From the Department of Justice
Vice President Biden and Attorney General Lynch Announce $41 Million Grant Initiative to Address National Backlog of Untested Sexual Assault Kits
Combined Total of $79 Million through Partnership with New York County DA's Office
Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch today announced $41 million in grant awards to 20 jurisdictions to eliminate or reduce the number of untested sexual assault kits across the country. Today's announcement is being announced as part of an unprecedented partnership with the New York County District Attorney's Office (DANY) – whose own grant program is contributing $38 million to the cause for a total of $79 million to eliminate the backlog reaching 43 jurisdictions in 27 states across the country.
“Rape kits are an essential tool in modern crime fighting — not only for the victim, but, for the entire community. Studies show we solve up to 50 percent of previously unsolved rapes when these kits are tested. When we solve these cases, we get rapists off the streets. For most survivors, seeing their rapists brought to justice, and knowing that they will not return, brings peace of mind and a sense of closure. The grants we're announcing today to reduce the national rape kit backlog will bring that sense of closure and safety to victims while improving community safety,” Vice President Biden said.
“The groundbreaking initiative we are announcing today is part of the Justice Department's longstanding efforts to support survivors of sexual violence and to bring abusers to justice,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch. "For anyone who has felt isolated and afraid, for anyone that has lost faith or lost hope as a result of a sexual crime, this is our pledge to you: we will not forget you. We will not abandon you."
The National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, a competitive grant program administered by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), supports the comprehensive reform of jurisdictions' approaches to evidence found in sexual assault kits that have never been submitted to a crime laboratory for testing. BJA created the initiative in consultation with the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), Office for Victims of Crime, (OVC), and Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). The goals of the initiative are to create a coordinated community response that ensures just resolution to these cases whenever possible through a victim-centered approach, as well as to build jurisdictions' capacity to prevent conditions that lead to high numbers of untested kits. The funding awarded through DANY's program will pay directly for testing kits, and the combined effort between BJA and DANY is projected to achieve testing of approximately 70,000 sexual assault kits. BJA and DANY partnered to reach as many jurisdictions as possible and also to identify jurisdictions where funding could be combined to adequately address kit backlogs.
The initiative is part of the Justice Department's larger ongoing effort to comprehensively address the problem of sexual assault and to support victims. For example, NIJ maintains a webpage on Sexual Assault Investigations, Sexual Assault Kits: Using Science to Find Solutions , which provides information ranging from improving forensic sexual assault examinations to research findings on untested evidence in sexual assault cases. OVC provides a Sexual Assault Response Team Toolkit , which has over 1.4 million views to date and includes a checklist of recommendations for victim-centered policies and practices in developing a sexual assault response. OVW updated the National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations and released a companion document on Recommendations for Administrators of Prisons, Jails, and Community Confinement Facilities for Adapting the U.S. Department of Justice's National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations, Adults/Adolescents .
Since 2008, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has provided more than $825 million for DNA analysis in crime laboratories and for activities such as research dedicated to strengthening the accuracy and reliability of forensic science.
A complete listing of today's federal award recipients can be found at www.bja.gov/SAKI
A complete listing of the Manhattan District Attorney's Initiative awards can be found here.
Child abuse can only flourish when people 'switch off', says expert
Dr Liz Reimer's advice to help prevent child abuse is simple – listen to kids.
The Southern Cross University social work lecturer and expert in child neglect will give a presentation at Coffs Harbour tomorrow (September 10) as part of National Child Protection Week.
The event will be hosted by VoiceUp, a local advocacy group for adult survivors of child abuse.
Dr Reimer, who was recently commissioned to research aspects of the Federal Government's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, said child abuse in all its forms was preventable and that adults need to act as advocates for kids.
“The things that's really struck me through my research into institutional abuse is that it's preventable,” she said.
“Kids of all ages, teens too, are vulnerable - more vulnerable than adults think they are - and it's up to trusted adults to listen to what kids are saying and watch for changes in their behaviour that could indicate abuse.
“Engage with kids. Abuse happens when we're disengaged with kids and they become vulnerable.”
Dr Reimer said it was also vital to understand ‘institutions' are not simply orphanages, schools or churches, but organisations that play a part in everyday life.
“We tend to take a narrow view of what constitutes an institution – that an institution is an orphanage or refers to out-of-home care.
“But an institution is much more than that – it's any kind of public institution. It could be a swimming club, Scouts or day care.
“Often offenders will plant themselves in such institutions and become trusted members. This is important, because they're not just grooming kids, they're grooming adults too.
“If you're a trusted adult to a child, work hard to maintain your relationship. And if you have a gut feeling something's not right or notice a change in a child's behaviour listen to your gut.”
The presentation will run from 6-8pm at the Coffs Harbour Community Village.
Call 6648-3694 to register.
Child sex abuse inquiry hears 4000th testimony
by JOANNE McCARTHY
THE Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse held its 4000th private hearing in a jail in August as Britain followed Australia's lead in tackling child sexual abuse.
The royal commission heard evidence on August 19 from a prisoner who had been sexually abused as a child.
In Britain, the head of its newly established Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse praised the ‘‘remarkable'' response to the Australian commission.
In a speech to Australian church leaders on Thursday, Royal commissioner Justice Peter McClellan said he was pleased the British inquiry would closely follow successful Australian arrangements.
More than 1500 people were waiting for a private hearing and about 40 people a week requested a private hearing, Justice McClellan said.
The royal commission has received 16,361 allegations involving 3566 institutions since it was established in November 2012 following the Newcastle Herald's Shine the Light campaign for a royal commission into historic child sexual abuse.
More than 7000 allegations relate to religious institutions, with 4418 against the Catholic Church, and more than 3600 against government institutions.
Allegations against other churches are: Anglican, 871; Uniting Church, 411; Presbyterian, 123; Methodist, 69; Salvation Army, 519; Jehovah's Witnesses, 137; Jewish, 80; Baptist, 59; Seventh Day Adventist, 56; Australian Christian Churches, 50; Lutheran, 32; Brethren, 30; Mormon, 18; Coptic Orthodox, 4; and Greek Orthodox, 2.
Justice McClellan said the royal commission had referred 727 matters to police to investigate with a view to prosecuting alleged offenders.
In the past few weeks, the royal commission had reported to the federal government on a national redress scheme for victims of abuse.
It was clear that time limits presented ‘‘a considerable, and sometimes an insurmountable, burden for survivors wishing to commence civil proceedings'' against child sex offenders and institutions, he said.
The royal commission should also mark the end of ‘‘the societal norm that children should be seen but not heard'', he said.
‘‘When the required silence of the child was accompanied by an unquestioning belief by adults in the integrity of the carer ... the power imbalance was entrenched to the inevitable detriment of many children,'' Justice McClellan said.
‘‘We must ensure that in the future the institution does not silence the child.''
3 brothers fatally stabbed were subject of abuse investigations by L.A. County
by Nicole Santa Cruz and Garrett Therolf
Maria Alcantar sat on her front stoop on Friday afternoon as beans boiled inside her South Los Angeles home. They would be served at a vigil for three young neighborhood boys stabbed to death, allegedly by their father.
"We're all just confused," she said.
Ever since Luis Fuentes' wife died sudenly in 2008, he had been plagued by depression, say those who know him. Family tried to distract him by taking him to the beach and inviting him to barbecues, but nothing seemed to work, relatives said.
And nothing prepared his family and friends for the news that swept through their circles on Wednesday morning when the three sons Fuentes had fathered with his now-deceased wife were found fatally stabbed in the back seat of a silver SUV.
Fuentes, 33, sat in the front seat, seriously wounded. Police believe he stabbed himself with a kitchen knife.
On Friday, police booked Fuentes in the death of Luis Alfanso Fuentes, 10; Juan Daniel Fuentes, 9; and Alexander Fuentes, 8. Online records say that he is being held on $3-million bail.
As police detectives piece together the events that led to the stabbing, the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services has launched an investigation into whether social workers adequately probed several allegations that the boys were at risk and whether staff responded appropriately to what they learned.
The DCFS involvement with the family began in March 2010, when someone called the county's child abuse hotline to allege that the boys were being physically abused, said two officials who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the case. Social workers were unable to prove or disprove the allegation and marked it inconclusive, the officials said.
Another hotline call alleging abuse came in September 2010. Social workers determined the allegation to be true, and lawyers for DCFS petitioned the juvenile court to open a case, officials said. The boys reportedly remained in the father's home until the case was closed about a year later.
Two more hotline calls alleging physical abuse were made in April 2014, the sources said. Social workers investigated the allegations, finally marking the claims "inconclusive" in October.
DCFS had no further contact following last year's hotline calls, despite at least one call to police about an argument in recent months. Investigators will now analyze whether police shared that report with the DCFS child abuse hotline.
Armand Montiel, spokesman for the department, declined to immediately comment on the case, which is shielded by confidentiality laws meant to protect the privacy of youth in the child welfare system.
On Friday night, at the home where the boys recently lived, neighbors and relatives prayed beside a statue of our Lady of Guadalupe and photos of the three boys.
Candles flickered in front of the white-cloth covered table. Dogs barked and children played in the background as the adults' voices rang out in Spanish, asking that the three brothers find eternal rest.
Many in the neighborhood said the children seemed happy and vivacious, and loved playing soccer at a nearby park.
Marisela Nuño used to run a day care center across the street from where the family lived. She said she met Fuentes shortly after his wife died of a brain aneurysm. The three brothers attended her day care for years, until it closed in January 2014. Nuño and her husband kept in touch with the Fuentes family.
In August, Nuño's family, along with the Fuentes brothers, went to the beach. The children played in the sand. "The children seemed happy," she said. "They seemed well."
A few days later, Nuño heard from a neighbor that the family was living on the streets. Her husband spoke with Fuentes, and offered them a place to stay. He said the family was staying with a relative.
"He was a very proud man," she said. "He didn't want to ask for help."
Nuño said that Fuentes thanked her husband and said he would call if they needed help. On Wednesday, she heard about the killings and her heart sank, she said.
Nuño recalled a father determined to provide for his children. And, she said, when the kids would leave her care, they were always happy to see their father.
Pedophilia, Sexual Abuse the True Hollywood Horror Story
by Diane Dimond
It is the movie Hollywood doesn't want you to see.
This is not your typical Hollywood film. It's a documentary called An Open Secret and it pulls the ugly scab off Hollywood to reveal what has happened to some vulnerable young boys who have tried to break in to the entertainment industry.
I got a special screening and I hope throngs of people go to see it.
The “secret” referenced in the title is how so many of these youngsters have so easily fallen prey to pedophile agents, acting coaches, photographers and public relations people.
These “entertainment professionals” haunt Hollywood and stalk unsuspecting children, grooming them into thinking their way is normal, just the way business is done. In the process, of course, parents are also manipulated into thinking everything is fine.
You'll recognize some of the former child actors featured in this riveting and raw documentary who publicly say they were sexually abused.
Todd Bridges, from the 1970s-1980s sitcom Diff'rent Strokes, is shown discussing a previous two-part special the writers had produced to highlight the problem of pedophilia.
With a pained expression Bridges says, “I didn't want to be around it. I ask them, ‘Don't write me into this ... write me out of most of this.” When his wish was not granted, he was heartsick.
“I, myself, had gone through that and watching it happen on the show — it was like ... reliving the whole thing all over again,” said Bridges, who was molested by his public-relations agent.
Child star Corey Feldman , whose hit movies include Gremlins, Stand by Me and The Goonies, also appears to say Hollywood predators ruined his life — propelling him into addiction and failed marriages.
“I can tell you that the No. 1 problem in Hollywood was and is and always will be pedophilia,” Feldman says. “I was surrounded by them. They were everywhere. Like vultures.”
Feldman's frequent co-star, the late Corey Haim, was also a sexual abuse victim. The pair openly discussed it on their A&E reality show, The Two Coreys.
Anne Henry, who works with a group called Biz Parentz and is the mother of child actors, reveals how she came to realize that some of Hollywood's top professionals were selling the head shots of young actors on the Internet. Nonsexual PR photos of young girls, but mostly boys, that inexplicably sold for more than $800 each.
Tracking down the photographers led to an ugly circle of Hollywood insiders, some of whom have now been convicted on charges of child pornography, committing lewd acts upon a child and other sexual crimes.
In one case, a man convicted of sexually abusing a Nickelodeon child actor is now out of prison and back working in the entertainment industry, with jobs that include a Disney show and a horror movie set in a high school.
Besides the celebrity stories, the sad tales of several less recognizable Hollywood hopefuls are told. One always looked much younger than his years; another was an opera lover cast in several movies; and another was a young man named Evan who displayed amazing singing talent.
Each adult man explains how, as children, they found themselves surrounded by the industry's sexual predators. Evan signed with an agent at age 11, and the sexual seduction soon followed. Years later, Evan bravely tape-recorded his abuser discussing their sex acts and the man was convicted.
I've expressed hope that throngs go to see this documentary but, not surprisingly, the producers have had a difficult time getting movie theaters to agree to show it. Are movie-house operators afraid of offending Hollywood executives?
The union representing actors (SAG-AFTRA) has threatened to sue Amy Berg, the director of the film, since its former Young Performers Committee chairman is featured in an unflattering — even pedophiliac — light. And now, because the director has refused to help promote the film (maybe for fear of Hollywood retribution), the producers have taken her to arbitration.
All of this, of course, dilutes the core message of An Open Secret , and that is a shame. Child sexual abuse can happen anywhere, anytime.
Note that you haven't heard a peep from studio executives, big talent agencies or entertainment unions about steps they've taken to protect young actors against sexual predators.
Yet in the words of victim Corey Feldman, “There are people who did this to me ... who are still out there, still working and they are some of the richest, most powerful people in this business.”
Remember that next time you watch a movie featuring children. I know I'll never look at those films the same way again.
PI lawyers call for revival of child abuse cases if time-bar abolished
by Gordon Dalyell
Personal injury lawyers have called on Scottish ministers to allow potentially thousands of historical child abuse cases previously rejected to be brought again if they lift a time bar on damages claims.
The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) argues the cases should be revived because they were rejected for falling foul a three-year time bar.
It said the current reparation system is “unjust” but also said that, as an alternative, a redress scheme could be established to provide compensation to people whose cases were struck out because of the time-bar.
An estimated 1,000 adults who claim they were abused in Scotland's care homes have been unable to pursue damages because of the limitation period.
The hopes of the claimants were dashed after two test cases failed in the House of Lords in 2008 as a result of the time-bar.
Victims called the decision a “victory for the devil”.
Five Law Lords ruled two people seeking £50,000 in compensation had left their claims for too long as the abuse complained of occurred over 40 years previously.
The pair claimed to have been abused by a religious order known as the Poor Sisters of Nazareth at Nazareth House at Cardonald in Glasgow.
A man and two women originally launched the claims, saying they were abused and beaten by the nuns.
At first instance, Lord Drummond Young in the Court of Session ruled the claims were time-barred with the Lords agreeing it was too late.
The Scottish government has put out proposals for consultation that suggest the three-year limit be removed.
APIL said the government must allow failed cases to be re-examined; that the new law should cover all children and that the time-bar should be abolished.
Gordon Dalyell, APIL's Scotland representative said in a response to ministers: “Provision should be made for those who have brought their case previously, but who were rejected on the basis of limitation, to receive reparation.
“To do otherwise would create a grossly unjust state of affairs whereby people who have dared to come forward earlier are rejected but people who have waited longer are permitted to pursue their case.”
A government spokesman said: “This government has made clear that, in responding to the needs of the survivors of child abuse, we want to remove barriers.
“That's why we have announced our intention to remove the legal time bar that prevents people raising civil actions and claiming compensation after more than three years for cases after 1964.
“The very issues raised by APIL are currently out to consultation and we welcome their views and those of other respondents.”
Mom jailed after her two young kids found living in a crate in a cave
by The Associated Press
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A 24-year-old mother is in custody after her two young children were found barefoot, dirty and living in a wooden shipping crate in an underground cave on the eastern edge of Kansas City, Mo.
Brittany Mugrauer was charged Friday night with felony child endangerment after Jackson County detectives discovered the children, 4 and 6, Thursday in an 8-by-10-foot crate furnished with vehicle bench seats, two small blankets, trash and thin wires.
Investigators had gone to the cave for a stolen car operation. Mugrauer told investigators that her children had been in the cave for several days and acknowledged leaving them there alone. detectives said.
Subway acknowledges it received a complaint about Jared Fogle in 2011
(Video on site)
Subway says it has completed its investigation into former pitchman, Jared Fogle.
Fogle, 37, has been charged with possession of child-pornography and engaging in sexual acts with minors, as revealed by Business Insider's Hayley Peterson last month.
A spokesperson for Subway said in a statement Friday evening that the company "identified one complaint that was submitted via Subway's website in 2011 that expressed concerns about Fogle."
The statement does not elaborate on the nature of that complaint, only saying that it was "serious," and that "there was nothing that implied anything about sexual behavior or criminal activity involving Mr. Fogle."
Despite this, Subway expressed regret that the complaint "was not properly escalated or acted upon."
This is the first time the sandwich chain has acknowledged receiving any warnings related to Fogle.
Subway declared last month that it had no prior knowledge of Fogle's alleged sexual interest in children.
Cindy Mills, a former Subway franchisee who spoke to Business Insider, said she warned company executives about Fogle in 2008.
Mills claimed Fogle admitted to her that he'd had sex with minors and told her about trysts with child prostitutes between the ages of 9 and 16 years old in Thailand and the US.
Florida journalist, Rochelle Herman-Walrond told Gawker last month that she warned Subway in 2009 about Fogle's alleged questionable behavior involving children.
Subway says it combed through "more than one million comments submitted to the Company's customer relations team" during its investigation into Fogle, and examined past and present documents and interviews related to the former spokesman.
The investigation, Subway claims, found no further evidence of other complaints regarding Fogle.
Prosecutors say Fogle has agreed to plead guilty to multiple criminal charges related to sex with minors and possession and distribution of child-pornography.
He is also expected to pay $1.4 million in restitution to his victims, and faces between five and 20 years in prison.
Here is Subway's full statement on its investigation:
"SUBWAY's investigation of allegations regarding its former spokesman Jared Fogle is now complete. The investigation included an extensive review of more than one million comments submitted to the Company's customer relations team, review of all available documents, and interviews with past and present Company and Franchisee Advertising Fund employees and management.
The investigation identified one complaint that was submitted via SUBWAY's website in 2011 that expressed concerns about Mr. Fogle. Although the complaint was serious, there was nothing that implied anything about sexual behavior or criminal activity involving Mr. Fogle. We regret that this comment was not properly escalated or acted upon.
When we first learned of the investigation into Mr. Fogle, we immediately suspended and subsequently ended our relationship with him. The harm he caused so many is inexcusable and we continue to extend sympathies to his victims and their families.
It is important to note that the investigation found no further evidence of any other complaints of any kind regarding Mr. Fogle that were submitted to or shared with SUBWAY.
Since 2011, the company has strengthened its processes for reviewing and escalating customer comments, complaints and inquiries. Improvements are ongoing and include better tracking and follow-up systems as well as newer technologies to help better manage processes."
When Parents Still Abuse Their Adult Children
Many adult children of abusers continue to deal with ongoing abuse long after we have reached the age of maturity.
by Lynn Beisner
The first time I became aware of adult children being abused by their parents was when I went on my fifth date with Ken, a guy I met when I was in Bible college. I was meeting his family for the first time at a bountiful and delicious Sunday dinner his mother prepared.
I was concentrating on getting a forkful of creamed peas into my mouth without disgracing myself when Ken's head snapped back, and I heard the distinct and grotesque sound of bones and flesh colliding. For one second, he just let his head rest where his father's punch had landed it, back and slightly to his left side. And then slowly, Ken steadied himself, wiped at the blood streaming down his face, and let his face fall into a stony mile-long stare.
Ken never looked me in the eye again, not that night, not the next day, not ever. And I understood why. I was now privy to his darkest secret, that as a man pushing 30 he was still a victim of child abuse.
After that family dinner with Ken, I fell into one of the darkest depressions of my life. I was a young adult, still living in my parents' home and still trying to find my feet while I was constantly being pushed under by abuse. What kept me going was my belief that at some point the abuse would end.
Watching Ken's family, it dawned on me that the abuse I was still enduring at 19 would probably go on for the rest of my life. It was as if I saw the entire course of my life flash in front of me. My mother would never let me go. She would keep abusing me, never allowing me enough autonomy to leave her, until the day that she finally pushed my soul so far under water, it drowned.
As it turns out, some of my dark thoughts that followed my date with Ken were wrong. Within two years, I slipped my leash by getting married to my first husband. And while I continued to be abused by my parents until well after I was 40, I still managed to have a lot of good moments.
Ken and I are not alone. Many adult children of abusers continue to deal with ongoing abuse long after we have reached the age of maturity.
We have a serious problem with how we think and talk about child abuse. Many people seem to think that child abuse ends when the abused child becomes an adult. But if we talked to adult survivors of child abuse, the abuse they survived in childhood was their parents' way of laying the groundwork so that they could continue tormenting and manipulating their children for the rest of their lives.
I have searched in vain for a single book or support group that acknowledges that child abuse often continues or even gets worse after a child reaches adulthood. Child abuse is always spoken about as a thing of the past. We either deride adults for being unable to “overcome” it or we encourage them to deal with their “wounded inner child.”
Do we think that a timer goes off and somehow disengages the abusive nature of the abuser? Do we believe that once their victims have the theoretical right to leave, abusers will actually let them go? Or do we imagine that, at 18, a fairy visits abused children and bestows on them the ability to stand up to their abusers?
Imagine applying that same logic to survivors of spousal abuse or rape.
I am sure that some abusers change, and become less abusive or even nurturing to their adult children. But in my experience, that is the exception, not the rule. What happens more often is that the abuser adjusts the type of abuse to suit the new circumstances.
In writing this article, I asked people on social media to send me their stories of ongoing parental abuse. I could not believe how many people I heard from, and each story was more horrifying or sad than the next.
I was surprised by how many people wrote to tell me about ways in which their parents financially abused them. Without any hesitation or feelings of regret, these parents took from their children as if it was their right. And when they couldn't guilt their children into handing over money, many parents have stolen from their children's bank accounts, have taken out second mortgages on their children's home, and run up credit cards they took out in their children's names. Every time that these children crawl out from under the oppressive debt their parents place them in, the parent starts burying their child all over again.
If the stories of financial abuse shocked me, the stories of new or continued sexual abuse left me bereft. Now I know that Mackenzie Phillips is just one of many adult children who has had a parent initiate or continue sexual abuse well into their adult years.
People sent me stories about parents who have beaten their adult children so badly they had to be hospitalized. Others kept their abuse more strategic, mostly to keep them from feeling strong and independent.
And then there are abusive parents who force their children to care for them. They call their children at all hours of the day and night threatening suicide. One man told me that his father repeatedly put himself into financial jeopardy so that his son would have to let him move in with them. Once ensconced in his son's home he would claim the role of patriarch and begin verbally and physically abusing everyone right down to the family dog.
The fall-out from continued abuse in the lives of adult survivors is colossal. And the shame of being abused by a parent when you are an adult is overwhelming.
I am grateful to all of the people who are still enduring abuse who have written to me. I wish I could tell you all of their stories.
What I can tell you is that there are many, many child abuse survivors who are still dealing with daily ongoing abuse. Their suffering is very real, and begs to be acknowledged.
Above all, adults who are still being subjected to child abuse need to be able to tell their own stories. And they can only do that when we acknowledge that it is not only possible for parents to continue abusing their adult children, it is a likely outcome. Our default assumption should be that abusive parents never stop abusing. They just change their tactics.
Ongoing child sex abuse in Catholic church casts shadow on pope's US visit
The ‘people's pope' has made moves to address the abuse problem, but for people who have been involved with cases in local US dioceses it's not enough
by Amanda Holpuch
For decades, the locker rooms at Chaminade College Preparatory School in St Louis were a place of terror for several students aged 11 to 18, who as adults have filed lawsuits against the school alleging widespread sexual abuse by its staff. Former students also say they were abused in Chaminade's boarding school rooms and staff offices.
Christopher Wimmer, who says he was abused by two staff members at Chaminade for seven years, reports anger issues and problems with authority and is unable to keep a job because bosses frustrate him, along with a host of other mental and physical issues. He describes himself as “one of the good ones”, however, having seen people escorted into child sex abuse survivor support groups, unable to speak and barely able to function.
“I always thought that because I hadn't eaten a gun or jumped off a bridge that I had transcended,” Wimmer said.
The story is a familiar one across the US, where the culture of child sex abuse in Catholic organizations persists.
When Pope Francis arrives in the US for the first time later this month, his reputation as the beloved “people's pope” will be clouded by the trauma endured by the thousands of people abused as children in the Catholic church.
Wimmer told the Guardian that he hopes Francis is as wonderful as his reputation suggests. “But as far as this issue goes, he hasn't done anything to give me hope,” the 56-year-old said.
Using data from John Jay College of Criminal Justice's 2011 report on sex abuse in the church, BishopAccountability.org estimates that there have been at least 17,200 victims in the US. The site warns that this is a conservative estimate.
Since Francis came to power in March 2013, he has made moves to address the clerical sex abuse problem. He created a committee in December 2013 to recommend ways to deal with the crisis and in June introduced a tribunal for bishops accused of failing to protect children. He has also become personally involved in investigations into a few sex abuse cases outside the US.
The nine-member panel includes sex abuse survivors, though none of them are American.
The tribunal is meant to address the demand for bishops to be held more accountable for clergy sex abuse, but it is unclear which cases the tribunal will hear, who leads the tribunal, what the standards of accountability are and howstandards are enforced.
“The easiest thing has been done, it's been announced,” said Kurt Martens, professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America. “The hard work still has to be done.”
For people who have been involved with sex abuse cases in local US dioceses, the messages of humility and transparency that have endeared Francis to many people fail to show how he can do away with the cloak of secrecy that masks the Vatican's response to the crisis.
Attorney Nicole Gorovsky, who worked with Wimmer and is one of Missouri's top clerical sex abuse attorneys, said that in recent years the local diocese has become more stubborn about working with investigators and providing documents that show what the church knows about its priests' history. Gorovsky wants more action from Pope Francis. “He's done a lot on a grand scale, but he's not directing it locally,” she said.
This feeling was echoed by child sex abuse survivor Peter Isely, the Midwest director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, who is based in Milwaukee. “No matter how one feels about the Pope, he has had no impact here in Milwaukee,” Isely said.
He believes that to effect change in the child sex abuse crisis, church law needs to include a sentence that says people who sexually abuse children cannot be priests, that the Vatican needs to create a global registry of every priest that has been convicted of sex abuse and that the Church needs to improve accountability for bishops and church officials.
The tribunal, which is a response to calls for increased bishop accountability, only comes into play after a child has been harmed, noted Jennifer Haselberger, who worked as the top church lawyer for the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis from August 2008 until April 2013, when she resigned in protest over what she saw as a mishandling of accusations of clergy sex abuse.
Haselberger's resignation triggered police intervention and a major investigation by Minnesota Public Radio, which revealed that three archbishops moved priests who were known to have sexually abused children to different churches instead of dismissing them. Police say the church has not been cooperative.
“I think the way [the diocese] would say is ‘it's in everybody's best interest to keep things quiet,'” Haselberger said. “Well that's probably true unless you consider everybody is also the kids and the parents who could be harmed. They were not a part of the equation.”
She said that the 2002 Bishop's charter on the protection of children, which was most recently revised in 2011, offers a robust set of guidelines on how to prevent child sex abuse in the church, but time and again, falls apart at the local level. Under the charter, each diocese is required to do several things including create a review board, designate a parish contact for sex abuse claims and report allegations of sex abuse to public authorities.
“The church has developed procedures that should eliminate abuse in 99% of cases,” Haselberger said. “There is always going to be a person you can't identify, but none of the cases you hear about recently are those cases.”
The problem, she said, is that Francis has inherited a culture where these policies are not being followed through. Priests accused of sex abuse have been able to move to other states and countries and receive money from local diocese.
“In all the cases that are coming, there is a whole history of information that just was not adequately considered before making decisions,” Hasalberger said. “The abuse cases we have had since 2002 have by and large been a human error on the part of the administration.”
Those affected by abuse, like Wimmer, are still seeking answers and compensation for the long-lasting effects of his childhood trauma. The two men he said abused him have died and the statute of limitations precludes him from taking any legal action.
But he has had repeated conversations with the top leader of the US Marianists congregation, which run Chaminade and happen to be based in St Louis, where Wimmer still lives. He said that Provincial Martin Solma offered him some money to cover therapy, but only if Wimmer would sign a release. He refused.
Solma said in an email: “We have not required a release of any kind for any counseling or assistance given to anyone.”
He said counseling services have been offered to everyone that requested it, regardless on whether their claims had been proven true or not.
“I find abuse of any sort, especially sexual abuse of children, abhorrent,” Solma said. “I very much regret, and apologize for, the harm that this has caused to anyone in our ministries. Today, all of our sponsored ministries comply with strict standards of conduct, putting the security and safety of children and young people as top priority.”
Last week, Wimmer emailed Solma to ask again for compensation for therapy and to discuss what assistance the church could provide.
“It's one thing to say this is sex abuse that happened 35 years ago,” said Wimmer. “I am in an email chain with a man who knows my story and knows my personal problems – right now.”
Some of the people having the most difficult time recovering from the trauma are his friends from Chaminade, who he remains in touch with despite their problems with alcoholism, unemployment and drug abuse. He says two of his friends killed themselves because of the abuse they suffered.
He said his wife, the first person he spoke with about his abuse, asks why he keeps some of the more self-destructive people in his life. “It's like being in the service, we've been through hell together,” Wimmer said.
All Points West: Taking action against child abuse
by Frank Marquez
Last week, I was fortunate to attend a joint fundraiser benefitting CASA (Court appointed Special Advocates) and CAPstone (Child Advocacy Center) at the 7th Annual Light of Hope Breakfast. It warmed my heart as it did the speakers who said they were delighted to see the number of the cars lining the Scottsbluff-Gering Highway, waiting to get into an already packed parking lot at the Weborg 21 Centre.
Not entirely sure what to expect, I skimmed the program which conveyed this sentiment: “We appreciate you taking the time to come and learn more about CASA and CAPstone's role in fighting child abuse and neglect in our community, and how you can help.”
Before being seated, my boss Lisa Betz introduced me to esteemed guest Sen. John Stinner, who was lauded for his support, along with many others (individuals and businesses) who attended the fundraiser.
On top of already being uncomfortable in formal settings, I was embarrassed about being a donor. I would rather keep a low profile, expressing more humbleness and humility. I prefer not to speak of doing good deeds, except to do them, feeling the cash drawer in my heart contains more than enough for a lifetime of giving. My wallet, on the other hand? Well, that just leaves the work for someone else, taking nothing away from supporting a heart-felt meaningful cause.
After writing checks, my fellow compatriots and I left to get on with our work day. Planning and producing a weekly newspaper does not happen overnight, though many days, I wish it did.
Shelley Thomas, a forensic interviewer for CAPstone, spoke about the work she does for those who are victims of abuse, and helping them make progress as survivors.
She mentioned how she is not alone in providing support, there's a long line of people who play important roles, including those in law enforcement and health and human services, the combined effort of so many folks who care is probably too numerous to quantify. Even more impossible to quantify, beyond hours and effort, is how the kids benefit from such help.
I'd have to go back to my teaching days for any point of reference. I taught at an at-risk high school in Las Vegas, dealing with literally hundreds of kids who needed someone beyond the scope of my teaching duties, or so I thought. Job description aside, I felt I was obligated as a public servant. Several kids who were homeless, abandoned by their parents, reached out to me. A girl who was pregnant, could tell me about her circumstance, and not her parents because she was afraid they wouldn't let her finish her senior year. It was important for her to wear a cap and gown at the graduation ceremony.
Some of my students went days without food, coming to my classroom to ask for bottles of water and money. I was not alone. Many of my fellow teachers did the same.
Thomas spoke with her arm around a victim of sexual abuse. The young girl stood there at a podium in front of hundreds of us who gathered at W21, telling her very personal account of being sexually abused by someone she loved and trusted. She expressed great courage and conflicting emotions, but by telling her story, she hoped she could reach others who might be suffering in the same way. This campaign to promote awareness about child sexual abuse was also talked about at my church the previous Sunday, when a fellow parishioner announced TLC Network was airing a documentary entitled “Breaking the Silence,” on Aug. 30. According to the story, an estimated one in 10 children will be the victim of sexual abuse before the age of 18, with an estimated 42 million survivors in America today.
Another featured speaker, Patricia Morales told a story about a Scottsbluff boy who suffered abuse. He was both beaten and starved. But because a few brave souls stepped forward to report it, the boy is doing well today.
I listened intently, and looked around the room, wondering if anyone at breakfast suffered abuse as a young child. Given the statistics, chances are good. In fact, I can tell you without hesitation and in no uncertain terms, I was like the boy Morales described. Her story hit me like a ton of bricks.
After decades, I can tell you, the impact of abuse does not fade for me. It's as vivid to me as when it happened. Since those days, I have forgiven my abusers, and moved on with my life. Driven by sheer will, I talked myself out of being a victim, or somehow making it reason or excuse to fail in life.
Though, I experienced quite a few starts and stumbles. No one can undo the damage. What we have learned is true: hurt people hurt people. In my case, as much picking myself up by the bootstraps as I did, there were just as many instances of sabotaging my own progress. Much of this went unreported. I almost began to believe it was a way of life. But I realized, as time went on, the abuse was just a part of a wider social problem, and was more intense when social programs and help agencies did not exist.
An exception to some extent, I went from victim, to survivor, to a compassionate teacher. My heart ached for my students because I saw myself in them, striving to overcome the helplessness.
At the end of the hour-long breakfast, several questions remained in my mind. How much of the fundraising makes a dent? Are we fighting a wildfire with a garden hose?
I know my story will join the millions of others. Nevertheless, it is my attempt, my plea, to get our community to understand, child abuse will continue until all of us take an active role in preventing it.
I bore the signs of abuse. Though no one was looking. Or, other adults noticed, or were cognizant, intervening or reporting it, was something they were unwilling to do. Everyone, not just teachers and health professionals, should be given training about the signs of child abuse. Let me add, our public schools are just a microcosm. The untreated abused child who grows up risks becoming an abuser because the behavior has gone unchecked for too long. Ill behavior begets crimes. Our prison populations swell. You get the picture. Should anyone's life be less valued?
Turn the crisis on its side, and ask yourself, if I don't play an active role, how is the world any better or worse? Is it in my power to help correct this deadly course? More crassly, would I be spending less in taxes to help build institutions that treat the mentally ill and criminals, thus keeping the reality of the crisis at arm's length?
One of the last things Thomas said was, “we are blessed to live in a community that cares.” Indeed we are, but it is one thing to care. Taking an active role is entirely another.
What a Sex Trafficking Victim Wants Parents To Know
by Justine Ward
FAYETTEVILLE -- According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, 14 cases of sex trafficking have been reported this year alone in Arkansas.
One victim now in recovery shared her story exclusively with KNWA/Fox 24's Justine Ward, hoping to help prevent the cycle of abuse she endured.
Carolyn, who wants to be identified by first name only, is now in recovery at the Magdalene Serenity House in Fayetteville, says like many women, her story began with sexual abuse as a child in Texas.
"I was 7 years old when I started being molested. I was 14 years old when I had a baby by the person who was molesting me. I was 16 years old when I ran away from home. I was 18 or 19 years old when I hit the streets. Prostitution," said Carolyn.
As an adult, she found herself in the midst of a sex trafficking operation, unaware that her own husband was drugging her at night. "When I got married I didn't have a clue that my husband was into human trafficking and we went to church every Sunday," she said.
Reverend Suzanne Stoner with the Magdalene Serenity House says Carolyn's cycle of abuse is all too common.
"These are children, these are children and the women who come to Magdalene were those children....Almost every woman who comes into the Magdalene program was sexually abused between the ages of 7 and 11," Stoner said.
Stoner says there are similar stories happening right here in Arkansas: "We see evidence in literally backyards... I am shocked to find how often their story began with childhood sexual abuse and the addiction that covers up the pain of that and the prostitution or trafficking that supports the addiction."
Carolyn, who says she feels safe for the first time in her life, wants parents to know that now more than ever they need to keep their children close.
"Now kids are being trained. Now that's their target.....There was no safe house for me."
She adds: "Kids have to have a safe environment where they can tell absolutely anybody who will listen."
Like Carolyn's story, Stoner says human sex trafficking can begin with someone the victim trusts and feels cared for by, oftentimes a boyfriend or spouse.
Charleston, WV officials push for child abuse awareness following Charleston Town Center incident
by Hillary Hall
CHARLESTON, WV -- According to detectives with the Charleston Police Department, 53-year-old Victor Coltey tried to convince a 5-year-old girl to perform oral sex on him at the play patch in Charleston Town Center.
Officials with the Kanawha County Prosecutor's Office said Coltey had a detailed criminal history, but police said it is difficult to deem someone dangerous to children without adequate proof.
"Those cases can be hard to investigate because we have to find lawful reasons to be able to get into their homes to be able to speak with the parents and the children," said Sgt. James Hunt, Asst. Chief of Detective with the Charleston Police Department.
Unfortunately, many child abuse cases do go unreported because people feel like its not their place to intervene.
"Because they don't think that it's any of their business or because they don't think they have have enough information or know enough about the entire situation, they'll not report to the authorities," said Maureen Runyon, Coordinator of the CAMC Child Advocacy Center.
Reporting child abuse can mean life or death for a child, and there are certain things to remember to make things easier for local law enforcement agencies.
Noting descriptive details like, height, weight, hair color, age, location, and license plate numbers of someone you suspicion may be abusing a child is crucial.
"If we can get the most amount of information from someone who witnesses a crime, then we are going to be more likely to solve that and take faster action." said Sgt. Hunt.
Even if you only notice a few things out of the ordinary, when it comes to a child's safety it's important to take action quickly.
"Pick up that phone and call child protective services, call your local law enforcement agency, and make that report," said Maureen Runyon.
If you or someone you know is responsible for or experiencing child abuse...please call the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-352-6513.
Voice Today brings child abuse prevention message to Albany
Angela Williams, founder of Voice Today, visiting various Rotary clubs
by Jennifer Parks
ALBANY — Using her own past as a motivation, Angela Williams, founder of Voice Today, was in Albany on Thursday as part of a movement to prevent child sexual abuse and to give victims of the crime a voice of empowerment.
Williams founded Voice Today — based in Marietta — in 2008, inspired by the years she spent as a child abuse victim. She suffered with it primarily on her own, and was even accused of making it up when she tried to report it. She turned to alcohol and drugs as a way to cope, and was homeless for a while.
While in Albany, she was at the Albany Rotary Club to share the message and encourage the community to “attack this head on” so that all child abuse can cease within the next decade.
Attempting to end abuse by 2025 is a tall order. To date, there are more than 20,000 people on the sex offender registry list in Georgia.
“Let that sink in,” she told the club. “That's just the ones that were caught.”
Williams told the civic club, among the number of Rotary clubs she is sharing the same message to, that many calls her office gets involves children under the age of 5. Litigation has been in the works to expand the number of entities mandated to report abuse, to open records allowing for a more thorough prosecution process, and to extend the statute of limitations for abuse cases.
Among those pieces of ligation was Georgia House Bill 17, which went into effect in July.
“Voice Today will continue work (with legislators) … The system is overworked, the system is broken,” Williams said.
The large majority of cases, Williams said, don't see a court date because many prosecutors are hesitant to touch a case without enough solid evidence. She added that child pornography, a recent topic of discussion at a summit including the Carter Center and Rotary, is a growing avenue for child sexual abuse.
“It's not an epidemic anymore. It's a pandemic. … We have children acting on children,” Williams said.
In order to better empower victims, Voice Today has educational programs in place to help victims not only gain a voice, but to more effectively set personal boundaries. There is currently no formalized education in medical school on how physicians should handle child abuse cases, Williams said, and her organization is working with institutions such as Emory University School of Medicine to help correct that.
Among the resources for victims that Voice Today attempts to provide are faith-based healing retreats, with the goal of providing a safe place to get things out in the open and to undergo a more comprehensive healing process.
Perpetrators may mess with their victim's minds, and children who have undergone abuse may not want to burden their parents with it, she said.
“It's hard to go into counseling an hour a week and get your healing,” Williams said.
Statistics from Voice Today indicate that one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused. Only 10 percent of victims ever tell anyone, and the average age of those abused is 9. Seventy percent of sexual assaults in the United States happen to a child, and 90 percent of cases involve someone the child knows and trusts. One abuser can victimize up to 400 children, the organization said.
Voice Today is a non-profit that relies on private donations. For information on the organization or to help advocate, visit voicetoday.org.
From the Department of Justice
Guilty Plea in Case of Disabled Adults Held in Subhuman Conditions
Linda Weston, 55, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty today to all charges in a racketeering and hate crimes case that involved holding disabled adults captive in locked closets, basements and attics in Philadelphia's Tacony section and in other states. Weston pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, kidnapping resulting in the death of the victim, forced human labor, involuntary servitude, multiple counts of murder in aid of racketeering, hate crime, violent crime in aid of racketeering, sex trafficking, kidnapping, theft of government funds, wire fraud, mail fraud, use of a firearm in furtherance of a violent crime and false statements. U.S. District Court Judge Cynthia M. Rufe scheduled a sentencing hearing for Nov. 5, 2015. Weston has agreed to receive a sentence of life plus 80 years in prison, restitution, fines, supervised release and special assessments.
From approximately 2001 through October 2011, Weston and her co-conspirators lured mentally handicapped individuals into locations rented by Weston, Jean McIntosh, Eddie Wright and others in Philadelphia; Killeen, Texas; Norfolk, Virginia; and West Palm Beach, Florida. The group targeted mentally challenged individuals who were estranged from their families. Once Weston convinced them to move in, she became their representative payee with Social Security and began to receive their disability benefits and in some instances, their state benefits. On one occasion, Weston and one of her co-defendants took the social security and identification documents from a victim by force and then used the funds for her own and Weston Family purposes.
Weston, McIntosh, Wright and others confined their victims to locked rooms, basements, closets, attics and apartments. While confined, the captives were often isolated, in the dark and sedated with drugs placed in their food and drink by Weston and other defendants. When the individuals tried to escape, stole food, or otherwise protested their treatment, Weston and others punished them by slapping, punching, kicking, stabbing, burning and hitting them with closed hands, belts, sticks, bats and hammers or other objects, including the butt of a pistol. Some victims endured the abuse for years, until Oct. 15, 2011, when Philadelphia Police officers rescued them from the sub-basement of an apartment building in the city's Tacony section. The enterprise victimized six disabled adults and four children.
In April 2005, Weston and a co-defendant targeted victim Donna Spadea. They brought Spadea to a home at 2211 Glenview Ave., in Philadelphia. Spadea was kept in the basement with the other victims, fed a substandard diet and not allowed to use the bathroom. On June 26, 2005, Spadea was found dead in the basement. Weston ordered other members of the household to move Spadea's body to a different location before calling law enforcement.
In 2008, victim Maxine Lee was living with the family. Lee was beaten when she tried to escape or when she begged for food and never received medical attention for any of her injuries. After Weston moved the enterprise to Virginia in 2008, Weston confined Lee inside a kitchen cabinet and an attic for several months. Lee subsequently died of bacterial meningitis and starvation in November of 2008. Weston ordered other members of the household to move Lee's body to a bedroom and stage the scene before calling law enforcement. The next day the family left for Philadelphia.
Weston's daughter, McIntosh, and co-defendant Wright have already pleaded guilty. Co-defendants Gregory Thomas, Sr., and Nicklaus Woodard are awaiting trial.
The case was investigated by the FBI, the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, IRS Criminal Investigations, the Philadelphia Police Department and the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office with assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' West Palm Beach Field Office. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Richard P. Barrett and Faith Moore Taylor.
Investigation results in 40-year prison sentence for Maryland music teacher who sexually abused children
As summer ends and another school year begins, parents, teachers, school administrators and other caregivers would be wise to take note of a recent U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) investigation that led to a Maryland teacher being sentenced to 40 years in prison for sexually abusing 15 children. The story was featured in People magazine.
Lawrence Joynes, 56, of Dundalk, Maryland, sexually abused 14 children in kindergarten through second grade in his classroom at the New Hampshire Estates Elementary school in Silver Spring, Maryland, where he was a music teacher. In the 1990s, Joynes also sexually abused another child, who is now an adult.
Joynes' 27 year-career with the Montgomery County public school system, his days of freedom and, most importantly, his ability to sexually molest innocent children were numbered beginning in Oct. 2012 when an HSI partnering agency, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) sent a photo of a child being molested to the HSI Cyber Crimes Center (C3) for examination.
After intense investigation, forensic experts at C3 determined that Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, was the location where the photo was taken, and HSI Charleston was contacted.
Special Agent Henry Cook of HSI Charleston, furthered the investigation by identifying the perpetrator, Gerald Roberts, in the photo as well as the child, who was the daughter of Roberts' best friend.
Roberts was arrested, pleaded guilty, and in Jan. 2014, he was sentenced in the District of South Carolina to 327 months in prison. NCMEC honored HSI special agents for this case for going “above and beyond the call of duty… in successfully resolving a child exploitation case.”
“Roberts was a high-level child predator,” said Cook. “He communicated and shared child pornography with a number of other pedophiles, one of whom was Lawrence Joynes.”
The Roberts investigation, like most cases involving child predators, led not only to Joynes, but to hundreds of other child abusers who meet on Internet sites to share images and footage of their dark and perverted pastime. HSI Charleston didn't stop once they arrested Roberts.
“HSI has authorities and connections with law enforcement agencies all over the world,” said HSI Baltimore Assistant Special Agent in Charge Adam Parks, who was a group supervisor in HSI Charleston, during this case. “We sent more than 100 leads stemming from the Roberts' case to HSI offices in cities and states all over the country, as well as to international law enforcement agencies for them to follow up with investigations, and rid the world of as many child predators as possible.”
“There a lot of heroes in the Joynes' case,” said Parks. “But none of this would have happened if not for HSI's Victim Identification Program, which is one of HSI's newest methods to rescue sexually exploited children and identify and arrest their predators.”
In Feb. 2013, Joynes' user email account was identified, and HSI Baltimore, along with the Baltimore County Police Department, became involved. HSI special agents and Baltimore County detectives executed a search warrant at Joynes' residence in Dundalk, Maryland, and also at his classroom, finding videos and images of children and other digital media on his computer.
Joynes pleaded guilty in Feb. 2014 of possession of child pornography in Baltimore County Circuit Court. He was also ordered to register as a sex offender pursuant to his conviction.
Joynes was charged with 14 counts of sex abuse of a minor, one count of third degree sex offense, child abuse and second degree rape, faced trial and was sentenced in Montgomery County courthouse on Aug. 28 to 40 years in prison.
"This case illustrates perfectly the skill and commitment of our Crimes Against Children Unit and its Child Exploitation Squad,” said Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson. “ It takes quality detective work to identify predators like Joynes. I'm proud of our work, and of the work of the other agencies that helped get this man off the street."
“As this case shows, we cannot take it for granted anymore that certain places are ‘safe' for children,” said HSI Special Agent Christine Carlson, the lead special agent on the case in HSI Baltimore. “Child predators are everywhere. It's not easy, but adults need to cut through the predators' devious and cunning tactics. I'm just glad that we were able to get Joynes out of the school system and behind bars where he belongs.”
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. 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.
Uniontown sex offender wants lewdness charges dropped
by Liz Zemba
The attorney for a registered sex offender accused of standing naked in an upstairs window of a Uniontown house as children exited a school bus wants the charges dismissed because the man was in the privacy of his home.
Richard Lee Harbaugh Jr., 47, is charged with five counts of open lewdness, four counts each of indecent exposure and disorderly conduct and two counts of corruption of minors.
Police said he exposed himself to elementary school children waiting at a bus stop near his home on Lincoln Street.
Harbaugh was observed on four consecutive days in April while standing naked in the window of his home when the children, ages 6 to 10, were dropped off, police said.
The bus driver snapped a photo of him and told a supervisor, who notified police.
During a court appearance Friday before Judge John F. Wagner Jr., Harbaugh and his public defender, Shane Gannon, asked that the charges be dismissed. Gannon said Harbaugh was in the privacy of his home, and there are no laws requiring windows to have blinds.
Officer Mike Garrow testified that police found a handwritten sign in Harbaugh's bedroom with the phrase “see the naked man.”
Harbaugh's attorneys also are challenging statements given to police.
Garrow testified that he did not immediately advise Harbaugh of his Miranda rights, including the right to remain silent, when he spoke with him in the house because he was not under arrest.
Garrow did not provide details about the statements.
According to a criminal complaint, when Garrow asked Harbaugh if he knew why police were at his house, he responded, “No.” When Garrow showed Harbaugh the photo the bus driver had taken, Harbaugh “said something like, ‘Is it against the law to be naked in your own bedroom?' ” according to the complaint.
Wagner did not rule on the motion, but he said that since it was unlikely Garrow intended to leave the house without Harbaugh, he was essentially in custody when he was questioned before he was notified of his rights.
Harbaugh is in Fayette County Prison on $50,000 bail.
Community effort to focus on preventing child abuse
EASTON — To address the growing issue of child abuse, the Talbot County Department of Social Services is working with a committee of Talbot County citizens in the community. The program adopted to accomplish this mission is called Empower Me.
The Empower Me program offers free child abuse prevention training to the community. This training provides an opportunity for agencies and community members to have a format for educating children, parents and other adults about child abuse prevention through personal safety.
According to the Crimes Against Children Research Center, one in 10 children suffers from child maltreatment, and one in five girls and one in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse. Talbot County Child Protective Services has responded to 205 reports alleging child physical abuse, sexual abuse or neglect since 2014.
The Empower Me "Train the Trainer" session for community members will be held Sept. 29 at St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Easton. Training is being offered in two sessions, from 9 a.m. to noon and from 6 to 9 p.m.
For more information about the program or to register for one of the "Train the Trainer" sessions, contact Katie Russ at 410-770-5227 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Registration is required. Participants should arrive 30 minutes prior to the start of each session.
Child abuse cases soar to record high in first half
The number of child abuse cases in which the Japanese police took action in the first half of 2015 rose to a record 376, with more than 80 percent involving violent assault, a police survey showed Thursday.
Of those cases, eight led to the death of the victims. The release of the semiannual survey comes at a time when child abuse has become a more openly discussed social issue, with the arrest of relatives, often parents, frequently being reported.
In February alone, a 36-year-old mother in Chiba Prefecture was arrested on suspicion of killing her daughters aged 1 and 4, citing “fatigue” over child-rearing, while a 36-year-old father in Osaka was arrested on suspicion of killing his 6-month-old son.
Several other parents were arrested for assaulting their kids in the same month.
In the January-June period, the number of people the police suspect of having abused children aged below 18 increased to 387 and the number of child victims rose to 386, both the highest figures since comparable data became available in 2000, the survey showed.
“Abusive behavior often occurs in a place hidden from the outside, such as at home, so we will tackle the issue by cooperating with relevant organizations,” said an official from the National Police Agency.
By type of abusive behavior, the number of cases involving physical assault rose by 79 from a year earlier to 307, accounting for 81.6 percent of the acknowledged child abuse cases in the six-month period. Of those cases, the number of attempted murders increased by 12 to 28, including eight cases of death.
The number of sexual abuse cases fell by 20 to 58 and that of neglecting to provide basic care, such as feeding, fell by five to one. But the number of cases involving psychological abuse, including threats with knives, rose by five to 10.
Fathers accounted for the largest number of abusers the police took action against, totaling 172, followed by mothers at 83 and stepfathers at 67.
In the period covered, the police reported suspected abuse cases for a record 17,224 children to counseling centers, up 32.1 percent. About 65 percent of those were cases involving psychological abuse, such as witnessing acts of domestic violence between parents.
Victims of sexual abuse fight to end silence
by Jerica Phillips
MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) -- One in ten Mid-South children will be sexually abused by the time they turn 18. Sadly, those are just the ones who are brave enough to report it.
However, there is hope out there. One Mid-South woman's survival story may help empower others.
“I was 12 years old, and I knew something wasn't right and it didn't feel right,” Volandrea Grey said.
Grey said she was sexually abused by a trusted adult from the age of 6 to 12.
“A lot of times kids keep it to themselves and for so long. I did after I told my aunt, because she did nothing. No one did anything.”
Grey is now the director of “Never Too Late to Tell,” an organization aimed at helping Mid-South children and teens who speak up.
“A lot of times people will not believe you, but it's for you,” Grey said. “It's for you to be free. It's for you to live a life of purpose, and you have to give them back all the shame all the guilt. It doesn't belong to you.”
The Memphis Child Advocacy Center sees some of the worst cases of sexual abuse.
“Here in Shelby County, it looks a lot more bleak for kids,” Virginia Stallworth said.
Stallworth is the executive director for the Child Advocacy Center. The CAC offers sexual abuse prevention training called Stewards for Children. Sessions teach parents how to talk to children about abuse, recognize and respond to the signs, and push for better policy.
“Frequently those parents tell us, 'You know, now that I look back on it, I should have recognized it,'” Stallworth said.
Indications that a child is being sexually abused include:
Reluctance to go to a particular place with a specific person
An abrupt change in personality
Increased anxiety, irritability, depression, aggression, and anger
Research shows that children who are more vulnerable to sexual abuse tend to be those children who are loners, are neglected, or lacking some sort of affection from a parent or guardian.
While there are children at a greater risk for sexual abuse, experts said all children are vulnerable to some degree.
“I think it's very important that we don't label this as a problem of only certain populations, because we know that child sexual abuse happens in every corner of our community,” Stallworth said.
The Shelby County Rape Crisis Center offers counseling for sex abuse victims age 17 and older. Rape kits can be performed on victims as young as 13 years old.
“You don't have to know definitively that abuse is happening,” Stallworth said. “A reasonable suspicion that a child is at risk, that a child is being hurt, is all you need to make that call to the Department of Children's Services or to your local law enforcement to report suspicions of abuse.”
Over 14,000 adults in Shelby County have completed the Memphis Child Advocacy Center's Stewards of Children training over the past three years. The CAC is currently enrolling for upcoming classes.
“If we listen to our children, if we make sure their voices are heard, a lot of this would end, because we are letting the predators know that we are here,” Grey said.
For more information on enrollment for the Stewards of Children training, click here.
For information on how to report abuse, click here.
From the mouths of babes: child victims talk about sexual abuse
South African children exposed to secual abuse know that family members and acquaintances pose the biggest risk-yet they still perceive of home as a "safe place" and a "dark alley out there" as a place of danger.
This comes out of a ground-breaking research project that was presented recently at an international biennial conference on children that was held at the University of Cape Town.
This is the first time in five years that the Conference of the International Society for Child Indicators was held in Africa.
Ansie Fouche a social worker and academic at North-West University, says, "All children are protected by the constitution but despite impressive legislation, it is still difficult to combat child sexual abuse in South Africa."
For girls, it is estimated to be up to a third who become victims, and for boys, it is up to 17%.
Fouche and her team conducted 105 interviews with children (who were receiving help from social workers) and were thus able to get a child's perspective on the scourge of child sex abuse in South Africa.
They found that the majority of the children "had an accurate understanding of child sexual abuse" and that the vast majority said they learnt about it at school from teachers rather than from their family.
"When asked who potential offenders could be, most of them said family members and acquaintances. When asked who would 'never be a child sex offender', many said 'mothers, all females, grandmothers, and sisters," says Fouche.
The team found that home and school were perceived of as safe spaces, unsafe spaces were "far from home" and included "taverns, alleyways, and abandoned houses."
The children were also asked what advice they would give to policy makers about preventing sexual abuse against children.
Common answers included "heavy penalties" for perpetrators, parents who were better educated on the topic, and ways to supervise and monitor children and their families.
Bolutife Adefehinti from the University of the Western Cape, presented a "do's and don'ts" lists of child-centered research at the conference, and said it was important for researchers to emphasize to children that "there is no right answer or wrong answer – just their own opinions".
She said it was important to be flexible and "abandon your preconceptions and modify your methods as needed".
"Gain their trust and explain the project in the simplest terms possible," she said.
Massachusetts teen charged with encouraging her boyfriend to commit suicide
by Fox News
Prosecutors have charged a Massachusetts teen with involuntary manslaughter after text messages to her boyfriend appeared to show her urging him to commit suicide.
Conrad Roy III parked his truck outside a Fairhaven Kmart last year and killed himself by carbon monoxide poisoning. Prosecutors say Michelle Carter, his girlfriend at the time, assisted him by urging him to overcome his doubts about taking his own life, pressuring him to do it and even telling him to get back in his truck after becoming frightened that the plan was working.
"You can't think about it. You just have to do it. You said you were gonna do it. Like I don't get why you aren't," Carter allegedly wrote to Roy on the day he died. Carter's lawyer has denied that she pushed him to kill himself and has asked the judge to dismiss the case.
In their written response, prosecutors included text exchanges between Carter and Roy that they say support their claim that Carter caused her boyfriend's death by "wantonly and recklessly" helping him poison himself.
Roy, 18, had a history of depression and had previously attempted suicide two years earlier, taking an overdose of the painkiller acetaminophen.
"You can't keep living this way. You just need to do it like you did the last time and not think about it and just do it, babe," Carter texted him.
Joseph Cataldo, Carter's lawyer, said her texts amount to speech protected by the First Amendment. He said it's clear from the exchanges that Roy had made up his mind to take his own life and Carter, now 18, didn't cause his death.
"He got the generator, he devised the plan and he had to go find a spot. He parked, he had to get the gas for the generator, he had to turn the generator on, he had to sit in that car for a long period of time. He caused his own death," Cataldo said.
"He had thought this out. He wanted to take his own life. It's sad, but it's not manslaughter."
Roy spent most of his time in a psychiatric hospital following his earlier suicide attempt. In the weeks prior to his death, he was gearing up to graduate from high school and receive his sea captain's license, said his aunt, Becki Maki.
"He did not have the signs of someone who was considering that," Maki said.
Carter and Roy had met two years earlier while both were visiting relatives in Florida. They kept in touch through text message and email upon returning to Massachusetts. The two lived about 50 miles apart and hadn't seen each other for about a year before Roy died.
Roy used a gasoline-operated water pump to poison himself with carbon monoxide.
While discussing the plan, Carter appears to taunt Roy. "But 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 wrote. "I bet you're gonna say an excuse like that ... you seem to always have an excuse."
Cataldo said Carter had tried to repeatedly talk Roy out of killing himself and only decided to support his plan after it became clear Roy wasn't going back. After about a month before his suicide, she suggested that he seek treatment at a psychiatric hospital where she was receiving treatment for an undisclosed condition. Roy refused and later suggested that they both kill themselves, like Romeo and Juliet, Cataldo said.
In a text exchange on July 7, 2014, six days before he was found dead, Carter advised Roy to seek help.
"Well it's too late I already gave up," Roy responded.
Some legal experts say it may have been a reach for prosecutors to charge Carter with manslaughter. Massachusetts does not have a law against assisted suicide.
"Causation is going to be a vital part of this case," said Daniel Medwed, a Northeastern University law professor. "Can the prosecution prove that she caused him to kill himself in this way? Would he have done it anyway?"
Prosecutors point to a text Carter sent to a friend after Roy's death.
"...his death is my fault like honestly I could have stopped him I was on the phone with him and he got out of the car because it was working and he got scared and I (expletive) told him to get back in ... because I knew he would do it all over again the next day and I couldn't have him live the way he was living anymore I couldn't do it I wouldn't let him," Carter wrote.
Roy's grandfather, also named Conrad, said his grandson seemed happy in the days before he died.
"He was coming out of his depression," Roy said. "We saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and she just blew that tunnel up. She shut the light off."
Keeping children safe
by Fi Poole
Community forum hopes to break the silence on child sexual abuse.
The statistics around child sexual abuse and neglect in Australia are shocking with one in three girls and one in six boys having been sexually abused in some way before they've turned 18 years.
Since 2013 the Coffs Harbour Neighbourhood Centre has been supporting a local group of childhood sexual abuse survivors.
Coordinator of VoiceUp Chris Marks, has watched the group grow from a handful of people to 150 members.
"All of us have been left with a lot of scars and we decided we needed to do something for ourselves, for our community and for children in the future," she said.
"So we come together, in a safe environment and talk about it."
By 'voicing up' sufferers can address the trauma and move on with their lives.
"Every meeting the most overwhelming statements from people is that they feel so relieved to be talking about it. Too many people carry it in silence and in shame," she said.
On Thursday September 10, VoiceUp has organised a community forum aimed at raising awareness on how to keep children safe from predators.
One of the guest speakers is Southern Cross University social work lecturer and expert in child neglect, Dr Reimer.
Dr Reimer was recently commissioned to research aspects of the federal government's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and she believes that child abuse in all its forms is preventable and that adults need to act as advocates for kids.
"Kids of all ages, teens too, are vulnerable - more vulnerable than adults think they are - and it's up to trusted adults to listen to what kids are saying and watch for changes in their behaviour that could indicate abuse.
"Engage with kids. Abuse happens when we're disengaged with kids and they become vulnerable."
The presentation will run from 6-8pm at the Coffs Harbour Community Village.
Family Crisis Services Elder Program aims to enhance victim safety
The agency receives a grant that will build on work already being done to support the survivors of elder abuse
by Matthew I. Perry
Elder abuse is a serious reality for many older people living in Maine. It is happening in our cities and towns; it is occurring in our neighborhoods, to people we know and love.
Maine is the oldest state in the nation and getting older. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median age in Maine is 43.5, the highest of any state.
Studies show that anywhere from 2 percent to 11 percent of older individuals are victims of elder abuse, although the National Research Council estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse ever comes to the attention of authorities.
Abuse in later life can happen to any elder. It can be perpetrated against men and women, regardless of ethnicity, religion, race, sexual orientation, economic status or any other social classification.
The National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life defines elder abuse as “physical, sexual or psychological abuse, neglect, abandonment and financial exploitation of an older person by another person or entity. Elder abuse can occur in any setting (e.g., home, community or facility) and can occur either in a relationship where there is an expectation of trust and/or when an older person is targeted based on age or disability.”
Inaccurate information about aging, victims, perpetrators and what elder abuse looks like may result in inaction by others. It is important that everyone is aware of what forms elder abuse can take.
Although physical abuse, like hitting or pushing, is one tactic used to gain control over the older individual, the other forms are just as wrong and damaging. In fact, it is rare that a trusted individual employs only one strategy to get what they want.
So sexual abuse may accompany physical abuse, and the victim may also be subjected to emotional abuse, including threats, yelling, belittling or downplaying the extent of the harm done. Financial exploitation is often part of the experience of abuse in later life, with perpetrators achieving this outcome via physical, sexual or emotional mistreatment.
Often the abuse is not recognized or acted upon by others because the perpetrator – whether it is an intimate partner or an adult child, family member or caregiver – does an effective job of deflecting accountability for the abuse or justifies their abusive behaviors by pointing to the older individual's actions.
Because many of us have had challenging situations or incidents with elders in our life, we are more apt not to question what we see or to look further into the situation. Some people don't think that what goes on in someone else's home is their business – but violence against elders is everyone's business.
Family Crisis Services is the local domestic-violence resource center for Cumberland County, providing advocacy and support to those affected by violence in trusted or intimate relationships. We also offer community and school-based education and training on ending abuse.
The agency is one of nine recipients nationally to have been awarded the Enhanced Training and Services to End Abuse in Later Life grant by the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women.
The Family Crisis Services Elder Program has planned a kickoff event for Wednesday at Husson University in Westbrook. Our partners include the Southern Maine Agency on Aging, the Portland Police Department and members of the Cumberland County Superior Court and District Attorney's Office.
Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck will be welcoming the participants and offering the opening remarks. Trainers from the National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life will present the content for the seminar.
This grant will build on the important work already being done to support the survivors of elder abuse by the Maine Department of Human Services' Bureau of Elder and Adult Services, the Elder Abuse Institute of Maine, the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence resource centers, other social services providers and law enforcement departments.
The grant's focus is to enhance services for older victims by strengthening our local coordinated community response and to organize training and cross-training for professionals on elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation, including domestic violence. Ultimately, the goal of community collaboration is to enhance victim safety for those abused in later life.
Many rural Minnesota counties lack immediate child abuse aid
by Don Davis
S T. PAUL -- Rural Minnesota counties are struggling to meet new state requirements aimed at quicker response to child abuse allegations.
At times, rural law enforcement personnel are called into service at nights and on weekends to screen reported child abuse cases. They often are not trained to do that and may be forced to juggle that with other duties ranging from responding to traffic accidents to investigating crimes.
"A deputy sheriff does not have that full range of resources," Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, said Tuesday after he co-chaired a meeting updating lawmakers on improvements in the Minnesota child protection system.
The task force heard that about half of Minnesota's 87 counties do not have the ability to ensure a trained child protection worker takes an abuse case within 24 hours.
"It is best for our kids to have that 24-hour service," said Carole Wilcox of the Human Services Department.
Lawmakers suggested that rural counties look into ways to keep trained social workers on call at all times, perhaps by working with neighboring counties.
New rules were expected to be in place Jan. 1 requiring counties to have that capability, but social workers said they will not be ready.
"It is not unreasonable for the counties to ask for more time," said Kathy Sheran, D-Mankato, the other leader of the Legislative Task Force on Child Protection.
Sheran said extra money the Legislature approved for child protection earlier this year was supposed to go to around-the-clock protection, but Wilcox told the task force that it is needed, instead, just to fund investigating an increasing number of abuse reports.
State law requires that the initial decision about whether to proceed with a child abuse case to come within 24 hours of when it is first reported. Many rural counties do not have social workers available at nights and on weekends.
"There are disparities about what happens in counties in rural Minnesota and what happens in the metro," Kresha said.
Added Sheran: "We don't know if this has failed to protect a child on the weekend."
Sheran and others on the task force said that rural and urban children need to be treated the same.
New guidelines governing the child protection process are due out Oct. 1 after public comments are heard.
Sheran said all child abuse investigations should begin with child protection professionals, and someone must available 24 hours a day, seven days a week in every county.
"There is a wide disparity throughout the state," Rep. Tom Anzelc, D-Balsam Township.
Rep. Joe Mullery, D-Minneapolis, complained about Wilcox's request for a year to figure out how to make response the same across the state. It needs to be implemented sooner, he said.
"I see the people in St. Paul trying to wish themselves out of a problem," Anzelc said about the delay.
The 2015 state Legislature changed the law to require that an abused child's needs take precedence over the previous requirement to keep families together.
The changes came after 3-year-old Eric Dean of Pope County died a couple of years after multiple reports that he had been abused.
This year's new law was written to speed investigation into abuse claims and to make sure cases like Eric's do not fall through the cracks.
Mechanicsburg Area School Board amends child abuse protection policies
by Roger Quigley
MECHANICSBURG — The Mechanicsburg Area School Board Tuesday night voted unanimously to approve largely technical changes to its policies on volunteers and child abuse based on recent changes to state laws.
The board had it first review of the policy changes last month.
The state law changes extend all required clearances for five years instead of three.
Also, the phrase "routine interaction" with children has been changed to "regular, repeated and continual contact that is integral to a person's employment or volunteer responsibilities."
Volunteers who were not state residents for the previous 10 years were required to obtain the FBI clearance. Now, if they have obtained an FBI clearance since establishing Pennsylvania residency, they need not do it again.
State law requires employees having regular contact with children to obtain the following clearances:
_ Report of criminal history from the Pennsylvania State Police.
_ Child abuse history clearance from the Department of Human Services.
_ FBI background check.
Co mbined those clearances can cost about $50.
Author, child abuse survivor will speak at benefit for Legacy Salmon Creek program
by Amy Wang
Digene Farrar, a motivational speaker and registered nurse in Seattle who has written a memoir about healing from childhood abuse, "Not My Secret to Keep," will be the keynote speaker at a fundraising luncheon for Legacy Salmon Creek's Child Abuse Assessment Team.
The 2015 Salmon Creek Cares Luncheon is from 11:30 am. to 1 p.m. Sept. 11 at the Hilton Vancouver, 301 W. Sixth St. Tickets are $40 per person and can be purchased through Tuesday, Sept. 8.
Farrar, 59, said she was invited to speak after her appearance last year in the Oregon production "Telling: Adult Survivors of Child Sex Abuse Step into the Light." The nonprofit Oregon Abuse Advocates and Survivors in Service presented the play, by former Oregonian/OregonLive columnist Margie Boule, in partnership with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
The date of the luncheon was a factor as well, Farrar said. On Sept. 11, 2001, she was in New York and witnessed terrorists' destruction of the World Trade Center. "Something about that day ... basically just reactivated post-traumatic stress that I had suffered through as a child" following physical, emotional and sexual abuse, she said.
At the luncheon, Farrar plans to speak about the difference that awareness, education, prevention and intervention services such as the Child Abuse Assessment Team can make in terms of helping children build resilience. For example, she said, "we have laws such as mandatory reporting ... I often talk about the importance of that law in terms of protecting children. If that law would have been the case, I would have benefited from it."
Farrar said she also speaks about child abuse as part of "putting a face to what abuse looks like" and validating survivors' stories.
"Not talking isn't helping anyone," she said.
The Child Abuse Assessment Team serves five Washington counties: Clark, Skamania, Klickitat, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum. It opened a clinic in October 2011, filling a gap left after a Vancouver pediatrician who had been taking child abuse referrals, Dr. John Stirling, moved to California.
"We've become the go-to site for child abuse cases," said Dr. Kim Copeland, site medical director.
She said the clinic has received 1,400 referrals of suspected child abuse since it opened. About 100 children a year receive followup evaluations. Copeland said the remaining children are either exempted from exams because the emergency room has sufficient documentation, or found not to be abuse or neglect victims.
The ratio of sexual to physical abuse cases is about two-thirds to one-third, Copeland said.
While law enforcement and emergency room staff provide most referrals to the clinic, individuals also can report suspected child abuse, Copeland said. The only requirement is that they also file a report with Child Protective Services, which can be done confidentially.
Copeland said the clinic sees children regardless of their insurance status. "It's through the support of the community that we've been able to do this," she said. "The biggest humbling thing for me is how much support we've had and what a huge difference it's made."
How to help
To report suspected child abuse in Washington, call 1-866-363-4276, a toll-free, 24-hour hotline. More information on reporting child abuse is on the Children's Administration website.
To donate to Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center's Child Abuse Assessment Team, contact Shirley Gross, associate director of development at the Salmon Creek Hospital Foundation, at 360-487-3457 or email@example.com.
Church calls for new law on child abuse
THE Catholic Church has called for a law making it a crime if anyone suspects a child has been sexually abused and does not report it to police.
The new law should also clarify professional privilege and confidentiality including that of priests in the confessional, Francis Sullivan CEO of the church's Truth Justice and Healing Council told AAP.
The council is co-ordinating the response of the Catholic Church to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Mr Sullivan said on Wednesday the council had made a submission to the commission recommending a national criminal law requiring anyone with a reasonable belief a child had been sexually abused to disclose what they knew to police.
And he said no one should be exempt from the law which would go beyond current mandatory reporting requirements.
Under the new law the only circumstance in which reporting would not be required was if the person had a reasonable excuse, "such as where the person believes the allegations have already been reported under mandatory reporting laws", he said.
He did not think priests in the confessional should be covered as this came under professional privilege but this too needed clarification, he told AAP.
The TJHC submission was made in response to an issues paper on criminal justice including police and prosecution responses to child abuse, prepared by the commission
In a statement, Mr Sullivan said nationally consistent police reporting legislation would enhance a consistent, trauma-sensitive approach to survivors of child sexual abuse.
He told AAP that for too long people had been operating under unclear laws.
"The problem we have got in the royal commission and elsewhere is that the law has not been clear," he said.
"Unless a law can be explicit and clear we are going to continue to have situations where people are going to be confused or criticised for not taking matters to the police."
The royal commission is yet to publish submissions on the prosecution and police issues paper.
Protecting Your Child From Sexual Abuse
by Audra Jennings
It's perhaps a parent's greatest fear — that at some point his or her child will become a victim of sexual abuse. The statistics are alarming: Approximately one in five children will become victims by his or her 18th birthday. Authors Justin and Lindsey Holcomb have responded to parents' concerns by writing God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies (New Growth Press/September 8, 2015/ISBN: 9781942572305/$14.99), a resource for moms and dads who want to protect and educate their children.
God Made All of Me is a simply told, beautifully illustrated storybook for children between the ages of two and eight that helps parents gently start the conversation about appropriate and inappropriate touch. This topic can cause a lot of questions and curiosity in small children, and if answers are given too hastily or abruptly, children can easily hear the message that they should be ashamed of their bodies. This can fuel confusion, embarrassment and secrecy, often preventing children from recognizing or reporting abuse.
Children need to be able to identify and name their private parts, while understanding God made them special and they are worth protecting. God Made All of Me does this in an age-appropriate way, joining with parents as they seek to build a first line of defense against sexual abuse. With colorful, age-appropriate illustrations by Trish Mahoney, the book beautifully conveys the clear message that God made every part of the human body and every part is, therefore, good.
Parents of young children themselves, the Holcombs regularly counsel victims of sexual abuse and are profoundly aware of the dangers kids face. They know a child is more likely to be abused by someone he or she knows than a stranger; 34% of assailants are family members, and 58% are acquaintances. “It is important to teach kids how to say ‘stop,' ‘all done,' and ‘no more,'” the Holcombs stress. “You can reiterate this by stopping immediately when your children express they are all done with the hugging or tickling. Your reaction demonstrates they have control over their bodies. If there are family members who have a hard time understanding, explain you're helping your children understand their ability to say no to unwanted touch. For example, if your children do not want to kiss Grandpa, let them give a high five or handshake instead.”
Allowing moms and dads to approach this topic gently, God Made All of Me will help facilitate open conversations within the family. It will be a critical tool in every parent's hand as they seek to fulfill their important role of shielding their children from harm. “We want to remind parents some people are looking to prey on our children. We have a duty to protect and prepare them for the world and to fight for them,” the Holcombs explain. “By talking with our kids candidly (and in developmentally appropriate ways) about their bodies, we are setting up safeguards around them.”
Child abuse: Let's do all we can to break cycle
You look at the photo of the latest child to die of abuse, a smiling toddler in a coat and tie. You read the details of what happened to him and it just breaks your heart.
It's time for more of us to join the fight against this hellish abuse.
A pathologist says 2-year-old Jaxson Sonny Swain of Winston-Salem died from compressive subdural hematoma, bleeding between the surface of the brain and its outer covering, that was caused by a blunt head force injury. His little body also bore abrasions and bite marks, the Journal's Michael Hewlett reported.
The child's caregiver, 30-year-old Charles Thomas Stacks, faces charges of first-degree murder and intentional child abuse inflicting serious injury.
And this is just the latest case of notorious child abuse in our state. In the past few years we've heard about children literally chained in their houses and a disabled girl who died of abuse, to mention just a couple of cases. Criminal parents and caregivers treat these children like so much garbage, instead of the precious gifts from God that they are.
We hear about such cases and get furious. But then, too often, we forget about these cases and move on.
The abuse continues. It's chilling and heartbreaking to think about the hell young victims are enduring in houses and apartments you might pass by on your way to work every day. Beaten and neglected by adults, they suffer in silence.
How can we help them?
For starters, if you suspect abuse, report it to law-enforcement authorities or your local department of social services. Let's push our government agencies to quickly confront these cases. Currently, the Forsyth County Department of Social Services is short several positions. We hope they are soon filled.
Local nonprofit agencies, such as Family Services and Exchange SCAN, can help as well.
When good people don't take action, the results can be disastrous. Abuse continues. Some children are killed. We're forever left to wonder what they might have accomplished had they been rescued and received proper counseling.
Survivors who don't receive proper counseling sometime have it hard as adults, numbing childhood trauma with booze and drugs. Some find it hard to hold jobs. Others become child abusers, perpetuating a sick cycle.
But there is a better way. Many children are never saved from abuse, but some are. With the right help, they become productive adults, contributing to their communities and being the good parents their own parents never were.
We need to see a lot more of that. We need to reach more child abuse victims sooner, before they are maimed or killed. Report abuse if you suspect it. And stay on authorities until they take action. Children shouldn't have to suffer in silence. They should not have to suffer at all.
Shame, sex ed and Texas
How classes fail the kids who need help most
by Monica Faulkner
In Texas, where I work, sex education does not really exist, at least not in schools. About 47 percent 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 sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
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 a more common problem than many people realize. In the U.S., a conservative estimate is that 25 percent of girls and 16 percent 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
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 affect 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.
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.
Monica Faulkner is a research professor at University of Texas at Austin, and the associate director of the Child and Family Research Institute at the School of Social Work. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Bookmark Gray Matters. It should be a healthy, consensual and (dare I say) pleasurable part of your life when you are ready for it.
Nez Perce Tribal Members Trained to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse
by Deborah Courson Smith
LAPWAI, Idaho – One in three Native American women will be raped in her lifetime.
Non-Indian men commit more than 80 percent of sex crimes on reservations.
And 90 percent of children who are sexually abused know their abuser.
Those statistics were part of the Nez Perce tribe's recent Shatter the Silence of Sexual Violence conference, where attendees learned about strategies for prevention.
Nez Perce Indian child social worker Jeanette Pinkham says the lifelong consequences of being abused carry a steep price tag, and yet nearly every instance didn't have to happen.
"What we're trying to get out is that it can be prevented,” she stresses. “We don't to have be the aftermath sort of program. We can also work to prevent."
More than two dozen people received training on how to change cultural norms about sexual abuse, and how every adult has a role to play to prevent the sexual abuse of children using the Stewards of Children practices, such as never allowing a child to have private one-on-one time with another adult – even if it is a trusted friend.
Pinkham says on the reservation, there are extra hurdles to overcome when it comes to sexual abuse.
"I think for our area, it's more considered a family thing,” she explains. “They don't want anybody knowing, so they try to keep it cooped up to their family."
The Nez Perce tribe is seeking a grant to help prosecute cases. Pinkham says 98 percent of rapists never spend a day in jail. And there are challenges in reservation law enforcement.
The tribe is also applying for money to set up a care center for sexual abuse survivors and their families.
Physicians Have Greater Ability To Help Child Abuse Victims
HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 8, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Only a few years ago, Pennsylvania had one of the narrowest definitions of child abuse in the country.
Statistically, it showed. According to a June 2011 article by Rachel Berger MD of Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh appearing in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 1.4 per 1,000 children in 2010 were victims of child abuse, compared to the national rate of 9.3 percent.
However, since then, Pennsylvania's Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) was amended and a number of changes have occurred. Changes included expanding the definition of abuse, lowering the threshold for abuse, and requiring physicians as mandated reporters to make child abuse reports even if they learn about the suspected abuse outside of the work environment.
What those changes might mean to the state's child abuse statistics is yet to be seen, but for sure many agree that health care professionals will be able to do more to protect children.
"There's no doubt that there's more concern about child abuse today than there was ever before," says Karen Rizzo MD, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED). "Hindsight is 20/20 for everyone but it's good that the state took recent actions to make it tougher for abusers to get away with such actions and to further protect children."
Dr. Rizzo, who practices in Lancaster, adds that groups like PAMED are working with physicians statewide and partnering with other organizations to provide education and training on these changes and the role of physicians.
According to past Annual Child Abuse Reports from what was then called the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare - now Pennsylvania Department of Human Services - Pennsylvania's hospitals, private physician offices, and private psychiatrists have historically been among the mandated reporting groups with higher reporting figures of child abuse. Combining the three, the only higher reporting groups were schools and social services. Between 2004 and 2013, yearly reports ranged from a low of 2,601 to a high of 3,151 for hospitals, 432 and 626 for private physician offices, and 416 and 555 for private psychiatrists.
In 2014, according to the most recent Child Abuse Report, hospitals reported 3,284 possible cases of child abuse, while private physician offices and private psychiatrists noted 503 and 443 respectively.
Of the substantiated abuse referrals in 2014, 24 percent came from within healthcare. Social service agencies and schools were responsible for 26 percent and 11 percent respectively.
One of the recent changes is the threshold for physical abuse. The old definition set the threshold as "serious" physical injury, which meant causing severe pain or significantly impairing the child's physical functioning. The new definition lowers the reporting bar to bodily injury, defined as causing substantial pain or any impairment in physical condition.
The new definition also identifies culpable conduct that is per se child abuse; that is, intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly engaging in this conduct constitutes child abuse regardless of whether an injury results.
Another change in the law expands physician responsibility for reporting. Physicians now must report suspected child abuse identified in certain circumstances outside their professional capacity.
"Emergency departments have some of the best trained staffs to identify child abuse, and to put into action a plan to protect the child," says Todd Fijewski, president of the Pennsylvania College of Emergency Physicians who practices in Pittsburgh. "Most times when a child shows up in an emergency department, it's not due to child abuse, but when we do spot it, we act quickly and appropriately."
Dr. Fijewski continues, "With changes in the law, if a physician is away from work, maybe even in a social situation, and is made aware of child abuse, the physician is required to report it."
According to PAMED's Dr. Rizzo, this change did worry some physicians. "Initially, while some physicians who do not see patients were dismayed by having to report, the overall public good that comes of reporting is something that's positive that we are helping promote to physicians statewide," says Dr. Rizzo.
"Physicians are not only community sentinels for child maltreatment but also are trusted professionals who can help prevent child abuse by recognizing children at risk for abuse, referring these children and parents to community-based services, and providing a medical home to help assure service needs are being met," says David Turkewitz, MD, FAAP, chair of pediatrics at York Hospital and past president of the Pennsylvania Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics.
So what are some of the signs that suggest to physicians child abuse may have occurred? According to Dr. Turkewitz physicians consider abuse in the following situations:
Physical injuries not compatible with the history provided
Denial of trauma in a child with significant injury
History incompatible with child's development
History that changes over time
Unexpected and unexplained delay in seeking treatment
"Sexual abuse in children may present differently based on the youth's developmental stage and the nature of the relationship with the abuser," says Gail A. Edelsohn, MD, MSPH, who chairs the child and adolescent psychiatry committee at the Pennsylvania Psychiatric Society. "A child or adolescent who has been sexually abused may develop a variety of distressing behaviors, thoughts, and feelings."
According to Dr. Edelsohn, who practices in Exton, Pa., children typically five years and older who have cared about the abuser may feel horribly stuck as they sense the sexual activities are wrong while they may be facing threats of violence and loss of affection from the abuser. Victims may become withdrawn, mistrustful of adults, feel worthless, or may show sexualized behaviors. Physical warning signs include wetting and soiling accidents unrelated to toilet training, pain during bowel movements or urination, and pain, bleeding, or discharges in the genitals, anus, or mouth. Most often the sexual abuse is discovered when the victim makes a disclosure.
Symptoms or behaviors that might be present in sexually abused children include:
Sleep problems or nightmares
Depression or withdrawal from family and friends
Exhibits adult sexualized behaviors, language, and knowledge
Statements their bodies are dirty or damaged
Refusal to go to school and or drop in grades
Has money, toys, or other gifts without reason
Sexualized drawings, games, fantasies
Self injurious behaviors (cutting, burning)
Additional resources on this topic are available at the following sites:
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania - http://keepkidssafe.pa.gov/
Penn State Hershey, Center for the Protection of Children - http://www.pennstatehershey.org/web/protection-of-children/home
Pennsylvania Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics - http://www.pascan.org
Pennsylvania Medical Society - http://www.pamedsoc.org/childabuselaws
This news release was issued on behalf of Newswise(TM). For more information, visit: http://www.newswise.com
SOURCE Pennsylvania Medical Society
Khartoum police stop campaign against child abuse
The Sudanese Child Protection Society says that police authorities banned an awareness campaign in public squares that aimed to educate citizens about the need to protect children from abuse and sexual harassment.
Osman Al Agib, Chairman of the Child Protection Society, told Radio Tamazuj that the police had stopped a rally organized by this organization at Ali Abdelatif Street on Thursday as part of a campaign aimed at educating citizens on the protection of children.
“It is unfortunate when the authorities intervene and stop the rally at this critical time while the crime is on the rise,” he said. “Who is the beneficiary of the continuation of the sexual assault and harassment crimes against children?” he asked.
A Sudanese juvenile court last week issued a death sentence against a man found guilty of sexually abusing a three-year-old child in an area south of Khartoum.
For its part, the Sudanese Child Protection Society has requested that all sexual abusers be executed in public.
Forget 'stranger danger'. The 21st century guide to protecting your children from sexual abuse
Parents have been telling their children to stay away from strangers for years. But psychologist Dr Nina Burrowes says that narrow view of abuse could be doing more harm than good
by Dr Nina Burrowes
Do you think that sexual abuse couldn't possibly happen in your family? Do you think that only the children of neglectful parents are abused? Do you think your children are too sensible to place themselves in a position where they could be abused?
If so, I have an uncomfortable truth for you: 20 per cent of girls and 8 per cent of boys under 18 experience some form of sexual abuse - and one of the reasons why sexual abuse is able to be so prevalent is because of those kinds of assumptions.
The problem with sexual abuse is that it's so frightening, we find it hard to think about it clearly. So rather than open our eyes to the realities we tell ourselves stories that serve to make us feel safer.
We tell ourselves that abusers are all strangers, that abuse only happens in other families, that young boys who have sex with adult women 'got lucky'.
We tell ourselves that our children can successfully avoid abuse by following a few simple rules: avoid 'stranger danger', scream loudly, and run away.
We tell lots of stories that make us feel safe, but these same stories can also put our kids at risk. Our rigid ideas about what counts as abuse, who does the abusing, and what types of children get abused are all part of the problem.
But the challenge for parents is to turn their backs on a false sense of reassurance and open their eyes to the truth.
Just as parents do when it comes to the risks of accidents or illness, the first step in equipping children for the risks of abuse are to understand them yourself. Which means challenging the reassuring assumptions that can blind you from the truth.
Here are some of those myths we need to ditch. Fast.
1. I can spot abusers
This is a very unsafe assumption. It's not possible to reliably identify a ‘type' of person who is a sex offender. Sexual offending is a crime that transcends ethnicity, class, religion, educational background, sexual orientation, occupation, and income. Sex offenders can be young or old; single or married; male or female, a parent, grandparent, or have no kids of their own.
Even when it comes to their behaviour, far from being creepy men who hang out in playgrounds, effective sex offenders are charming, fun, out-going, and well-liked.
There are signs that you can look for, for example, an abuser is likely to seek opportunities to be alone with your child. But these signs are much more subtle than most parents realise.
2. I would know if my child was being abused
The simple fact is: most parents don't realise that their children are being abused. Not every child will show signs of the abuse. Sometimes this will be because the child doesn't feel hurt or frightened by their experience.
They may see the abuse as a new type of game from a person that they like. These children may only recognise their experience as abuse years later when they look back and can see that they were being groomed and manipulated. Other children may feel hurt and afraid but they may be good at masking these feelings, especially as they are also likely to be very confused.
Abusers are often liked, or even loved, by the children they abuse. It can be incredibly confusing to accommodate feelings of love towards someone who is also hurting you. Children may deal with this by accepting the abuse as normal - minimising it, or blaming themselves.
Signs parents should look for include sudden behaviour change, withdrawal, problems at school, nightmares, or reluctance to spend time with certain people. But don't assume that these signs will always be there.
3. My child would tell me if they were being abused
Some children tell their parents about the abuse, but most don't. For some this will be because they don't recognise their experience as abuse. For others it will be because they blame themselves and feel too ashamed to share their secret with anyone else.
Some children will worry about getting in trouble. Others will worry about upsetting their parents, especially if the abuser is a member of the family.
This message is likely to be reinforced by their abuser who may also threaten to hurt the child's parents if they tell, or convince the child that no one will believe them if they tell the truth.
Other children simply won't have the words – they may never have discussed sex or abuse with their parents, they may not know the word ‘vagina', or they may not know how to start such a difficult kind of conversation.
What words would you use?
Rather than relying on children to have the courage to report abuse, parents need to be alert to any subtle signs. They need to talk to their children and create a family environment where it's okay to discuss even the most difficult things, and if they are really concerned parents need to ask.
Surely the worst that can happen is that you'll find out the truth by asking.
Our messages about sexual abuse place an unrealistic amount of responsibility on our children to prevent or disclose their abuse. Our kids need us to do better.
We need to have the courage to open our eyes and to live with a bit more fear, so that our kids can live with more safety.
Dr Nina Burrowes is a psychologist who specialises in the psychology of sexual abuse. She is the author of Eyes open to sexual abuse. What every parent needs to know.
'Half of parents have never spoken to their children about sexual abuse'
by Emma Barnett
And of those who have, 43 per cent said it was a “difficult conversation”.
The YouGov poll, which was commissioned by the children's charity, NSPCC, also found that the majority of those questioned believe it is the parents' responsibility to explain the risks of sexual abuse to their children.
According to the charity, awareness of sexual abuse has risen dramatically since the extent of Jimmy Savile's crimes were revealed last year. NSPCC's helpine has experienced a “huge rise in calls”.
Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said: “The shocking case of Savile has horrified many parents and understandably it has heightened concerns around sexual abuse. But most abuse is closer to home and if we are to tackle this issue we must prevent it before it even starts.
“To do this we must educate our children about staying safe and speaking out. Parents have told us they lack confidence in approaching this difficult but important issue. We've worked with parent groups to devise a simple, age appropriate way of making sure children speak up if something happens. It's a quick conversation but could make a big difference.”
Eleven per cent of those UK adults surveyed said primary school children faced the biggest risk of being sexually exploited by someone they didn't known. However, previous NSPCC research has shown that in at least 90 per cent of cases the offender was known to the child.
The children's charity today launches a new campaign to help parents protect their children from sexual abuse. It has come up with the acronym ‘PANTS' as a way of helping children remember the key points of how to look after themselves should a situation arise.
P rivates are private
A lways remember your body belongs to you
N o means no
T alk about secrets that upset you
S peak up, someone can help
In order to promote the campaign, the NSPCC will run a six-week advertising campaign, airing on nearly 60 local radio stations throughout the UK.
Wanless explained: “It's really easier than you may think and you don't have to mention abuse or sex at all. Just ask them [children] to remember the ‘Underwear Rule'.
“Of course telling kids about crossing the road, stranger danger and bullying are really important but this should be discussed as well. Most parents still think that stranger danger is a threat facing children from the adult world but most abuse is committed by someone known to the child with stranger abuse being very rare. This means traditional messages like ‘don't take sweets from strangers' are important but don't work for much of the abuse that is occurring.”
Siobhan Freegard, founder of Netmums, added: "It's every parents' worst nightmare to find their child has been touched inappropriately - and no family wants to think it will ever happen to them.
“But as the statistics show it does happen to one in 20 kids, and nine times out of 10 by someone known to the child. So by talking about it, you are taking the first steps to keeping your children safe.
“No one can deny it's a tough conversation to have. As a mum I can talk openly to my children about stranger-danger. I can talk easily about bullying and how to always tell an adult. But talking about them being touched intimately feels much more difficult.
“As parents we need to find a way to make our kids aware of the danger without scaring them, and that's exactly why the NSPCC is promoting the Underwear Rule. It's clear, simple and easy for even young kids to understand.
“Think of it as a green cross code against sexual abuse. That is why I am encouraging parents to learn the underwear rule and talk PANTS with their children.”
YouGov polled more than 2,000 adults, 1,204 of which were parents.
Weeds in the Garden: Trauma and Guilt
by Sarah Newman, MA
“It's time to start dealing with your childhood trauma.” That's what I tell myself, but what does that mean? I deal with it every day. I get myself out of bed each morning and most of the time I'm not thinking about what happened to me. My moods are pretty even, except around my period. I do fulfilling, creative work. I have everything I could want and need. I feel joy and laugh a lot.
But something made me buy the self-help book. The little girl inside is trying to tell me she needs something.
“What do you want — a label? A title? Some excuse for all our quirks ? That won't make us feel any better. It won't give us closure,” I tell her.
I understand what she wants from me, but I can't face it. She wants me to acknowledge that the abuse we suffered wasn't only physical but also sexual in nature. She wants me to wade through all my adult disgust, all the ways I've reframed my memories over the years to cloud the truth, and reach for her hand. That's where we diverged long ago. At the place in the path where I denied what happened and tried to move on with my life. No matter how far I got, something was always missing. What does it mean to deal with it?
“You're going to make things difficult,” I tell her.
It's easier for me to do nothing. Like the boyfriend I waited forever to break up with when I was 21, I take the path of least resistance because who would want to deal with messy feelings? Who wants to shake things up and maybe have to tell someone the hideous truth?
“I survived the abuse, but sometimes I wonder if I can survive the healing process.” — The Courage to Heal
The problem with coping is that the trauma never should have been in the first place and now I have to face it all over again. The world ended. At a time when I was utterly innocent, everything good about being alive was dashed. It's almost as if someone conjured up a demon right before my eyes at age three, and it nestled itself right into my soul. It's a secret I carried around with me, certain that if anyone else knew they would abandon me. I say I don't hate myself and yet I often feel defective in the worst way possible. I'm a weed in the garden, choking out all the beautiful life around me, hoping no one notices.
“Gee, why are all the azaleas dying?”
“I have no idea!”
I've tried a million different ways to placate the little girl inside, but I know what she actually wants. She wants what I promised her all those years ago when we were still living in that house. She wants the safe environment we never had. A place where she has a right to her feelings, a place where she is respected and heard, not belittled, a place where her needs are a priority.
Many survivors of abuse have strained relationships with their family. My father's side of the family is toxic, which enabled him to abuse me until I left home at age 18. Although I have little contact with them, even that is too much. A simple text message can send me to that helpless place I lived before I left home where:
I'm inherently flawed because I'm female;
I'm a possession not a person;
My feelings are wrong;
My feelings are immaterial;
I'm dismissed as overly emotional;
Everything that makes me happy is degraded, destroyed, or taken from me.
I've known for a long time that I needed to remove these toxic people from my life. That includes even allowing them to see posts on my Instagram. I don't want to share with them the good things that happen in my life because they've shown a pattern of deep disrespect. They also share my experiences with my father, and I long to have no connection to the man who victimized me. I've always known that to lead a happy and healthy life it would have to be one without him in it, but the world often makes me feel guilty for cutting off a parent.
“Maybe one day you two can hash it out,” that's what people say because you're not wearing a T-shirt that says “I've been sexually abused” on it. No, some violations can't be hashed out. Some abusers will never be sorry. Some victimizers will never change. It's not my job to maintain a relationship with him. When you treat someone like human garbage, you forfeit whatever familial duty you once had.
I think that's why I bought The Courage to Heal. Part of me wanted permission to pull the real weeds from the garden and start getting myself some true nourishment.
“Now that you are healing, it's essential to structure your life so that you are in contact with people who respect you, understand you, and take you seriously. This is what you did not have as a child and what you need now.
Consider yourself valuable enough to be discriminating about the people you relate to. Although you are not always in a position to cut off contact completely with people who don't respect you (for example, a teacher in a required course), weed out the ones who have a pattern of being inconsiderate or unkind.” — The Courage to Heal
This is what the child inside wanted. This is why I went looking for answers. I needed permission to leave behind my guilt and my sense of duty.
I've embraced life and learned to appreciate beauty in the world. What's left is learning to embrace myself.
For me, the opposite of hating myself was not hating myself. The possibility of actually loving myself sounds almost silly. It took me hours just to come up with a few of my strengths for a writing exercise. Now I gotta get all lovey-dovey about myself too?
It's difficult to emotionally support yourself when you have no model for doing so. It's much easier for me to imagine the innocent child that I was and then defend her as the adult woman I am now. Of course that child is deserving of love. She deserves security, respect, happiness, everything that any child has a right to.
It's hard to integrate that child into my identity, into me — there's some kind of barrier there that I haven't punched through yet. Perhaps that's how I protected myself all these years. That's how I managed to have a relationship with my abuser and other relatives who treated me poorly. Sexual and physical abuse happened to another girl, a younger girl. The older me only knew emotional abuse…
Embracing the child means accepting fully that I'm not the weed. I'm not the one with demons. I didn't create this horrible situation, and I never have to answer for it. All these years I've carried the guilt, pain, and regret that should have belonged to my abuser, and now I need to put it down. It's not mine to carry anymore.
The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis.
Parents face child abuse investigations over pot use
As marijuana laws loosen, child-welfare agencies are facing greater criticism for their policies surrounding the drug
by Caroline Preston
Shawnee Anderson couldn't stop crying. On the morning of Jan. 24 last year, she sat in the front seat of a red minivan parked outside her home in Napa, California, with her 11-month-old son in her lap. Roughly 20 minutes earlier, police had arrived at the one-story house, summoned by a neighbor who'd called to complain about a loud argument between Anderson and her boyfriend, Aaron Hillyer.
The couple explained that because they were low on sleep and stressed about Anderson's first day back at work, a disagreement over who would change their child's diaper had escalated. “This whole argument is ridiculous,” Anderson told the officers, shaking her head no when they asked if the fight had become physical.
But now Hillyer was in handcuffs and police were saying that both he and Anderson would be charged with felony child endangerment. The officers had found prescription marijuana packets, pipes and burnt joints on tables in the living room and the couple's bedroom. Anderson and Hillyer explained that they were licensed users under California's 19-year-old medical marijuana law, but the cops said the couple had put their son, Sage, at risk by careless use of the substance at home. “Your baby doesn't need to be subjected to marijuana,” one of the officers can be seen saying in a video of the incident.
The couple spent five days in jail, Sage spent nearly two weeks in foster care, and for the next 13 months Anderson and Hillyer fought a juvenile court's ruling that they'd mistreated their child. Though they had their son back, the government had official jurisdiction over Sage and was entitled to make any decisions it deemed in the interest of the child, including removing him from his parents' care.
As marijuana laws loosen across the country, there's a growing gap between what's legal and what raises red flags for child-protection agencies. Twenty-three states and Washington, DC, have approved medical marijuana programs, and of those, four states and the capital have legalized the drug for recreational use. No nationwide data exist on how many parents have faced neglect and abuse investigations over their marijuana use, as many child-welfare agencies don't track how many cases involve drugs, much less the type of substance. But the Family Law & Cannabis Alliance, a Massachusetts-based group formed in 2013 to help parents in marijuana-related child-welfare and custody disputes, says it assisted 200 families nationwide last year. Public defenders in Colorado and New York who represent clients in family and juvenile court say as many as one-sixth of their cases involve marijuana, although use of the drug is usually just one of several allegations against parents. Government intervention can result in regular drug testing; findings of neglect, which can impede a parent's ability to find work around young people; the child's placement in foster care; and, in rare cases, termination of parental rights.
Critics say the approach of child-protection agencies and juvenile courts is often outdated, characterized by overzealous enforcement from the war on drugs era and beliefs about the risks of marijuana that aren't supported by science. Meanwhile, low-income families of color are more likely to face neglect charges involving pot, as they tend to live in more heavily policed neighborhoods and give birth in hospitals that may be more likely to conduct drug testing on newborns.
“While we've had a sort of national rethinking of marijuana laws, it has not filtered down to family court,” says Carl Hart, an associate professor of psychology at Columbia University who studies drug abuse. “It's a simple fix to look at the behavior of the child, of the parent and not what's in their urine.”
Officials with state child-protection agencies say that parental marijuana use, whether legal or illegal, would not alone qualify as child abuse or neglect. But they argue that pot use can impair a person's ability to parent and pose safety risks to a child. Michael Weston, a spokesman for California's Department of Social Services, declined to comment on specific cases. He said, however, that a caseworker entering a home is looking for all sorts of causes of concern — and that could include bottles of aspirin, of bleach, of illegal drugs or legal marijuana, if they are accessible to children.
Legal standards differ
As states grapple with how to respond to parents' marijuana use, they are guided by different statutes concerning child neglect and abuse. Under California law, the government must prove actual harm in order to claim custody of a child. But in New York, establishing proof of harm isn't necessary. In many states, including Colorado, which has allowed the legal sale of recreational pot since last year, a positive test for marijuana in a newborn automatically triggers a child-welfare investigation. And Colorado's statute specifies that cultivating Schedule I substances — which under federal law includes marijuana, regardless of its classification in individual states — in a home around children also qualifies as child abuse. In some places, child-welfare services are administered at the county level and can take slightly different approaches.
Because the definitions of abuse and neglect are fuzzy, lawyers, parents and cannabis advocates say they leave a lot of room for discretion on the part of police, social workers and judges. Some degree of latitude is necessary given the complicated nature of each family's circumstances, advocates say. But that latitude also means that caseworkers' and judges' personal views on marijuana are sometimes reflected in the outcome of cases. Another factor is a family's ability to afford a lawyer. While most states provide some form of legal assistance for parents ensnared in civil child abuse cases, representation isn't guaranteed, as it is in criminal cases.
Anderson and Hillyer, who are white, were released from jail on Jan. 29, 2014. They were able to scrape together enough money to hire a lawyer, Jennifer Ani; eventually, their legal fees totaled more than $15,000, Anderson says. Ani succeeded in getting the criminal charges dropped. But the couple also faced the case in juvenile dependency court, in which the Napa County child welfare agency alleged that their marijuana use had put Sage at substantial risk of harm. In March 2014, a judge ruled in favor of the agency, but a year later, an appeals court overturned the decision, ruling that the government had erred in taking jurisdiction over Sage.
In Colorado, whose experiment in legal pot has been closely watched by other states, the outcome of child-welfare cases “often really depends on what county you're in,” says Teri Robnett, founder of the state's Cannabis Patients Alliance. Colorado's child-protection system, like those in eight other states, is overseen by state officials but administered at the county level. And the state's 64 counties represent a medley of views on cannabis; some flatly banned the retail sale of marijuana after Amendment 64 legalized the drug. (The state's marijuana laws allow flexibility in how jurisdictions can implement them.)
Officials with the state's Office of Children, Youth and Families say there are enough protections in place, including judicial oversight, to ensure that parents receive fair treatment regardless of where they live. But in part because of concerns about the patchwork nature of the rules, the state legislature introduced proposals in 2013 and 2014 to codify the definition of a “drug-endangered child.”
The bills sparked outrage from cannabis advocates and others, who felt the proposals made it easier for caseworkers to justify seizing children from homes where marijuana was present. Jonathan Singer, a state representative and former child-protection officer who opposed the legislation, says he worried it would force workers to take their “eye off the ball” of more serious parenting problems such as domestic violence. Defenders countered that under the proposal, parental marijuana use at home would only be considered child abuse if it posed a safety risk. Both times, the bills failed.
Colorado, with its reputation as a mecca for legal pot, has attracted a handful of families fleeing child-protective services in other states. Diane Fornbacher, who says she relocated from New Jersey in 2014 after her son's mention of hemp in school sparked a brief child-neglect inquiry, says the bills raised the specter of pot-using parents being treated as second-class citizens.
Robnett says that the criminal and children's codes will eventually require updating, but that “we needed to do some groundwork around education first.” Her group is now working with the Colorado Alliance for Drug Endangered Children, one of the organizations initially behind the bills, to draft safe-parenting guidelines. The Office of Children, Youth and Families is also focusing on education: It recently launched new training for all caseworkers on “risks to children associated with marijuana use and cultivation.”
Child-welfare cases often begin at the hospital, when pregnant women or their newborns test positive for the substance. Many states mandate or encourage medical workers to report evidence of prenatal exposure to a drug to child-protective services. That's what happened to Natalia Caustrita, of East Los Angeles.
In June of last year, Caustrita, a legal medical-marijuana user, gave birth to a son 11 weeks early. Because he was born prematurely, the boy was tested for drugs. Although Caustrita says she stopped smoking marijuana upon learning of her pregnancy, the child was found to be positive for THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. The positive toxicology report triggered a home visit from a worker with the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, Caustrita says.
Caustrita, her fiancé and his parents, who share the couple's three-bedroom apartment, had to submit to drug testing. The couple prepared a list of people who could take their son if he was temporarily removed from their care. “It was an intrusive, uncomfortable situation,” Caustrita says. Eventually, after hiring a lawyer and appearing twice in juvenile court, the couple agreed to three additional months of regular testing and visits from a caseworker, but their son was allowed to remain in their custody. The entire ordeal lasted 11 months.
Lawyers and medical experts are increasingly challenging the wisdom of slapping parents with abuse and neglect charges based on a child's prenatal exposure to marijuana. While a report by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment recently concluded that evidence of the effects of pot use by pregnant women is “mixed,” with “moderate” evidence that the drug is linked to attention problems among offspring, experts including Columbia's Hart and Carleton University's Peter Fried have testified that the drug is less harmful to a fetus than cigarette or alcohol use.
In New York City, where medical cannabis has been legal for limited use since last year, lawyers say the drug plays a role in perpetuating racial and class disparities in the city's foster care system. In 2013, 93 percent of the approximately 11,000 foster children in the city were black or Hispanic. The city's Administration for Children's Services, or ACS, can refer parents for drug testing even in cases where substance abuse wasn't among the initial allegations. Sometimes, a positive marijuana test, or the failure to complete a drug counseling program, can be what stands in the way of a parent's reuniting with a child, lawyers say. For low-income families struggling to balance unpredictable job schedules and afford transportation, meeting those requirements can be particularly difficult. “Parents of privilege talk openly about their use of marijuana,” says Emma Ketteringham, managing attorney with the family defense practice of the Bronx Defenders, a legal group. “They have absolutely no idea that some parents have to visit their children in an agency because they continue to test positive for marijuana.”
As social mores and laws on marijuana continue to liberalize, debate on agencies' approach to the drug is expected to grow. “People are open with investigators about smoking marijuana recreationally because they don't think the government will take it that seriously — but that's exactly what ACS does,” says Gabriel Freiman, a supervising attorney with the family defense practice of the Brooklyn Defender Services, which represents many indigent clients in the borough. He mentions a client who, after telling a caseworker she used recreational marijuana, was no longer allowed overnight visits with her son. The child-welfare agency's approach, he says, is increasingly out of step with the message of New York's governor and the city's mayor, who have in the past advocated decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana.
Christopher McKniff, a spokesman for ACS, wrote in an email that the agency is very aware of the socioeconomic and racial disparities among children in foster care and is seeking ways to reduce the “disproportionate number of kids of color that become involved in the system.” But, he wrote, parental misuse of marijuana, as with all drugs, can put a child at risk and force the agency to intervene.
In Anderson and Hillyer's case, the two say they are still reeling from the accusations against them, and their relationship has frayed. “It was a complete nightmare emotionally,” says Hillyer. “The hardest thing you could ever deal with as a parent is to be in sight of losing a child.”
Blue-ribbon commission collects ideas to save children in abusive homes
by Cheryl Wetzstein
The grisly tragedies mount: A Missouri mother has been charged with beating her 1-year-old daughter to death, and a Kentucky couple are accused of criminal abuse after the mother dropped their newborn while high on drugs, resulting in the baby's death.
In Houston, six children who had been returned to their home after a short stint in foster care were buried recently along with their parents, who were slain by another parent in a domestic dispute.
For decades, the nation has heard alarms about the hundreds of innocent lives lost to abuse and neglect each year, usually at the hands of one or both parents. But despite reforms, legislation, funding battles and finger-pointing, states still struggle to ensure child safety.
In fact, the death toll is about 1,500 children a year — about four a day, the federal government says — making maltreatment a bigger killer than cancer among children younger than 15.
The tide may be about to turn, however. A blue-ribbon commission is working to gather fresh answers about how to stop such child fatalities. What it is learning may lead to critical changes in child welfare operations — and save lives.
“I do believe that we have some things that are just very different because people haven't had the opportunity to put things together on a national level,” said clinical psychologist David Sanders, chairman of the 12-member federal Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities.
The panel is expected to provide recommendations in March, based on more than a dozen meetings it has held around the nation, including a recent one in New York.
Despite wide agreement that there is no simple answer to prevent child fatalities, there are precedents for success, said Mr. Sanders, executive vice president for Casey Family Programs and former director of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.
About 40 percent of tips about vulnerable children to Child Protective Services are “screened out” — often for lack of evidence — and the agency takes no further action, Mr. Sanders said.
However, research shows that that group of children “is among the most vulnerable for later fatality,” he said.
A proposed improvement would be to require that every maltreatment tip about a child younger than 1 generate a prompt visit.
“Somebody needs to see that child,” said Mr. Sanders, noting that the vast majority of child fatalities involve some of the youngest.
Another tactic would be to offer social programs, such as those for new parents or “safe sleeping,” earlier than later.
An additional area for change is cross-communication.
Child Protective Services workers may visit a family, but they won't know whether police came the night before for a domestic violence call or whether the child has been missing well-baby appointments, Mr. Sanders said. When information like this isn't shared, it can have “deadly consequences,” he said.
“There's no reason in the 21st century that there is an inability to share information,” he said, noting that the information gap has been cited “in state after state after state.”
There is no doubt that missing or misdirected information about a family in crisis has contributed to children being killed, according to media investigations.
The Miami Herald last year found 477 child fatalities in Florida over six years. In one case in which the mother and children were killed, the death review found that neighbors and others familiar with the estranged husband were not interviewed about the family.
In another case, social workers who checked on a cockroach-infested house saw a bug problem more than a mental health or drug abuse problem. That was a fatal mistake, the Herald reported, as several years and multiple child welfare visits later, three girls were found malnourished and their 10-month-old brother, Milo Rupert, was found dead. The squalid home was infested with thousands of cockroaches.
Milo's father and mother have since been sentenced to lengthy prison sentences for his death.
The Herald series criticized ineffective solutions — such as parents' “safety plans” for their children that went unenforced — as well as the state agency's desire to promote “family preservation” or keep troubled families together as much as possible.
Florida officials have since changed course, and now families — and their histories — are being scrutinized more closely, and the numbers of children removed from homes have risen sharply, the Orlando Sentinel reported last month.
Meanwhile, the vast majority — about 86 percent — of child fatalities occur in families “not known” to the local child welfare system, according to the annual Child Maltreatment reports issued by the children's bureau in the Administration for Children and Families in the Department of Health and Human Services.
This is part of the reason why solutions are so elusive: It is difficult to know when, where and how to intervene in a family's life, the blue-ribbon child fatality commission said.
In Houston, the Aug. 8 killings of the Jackson family were so shocking that a child welfare judge issued a statement to explain his actions regarding the family.
In 2013, Valerie Jackson, who was estranged from husband Dwayne Jackson and living again with David Ray Conley, the father of her eldest child, lost custody of the children after one of her young children was found walking alone on the streets.
When Mrs. Jackson got an alarm system and agreed to parenting and counseling classes with Mr. Conley, Juvenile Court Judge Glenn Devlin said he had no reason to keep them in state care and let them return home.
“Most importantly,” Judge Devlin said in a statement issued after their deaths, Child Protective Services “never stated that there was a belief the children were in immediate physical danger from any person or parent.”
Judge Devlin added that Mr. Conley's history of domestic violence, jail time and threats of harm against Mrs. Jackson were not legally sufficient to keep the children in foster care. “I can't base removal on the criminal history of parties,” the judge wrote.
According to media reports, Mrs. Jackson broke off her relationship with Mr. Conley sometime this year and resumed her relationship with her husband, Mr. Jackson. She reportedly changed the locks on their Houston home.
When Mr. Conley, 49, discovered he was locked out of his former home, he supposedly planned his revenge. On Aug. 8, he entered the home through an unlocked window, handcuffed most of the family members and then fatally shot Mr. Jackson; Honesty Jackson, 11; Dwayne Jackson Jr., 10; Caleb Jackson, 9; Trinity Jackson, 7; Jonah Jackson, 6; and Nathaniel Conley, 13.
Media reports said Mr. Conley shot Mr. Jackson and the children in front of Mrs. Jackson before killing her. He later exchanged gunfire with police at the house before surrendering to them.
Lack of shared information may have doomed the family because police didn't immediately learn of Mr. Conley's violent history.
Earlier that morning, Mrs. Jackson texted her mother, “911 911 911 911,” and said “DVD has gun,” a reference to Mr. Conley.
Police knocked at the door several times during the day but didn't enter the house until evening, when they spotted the body of a child through a window.
An earlier entry may have saved lives. After their first visit, Mrs. Jackson sent a final garbled text to her mother, saying, “Tuhey knck left.”
New school child-abuse-reporting policy up for adoption in Washington County
by Julia E. Greene
Washington County Public Schools is expected to adopt a new policy this school year that would require all of its employees to report any suspected child abuse or neglect.
Previously, that training focused on instructional and administrative staff at schools, but if the board of education approves the new policy, all employees will be required to report suspected cases of abuse or neglect, said Carol Costello, supervisor of student services. The responsibility to report such instances would be broadened to include employees such as custodians, cafeteria workers and bus drivers.
Costello said non-instructional staff have reported suspected abuse and neglect in the past, but the new policy would lead to training and ongoing support for those employees to deal with such matters.
The school system is already asking all of its employees to complete online training by Oct. 16, according to Human Resources Executive Director Laura Francisco.
Mike Piercy, assistant director of adult, child and family services for the Washington County Department of Social Services, called the broadening of personnel involved in the reporting process a "great step forward for the safety of children."
Most of the local cases of suspected child abuse or neglect are reported through the public school system, Piercy said.
"A child may feel very comfortable disclosing something to a teacher that they might not disclose in other environments," Piercy said.
In reviewing the school system's policy for reporting child abuse and neglect, at the state's request, it was noted that, per state law, the policy called for certified staff such as teachers and principals to report suspected child abuse and neglect, said Anthony Trotta, the board's chief legal counsel.
After administrators raised the possibility of broadening the reporting responsibility to all employees, the policy committee agreed to make that recommendation to the full school board, Policy Committee Chairwoman Jacqueline Fischer said Thursday.
The school board voted unanimously Sept. 1 to approve the first reading of the new, updated policy and to rescind an outdated policy about student welfare.
The board's Policy Committee will review the policy again before the proposal is sent back to the board for final approval, Fischer said.
The policy review was prompted by a July 2 memorandum that State Schools Superintendent Lillian M. Lowery issued to local public school system superintendents to update local child abuse policies and protocols, specifically to include human trafficking and child pornography.
The memo states that a recent review of local school systems' policies regarding reporting abuse, showed those policies were not aligned with a 2007 law that "officially criminalized the act of human trafficking."
The Maryland Family Law lists several personnel who are required to report suspected child abuse, including physical and sexual abuse, the memo states. Those personnel include "every educator, including teacher, counselor, or other professional employee of any school," the memo states.
'As soon as possible'
The new policy the local school board reviewed last week states that "All school system employees have an obligation to report suspected child abuse or child neglect to the local department of social services or law enforcement and to their supervisor."
This includes making both an oral report as soon as possible and a written report.
There was some discussion amongst the board members as to whether to say "as soon as possible" or "immediately," with Fischer pointing out that sometimes immediately might not be possible. For example, Fischer said, a bus driver who overhears a student on the bus might not be able to immediately pull the bus over to call authorities.
Trotta told the board that the person who actually hears a comment about suspected abuse or neglect or sees evidence of such must be the one to call social services.
The written report to the Department of Social Services is to be made no later than 48 hours after the "contact, examination, attention, or treatment that caused the individual to believe that the child had been subjected to abuse or neglect," according to the proposed policy.
A copy of the written report is to be sent to the local state's attorney, the proposal states.
The employee training will involve an online component and information from employees' principals.
All employees have until Oct. 16 to complete online SafeSchools training that is provided by the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, Francisco said in an email to Herald-Mail Media.
Principals talked to teachers, instructional assistants and school secretaries before the school year started about updates concerning recognizing and reporting child abuse and neglect, officials said. That information included what warning signs staff should look for and what numbers to call when reporting a concern, according to an email from Chief Academic Officer Peggy Pugh.
Costello, the supervisor of student services, said signs of neglect could be inadequate clothing, if a child is left unsupervised outside of school for long periods of time, or failure to provide care such as medication.
Signs of physical abuse can be much more dramatic, such as bruises or injuries in various stages of healing, Costello said.
There is no liability for school system staff to report suspected abuse or neglect, and their identity is not disclosed to the child's family, Costello said.
By the numbers
Piercy said the local social services office averages about 100 new cases a month of child abuse or neglect in the county.
The monthly average can fluctuate from the 80s to more than 100 with the number in the lower range usually during summer months when children are not in school, he said.
While Piercy couldn't say exactly what percentage of reports come through the public school system, he said that anecdotally that figure is about 60 percent.
For May 2015, the last full month of school, there were 105 cases of child abuse and neglect reported.
Of those, 55 were moderate- to high-risk cases that involved investigations, Piercy said. For example, suspected sexual abuse cases are always deemed high-risk cases.
Of those 55 cases, 16 were about sexual abuse, 20 were physical abuse and 19 were neglect cases.
The remaining 50 cases still led to visits by Child Protective Services, but were the lowest-risk cases. Seventeen of those cases were about suspected abuse, with the remaining 33 about suspected neglect.
Such low-risk cases might include a parent who slaps a teenage child who cussed at the parent, but the smack left a small temporary wound like a fingernail scratch or tiny welt, Piercy said. Another example would be a young mother with no criminal or child-welfare history who ran into a gas station for a drink, but left her child in the car. If someone sees her run in and tells her they are calling authorities — and the child receives no harm from the incident, then social services might just educate the mother about the dangers of leaving a child unattended in a car so she doesn't do it again, he said.
In these low-risk situations, social services maintains a file on the parent for three years in case another incident is reported, which would prompt an investigation, Piercy said.
Not all concerns rise to the level of state intervention, Piercy said. For instance, yelling at a child is not necessarily child abuse, he said.
Costello said she and the student service team meet with social service and Child Protective Services officials quarterly during the school year to "ensure collaboration and coordination" regarding issues such as changes in reporting processes.
When children are nearly killed by abuse
by Virginia Black
Maybe you noticed the story last week about Austin Kinder, the Mishawaka man who was sentenced for nearly killing his 10-month-old son last fall. He told the judge he beat his child so badly the boy was airlifted to Indianapolis because he was angry the baby's mother didn't love him like she used to.
Or maybe you saw the news Thursday about a LaPorte 18-year-old, Casey Measles, who was arrested after police allege she shook her 3-month-old son so badly that he, too, was still clinging to life at Riley Children's Hospital.
Or how about the 26-year-old Plymouth mother, Amanda Nethercutt, who a few weeks ago was charged with attempted murder, accused of wrapping her hands around her 6-year-old daughter's neck and holding her under water in the bathtub in an attempt to drown her? The girl's face had turned blue, police say, and was saved after her grandmother intervened.
Because all three have now been charged with crimes, we now know a little about the tragic near deaths of these children in our community.
What we still don't know is whether anyone in Indiana's child protection system had earlier clues that might have prevented these children from what will undoubtedly be lasting trauma.
We have some hints that trouble might have been spotted sooner in at least two of these cases:
* Austin Kinder's two children had been removed from his home about six months before he was arrested for the near-fatal injuries in September 2014 — because the baby was found to have been physically abused six months earlier, as well. We don't know the circumstances behind why baby Josiah was returned to his father's care.
* The Measles baby — who at last report is on a ventilator with a “deep brain bleed” — would not stop crying, and his mother told police she shook him out of frustration. The mother was arraigned Friday on two Level 3 felonies: aggravated battery and battery.
According to WSBT, the documents in the case said Measles told police she's usually never alone with the baby due to ‘‘anger management issues.'' But there was no explanation why it was just her and the boy in the room by themselves. Had some agency previously been alerted to the young mother's “anger management issues”?
Indiana law decrees that Department of Child Services and other records involving a child's “fatality or near fatality” should be made public. The trouble is, although it's clear what “fatality” means, “near fatality” is undefined in state statute and open to interpretation.
DCS, in fact, wrote its own interpretation. Judges trying to determine what state law would allow have ruled against attempts to examine the documents relating to children who by most definitions certainly suffered a “near fatality” — including little Josiah Kinder.
Under CAPTA — Child Abuse Prewwvention and Treatment Act — the federal definition of a near fatality is “an act that, as certified by a physician, places the child in serious or critical condition.”
The problem is, doctors don't issue “near-death certificates” the way they do death certificates. And it does not define what constitutes “an act.”
In the 2014 General Assembly session, state Sen. John Broden, D-South Bend and a former DCS attorney, submitted a bill that offered a definition of near fatality: a “severe childhood injury or condition that results in the child receiving critical care for at least 24 hours following a child's admission to a critical care unit.”
Broden explained that the attorneys who make up the Legislative Services Agency, which crafts the language in bills, researched other states' definitions before settling on that one.
But when the bill was heard in the Senate's Committee on Family and Children's Services, a DCS attorney raised concerns about the definition, worried that it if violated CAPTA and its confidentiality requirements, federal funding might be lost. So lawmakers tabled the issue.
“Nobody wanted to move something forward — even if it was crying wolf — if it was going to jeopardize federal funding,” Broden said.
But nationally, there are calls for more transparency and attention to be paid to the near deaths of children to more fully understand how to keep children safe.
“New research suggests that studying near-fatal events of child abuse also may be very important,” Dr. David Sanders, the chairman of the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities, wrote in a blog in March. “This is because near fatalities are similar to fatalities in almost every way we can measure them.”
Often the only factor that determines whether a child dies is the quality of the medical care he or she receives, he wrote.
But studying near fatalities is difficult, he says, because “there is no clear definition of such events.” CAPTA offers a definition, he notes, but state definitions vary. (In fact, in his blog, Sanders quotes California's definition — which is nearly identical to the definition in Broden's bill.)
Because the definitions so vary and states are not required to review or report near fatalities the same way they do fatalities, he wrote, we don't know how many children are so seriously injured or learn how they could have been prevented.
Sanders' agency, created by federal law in 2010 to develop a national strategy to combat child abuse deaths, “is studying near fatalities closely,” he wrote.
Broden says attorneys for DCS, LSA and the caucus attorney have met once since the last session ended and continue to research other states' policies.
Whatever that group's recommendation, the senator said he “absolutely” intends to resubmit the bill for the General Assembly session that will begin in January.
Indiana's child protection system compromises not only DCS, but also courts, law enforcement, schools, doctors and more. More openness when Indiana children are seriously injured is crucial — not to assign blame, but to pinpoint policies or areas where we can do better.
Confidentiality meant to protect children and families does more harm than good when it is allowed to undermine the public's confidence that we're doing all that we can for our most vulnerable.