma of reporting male-on-male fondling diminishes, he predicts that Mississippi prosecutors will see more of these cases for which the current laws don't meet their prosecutorial needs.

In northeast Mississippi, interim District Attorney John Weddle for the First Circuit Court District said he also would favor expanding the sex crime laws because he has taken calls from police for cases in which 16- and 17-year-olds said they'd been fondled by an adult. But because 16 is the age of sexual consent in many cases in Mississippi and there's no law for sex crimes outside of rape or attempted rape, Weddle had to tell the police to pursue the case as a misdemeanor simple assault.

"I would like to have an option to treat that type of an assault as a sex crime," he said.

This story was originally published by Reveal, from The Center for Investigative Reporting. Subscribe to the Reveal podcast on iTunes and learn more at Contact the reporter at



Local professionals talk about suicide awareness, prevention

by Amanda Beal

REGION — Far from being a state where suicide is rare, Idaho is consistently among the states with the highest suicide rates.

Suicide is, in fact, the second leading cause of death for Idahoans between the ages of 15 and 34.

This is among the reasons why many Idahoans are joining together in the fight against suicide — raising awareness and spreading information about resources for suicide prevention.

Part of raising awareness is working to change negative stigmas and inform the public of the truth of mental health issues.

“Stigma is alive and well with mental illness and individuals who experience suicidal thoughts,” said project/clinical director of Madison CARES Rick Croft, LCPC.

Croft said many people think that if nobody talks about suicide, it won't happen. The opposite is often true, he explained.

“Really all they need [sometimes] is one person to show that they care,” he said.

Croft has noticed a tendency in the community to think that religious activities like reading scriptures, praying and getting more involved at church are the solution to depression or suicidal thoughts.

“I'm here to say that our beliefs in higher powers ... play a role in mental illness, but it's not the fix-all,” he said.

He explained that with more minor cases like mild anxiety, people can improve through self-help books, friends, family and becoming more active in the community. But with more serious issues, it's not that simple.

“People don't choose mental illness,” Croft said. “It's environmental. It's biological. ... It just happens. Oftentimes they feel so miserable that — who would choose that?”

Another negative stigma Croft brought up is that people with mental illness are unpredictable and violent. He called this a “misnomer.”

“There's still this fear around that, and I think that fear is just lack of understanding,” he said. “That's something that I'd sure like to see change.”

Croft mentioned one resource for suicide prevention: the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-TALK).

This hotline, a program of Jannus, received a total of 1,146 calls in the second quarter of 2015, with callers ranging from the 10-14 age group to the 75-84 age group. Six of those calls were from Madison County. Forty six percent of the calls were specifically about suicide.

The hotline program plans to implement crisis text and chat response this fall.

Madison CARES, a resource specifically for Madison County, works to ensure good mental health for children, from birth to age 21. Its program is federally funded through The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, otherwise known as SAMHSA.

The program accepts referrals from parents and school personnel, and certified staff members meet with families to address mental health issues.

“We can turn them around and make them feel more successful emotionally, behaviorally, socially,” said Croft.

Program staff enlists the help of counselors, church leaders, probation officers and other professionals as necessary to help individuals get the help they need.

“We're very family driven,” Croft said.

While there is not a psychiatrist based in Rexburg, there is a Rexburg-based Mental Wellness Provider, Nathan Bradfield, PMHNP-BC, who guides patients though specialized psychiatric care. According to the Seasons Medical website, Bradfield's areas of expertise include diagnosis and treatment of depression, A.D.H.D., addiction and more.

Croft said he suspects there is a nationwide shortage of psychiatrists, and as a result psychiatrists are likely choosing more populated areas than Rexburg to do their business.

But, Croft said, the city of Rexburg needs a psychiatrist.

“There is a need,” he said.

The school district has a good relationship with a number of counseling agencies in town, however. Croft added that there are some regular physicians in town who feel more comfortable with mental health conditions than others.

“We try to use every resource possible,” he said.

The Behavioral Health Crisis Center of East Idaho is another nearby resource in the fight against suicide. It is a free, 24-hour community crisis center that seeks to provide a welcoming facility to help those passing through a behavioral health crisis.

The program is specifically geared toward adults who need support for mental health challenges and/or substance abuse issues.

“Our goal is to close the gap in behavioral healthcare by providing a welcoming approach that helps people find the local services they need,” a program brochure states. “We believe that providing these services will keep citizens out of emergency rooms and incarceration facilities.”

The crisis center is staffed with highly trained mental health professionals as well as safety officers. Individuals may stay at the facility for up to 24 hours, but according to the brochure most people get what they need in less than that amount of time.

The facility is located at 1650 N. Holmes, Idaho Falls, and more information is available at, on Facebook at or by calling 208-522-0727.

Additional resources are offered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The department issues a few different booklets called “After an Attempt.” One is a guide for medical providers in the emergency department taking care of suicide attempt survivors; another is for taking care of a family member after treatment in the emergency department.

Inside those booklets is a long list of resources for information about suicide and mental illness. Those booklets and many others can be obtained by visiting and clicking on the “Suicide Prevention” tab under “Treatment, Prevention and Recovery.”

SAHMSA has a website with an array of suicide prevention resources.

Yet another resource is the QPR Institute, which offers a unique approach to suicide prevention and help in learning how to help people considering suicide. More information and free downloads are available at

A resource aimed specifically at youth and their parents and teachers is Mental Health America's Back-to-School kit, which is available for download at

The kit discusses risk factors and early warning signs for mental health disorders in youth, contains access tools to assess the mental health of youth, teaches strategies for beginning conversations about mental health concerns and increases understanding of next steps and treatment options to help young people address mental health problems.

Youth Mental Health First Aid is a program that teaches participants about risk factors and warning signs, as well as effective intervention. This eight-hour public education program uses role-playing and simulations to help people help others in a mental health crisis.

It also helps connect youth to professional, peer, social and self-help care. For more information on this program, visit, call 202-684-7457 or email

When it comes to getting help or giving help, professionals say don't wait.

“Early intervention is the key,” Croft said.

And it's important to remember that there is hope, and there is help.

Croft said just because someone has depression or anxiety doesn't mean they always will.

“There's a ton of research to support that,” he said. “It can be resolved.”

Therapy, counseling and medical management are all pathways to recovery.

Croft encourages those who are struggling with mental illness and think there is no help to bring it up with church leaders or doctors, who can refer them to a counselor.

He expressed the importance of “reinforcing to someone that you're not alone — that there is help out there. There's always help out there.”

Croft acknowledged that many are too depressed to look for help, but the more those individuals' family, friends and neighbors learn about resources, the better.


Schools play important role in identifying child abuse

by Amy Renee Leiker

Last spring, in response to a classroom question posed by an elementary school teacher, a 5-year-old raised her hand and said something shocking.

When the girl's twin sister chimed in and corroborated the statement, the teacher took them aside.

She asked each about body parts and what was happening at home. She suspected sexual abuse.

Then came a call to 911 and police.

Later the girls' father was charged with rape.

The case – some details of which were described in a Sedgwick County District Court document – illustrates what authorities say are schools' important roles in identifying and reporting child abuse and neglect.

Reports, they say, tend to tick upward when children return to school in the fall. The reason? Teachers and school staff are watching.

“Teachers … and the school officials are so important to these cases coming to light because (they notice) the bruises and the injuries and the things no one saw all summer long because the kid was at home,” Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said.

During the summer, he said, “There's really nobody keeping an eye on the kids other than their families and those close to them,” who are most often the culprits in cases of neglect and child abuse.

A ‘safe zone'

The Wichita-Sedgwick County Exploited and Missing Child Unit, currently housed in the basement of the state office building at 130 S. Market, investigates the bulk of crimes against children in Sedgwick County.

The unit is a partnership between the Wichita Police Department, the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office and the Kansas Department for Children and Families. But other local organizations, including the school districts, also play a role in keeping kids safe, EMCU Lt. Travis Rakestraw said.

Last year EMCU handled 552 sex crimes, 754 abuse and endangerment cases, and 3,034 runaway cases, according to statistics provided by the agency.

A look at the numbers over a five-year period shows some minor fluctuations in the categories from year to year, but for the most part the case count has remained relatively flat.

Rakestraw said EMCU tends to be busier when school is in session because kids are in a more structured environment, and they're away from home. They're also talking to teachers.

“It's kind of a safe zone for them, and often they feel more comfortable reporting crimes,” he said.

Of school teachers and staff, he said: “They don't hesitate to pick up the phone and call us when they're getting a report from a student.”

‘Obligation to report'

One of the reasons teachers and school staff so readily report suspected child abuse and neglect is that they all fall into a group of people required to do so under Kansas law.

Mandatory reporters “shall report the matter promptly” if they have any reason to suspect that physical, mental, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect is harming a child, according to Diana Schunn, executive director of the Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County.

Mandatory reporters include people who provide medical care or treatment, state-licensed mental health service providers, school employees, public safety workers such as police and firefighters and anyone employed by or volunteering for organizations that provide social services to pregnant teenagers.

The law also says anyone who has reason to suspect that a child may be a victim “can report the matter,” Schunn said.

“Children aren't responsible for their own protection,” she said. “We have a moral and ethical obligation to report something when we are concerned.”

Terri Moses, executive director of Safety Services at Wichita Public Schools, said there's no specific training that's required for staff and teachers to complete; rather there are policies that staff members read and sign.

DCF, she said, has talked to school nurses and social workers about child neglect and abuse.

She also said principals at individual schools can ask and have asked EMCU to come in and speak to their teachers and staff. Some of those meetings have included discussions about the physical and behavioral signs of abuse and neglect.

But, Moses said, the main focus for district employees is this: “If you suspect, you report.”

“We don't want … staff to be investigators. Their job is to be reporters,” she said, adding that employees are told to not ask too many questions if they have suspicions.

“We emphasize, when we do get questions like that, do not investigate. It is DCF and law enforcement's job to do the investigations.”

Moses said the district recommends teachers and staff use the online reporting system at the Kansas Protection Report Center if a child doesn't appear to be in immediate danger.

If a child appears to be in imminent danger – for example, he or she is afraid to go home or there are signs of physical abuse – then the school calls 911, she said.

“The system is set up really well to assist children,” Moses said.

Signs and symptoms

Sometimes people miss the signs and symptoms of child neglect and abuse, said Diana Schunn, executive director of the Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County.

Here are some to look for:

? Unexplained injuries or explanations that are inconsistent or don't make sense

? Behavioral changes

? Fears of going home or things that haven't prompted fear in the past

? Changes in eating or sleeping habits

? Nightmares

? Changes in school performance or attendance

? Changes in personal care or hygiene

? Drinking, drug use and other risk-taking behaviors

? Age-inappropriate sexual behavior

How to help

If you notice or suspect child abuse or neglect, you should:

? Call 911 or local law enforcement department, especially if the child might be in immediate danger.

? Call the Kansas Protection Report Center at 800-922-5330.

? If the person is a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 888-373-7888.

? Parents, caregivers, youth and community members who have questions or need help navigating situations can call the free Kansas Children's Service League 24-hour Parent Helpline at 1-800-CHILDREN.

? In sexual assault cases, call the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center's 24-hour crisis line at 316-263-3002 or 877-927-2248.



Developmentally disabled adults often abused and ignored

About 70 percent of those with developmental disabilities are abused, andlittle is being done about it

by Alan Johnson, Catherine Candisky

ZANESVILLE, Ohio — The red-brick house with an inviting front porch is the home Mary always wanted.

The petite, 33-year-old developmentally disabled woman feels safe in the home she now shares with other disabled women.

But she remains haunted by sexual abuse she suffered as a child. Mary said she was 5 when her father first raped her.

The attacks made her “nervous” and “scared,” and eventually she told her mother. But her mother had her own problems and didn't help. Things just got worse.

“My mom sell me for drugs,” Mary recalled, her lip quivering and eyes swelling with tears before she buried her face in her hands.

Only a few people knew about the horror she endured.

But recently, during a sexuality-and-abuse-awareness class with dozens of other disabled adults, Mary mustered her courage and shot up her hand. The time had come to let go of her secret.

Sobbing, she told the instructor, “I want to tell you my story.”

Mary's story, unfortunately, is all too common among some of Ohio's most vulnerable residents: developmentally and physically disabled children and adults.

A four-month investigation by The Dispatch found a reporting system in Ohio in which victims often fall through the cracks and don't get help, and perpetrators go unpunished.

The disabled can be easy prey. Many don't even know what sex is, much less understand that what was done to them was wrong. Others have difficulty communicating what happened to them or are afraid to tell because their attackers are frequently family members and caregivers whom they rely on for their daily care.

Disabled victims in this story are identified by first or middle names only because The Dispatch generally doesn't indentify victims of sexual assault.

The numbers are daunting.

• Seven of 10 Americans with developmental disabilities say they have been physically and sexually assaulted, neglected or abused in some other way, and 90 percent of those reported multiple occurrences. Those figures come from a 2012 national survey by the Disability and Abuse Project, an organization that studies and reports assaults and abuse of the disabled. The survey, responded to by 7,289 people, is one of the few to quantify the problem. It found that less than 40?percent reported abuse to authorities, and those who reported it saw an arrest rate of less than 10 percent.

• In Ohio, a state reporting system for the developmentally disabled received 2,043 reports of sexual abuse from 2009 to 2014, but fewer than 1 in 4 was substantiated. An additional 8,610 reports of physical abuse were received, with a slightly higher 27 percent substantiated by the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities.

• In May, the U.S. Department of Justice reported 1.3 million violent crimes against persons with disabilities in the U.S. from 2009 to 2013. Disabled women and men are three times as likely to be raped or sexually assaulted as the general population. Younger people and those with the most severe cognitive disabilities face the highest risk.

While those statistics are appalling, national experts and advocates working day to day with the disabled say the figures are vastly understated, because most instances of abuse are never reported.

“Often, they suffer in silence, as their cries for help are ignored and not recognized as a significant problem. Nationwide, there is a cascade of system failures that cause the lack of effective response to their abuse,” said Nora Baladerian, a national expert who is director of the Disability and Abuse Project of Spectrum Institute in Los Angeles.

Baladerian calls violent physical and sexual abuse “a significant and pervasive aspect of the lives” of disabled adults and children.

Vada Snowberger, who manages the Zanesville home where Mary lives, said reported incidents of abuse are “really the tip of the iceberg. ... You can assume the majority of our folks have been abused.”

When the disabled talk about being abused — if they are verbal and can complain — they often are not believed; their complaint goes unreported by a parent, guardian, caregiver or agency; or it never makes it to the county board of developmental disabilities, the first line of defense.

If the board does get the case, a county investigative agent decides whether the allegations should be pursued and referred to the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities. Law-enforcement agencies and prosecutors, typically unprepared to deal with disabled victims, might not pursue charges against the perpetrator. Therapy for victims and family members is rarely offered.

Vulnerable and isolated

Laura, 27, a Delaware woman with developmental disabilities and mental-health issues, said her “really bad life” began when she was raped and abused by an older cousin and other boys when she was 5.

Like many with disabilities, Laura never told her story publicly, only to her parents. But they did nothing, Laura said. She received no medical care. There was no police report or investigation, and no one went to jail. Almost no one even knew.

She remembers being at her aunt's house playing “truth or dare” with her cousin and two other boys. “They told me to take down my pants.”

Laura was raped by her cousin and the other boys “one right after the other. I didn't know what was going on.”

Laura's father found her with her pants down and, though she was bleeding from her vagina, she said he took her home instead of to a doctor. Later, an uncle promised her a children's book if she performed oral sex, Laura said. She ended up in a foster home where her foster father choked her in a bathtub when she didn't clean the bathroom to suit him.

Today, wherever Laura goes, Yellow Lion — a stuffed animal in a purple dress with a jellybean nose — goes with her as comfort and security blanket. “She's the reason why I'm still here to this day,” she said. “She's my friend. When I was growing up, I didn't have a friend.”

Sexual abuse was the subject of a report in April by Disability Rights Ohio, an independent organization that was formerly a state agency that advocates for the disabled.

Ohio has “inadequate research and no statewide coordinated effort across all involved groups,” the report said. “It is critical for Ohio to address the void between the anecdotal stories of abuse and the statistics that indicate the wider failure to prevent and prosecute these crimes.”

The report said that developmentally disabled people are at greater risk of sexual abuse because they are frequently dependent on others, such as caretakers, drivers and therapists, in day-to-day activities; are isolated from the larger community; and lack the education about how to identify abuse and report it.

Kristen Henry, an attorney with Disability Rights, says the disabled should be taught “that they can say no, that you should report it, that it's wrong for someone to do this to you. ... I think as a society, people don't think of people with disabilities as real, adult human beings who have bodies that work the same way as our bodies and that they have the same needs and the same wants as other people.”

Nancy Smith, a Reynoldsburg woman who is head of victimization safety for the Vera Institute, a national organization focusing on justice and safety issues, said there's a lack of awareness about the disabled.

“In society in general, people with disabilities tend to be invisible,” Smith said. “There's been a lot of work for more integration of people with disabilities into society, but you still see social segregation.

“It's hard for us to conjure up in our minds they could be victimized. ... We don't see them as sexual beings. But when we don't tell this information, they sometimes don't even know the names of their own body parts. They know it wasn't feeling good, but they didn't know to name it as abuse.”

Advocate for victims

Sadie Hunter, executive director of People First Ohio, is a relentless advocate for the disabled and of education to help prevent sexual abuse. Working with a shoestring budget, Hunter's nonprofit group, based in Delaware, Ohio, leads education and training classes around the state. In these sessions, scores of people — including Mary — realize, perhaps for the first time, that they have been assaulted, they can say no and speak up about it.

“We know it's rampant,” Hunter said. “My No. 1 thing is to get them some help. If they've lived this long with all this inside their little hearts, it's got to hurt them. A lot say they are just scared they are going to be hurt again.”

Hunter said she once had a training class of 50 people and only one had not been abused.

During a recent session at the Muskingum Starlight Industries Adult Services & Workshop in Zanesville, Hunter led 70 adults with developmental disabilities through a manual explaining how to recognize and report abuse.

Some cried as Hunter described, using simple words and pictures, what abuse is. Others asked for her microphone so they could share their stories. A few just wanted to be hugged. Some asked what sex is and if it hurts. One man said his mother told him she'd kill him if he ever had sex.

“Nobody should touch your body unless you want them to,” Hunter said. “Is it OK to have sex if you're an adult? Heck yeah. We're all sexual human beings.”

Lifelong pain

Abuse often has long-term repercussions for victims, causing physical and emotional pain and leading some to hurt others.

Frank, 39, a Columbus native who lives in Knox County, was repeatedly raped as a child. When he grew up, he became the abuser he feared as a child.

At age 12, his parents sent their developmentally disabled son to live with an older couple where he slept on a couch in the living room. One night, the man came to the couch and raped Frank. Later, the wife began molesting him, too. It went on for weeks.

“I tried to tell my parents about being sexually abused, but they didn't want to listen,” Frank said. “They figured I was lying.”

After rejoining his family, Frank said he started “doing the same thing to other kids that happened to me.” As a result, he ended up serving time in both juvenile and adult prisons, where he was again victimized.

The attacks on the couch haunt him decades later.

“I have nightmares about it. I don't like darkness. I've got to have a nightlight on.”

Baladerian and other experts say that because there's so little awareness of the problem, victims rarely get the help they need to heal.

“There are scattered efforts around the country to fill in some of these gaps,” Baladerian said. “But there is no state that I am aware of that has a robust program to address the myriad problems that would protect their citizens from abuse and efficiently provide protection and psychological support in the aftermath.”

Mary says she has forgiven her parents, both now deceased, and hasn't let the abuse define her life. The roommates she proudly introduces as her best friends are her family now. She eagerly goes to work each morning at a sheltered workshop, volunteers at a nursing home where she likes to paint residents' nails, and goes to church on Sundays.

She said she shared her story in the hope that it will help others avoid being abused.

“My dad touched where I didn't want to be touched,” Mary said. “I didn't appreciate it, and I don't want it to happen to other people.”


Society has to stop treating celebrity kids like sexually mature adults

by Morgan Jerkins

This past Sunday, Tyga and Kylie Jenner essentially confirmed their long-rumored relationship via Tyga's new song and accompanying video “Stimulated.” In the fairly explicit song, Tyga brags about having sex with a much younger woman: “They say she young/ She should have waited/ She a big girl, dawg, when she stimulated.” While not technically naming Kylie, it's not exactly a leap to divine the true meaning of the lyrics. Tyga, a 25-year-old father of one, has known Kylie Jenner and her family since she was eleven-years-old. There have been multiple reports of them vacationing in Paris and a social media trail dates their relationship back to before she turned 18.

While many in the media—especially the celebrity media—has treated the story as racy gossip, a grown man having sex with a minor isn't romantic, cute or “scandalous.” More broadly, the Kylie-Tyga saga is an example of the way society continues to perpetuate the sexualization of child celebrities, packaging them for our consumption and entertainment with little thought to the emotional repercussions.

According to Debra Merskin of the University of Oregon's department of journalism and communications, magazines and newspapers have played a significant role in the sexualization of children, both regular and famous. In 1993, for example, The New York Times published a fashion spread called “Lolita is a Comeback Kid” featuring grown women dressed as adolescent girls.

But this blurring of the lines between adulthood and childhood is particularly apparent in the way celebrity children have been photographed and displayed. In 1981, a 15-year-old Brooke Shields starred in an instantly controversial Calvin Klein ad. Her line? “Nothing comes between me and my Calvins.” In 1999, a 17-year-old Britney Spears was photographed for Rolling Stone lying on a bed in a bra while cuddling a purple Teletubbie. Nine years later, 15-year-old Disney princess Miley Cyrus was photographed in Vanity Fair suggestively wrapped in a silk bed sheet.

The message is clear—when it comes to famous young women (and men) the normal rules about consent and sexuality don't apply the same way. It's okay for Brooke Shields to flirt with the camera because she's “acting,” for example. Never mind the fact that she's the age of the average sophomore in high school.

Granted, the societal problem is nuanced by intersectional issues of race. Celebrity children of color are arguably at risk of hypersexualization at a much younger age than their white counterparts, and for different reasons. At just nine years old, satirical site The Onion called Quvenzhané Wallis a cunt. At just three, Beyoncé's daughter Blue Ivy Carter was the subject of an equally off color joke on Hulu's Difficult People: “I can't wait for Blue Ivy to be old enough for R. Kelly to piss on her.” The difference in the aforementioned cases is that the hyper-sexualization of black celebrities does not seem to stem from a sense of desire, as in the cases of Brooke Shields or Britney Spears. Rather, these comments are designed to ridicule.

Perhaps, we gloss over the potential consequences of exploitative or predatory behavior because actors by nature must slip between different personas, creating a dehumanizing wall between the public and the private aspects of their lives. In this context appearance, personality and even age can seem like a construct.

But money and fame do not beget advanced emotional maturity. In some cases, the nature of childhood stardom—in which young celebrities grow up isolated and potentially vulnerable—may make abuse worse. As former actor Corey Feldman detailed in his 2013 memoir Coreyography, both he and Corey Haim were sexually abused by older men who assured them that such relations were normal in show business. According to psychologist Dr. Denise A. Hines and sociologist David Finkelhor, both adolescent girls and boys who engage in sex with adult men may be looking for emotional and financial security they are not receiving at home.

Statutory rape—sex between an adult and a minor—is a complicated problem from both a cultural and legal perspective because participants generally argue that the sex is consensual. It may take years for the true toll of such relationships to reveal itself. But that's why it's so important for the adults in the room to step in when cases occur. This means critics should be making sure Tyga's “Stimulated” is not played on the radio and push back when he makes excuses in the press. " She seemed old for her age” is simply not a valid argument when it comes to sexual consent.

Yes, celebrities are selling products. They become brands and commoditize themselves, often with incredibly lucrative results. However, we cannot consume an adult celebrity in the same way that we do a young boy or girl, whether or not they tell us it's okay. Tyga is not simply "chasing controversy" with “Stimulated,” he's bragging about having sex with a high schooler. The fact that this high schooler happened to grow up in the public eye is irrelevant. If anything, the pressures of being a young celebrity make the entire situation all the more dangerous.



School bullying, and what we should do next

by Shawn Hubler

In first grade, he was thrown out of the boys' bathroom for being “girlie.” In second grade, he was slammed into a bathroom sink and split his lip.

By fourth grade, he was afraid to go to school, having been shoved face down in the mud after joining the mostly female, school cheer club. In fifth grade, he was disciplined for cursing at a boy who'd dumped a fruit cup on his head.

His parents moved him to another school in the district. But by sixth grade, his pediatrician was recommending home school rather than the “firing squad” that was his middle school classroom.

Ronin Shimizu spent half of his short life being hurt by other children. At age 12, he committed suicide.

Tragedies like Ronin's, who died in December at his home in Folsom, are the price of our inadequacy against the emotional issues and adult misconceptions that foster school bullying.

This week his devastated parents settled their lawsuit against the Folsom Cordova Unified School District. The district admits no wrongdoing, but will pay the family $1 million. His old elementary school's website, with its prominent “Report Bullying” links and online report form, testifies to the desire to do right by his memory.

But what is right? State and federal lawmakers enact legislation. Advocates tell kids that it gets better. Schools haul students into assemblies on respect.

It's on our radar, we tell ourselves. We're doing more about this than any generation before us. And that's true. But then there are casualties like Ronin, so obviously it's not enough.

As a parent who has raised three children in public, private and parochial schools in California, I think the missing link is in our emotional education. Parents, teachers and kids need more understanding of the complex dynamics behind stories like Ronin's, more compassion and wisdom, and better mental health care.

Just skimming the academic research on bullying is enlightening. It may help to know, for instance, that bullying isn't an epidemic, headlines notwithstanding.

Most kids don't do it, though studies show that the outliers who do are often also among the popular children. Nor does bullying alone cause suicide.

Bullying as experts define it – the sustained and repeated aggression of one or more kids with power against weaker children – has always been with us. It's not some fluke of our social media age.

And not every incident that seems to be bullying is what it looks like. Sometimes the bully is also a victim. Sometimes there are more serious mental health issues. Sometimes it's more like ordinary drama, and the victim is also lashing out.

Such nuance is hard to address with blunt instruments like zero tolerance policies and state legislation. California's anti-bullying statute was 4 years old when Ronin took his life. It was named for a boy like Ronin, who was terrorized throughout his childhood for his effeminate demeanor and subsequently committed suicide.

Laws and policies provide an important foundation. And advocacy is immensely important. Campus Gay-Straight Alliances alone have, I suspect, saved innumerable lives.

But the full solution has to be at least as close to the ground as the problem. How do we teach our children, for example, that just a comforting word or a kind text can help a targeted child withstand harassment? How do we convince clueless teachers, principals and parents that child abuse by other children does real damage, and isn't something kids can just “shake off”?

How do we get good psychological help for bullies and victims, and get bystanders to be braver and more empathetic?

That's one-on-one stuff, requiring real therapists on the ground and real consciousness-raising. It's hard, but for the sake of all the Ronins out there, I hope it informs our next steps.


Confidence in Parenting May Break Cycle of Abuse

by Traci Pedersen

Mothers who suffered abuse during their childhood years have greater doubt in their own ability to be a good parent, and these beliefs can manifest in their parenting skills, according to a new study by psychologists at the University of Rochester.

Intervention programs for moms at-risk, therefore, should focus on boosting self-confidence, not just teach parenting skills, the researchers said.

“If a mom who was maltreated as a child can sustain some strong beliefs in her competency as a mom, then it may help break the cycle of abuse and buffer her children against that kind of experience she had. That is where this research has led us so far,” said lead researcher Louisa Michl, a doctoral student in the department of psychology at the University of Rochester.

The study, published online in the journal Child Maltreatment , found that moms who experienced more types of abuse as children — sexual abuse, physical or emotional abuse, and physical or emotional neglect — have higher levels of self-criticism, and therefore greater doubt in their ability to be effective parents.

“We know that maltreated children can have really low self-esteem,” said Michl. “And when they become adults, we've found that some of these moms become highly self-critical about their ability to parent effectively. Research has shown that this type of self-doubt is related to poor parenting — yelling, hitting, and other kinds of negative parenting behaviors.”

The study involved mothers who were clinically depressed, as well as those who were not. All were from low-income households.

“For families living in poverty, daily stresses can quickly add up, and parenting, which can be challenging for anyone, can become overwhelming,” said Michl.

“Our research shows that self-criticism leads to lower-confidence in parenting abilities in previously maltreated mothers and this was true in non-depressed moms as well as depressed mothers,” she added.

Previous research has found that a mother's confidence is closely linked to her motivation to use positive child-rearing strategies.

“When a mom has confidence in her ability to use positive strategies when under stress, like when her child throws a tantrum in a grocery store, then she is more likely to parent effectively,” explained Michl, who is also a clinical therapist.

Currently, most parenting interventions are simply “how-to” programs. They teach new moms how to feed and burp their babies, explains Michl, and what to do if the baby cries.

“That's all well and good — moms can learn those skills,” said Michl. “But what happens when they are in a stressful situation? What do they do?

“If they don't have the attitude — the belief that they can do this, that they can be a good mom and enact all those things they learned — then they may fall back on how they themselves were treated as children.”

Michl hopes that community services that offer intervention support will focus more on the mother's mental health and teach her that her critical self-beliefs could be getting in the way of believing she can be a good parent.

“Making sure moms have good parenting skills is really important. But we can support these moms in a more holistic way: provide her the facts, but also help her to believe in herself.”


Everyone can play role in preventing child abuse

Barbara Vernon of Child And Parent Services explains how the community can help keep Elkhart County children from being abused.

by Barbara Vernon

A friend asked me a question recently that is still on my mind: “How in the world do we know who is safe to leave our children with?” If it is true that more than 75 percent of perpetrators of abuse are known to the children being abused, how do we keep our children safe?

We have all seen articles and heard stories about uncles, cousins, friends of the family, mentors, teachers, coaches, even Subway spokesperson Jared Fogle being charged with acts against children. How do we keep children safe amidst all of this? The honest answer is there is no easy answer. But there are some basic facts and principles that may help us wrap our minds around the issue.

It is a fact that the Elkhart County Child and Family Advocacy Center worked with more than 1,300 children in the last two years. With few exceptions, they all live in Elkhart County. These children come to the center because there has been some allegation of abuse or neglect. Not all of these children are victims of abuse and not all of these cases lead to charges against a perpetrator. They are brought to the center by one or two of a group of professionals from the Department of Child Services, local law enforcement and the Elkhart County Prosecutor's Office who are specially trained to work with these cases.

Another fact is that child abuse prevention begins at home. That is where primary prevention is most effective. Those parents who are talking to children about private parts, boundaries and who is safe to talk to if anything does happen to them are vital to the battle against child abuse and exploitation. These discussions do not need to be filled with warnings and threats. The conversation can be empowering and educational. We have relied on schools to have these difficult discussions with children for far too long. It is time for parents to reinforce the work being done in the schools and begin even earlier than school age to have basic discussions with their children. There are many tools available to assist with these talks, tools the professionals here at CAPS use on a daily basis in their work with families.

Adults also struggle with the fact that children do not respond to abuse the way we might expect. As adults, we want to believe children will instinctively run to a safe person and tell them what has happened. It is my experience that this is the furthest thing from real-life experience.

There are a number of reasons children keep abuse and exploitation quiet. The process of abuse, especially when perpetrated by someone the child knows, is very confusing and the child may not understand everything that has happened or recognize it as abuse. The act may be framed as a game or a secret and the child doesn't realize the need to tell if there has been no previous education. The child may have good interactions with the perpetrator 95 percent of the time, but it in a small percentage of time abuse or exploitation is occurring.

The child may also fear repercussions if they tell, especially if the perpetrator is known to them or their family members. They may fear disbelief from parents, friends, classmates, teachers, counselors and family members. Children often have an overriding fear that they will be blamed for the abuse or punished in some way. This fear is present regardless of the age of the child, the abuse perpetrated against them, or the relationship with the perpetrator.

Disclosing abuse is a scary prospect for a child if there has been no education or previous conversations regarding body safety and boundaries with parents or guardians. Education is the key to keeping our children safe. There must be education of parents, adults who interact with children frequently and, most importantly, children.

Keeping children safe needs to be the top priority in our community and it will take everyone in our community working together to achieve it. Everyone has a role to play:

  • Parents having difficult yet much-needed discussions with their children
  • Neighbors keeping a careful eye on interactions they witness
  • Individuals who interact with children on a daily basis and trained professionals who intervene when trouble arises.

To be a part of this fight, we all must be educated on child abuse prevention. Are you willing to learn?

Barbara Vernon is the Vice President of Programs at CAPS – Child And Parent Services, where she is also a trained forensic interviewer for the Child And Family Advocacy Center. Learn more about CAPS at


Transient held for making lewd gestures in Malibu, Calabasas areas

by Brenda Gazzar, Los Angeles Daily News

A 33-year-old homeless man has been arrested on suspicion of making lewd comments and gestures to at least five teens in the Malibu and Calabasas areas and is due in court Monday morning, authorities said Sunday.

William Russell Hix, a transient who formerly had a Bel Air address, was arrested by Los Angeles County Sheriff's officials following several reports of a man making lewd remarks and gestures towards children as they rode the Calabasas Beach Bus or at Malibu beaches, officials said in a written statement.

In the first incident, a young girl reported to a Calabasas Parks and Recreation employee that her 14-year-old brother had been approached by a white male on Aug. 4 while riding the bus. The suspect allegedly asked the boy to place a condom on him. The employee immediately notified the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff's station and an initial complaint report was taken, officials said.

Subsequently, sheriff's detectives learned of a Craigslist posting, which was accompanied by a photo, and other social media messages by area youth warning others about similar activity involving the suspect. Sheriff's detectives were also contacted by four female teens, who said they had been approached by the suspect on the beach bus or at the beach in Malibu before making lewd comments and frightening them. Some of the girls said the suspect referred to himself “by an obscene nickname,” officials said.

Hix was arrested by sheriff's officials after a resident spotted suspect who was shown in the teen's social media posting loitering in the park at 3701 Lost Hills Road in Calabasas.

Five misdemeanor counts of annoying/molesting a child have been filed against the suspect with Los Angeles County prosecutors. He is due to be arraigned in Van Nuys court on Monday morning, officials said.


God made all of me: Empowering children against abuse

by Boz Tchividjian

One of the many challenges parents and guardians have in protecting those in their care is how to educate younger children about sexual abuse. Not only can the topic be incredibly uncomfortable to bring up with 5 year old, but most of us simply don't know how to do it in an effective and non-traumatizing way. As a result, oftentimes these critically important conversations never take place. My dear friends, Justin and Lindsey Holcomb, have written a beautifully illustrated book that gives parents and caregivers the tools to have these necessary conversations in a manner that will effectively empower little ones without fear. I am thrilled to be able to post this interview with Justin and Lindsey as this God Made All of Me is released on Monday. I hope that this interview will be an encouragement and help to parents and caregivers as they seek ways to protect their little ones from abuse. Enjoy. – Boz

Boz: Thank you both for joining us for this important conversation about God Made All of Me. Who should read this book and why?

Justin & Lindsey: We highly recommend that parents and caregivers of 2 to 8 year-old children should read this book. We wrote it as a tool so they can explain to their children that God made their bodies. Because private parts are private, there can be lots of questions, curiosity, or shame regarding them. For their protection, children need to know about private parts and understand that God made their body and made it special.

Boz: Why was it important for the two of you to write a book about empowering children against abuse?

Justin & Lindsey: Parents need tools to help talk with their kids about their bodies and to help them understand the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touch. It allows families to build a first line of defense against sexual abuse in the safety of their own homes.

Our hope is that parents and caregivers will use this book as a tool to help protect their child from sexual abuse in a way that is not frightening. We want parents and caregivers to be smarter and better prepared than those who would want to harm children. While we know that actions by adults can be more effective than expecting children to protect themselves from sexual abuse, children still need accurate, age-appropriate information about child sexual abuse and have the confidence that parents and caregivers will support them. That is why we used the storybook approach.

Boz: What are your respective backgrounds and how did they prepare and qualify you to write this book?

Justin & Lindsey: We have two young children and wrote the book we needed for them. Lindsey was a victims' advocate at a sexual assault crisis agency and a case manager at a domestic violence shelter. In both settings, she dealt with the issue of child sexual abuse. Lindsey also earned a Master in Public Health. Justin is a minister and teaches courses on recognizing, preventing, and responding to abuse for seminaries. Also, when Justin was younger he was abused by an extended family member. So, this topic is not just professional but also personal.

Boz: What do the statistics about child sexual abuse tell us about the importance of tackling this topic with our kids?

Justin & Lindsey: Child sexual abuse is much more prevalent than most people realize. Also, offenders are usually not strangers. They are often people who are known and trusted by both parents and children. For example, one research study found that 34 percent of assailants were family members, 58 percent were acquaintances, and only 7 percent of the perpetrators were strangers to the victim.

Approximately 1 in 5 children will be sexually abused by their eighteenth birthday. Of child sexual abuse victims, approximately 10 percent of victims are age three and under, 28 percent are between ages four and seven, 26 percent are between ages eight and eleven, and 36 percent are twelve and older.

Boz: I have found that many parents want to have this conversation with their children, but are too uncomfortable to talk with them about specific body parts, etc. Others are apprehensive about frightening their child. How can parents address these concerns in order to have this critically important conversation with their children?

Justin & Lindsey: We are convinced that a major reason why parents don't have these conversations is the “embarrassment factor.” They feel awkward talking about private parts to their kids so they avoid the conversations.

However, to teach children about sexual abuse it is important to explain about private parts. Clearly identify for your child which parts of their anatomy are private. Explain to your child that “some places on your body should never be touched by other people—except when you need help in the bathroom, or are getting dressed, or when you go to the doctor.” You can do this with young children during bath time or have your child dress in a bathing suit and show them that all areas covered by a bathing suit are “private.” The bathing suit analogy can be a bit misleading because it fails to mention that other parts of the body can be touched inappropriately (like mouth, legs, neck, arms), but it is a good start for little ones to understand the concept of private parts.

To teach about sexual abuse offenders, it is important to teach your kids about “tricky people.” Tricky people are grown-ups who ask kids for help or tell kids to keep a secret from their parents. It is really important to let your children know that even adults that they know and love can hurt them. Repeatedly encourage them to talk to you if any adult ever hurts them or makes them feel bad or uncomfortable, regardless of whether that adult is a family member or dad's best friend. Also, teach your kids not to do anything or go anywhere with any adult at all, unless they ask for permission first.

Boz: What are some of the mistakes parents make when talking to their children about their bodies?

Justin & Lindsey: A common mistake parents make is not taking with their children about their bodies and body parts. Parents cannot afford to wait on this conversation with their children and the conversation needs to be often. Use the correct words for your children's genitalia so that they can identify if something happens as well as not have confusion over their bodies and the parts that God created. Promise them that they will never be in trouble and can talk with you about anything anytime. It is so important for us to remember to listen to our children when they tell us things even if it is something small so they will feel comfortable telling us the big things that happen in their lives. Check in with your kids often about people in their life. Ask them how their babysitter or teacher or coach makes them feel so you can gather if they feel safe around them or worried.

Boz: Some parents may believe that it is enough to simply read this book and tell their children to let them know if anyone ever touches their private parts? Do you agree? Why or why not?

Justin & Lindsey: This book is a great start, but it is not enough to read it once and tell children to inform parents if they are touched inappropriately. Talking about private parts and appropriate/inappropriate touch is not a one-time conversation that you get done so you can move on to something else. This book is a tool for the larger responsibilities that parents have. Instead of having “THE talk” and being done, parents need to keep the conversation going, invite questions, and keep lines of communication open.

In addition to personal safety training, parents must becomemvigilant, educated, and aware of potential risks and threats to their children's safety.

Boz: What are some facts parents need to know about child sexual offenders? Also, what and how much should they tell their children about offenders?

Justin & Lindsey: Although strangers are stereotyped as perpetrators of sexual assault, the evidence indicates that a high percentage of offenders are acquaintances of the victim. Also, most child sexual abuse offenders describe themselves as religious and some studies suggest the most egregious offenders tend to be actively involved with their faith community.

Dr. Anna Salter, a psychologist who has been studying sexual offenders for decades, states it is important for parents and child-serving organizations such as churches to avoid “high risk situations.” This is because “we cannot detect child molesters or rapists with any consistency” and thus “must pay attention to ways of deflecting any potential offenders from getting access to our children.”

Many youth organizations have prevented the abuse of children in their care simply by limiting the access of potential offenders to boys and girls. Child abusers count on privacy to avoid detection of their criminal behavior. When churches or other faith institutions remove this privacy it becomes more difficult for the offender to succeed.

Boz: What advice do either of you have for parents who want to create an open environment in their home, so children always feel comfortable talking to them about issues related to their sexuality or body?

Justin & Lindsey: We remind parents that some people are out their looking to prey on our children. We have a duty to protect and prepare them for the world and to fight for them. By talking with them candidly (and again developmentally appropriate) about their bodies, we are setting up safe guards around them.

Boz: As you both write and speak about child sexual abuse, what are some of the unique challenges facing the Christian community about how to better understand and respond to this issue?

Justin & Lindsey: Too often the churches ignore physical, sexual, emotional, and even spiritual child abuse, despite the prevalence of abuse within faith communities. Even worse, Christians have often unwittingly contributed to the suffering of victims because of a failure to protect children and adequately respond to disclosures of sexual abuse. Too many don't do background checks or have effective child-centered safeguarding policies and procedures.

Additionally, clergy and lay leaders often overlook the many needs of those within their congregations who are adult survivors of child sexual abuse. Pastors don't discuss the issue of abuse and how the Gospel can bring hope and healing to those who have suffered sexual abuse. Even worse, some blame victims for the sin done against them.

Boz: Where can parents turn if they have any questions regarding this topic or if they simply want additional resources on issues related to sexual abuse or on how to most appropriately address this subject with their children?

Justin & Lindsey: GRACE has helpful material available on the site as does the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center.

Boz: What a thrill it was for me to learn that you both dedicated this book to GRACE. Thank you!

I've had the privilege to serve on the board of GRACE for a few years. We admire the work GRACE does in empowering the Christian community through education and training to recognize, prevent, and respond to child abuse. The ministry of GRACE is important and has helped so many.

Justin is a minister and teaches at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Lindsey now works at home, but previously served as a case manager at a sexual assault crisis center and a domestic violence shelter. Learn more about Justin at and follow him at @justinholcomb. Follow Lindsey at @lindseyholcomb.

Learn more about God Made All of Me at


Beyond Breaking the Silence

by Lyndon Haviland and Teresa C. Younger

Breaking the Silence is a catalytic moment in the emerging movement to end child sexual abuse. We must leverage the momentum of this film and go beyond conversation and into action.

In recent years, child sexual abuse has begun to emerge from the shrouds of secrecy and shame that have allowed it to remain hidden within society. Despite this, stigma remains, fueled by fear, shame and misinformation. Last night, TLC aired Breaking the Silence , a documentary addressing the realities of child sexual abuse from the perspective of survivors and two organizations working to end child sexual abuse.

This documentary exposed the harsh realities of child sexual abuse and shared the message that prevention is possible and support and treatment for survivors is available. As longtime advocates, we know this is simply a start and there is no time to lose.

Today, there are 42 million survivors of child sexual abuse in the United States alone, and at a minimum, one in 10 children are sexually abused before the age of 18. Millions of these survivors will live in silence, dealing with the effects of this abuse for the rest of their lives. Until every survivor has the support, care and treatment they need and every child has the chance for a safe and healthy childhood, child sexual abuse will remain a tragedy for our society. We need to shift our cultural norms to ensure that adults who have suffered from child sexual abuse are not stigmatized and that protecting our next generation from sexual abuse is an everyday expectation rather than an effort.

Every child deserves to be safe, and protecting children from abuse is an adult responsibility.

This will be no easy task. Child sexual abuse is likely the most prevalent health issue faced by our children today, with a serious array of medical and social consequences that can persist into adulthood. Child sexual abuse is nondiscriminatory. It affects every demographic in every community. To address short and long-term consequences of abuse, we must create a national standard for prevention, protection and response, as well as focusing on the availability of treatment and de-stigmatization of survivors. All of us have a role to play to create a world where children are free to thrive.

Prevention begins at home. Ninety percent of sexually abused children are abused by someone they or their family knows. We must learn how to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. The path to change starts with each one of us and it begins today.

That does not absolve the rest of the community from necessary action. As community leaders, we must refuse to sweep child sexual abuse under the rug and commit to talking about child protection. By promoting discussion and public awareness of abuse and providing ongoing prevention education to all community members and youth serving organizations, communities can greatly decrease the risk of child sexual abuse and help survivors heal.

Our elected officials and policymakers must also take a stand. At the legislative level, we must create a national standard of child protection. Legislators have the unique ability to reach and affect a wide audience-base. Currently, states across the country are creating a range of laws that are both piecemeal and bootstrapped. This disjointed process is creating a disparate and ineffective system that fails to address child sexual abuse in a comprehensive way. Some require aspects of professional training, child training, mandated reporter training and/or hiring policy but very few display a comprehensive understanding of this issue and most are not funded. While grassroots efforts are admirable and necessary, national change requires national policy. We must have laws that require funded sexual abuse prevention training for all volunteers and professionals that work with youth as well as institutional policies on hiring and background checks. Our children deserve common sense legislation that will protect them.

Breaking the Silence has started a national conversation. Now, it's our responsibility to continue talking about child sexual abuse, prevention and treatment and join the advocates building a movement to end child sexual abuse. Together we can take action to protect children and support survivors today and make our world a safer place for children in the future.

Lyndon Haviland, is the CEO of Darkness to Light.

Teresa C. Younger is the president and CEO of the Ms. Foundation for Women.




American culture has turned abusive

by Pat Hunt

You and I have grown up in a violent, abusive household. I don't know you, but even if you are a Mennonite who grew up on a farm, you have grown up in a violent household. The household I am speaking of is the United States.

We know that children who grow up in households of abuse and violence are more likely than than those who grew up in non-abusive households to be abusive and possibly violent as adults. If Daddy was beating up Mama and if both were yelling at the children and hitting them, some of them anyway, the children are likely to suffer psychological consequences for the rest of their lives. If the household order was maintained by the threat of violence and bullying, the children went through their childhoods walking on eggshells even on the days when all was well.

Some of us have worked in places with a bully boss. You never knew when the outrage was going to burst. Every employee was kept in a state of anxiety, even some guy whose name wasn't even known to the boss. People react to an environment where others are being attacked. Who hasn't seen someone yell and jerk around a child in a grocery store? Our hearts race, our blood pressure rises, and the effects last for hours after the incident. If we get that upset just observing abuse in a public place, can we imagine the toll it takes if you work under an abusive boss?

The Colony of Virginia brought in slaves in 1619. From that day until the outbreak of the Civil War, we lived in a system where order was maintained by violence and the threat of violence. You didn't have to see it. You didn't have to feel the lash or abuse others yourself. Everyone was like a child in an abusive, violent household. Every person here knew what was going on. Everyone knew that the system would cease to exist were it not held in place by violence.

The system lasted for over 200 years. Then there was a catastrophic war, and as quickly as possible after the South was defeated, it put into place a system of segregation, Jim Crow, maintained by violence.

I grew up in the South, and not once did I see physical violence used against African-Americans. I never really thought about it. But somewhere in my brain I knew that if a black child wanted to go to a Disney movie at the Paramount Theater, she had better sit in the balcony. If she dared sit downstairs, physical force would be used to remove her. I knew that the social system was being kept in place by the threat of violence. I knew it was not so much law as fear, terror, that held it together.

All countries have mentally ill people. All countries have some violent people. But the countries that have in their history a social system enforced by violence will produce a violent society even after many of the legal problems have been addressed. If you are born into violence, marinated in it, it becomes a part of you. Americans are not violent because we have guns; we have guns because we are violent.

All of us have been scarred, some more than others. Black people who have lived in a constant state of anxiety have been scarred the most, but even the Mennonite children had to have felt the effects. Murders no longer surprise us. We are like children in a home where Daddy beating little Jimmy no longer surprises us. It is just how we live. It is what Daddy does. You can get used to almost anything.

We don't even notice the scars all that much. We just analyze the biographies of the killers.

There are organizations for adult survivors of child abuse. There are also treatments for PTSD. Most of don't think of ourselves as either of those. But we eat too much and take too many drugs. We are anxious and often angry. We watch TV shows that are contests in which participants are publicly humiliated. That sounds to me like what happens to the adult children of abuse.

I wish we could see in each other not political or race or class enemies, but sisters and brothers who have survived a difficult history who have great potential for wisdom and compassion. We are a remarkable people with an important role to play in the world.



Community can help reduce child abuse

by Maytal Levi

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Ohio (WDTN) – Several child abuse cases have been in the headlines recently.

2 NEWS wanted to learn more about the people responsible for fighting those cases. Montgomery County's CARE House sees 10 to 15 cases of child abuse every week.

“There's a lot of cases that stick with you, that you think about,” said Kelly Madzey, Montgomery County supervising attorney of child abuse bureau.

Madzey says already this year she has seen more than 400 child abuse cases come across her desk, the majority of them involve sexual abuse.

“I gave up trying to understand how or why people could act on a child like that or how they could sexualize a child,” said Madzey.

Recently, these types of cases have made national headlines from former Subway spokesman, Jared Fogle, allegedly paying for sex with minors, to recently here in the Miami Valley, where a Bellefontaine woman is accused of killing her three sons.

“It's disbelief. You cannot believe people treat their children or any young child that way. It's hard to believe and unimaginable, but it does happen,” said Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck.

Heck says it is essential to say something if you see something.

The county has one of the newest facilities in the country dealing with child abuse. Heck says the goal of CARE House is for child victims to only tell their story once.

“A young boy said why do people have to keep asking me what happened,” said Heck.

Since CARE House opened in 1999, victim advocates have helped more than 9,000 children.

The new building located at 410 Valley Street was built with the help of local donations.


Know the signs, report child sexual abuse

by Vinod B. Rao

Recent stories reported in the press surrounding issues of child sexual abuse present an opportunity to discuss some key issues surrounding the topic which are important for the public to understand.

Child sexual abuse and sexual assault are significant concerns in society today with the most common perpetrators of sexual abuse being someone known to the child. The often-thought-of “stranger assaults and abuse” are actually very rare.

Child sexual abuse can include but not be limited to the following: contact for sexual purposes, molestation, statutory rape, prostitution/human trafficking, pornography, exposure, incest, as well as other forms of sexual exploitation. Research has shown that approximately 15-30 percent of female and 5-15 percent of male children are exposed to sexual abuse and 5-10 percent of female and up to 5 percent of male children are exposed to sexual abuse involving penetration.

It is important for all members of the public to remember that in Kentucky all citizens are mandated by law to report suspected child maltreatment when they are presented with reasonable cause to suspect that it is occurring. This includes child sexual abuse.

When a child makes statements to an adult that raises these concerns it can often be very difficult for that adult to hear and may often cause a sense of shock or dismay in the adult; however, it is important to maintain a calm demeanor and provide supportive statements without asking excessive questions. In addition to reporting the abuse to the authorities, it is vital to seek medical attention when appropriate, and if unsure whether medical attention is needed, to call and speak with the child's pediatrician for guidance.

Children who have been sexually abused can present with varying degrees of signs and symptoms. These may include any or none of the following: daytime wetting accidents, night time bed wetting, soiling (stool) accidents, depression, anxiety, fear, sleep disturbance, appetite changes, self-esteem problems, interpersonal relationship problems, regression of development, sexualized behavior, change in school behavior, blood in urine, burning with urination, unexplained genital/oral bruising, or sexually transmitted disease as well as possible pain, bleeding, discharge, or lesions of the vagina, penis, anus or mouth.

While being vigilant and reporting suspicions of child sexual abuse is important, the strongest way to combat the issue is prevention. It is important to educate children about proper names to call the penis, vagina, buttocks and breast and to teach them that these areas are private and it is not okay for other people have the child see or touch those areas on the other person nor is it appropriate for other people to ask to see or touch those areas on the child. A child should be taught that this includes anyone and not just strangers; however, teaching about danger from strangers is also important.

Children also need to understand that if anyone touches them or asks them to do anything uncomfortable, they need to tell an adult and that it is okay for them to tell. In addition to teaching children, awareness and knowledge for all professionals and caregivers who interact with children are important regarding signs to watch for as well as how to talk to kids about preventing sexual abuse.

To report suspected sexual abuse in Kentucky, call the Kentucky Child Protection Hotline toll-free 24/7 at (877) KYSAFE1 / (877) 597-2331. In Indiana, call the Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline toll-free 24/7 at (800) 800-5556. Children may also be brought to the Emergency Department at Kosair Children's Hospital.

By remaining vigilant and properly educating children as well as the community that cares for children we can help to prevent, recognize and properly care for children who have been sexually abused.

Vinod B. Rao, M.D., F.A.A.P. - is a pediatrician at the University of Louisville with expertise in child sexual abuse


Child welfare: Transforming Trauma

by Camille Schraeder

So, what is trauma? What does it mean when you hear of traumatized children, and why should it matter to you? Trauma may be closer to you then you know, and the effects of trauma can last far into the future—for the victims of trauma, as well as those who care about them.

My hope with this column is to focus on what trauma is: why it matters and how we can ultimately transform the negative effects of it on our children, our young adults, our families, and our community.

With trauma, the goal is not to erase it—that is impossible—but rather to help people recognize and understand their trauma so, while it remains a part of them, it no longer controls them.

Trauma is not an event; it is the emotional impact of an event. While every individual copes with trauma differently, common responses can include anxiety, low self-esteem, and difficulty forming healthy relationships.

A massive study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates childhood trauma may have long-term physiological and emotional effects decades after the trauma occurs. By understanding this trauma, and its effects, those of us in children's services hope to mitigate some of the damage through education and intervention in our schools, our resource centers, our churches, and our homes. We hope to minimize the long-term effects and turn this crippling condition into strength, and connection.

The CDC's study was called the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study, and it began after Dr. Vincent Felitti, head of the Preventive Medicine Department of Kaiser Permanente in San Diego, began to collaborate with the CDC's Dr. Robert Anda to see whether Dr. Felitti's findings regarding childhood trauma from an earlier, smaller study could be reproduced on a much bigger scale.

The ACE study followed more than 17,400 Kaiser patients in San Diego, patients who matched the community's demographic—many of them employed, middle class people with health insurance, two-thirds of whom were college-educated. They were 75 percent white, 11 percent Latino, 5 percent black, and 7 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, with 2 percent other.

Participants answered questions about childhood trauma, including abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction. Specifically, the survey included questions about psychological, physical, and sexual abuse; emotional and physical neglect; and household dysfunction including substance abuse, parental divorce/separation, mental illness, domestic violence, family mental illness, and criminal behavior. You can find the questionnaire at

Each type of trauma counted as one point: a child who experienced repeated verbal or emotional abuse would receive one point. A child from a divorced home with an alcoholic parent would receive two points, and so on.

The findings overwhelmingly supported Dr. Felitti's original study: childhood trauma has a lasting effect on the emotional and physical well being of adults. The prevalence of trauma surprised many: 87 percent experienced at least two types of trauma and more than 20 percent experienced at least three ACEs. This trauma was directly linked to the onset of chronic diseases as an adult, as well as higher levels of mental illness, incarceration, and absenteeism at work. The more ACEs a person had, the higher the risk of bio psychosocial problems. What was surprising in the findings were the higher levels of medical conditions not directly connected to lifestyle choices: asthma, heart disease, and blood pressure disorders.

If you're interested in learning more, go to I'll share more about the ACE study and how we, as a community, can use this information to be more self-aware and more compassionate for others who have suffered from childhood trauma.

Camille Schrader is the Executive Director of Redwood Community Services, a local non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of children, youth and families by providing community support and quality therapeutic services.



Victim, advocate stories highlighted during annual Light of Hope breakfast

by Maunette Loeks

During the annual Light of Hope breakfast Thursday, Holly Brandt, executive director of CAPstone, used the story of an 18-year-old girl to illustrate how child advocacy centers like CAPstone have changed child abuse investigations.

The girl had approached Brandt after a presentation to high school students. The girl told Brandt she and her sister had been sexually abused by their father. The girl told Brandt no prosecution had occurred despite an investigation.

“I thought for a long time, trying to explain some rational reason that she didn't receive justice,” Brandt said. The conversation prompted her to reflect on CAPstone's work. The child advocacy centers have helped agencies collaborate on investigations, offer a child-friendly interview location for victims and providing security from a perpetrator, and taking into consideration the best interests of the child and working with their victim's families.

“It takes a lot of courage to talk about being sexually abused,” Brandt said. “Only 10 percent of child sexual abuse victims ever tell anyone about their abuse. Of those that do, most wait two to three years before they ever disclose.”

Last year, Brandt said, 302 children were interviewed at the facility. The agency has already done 64 more interviews than they did at the same time last year. They provided family advocacy services for 119 non-offending caregivers last year and have done that for 123 caregivers so far this year. Last year, the agency tested 93 drug-endangered children for exposure to drugs, such as methamphetamine. They also provide medical exams and other services for child victims, such as helping familiarize children and their families with court proceedings.

Two people, Patricia Morales and a 15-year-old girl, told their personal stories during the breakfast. Morales, who served as a para educator at a Scottsbluff elementary school, talked about a child that she says inspired her. Morales is now with the Department of Health and Human Services and talked about advocating for a child that she believed “in her gut” to have been abused. During her interactions with the child, she said, she and other school officials documented such things as his obsession with food, his absences, bruises and other things that led her to believe he was abused.

When the child's father suddenly showed up to say that the child would be absent for one to two weeks, Morales did some inquires that led her to report that the child needed to be checked on. Investigators determined the child had suffered severe abuse and he was removed from his home. Today, the child is healthy, happy and living with a family that has adopted him. Morales attended his adoption, saw him being loved by his parents and said, “I saw the happiness in his face, that is all that I needed.”

Attendees of the breakfast gave a standing ovation to the 15-year-old girl who bravely told her story, telling about how she had stepped forward as a 12-year-old girl to disclose that she had been sexually abused by her grandfather. The girl said that she loved her grandfather, who she called “papa” and spent a lot of time with, but that the abuse needed to stop. She told some details about how the investigation happened, such as being interviewed at CAPstone, and the aid that prosecutors provided. She told about her suffering, and her family's suffering, including her mother losing her home and job as the family fractured. The case resolved with her grandfather taking a plea deal, and with counseling, provided by CAPstone, the girl said that she has learned that she is not at fault for the abuse.

Though she is a victim, she said, she is a survivor. “Without support from you, there would be no CAPstone,” she said.

Shelley Thomas, forensic interviewer with CAPstone, joined the girl on stage. She said she is often asked “How can you do it?” regarding interviewing child victims. With victims like the 15-year-old girl, who spoke, she said, “How can I not do it?” She said she is able to use her skills to help children and said it is a blessing to help children go from victims to survivors.

“(The girl) is my hero, she has taken her plight and is enlightening and educating others,” Thomas said.

Andrea Rein, CASA director, showed a video that summarized the work of the agency, in the words of a girl who told her story in the video: “To give a child a CASA is to give them a voice, to give them a voice is to give them hope, to give them hope is to give them the world.”

Rein also encouraged the adults attending the breakfast to help families and children in other ways. She urged the attendees to learn about agencies that assist struggling families and to help those families,

She noted that more children had received services from CAPstone and CASA than attendees sat in the room, which was packed. Shoes leading into the facility and throughout it symbolized the number of children, 467, helped by the two nonprofit agencies.

During the breakfast, CAPstone and CASA directors also recognized Sen. John Stinner. During the recent legislative session, Stinner introduced LB 485, a bill that proposed funding for child advocacy centers and satellite offices across the state. CAPstone operates three satellite offices and Brandt said passage of the bill has helped secure funding for the operations of those centers in Sidney, Alliance and Chadron.

Stinner was also supportive of LB 229, a bill that sought funding to support and expand CASA programs throughout the state. The bill was incorporated into LB 657.

Donations for CASA and CAPstone were accepted at the breakfast. Anyone who would like to donate to the two agencies can send donations via CASA, 2029 Tenth Street in Gering, or via its website, Donations should be designated for the Light of Hope.


When It Comes to Abuse,A Little Support Can Be a Lifeline

by Anthony DiPietro - Executive Director HAWC

Despite more attention focused on the topic than ever before, domestic violence (DV) is still very much an issue in communities across the country. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, “on average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner* in the United States.” As you can imagine, when someone is in a domestic violence situation, they often feel depressed, defeated, and unable to get help. Unfortunately, many survivors keep the abuse to themselves out of shame or fear of repercussions from their abuser.

But sometimes, survivors of domestic violence share their experience with a friend or loved one, seeking a support system. If you become that support system, it can feel like a very heavy burden, and the initial reaction may be to encourage your friend or loved one to exit the relationship. However, it is very important to understand the dynamics of DV in order to help a survivor as effectively as possible.

HAWC (Healing Abuse Working for Change) has been the DV service agency on the North Shore for more than 36 years. We want to share some tips with our community to help you help someone else if you ever find yourself as a support system to a survivor.

•  Domestic violence is about power and control. The abuser uses manipulation, threats, violent behavior and other means to gain power and maintain control over the survivor, disempowering the person experiencing the abuse. Telling someone that they have to leave the relationship once again takes away their power and authority over themselves. Instead, focus on listening to what they are telling you and be there for them. As the trusted person your friend or loved one has confided in, it's important that you empower the person to be able to make his or her own decision. Let them make the choices that are right for them, even if you don't understand or agree with them.

•  Let them know that you are always available to listen.

•  Understand that it may be hard for them to keep in touch all the time because abuse can lead to severe isolation.

•  Ask if you can educate them about the domestic violence services that are available to them, such as HAWC, but don't push them. A person must be ready to change before they can change, and it may take multiple attempts to leave an abusive relationship.

•  Regardless of whether someone is ready to leave the relationship, you can help your friend or loved one build a safety plan. If you want to learn more about building a safety plan, please contact our hotline at 1.800.547.1649.

•  Warning: please remember that abusers often monitor survivors' personal devices, so be cautious about leaving voice messages or sending emails about the abuse and available resources.

Please be cognizant that domestic violence is not limited to physical abuse; emotional, verbal, financial and cultural violence are all very real forms of abuse that people experience every day. Women, men, members of the LGTBQ population, adults later in life, children and teens can all be susceptible to relationship violence as well. DV also cuts across all races, religions, economic classes, immigration statuses, and cultures.

HAWC offers a variety of services to the community, including our 24-hour hotline (1.800.547.1649), emergency family shelter, individual advocacy, support groups, court advocacy, a Parent-Child Trauma Recovery Program, family law and immigration law, and community outreach and education.

We urge the community to contact us if you want more information about how to be the support system for someone experiencing DV. Know that you are not alone, and we want to help your love one as much as you do.

I encourage you to visit our website at to learn more about HAWC and the services we provide.

* Domestic violence is not limited to relationships between intimate partners; it can occur between parents and children, caregivers and clients, and other dynamic types of relationships.



Hancock County works to fight child abuse problem

by Jessica Smith

HANCOCK COUNTY, Ind. (WISH) — Hancock County is working to stop the growing problem of child abuse. This year county officials and organizations have started several new efforts to protect children from neglect and abuse.


At the end of August, the county launched a Prevent Child Abuse Council. The council is a part of a national organization, and almost half of all Indiana counties have one. The council is made up of people from in the community from different backgrounds, all working together to prevent child abuse from ever occurring.

Like the rest of the state, Hancock County is seeing a growing number of Child in Need of Services, or CHINS cases. The latest Department of Child Services data from June shows more than 70 CHINS in Hancock County. At the same time last year there were 69, and in 2013 there were 47.

The East Central Indiana Child Advocates Executive Director, Annette E. Craycraft, oversees Hancock County. Craycraft said in one week she saw 12 new detentions, which is “unheard of” in Hancock County. The county has a waiting list of 44 children who need a CASA, or court-appointed special advocate who helps guide the children through the court system.

“There's an awful lot of child abuse that is simply not reported, and so we don't really know if we're seeing a spike in actual cases or if we're seeing a spike in reported,” said Mary Armstrong-Smith, with Prevent Child Abuse Indiana.

Armstrong-Smith has been working with the Hancock County council, helping them obtain their charter — to become an official council. The Prevent Child Abuse Council will unite hospitals, law enforcement and community groups. Together, they'll arm parents with the resources they need to care for their children.

“Prevention councils do public activities to bring information and awareness to folks. Say for instance, they may do info about child development. We know a lot of abuse and neglect happen because of a misunderstanding of basic child development. Councils reach out to parents and families and provide encouragement [because] parenting is the hardest job in the world. Prevention councils provide means for parents and caregivers to get information and support that they need on a local basis,” said Armstrong-Smith.

Councils also educate the community on how to spot abuse.

“People may be hesitant. They see something, but they don't know to call the police. They don't recognize what the signs of abuse may be,” said Hancock County Prosecutor Brent Eaton.

Eaton is part of the Hancock County Council.

“A lot of people feel hopeless about child abuse and neglect. They think the only way you can take action is after something happens,” said Armstrong-Smith.

Child abuse is a crime that often goes unseen, until it's impossible to miss. It's something Greenfield knows all too well.

“I first heard about the case with little Zoey, the day that it happened,” said Don Johnson, who lives in Greenfield.

Johnson is talking about Zoey Wagoner, a 1-year-old baby girl from Greenfield who police say died earlier this year. Investigators said she lived in hell, being neglected and abused by her parents her whole life.

Court documents show the little girl had injuries that could have been caused by being stomped on, and she died from blunt force traumatic injuries.

Now her parents are charged with her murder. Their trial is set for October.

“It did shock the community, there was a lot of talk about it as how something like that could happen in such a small community,” said Johnson.

Eaton wouldn't speak about the Wagoner case, because it is still pending. But he said whenever abuse happens, he wants the county to be ready. Eaton believes the new council will help.

“Having communication will allow us to prosecute those cases more effectively. More importantly, we'll provide information to the community to prevent those types of crimes from occurring at all,” said Eaton.

“It is absolutely possible to prevent child abuse and neglect before it has a chance to get started,” said Armstrong-Smith.

Hancock County also established an Exchange Club this year. The Exchange Club is a local branch of another national organization, aimed at preventing child abuse. The Exchange Club and the Prevent Child Abuse Council will work very closely.


The Hancock County Prosecutor's office also created a new position this year, aimed at helping victims who have gone through a traumatic crime like child abuse. Katie Molinder is Hancock County's Victim Assistance Coordinator.

“Previously there wasn't one person who was dedicated to give information about court cases, any helping them collect restitution, just added support. Connecting our victims to social services in the community, being that point of contact, when going to trial, to answer any questions that they have,” said Molinder, “With my role as a victim's assistance coordinator, our most special victims are child victims.”


A Child Advocacy center is in the works for Hancock County. Molinder and Eaton are leading the effort to start the center. A Child Advocacy Center would help reduce the trauma of child victims.

“Getting good interviews, wrapping around that family with social services and helping them connect with those services. It's something that's very important for not only our prosecution, but for the children in our community and our families in the community,” said Molinder.

Molinder said a Child Advocacy Center would help children and attorneys feel prepared for trial, while ensuring the victims are protected. For example, reducing the number of times a child would have to be interviewed before trial, to keep the child from re-living the traumatic experience over and over again.

“It's very important for us to be addressing those mental health needs, getting the kids in and helping them understand the whole entire court process. Just being with that family as they're going through the entire process. I think it will make a huge difference,” said Molinder.

Currently, they're in the process of obtaining non-profit status and funding. The prosecutor's office is also looking for a space for the center. Molinder said the goal is for the center to be up and running by December 2016.

“Things here in Hancock County are really coming together at a really good time, to be able to help some of our special victims. We have victims of all kinds of crime, but paying particular to our very traumatized special victims,” said Molinder.

To learn how to volunteer as a CASA click here. To learn more about Prevent Child Abuse Councils click here.



Lawmaker looking for pro-active way to prevent child abuse

by Dave McMillion

Del. Brett Wilson told a new Hagerstown child-abuse prevention group Thursday night that he is looking at ways to help address the problem in a more pro-active way.

There have been a number of high-profile child-abuse cases resulting in death or serious injury in Washington County this year that have raised concerns among some area residents.

Brendie Goss of Hagerstown is the head of a new group called One Step at a Time Official, which she said is battling the problem of child abuse on several fronts.

The group is working to make the community aware of child abuse and talking to people like Wilson who are in a position to make changes, Goss said.

About a dozen people met with Wilson, R-Washington, when the organization held a meeting at a City Park pavilion Thursday night.

Wilson talked about two proposals to help reduce child abuse, including early intervention to determine if a family is at risk of falling victim to it.

Performed through the Maryland Department of Human Resources, officials would examine factors such as the skill sets of parents, support from extended family members and socioeconomic issues to determine if they could benefit from assistance, Wilson said.

The problem now with child abuse is that the government's way of dealing with it is often reactionary, he said.

The second proposal Wilson said he is studying revolves around substance abuse, which is often connected to child abuse.

Under Wilson's idea, once a parent is identified as a substance abuser, all state agencies would be available to help that person.

Currently, people are usually referred from agency to agency for substance-abuse problems, but his plan would be to put the assistance "under one roof" to make delivery of services more effective, he said.

Wilson said the proposals could be achieved legislatively or through state agency reform.

The meeting among One Step at a Time Official members covered various aspects of the child-abuse problem, with the discussion at times delving into other issues like school shootings.

Goss said she supports the death penalty for child abuse resulting in death.

"They kill a child, they die," Goss said.



Everyone can play role in preventing child abuse

Barbara Vernon of Child And Parent Services explains how the community can help keep Elkhart County children from being abused.

by Barbara Vernon

A friend asked me a question recently that is still on my mind: “How in the world do we know who is safe to leave our children with?” If it is true that more than 75 percent of perpetrators of abuse are known to the children being abused, how do we keep our children safe?

We have all seen articles and heard stories about uncles, cousins, friends of the family, mentors, teachers, coaches, even Subway spokesperson Jared Fogle being charged with acts against children. How do we keep children safe amidst all of this? The honest answer is there is no easy answer. But there are some basic facts and principles that may help us wrap our minds around the issue.

It is a fact that the Elkhart County Child and Family Advocacy Center worked with more than 1,300 children in the last two years. With few exceptions, they all live in Elkhart County. These children come to the center because there has been some allegation of abuse or neglect. Not all of these children are victims of abuse and not all of these cases lead to charges against a perpetrator. They are brought to the center by one or two of a group of professionals from the Department of Child Services, local law enforcement and the Elkhart County Prosecutor's Office who are specially trained to work with these cases.

Another fact is that child abuse prevention begins at home. That is where primary prevention is most effective. Those parents who are talking to children about private parts, boundaries and who is safe to talk to if anything does happen to them are vital to the battle against child abuse and exploitation. These discussions do not need to be filled with warnings and threats. The conversation can be empowering and educational. We have relied on schools to have these difficult discussions with children for far too long. It is time for parents to reinforce the work being done in the schools and begin even earlier than school age to have basic discussions with their children. There are many tools available to assist with these talks, tools the professionals here at CAPS use on a daily basis in their work with families.

Adults also struggle with the fact that children do not respond to abuse the way we might expect. As adults, we want to believe children will instinctively run to a safe person and tell them what has happened. It is my experience that this is the furthest thing from real-life experience.

There are a number of reasons children keep abuse and exploitation quiet. The process of abuse, especially when perpetrated by someone the child knows, is very confusing and the child may not understand everything that has happened or recognize it as abuse. The act may be framed as a game or a secret and the child doesn't realize the need to tell if there has been no previous education. The child may have good interactions with the perpetrator 95 percent of the time, but it in a small percentage of time abuse or exploitation is occurring.

The child may also fear repercussions if they tell, especially if the perpetrator is known to them or their family members. They may fear disbelief from parents, friends, classmates, teachers, counselors and family members. Children often have an overriding fear that they will be blamed for the abuse or punished in some way. This fear is present regardless of the age of the child, the abuse perpetrated against them, or the relationship with the perpetrator.

Disclosing abuse is a scary prospect for a child if there has been no education or previous conversations regarding body safety and boundaries with parents or guardians. Education is the key to keeping our children safe. There must be education of parents, adults who interact with children frequently and, most importantly, children.

Keeping children safe needs to be the top priority in our community and it will take everyone in our community working together to achieve it. Everyone has a role to play:

•  Parents having difficult yet much-needed discussions with their children

•  Neighbors keeping a careful eye on interactions they witness

•  Individuals who interact with children on a daily basis and trained professionals who intervene when trouble arises.

To be a part of this fight, we all must be educated on child abuse prevention. Are you willing to learn?

Barbara Vernon is the Vice President of Programs at CAPS – Child And Parent Services, where she is also a trained forensic interviewer for the Child And Family Advocacy Center. Learn more about CAPS at


Planned Parenthood covered up child sexual abuse in seven states, report shows

by Susan Michelle

A new scathing report from Alliance Defending Freedom reveals how Planned Parenthood covered up cases of child sexual abuse in seven states. The 13-page summary report shows how the abortion giant failed to report the crimes to authorities, as required by law, but instead profited off the abortions of minor girls.

The report cites multiple cover-ups —not isolated incidents—of sexually abused minors in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Minnesota, and Ohio. In every case, ADF reports how affiliates of Planned Parenthood Federation of America did secret abortions, and sent innocent victims back into the arms of their sexual abusers.

Planned Parenthood's neglect for rule of law shows it cares more about abortion than the safety of women and children. In the mentioned incidents, the abortion business was a partner in crime with rapists, child molesters, and sexual abusers. Mandatory reporting laws require a provider to report any suspicion of abuse.

One example cited in ADF's report is every parent's worst nightmare:

“In Ohio, a Planned Parenthood facility permitted a soccer coach who had impregnated a 14-year-old child to sign off on her abortion without her parents' knowledge or consent.”

A case in California details how a perpetrator was able to continue the pattern of abuse.

“In one California case, a well-known swimming coach, Andrew King, a sexual predator, impregnated a 14-year-old girl who then received an abortion at Planned Parenthood. King went on to sexually molest and abuse scores of other girls.”

This report, however, highlights a sampling of crimes in Planned Parenthood's long legacy of sexual abuse cover-up. Live Action's Mona Lisa investigation revealed how Planned Parenthood staffers were willing to hide statutory rape, exposing how a pattern of criminal activity at Planned Parenthood is just business as usual.

One state implicated in both Live Action's investigation and the ADF report is Alabama. The Alabama Department of Health clearly has a problem on its hands since multiple clinics have been exposed for covering up the sexual abuse of minors.

Last November the Alabama Department of Health released this report from the Mobile, AL, Planned Parenthood, which failed to report the suspected sexual abuse of a 14-year-old girl who had two abortions. Despite the report, in which so many violations were found, it is a wonder the clinic was not immediately shut down.

ADF Senior Counsel and former U.S. Attorney Michael J. Norton says the pattern of mistrust must be stopped.

“Our report adds to the growing mountain of information that makes defunding Planned Parenthood a clear priority. Thousands of true community health centers can be trusted with our hard-earned money. Planned Parenthood has proven for decades that it can't be trusted. The only thing it's entitled to is a federal investigation.”

The protection of rapists and child molesters is a prevailing modus operandi for the abortion giant. And now that the videos from the Center for Medical Progress have revealed what happens to aborted babies, it is more clear that the profit from abortion and the trafficking of body parts trump protecting children—born or preborn.


Child Sexual Abuse Prevention: Who Are The Funders and Families Backing It?

by Kiersten Marek

The news last May that 19 and Counting star Josh Duggar sexually abused multiple girls as a teenager, including his own siblings, rocked the nation. Since the story first broke, it has continued to unfold in disturbing ways.

There was the convenient destroying of Arkansas police reports on Josh Duggar from 2006, and then the Duggar's response that included an assertion that their rights had been violated because this information got out. Not surprisingly, TLC has now decided to cancel the show for good.

One logical takeaway from this is, of course, that we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to preventing sexual abuse. There are still numerous people involved in ignoring, minimizing and covering up these crimes. When states are destroying records to protect perpetrators and it takes a television network over two months to decide there's no way to repair the betrayal and disgust that viewers of their show now feel, it is clear that more needs to be done to stop sexual abuse of children.

Before Josh Duggar, another recent case prompted national discussion and awareness about child sexual abuse—the trial and conviction of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky. That situation seems to have spurred an increase in funding that is worth looking at.

Joe Paterno was the head coach for football at Penn State when assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was committing sex crimes against children. For a full timeline of the sequence of events, you can go here, but as a cautionary note to sexual abuse survivors, the content on the click-through is hard to stomach.

Suffice to say, Joe Paterno knew what Jerry Sandusky was doing. He tried to get it reported, but he was not successful. Joe Paterno has been widely criticized for not doing more to get the abuse addressed although defenders of Paterno will point out that he did exactly what the policies and laws required him to do.

Shortly after Sandusky's arrest in 2011, Paterno was fired as the longtime coach of Penn's football team, a position he'd held since the 1950s. In his exiting statement, he said, “With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I'd done more.” Paterno died of complications from lung cancer on January 22, 2012, only two months after he was fired.

Joe Paterno's widow, Sue Paterno, seems to have taken his wish that he had done more as a personal call to action. Since 2012, she and other members of the Paterno family have been working with Stop It Now! to develop Circles of Safety for Higher Education, a program to combat child sexual victimization.

With $230,000 in funding from the Paternos, Stop it Now! worked with nearly 150 college staff members from across Pennsylvania's 14 state university systems, training them in child sexual abuse prevention. The idea here is that university systems, which are often used as venues for activities and camps for children under 18, are setting a new standard for how to protect children in the community. These 150 staffers then went on to train another 2,000 staff, creating what the university hopes is a safer environment across the system, where children under 18 are less likely to be abused.

The goal of this two-year training effort was to help college staff members recognize the warning signs of sexual abuse of children, and be more aware of what to do in situations that cross boundaries into inappropriate or illegal contact. “If my father had had the training we're now doing, he'd have known what he was dealing with,” Joe Paternos' son, Scott Paterno, recently said. Stop it Now! and the Paterno family would like to see this training brought to college campuses across the country.

The Paternos' resolve to heighten awareness and battle child sexual abuse comes at a good time. In choosing to work with Stop it Now!, the family is adding to the growing momentum of an organization that has been a front runner in pushing education and awareness about child sexual abuse both nationally and internationally.

Stop it Now! has been around since 1992 and was founded by Fran Henry, a child sexual abuse survivor. At that time, very few child sexual abuse prevention programs existed. Since then, Stop it Now! has made great strides in identifying, refining and sharing effective ways to prevent child sexual abuse.

Where has Stop it Now! gotten its funding in the past? One foundation that has been particularly supportive is the Oak Foundation. Founded in 1983, the Oak Foundation is international, with 64 employees in offices in Belize, Bulgaria, India, the U.K., Switzerland, and the U.S. (To apply for funding with the Oak Foundation, you need to first review the Child Abuse program, and send a letter of inquiry.)

The Oak Foundation began funding Stop It Now! in 2008 with two initial grants totaling just over $500,000 for “collaborating to strengthen child sexual abuse prevention efforts in low- and middle-income countries.”

In 2010, a larger grant from the foundation to Stop it Now! took aim at both national and global agendas. With $373,573 over 24 months, the goal of this grant was to “improve the Child Sexual Abuse prevention capacity (e.g. knowledge, prevention tools, strategies, professional connections) of family and child-serving professionals in selected low and middle income countries, and at local and state levels in the U.S.”

In 2013, Stop It Now! received $500,000 from the Oak Foundation “to provide core support to build organisational capacity.” In other words, time to take this program to scale and get this vital information disseminated nationally and globally.

The Oak Foundation has clearly put child abuse high on its funding agenda. Among the other national grant makers with an interest in the issue, based on previous grants:

•  NoVo Foundation, which gave a total of $5 million between 2009 and 2012 to the Ms. Foundation for Women to support a project called Child Sexual Abuse: A Social Justice Prevention Model.

•  Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which gave $500,000 in 2011 to the Chicago Children's Advocacy Center to “support the Network of Treatment Providers Collaborative Project in expanding mental health treatment for victims of child sexual abuse.”

•  On a smaller scale, the Chicago Children's Advocacy Center also received $50,000 from the VNA Foundation in 2014 for the purpose of addressing “the critical need for victims of child sexual abuse and their families to access mental health services in a timely manner.”

Much of the funding for child sexual abuse prevention comes from state or regional community foundations such as Meyer Memorial Trust in Oregon, the California Endowment and the New York Community Trust.

Alongside these community foundations, a handful of nationally focused private foundations also cover this ground.

The Paternos provide a good example of how to pick up the pieces and transform a disaster into something valuable for the community that prevents the problem from happening again. Foundations committed to the prevention of child sexual abuse have set the bar high for other funders who, in the wake of the Duggar tragedy, now have the opportunity to step up and do more to keep children safe.


Margaret Cho Opens Up About The Sexual Abuse She Received As A Child:
Told By Bullies 'You Deserve To Be Raped'

This is so incredibly sad!

In a recent interview with Billboard Magazine, Margaret Cho reveals she was sexually abused as a child.

Between the ages of five and 12, the comedienne says she was molested by a close family friend.

The 46-year-old confessed:

"I had a very long-term relationship with this abuser, which is a horrible thing to say… "I didn't even understand it was abuse, because I was too young to know. I endured it so many times, especially because I was alone a lot."

When she was 14, the San Francisco-native was raped by a second family friend.

"I was raped continuously through my teenage years, and I didn't know how to stop it. It was also an era where young girls were being sexualized… For me, I think I had been sexually abused so much in my life that it was hard for me to let go of anger, forgive or understand what happened."

What made it worse was that she could not seek solace in her high school classmates, who only used this as a way to bully her.

"When I was raped in high school, it was the first time I had sex that was penetrative, so it was different and weird… I told someone that I was raped, and the kids at school found out and said, ‘You are so ugly and fat that the only way anybody would have sex with you is if they were crazy and raped you. So don't act like you are hot and somebody wanted to f–k you. It's because you are disgusting, and you deserve to be raped.'"

While she found support in her gay English teacher, he was later killed:

"The same kids who told me I got raped because I was disgusting also told me that he was murdered because he was a f–got… That's why I ended up leaving school. I didn't want to be around people that were so cruel."

And she couldn't bring it up to her parents either:

"They don't really want to talk about it, because that would make it real somehow. I think Asian culture often is in denial about such things. Like, if they don't talk about it, it doesn't exist. So it makes me unwelcome in some ways."

However, through comedy and journaling, the LGBT advocate has been able to overcome her past and is channeling her experiences in a new song called I Want to Kill My Rapist.

She hopes that by performing music, audiences will begin to bravely start a dialogue about rape and sexual abuse, which in turn will lead to its demise.

"I'm a victim and now a survivor of sexual abuse and rape, and I think it's really hard to talk about it. I think having a song to perform live will allow others to talk about it. It's a huge issue, and this was cathartic for me."

We greatly applaud Margaret for opening up about such a traumatic time in her life, and we feel her honesty will help other victims come forward!


United Kingdom

Lessons to prevent sexual abuse should be mandatory, experts demand

Some of the country's leading child safety experts have demanded that a subject which teaches children about sexual abuse and relationships becomes mandatory

by Samuel Lovett

Leading child safety experts have called for a subject that educates children on issues such as sexual exploitation and abuse to become mandatory in schools.

The demands come a year after reports confirmed that more than 1,400 children were sexually exploited by gangs in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.

In order to help raise awareness of sexual exploitation and abuse, leading child safety experts, including the NSPCC, Barnardo's, and the Children's Commissioner, have asked that personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education becomes compulsory in schools.

These demands follow the recommendation made by the Commons Education Committee last February that PSHE should be introduced as a core curriculum subject to ensure pupils receive education on issues like sexual consent.

But despite ongoing inquiries into the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal, the government has still not responded to the committee's advice.

According to Ofsted reports, PHSE still remains a sub-standard provision in schools and is often taught by under-qualified teachers.

Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: “With the potential dangers from online sexual predators and the horrifying exploitation cases of recent years there couldn't be a more crucial time for children to learn about staying safe.

“There is no question PSHE should be on every curriculum as it is at the frontline of child protection. Without it there is a worrying gap that could leave children at serious risk of harm and sadly ignorant about healthy and caring relationships.”

Children's Commissioner Anne Longfield, OBE, reiterated this. She said: “If we are to help to protect all children from the sexual abuse and exploitation we have seen in towns such as Rotherham, it is critical that we equip them with the skills to identify unhealthy relationships.

“For this reason I am a strong supporter of making PSHE statutory. We will not be doing all we can to minimise harm until we do so.”

PSHE addresses matters such as personal safety, online hazards, bullying and healthy relationships. Evidence suggests that pupils who are taught PSHE are more likely to report abuse they may encounter.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “High-quality PSHE and relationship education has an important role to play helping young people make informed decisions and ensuring they know what support is available.

"Sex and relationship education is compulsory in all maintained secondary schools and many primary schools also teach it in an age appropriate manner.”



Father, son offered plea deals in child pornography case in Fayette County

by Liz Zemba

A father and son who are former teachers in Fayette County have been offered intermediate punishment with house arrest after allegations they possessed child pornography.

Robert David Caldwell II, 36, and his father, Robert David Caldwell, 67, both of South Union, waived their right to preliminary hearings on Wednesday. Each is charged with two counts of child pornography.

The younger Caldwell used his cellphone to show several male students a pornographic photo while working as a substitute teacher at Laurel Highlands Middle School in the spring of 2014, police said. He is charged with unlawful contact with a minor, criminal use of a communication facility, sexual abuse of children/displaying obscene materials and corruption of minors.

Other charges filed against the elder Caldwell are two counts of sexual abuse of children/photographing, videotaping, depicting on computer or filming sexual acts.

Laurel Highlands stopped hiring the younger man when the allegations surfaced, Superintendent Jesse Wallace said.

Caldwell's father is a former social studies teacher in the Uniontown Area School District. He retired in 2008, according to the district.

The Caldwells were to appear in Central Court in Uniontown before North Union District Judge Wendy Dennis for a preliminary hearing on Wednesday, but they waived their right to hearings in exchange for the tentative plea bargains.

Meghann Mikluscak, assistant district attorney, said the elder Caldwell has a tentative offer of six to 23 months of intermediate punishment, while the younger Caldwell's offer is for 11 ½ to 23 months. Both offers will include periods of house arrest that are yet to be determined.

The plea bargains are contingent on the men being allowed to serve their sentences under supervision in Florida, Mikluscak said.

The elder Caldwell's tentative offer calls for one of the child pornography charges to be dropped, while the son's will require he have no access to the Internet, Mikluscak said. The elder Caldwell's offer has no restrictions on Internet access because he is not accused of using it to commit the alleged crimes.

David J. Shrager, a Pittsburgh attorney who represents both men, said the offers are tentative, pending his review of the evidence.

“They are greatly stressed over the accusations,” Shrager said. “They were respected members of the community. This is very difficult for them.”

Police initiated an investigation when one of the students' parents contacted the middle school principal about numerous text messages the younger Caldwell had sent to their son, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

The boy told his parents the teacher used obscene language in front of students and in text messages. He and other male students accused him of using his cellphone to show them a pornographic photo during school hours, police said.

In addition, the boys told police the teacher used obscene language while using Skype to play an online video game from his home, according to the affidavit.

When police executed a search warrant for the Caldwells' shared residence in March 2014 to look for the younger man's cellphone, they discovered a photo of a partially nude teenage boy in the elder Caldwell's bedroom closet. Police then obtained a second search warrant to look for child pornography, police said in the affidavit.

When they executed the second warrant, police found a number of videos in the men's bedroom closets depicting underage boys swimming, showering and wrestling while naked, police said.

Both men are free on bond $50,000 unsecured bond each.



When sex education emphasizes shame, it doesn't help youth who have been sexually abused

by Monica Faulkner

Research Professor at University of Texas at Austin

Sex education has long been a controversial topic in the United States. In Texas, where I work, sex education does not really exist, at least not in schools. About 47% of school districts provide nothing in terms of sex education and state-approved textbooks lack information on contraception. If a school chooses to teach sexual health education, they must emphasize abstinence and inform youth about the “emotional trauma” associated with sexual activity before marriage.

As a result, the school districts in Texas that do address sexual health convey a strong message that self-worth is tied to virginity. Twenty-four other states have similar policies that force educators to stress abstinence before marriage. Some programs even use the analogy that virginity is like gum or a candy bar. The take-away message is that no one wants a chewed up piece of gum or an unwrapped candy bar that has been passed around.

While evidence-based, comprehensive curricula offer more practical information about sex and contraception, they too can contain messages of shame about pregnancy and STDs.

How do you think those messages sound to a young person who has been sexually abused? Sex education curricula that tie premarital sex, getting pregnant or getting an STD to shame don't leave much space for anyone to develop healthy views about sex and sexuality. But they are especially unhelpful, and even harmful, for youth who have been sexually abused.

Sexual abuse is not rare

Sexual abuse is a more common problem than many people realize. In the US, a conservative estimate is that 25% of girls and 16% of boys experience sexual abuse as a child.

We know that sexual trauma affects sexual health throughout a person's life. Youth who experience sexual abuse are more likely to contract a sexually transmitted infection and/or get pregnant in their teen years. Perhaps the most telling example of this phenomenon is that half the girls in foster care will have been pregnant by the time they are 19.

Because there is so much shame associated with sexual abuse, victims integrate that shame into their self-image. A child may feel she is damaged and view what happened to her as her own fault. From an adult perspective, it might be logical to tell a child that sex against his will is not his fault. But children don't think about these things from an adult perspective; they're kids.

From the child's perspective, disentangling consensual and non-consensual sex is confusing and often results in distorted views about choice, desire and pleasure. They view themselves as bad and sex as bad. Yet, they may ultimately engage in compulsive sexual behaviors that resemble the abuse they experienced because it allows them to feel a sense of power over their sexuality.

Despite the fact that so many children have been exposed to harmful sexual experiences and struggle with related shame, we put them in sex education classes as teenagers and tell them that sex, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy are bad, gross – the worst things in the world. In short, we shame them and scare them in hopes that they will not have sex.

How sex ed can shame victims of sex abuse

I've come across this firsthand in my research. I am evaluating the impact of two evidence-based, comprehensive teen pregnancy prevention curricula on youth in juvenile detention, foster care and substance use treatment in Texas. These youth have the highest risk for pregnancy, but we don't know very much about how these curricula impact them. That's because sex education prevention curricula are often tested on youth in easy-to-reach populations like schools or youth groups.

Both male and female youth in our study have experienced intense sexual trauma including rape by multiple people, sex trafficking and sexual abuse beginning at early ages. Those experiences are related to their placement in foster care, juvenile detention and substance use treatment. Both their experience of sexual trauma and lack of stable caregivers leave them at high risk for pregnancy or a partner's pregnancy.

In my study, youth attend six to eight one-hour sessions focusing on topics like life goals, relationships, STD prevention and pregnancy prevention. Because we are not working in schools, we are able to do condom demonstrations and provide information about birth control that would otherwise be prohibited.

But even though we are using comprehensive, evidence-based curricula, youth are still told that STDs are gross, unnatural and if you get one, it is your fault. Very little, if any, information is provided about consent and sexual trauma. And that, perhaps surprisingly, is common for evidence-based sex ed curricula regardless of whether it is abstinence-based or comprehensive. Given that the bulk of federal funding is rightfully designated for evidence based programs, there is little room for programs to choose anything but these curricula.

Our team has found the youth who go through these evidence-based classes learn more about their sexual and reproductive health. However, they emerge with the same confusion, avoidance, self-hate and deep shame related to sex and sexuality.

These curricula are failing to create a space to allow youth to understand that sex should be a healthy, consensual and (dare I say) pleasurable part of their lives when they are ready for it. And for those youth who have had an STD or pregnancy, they are definitely not receiving a message that they can be healthy and deserving of pleasure too.

Leaving the shame behind

Many scholars have advocated that sex education take a sex-positivist approach.

We need to make sure youth know how to identify, prevent and treat STDs, but they should also receive a message that they can heal and have healthy sex lives after an STD. We need to make sure youth hear a message that outcomes are best when pregnancies are wanted and planned, but that teen parents are not horrible people whose lives are ruined.

Most importantly, we need to make sure that survivors of sexual violence hear a consistent message that abuse is not their fault and that they are deserving of love and healthy sexual experiences.

To be clear, we should still use evidence-based curricula, talk to kids about abstinence, teach them about condoms and talk to them about when they want to be a parent. However, we have to push ourselves to have slightly braver conversations where adults listen more than they speak and where we leave the fear and shame aside, because ultimately, every child regardless of whether she has been abused, could benefit from a shame-free discussion about sex.



Taking a stand against sex trafficking

by Shelley Wigglesworth

Sex trafficking is a one of the fastest growing industries in the United States, experts say - yet it is also an underground and illegal one. How and why is this dark business, which relies on the sexual exploitation of society's most vulnerable, thriving? Four experts, who live in Maine and work every day to prevent and combat sexual abuse and exploitation, weighed in recently on the topic.

How and why does sex trafficking happen?

Diane Madden, of Saint Andre Home in Biddeford, which provides programs and resources for survivors of sex trafficking, said sex trafficking "is a lot bigger issue than people realize and is often in plain sight." She cited real scenarios of a survivor, who grew up in Gorham, and whose mother started selling her to men when she was seven years old. She told of a perceived "‘boyfriend" who groomed one girl by gaining her trust over several months and then convincing her to turn tricks to help "support them."

Sex trafficking survivor, and Long Creek Youth Center volunteer and community education advocate, Catherine Mossman said drug dealers prefer selling a girl to drugs "because a drug can only be consumed once and a girl can be used over and over."

"Girls in Maine bring a higher dollar because the buyers view our children as more innocent," she said. "Pimps travel to Maine, even send scouts to Maine to hunt our children for their sex trade. Pimps will sometimes use young men to ‘boyfriend' the girls into ‘the life' and they will also use females to pose as a friends to vulnerable girls and then lure them away from their family and any support system they may have.”

There are social media risks that can play a role in the issue, unbeknownst to adolescents and teens, Madden said.

“Posting Facebook messages that (inadvertently) show kids to be vulnerable puts them at risk for sympathy and understanding by perpetrators," she said, citing a recent example of a girl who posted online about hating her mother and was befriended online almost immediately by a predator. "She met the person and was then sex trafficked for three weeks before being rescued.”

What happens when someone becomes a part of the sex trade industry?

When Mossman ended up as a sex trafficked teenager after suffering years of childhood sexual abuse, she said she became “a mental, physical and sexual prisoner to her pimp” witnessing and enduring unspeakable violence and intimidation daily. “I was gang raped, tied down and left for hours and brain washed into believing there was no way out but death,” she said.

Detective Sgt. Steve Webster of the South Portland Police Department, said people should know that victims of sex trafficking are very similar to domestic violence victims. "They're in a tough spot and it isn't always possible to just leave. The violence, fear, and demands soon take over,” he said.

Deborah Burpee, a licensed clinical social worker, works with sex abuse and sex trafficking survivors in her practice. She said victims can have psychological ramifications, including feelings of anger, sadness, shame, anxiety and depression.

"Experiencing trauma, such as from sex trafficking, teaches us that our boundaries are not to be respected and that we do not have worth. Trauma causes a loss of sense of safety and security. As a result, traumatized people consistently live in survival mode, always waiting for the other shoe to drop," Burpee said. "This is an exhausting way to have to live."

How can the community help?

Webster said education, community partnership, zero-tolerance and enforcing the consequences for those who victimize is crucial.

“Men need to know that it is wrong and illegal to buy a woman for sexual purposes. Men need to know that the police are conducting prostitution stings on a more regular basis and we're targeting the demand side of the problem. They may think they're going to meet and attractive woman, but it may be me or another officer on the other side of that door," he said. "There needs to be a coordinated effort between law enforcement and social service entities to not only enforce the laws, but to build a support system for the victims that will maximize their chances of success.”

Coming from her own experience as a sex trafficked youth, Mossman suggests parents know who and where the registered sex offenders are in their community and that they pay careful attention to the computer their child is using.

"Find out who your child is chatting with," she said.

She also said education and communication is key.

"We must educate ourselves to know what improper or questionable sexual adult behavior towards children and how to respond appropriately," Mossman said. "Family, friends, coworkers, neighbors - find a way to bring it up."

She suggests parents learn how to talk to children about how to protect their boundaries.

"Teaching boundary skills to our children at age appropriate levels is something we need to research, understand and implement," she said.

And, of course, seek help if needed.

"If you or someone you know has been traumatized, seek profession mental health and healing work," Mossman said.

The community can also help by supporting - volunteering, donating or advocating for - a local organization that works directly for this cause.

"We must remember that children are not responsible to prevent sexual abuse - we are," Mossman said. "We must make children feel safe enough to report to us any questionable behavior that makes them feel uncomfortable."

If you or someone you know in is being sexually exploited and needs help please call the Statewide Sexual Assault Crisis & Support Line at 1-800-871-7741 (TTY: 1-888-458-5599), the Maine Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Line at 1-800-871-7741 or the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888. If you would like to know more, support, volunteer, offer services or encouragement please e-mail



Abuse by mothers is the ultimate betrayal -and we need to support its survivors

by Archana Dalmia

"Delhi University girl drags mom to court for sexual abuse,” screamed the headlines of the days' newspaper.

A student of Delhi University had recounted her horrific ordeal at the hands of her parents; the sexual abuse and molestation that she has had to face from her early childhood, with both parents complicit in the crime.

"I have been subjected to physical and mental torture by my parents since my childhood,” said Prerna. (name changed)

“At that point, I thought it was normal for parents to beat up their children. My mother used to grope me, touch my private parts and scold me endlessly.

"I could not understand her intentions. My father was an accomplice.

"They always stopped me from going out with my friends and participating in school and later, college activities. They used to lock me up and not send me to school for days.

"Only when I reached senior school, did I realise that there was something seriously perverted about my mother,” she said.

The story brutalised my senses. This was a crime beyond comprehension. Cold and calculated evil.

I had heard of cases of incestuous exploitation and paedophilia often involving the girl child, but a mother molesting and sexually assaulting her own daughter is icily evil.

There is no other closeness in life like that between a mother and child, and this is the most heinous of crimes that can dangerously erode the delicate balance of trust and maternal love. It can destroy an innocent mind and precipitate a psychotic breakdown.

Mothers are treated with the special status of Godliness. They are worshipped on a pedestal and nurturing, caring, and protection from them are taken for granted.

But the dreadful truth is that a mother is a human being, and like any other, can reveal startling traits of violence and hatred towards their progeny.

Sexual abuse towards any child is violent and physically painful, much more if it's a parent perpetrating the act. It is the darkest facet of human behaviour and we cannot remain a society in denial, disregarding abuse from a mother to a daughter as an impossibility.

Roni Weisberg-Ross quotes in her blog the book, “Mother- Daughter Incest” by Beverly Ogilvie.

It describes the societal view of the mother-daughter relationship: “The mother–child bond has been called the essential human connection, one that teaches us how to love and without which we cannot be whole human beings.

"A mother's love provides basic security, stability, nurturing, admiration, cuddling, holding and kissing, caring, and acceptance.

"We receive courage, a sense of self, the ability to believe we have worth as human beings, and the ability to love others as well as ourselves, from the strength of our mother's love for us when we are infants.

"As our first mirror of life, our mother functions as protector, guide and interpreter. And if that bond is shattered for whatever reason, it's living hell. The betrayal is savage and merciless.

"The tie that exists between a mother and daughter is supported through societal values. A young girl's identification with her mother continues throughout her life, maintaining the mother-daughter relationship, while establishing her identity.

"As women we carry our mothers with us in every breath, every decision, every success, and every failure. Our sense of self is entwined with a sense of mother. We look to upon our mothers to be able to define ourselves as women and as daughters.

"There is a shared social role, a shared prescription for life, and shared philosophy. The relationship forges our image as women, with a sense of trust that our mothers bestowed.

"One cannot over-stress the significance of the mother-daughter bond and how its betrayal decimates the victim.

"Since mothers usually are the primary caretakers and source of nurturance for their children, especially their daughters, mixing these functions with sexual abuse leaves the survivor sickened, confused, and full of self-loathing and with no sense of her own identity.

"While boys may have a male figure to turn to, these girls become fused with their mothers in a dark secret that turns their world upside down.”

We need to bring this form of abuse out of the shadows. We need to recognise the problem, give it a face and find an avenue for these young girls to be able to reach out for help.

We need to give victims as well as adult survivors of mother/daughter incest a voice and a path to healing.

We need to get the Prernas of this world justice, and heal the scars of their souls.


United Kingdom

University of Northampton research shows children find creative ways to cope with domestic violence

by Lawrence John

Research led by the University of Northampton has found children who experience domestic violence are not just passive observers - they find complex, creative ways to manage and cope with what they have experienced, and have the capacity to be strong and resilient.

This is a key finding of the research project 'Understanding Agency and Resistance Strategies – Children in Situations of Domestic Violence', which today has published its final project report. This two year project, funded by the European Commission and led by the University of Northampton's Dr Jane Callaghan, is the largest qualitative study of children's experiences of domestic violence conducted in the world.

To collate the data, researchers in Greece, Italy, Spain and the UK interviewed 110 children and young people who had experienced domestic violence, focused on how they experienced the violence, and how they found ways to manage their experiences.

Using the insights gained from this research, the team developed a group-based therapeutic intervention to support children to build on their existing strengths and coping strategies.

The intervention aims to help the young people develop resilience and a positive sense of self, as they recover from living with domestic violence.

Dr Jane Callaghan said: "We should challenge the media's depiction of children who experience domestic violence, as they are often portrayed as passive, helpless victims, doomed to repeat cycles of violence in their own later relationships.

"From our research we have found that children's experience of domestic violence is a little like a double helix, with the twin strands of coping and damage very closely interlinked.

"Children's capacity to be strong, to be agentic, to be resilient can only be read in the context of the actions that function to undermine their development of agency and resilience, forms of relating that characterise violence, abuse and coercive control."

Jane continued: "Consider, for instance, the examples of children hiding away in cupboards, hidey holes and dens. In some senses this looks like an accession to abuse and control – children might be seen by professionals and academics as hiding away, as cowering in corners. But if we only see this painful and difficult aspect of the child's behaviour, and don't try to make sense of the meaning they attach to it, we do not see how it is also resistant and resilient. Children are not just frightened, they are not just hiding. They are creating spaces for themselves, where they can feel just slightly safer, just a little more secure and in control."

The research team also completed an analysis of European and national policies on domestic violence. Their most significant finding is that children are startlingly absent from legal and policy frameworks.

Dr Callaghan explained: "Children who 'witness' domestic violence do not have a legal status as 'victim' – although this is changing in Spain, where the distinction between 'direct' and 'indirect' victims is being removed from Spanish statutes.

"This means that children are seen in law and policy as an absence, as 'collateral damage' to adult domestic violence, and this has consequences for how they are understood and treated in criminal justice, social services and voluntary sector organisations. Services for children who experience domestic violence are typically a 'bolt on' to adult oriented services, as adults, and particularly women, are seen as its main victims."

"We think this is because children are seen as 'silent witnesses', helpless in families where domestic violence occurs.

"By focusing on children's voice, on their capacity to make sense of the situation they are in, and to take creative action to make their lives a little better, we have been able to highlight both the profound impact of violence on children's lives and the complex and often paradoxical ways that they find to cope."

The UNARS project has highlighted that children experience the negative impact of domestic violence, and cope with domestic violence, in much the same way that adult victims do, and that the distinction between 'direct' and 'indirect' victim, or between 'adult victim' and 'child witness' is not sustainable. When policy frameworks do not include children as victims, this contributes to the erosion of children's representation and voice in professional and policy discourses.

By focusing on children's capacity for conscious meaning making and agency in relation to their experiences of domestic violence, the research team have highlighted the importance of recognising the impact domestic violence has on children, and their right to representation as victims in the context of domestic violence.



Healing Private Wounds In Cadillac is Changing Sexual Assault Victim's Lives

by Lynsey Mukomel

A volunteer-based organization is changing sexual assault victim's lives.

Healing Private Wounds offers programming to people who have experienced sexual abuse, and unfortunately, they stay very busy to meet the need.

They're on Mitchell St. in Cadillac. They serve people living in the surrounding counties.

"You just feel like this great big hug comes around you as soon as you come in the door and you start talking." explains Kimberly Gerber.

Kimberly Gerber is a survivor. She's been coming to Healing Private Wounds for almost a year.

Kimberly Gerber explains “I experienced all the abuses. You know; physical, verbal, emotional, everything; and sexual abuse. I really had not touched on a lot. So when I came here it allowed me to focus on that one.”

Shirley Petersen says, “My very first goal is to take the shame off victims. I think that's the number one thing victims do not come forward because they feel the shame.”

Executive director Shirley Petersen created Healing Private Wounds to provide counseling, education and support for kids, teens and adults in the area. Amazingly, they rely solely on volunteers.

Petersen states, “Half of them are survivors, half are concerned citizens. We have counselors, social workers and just many qualified people to help all the victims in our area.”

Being an outlet for people is the most important part of their programming.

Petersen explains, “We are as sick as our secrets and we want them to experience all the beauty in life that were supposed to experience.”

That's exactly what Healing Private Wounds has done for Kimberly.

Gerber states, “This place has given me an opportunity to become very comfortable with knowing that I have been abused, and the fact that I can now talk about it with confidence, it doesn't define who I am.”


Washington D.C.

The number of child abuse cases in the military hits a decade high

by Missy Ryan

Confirmed cases of abuse and neglect of military children increased markedly in 2014, Defense Department data showed on Wednesday, prompting concerns among Pentagon about efforts to safeguard the nation's over 1 million military children.

In fiscal year 2014, officials tracking family violence within the military confirmed 7,676 cases of child abuse or neglect, an increase of 10 percent from the previous year, according to annual statistics on child abuse and domestic violence. Confirmed cases of neglect – which excludes physical and sexual abuse – rose by 14 percent, military officials said.

The data, which has not been released publicly and was obtained by the Washington Post, contrasts with a years-long decline in child abuse and neglect among civilian families nationwide.

“It really did get our attention,” a Defense Department official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the data. But officials equally acknowledged they don't fully understand the reasons behind – or the significance of — the increase in 2014 abuse figures.

The number of abused and neglected military children dropped steadily from 2004 until 2008, when it began to rise again.

With only limited ability at the Pentagon to analyze complex social science data, the Pentagon has now hired an external expert in child abuse to scrutinize the worrying increase in instances of neglect.

“We're hoping to take a deeper dive into the data in the next year,” the official said.

While the government has not yet released 2014 data on child abuse among the general population, the rate of sexual and physical abuse among Americans has declined significantly since the mid-1990s. Over that period, the number of neglect cases also declined, but at a slower rate.

David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, said the rate of abuse among military families, at 5.6 victims per 1,000 children, remains well below that for the general population, which is around 9 per 1,000 nationally.

“I do think noticing something like that in the data really merits an investigation, to see what could be going on … especially in something as important as the welfare of children,” Finkelhor said.

Yet he cautioned that the new Pentagon figures may be less indicative of a serious increase in child mistreatment than they appear at first glance.

While the number of cases of abuse and neglect rose in 2014, the actual number of child victims fell slightly to 5,838. Military officials have said such a discrepancy may be caused by the fact that a single child can be the subject of multiple incidents, or that multiple people could be charged in the abuse of a single child.

The data also shows a jump in the share of alleged child abusers who are female rather than male.

Military officials also received reports of 30 fatalities linked to child abuse or neglect in 2014, 18 of which were deaths among children less than 1 year old. There are 1.05 million children in U.S. military families.

The figures come to light as the Pentagon grapples with toll that repeated deployments, combat stress and, now, budget pressures and force reductions have taken on military families over the last decade.

While the winding down of the war of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan has reunited families, the new figures have prompted concern among Pentagon officials about ongoing strains faced by military families.

“The stress on the force doesn't end when the deployment is going away or slowing down,” said Patricia Barron, an official with the Association of the U.S. Army.

The external child abuse expert will focus on the 14-percent increase in child neglect, a Pentagon spokesman said. Teresa Huizar, executive director of the National Children's Alliance, said that neglect was the most prevalent form of child abuse, in part because programs to address the phenomenon did not receive enough funding or attention.

Pentagon officials described a number of safeguards the military has put in place to curb domestic violence, including placing family advocacy officials on every military installation and educating military leaders and rank-and-file about how to detect, report and prevent abuse. Cases of abuse or neglect are referred to military or civilian law enforcement.

“Providing resources and engaging with military families is both a national security issue and a moral imperative,” said Rosemary Freitas Williams, a senior Pentagon official responsible for military community and family policy.

The Pentagon is also struggling to end a chronic problem with sexual assault among service members. In May, the Defense Dept. released a report showing that instances of sexual assault had fallen but that retaliation against those who report such attacks remains a major problem. For the first time, the military is also expanding the scope of its effort to contain sexual assault to include male-on-male attacks.

The family abuse data also shows positive trends, including a 6 percent decrease in spousal abuse in 2014.



Child abuse risk rises when parent enters new relationship

by Lindsey Seavert

MINNEAPOLIS – Each day the Family Enhancement Center in Minneapolis offers Twin Cities families a lifeline, working to prevent child abuse and tragic outcomes like the beating death of 3-year-old Dante Sears of Sandstone. His mother's boyfriend is now charged with his murder.

The crime hits the staff of the non-profit Family Enhancement Center deeply. They most often see scenarios of child abuse when a parent enters a new relationship, whether it's a boyfriend, girlfriend or stepparent.

Family Enhancement Center executive director Libby Bergman, who is also a member of the Hennepin County child abuse prevention advisory team, says a biological connection to a child often protects them from abuse.

"And also being around when that child was first born so you can create that bond with a child," Bergman said. "Often they are stepping into a situation where a child's behavior -- they don't understand them or have tools to manage a child's behavior."

Families counseled at the Family Enhancement Center turn to limited caregivers because of economic struggles and lack of childcare options in rural areas or overnight shifts.

"They are working two to three jobs to make ends meet and they are looking for childcare not affordable to them. So they are in the situation of being forced to get someone to take care of their child -- and if that person seems okay, or their only option, they might take it and hope for the best," said Bergman.

So Bergman recommends parents first evaluate partners caring for their child, from gut instinct to background checks.

"I think that is an important question to ask is – how were you raised as a child? What kind of discipline did your parents use with you and what do you think about it?" Bergman said.

The most common red flags in a partner providing childcare include chemical abuse, untreated mental illness, a history of the caregiver being a victim of childhood abuse and anger management problems, according to Bergman.

Bergman said children often give warning signs too, beyond unexplained injuries.

"Sometimes you can see either fear, they may have sleep disturbance, nightmares and change in their behavior that seem like they are uncomfortable," said Bergman.

Behaviors the Family Enhancement Center knows can be prevented with a call or cry for help.

"It would be helpful if there were more ways parents feel safe asking questions, with more options so they could come forward. Many families are afraid to ask for help because they don't know what is going to happen," Bergman said. "If anything seems suspicious, again reach out."

The Family Enhancement Center is located at 4826 Chicago Avenue South in south Minneapolis. Call 612-827-3028 for help.

Or call the Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota hotline at 1-800-CHILDREN (1-800-244-5373).



Montana Insists It Can't Release Child Death Information


Montana child welfare officials have reiterated their position that state law prohibits disclosure of information about child abuse deaths despite a warning from the federal government that continued secrecy could jeopardize grant money.

Officials at Montana's Department of Public Health and Human Services say a state confidentiality law blocks them from releasing details about children who die at their caregivers' hands, but said they will urge state lawmakers to pass a law bringing the state into compliance in 2017.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services told Montana officials last month that the state would lose a child abuse prevention grant if they did not start releasing the information or explain why they do not have to. Federal rules require transparency in cases where a child dies from abuse or neglect.

The Montana agency acknowledged in a plan submitted Monday that public awareness about child abuse deaths is needed to "bring systemic changes to improve the safety of children," but blamed the state legislature for failing to pass a bill to change the current confidentiality law.

Special assistant attorney general Mark Prichard said Montana has "no exception that would allow public disclosure" of information about children who die from abuse or neglect.

HHS is reviewing the response and whether its annual $120,000 grant will be continued awaiting action by the Montana legislature when it next meets in January 2017.

Montana's plan says the agency will try to get legislators to pass a bill to bring the state into compliance, such as educating lawmakers about the consequences of failing to pass legislation that would remove blanket confidentiality.

In the legislative session that ended earlier this year, the Montana agency proposed a bill that would have created a child abuse and neglect review commission for cases involving deaths and near deaths, and would have allowed for information sharing. The House Judiciary Committee passed it 18-2 after the first reading on Feb. 4, then tabled it 10-11 with no discussion.

Child and Family Services Administrator Sarah Corbally testified that the bill was meant to prevent future child abuse deaths by comprehensively reviewing such cases and allowing a commission to identify system failures and provide recommendations. She said the commission would be grant funded, but did not say how much grant money was involved. She also didn't tell lawmakers that the agency had been informed at the end of the previous legislative session that it could lose the grant if it did not meet the disclosure requirements.

An eight-month investigation by The Associated Press into child abuse deaths nationwide found that the state has routinely kept details of such cases secret, even when they involved children killed while the agency had reason to know they were in danger. The AP learned of a Montana case that it focused on by reviewing documents in the criminal court case against Matthew Blaz, the father of 2-month-old victim Mattisyn Blaz, whom prosecutors said had been spiked "like a football." The father was sentenced in November to life in prison without parole.

In its investigation, the AP found that at least 786 children died of abuse or neglect in the U.S. in a six-year span while in plain view of child protection officials.


‘It's now or never': Texts reveal teen's efforts to pressure boyfriend into suicide

by Abby Phillip

Michelle Carter knew that if anyone found her text messages to her boyfriend Conrad Roy III, she might go to jail.

“[If the police] read my messages with him I'm done. His family will hate me and I can go to jail,” Carter texted a friend after her 18-year-old boyfriend used a gas-powered water pump to commit suicide in the parking lot of a K-Mart.

Carter had asked Roy in a text message to delete her messages before he carried out the suicide last summer, but investigators found them anyway.

According to prosecutors, Carter pressured her boyfriend to go through with suicide for almost a week before he carried out the act. She counseled him to overcome his fears; researched methods of committing suicide painlessly; and lied to police, his family and her friends about his whereabouts during the act itself and after, prosecutors said.

Carter, who was 17 at the time of Roy's death, now faces manslaughter charges in juvenile court in Massachusetts.

Her attorney argues, however, that the charges should be dropped because Carter's messages are protected by free speech. According to attorney Joseph P. Cataldo, Carter was “brainwashed” into supporting Roy's plan for suicide.

“He ultimately persuaded a young, impressionable girl,” Caldato told reporters, according to South Coast Today. “Eventually he gets her to endorse his plan.”

But in an indictment released Friday, prosecutors outlined in nauseating detail the extent of Carter's alleged role in helping Roy overcome his doubts about suicide.

For more than a week in July 2014, Carter and Roy exchanged hundreds of messages in which Carter insisted that Roy would be better off dead.

“You're finally going to be happy in heaven. No more pain,” she told him in one message. “It's okay to be scared and it's normal. I mean, you're about to die.”

According to prosecutors, the two had struck up a romantic relationship — mostly online — in 2012. Her lawyer says they had only met a few times in person over the course of two years prior to Roy's death.

Roy had a history of depression and had attempted suicide in the past, but his family was hopeful that he would get through it.

“He seemed to be pulling out of it,” his grandmother Janice Roy told WBZ.

Text messages recovered by police, however, suggest that by 2014, Carter had gotten tired of Roy's idle talk of suicide and she wanted him to go through with it — now.

“You always say you're gonna do it, but you never do,” Carter complained. “I just want to make sure tonight is the real thing.”

Another time, she texted: “You can't keep pushing it off, though. That's all you keep doing.”

Carter was insistent, even when Roy steered the topic to other things:

ROY: How was your day?

CARTER: When are you doing it?

Roy said he was having a good day, but Carter wasn't satisfied.

CARTER: Really?

ROY: Yes.

CARTER: That's great. What did you do?

ROY: Ended up going to work for a little bit and then just looked stuff up.

CARTER: When are you gonna do it? Stop ignoring the question???

Roy had doubts, and he was scared, according to his texts. What if it didn't work and he ended up injured for the rest of his life? How would his family cope with the loss?

Carter had answers.

He would be her guardian angel in heaven.

She would comfort his family and they would move on.

If he followed the directions he had found online for killing himself with carbon monoxide, it would “100 percent work,” she said.

“There isn't anything anyone can do to save you, not even yourself,” she told him.

But committing suicide would require tools. Roy thought about using a tube to channel the exhaust from his truck's tailpipe into the vehicle but realized that the diesel engine emitted lower levels of carbon monoxide that might make failure more likely.

Carter was confident that it would work and told him why.

If the truck emitted a specific amount of carbon monoxide “for five or ten minutes, you will die,” she told him. “You lose consciousness with no pain. You just fall asleep and die.”

But Carter didn't love that idea, either, because she feared that Roy would make up an “excuse” to explain why it didn't work.

“I bet you're gonna be like ‘oh, it didn't work because I didn't tape the tube right or something like that,'” she texted him “You always seem to have an excuse.”

When Roy decided to use a generator instead, Carter was impatient.

“Do you have the generator?” she asked him.

“Not yet LOL,” he replied.


Eventually, Roy did find a generator — his father's — but it was broken. Carter told him to take it to Sears for repairs.

And if Roy couldn't find a way to use carbon monoxide, Carter suggested alternatives: “I'd try the bag or hanging,” she told him. “Hanging is painless and take like a second if you do it right.”

The day of Roy's death — July 12, 2014 — he and Carter exchanged texts in the early morning hours.

“You can't think about it. You just have to do it,” Carter said, telling him she didn't understand why he was hesitating.

“I'm gonna eventually,” he replied. “I really don't know what I'm waiting for but I have everything lined up.”

She suggested that he take medication to fall asleep and allow the fumes to work.

She worried that he wouldn't go through with it because the sun would soon be coming up.

She suggested that he go to an empty parking lot.

They texted throughout the day about the plans, about Roy's doubts, and about Carter's insistence that “the time is right” and that he was ready.

At the same time, Carter appeared to be preparing her friends and Roy's relatives for his eventual death. Days before his suicide, Carter texted a friend named Samantha and claimed that Roy was missing — though she was communicating with him at exactly the same time about how to fix his father's broken generator.

The day before his death, she told her friend: “I'm thankful that our last words were I love you.”

At some point on the night of July 12, Roy went through with the suicide, using a gas-powered water pump. He died of carbon monoxide poisoning inside the cab of his pickup truck.

While he was in the truck with the pump running, he was on the phone texting and talking with Carter, she told her friend.

“Like, honestly I could have stopped it,” Carter texted Samantha months later. “I was on the phone with him and he got out of the car” because the carbon monoxide was working, she said. She added that she “told him to get back in.”

Roy's body was found by police on the morning of July 13.

A judge will now decide whether Carter will face charges in his death. She will appear in court again on Oct. 2.

After his death, Carter became a self-proclaimed advocate for mental health.

She organized a fundraising tournament in Roy's memory and posted on Facebook and Twitter about her attempts to save her boyfriend's life.

“Even though I could not save my boyfriend's life, I want to put myself out here to try to save as many other lives as possible,” she wrote on Facebook.

If you need help, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Someone is available to talk 24/7


James Rhodes, Instrumental: A Powerful Memoir on Child Abuse and Classical Music

by Victoria Sadler

With his autobiography Instrumental, James Rhodes may well have achieved the impossible - writing a first-hand account of child abuse and its terrible legacy that is not just desperately needed, but is also readable and, well, even funny.

This book secured headlines for the attempts made to ban it - a challenge that was so severe it took a Supreme Court ruling in May to secure its publication. But though the implications of this trial are huge in what it means for free speech, don't let it define what you think you know about this book for this is a stunningly frank account about not just abuse, but also the healing powers of music. This is a book that is both terrible and beautiful.

James is a popular pianist who is creating a huge following as a result of his willingness to challenge the stuffiness of his profession and make classical music dynamic and exciting. Yet he is also a survivor of child rape for James was repeatedly raped by his gym teacher when he was only six years old.

How James managed to hold it together to write about his experiences I do not know. But as this book demonstrates, James has been in and out of psychiatric wards ever since. There have been very desperate times - suicide attempts, deliberate and unintentional sabotage of relationships and friendships, and a constant battle with a tsunami of emotions that make even the simplest daily tasks almost impossible.

For as James writes "you cannot outrun this stuff. You cannot hide from it. You cannot deny it. You cannot push it down and expect it not to eventually reappear." And this book is a powerful testament to that damage, and how abuse constantly works at destroying the victim, long after the abuse has stopped.

There are dark passages in this book, particularly the episodes of self-harm and James' description of the adults around him unable (unwilling?) to identify the cause of the changes in the young James' personality. And even the responses from some as James, 25 years later, finally starts to confront and open up about his trauma are god-awful.

But as much as this is a book about abuse and mental illness, this is also a book about music. For it was music that saved James in his darkest moments and it is his passion for classical music that gives this memoir its soaring sprit and its sense of hope.

James cleverly weaves this love into the book. Each chapter opens with descriptions on passages of music and composers that have inspired James - a manner that not just brings in music at key moments in James' journey but breaks up the darkness in the writing, making the book easier to read.

On the wonderful Schumann, he writes "[he] was one of several who suffered from severe depression, throwing himself into the Rhine and then, having not managed to kill himself, sectioning himself voluntarily and dying alone and afraid in an asylum."

Whereas on Mozart, James wryly notes "The world's most famous composer. It's quite an achievement and yet somehow one feels Mozart wouldn't have given two fucks." No, he probably wouldn't have.

And suddenly these greats of classical music no longer seem like obscure figures from history who played for the pleasure of the wealthy and elite, but real men with complex personalities, battling huge issues. Suddenly to us they become human, even relatable. And their music becomes relevant all over again.

For those who have seen and heard James playing live, this format may not be much of a surprise as this is very much the way James lays out his concerts. His passion to drag classical music out from the stale and deliberately prohibitive classical music halls leaps off the page as he continues his criticisms of the classical music establishment and talks about his challenges in widening its audience.

And he is funny. James is funny and this book is funny. It's a dark humour, yes, but come on, anyone who can observe about Schubert's Piano Trio that "this is the soundtrack of a man so depressed he started out his student days training to be a lawyer" deserves credit for that.

That James has found a way to build a life for himself beyond the abuse is extraordinary. But this isn't a rose-tinted view that all obstacles can be overcome. Even at the end James confides that "I've no idea if I'm going to survive the next few years."

For child abuse isn't ever something you get over or leave behind. And at a time when parts of society is still trying to tell victims they have taken too long to come to bring their abuse to light, that you can't cast aspersions on the dead, that not every accuser should be believed, James' book could not be more timely.

We need this book. That James found it within himself to write these words down on a page, to endure again what must have been unbelievably traumatic to write and to edit, we should be incredibly grateful for.

Instrumental by James Rhodes available in paperback from October 1, 2015. Also available in hardback and e-book.

James is also touring to accompany the book. His Instrumental show, including readings and anecdotes from the book and live performance, will tour throughout the autumn and winter. Dates and venues listed on



Reports of child abuse, neglect in Mass. rose last year.

by Andy Metzger

BOSTON -- Reports of abuse and neglect of children in Massachusetts rose in 2014, according to an annual report released Tuesday, which documents the deaths of 40 children receiving state services last year.

The 40 deaths documented in "critical incident" reports last year is the highest amount since 2011 and up from 29 during 2013, according to the report by Child Advocate Gail Garinger. Near-fatalities and serious injuries were down last year, according to the new data from her office.

The grim tally arrives as state officials and the public awaits reports on the high-profile and unexplained death of a 2-year-old girl in Auburn and the coma suffered by a 7-year-old boy from Hancock.

In 2013 and 2014 the Department of Children and Families came under increased scrutiny for losing track of Jeremiah Oliver, a 5-year-old from Fitchburg whose body was later discovered along a highway in Sterling. The agency is now led by Linda Spears, who was previously part of an organization that provided the state with an independent assessment of the department.

The office receives information on "critical" incidents involving the death or serious injury of a child receiving services from a state health and human services agency or under state custody, with the majority of reports coming from the Department of Children and Families.

Half of the six child deaths by injury documented by the Office of the Child Advocate in 2014 were suicides, while two were caused by motor vehicle crashes - as passenger and pedestrian - and a 9-year-old boy was shot and killed. Sixteen children died of medical conditions, including complications from premature births, cancer and pneumonia. The office verified the cause of eight deaths as sudden and unexpected infant and toddler death.

"Additional risk factors, such as parental substance use, were present in most of the deaths," Garinger's office reported. Another 10 deaths have yet to include a ruling from the medical examiner on their cause. Those cases include a 2-year-old girl who died while unattended in a car seat.

Last year the Office of the Child Advocate reviewed reports of abuse or neglect concerning 184 children mainly in foster home or residential care settings.

Supported allegations of sexual abuse of children rose in 2014 compared to the year before, and allegations of neglect and abuse have risen annually since 2012. In 2014 there were 31 supported allegations of sexual abuse, 109 of physical abuse and 490 of neglect.

The office's annual report is spare on details about the incidents of injury and death.

Seven youths under state custody or receiving state services suffered near fatalities in 2014, including a 5-month-old boy who was abused, a 17-year-old boy who was struck by a motor vehicle and three teenage boys who were shot.

Last year's documentation of four "critical incident" injury reports includes a 17-year-old boy sexually abused by staff while living at a state-funded program.

Garinger's Tuesday report will be her last, as she has announced her plans to resign from the position she has held since 2008, soon after it was first created. As the Baker administration searches for someone to replace Garinger, she wrote, "I would like to commend in particular Elizabeth Armstrong, who has been my deputy, my counselor, and my friend since I became Child Advocate."

A former juvenile court judge, Garinger proposed expanding the jurisdiction of juvenile justice to include youths under the age of 18 who are charged with murder. For murder cases against people 14 years and older, jurisdiction now lies in Superior Court. Believing youthful crimes can hamper a person throughout life, the child advocate also backs legislation that would allow for "the automatic expungement of juvenile court records for first-offense nonviolent misdemeanors upon final disposition and a specified waiting period provided there has been no subsequent delinquency or criminal offense charged during that period."



Your Health: New child abuse pediatrics at Children's of AL

by Linda Mays

Alabama's first board-certified physician in child abuse pediatrics, Michael A. Taylor, M.D., FAAP, is named director of the newly-created UAB Division of Child Abuse Pediatrics at Children's of Alabama . According to Children's of Alabama, the new Child Abuse Pediatrics Division will expand the current services provided by the Children's Hospital Intervention and Prevention Services (CHIPS) Center. The CHIPS Center provides forensic medical evaluations, psychosocial assessments, play therapy, counseling, social work services, prevention education, court support and expert court testimony for victims of child abuse.

Taylor was the first physician to be board-certified in child abuse pediatrics (CAP) in Alabama in 2009. Only 324 physicians are board-certified in CAP in the United States.



PA woman sentenced to 65 years in child abuse case

by Mary Meaux

BEAUMONT — A Port Arthur woman who was found guilty o two counts of injury to a child was sentenced to 65 years in prison on Monday.

Christine Johnson, 22, received the 65 year sentence on a charge of knowingly by omission causing injury to her then five-week old daughter Faith Mason. The child, dubbed “Baby Faith” by media, suffered more than 40 broken bones and fractures and brain damage. Some of her injuries occurred at the age of two-weeks old.

Johnson was also found guilty of the second degree felony of reckless injury to a child and received the maximum punishment, 20 years.

A jury of 11 men and one woman deliberated a total of three hours on Monday.

Prosecutor Randi King said Johnson will serve the sentence concurrently and would be eligible for parole in 30 years. King prosecuted the case along with Assistant District Attorney Pat Knauth.

“We feel good about the length of the sentence,” King said via phone after the trial was concluded. “This amount of time ensures that by the time she gets out she won't be having any children, keep her from doing this again.”

Though the trial is over, Baby Faith remains in a therapeutic foster home out-of-town. The child, now 2, cannot walk, talk or eat on her own.

“She still needs a forever home,” King said. “CPS is interviewing families and there are many children in CPS care statewide who need forever homes like that. A safe, secure place to grow up where they can have a real childhood.”

Faith Mason was brought to Christus Hospital-St. Mary on Aug. 18, 2013 suffering from a broken neck that medical experts said was due to being jerked and having her head hyperflex. Further tests showed more than 40 broken bones, some of which occurred three weeks prior, as well as brain damage.



Families SA: Thousands of calls to Child Abuse Report Line going unanswered, Freedom of Information data reveals

by Tom Fedorowytsch

Thousands of phone calls to the Families SA Child Abuse Report Line are going unanswered in what appears to be another example of the state child protection agency's poor efficiency, figures obtained under Freedom of Information (FOI) laws have revealed.

Families SA is already subject to inquiry under a royal commission into child protection, which was launched by Premier Jay Weatherill in August 2014 to examine the state's handling of child protection issues.

Now FOI figures sourced and published by the South Australian Family First Party show 85,916 phone calls to the hotline were abandoned in the four financial years to June 30, 2015.

The same figures show 116,456 calls were connected with an operator.

More than 15,000 phones calls in 2014-15 alone went unanswered and 24,000 were connected with an operator.

Family First MLC Rob Brokenshire said the average waiting time was about 20 minutes but some callers were waiting up to two hours to speak to Families SA.

"A police officer, a school teacher, or a medical practitioner does not have two hours to sit on a phone," he said.

"Families SA and the Government have failed in almost every way when it when it comes to child abuse in this state.

"We've now forced a royal commission on them and some of these practices need to be corrected now, not waiting years for a royal commission to report."

Families SA's subject to royal commission

Mr Weatherill ordered a royal commission into child protection after the horrific case emerged of paedophile and former Families SA carer Shannon McCoole.

Shannon McCoole was last month jailed for 35 years for sexually abusing seven children as young as 18 months old.

He was found to be the administrator for an international child porn website of some 45,000 members, and in possession of more than 50,000 images of child pornography.

McCoole's will provide oral evidence to the commission, with a date yet to be set.

Families SA received a scathing assessment in April after a coronial inquest into the death of Adelaide girl Chloe Valentine found the agency failed in its duty to protect her.

A Families SA supervisor is also fronting an inquiry into the death of four-month-old baby Ebony, killed in Adelaide while in the care of her teenage parents in 2011.

Under cross examination last week, Loretta Parenta conceded that more inquiries should have been made about the baby's father, who had allegedly harmed two other children in New South Wales before moving to Adelaide.

Families SA acknowledges 'high volume' of calls

The Department for Education and Child Development said it acknowledged the "high volume of calls made to the child abuse report line", and had increased staff numbers working at the centre to 78 in response.

It has also set up an online reporting system, which received 13,355 reports during the 2013-14 financial year.

"Overall, the total proportion of calls responded to has increased in the past year," the agency said.

"Families SA is trialling a program to help cope with the demand, which will see trained staff enter data electronically rather than the traditional hard copy method, in an effort to capture notifications more efficiently.

"This information will then be assessed and responded to by social workers."

Child Protection Reform Minister John Rau said the Government was keen to change the way the child abuse hotline operated.

Mr Rau said not having social workers taking the calls might make the system more efficient.

"It's a bit like saying that the Crime Stoppers phones would be ringing through to a battery of detectives. It wouldn't be a good way of using detectives' time and I don't really think using social workers' time to answer phones in that way is useful use of their time," he said.

The child protection royal commission's findings are expected to be handed down in August 2016, a year later than planned.



Child porn probe in Alberta uncovers 'extreme' photos, videos

Some victims depicted are estimated by police to be as young as 6 months

by CBC News

A seven-month police investigation into child sexual exploitation has netted the arrest of eight Albertans, six of them from Calgary.

The operation focused on "high-level targets" that were sharing and distributing large collections of child sexual exploitation photos and videos, police in Calgary announced Tuesday.

"This is more than just photos of a kid in the bath. This is graphic sexual abuse, even torture, of children as young as infants," said Det. Justin Brooks, who led the investigation by the Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) unit of the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT).

Dubbed Operation ICE Storm II, the investigation uncovered more than 14 terabytes of data, which was analyzed by forensic technicians. About 100,000 photos and videos of child exploitation were identified, an official said.

Brooks said it is challenging for police to keep up with the volume of child exploitation images on the internet, with investigations in his department up 40 per cent over the past four years.

"Sadly, the arrest of these eight offenders is a mere drop in the bucket," he said.

"The reality is that child sexual abuse photos and videos are being shared at a growing rate in our communities."

Investigators do not believe any of the victims are from Alberta, or that any hands-on offences took place in the province.

Strong message

The seized images have been submitted to a database operated by the National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre for further investigation.

Brooks said that while eight arrests may not seem significant, "we're really hoping … that we send a strong message — that we have no tolerance for people who sexually exploit children, you're not anonymous, we will target you, and bring you to justice."

The investigation by the numbers:

•  Eight Albertans arrested, six from Calgary.

•  16 search warrants executed from September 2014 to March 2015.

•  85 computers and electronic devices seized.

•  14 terabytes of data analyzed.

•  100,000 photos and video of child sexual abuse identified.

An earlier phase of Operation ICE Storm wrapped up in April 2014 with the arrest of 10 offenders.


Child Sex Trafficking through Child “Protection” Services Exposed – Kidnapping Children for Sex

by Brian Shilhavy
Health Impact News Editor 

In this Buzzsaw interview (below), filmmaker Sean Stone interviews Tammi Stefano, the Executive Director of The National Safe Child Coalition (NSCC), and exposes much of the corruption happening within Child Protection Services and Family Courts. This might be one of the few interviews currently available on the Internet that gives this much information on the child sex trafficking business that exists in LA County, and across the nation. Tammi Stefano reveals some very shocking information about the child and human trafficking business currently operating in the United States, which is a huge illegal business that  brings in more money than the illegal drug trade and illegal arms trade combined .

Tammi Stefano has spent over two decades on front lines fighting for child safety. She understands the emotions of being victimized, having survived a kidnapping in her younger years. Determination was the driving force that prompted her to go undercover to catch a pedophile school teacher.

Child Protection Services do Not Protect Children – Hundreds of Children Murdered in CPS Care

Picking up the interview at about the 9 minute mark, Stefano begins to explain that when there is an allegation of child abuse, law enforcement and child protection services (CPS) are the two entities that get involved. According to Stefano, the social workers working in child protection services across the country do not have the training to truly investigate child abuse, because child abuse is a crime. Stefano encourages the listeners of the program to call law enforcement, not CPS, if they encounter sexual or physical abuse of a child, because this is a crime, and CPS is not trained to handle crimes. Stefano says:

The minute you call child protection services, you can rest assured that the investigation will not be done properly. Chances are the child will not be protected.

She then gives the example of Los Angeles County, where in 2013 CPS took “thousands of children away from parents,” and that 570 children were murdered while in the care of CPS and away from their families.

Foster Children Bring in Great Profits to the State

At another point in the interview, Stefano relates how California benefits financially from having children in foster care. She states that adults who are incarcerated in the penal system on average cost the State about $48,000.00 per prisoner. For children taken in foster care, however, one child can bring in up to $1 million of revenue to the State. Children who need “extra care” are given many medical treatments, such as psychotropic drugs. (See: California's Crisis: 1 Out of Every 4 Children in California's Foster Care Prescribed Powerful Psychiatric Drugs)

Stefano gives one example she encountered where a Los Angeles judge sent one mom's son to a “behavioral modification camp” because he was allegedly labeled “defiant.” He was given elecrto-shock treatments, and these treatments were billed to the mother at a cost of $7000.00 per week. Stefano stated that the mother is still making payments on these “treatments,” while her son is now 23, and she still has 10 years left on her payment plan. To this day she does not know where her child was sent for these “medical services.”

LA CPS Turning Foster Children Over to Known Sex Abuse Offenders

When Stone asked her who CPS was turning these children over to with such “gruesome” statistics, Stefano replied that what she discovered, and what the Los Angeles Times was kind enough to publish, was that 1000 “convicted sex offenders” had been given a “green light” by CPS to become “approved foster parents” just in Los Angeles County.

CPS Putting Children into Sex Trafficking is a Huge Problem

At around the 25:15 point in the interview, Stone and Stefano begin to discuss the child sex trafficking problem. When Stone asks Stefano if she has encountered sex trafficking among children, she replies: “We need to cover it a lot more.”

As an example, she mentioned a sex trafficking case with CPS in Orange County California last year. Stefano says that of 105 sexually abused victims that were found in this case, 65% of those victims were in the foster care system under CPS control, and they were allegedly never reported missing. Stefano says:

What we are finding now is this trafficking is a lot bigger, and a lot more involved politically than we care to look at, or the media won't cover. Everybody is afraid because there are some really big heavy hitters that are very influential that are involved.

Children have been sold, and there have been cases, where children have been sold up to 75 times in one day. 75 times in one day…. someone has abused this child.

The child trafficking industry, or human trafficking industry right now, makes more money than the illegal drug trade, and illegal arms trade, combined. 

So children are definitely a commodity. They are a commodity to make money.

Stefano then relates the following story:

Last year I had a case where a lovely young girl, a single mom – her mom was a great Italian woman who lives in Burbank. She was having some problems with her daughter. Her daughter started hanging out with the wrong crowd – good girl though – she just needed to be pulled back in.

So her mom calls a friend at the police department, and she says, “You know, let's put a little scare – I want to do something. I want to make sure she is OK.”

He says, “You know, call Child Protective Services.”

“Ok, I'll try it.”

She called Child Protective Services. They said, “We need to take her, and help out here.”

They put this child – gorgeous – I mean she looks like model – 16 years old – (actually) 15 at the time – (and they put her) in this group home.

The mom goes to visit her. It was near the holidays. She feels like “Alright, she is going to learn her lesson. She'll never mess up again. This is a hard core lesson.”

Her daughter's gone. Her daughter and three other beautiful young girls.

Now you have to be reminded that the gates around this group home, locally, are high. They are too high, and they are locked electronically. You are not getting out. And there is a full staff.

While this staff says, “Gee, we were short staffed, and we just don't know how this gate got open.”

This mother daily for over one year posted – I mean she came on my show. She did not stop looking for her daughter. Her daughter is home (now.) She found her through the efforts of a combined community effort. And she is still healing. She was passed on to more people – she was so abused. She was locked up. She was a prisoner.

Her and three others from a State-run (foster) group home. And how did the gates get open? It was near the holidays and they just don't have an answer.

Child Protection Services in America does not have a duty to report a child missing when the child is a ward of the State.

Stefano then talks about an organization called “The Humanitarian Alliance” and a report they have that found within 48 hours after a child has aged out of the foster care system, because they have become 18 and have left their foster homes, 65 to 70% of them are captured into human trafficking syndicates. Stefano believes the only way this can happen is because those inside the foster care system are helping to arrange it to happen, for a fee.

Listen to the entire shocking interview below. Note that the first 9 minutes discusses a new TV show and the controversial issue of corporal punishment. At about the 9 minute mark is where they begin to discuss the abuses within CPS.

The Real Criminals in Child Abuse and Sex Trafficking do not Want this Information Public

Tammi Stefano is the Executive Director of The National Safe Child Coalition (NSCC). At one point during the interview she related how her child advocacy campaigns have resulted in death threats from angry foster parents. She also stated that her website has been hacked, and that her phone has been tapped “numerous times.”

As Stefano stated:

“What we are finding now is this trafficking is a lot bigger, and a lot more involved politically than we care to look at, or the media won't cover. Everybody is afraid because there are some really big heavy hitters that are very influential that are involved.”

Stefano is the not the only one to step forward and reveal this kind of criminal child sex trafficking among powerful people. Back in 1989 the Washington Times published a report about an alleged illegal homosexual pedophile prostitution ring that involved members of Congress and the White House in Washington, D.C.

The “scandal” eventually died down and nothing apparently happened.

Politicians are aware of child and human trafficking, and laws have been passed to supposedly address the problem. On May 29, 2015 S. 178, the “Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015” was signed into law after much political fighting.

However, based on the information we have learned from Tammi Stefano in this interview, as well as the testimony and reports of countless others, government funding is the PROBLEM, and not the solution! Ironically, this new bill that just passed under the auspices of dealing with child sex trafficking, might actually perpetuate the problem and make it worse, by funneling even more federal funds into social services for children and troubled youth.

Will people truly aware of the problem, particularly in politics, really be able to do anything to solve this problem? Georgia Senator Nancy Schaefer was one of the few who did speak out, and try to do something to stop this horrendous problem, but now she is dead. (Story here)



Law to shelter child sex trafficking victims could strain resources

by Robert Maxwell

AUSTIN (KXAN) – A new Texas law aimed at better protecting child survivors of human sex trafficking could strain the network of existing shelter facilities designed to help other young victims of abuse and neglect, advocates for child protection tell KXAN.

“[The new law] taxes [that network] even more easily. We'll have to look at it as a resource community, what else is necessary because the resources for children and families are already extensively needed,” says Amanda Van Hoozer, Director of Program Services for the non-profit Center for Child Protection.

H.B. 418 goes into effect Sept. 1 and allows police, probation officers or child protective workers to act quickly—without a court order—to rush a rescued sex trafficking survivor into ‘a safe refuge' ideally a secure foster home. That's for the first 24 hours or until a child can go before a juvenile or welfare court judge who in turn, can order the child removed from his or her legal guardian if necessary and into a longer-term treatment facility.

The problem is, few if any truly secure foster homes exist in Texas today where the adult to child ratio is high and staff is trained to handle the specific needs of say, a 14-year-old runaway who has severe emotional and sexual trauma, is addicted to various drugs and trusts no one. No one case is the same, experts say.

“You're dealing with kiddos who are figuring out their normal teenaged stuff on top of being a victim of a really difficult crime. Sometimes safety means something that's more restrictive than our 'normal' (foster) house,” Van Hoozer adds these kids can act violent and be malnourished. “So yes, those homes are harder to find.”

Add to that, that teenager might think her sex trafficker is her best option for providing her with clothes and food and tells her she's beautiful. Running back to him is a stark reality police and other child welfare experts say they encounter with this special set of victimized teenagers.

One Travis County juvenile court judge is concerned if the foster home the child is first brought to is not secure, and the trafficker is waiting outside, the child may never even end up in her courtroom.

“It happens that fast. They find these kids that rapidly and it's because they're worth a lot of money,” says the Hon. Darlene Byrne who sits on the 126 th District Civil Court in Travis County and oversees child removal cases.

Byrne was recently elected President of the National Council on Juvenile and Family Court Judges. In February 2013, its Board of Trustees resolved to promote the development of "non-detention triage facilities and specialized placement options to address the unique trauma suffered by victims of human trafficking."

“Child safety is the most important thing," Judge Byrne tells KXAN. "The question: Is that child being further traumatized by being treated as a criminal?”

“Do I want to lock them up? No I don't. But this state is behind the eight-ball. We've got to get them the services that meet their needs. Until we build the services that meet their needs we can count on, the traffickers are already ahead of us. And they're looking for their payday,” Judge Byrne says noting it will be months before anything changes substantively.

The new law gives State Health Services staff until May 2016 to come up with guidelines for licensing such secure homes. No funding is included with the new law. The Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) expects “there may be additional costs” to one related program - the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM) Program. It provides services to foreign-born child victims of trafficking, but it's anticipated any additional costs would be covered by federal funds, according to the law's Fiscal Impact Statement.

“Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS)-licensed URM facilities do not currently meet the level of security required in the bill and do not provide services tailored specifically to the needs of victims of trafficking,” the statement reads.

In the meantime, Judge Byrne says Travis County leaders are talking about how to make room in a separate area of the Gardner Betts Juvenile Center on South Congress Avenue to house sex trafficking survivors, even for a few days.

CPS' Role?

It's not clear at this point what role the State's Child Protective Services (a branch of DFPS) will play in overseeing enhanced foster homes tailored to trafficking victims.

“Since this law is new, we at CPS don't know the impact," explained Julie Moody, a CPS spokesperson in an email. "Keep in mind even with the new law in place we don't expect a lot more trafficking cases (with CPS involvement), but don't have an estimate.”

And CPS has its hands full. Last year in Central Texas alone, CPS confirmed 7,509 total victims of abuse and neglect. Statewide, 640 kids were placed in emergency shelters intended for stays of less than 30 days, records show.

Adding to the challenge, Texas CPS is in the midst of a recovery plan after years of high staff turn-over which caused caseworker loads to increase. In some cases, abused children slipped through the cracks. As part of its t ransformation, CPS recently standardized rules to allow caseworkers the latitude remove a child within 24 hours from a home where there's suspected neglect or abuse. It's unclear if that will increase the number of new removal cases this coming year.

Records show last year, CPS removed 1,235 children in Central Texas and 17,378 statewide from their guardians. Locally, that averages 23.7 kids every week or 94.8 each month in 2014.

Longer-term solutions are rising

In the next few months, at least two new non-profit 'longer-term' therapeutic places will open for sex trafficking survivors -- with names like Freedom Ranch and The Refuge. Freedom Ranch is described as transitional housing (small, rural cottages) for survivors older than 18 who have completed a safe house program. The Ranch is meant to assist with education, job placement, and life skills, according to a release from the Austin-area based non-profit group TheKey2Free that developed it as one of only seven facilities like it in the country.

“We want this to be another step in the healing process for these girls to transition back into society successfully as healthy young ladies,” said Amy Davis, CEO of The Key2Free in a news release.

The Refuge Ranch will also provide long-term, holistic care in a pastoral and peaceful setting but for younger girls ages 11-17, who have been rescued out of sex trafficking. Each girl in care will have her own plan of restoration, unique to her age, situation and needs, according to the group's website.

Right now, NCJFCJ records show the number of young people at risk of becoming entangled in sex trafficking are mainly estimates - between 100,000 and 300,000. In the future, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services will begin reporting data in response to the federal Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act P.L. 113-183 (see sections 102-104). This requires states to report the number of children identified as sex trafficking victims and the number of children and youth in foster care who were trafficking victims prior to coming into care. The federal regulations are not yet in place.

How do you know if your child is being sex trafficked?

Recognizing the victims: help for parents and teachers

The state Attorney General's Office released training manuals for law enforcers as well as and educators and foster parents to recognize the signs a young person is being sex trafficked:


•  Academically unengaged

•  Performs noticeably under grade level

•  Exhibits sudden changes in academic performance


•  Avoids eye contact

•  Inconsistencies in story

•  Gaps in memory

•  Paranoid

•  Unexplained or regular absences from school

•  Resists being touched


•  Branded / tattoos, scars, or bruises they cannot explain or are hesitant to explain

•  Appears malnourished or dehydrated

•  Burns

•  Shows signs of drug or alcohol addiction or abuse

•  Has a sexually transmitted infection or disease

•  Pregnancy – especially if they hesitate to mention who the father is

•  Shows signs of physical abuse

•  Sudden change of attire or material possessions (i.e. has clothing or items they cannot likely afford)

•  Appears to lack basic medical attention


•  Has a “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” significantly older than them

•  Lives in unstable or abusive home environments

•  History of running away or homelessness

•  Inability to look people in the eyes when speaking with them

•  Has overtly sexual online profile

•  Possesses sexual knowledge beyond what is normal for their age group

•  Tells inconsistent stories or provides scripted answers

•  Hesitant to change clothes in front of others

•  Uses terms relating to prostitution such as “daddy,” “John,” “trick,” or “the life”

•  Teased by other students for being sexually active or being associated with commercial sex

•  Has expressed need to pay off debt

•  Sudden changes in interests or friend groups

•  Changes in the way the child treats others

Other key identifiers

•  Gang affiliation

•  Has a history of living in many locations

•  Does not have control over their schedule

•  Possesses large amounts of cash

•  Possesses hotel keys

•  Possesses fake identification or no identification



Inquiry into historic child abuse to focus on homes allegations

A long-running public inquiry will examine allegations of historic child abuse at juvenile justice institutions when it resumes this week.

Retired judge Sir Anthony Hart is leading the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) probe, one of the UK's largest inquiries into physical, sexual and emotional harm to children at homes run by the church, state and voluntary organisations.

Its seventh module, expected to last until November, will focus on allegations arising out of St Patrick's Training School and Hydebank Young Offenders' Centre in Belfast, Rathgael Training School in Bangor and Lisnevin Training School in Newtownards.

In June, the HIA, spent a week examining the failings that allowed notorious paedophile priest Fr Brendan Smyth to continue abusing children over four decades.

Retired Catholic Primate Cardinal Sean Brady was among those who gave evidence and said he hoped light would be shed on a "dark chapter" in the church's history.

The inquiry was set up in January 2013 by the Northern Ireland Executive to investigate child abuse which occurred in residential institutions over a 73-year period from 1922 to 1995.

A total of 16 child care facilities are under investigation and around 300 witnesses are expected to give evidence.

Investigative work is scheduled to finish next summer with a report submitted to the MLAs at Stormont the following year.

The HIA is sitting at Banbridge Courthouse, County Down.

On the panel alongside Sir Anthony Hart, a retired High Court judge, is Geraldine Doherty, a former head of the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work in Scotland and David Lane, formerly director of social services in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.


‘It Shouldn't Be A Taboo Subject': Overview Of The Duggar's Comments In The TLC Sex Abuse Special

by Tara West

The Duggar family made one final appearance on TLC in the Breaking the Silence sex abuse special. TLC quickly pulled 19 Kids and Counting from their line-up after it was discovered that Josh Duggar had molested young girls, including his sisters Jill and Jessa, when he was a teen. However, after pulling the show, the Duggars released a statement that they would be working on one more project with the network in the form of a sex abuse special. Despite a lot of media attention placed on the fact the Duggars would be included in the show, the actual special only focused briefly on the Duggar family. The rest of the time was spent focused on Erin Merryn, a survivor of two childhood sexual abuse incidents who is now an advocate and lobbyist for “Erin's Law.”

The focus on Merryn's work seemed to pay off with many noting that the hour-long special was highly informative and powerful. Writer Andrea Reiher with Zap2It notes that TLC did a good job focusing on the core problems with child abuse and bringing awareness to Merryn's cause.

This law, which has been passed in 26 states, aims to ‘educate children in public schools on sexual abuse prevention through age appropriate curriculum through role plays, discussions, activities, and books giving children the tools to speak up and tell if anyone has ever touched them inappropriately rather than keep it a secret.'”

Though the Duggar family was not the focus of the sex abuse special, they were included in a section dedicated to the organization Darkness to Light. The Duggar daughters Jill and Jessa attended a Darkness to Light conference with their mother Michelle and commented about what they had learned. Jessa spoke to the fact that she felt sex abuse should not be a “taboo” subject and that we need to open up the discussion regularly.

“I feel like this should be a discussion people are having, even regularly. I think that it shouldn't be a taboo subject, that we should be bringing awareness to child sexual abuse and talking about this.”

Jessa also discussed how she was going to use the information she learned in her own growing family.

“[I learned] things I can do to be more aware, things I can do to set up boundaries safeguards for my child and children, hopefully, in the future.”

Michelle also commented on the program noting that she was “so glad” she was able to go to the seminar with her daughters and learn.

“I was so glad that my girls and I were able to do this together and that we could just be a support and encouragement to each other to be able to gain more information about this important topic.”

Though Jill did not appear directly in the segment, she did attend the conference and told People Magazine that it is “amazing” that there are so many other families that have gone through the same things as she has in her family.

“It's amazing to understand that there are so many people that deal with this exact same thing in their own families.”


When Child Sex Abuse Gets Ignored

by Brent Bozell and Tim Graham

The double standard our media impose on child sexual abuse is garishly obvious. On August 14, The Washington Post set the stage for the coming American visit of Pope Francis with another splashy front-page story on a man still berating the Catholic Church after being abused by a priest from 1969 to 1976.

But on August 21, after a court sentenced former Baltimore Ravens cheerleader Molly Shattuck, 48, for sexually abusing a 15-year old boy merely a year ago, the Post ignored it completely. Apparently there was no room. That boy's family had no media advocate there.

It's horrible that a priest would so egregiously betray his vows to abuse and manipulate a child. It's also horrible that a mother would betray her teenage son by sexually molesting one of his friends. But only one of these stories is apparently “newsworthy.”

It's obvious that in our culture today, the idea of a 15-year-old boy “becoming a man” with a grown woman is seen as a happy occasion. The notion of childhood innocence is not just antiquated, it's downright silly. People imagine the high-school high-fives, and don't think of rape.

If Shattuck were a Ravens football player, not a cheerleader, it would be news.

On August 21, ABC's World News Tonight ran only 63 words on Shattuck's crime, including a note on the slap-on-the-wrist punishment: “The judge ordering her to spend every other weekend at a probation center for the next two years. The ex-wife of a billionaire CEO, she was selected as a cheerleader in the NFL at the age of 38.”

The story lasted 19 seconds.

There was no story on CBS, or NBC, or PBS. We couldn't find any coverage on the cable news networks. The New York Times and the Boston Globe, so heralded for how aggressively they dug and dug into sexual abuse among Catholic priests, were nowhere to be found.

When the allegations broke out last November, the networks barely noticed. ABC covered it after midnight on Nightline – using footage from when they had aired a segment promoting Mrs. Shattuck on 20/20 in 2006, when she made the Ravens cheerleading squad. NBC had one story on Today , and CBS just a mention on the early morning news.

The crime of a former NFL cheerleader doesn't interest journalists like NFL players do. At the start of last year's NFL season – from the start of the regular season on September 4 through October 15 – ABC, CBS, and NBC combined for 171 morning and evening news stories on five NFL players embroiled in domestic abuse cases.

What's a more important story, a controversy over deflated footballs or a scandal about an ex-cheerleader committing child sexual abuse? The Big Three networks have devoted a staggering 86-plus minutes this year to obsessing over every aspect of “Deflategate.” Molly Shattuck's child sexual abuse drew 19 seconds.

Contemplate that.

The Holy Father lands in Washington on September 22. It's safe to guess we're going to hear more shocking stories about abusive priests in the Sixties and Seventies – yes, forty years, fifty years ago. But if the national media cannot broaden their scope to cover other – which is to say, non-Catholic clergy – cases of child sex abuse going on much more recently, how can they avoid the accusation of anti-Catholic prejudice?


Maltreated children's brains show ‘encouraging' ability to regulate emotions

by Deborah Bach

Children who have been abused or exposed to other types of trauma typically experience more intense emotions than their peers, a byproduct of living in volatile, dangerous environments.

But what if those kids could regulate their emotions? Could that better help them cope with difficult situations? Would it impact how effective therapy might be for them?

A University of Washington-led team of researchers sought to address those questions by studying what happens in the brains of maltreated adolescents when they viewed emotional images, and then tried to control their responses to them. The researchers found that with a little guidance, maltreated children have a surprising ability to regulate their emotions.

“They were just as able as other children to modulate their emotional responses when they were taught strategies for doing so,” said Kate McLaughlin, a UW assistant professor of psychology and the study's lead author. “That's very encouraging.”

Difficulties with regulating emotions are linked to the onset of mental disorders among maltreated children. Previous research has focused on how the brains of such children respond spontaneously to negative facial emotions, but the UW study, published Aug. 20 in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, is thought to be the first looking at whether maltreatment impacts brain regions involved in emotion control.

The study involved 42 boys and girls age 13 to 19, half of whom had been physically and/or sexually abused. Using magnetic resonance imaging, the researchers tracked the teens' brain activity as they were shown a series of photographs.

The teens were first shown neutral, positive and negative images and were told to let their emotions unfold naturally. The neutral images featured outdoor scenes or objects, such as a coffee cup or a pair of glasses, while the positive and negative images depicted scenarios showing people with different facial expressions — a smiling family engaged in a fun activity, for example, or two people arguing. The exercise was intended to model real-world emotional situations, McLaughlin said.

“How much do you react when something emotional happens? Some people have really strong emotional reactions. Some people have much more muted responses,” said McLaughlin, director of the UW's Stress & Development Laboratory.

“The question is, do we see differences in the brain in terms of how it responds to emotional information in kids who have been maltreated?”

The answer is yes, the researchers concluded. The positive images generated little difference in brain activity between the two groups. But when looking at negative images, the maltreated teens had more activity in brain regions involved in identifying potential threats — including the amygdala, which plays a key role in processing emotions and learning about environmental threats — than the control group. That makes sense, McLaughlin said, since in a chronically dangerous environment the brain is on heightened alert, constantly on the lookout for potential threats.

In a second exercise, participants were shown more photos and told to try to increase their emotional responses to the positive images and scale them back when viewing the negative images, using techniques they were taught beforehand. The children were shown how to use cognitive reappraisal, a strategy that involves thinking about a situation differently to alter the emotional response to it.

Participants thought about the negative images in ways that made them psychologically more distant — for example, thinking that the people in the photos were strangers or that the scene was not really happening.

For the positive cues, they thought about the images in a way that made them more realistic, such as imagining that they were part of the happy scene or that it involved people they knew.

Again, the two groups were similar in their brain responses to the positive images. But the negative photos caused the maltreated teens' brains to go into overdrive, drawing more heavily on regions in the prefrontal cortex to tamp down their feelings. The prefrontal cortex is involved in higher-order cognition and integrates information from other areas of the brain to effectively control emotions and behaviors and guide decision-making.

Though it was more difficult for them, the maltreated teens were able to modulate activity in the amygdala just as well as the participants with no history of maltreatment. That suggests that given the right tools, maltreated children may be able to control their emotional responses to real-world situations.

It also has promising implications for treatment, McLaughlin said, since the strategies participants used in the study are similar to those used in trauma therapy. Specifically, cognitive reappraisal, the strategy children used to regulate their emotions in the study, is a core technique used in trauma-focused treatments for children.

There's a common assumption that children subjected to abuse or trauma will have problematic emotions across the board, McLaughlin said — muted responses to positive situations and extreme reactions to negative ones. But the study's findings suggest that maltreated children are perhaps more resilient and adaptable than previously thought.

“It seems that they are able to cope effectively, even in very stimulating emotional situations, if they're taught strategies for doing so,” she said. “We think the findings are really promising.”

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Charles H. Hood Foundation. Co-authors are UW psychology graduate student Matthew Peverill, Andrea Gold of the National Institute of Mental Health, Sonia Alves of Harvard University and Boston Children's Hospital, and Margaret Sheridan of Harvard University.



'The Storm Makers' puts Cambodia's sex-trafficking under spotlight

by Astrid Zweynert

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Cambodians say that when human traffickers arrive in a village, they bring a storm and tears with them, an experience that Aya, sold into slavery when she was 16, will never forget.

Her story is at the center of the "The Storm Makers", a documentary by French-Cambodian filmmaker Guillaume Suon, who spent three years filming human trafficking victims and traffickers in the impoverished Southeast Asian nation.

A chilling expose of Cambodia's human trafficking underworld, the film depicts the lives of women like Aya who have returned from a life of slavery abroad, and those preparing to leave the country in the hope of earning enough money to support their families at home.

It also portrays a trafficker who claims he has sold more than 500 Cambodian girls, some as young as 14, without ever being arrested by police.

"Aya's story is a strong example that shows all the reasons why Cambodians become victims of human trafficking," Suon, 32, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Almost 20 percent of Cambodians live below the poverty line and the country lacks a social welfare network to support poor families, its institutions still struggling to recover from the devastation caused by dictator Pol Pot's genocidal regime in the late 1970s.

Aya, now in her early 20s, recently came back to Battambang province in northwestern Cambodia after she was trafficked to Malaysia to work as a maid.

Disabled and unable to support their family, Aya's parents had been approached by a recruiter promising Aya would be able to work in Malaysia in a secure job and send home money.

Her boss was abusive, so she escaped, only to be raped the night she ran away. She became pregnant as a result of the rape.

"Sometimes, I'd like her to sell him," her mother says in the film about the baby, a tiny boy seen rocking in a hammock, whom she resents as just another mouth to feed.

"I should have died over there," Aya says. Her own relationship with her son is also fraught as a result of the violence she experienced. She says she hits the baby when she thinks of his father and what he did to her.


Cambodia is a "source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking," the U.S. State Department's 2015 "Trafficking in Persons Report" noted.

Entrenched poverty, especially in rural areas, forces tens of thousands each year to work in Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan and increasingly the Middle East, lured by the promise of lucrative jobs.

"I target the poorest ones," trafficker Pou Houy says in the film. "These people are easy to lure and to recruit. Most can't read, they have nothing to lose. Even the factories don't want them, nobody wants them but me."

He has never been arrested by the police and enjoys a life of luxury due to his trafficking activities, an industry estimated to be worth $150 billion globally.

Aya, meanwhile, now earns a meager living by washing dishes, cooking for her neighbors and hauling bricks for $1 a day on a construction site in the capital Phnom Penh.

Suon spent much of his time in Cambodia in the countryside, where most of the trafficking victims come from, to gain the trust of locals.

"Nearly everyone knows someone who has gone to work abroad," said Suon. "It was easy to find the trafficking victims and the traffickers, who operate freely and with impunity."

"The Storm Makers" will have its television premiere on Monday on the PBS channel in the United States and will be screened online throughout September.


South Carolina

Prosecutors, church members take hard look at human trafficking in Myrtle Beach area and beyond

by Charles D. Perry

MURRELLS INLET -- Around the time South Carolina's top prosecutor announced a plan to combat human trafficking, local authorities rescued a female victim.

Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said the 2014 case seemed clear cut. It would have been the first time his office prosecuted someone using the state's relatively new laws against buying and selling human beings. But because the victim had been moved across state lines, he turned the investigation over to federal officials.

Unearthing that case, however, drove home a point: Human trafficking isn't somewhere else's problem

“It's here,” Richardson said Saturday, shortly before speaking to more than 275 people at Belin Memorial United Methodist Church's Family Life Center.

Called “Red Light – An Effort to STOP Human Trafficking,” the Murrells Inlet church's symposium aimed to shed light on the problems of human trafficking both abroad and in the community's backyard.

“We're simply trying to make people aware,” said the Rev. Scott Johnson, an associate pastor at the church. “Aware of the situation, aware of the possibilities, aware of the resources, aware of the law enforcement and the code in South Carolina state law … and how we as a community can be knowledgeable and be people of action.”

Johnson said the idea for the event came from a women's group at the church. They wanted to draw attention to the issue and other church members agreed.

“It kind of hit a nerve with some of us,” Johnson said. “We said, ‘As a church, we need to tackle this together.' … We know that this is a big issue. This is a topic people want to address. They want to understand more.”

Because human trafficking is such an underground crime, there is little data about its prevalence, according to a 2014 report from the S.C. Human Trafficking Task Force.

In 2012, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center received 20,652 calls about possible human trafficking. Of those, 233 were from South Carolina.

Myrtle Beach led all Palmetto State cities with 52 reports.

“The Grand Strand is a very transitional area,” Richardson said. “And it's easy to get lost. That's why you see so much of the stuff in back pages and the different escort services. Those sort of things make Myrtle Beach a more likely area … than somewhere inland.”

Richardson said some coastal law enforcement agencies are being trained to better identify trafficking victims.

“Another big problem is a lot of times the victims don't even see themselves as victims of human trafficking,” he said. “Nobody really knows that they are playing a part of this bigger thing.”

Throughout Saturday's event, the audience heard from prosecutors as well as those who help trafficking victims.

One of the speakers was Marie Sazehn, a state prosecutor and the human trafficking program coordinator for the S.C. Attorney General's Office.

“It is a big problem in our state,” she said.

In recent years, Sazehn said, state officials have battled the crime of people being sold for sex or labor.

State lawmakers overhauled South Carolina's weak anti-human-trafficking policies in 2012. A task force was formed and last year authorities unveiled a plan that called for specialized police training and an educational campaign.

In October, prosecutors are scheduled to go to court for the first trial involving the state's anti-human-trafficking statutes.

Despite the recent efforts, Sazehn said many people don't realize that human trafficking is a local concern.

“A lot of people initially think it's like the movie ‘Taken,'” she said, referring to the film where Liam Neeson plays a father searching for his abducted daughter. “They think that it's happening overseas and people are taken abroad. But I think that's one of the more grandiose perceptions of human trafficking. And it's absolutely not the most true perception of human trafficking and what we're seeing here on the state level.”

Locally, she said, the most vulnerable people are foster children and runaways. The average age of a girl pulled into trafficking is 12-14. For a boy, it's 11-13.

“It's very young when the children are being trafficked,” she said. “But there's really no face that you can put on a trafficking victim because we're seeing all kinds.”

So what else can be done?

Sazehn said educational events like Saturday's are important. She also said people should call their local police if they have concerns.

“It is something that is very real and it's not something that just happens in the movies,” she said. “But I also hope that they (the Belin audience) leave feeling empowered to take action and know that they can be a part of preventing this horrible crime.”

Diana Query got the message.

A member of Belin and the president of St. James Elementary School's PTA, she wants to see more informational programs about the subject in schools.

Although there are agencies dedicated to helping victims, Query wants to address the challenge on the front end.

“I have a fifth grader and I know here in Myrtle Beach there's a lot of human trafficking going on,” she said. “We need to look at ways to start educating our children. … I feel like I need to focus on preventing it.”

Johnson, the minister, hopes other attendees are also motivated to help.

“I don't know what we're going to do next,” he said of the church. “We just know this was the first step.”



CMU grad builds cybersleuthing tool to snare sex traffickers

Traffic Jam mines the ‘deep Web' for information, clues

by Joyce Gannon

The universal scope of Internet advertising makes it an ideal way to attract customers and lure young participants into human trafficking activities including sex and prostitution. But behind those ads are layers of online data that can help investigators track down the criminals who organize and profit from such exploitation.

A fledgling Pittsburgh startup, Marinus Analytics, has a software product, Traffic Jam, that mines the so-called “deep Web” for information and clues about trafficking operations. It is being used by law enforcement officials, including the FBI, to identify offenders and rescue victims.

Emily Kennedy, the founder of Marinus founder and its chief executive, began developing the product while she was a student at Carnegie Mellon University. She said Traffic Jam has helped locate more than 120 victims of human trafficking and the firm has trained and assisted more than 75 law enforcement agencies and prosecutor's offices that work on such cases.

The software uses machine learning, or artificial intelligence, to track and analyze patterns in publicly available data, such as cell phone numbers that appear in online sex ads. It then connects those numbers with a wide range of other numerical data that can eventually lead to individuals involved in trafficking circles.

“We have a working relationship with Marinus and use their product to assist us in our own investigations,” said Gregory Heeb, special agent with the FBI's Pittsburgh office.

Though he declined to discuss specific cases, Mr. Heeb said Marinus' technology has “helped us to find a number of subjects and locate minors that were involved online. It's helped us identify some victims and perpetrators.”

Other agencies that have utilized Traffic Jam, according to Marinus and CMU, include Utah's Office of the Attorney General, the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, the San Antonio Police Department and the Modesto California Police Department.

Ms. Kennedy researched a way to delve deep into the Internet to aid human trafficking investigations as her senior honors thesis at CMU.

After she graduated in 2012, she became a research analyst at the Auton Lab in CMU's School of Computer Science, where her work on Traffic Jam received support from DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. DARPA earlier this year awarded CMU a three-year, $3.6 million contract to develop machine learning algorithms to help track sex traffickers through online ads.

At CMU, Marinus was also supported by the National Science Foundation's Innovation Corps program, which fosters commercialization of promising research projects.

Marinus spun out as a stand-alone venture last year. Last month, the company was a runner-up in the inaugural UpPrize competition sponsored by BNY Mellon and the Forbes Funds to recognize technology companies that have a strong social mission.

With the $200,000 Marinus received from UpPrize, Ms. Kennedy hopes to further develop Traffic Jam to improve its effectiveness for investigators, train more law enforcement officials and nonprofit victims' agencies on how to use it, and expand its use internationally.

“It's the biggest influx of funding we've received,” said Ms. Kennedy, 25, who earned her bachelor's degree in ethics, history and public policy from CMU and has been passionate about learning more about human trafficking since she was in junior high school.

Back in her hometown of Auburn in Northern California, she first learned about human trafficking crimes from a church youth leader who had worked as a missionary in a red light district of Cambodia.

“I was really inspired by how he spent his time to pull girls out of the sex trade and provide rehabilitation and help law enforcement … with something so horrible,” she said.

By reading and educating herself on the issue, she became aware of the “intersection between technology and law enforcement” and decided to focus her senior thesis on data mining and how it can help solve trafficking crimes.

Among her advisors at CMU was Artur Dubrawski, co-director of the Auton Lab. Auton, which focuses on statistical data mining, was “an obvious place where some technology we have could make a big impact” on helping develop Ms. Kennedy's idea into a dedicated software product, said Jeff Schneider, Auton's other co-director.

Because the lab attempts to turn complex research into real-world applications, Mr. Schneider said, “That made Emily a great fit for what we do.”

“She got help from some people in our lab with the initial prototype and she ran with it from there. But having the technology isn't enough; you need someone really passionate to carry the ball … and Emily really made this happen on her own.”

At CMU, Ms. Kennedy also received expert mentoring and assistance as an Olympus Probe project in the school's Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship. Project Olympus identifies early-stage ventures with strong commercial potential and helps match products to the right customers.

For Marinus, there is “a large target market” including local and state law enforcement agencies, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said Kit Needham, associate director and entrepreneur in residence at Project Olympus.

“As it turns out, there were very limited tools to help law enforcement find these [sex trafficking] rings … they relied mostly on tips. Plus this area was very underfunded,” she said.

Though Marinus is based in Pittsburgh, Ms. Kennedy splits her time between the city and Northern California and doesn't maintain an office for the business. Its six team members work remotely and hold meetings usually at CMU or the Idea Foundry — a nonprofit business accelerator in Oakland which also provides advisory services to the company.

She declined to disclose the company's revenues.

Beyond human trafficking, Ms. Kennedy believes Marinus' technology could be applied to investigating other crimes, including the resale of counterfeit goods online and monitoring extreme hate groups who may be planning terror attacks.

“So our work is sustainable for years to come,” she said.



Maryland Teen Allegedly Sexually Abused Child Since She Was 3

The 17-year-old is charged as an adult with raping the girl, now 9.

by Simon McCormack

A 17-year-old teen is accused of raping a 9-year-old girl at the Maryland State Fairgrounds.

Jonathan Fleming, of Carroll County, Maryland, is charged as an adult with second-degree rape, second-degree sexual offense, perverted practice, fourth-degree sexual assault and second-degree assault, according to The Baltimore Sun. The Huffington Post does not usually name minors accused of crimes unless they are charged as adults.

An investigation by the Baltimore County Police Crimes Against Children Unit accuses Fleming of sexually abusing the child since she was about 3, according to a press release.

Police began investigating Thursday after a farmer who saw the teen and the girl at the fair's swine barn tipped off the girl's father. The teen is a family friend of the victim, police said in the release.

"There was a farmer there that actually saw him buckling up his pants and approached the two of them,” Baltimore County Police Officer Shawn Vincent told WJZ-TV. “When the boy saw that he was being approached, he left with the young girl."

The child allegedly told authorities that Fleming repeatedly forced her to perform sex acts several times a year at fairs in Maryland and elsewhere, according to the release.

Police are still investigating claims of previous abuse and more charges are possible, the release said.