National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

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

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

September, 2015 - Week 4
MJ Goyings
Many, many thanks to our very own "MJ" for
providing us the majority of the daily research
that appears on the LACP and NAASCA web sites.
Ms. Goyings is a retired Registered Nurse from Ohio.

Pope Francis: 'God weeps' at child sex abuse

from the BBC

Pope Francis has met and prayed with a small group of victims of child sexual abuse in the US, saying "God weeps" for their suffering.

Speaking after the meeting, the Pope promised to hold accountable those responsible for the scandal in the Church.

Many abuse survivors are angry at how the Vatican has dealt with allegations.

The Roman Catholic Church in the US has been embroiled in a series of child sex scandals.

US dioceses have made huge compensation payouts to victims.

The Pope met the five victims, all now adults who had suffered sexual abuse as children, on Sunday morning at a seminary in Pennsylvania, his spokesman said.

The group - three women and two men - had been abused by clergy, family members or teachers, Father Federico Lombardi said in a statement.

Each was accompanied by a family member, he added.

The Pope was "overwhelmed with shame that men entrusted with the tender care of children violated these little ones and caused grievous harm," he told bishops on the final day of his visit to the US.

The Pope listened to the survivors' stories, prayed with them, and expressed his "pain and shame" in the case of those harmed by clergy or church workers, Fr Lombardi said.

The Pope "renewed his commitment" to ensure that victims are treated with justice, the guilty are punished, and to effective prevention in the Church and in society, the statement said.

In June the Pope approved the creation of a tribunal to hear cases of bishops accused of covering up child abuse by paedophile priests.

Last year, the UN strongly criticised the Church for failing to stamp out abuse and for allowing cover-ups.

At the end of a nine-day tour of Cuba and the US, Pope Francis is due to hold an open-air Mass in Philadelphia later on Sunday.

He also met inmates at a prison in the city earlier in the day.


'God Weeps': Pope Francis Meets With Victims of Child Sexual Abuse in Philadelphia, Vows to Hold Guilty Priests Accountable


Pope Francis spent part of his final day in Philadelphia meeting with past victims of child sexual abuse, promising retribution against those culpable for the Catholic church scandal that reached a fever pitch in the early 2000s.

The pope expressed his warning to American bishops accused of covering up for sexually abusive priests at the start of a 30-minute meeting at the San Carlo Borromeo seminary on Sunday, according to Head Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi.

In the half hour meeting, the pontiff talked to and prayed with the three women and two men, who were all abused as minors. The families of the victims participated in the private meeting with the pontiff.

Lombardi specified that the victims were abused by "the clergy or by members of their families or their teachers."

The pontiff told the victims they were "true heralds of mercy" and praised them for helping bring to light the devastating scandal.

He urged that sex abuse in the church must no longer be hidden, and vowed to ensure that "all those responsible are held accountable."

"I constantly have in mind the people who had the responsibility to take care of these tender children, that violated that trust and caused them great pain," the pope said. "I am profoundly sorry. God weeps."

The pontiff added:

"God weeps for the sexual abuse of children. These cannot be maintained in secret, and I commit to a careful oversight to ensure that youth are protected and all responsible will be held accountable. Those who have survived this abuse have become true heralds of mercy, humbly. We owe each of them our gratitude for their great value as they have had to suffer this terrible abuse sexual abuse of minors."

Francis arrived in Philadelphia on Saturday, and will fly back to Rome on Sunday evening. His visit to the City of Brotherly Love, which ended the whirlwind six-day U.S. tour, included an appearance at the Festival of Families, a free public event hosted by the World Meeting of Families, a Catholic conference, at the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Saturday night.

Most of his time in America, which included stops in both New York City and, before that, Washington D.C., has been marked by candid talks on climate change and social problems.



Into the light: Hamilton woman advocates for childhood sexual abuse prevention

by Perry Backu

Child abusers need the darkness.

They use fear and intimidation and the innocence of youth to keep their victims from stepping into the light.

They depend on a culture where the topic is taboo and people would rather look away than admit it exists.

Tara Walker Lyons knows all about that.

She's lived in the dark.

Now, at the age of 27, the Hamilton resident is stepping forward to tell her story in hopes of pulling away the veil that child abusers hide behind.

On July 16, she released a video of her story on social media and people from all parts of the country have responded. She's created a Facebook page called “Defending Innocence” that she hopes will help start a movement to get people talking about childhood sexual abuse.

Beyond that, she has taken the courageous step of standing before men and women incarcerated in the Montana prison system to tell her story, in hopes of putting a face on child abuse.

Before she's finished, Lyons wants to help Montana join a growing of number of states where important information about child abuse is taught in public schools as part of an effort to break a vicious and ugly cycle.

Lyons was only 6 years old when her abuser first sneaked into the room.

The first time it happened was on the night before the annual fishing derby in Augusta. Her mother was asleep just eight feet away.

For six years, the abuse continued. She thinks it happened over 100 times.

The attacks finally stopped when she and another girl gathered the courage to run to the big white and red house on Augusta's Main Street where the sheriff lived. They had just been molested together in her mother's maroon Buick Skylark.

Her abuser chased the two girls down the street before finally giving up.

Lyons remembers thinking: “It was time for this finally to end.”

That was a feeling that would never go away.

“For a long time I thought, the only way to overcome it was to ignore it,” she said.

She did well in high school and went on to college, but things never seemed right in her life. One night in Missoula, she was cited for driving under the influence. The judge ordered her into treatment.

That was the first time in her life that she told her story to professionals.

“Luckily, it was also the first time that I had ever been in trouble with the law,” she said. “I learned that there were people out there who were willing to help you.”

Fifteen years after she had found safety in her father's arms at the group home where she'd been sent after being removed from her mother's home, Lyons sat down in front of a video camera. Her young daughter was asleep in the next room.

It was time to let the world know about the hurt that comes with childhood sexual abuse.

The video begins with white letters scrolling over the screen.

First there's a warning that viewing this video may trigger certain thoughts or emotions for some viewers.

It continues with the announcement that the video's purpose is to put a face on an “enormous” issue, one that affects one in 10 children – likely more.

“Childhood sexual abuse,” the video reads. “The time for society to start talking about this issue is now.”

Lyons' face appears. She begins by reading statistics.

In the year 2000, the rate of sexual assault against children was 2.3 percent higher than adults. Female survivors are three times more likely to report substance abuse issues. All childhood sexual abuse survivors are twice as likely to attempt suicide.

She stops, takes a deep breath and looks at the camera.

Lyons said the video has a purpose. She has to do her part.

“I have to do the inevitable. I have to open up. I have to look at all of these facts and I have to see me. Anxiety, check. PTSD. Check that one off too. Depression. If you only knew. So bear with me. As you'll understand, this isn't exactly easy.”

For the next 11 minutes, Lyons tells her story of sexual abuse, beginning with the confusion of a 6-year-old girl assaulted by a man who “violated every right that I had as a human being.”

It's the same story that she tells to inmates as part of the Montana Department of Corrections' Victim Impact Panel.

Jamie Rogers is the Department of Corrections' victim program manager.

“We are thrilled and very fortunate to have Tara on our victim impact panel,” Rogers said. “She's powerful. We love her message. She's someone who has lived with so much trauma, and now she's working to turn that into something positive. She's determined to make a difference. I believe she will.”

Lyons has the ability to connect with the inmates and make it real for them. At one point in her talk, she asks if there are others who've experienced childhood sexual abuse.

•  “She's so gracious about it,” Rogers said. “She asks them all to close their eyes. I really love her response when someone raises their hand. She tells them: ‘I'm not alone in this room.'

•  “There may have been others who didn't feel comfortable raising their hand, but it sends a message that you're not alone. There is so much shame associated with childhood sexual abuse. It's quite a battle to get the survivors to realize that the shame is not theirs.”The problem is one that many people don't even want to acknowledge.

“Tara has decided to use her voice to make a difference,” Rogers said. “Her message is incredible. She tells everyone that we need to talk about it so there's not that shame associated with it. The more we talk about it, the less it's going to occur.”

Lyons has a unique way of telling her story to offenders.

“She's not bitter or angry,” Rogers said. “She acknowledges that they are human beings too. She doesn't care that they are in prison or even what crimes they've committed. She tells them that they can make a difference too.”

“She's an amazing person,” Rogers said. “She has such courage. Things move fast when a survivor decides to heal. She was ready to get on with it. I think that is very honorable, because her story is not an easy one to tell.”

In October, Lyons will speak again to offenders at the state's Passages pre-release program. She also plans to attend a three-day training presented by the Montana Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Abuse.

That training will allow her to become an advocate with the credentials needed to take her message into more public venues.

Sometime in the near future, Lyons hopes to start working with state legislators interested in pushing forward a nationally recognized program that requires sexual abuse prevention be taught in public schools and educates teachers to the warning signs of abuse.

Erin's Law is named after author and activist Erin Merryn, who was molested by a family member from the ages of 11 to 13.

As of this month, 26 states have passed Erin's Law. Montana is one of six states in the nation where the law has yet to be introduced in its legislature.

Had the law been in place when she was first molested, Lyons believes it could have saved her years of torment.

“We learned how to drop and roll if we ever caught on fire,” she said. “We learned five different ways to get out of the school building. We learned about stranger danger.”

“But there was never a time when I was told about my personal body space,” Lyons said. “I didn't learn about safe secrets and unsafe secrets.”

“No one ever said that talking about it could save you,” she said.

Stepping forward in the light has made all the difference in the world for Lyons.

“I feel almost like I'm the 27-year-old version of myself walking into that children's center to take that little girl into my arms,” she said. “I feel like I'm actually fighting for that girl who didn't have anyone to fight for her before.”


Pope Francis's Words Seriously Fail to Assuage Victims of Clergy Sexual Abuse

by Rick Cohen

A very controversial part of the Pope's visit to the U.S. involved his statements about the Catholic Church's long-running clergy sex abuse scandal. Writing for the Washington Post , Abby Ohlheiser, Michelle Boorstein, and Terrence McCoy noted that Pope Francis said during a prayer session at St. Matthew's Cathedral in Washington that the clergy-perpetrated sexual abuse crimes should “never repeat themselves.” But the three reporters also cited an array of comments ranging in tone from disappointed to outraged from a number of nonprofit organizations that have organized over the years to advocate for victims of Catholic clergy sexual abuse of children and adults.

In a statement that provoked much of the negative commentary, the Pope referenced the “courage” of the U.S. bishops assembled at St. Matthew's, praised their “self-criticism and at the cost of mortification and great sacrifice,” and said, “I realize how much the pain of recent years has weighed upon you and I have supported your generous commitment to bring healing to victims – in the knowledge that in healing we, too, are healed – and to work to ensure that such crimes will never be repeated.”

That didn't go over well with victims' advocates who believe that many of the bishops have done little to help the victims of sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic clergy and may have helped cover up the problem. The Post quoted John Salveson, the president of the Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse and a survivor of clergy sex abuse himself, who said, “To characterize the response of American Bishops to clergy abuse victims as ‘generous' and ‘courageous' is bizarre.” Salveson added, “In reality, the American church hierarchy has treated clergy sex abuse victims as adversaries and enemies for decades…His concern about how the abuse crisis has weighed on the bishops' spirits, and his hope that all of their good deeds will help them heal from the crisis, reflects a profound misunderstanding of the role the church has played in this self-inflicted crisis.”

Barbara Dorris, the victims outreach director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, characterized the Pope's statement as “a slap in the face to all the victims, that we're going to worry about how the poor bishop feels.”

SNAP's Dorris also said, “We're sad that Francis claims US bishops have shown ‘courage' in the abuse crisis. Almost without exception, they have shown cowardice and callousness and continue to do so now…They offer excuses, exploit legal technicalities and hide behind expensive lawyers and public relations professionals, hardly the marks of courage… We're also sad that Francis can't bring himself to call this crisis what it is – not ‘difficult moments in recent history', but the continuing cover-up of clergy child sex crimes by almost the entire church hierarchy.”

Charges and lawsuits against U.S. church leaders concerning sexual abuse of children and adults are still appearing across the country. It isn't as though the Catholic Church is significantly more likely to harbor sexual abusers than other segments of American society, but it has been the behavior of the church in responding to charges of sexual abuse that has added an extra layer to the crisis. As Ross Douthat wrote in the New York Times this past summer, “The reason the sex abuse issue was a crisis for the church rather than just a scandal was that it exposed systemic failures of governance within the Catholic hierarchy, systemic culpability on the part of the episcopate, and neither Rome nor the bishops themselves seemed to have any kind of response that wasn't ad hoc, situational, and self-protective.”

There might have been many levels to Pope Francis's comments, perhaps aimed as a message at bishops in other countries where the sexual abuse problem is still rampant with church leaders doing even less than the U.S. bishops to bring it under control. The Pope himself in the past has acknowledged that the Catholic Church has much to atone for in the sexual abuse scandal, including the failure of church leaders to report sexual abusers to the authorities, often simply hushing things up and transferring offenders to new churches where they sometimes repeated their heinous behavior.

It is nonetheless odd that Pope Francis addressed the concerns and feelings of the bishops, but didn't directly address the sexual abuse victims themselves. The response of a church spokesperson to the survivors' and advocates' criticism didn't sound particularly sensitive to the survivors' concerns: “I am not surprised that there are critics that are not happy. This is not the first time,” Vatican Press Secretary Rev. Federico Lombardi said.

Nonetheless, churches around the nation are still fending off victims' suits in court—and spending hundreds of millions in legal fees to reduce or avoid compensating victims. Yet the Pope praised the bishops for their “sacrifice.” SNAP's president, Barbara Blaine, took umbrage at that remark: "What sacrifice?” she asked. “What bishop takes fewer vacations, drives a smaller car, does his own laundry or has been passed over for promotion because he's shielding predators and endangering kids? None."

Ultimately, the question is not one of sympathetic words from the Pontiff, but concrete actions by the church itself. The USA TODAY coverage reported that SNAP called on Pope Francis to “institute reforms that reward whistle-blowers, hire professional investigators, turn over church records to law enforcement and denounce bishops accused of covering up misconduct.” Until that happens, there are going to be survivors and their advocates who compare the words of the Pope with the actions of church authorities and find the gap overwhelming.



Police Scotland unit leads child sex abuse battle

by Dani Garavelli

POLICE Scotland's new national child sex abuse unit has been involved in 65 investigations across the country since it began work in January, it has been revealed.

Its 48 specialist officers, based in Livingston, Inverness, Aberdeen and Dalmarnock, have lent their expertise to inquiries involving abuse carried out in institutions and elsewhere, as well as to operations into child sexual exploitation (CSE). Their work has spanned both historical and recent allegations.

The child sex abuse unit was set up after the report into failings in the investigation of CSE in Rotherham found 1,400 children had been abused between 1997 and 2013.

Its officers – who have specialist training in areas such as interviewing vulnerable witnesses, crime scene management and digital technology – are drafted in to give short-term support to divisional officers involved in complex, protracted or cross-border investigations or those which involve people who are well-known or in positions of trust. Twelve of the 65 inquiries were led by senior investigating officers from the unit.

The last few years have seen an explosion in the number of child sex abuse cases throughout the UK. Scandals involving religious orders and high-profile figures such as Jimmy Savile have put abuse in state-run and other institutions in the spotlight, while Rotherham has exposed the scale of the country's CSE problems.

Earlier this year, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) revealed sexual crime, including sexual offences relating to children, accounted for 75 per cent of cases at the High Court, while figures released in June showed allegations of child sex abuse were burgeoning, with 3,742 offences recorded in Scotland in 2013/14.

One of the challenges for the unit has been to strike a balance between investigating historical and contemporary cases in a febrile atmosphere. “Clearly, the non-recent inquiries have to be resourced and investigated, but at the same time you can never forget about the cases that are here and now,” said Det Supt Alan Crawford, Police Scotland child and adult protection lead.

Det Chief Insp Elaine Galbraith added: “If it's not someone who is posing an immediate risk – or indeed, who is dead – then absolutely we will still investigate, but we can take a more measured approach.”

DCI Galbraith said the unit was working closely with third sector bodies, such as Barnardo's, to ensure victims were given adequate support through the judicial process and beyond.

Crawford said officers investigating historical abuse had been involved in trawling through previous investigations by legacy forces and in interviewing retired detectives about their decisions.

Police Scotland's child abuse unit is also the point of contact for Operation Hydrant – a pulling together of more than 600 investigations by police forces throughout the United Kingdom.

Child sex abuse survivors have criticised a “lack of communication” from the public inquiry set up to examine historical offences involving children in care in Scotland days before its official opening.

The inquiry – to be chaired by Susan O'Brien QC – will be launched on Thursday when a website detailing how the process will work and encouraging victims to come forward is expected to go live. But survivors from several support groups, including In Care Abuse Survivor (Incas) and White Flowers Alba, are angry they have not been kept up to date with, or consulted on, any of the preparatory work that has taken place since O'Brien's appointment in May.

In particular, they believe they should have been informed of progress in the recruitment of a panel to sit alongside O'Brien.

“We are concerned by all the uncertainty and the lack of communication,” said Alan Draper, parliamentary liaison officer for Incas. “When the chair was announced, we were told the inquiry would commence on 1 October. But the last we heard was that they weren't interviewing [prospective] panel members until early September. It seems to me if you are appointing some of the worthy and the good, and if they are already in employment, they will have to give due notice, so they might not be available for several months.”

Shadow justice secretary Graeme Pearson, who campaigned for the public inquiry, said there had been no constructive communication with survivors in the past few months.

“Certainly survivors would expect to know who the members of the panel are by now, and to know what the forecast was for the coming months. But there has been no attempt – on the part of the Scottish Government or the inquiry officials – to keep me briefed about what is going on.”

The Scottish Government insists a brief period of silence was inevitable after O'Brien's appointment as she busied herself with behind-the-scenes work.

“This government is committed to supporting survivors of abuse, including through the establishment of the statutory public inquiry,” a spokesperson said.



Journey to Safety — citziens connect dots toward protecting children

by Julie Delcour

Angry doesn't begin to describe the small brown dog yapping canine curses. Until 40 strangers on a tour invaded his space and took turns peering into his temporary quarters, he'd had this spacious kennel all to himself.

Maybe the dog knows something about fear. His owners certainly do — the family recently fled danger at home, finding sanctuary at the new Domestic Violence Intervention Services emergency shelter.

This gleaming facility, opened in April, was built with private funding as part of a $25 million capital campaign. It replaced a decrepit 50-bed shelter that operated at full or over-capacity for much of the past 29 years.

Domestic violence has been with Tulsa a long time. Ongoing and intensive state and local education campaigns, hotlines, a mayor's summit, new laws and dedicated advocates such as DVIS and the Tulsa Coalition for Child Advocacy, which organized the Journey to Safety Tour on Sept. 17, have saved lives, lessened fear and suffering, stepping between victims and their abusers to stop the cycle of violence.

But it's never quite enough.

The fact that Tulsa desperately needed an 80-bed facility with 20 adjacent apartments, onsite counseling services and a day care, speaks to the level of domestic abuse in the community. If past figures repeat, this year DVIS will shelter almost 500 victims — women, children and a few men, and provide counseling to more than 850 survivors of domestic assault and at least 350 victims of rape and sexual assault.

Most of those coming to the shelter will stay here only a short time; others might remain in an apartment for longer. All are trying to rebuild their lives.

At the shelter, Tulsa Police Sgt. Quentin Houck held up a map showing domestic violence call locations. No part of the city goes untouched and every demographic, he said, rich and poor, white, black or brown, old and young, is affected.

Houck understands the problem first hand. He has responded to the call of the frantic 10-year-old dialing 911 because his father was out of control, on top of his mother, "choking her out."

Sometimes the only thing standing in the way of abuse is a uniformed officer. TPD, Houck said, takes domestic violence seriously.

The numbers underscore the extent of the problem. Last year, there were 21,217 domestic violence-related 911 calls, 1,134 follow-up arrests and 12 domestic-violence-related homicides.

“It's not a small problem," Houck said, "it's an epidemic.”

The DVIS emergency shelter was the last stop on the half-day tour. The Tulsa County Child Protection Coalition sponsors such tours at least twice a year. For the past 12 years, the coalition, which has grown to nearly 30 organizations and agencies, has coordinated efforts, working nonstop to get children out of harm's way when they are threatened by abuse, neglect, abandonment and violence. Or, when they must be removed from the home.

The tour is a behind-the scenes look for members of the community who the coalition hopes will in turn become advocates for the vulnerable. But before individuals can help or advocate, they must be able to connect the dots between the agencies and acronyms, and understand the roles each member agency plays.

Among the coalition members are the Department of Human Services, TPD, Tulsa County Juvenile Court, the Tulsa County District Attorney's Office, Tulsa County Sheriff's Office, Youth Services of Tulsa, Court Appointed Special Advocates, Tulsa Lawyers for Children and DVIS.

A second stop on the tour is to the juvenile court, Judge Doris Fransein, chief judge of the Juvenile Division, stops her busy work day.

Currently, there are 1,521 children who are wards of the court. The number is sometimes larger but it rarely goes down. These are deprived children, kids who have been neglected or abused and ultimately removed by DHS case workers from their home. The children range in age from newborn to 18 years. Some will end up in foster care or be placed into adoption.

"The majority of children are reunified with their families," Fransein said. That generally is the desire of deprived or abused children no matter how badly they have been treated. It is also is the desire of parents.

"Most would rather spend their life in prison than give up a child," Fransein said.

But those children reunited with their families will go home only if the court is satisfied that the child is returning to a safe and stable environment.

"The return rate is low if they are given therapy and treatment," Fransein said.

The Tulsa Juvenile Bureau is a model court, with the aim to keep children safe and to keep them from becoming juvenile delinquents, and matriculating into prison as adults. Of the nearly 27,000 inmates behind bars in Oklahoma prisons many had a juvenile record and many more came from homes where violence, abuse and neglect and substance abuse influenced the trajectory of their life.

The tour is over.

This was the final one organized by Lynn Sossamon, who until August led the coalition for nine years, and for Pat Atkinson, coalition communications director, who retired at the same time.

Sossamon is succeeded by Kristine Bridges, a former associate dean of professional development at the University of Tulsa College of Law and longtime children's advocate. The coalition is in good hands.

The bus pulls up at Tulsa Youth Services and unloads. Forty new citizen-advocates for children are unleashed into the community.



Sojourner Family Peace Center to Open on North Side

by Justin Thompson

Domestic violence continues to be a major issue in the Milwaukee area. That's why the Sojourner Family Peace Center is opening a new facility on Milwaukee's north side is so important.

Saturday, Sojourner introduced itself to its new neighbors on 6th and Walnut where they will start serving them in just a few months.

The organization helps families cope with the devastation of domestic violence by providing emotional, legal and law enforcement services under one roof.

"What this does is it minimizes the number of places you have to go to. So the District Attorney, Milwaukee Police Department, Milwaukee Public Schools, sexual assault treatment center, children hospital, we're all here when you walk in the door" says Sojourner's executive director Carmen Pitre.

When the facility opens next January, it will be able to house more than 50 domestic abuse survivors, both children and adults.



Baker facing sadly familiar task in addressing child abuse

Baker said the intake policy hasn't been updated in 10 years

by Steve LeBlanc

BOSTON (AP) — With the identification of “Baby Doe” as 2-year-old Bella Bond, Gov. Charlie Baker finds himself again thrust into the sad — and sadly familiar — position of responding to the death or mistreatment of a child at one point under the supervision of the state.

Last month, a 2-year-old girl in foster care died after being found unresponsive at an apartment complex in Auburn. The circumstances of the death are still being investigated.

Earlier this summer it was the case of Jack Loiselle, a 7-year-old Hardwick boy who police say was beaten and starved by his father before falling into a coma. A report found the Department of Children and Families failed to pull together multiple abuse reports to adequately protect the boy.

Then came the identification of Bella as the toddler whose body was found on a Boston-area beach in June. DCF said the agency had been involved with the girl twice when she was an infant in 2012 and 2013. The cases were then closed.

Her mother, Rachelle Bond, 40, is charged with being an accessory after the fact to Bella's death. Bond's boyfriend, Michael McCarthy, 35, is charged with murder for allegedly punching the girl in the abdomen until she stopped breathing.

All three echo the 2013 case of Jeremiah Oliver, a 5-year-old Fitchburg boy whose remains were found alongside a highway after social workers lost track of him.

The cases pose a unique challenge for Baker — a self-described policy wonk — who served as secretary of health and human services under then-Gov. William Weld in the 1990s.

As a candidate for governor last year, Baker cited the Oliver case in calling for the resignation of then-DCF Commissioner Olga Roche, appointed by former Gov. Deval Patrick.

Patrick initially resisted demands for Roche's resignation, saying he wanted to focus instead on overhauling the agency, but eventually relented.

As governor, Baker also says he wants to focus on systemic problems in the agency.

“The problem here is the policy. The easy thing to do would be to fire somebody over that,” Baker told reporters after the release of the report criticizing DCF's handling of 7-year-old Jack. “The hard thing to do is to fix the policy and then to hold people accountable.”

Much of that responsibility will fall on Linda Spears, Baker's choice to lead DFC. In her old job at the Child Welfare League of America, Spears helped investigate the Jeremiah Oliver case at the invitation of Patrick.

While the group said DCF shouldn't be held responsible for Jeremiah's death, it did point to staffing problems and inconsistent handling of cases due to out-of-date policies at the agency that Spears now leads. Three DCF employees were eventually fired and a fourth disciplined.

Baker says a key to addressing the agency's troubles is revamping the way it handles investigations into allegations of abuse or neglect of children.

“One of the great problems we have here and it comes up in every single one of these stories is inconsistent or misunderstood application of whatever the rules or the practice standards that exist,” Baker said this week. “In many cases they don't exist at all.”

Baker said the intake policy hasn't been updated in 10 years.

“We are going to move fast, but the most important thing I want everyone to understand is that we are going to move thoroughly,” Baker added. “People are going to understand what's expected of them and how we plan to support them.”



CALM fights child abuse, extends services to North County

by Jamie Guista

With over 2,000 children suffering from abuse each year across Santa Barbara County, and 80 percent of the cases occurring north of the Gaviota Tunnel, Child Abuse Listening Mediation (CALM) has been actively expanding in North County.

The expansion, however, has been a slow-moving process.

The Santa Barbara non-profit started in 1969 when an overworked father in Santa Barbara took his frustrations out on his infant son, shaking him to death.

Claire Miles, a local nurse, learned of the circumstances and took immediate action, placing classified ads in a local newspaper urging parents in need to call for help.

The phone rang almost 40 times that first month and with that, CALM was born with the mission of preventing, assessing and treating child abuse by providing comprehensive, culturally competent services for children, families and adults.

After 30 years, CALM opened a Santa Maria and Lompoc office a few years ago, but the organization continues to push northern growth.

"For the past four years, CALM has begun to establish a presence in Santa Maria, primarily focused on children 0-5," said Executive Director Cecilia Rodriguez in a statement last fall. "Now is the time for us to devote the time, attention and resources to broaden the scope of our work in the North County to bring service levels in line with those we provide in South County."

Since last fall, CALM has further expanded its North County services and moved into a new Santa Maria office.

•  One of their most successful new programs has been the Welcome Every Baby (WEB) Newborn Home Visiting Program, which has helped 695 new parents in Santa Maria and Guadalupe this year. WEB provides newborns with risk factors and their families with bilingual Infant Home Visitors that help assist with issues such as breastfeeding, nutrition, sleep problems, crying and tantrums, and child development issues.

•  The new office, on the other hand, provides space for four therapy rooms and one additional room for parent-child interaction therapy and is intended to be a friendly, safe and nurturing environment for patients. Because of budget shortages, however, the organization is working toward a goal of $75,000 for specific books, games and therapeutic toys.

•  As of press time, CALM has reached $20,000. Although the organization is challenged, the move to North County will not be stopped anytime soon.

"These kids have been let down by their parents and it is our job, as a community, to lift them back up. It makes our children and our community stronger," said Judy Markline, chair of the North County Advisory Committee.



Pope Francis Speaks Out on Child Sexual Abuse Scandal: ‘God Weeps'

by Josh Feldman

(Video on site)

During his address to bishops in Philadelphia this morning, Pope Francis took a moment to address the child sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church and pledged to bring stronger oversight and prevent it from continuing.

The Pope spoke of the suffering of those who were abused and how “people who had the responsibility to take care of these tender ones violated that trust and caused them great pain.”

He added, “God weeps.”

Pope Francis met with sex abuse survivors today and pledged in his remarks that he will do all he can to hold everyone accountable.


Child sex abuse survivors reject adulation for pope during US visit

by Renee Lewis

Pope Francis has been warmly welcomed by political leaders and thousands of ordinary people since arriving in New York City, but many survivors of sexual abuse by priests have had a different reaction.

“It's been very difficult for Pope Francis to be in my backyard,” said Megan, a member of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP). “There's still so much hurt.”

She and other survivors spoke to Al Jazeera at a rare public support group meeting in New York City on Tuesday, sharing their anger and frustration about what they say is a lack of substantive action by the Catholic Church to hold the priests who abused them accountable. All of them asked to be identified only by their first names.

For some survivors, the visit has triggered flashbacks. Peter said he was abused by a priest in his seminary boarding school starting from the age of 13. During the “kiss of peace” section of the service, the priest would come down from the altar to hug him, Peter said. When Francis was met by President Barack Obama with a hug when he landed at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on Tuesday, Peter said those memories came flooding back.

“The hug between Obama and Francis has been on my mind,” Peter said.

He and the eight other survivors who met on Tuesday said they felt Francis has not done enough to address crimes committed by members of Catholic clergy in the U.S. and abroad, and church leaders who covered up their crimes.

Up to 100,000 American children may have suffered sexual abuse by clergy, according to insurance experts who presented a paper at a Vatican conference in 2012. At least 4,300 Catholic clergy were accused of sexual assault, and only 300 convicted, according to Bishop Accountability, a private group that has tracked the issue. In many cases, priests were moved from parish to parish instead of being defrocked and reported to authorities.

Francis has vowed to end “the scourge” of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. In June, he created a Vatican tribunal to investigate clergy accused of covering up or failing to prevent such abuse. In remarks at Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, he referred to the abuse scandal by talking about “difficult moments,” but did not utter the words “sexual abuse.”

Francis is expected to meet privately with victims of sexual abuse during his U.S. visit.

Despite that gesture, critics said bishops' lobbying groups have been fighting efforts by survivors to obtain justice by opposing bills that would extend the statute of limitations on past cases of child sex abuse in some states. SNAP members and advocates of the bills say that these civil lawsuits, rather than criminal cases, are often the only legal avenue they have to find justice.

The Church has said that allowing victims to sue over abuse decades ago would open the way for cases based on flimsy evidence as well as take a further heavy toll on its finances.

One survivor, David, who is in his 60s, said he buried thoughts of his abuse for decades, and now he wants answers. “I didn't think about it for four decades … then three, four, five years ago it popped into my brain and I can't get it out,” he said, adding that the traumatic memories have begun affecting his 38-year marriage.

When he tried to seek legal help, David was told he was no longer able to file a civil case because of New York's statute of limitations law for child sex abuse. In New York, victims must bring criminal or civil charges against their abusers by their 23rd birthday.

But for many victims, it takes years to come to terms with their abuse. Another member, Barbara, said she was abused by a parish priest in middle school and high school but buried the trauma until she began having anxiety attacks and anger issues she couldn't explain. She said she recognized her abuse only after seeking therapy as an adult.

SNAP is advocating for the Child Victims Act, a bill pending in state legislature that would eliminate New York's statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse crimes.

Concrete legal action is more important, survivors say, than speeches or gestures of reconciliation. When another abuse survivor at the SNAP meeting recalled being given a tranquilizer by a church leader after reporting his abuse, Peter compared the pope and the pageantry around his visit to a tranquilizer, a convenient way to forget what's wrong. “There's not much being done — but ‘here's a tranquilizer,'” Peter said.


Living with the aftermath of child sexual abuse

by Sandra Tan

Child sexual abuse is a heavily perpetrated crime against children. As noted in today's story, more children are sexually abused than adults, according to research. Yet this crime often gets the silent treatment in our community and children are left to suffer if shame and cope with aftereffects that last long after their "childhood" is behind them.

According to research gathered by the child abuse prevention organization Darkness to Light, victims of sexual abuse are at greater risk for suffering from post-traumatic stress, anxiety, suicide attempts. They can develop behavioral problems like aggression, defiance and promiscuity.

These children are at greater risk for struggling in school and suffering poorer thinking skills. They are more likely to drop out, use drugs, suffer health problems, or become involved in crime later in life.

Here's more from the victims of sexual abuse who were interviewed for today's heartbreaking story:

Stephanie Johnson, who was raped at age 5 by a teenager who pulled her from her kindergarten classroom, said that even though her parents immediately pulled her from School 31 and enrolled her in Catholic school and therapy after her attack, she said she never recovered her sense of self worth.

As she got older, she said, her friends and cousins would taunt her. They'd highlight her behavior and say, “That's why you got raped.”

The fact that she physically matured faster than her peers didn't help. Though she was an honor roll student through school, she dropped out of college and has found it difficult to stick to her goals of completing her education.

She wonders if she'd be stronger if she hadn't been raped as a child. Now the mother of nine children, two by a man she loved who died of diabetes in his 30s and seven by her current boyfriend, Stephanie said she spent much of her life struggling to feel worthy of love.

“There's like a void in my heart,” she said. “I led a lifestyle that was promiscuous, and when I did settle down, I was involved in abusive relationships. I just felt like I was damaged.”

She's also suffered numerous health problems.

Her cousin, Stevo Johnson, said Stephanie and himself, people even less equipped to overcome the trauma they suffered as children.

Though research indicates that girls are more likely than boys to suffer from sexual abuse, Stevo believes few males – especially African-American males – report this crime. They are least equipped to get help because of cultural taboos. They turn to drugs and promiscuity, drink themselves to death or prostitute themselves to strangers, he said.

"A lot of people don't want to go to anybody," he said. "They don't want to be labeled, don't want to be put in a box."

Stevo said it took years to confide in someone about what happened to him. Until then, he coped by trying to blot the attack from his memory. To this day, he said, he wouldn't be able to recognize his perpetrator if he stood in front of him.

In his search for help, Stevo worked up the courage to speak with his pastor five years ago and gave him a letter sharing what had happened to him. The pastor promised to read it and respond, he said, but the next time they met, the pastor wouldn't meet his eyes and never spoke with him again.

Both parents and community leaders need to do more, say he and other victims and child advocates.

Keyon Lee, a friend of Stevo's who started a small online support group for victims of childhood sexual abuse, said he once heard from a woman who was sexually molested as a child by her stepfather for three years. When she finally worked up the courage to tell her mother about it, her mother beat her and blamed her for trying to steal her man.

"I've come across entirely too many people who have carried this," said Lee, 39.

He and others believe educators, politicians, and church and community leaders have remained disturbing silent on the matter. Lee said he's reached out to Common Council members but never heard back.



New laws tackle cyberharassment, sex trafficking

by Jim Turner

(Abbreviated version of posted article)

TALLAHASSEE — It will be illegal to post sexually explicit material without the knowledge of people identified in the images, and criminal penalties will increase to try to help curb sex trafficking, as 27 new Florida laws hit the books Thursday.

The bulk of the 232 bills signed by Gov. Rick Scott out of the 2015 legislative session went into effect July 1.

But the new laws taking effect next week will, in part, let municipalities expand where golf carts can be driven, further spell out the requirements when judges issue "no contact" orders and make it illegal to place tracking devices on other people's property without their consent.

Here are some of the laws that will take effect Thursday:


--- SB 538 makes it a first-degree misdemeanor to "sexually cyberharass" by posting sexually explicit images of other people without their consent.

The measure, addressing an issue that has become known as "revenge porn," is not as strong as sponsors initially sought, with it requiring the uploaded information to include "personal identification information," such as the name or other information, of the person depicted.

Senate sponsor David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, said during the session that the final product creates a "foothold" into the issue. "We're doing the best we can, but we're not doing all we can,'' Simmons said.


---- SB 342 makes clear that when a judge imposes a "no contact" condition as part of a person's pretrial release, the order is effective immediately and enforceable for the duration of pretrial release.

The measure, which could help protect domestic-violence victims, also spells out that other than through an attorney, the "no contact" prohibition means contact cannot take place in person, through a telephone, electronically or through a third person.


--- HB 465 increases criminal penalties for people who solicit others to commit prostitution. The penalty will go from a second-degree misdemeanor to a first degree misdemeanor on a first offense. A second offense will increase from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony.

People convicted of solicitation will also have to perform 100 hours of community service and complete an educational program about the negative effects of prostitution and human trafficking. A judge can also impound a person's vehicle if the solicitation sentence includes at least 60 days in jail.

The state during the past few years has tried to crack down on human trafficking, which often involves victims being forced to work as prostitutes.

--- HB 467 and HB 469 create public-records exemptions that protect the identity of human-trafficking victims and shield the location of safe houses for victims of sexual exploitation.


Human Trafficking: It Can Happen Anywhere

by Mary Smith

Nearly one in five children will be abused, and more than eighteen-thousand human trafficking cases have been recorded by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center in the last eight years.

There were even over over five thousand cases of human trafficking in America in 2014 alone, most of which were sex trafficking.

The Children's Listening Place in Parkersburg works to ensure the well-being of our youth in Wood County. They held a meeting Friday to focus solely on human trafficking.

“part of our mission at the child advocacy center is to educate the community when it comes to children. i have brought sandy skelaney, she is from miami florida. uhm she presents on human trafficking and she was paid by the division of juvenile justice grant for her to come here and educate our state on human trafficking," said Lisa Sutton, their Executive Director.

The speaker, Sandy Skelaney, is considered a social entrepreneur who has been a huge part of Florida's response to human trafficking.

“Well I'm here in West Virginia today because I'm conducting a day long training on sex trafficking. Even in these smaller communities, even if we don't think that we're seeing this so much, that it might be out there, it's prevalent as well," said Skelaney.

She wants the public to know this is an issue that happens everywhere, not only in big cities or overseas. “A lot of these rural communities have truck stops that are very, they're hot beds for prostitution. and where you find prostitution you're always going to find maybe more children that are being trafficked."

Local law enforecement believe this is becoming a prominent issue in our area, linked hand in hand with drugs.

“we have travelers from out of state that come here and maintain hotel rooms for the, the purposes of prostitution and sex acts in exchange for money. all girls that we've encountered or women we've encountered have direct ties to heroin and narcotic distributors in the community," said Detective Kevin Day from the Parkersburg Police Department.

Detective Day also said he sees about one case of human trafficking a month in the city of Parkerburg.

Signs that an adult or child may be involved in humane trafficking include low self esteem, signs of physical abuse, submissiveness, shame, and fear.



Experts: Ohio among worst for sex trafficking

by Cindy McCain and Malika Saada Saar

Cindy McCain is chair of The McCain Institute's Human Trafficking Advisory Council, and Malika Saada Saar is the executive director of the Human Rights Project for Girls. Their groups held a forum Monday at Cincinnati's National Underground Railroad Freedom Center – one of a series being held across the United States.

Most Americans think child sex trafficking occurs in other countries like Cambodia, India, and Nigeria, and not on American soil. We are horrified by investigative news stories of children sold for sex yet blithely unaware that these crimes are frequently happening right here, in the U.S. and in our own neighborhoods. Unfortunately, too many of us simply don't realize that child sex trafficking happens every day across the country, even in small cities and the suburbs.

This scourge is especially evident in Ohio. The Buckeye state ranks as one of the worst regions in the U.S. for sex trafficking. A recent report from the Ohio Attorney General's office indicates that 1,000 juveniles are forced into the sex trade each year in Ohio. Of these child and youth victims, many are only middle-school age.

Trafficked children are often already vulnerable. An estimated thirty percent of children in homeless shelters and seventy percent of street youth have been victims of the sex trade, according to a study in the American Journal of Public Health. Their vulnerability is exploited by traffickers and buyers of child sex.

But, instead of seeing these kids as the victims of sexual violence that they are, too often, in law and language, they are treated as “child prostitutes.” They are contemplated as delinquents – bad girls making bad decisions – and routed into the criminal justice system for the crime of prostitution even though many are not even of the age to consent to sex, let alone commercial sex.

There is no such thing as a child prostitute. We must call child sex trafficking what it really is: rape. A 13-year-old girl is not a child prostitute; she is the victim of child sexual abuse. And, as such, she deserves all the protections and rights accorded to other sexually abused children. That means also going after her abuser. The charges for the buyers of child sex should be statutory rape, child endangerment, or sexual assault of a minor – charges that “johns” are now rarely arrested for.

Despite the heinous realities of child sex trafficking in the United States, there is still hope for a future without sex slavery and child rape victims.

In fact, Ohio itself has made tremendous strides to combat child sex trafficking, from stronger legislation to technology initiatives to disrupt trafficking networks online. In 2012 under the leadership of State Representative Teresa Fedor, the Safe Harbor Law unanimously passed the Ohio legislature and seeks to end the criminalization of children for prostitution. The law also increases penalties for traffickers while also improving care and support services for survivors. And, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown have both championed efforts to end the child sex trafficking industry, including reconvening Ohio's Human Trafficking Commission and advocating for increased law enforcement funding.

According to the Attorney General's 2014 Human Trafficking Annual Report, the state rescued 181 victims and arrested 98 traffickers out of a total of 85 investigations; however, a quarter of the state's counties have no human trafficking training in addition to limited trauma therapy and treatment options for victims.

We must continue to raise awareness of the issue and spread the word on the resources available to protect child victims. Human rights advocates can learn from one another. That was the reason for Monday's forum at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in downtown Cincinnati.

The fight to end this form of modern day slavery requires our attention and commitment. It is time for a new generation of abolitionists to address ending the ways in which kids are being rendered property.


Los Angeles, California

Sheriff's Department gets $1.5 million to combat human trafficking

by Jonathan Smith

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department was awarded a $1.5 million grant to aid the agency in its efforts to combat human trafficking in Los Angeles County, the U.S. Justice Department announced Thursday.

The money will help the Sheriff's Department form a multi-agency task force with the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other federal law enforcement agencies that would “investigate high-priority trafficking crimes — particularly the sex trafficking of minors,” according to a Justice Department news release.

The money awarded was a part of a $44 million federal grant that was given to 16 law enforcement agencies around the country.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said in a statement that the department needs such a task force because it gives the agency the ability to rescue and address the needs of victims, investigate and punish criminals and prevent human trafficking crimes in the future.

“As those who commit this horrible crime and prey on trafficking victims become more sophisticated, we must work together to find new and comprehensive strategies,” McDonnell said. “If we are to truly make a difference in combatting human trafficking, we must do more than simply prosecute the wrong-doers.”

Thursday's announcement received praised from U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich.

“I'm confident that L.A. County and Sheriff McDonnell can use these funds effectively to combat sex trafficking,” Feinstein said in a statement. “Sheriff McDonnell has a great team in place and is prepared to launch an aggressive task force to arrest and prosecute those who engage in the inhuman trafficking of young girls.

“Sex trafficking must be stopped and Los Angeles has the team to do it,” Feinstein said.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department already operates its Human Exploitation and Trafficking Team, which operates investigations and sting operations throughout the county. That department is in the process of adding more than 50 personnel to its current staff, according to a news release.


Pope's Historic Visit Reignites Church Sex Scandal Debate

by Nia Hamm, Public News Service - NY

NEW YORK - The historic U.S. visit of Pope Francis has refocused attention on the Catholic Church's sex-abuse scandal. Although the pontiff has vowed to root out child sex predators from the Church, which has cost billions in legal expenses, victims of clergy sexual abuse want the pope to do more.

In New York, Michael Mack, 58, who says he was abused by a priest when he was 11, hopes to bring more attention to the issue this week. He has written a one-man play, "Conversations with My Molester."

"I truly believe that his intention is to heal around this process," Mack said. "And since this play of mine really is all about healing - about my own personal healing journey, but also the journeys that it reflects for so many survivors - that it seemed like the timing was a natural."

Mack, who began practicing Catholicism again about seven years ago, said reform efforts such as a Truth and Reconciliation Commission would give church sexual-abuse victims a true chance to heal. Mack's play opened in New York City on Thursday, the same day Pope Francis arrived in the city.

Some have noted that the pope's strong stance on this issue contrasts sharply with efforts by some Catholic bishops, who are fighting legislation in New York and other states that would give child sex-abuse victims more time to sue their abusers. Marci Hamilton, a professor at the Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, said she thinks bishops and their lobbying groups are standing in the way of justice.

"They are not only blocking the cases involving their own victims, but they're also blocking the incest cases and the school cases," she said. "So that, I think, is something that the pope needs to address."

The Church argues that extending the statute of limitations on these cases would allow other cases based on weak evidence to further drain its finances. Up to 100,000 U.S. children may have been victims, according to insurance experts named in a paper presented to the Vatican in 2012.

More info about the statute-of-limitations cases is online at:


Why Pope Francis's Comments On Clergy Sex Abuse Upset Survivors

They ask why Francis would praise U.S. bishops for a supposed "generous commitment to bring healing to victims."

by Antonia Blumberg -- Associate Religion Editor, The Huffington Post

Pope Francis praised U.S. Catholic bishops for their response to the clergy sex abuse crisis Wednesday during an address in Washington -- comments that victims called “insulting” and “hurtful.”

The pope applauded what he said was bishops' "generous commitment to bring healing to victims." And he praised them for courage in facing “difficult moments in the recent history of the church in this country without fear of self-criticism and at the cost of mortification and great sacrifice.”

John Salveson, a Philadelphia business owner who was victimized by clergy sex abuse, said he found the pope's comments “bizarre.”

“First of all, he's characterizing the bishops' response as generous,” Salveson told The Huffington Post. “They have treated victims for decades like adversaries. It's just been horrible. I don't know how you could ever characterize them as generous.”

Barbara Blaine, of Chicago, president of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, released a statement decrying the years of clergy abuse that the church tolerated. By praising bishops, Blaine said in the statement, Francis revealed his own reluctance to take decisive action.

“His remarks today confirm what we've long said and suspected: this pope, like his predecessors, is doing and will do little if anything to bring real reform to this continuing crisis,” Blaine said. “Those who care about kids must focus on secular authorities, not church figures (however popular they may be).”

Dennis Coday, an editor for National Catholic Register, criticized the pontiff for dancing around the issue without offering specifics.

“At the very least he could have used the words ‘clergy sexual abuse of minors,'” Coday wrote in an National Catholic Register opinion piece. “This oblique reference will do nothing to assuage the fears of victims' advocates who believe Francis is more public relations manager than crisis manager when it comes to sexual abuse.”

Allegations of sex abuse in the church have been pervasive for decades, but few priests have been convicted and sentenced to jail. The abuse crisis erupted in 2002, The Associated Press noted, with a high-profile case of one pedophile priest in the Archdiocese of Boston.

The Boston scandal revealed that abuser priests were allowed to remain in ministry positions without parents or police knowing, and persuaded thousands of people across the country to come forward with abuse claims. The allegations prompted grand jury investigations in several states and compelled bishops to survey how American dioceses had dealt with perpetrators and victims going back decades.

The U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops acknowledged in 1992 that some bishops had attempted to cover up abuse. Under enormous public pressure, the bishops conference pledged in 2002 to oust any guilty clergy from church work and to enact safeguards for children.

Pope Francis announced plans in June for a tribunal to hear allegations that bishops failed to properly handle sex abuse cases. But there are no signs the tribunal will begin operating anytime soon. This year, three bishops resigned in crises over their failures to protect children.

One major impediment to change, said Salveson, is the statute of limitations in criminal laws that allows abusers to escape justice years after their crimes.

“It usually takes decades for people to come to terms with this, and by that time there's no legal remedy,”

Salveson said.  The U.S. Catholic church has actively fought against reforming the statute of limitations in several states, which undermines the work survivors and advocates have done to shift the status quo. “If [the church] supported those reforms, I predict they would breeze through in every state where they supported it,” Salveson said.

Salveson, 59, said he was sexually abused for several years starting at age of 13 by his parish priest in Long Island, New York. In 1980, long after the abuse had ended, he wrote a letter to the diocese outlining what had happened to him and suggesting that the presiding bishop remove the priest from the parish. It took nine years for that to happen.

Salveson said he isn't optimistic the church will “straighten up and fly right.”

Despite his frustration, Salveson said he's heard rumors Pope Francis will meet with survivors during his six-day visit to the U.S. Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput hinted at the same during an August conference of religion journalists. He noted that such meetings are never publicized ahead of time.

If the pope does meet with survivors of clergy abuse, Salveson said he hopes the pope will see the human side of an issue that other church leaders have handled as “risk management.”

“I would hope that actually spending time with a survivor would open his eyes that this is more than managing risk,” Salveson said. “It's the church's moral obligation.”


MY PLEA TO POPE FRANCIS: Please Ask Your NY Bishops to Follow Your Lead on Child Sex Abuse Offences to Show Mercy for Survivors

Assemblywoman Margaret Markey says NY is Among the Worst States in all America for How Victims Are Treated and NY's Bishops are the Biggest Roadblock to SOL Reform

We are all excited about the momentous visit of Pope Francis, but disappointed that so little attention has been paid to the scourge of childhood sexual abuse, one of the most urgent topics of concern among so many New York Catholics.

The fight to address this issue in many states is directed at reform of archaic statute of limitations (SOLs) that restrict the time for victims to come forward and expose abusers and the organizations that hid or protected them. New York currently ranks among the very worst states in all of America for how it deals with victims --- right at the bottom of all 50 states along with Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Indiana.

If a NY victim of child sex abuse doesn't come forward within five years after their 18th birthday, they forever lose the opportunity to bring charges. Since research shows that many if not most abuse survivors do not come to grips with what happened to them until well into adulthood, if ever, that means that most victims never get justice and pedophiles remain free to abuse new generations of children.

My Child Victims Act of New York (A2872A/S63A) would to completely eliminate the civil statute of limitations for child sex abuse in the future and get justice for older victims. Even though the measure has passed the Assembly four time, it has never come to the floor of the State Senate and the most vocal opponent of this SOL reform is the New York Catholic Conference of Bishops.

I was encouraged by strong message of the Holy Father to his Pontifical Commission earlier this year that there was no place in the ministry for abusers and his call for reconciliation and healing for past victims. He has backed up those views by creating a Vatican tribunal to hold bishops accountable for cover-ups and failure to prevent abuse.

There is no limit to what is a life-time of suffering and anguish for so many victims of childhood sexual abuse. That is why there should be no limit on the ability of victims and society to hold abusers accountable. Nor should there be any limit on accountability for institutions and organizations that deliberately protected and hid perpetrators.

Earlier this year I reached out to His Holiness to ask for his help in convincing the Bishops of New York to follow his lead. During his visit here, I want to see Pope Francis help us transform the eminent opponents within his flock, New York's Bishops, into advocates for children and survivors by urging them to support SOL reform in New York State in the future.

Sincerely, Assemblywoman Margaret Markey



Chilling Video Reminds Parents Their Kids Aren't Safe From Sexual Abuse

A new campaign asks Indian citizens to put a ‘full stop' to child sexual abuse.

(Video on site)

by Samantha Cowan

A favorite teacher. A beloved relative. A trusted coach. Child sexual abuse can happen anywhere, and that's just what this PSA from the Full Stop campaign hopes to convey to parents.

“Children are not safe even in so-called safe havens like our homes, schools, and gyms,” reads the video's description.

The video is part of the Full Stop campaign launched Thursday to raise awareness about child sexual abuse in India. Part of the ongoing work of Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi's Bachpan Bachao Andolan or Save Childhood Movement, Full Stop has branded itself as India's first comprehensive online platform supporting survivors and offering resources to families.

The first video is titled “Listen,” but it urges parents to try to hear what their children can't say, as “they may be trying to tell you something either by…drawings, or their behavioral changes.”

Approximately two children are abused every hour, with 20,000 reported cases in India every year, according to the campaign's figures. The real number is likely much higher. In a 2007 survey conducted by the Indian government of nearly 12,500 children across the country, more than 40 percent reported instances of sexual abuse. And of course, child sexual abuse isn't limited to India. A 2013 report —which combed through 55 studies from 24 countries—found that roughly 20 percent of girls and 10 percent of boys suffered sexual abuse. Those numbers hold true in the U.S., with 20 percent of adult women and 5 to 10 percent of adult men recalling instances of sexual abuse, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime.

Across the globe, many children do not come forward about abuse, often because they are manipulated, confused, or—if they know their abuser, like the fictional boy in the video—to protect their abuser. In India, that secrecy is exacerbated by a fear that their community may shun them if they come forward. Human Rights Watch reports that even when children do speak out, police officers often encourage families not to press charges in order to keep the family's dignity intact.

The Full Stop campaign is working to remove that social stigma by breaking the silence around sexual abuse. As child victims and adult survivors can find support systems through the program, supporters are encouraged to post pictures of a hand painted red, calling for a “full stop” to child sexual abuse.



Mexico parents of 43 missing students reject President's response to demands

by Reuters

Parents of 43 Mexican students kidnapped and apparently massacred a year ago demanded a new probe into their fate on Thursday, accusing President Enrique Pena Nieto of ignoring their demands to solve a crime that has battered Mexico's image.

The families asked the government to launch a new internationally supervised investigation and to review Mexico's own investigators, after international experts cast doubt on Mexico's official account of the incident.

In a meeting with families on Thursday, Pena Nieto offered to set up a new unit in the attorney general's office to search for disappeared persons.

But he stopped short of authorizing a new international probe or promising to review former-Attorney General Jesus Murillo and other officials' involvement in the investigation for possible obstruction of justice, as the families had sought.

"I feel very hopeless because the government did not give us a response," said Cristina Bautista, mother of one of the disappeared students. "From the experts we have gotten a lot, from Pena Nieto, nothing," she said.

Pena Nieto came to power three years ago vowing to restore order in Mexico, where hundreds of thousands have died in violence linked to organized crime since 2007.

Restoring public trust in his government's ability to act against corruption and a perceived culture of impunity has become Pena Nieto's biggest challenge in the wake of the disappearances.

According to the Mexican government, the students were rounded up by corrupt cops who handed them over to a gang that burnt them in a nearby dump.

But in a report released earlier this month, international experts flagged deep flaws in the official investigation and rejected its central claim that the victims were incinerated in a garbage dump in Cocula, near Iguala.

On Thursday, Pena Nieto promised to follow recommendations from the international report and create a group of experts to analyze the Cocula dump, vowing to continue the investigation.

"We're on the same side. You and I are seeking the same thing: to know what happened to each and every one of your sons," Pena Nieto said, according to his spokesman who gave a press conference after the meeting.

But many doubt Mexico's ability to lead a fair investigation, after a government auditor last month exonerated Peña Nieto and his finance minister from any wrongdoing over purchases of homes from public contractors that aroused suspicions of conflict of interest.

Families, students and activists gathered in Mexico's historic central square waving signs with photos of the missing students and demanding that Pena Nieto stepped down. Some had vowed a 43-hour fast, but none appeared satisfied with the president's response.

"It was a requirement to go and see him," said Cesar Gonzalez, a father of one of the students. "Unfortunately... the government has never given us anything besides psychological blows."



Former "Officer of the Year" arrested in child porn case

by CBS News

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Federal officials arrested a Port St. Lucie police, Florida officer Tuesday in connection with a child pornography investigation, reports CBS affiliate WPEC.

Officer Michael Harding, who in 2011 was named "Officer of the Year" in Fort Pierce, Fla., joined the Port St. Lucie Police Department in 2012. Department of Homeland Security agents have been investigating Harding since July, when an undercover agent first encountered a user on an online Kik Messenger group, who allegedly posted two photos of a preteen female engaging in a sex act, according to a criminal complaint.

That user, who went by the name "desthfromabovee," was allegedly Harding.

The undercover investigator said "desthfromabovee" posted more pictures a week later. And in August, the investigator said the user posted in a Kik Messenger chat room a sexually explicit video of another young girl engaged in a sex act, according to the criminal complaint.

Investigators served a summons on the account for "desthfromabovee" in August. The person who set up the account used the name Mark Powers, according to the criminal complaint.

Homeland Security then obtained phone records from AT&T, which helped authorities track the user name, Kik Messenger app, IP address and cell phone service back to Harding.

He allegedly accessed the "desthfromabovee" account on Kik 33 times, most often during the early morning hours between midnight and 6 a.m.

Investigators said Harding worked the 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. shift for the Port St. Lucie Police Department, Saturday through Tuesday.

Based on the time frames of the posts and his work schedule, investigators believe Harding uploaded some of the pornographic content while in his patrol car.

Investigators searched Harding's home and found two thumb drives, one stored in a gun case in a closet in the master bedroom. That drive allegedly had hundreds of images and videos of children "engaged in sexually explicit conduct," according to the criminal complaint.

A second drive allegedly included images of Harding and explicit photos of prepubescent girls.

Harding faces federal charges for receiving and distributing material involving sexual exploitation of minors, and possession of child pornography.



'Voice' helps abuse survivors reclaim their lives

by William E. Ketchum lll

FLINT, MI— If Cherisse Bradley didn't do something fast, she was on the verge of losing the thing she loved most: her art.

The Flint native had been singing, dancing, and writing since she was a child.

Art was a way of life in her family: her parents had performed with Grammy-winning jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater and appeared in off-Broadway shows, and she and her siblings were always immersed in dance classes, community theatre, and talent shows. Bradley would eventually choreograph, teach dance, and win competitions around the country. After graduating from Flint Central High School, she moved to North Hollywood and had a scholarship at the Joe Tremaine Dance Center. She signed to a talent agency, and performed and auditioned professionally for several years.

But in her early 20s, she was still haunted by a secret:She had been molested by a relative when she was 9 and the abuse had lasted for five years.

For years, she used art as a form of emotional release but residual effects of the abuse began to spill into every area of her life. Destructive intimate relationships were the first sign, and the self-sabotage continued into her artistic career: she was missing auditions, slipping up on her networking, and missing opportunities.

"I continued to sabotage myself unconsciously until I had to stop and take a look and said, why am I doing this? I've never worked as hard at anything else in life, as art. I can't recall wanting anything as bad. With me knowing that this is true, what is wrong?" Bradley remembers.

"Emotionally, I was wounded, and there was a brokenness inside me that needed to be fixed. It got to the point where it affected everything around me, and I had no other choice but to look at it and pull my life back together."

That was the first step.

Through years of therapy, support groups, and self-introspection, with the arts as a tool of expression, Bradley has begun to heal herself and take control of her life. She speaks calmly and openly about her assault on a September afternoon, wearing a black halter top and leggings while taking a break from training at Berston Field House in downtown Flint.

"The hardest thing you have to do is look at yourself, do the work on yourself, and be honest. To have a deep knowledge of what being honest is, because you have to admit to your faults," Bradley said. "You have to admit to your brokenness and the part that you play, and you also have to carry the burden that someone else has inflicted to you. That's not your fault, but you become responsible for the healing."

Once Bradley made strides in her journey, she decided to help other women. In 2013 she came up with I Found My Voice, a program that brings survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence into group therapy and art workshops before giving them an opportunity to perform at a concert with talented artists from around the region. The show would need great performers, she thought, because people who haven't been assaulted have been desensitized to the subject.

There were nearly 4,500 domestic violence incidents and more than 460 sexual assault complaints filed in Genesee County YEAR, according to 2014 state crime reports.

But the actual number of assaults is likely higher, said Ann Kita, service coordinator and crisis counselor for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services at The YWCA of Greater Flint.

The Michigan Resource Center on Domestic Violence reports that research indicates about 79% of domestic violence crimes go unreported, said Kita.

Bradley worked with Raise It Up! Youth Founder Natasha Thomas-Jackson to apply for a grant, and once it was approved, she contacted the YWCA of Greater Flint to find women. She enlisted renowned area artists and musicians like Mama Sol, Jessica Care Moore, Johnny Manuel, and more. The program worked: the shows sold out its first two years, and some of the women began their healing processes.

"I knew that I did not have to have a masters or a PhD to reach other survivors. If I just spoke from my heart or my spirit, it would reach others, because that's how it worked for me," Bradley said. "It was all because I identified with them, and because they shared so openly with me. I knew they had been where I had been, and I needed something tangible to believe in."

This fall, she continued her work. Five women from Genesee County who had caught word of the program through social media or attendance of the show reached out to Bradley because they were ready to start their journey of healing.

"Once you start to really become aware of (your behavior), then you start to put the puzzle together and figure it out," Bradley said. "But I've never seen anybody come to the awareness without the pain, first."

The Women

Each of the women in this year's I Found My Voice workshop know pain. Their ages (early 20s through mid-40s), art backgrounds (from experienced artists to first-timers) and experiences varied, but each of them were wounded from men (and, in one case, a teenage boy) violating their bodies and spirits.

Starting at age nine, Suleng Patrick was abused by a family friend for three years while they lived in Maryland. Detroiter Miki Evans was abused at age 8 when a relative who was six years older would sneak into her room at another relative's house. Cynamin Smith, at age 14, began a relationship with an older man who hit her, stomped her, and dragged her through the street until she one day stabbed and killed him while defending herself.

Wandra Marthrel remembers her a family member telling her he had a "birthday present" for her on the day she turned six, luring her into the bathroom to sexually assault her and threaten the lives of her, her mother, and her grandmother if she didn't comply. Felicia McGee remembers a family friend's perverted stares and fondles while she was a child, which led up to him breaking into her home and assaulting her as she was falling asleep to white noise from an old TV. On her way to the bathroom to clean up afterward, McGee grabbed a broom and wildly swung it at her assailant.

"He got this really terrified look in his eyes, and he fled," remembers McGee, who is now 46. "In my delicate young mind, I thought I had chased him off. But I think an angel made him leave."

Shamed or afraid for the lives of their loved ones, they stayed silent for years as their abuse continued. McGee remembers frantically cleaning the blood from her bed before her family arrived home, and going back to sleep. They recall their early attacks, but abuse through other adults or partners continued to follow each of them as they grew older.

"I came to the conclusion that maybe this is what I was here for: that I was here for people to harm maybe I was chosen for it," McGee said. "I now know that to be a skewed, perverse and incorrect view of myself. But it's the only conclusion you can come to when everything around you is hurtful."

Revealing their experiences years down the line spurned mixed results. Patrick's revelation to her mother in this year garnered sympathy and relief that she could finally expel her demons. Marthrel's mother accused her of lying, but found that she was telling the truth after a hospital visit provided proof that she had been penetrated. But her grandmother beat her with an extension cord, accusing her of enjoying the abuse since she took so long to tell.

Evans said despite her assault as a child and being seduced into destructive relationships as she got older, she felt most attacked is when she came out to her family about her cousin's abuse.

"I didn't expect anything less than support, but instead I got, 'this is really embarrassing, it's so awkward now going to family events because it feels like there's an elephant in the room,'" said Evans, 23. "For them to...only be concerned with the slight feeling of embarrassment around one another when we all share the same blood, is ridiculous to me."


The women had hurt themselves for years through destructive relationships, suicide attempts, dropping out of school, drug addiction, and prostitution. But they reached tipping points: Patrick felt worthless after two breakups within a short period of time, and McGee's trauma was reignited after a relative revealed her own experience with abuse. Evans was desperate to get back into the arts, and Marthrel wanted to continue growing from her experience.

"I had to evaluate stuff, because I just can't keep going on like this. Something has to change, from somewhere," said Patrick, 24. "The same things kept happening and history kept repeating itself, so I had to look within me."

The women began to meet up with Bradley, working through her workshops and building camaraderie while sharing their experiences with each other and in one-on-one conversations with her. Their assaults had previously made them see themselves as outcasts, isolating themselves from feeling like no one else had gone through what they did. Through the program, group conversations made them realize that they weren't alone.

"I felt like I found my tribe," McGee said. "I wasn't with someone who said, 'I know what happened, but don't talk about it.' ... The elephant in the room, we stand up and paint it, and we shine lights on it, and we dance with it."

Bradley scoured through speeches, interviews and literature from powerful women, picking different quotes for each of her student to use as the basis of their poems.

Evans worked from Natalie Cole's quote, 'I never got to make that transition from little girl to young woman, and that really screws you up." Smith received the popular quote by renowned poet Maya Angelou: "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time." Marthrel received a gem from soul music icon Nina Simone: "What kept me sane was knowing that things would change and it was a question of keeping myself together until they did."

Sunday's show, which begins at 7 p.m. at the University of Michigan-Flint Theatre, will feature performances by Bradley, Harold Green, Steffanie Christ'ian, Antwaun Stanley, and Mama Sol. The survivors will then perform a multimedia group piece that incorporate a 12-piece painting series by Bradley's sister, who was also raped.

"This year, it's going to be really special. It's going to be a lot more involved because these women are at a different place in the healing process than the other women I've worked with in the past two years, and they're not afraid to tell the story," Bradley said. "They're going in. They're not afraid to tell the story."

They're ready to take on the same challenge Bradley did in 2013: using their art to help other survivors, so those women can move on the way they have.

"I'm doing anything that I can to help that little girl, that six-year-old little girl. Anything I can do to embrace her and let her know that it's still OK to go outside and play sometimes since she didn't get a chance to do that," Marthrel said. "...I want to be a vehicle for anyone that hasn't come out and been able to tell someone, be it a child, be it an adult."

Art gave the women a unique opportunity to express themselves. It made them tackle their experiences head-on, candidly acknowledge how those things impacted them, and deliver that message in an empowering way. Bradley explains that along with the natural ability that art has to evoke emotion, it helps survivors ease into sharing what happened to them.

"When you give that avenue to someone who has been traumatized, it's a less evasive approach. Some people (are thinking), 'I'm not going to therapy. I'm not sitting in a chair. I'm not crazy. I'm not going to a psychiatrist. I'm not like those people,'" Bradley said. "(Art) helps break through that, and make a much more socially acceptable platform for healing."

Smith echoed Bradley's assessment. She said the workshops and writing her poem forced her to be honest with herself, and helped her discover the value of her message.

"Digging deep and writing a piece for the world to hear and see made me give nothing but the truth. That's all I can give you, is what I've got," said Smith, 33. "It's shown me that I do have a voice, and I deserve to be heard."

Evans will continue to rely on her art like she always has, and she appreciated the companionship with the other women. But she admits that the therapy and poetry from I Found My Voice only helped so much. The real work, she insists, is yet to come.

"It hasn't impacted me greatly yet, because I want to continue on with the process in very healthy, small increments to grow," she said. "...I think the word 'survivor' is used loosely, because every day is a battle. If you don't face your weaknesses, you won't actually know what your strengths are."

She will take one step at a time, but she's gotten the first step out of the way.


New York

Inaction of ‘leaders' leaves kids vulnerable to sex abuse

City schools, police have few tools to notify parents about offenders

by Sandra Tan

Steven “Stevo” Johnson remembers standing at the corner barbershop at Cayuga Street and Jefferson Avenue, just a few doors away from his grandmother's house. He and a friend regularly hung out there as boys, collecting cans from the sidewalk trash can as fast as patrons threw them in.

“It was our little hustle,” Stevo recalled in a tone that could be mistaken for fondness.

A family friend that Johnson knew from the neighborhood pulled over one day. He said he had extra cans for him in his car. Johnson got in. But there weren't any cans. Then the man said he had money instead. Suddenly, everything seemed wrong.

I have to get out of the car, have get out of the car, Stevo recalled chanting to himself.

Doors locked. Terror mounted as Johnson watched the front door of his grandmother's house get smaller and disappear. The car stopped at an isolated location a short distance away. The sexual attack began.

“Everything that could have happened to me happened,” he said.

Stevo was 7.

When he was finally released, stewing in pain and confusion, Johnson had no way of understanding what had just happened to him. It took years for him to grow up and to piece together all the ways his innocence had been destroyed. Since then, he has gone public with his story to help others avoid the same fate.

Far more children are sexually assaulted than adults – at least one out of every 10, according to both national research and local youth health surveys.

Yet few, if any, campaigns exist in Buffalo schools or neighborhoods to prevent it. Even the use of publicly available tools like the New York State Sex Offender Registry are subject to debate in a city that is home to more than 600 convicted and registered molesters. Instead of proactive notification when a sex offender moves nearby, or public advocacy by school, police and community leaders, violated children are too often left to suffer the consequences in silence.

“Nobody wants to take on the responsibility of educating or talking about this subject matter, period, because it's so personal,” Johnson said. “How could you sweep everything under the carpet and leave these kids to fend for themselves?”

No child is immune from sexual abuse. The underreported crime crosses all geographic and socioeconomic lines. In most cases, this crime is the ultimate act of betrayal because children often know – and trust – their abusers.

But not every child is at equal risk. Studies indicate that children from single-parent or no-parent families are more likely to be victims. So are children from poor families and children who are black.

Those heightened risk factors apply to thousands of city children, many of whom attend Buffalo Public Schools. In the most recent health risk survey of Buffalo high school students, 10 percent said they'd first had sex before the age of 13. And 8 percent reported being raped. While the majority of that group were girls, nearly a third were boys.

These children are at much higher risk for academic failure and delinquency, and for physical and mental health problems as adults.

Yet while high-profile child-beating death cases have refocused local attention on the broader issue of child abuse, the crime of sexual abuse continues to be overlooked by stakeholders who have the power to stop it.

“This is why more people are hurting,” Johnson said, “than are helped.”

Lack of notification

Stephanie Johnson was raped when she was 5, taken from her kindergarten classroom.

Unlike her cousin Stevo, who only remembers his attack in fleeting snatches and flashbacks, Stephanie remembers every minute of that day and, like him, has chosen to go public. She remembers the 15-year-old boy who held her hand and walked with her a couple of blocks until they reached a vacant house and climbed the stairs to where a mattress lay.

“You could tell he'd taken other kids there,” she said, her dull eyes sad and unfocused. “He raped me. I can remember like it was yesterday.”

Now 39, she routinely calls up the online photos and profiles of every registered sex offender in the neighborhood and studies his picture. She rarely leaves her younger children when they aren't in school and only trusts a few family members with their care in her absence.

She worries that other parents don't think to do the same and is troubled that schools and police do so little to educate parents and children about the insidious nature of sex abuse crimes.

In contrast to some suburban districts, which have fewer registered sex offenders and either post Web updates or mail home letters about sex offender locations or moves, neither the Buffalo Public Schools nor the Buffalo Police Department proactively issue notices to parents about where offenders live. They note that the law does not require it and that the Internet makes the state registry directly accessible to everyone.

With more than 600 registered sex offenders who regularly change addresses, they add, proactive notice is impractical and may provide a false sense of security. The West Seneca school district, for instance, stopped sending home letters to parents because the sex offender information provided by police was usually outdated by the time it was mailed out.

But parents and community activists look at the number of sex offenders in Buffalo and make the opposite argument. They say many registered sex offenders are like drug dealers, congregating in the city's weakest neighborhoods, among community centers, schools and day cares.

Take the neighborhood where Stevo grew up, which encompasses the Schiller and Martin Luther King parks, Genesee Moselle, and parts of the Emerson and Grider neighborhoods. More than 100 registered sex offenders currently live in that ZIP code, according to a Buffalo News analysis. Of that number, more than 60 percent were convicted of a crime involving a minor.

Dozens of registered offenders live within the 0.7-mile student walking radius of Harvey Austin Elementary School 97, for instance. Many reside in a string of halfway houses dotting Bailey Avenue.

Locally crafted laws aimed at keeping sex offenders away from places where children gather have been struck down by the state Court of Appeals. State law allows the most-serious offenders to be banned from living within 1,000 feet of a school or child care facility, but only for as long as the offender is on probation or parole.

Parent advocate Samuel L. Radford III said the families who live there need the greatest support, but they don't get it because many key school district stakeholders – teachers, administrators, police officers and counselors – don't live in the city.

“If there is a sex offender in and around a school that my children walk to, or that my children go by, then I want to know about it,” he said. “Notify me, and use the same protocol that you would want for your own children.”

The bigger picture

Few law enforcement officials or child advocates believe registered sex offender notification is enough to keep children safe. Reducing this crime also requires public education and advocacy.

They point to the most relevant truth about child molesters: Between 75 percent and 90 percent are known to their child victims.

“Ninety percent of children are sexually abused by someone they know, someone they trust, and someone they may love,” said Judith Olin, executive director of the Lee Gross Anthone Child Advocacy Center, a program of Child and Adolescent Treatment Services in Buffalo.

Of the 200 to 300 allegations of sex crimes against children reported to Buffalo police each year, only a handful involve a registered offender, said Lt. David Mann, head of the city's Sex Offense Squad.

Parent and child advocates say the Buffalo school district is best positioned to play a strong role in preventing sexual abuse. But it doesn't.

District officials acknowledge they have no curriculum to help parents and children understand the dangers of sexual predators and only began posting a link to the state's sex offender registry a few weeks ago, when The Buffalo News began researching this story. The district does issue notifications to parents when police and school officials learn that strangers are approaching schoolchildren.

But that's not enough for parents and victims like Stephanie, whose belief is based on bitter experience. She was in kindergarten when her rapist, who shared the same common last name, walked into her classroom at School 31 at the end of the day and claimed to be her uncle. Though Stephanie told her teacher she didn't know the young man, her teacher overlooked district policy and let him take her.

“Afterwards, I remember he told me, ‘You better not tell nobody' or he would kill me,” she said.

Meanwhile, her mother, a nurse's aide, had arrived at School 31 to pick her daughter up. That's when the teacher realized her mistake.

Police eventually found Stephanie crying alone at the corner of Watson and Peckham streets. They returned the girl to her parents, but Stephanie was too distraught to tell anyone what had happened until after she was home. That's when Stephanie went to the bathroom and discovered she was bleeding in her underwear.

She called her mother, who rushed in, took one look and wept.

A damaged life

Some children who suffer sexual abuse recover. Some never do.

“A lot of it depends on the child, and a lot of it depends on the type of abuse,” said Olin, director of the Child Advocacy Center, where children who allege sexual abuse are interviewed by police and receive special, age-appropriate treatment and services.

According to research gathered by the child abuse prevention organization Darkness to Light, victims of sexual abuse are at greater risk for doing poorly in school and suffering a wide range of physical and mental illnesses as they grow older. They are also more likely to commit criminal acts.

For Stevo, a fashion designer and event planner, the road to recovery was hard. He became more aloof and distrustful, more sensitive and targeted by bullies in an urban culture that values toughness among males.

Suffering with bouts of depression and other family issues, he picked up a butcher knife when he was 25 and considered ending his own life until he heard the song “My Life” from R&B/hip-hop artist Mary J. Blige and decided to place his faith in God.

Though now a fashion designer who shared his story on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in 2010 and a year later in Ebony Magazine, Johnson has struggled with his weight, once exceeding 300 pounds. He's even lavished money on sunglasses after being told by an acquaintance that his eyes betrayed a troubled soul. Though he's enjoyed career successes, he still wrestles with the belief that deep down, he's broken.

“Every day, it's a fight,” said Stevo, 40. “It's a fight for respect, a fight for independence. It's a fight for survival.”

Everyone's burden

That's why victims and activists want school leaders to do more to address child sexual abuse. That's the easiest first step.

“Don't give me a plan that's going to take me a year to do, and not do what you can do tomorrow,” said Radford, president of the District Parent Coordinating Council. “Let's use the sex offender registry until we've got something better.”

Many agree, however, that school district leaders aren't the only ones who need to step up. So do community and religious leaders. So do parents.

“Will your child tell you if a coach that you trust, and your child trusts, slowly grooms them and then abuses that trust?” said Mann, the lieutenant. And if they do, he added, will you know how to deal with that information?

Keyon Lee, the co-owner of City Swagg Fashions on the Lower West Side, read about Stevo's story in Ebony magazine in 2011. He started a small online support group and wrote his own fictional story about victimized children last year. Since then, he's come across many women and men who shared their terrible burden with him, often for the first time in their adult lives.

He and others believe educators, politicians, and church and community leaders have remained disturbingly silent on the matter.

That's not the way it should be, Stevo agreed.

“We can't have the pillars of the community not addressing these things,” he said. “Sexual predators go free because of silence.”

Enterprise editor Patrick Lakamp contributed to this report. email:

To get help

To locate registered sex offenders:

• New York State Sex Offender Registry, which can be searched by ZIP code,

To report a suspected child molester or allegation:

• In Buffalo, call the Police Department Sex Offense Squad, 851-4494, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Information may be given anonymously.

• For all of New York State: call Child Abuse Hotline (800) 342-3720

To help a child victim of sexual abuse:

• Lee Gross Anthone Child Advocacy Center, a program of Child & Adolescent Treatment Services that consolidates multiple law enforcement and treatment services for child abuse victims, 886-5437 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon. – Thurs., and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday,

• Crisis Services of Erie County Hotline, available 24 hours a day: 834-3131

Information on child sexual abuse:

• Darkness to Light,

• Stop It Now!,

For adults victimized by childhood sexual abuse:

• RAINN: Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network,

• 1in6: Support organization for male survivors of child sexual abuse,

• National Child Tramatic Stress Network,

To arrange child sexual abuse prevention training for adults: Lee Gross Anthone Child Advocacy Center, 886-5437



Officers learn to interview children in child abuse cases

by Gale Rose

Pratt, Kan. -- Abuse and neglect can leave a child scarred for life.

Getting to the heart of a child abuse case can be a daunting task for law enforcement, counselors and lawyers because of the difficulty of communication between the child and the investigator.

This week at the First United Methodist Church, a variety of agencies are receiving intensive training on interviewing young children who have been the victims of child abuse with emphasis on sexual abuse.

The program is sponsored by the Pratt Police Department.

While most of training is aimed at children 5 and under, it covers techniques for children of all ages up to 18.

From across the state, 43 police and sheriffs' officers, Kansas Department for Children and Families investigators, Army Criminal Investigation Command investigators, mission field investigators from Ireland and Prague, Czechoslovakia have gathered for the week-long training program “Kansas Child First” that teaches communication techniques essential in learning the facts of the abuse.

The program started in 2005 and 30 classes have been held teaching advanced interview techniques.

Sgt. Jeff Swanson of the Wichita Police Department said his department sees over a 100 cases a month and the training is vital for investigators.

“We use this daily,” Swanson said.

Sometimes there is reluctance on the part of the child to talk about the incident because they are embarrassed or they don't have the language to communicate what happened.

Sometimes it's difficult for the investigator to ask a child questions about sexual abuse.

“It (training) gets them beyond their comfort level and builds confidence,” said Kelly Robbins, Kansas Child First executive director.

Each child is different and each home environment is different. Investigators have to have a working knowledge of the home situation to understand what is happening to the child, Swanson said.

This training is required before Swanson's officers can be investigators in child sexual abuse cases. Swanson had been dealing with child sexual abuse cases for nine years before he took the training and left the program amazed at how much he didn't know.

It's the best class he has attended on interviewing, Swanson said.

Rick Gascho, a church-planting missionary in Prague, Czechoslovakia is also a child safety investigator for Pioneers, a missionary organization out of Orlando, Fla. He heard about the program and made the trip to Pratt for training. He works with missionary children that are abused in foreign countries and has learned valuable techniques during the sessions.

Robbins said the program teaches interview techniques and how to prepare a child to testify in the courtroom.

Investigators are taught a multi-disciplinary team approach because it takes a village working together to get the desired outcome. A group is more successful in these cases than a person working alone, Robbins said.

Participants not only learn techniques but they have to apply what they have learned in mock interviews with college age actors from Wichita State University that take the part of children.

Although the actors in the interviews are college students, the participants soon forget that and focus on using the lessons learned. Each participant has to conduct an interview and watch nine others.

Program Director David Tyler of the Western Kansas Child Advocacy Center and cofounder of Kansas Child First said a lot of adults he interviewed were also abused as children. Abuse is not a stranger problem. Almost 99 percent of the time it's a family member or a trusted friend. And the problem stretches across all walks of life and socioeconomic levels, Tyler said.

Many victims of child abuse have delayed disclosure and don't come forward until they are adults. It is estimated only about 20 percent of sexual abuse cases are ever disclosed.

There is an extensive test at the conclusion of the program before the person is certified in conducting child abuse interviews. They get a peer review and leave the program with baseline knowledge of interview techniques and are urged to continue improving their skills.

Pratt Police Sgt. Ed Gimple said the Pratt Police Department has people that are certified to handle sexual abuse cases. They can also contact DCF in Wichita for more help if necessary.

Pratt has a need because the department puts a lot of children in protective custody.

Pratt was chosen for program because other programs further east in state was not getting a lot of response from the far western part of the state.

The event brought in about 50 people including participants and staff that will be in Pratt for a week. The Pratt Area Chamber of Commerce, Pratt Regional Medical Center, The Peoples Bank, Dillons and Walmart all donated snacks.


How to Prepare Your Kids for the Dangers of Sexual Predators

by Brianna Sharbaugh

If you are looking for a guide on how to prepare your children for the dangers of sexual predators, "The Well Armored Child: A Parent's Guide to Preventing Sexual Abuse," by Joelle Casteix, might be the book for you. Casteix outlines how to take your child from being an “easy target” for sexual predators to a “hard target,” one who is not likely to experience sexual abuse. She summarizes: “The purpose of this book is to give you the tools to identify and stop the 90 percent of predators who are never arrested or convicted.”

The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) defines sexual abuse as:

The employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct; or the rape, and in cases of caretaker or interfamilial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children.

All of these avenues of abuse can leave a lasting and devastating impact on children.

The book's author, Joelle Casteix, writes from a perspective of a child sexual abuse victim. She includes a thorough explanation of why she is qualified to write this book and the abuse that she endured throughout her high school years. Her personal experience bleeds through to each page. She now works to advocate for and mentor other child sexual abuse victims.

Five chapters are devoted to understanding a predator. Readers can learn about the grooming techniques used by child sexual abusers. Often predators devote many months of time and attention to convincing children that they wanted and asked for the abuse the predator has in store. The loyalty of child sexual victims to their abusers can be confusing to onlookers, but understanding the work that a predator puts into this grooming technique helps readers to know what to look for before the abuse leaves permanent scars.

Casteix gives an overview of how to protect children from sexual abuse at each stage of life. She designates a chapter each to protecting your children through infancy, toddlerhood, elementary school days, preteen and teenage years, and even as you send your children into the world at age eighteen. I appreciated her breakdown of age-appropriate guidelines and how to apply them starting in the first few weeks of your child's life. Casteix stresses the importance of parental involvement in a child's life beginning long before he hits puberty.

Readers will notice a few quirks of the author as they read the nearly 300 pages of text. One such quirk is the use of the word “hinky.” After numerous uses, I had to consult the urban dictionary to learn that “hinky” is when “something as yet undefinable is wrong, out of place; not quite right.” Personally, I found the use of such a slang word in a serious book out of place.

I found the author's view of personhood to seriously clash with my own. While talking about helping to protect infants from child abuse, she refers to them as less than human. “By eight or nine months old, your baby is well on her way to becoming a real person.” I believe my child was a real person long before eight or nine months. Then in the chapter on preparing your elementary school student for that stage of life, she says “Your child has become a ‘person.'” Apparently anyone younger than kindergarten is just a half-person? Such language distracts from the larger points Casteix is trying to make in the book.

I also chuckled at her description of a stay-at-home mom (SAHM). In a prelude to a six-page checklist on choosing a daycare provider or a babysitter, she talks about the stress of making this decision and concludes, “Unfortunately, we are not all multimillionaires who can stay at home and spend quality time with our children all day long.” As a SAHM myself, I have yet to meet a “coworker” who is a multimillionaire. I have met plenty of SAHMs who work tirelessly to make ends meet on a minimum wage or a (barely better) single income, but no multimillionaires.

I hope that the steps in this book will prevent children from being abused, yet there is not yet conclusive research on this subject. Chapter 1 of The Well-Armored Child begins by citing the statistic that sexual abuse impacts “approximately one in six children in the United States before age eighteen.” She then—just seventeen pages later—tells readers “… our children are safer from sex abuse now” as compared to the past. Some of the reasons Casteix lists for this include the national conversations and open dialogues that are happening around our country. Thirty years ago children were considered liars or story-tellers if they tried to seek help for sexual abuse. Today law enforcement officials, physicians, educators and more are trained to recognize signs of sexual abuse and—in many states—are mandatory reporters.

While there are no solid studies to say that following Casteix's steps will decisively prevent child sexual abuse in your family, the keys given are powerful tools for parents to prevent and recognize abuse. Parents who suspect a problem will also learn to ask the pertinent questions to help children speak up and receive the help needed to end any abuse that might be occurring . Being an involved parent is your best defense to protecting your child from sexual abuse. Pick up a copy of The Well Armored Child and begin working to protect your child today.


North Carolina

Deputy saves drowning kids in NC pond, dad arrested

by The Associated Press

DURHAM, N.C. — A North Carolina sheriff's deputy says he heard wailing in the darkness and plunged into an apartment complex's pond at night to rescue two young girls who, police say, had been thrown there to drown by their father.

Durham County Sheriff's Deputy David Earp was off duty and says he rushed out with little more than his department T-shirt, badge and flashlight after the apartment manager called him at home around 9 p.m. Sunday to report some kind of trouble.

"I heard something about children, that they might possibly be in trouble," Earp said. "And after I was informed that there were kids involved, instinct took over just to go out there and rescue them."

Earp, who lives around the corner from the pond, spotted the girls in the dark with his flashlight and saw a 5-year-old floating and crying. Her 3-year-old sister was fully submerged. Earp says he charged into water about 5 feet deep and scooped them up, holding one in each arm.

He took no notice of the girls' father, Alan Tysheen Eugene Lassiter, 29, of Raleigh — the man who was later charged with trying to drown his kids. In the heat of the moment, Earp was focused on just one thing: trying to save the girls' lives.

Earp said they were about 10 feet from the bank, which slopes sharply down to the pond that stretches about the length of a football field. After pulling the girls to land, Earp said he took the 5-year-old to a nearby gazebo and asked the property manager and her son to watch over her.

"I knew she was terrified and I just took her off and didn't want her to be around her sister," Earp said.

The 5-year veteran of the sheriff's department said he and the arriving officers from the Durham police department performed cardio-pulmonary resuscitation on the 3-year-old for about 15 minutes until medical help arrived.

Police said the younger girl was in critical condition Tuesday and the older girl in good condition.

According to authorities, Lassiter threw the girls into the pond surrounded by apartment buildings.

Lassiter said so himself, during a 911 call Sunday night. Between expletive-laden rage and distraught sobs, he told a dispatcher that officials had tried to take away his children as he dealt with a personal problem. He can be heard on the call telling the complex's property manager, "I just drowned my two daughters in the lake back there."

Sylvia Scott, the property manager for five years, said she called Earp after a tenant reported a man walking around the complex looking for a son he said had been kidnapped. Scott quickly found Lassiter talking on the phone with the 911 dispatcher. Lassiter also told Scott his missing son had been kidnapped. In fact, the boy had run away from his father and was seeking help, police said.

Earp, who frequently drives through the complex in his marked patrol car, arrived seconds later. As the deputy retrieved the girls, Lassiter was standing nearby smoking a cigarette, then became distraught, saying "what have I done?" and started crying, Scott said.

Lassiter did not live at the apartment complex, and Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said he apparently went there at random.

Lassiter, who waited passively by the pond as police arrived, was charged with three counts of attempted murder: one count for each of the girls and a third for their 7-year-old brother. Lassiter was jailed, with bond set at $2 million, pending a hearing next month.

Earp, 26, who has no children of his own, says the life-or-death episode continues to reverberate for him.

"It plays over in my mind a lot, as I'm sure with any person," Earp said. "Hopefully these kids will push through."

He added, "When it was all going on, I had tunnel vision. But later on, I felt like if I didn't show up and find out where they were, they possibly could have stayed in the water for several more minutes ... I felt like I did one of the best things I could."



Two tumultous years but little real progress for adult victims of child sexual abuse

by Colin Penter

The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is after 2 years, at its halfway mark. The Commission is focused on systemic issues and institutional responses to allegations and incidents of child sexual abuse. Public hearings have been the main way the Commission does its work.

Although the Royal Commission's brief is overwhelming, the hearings have been revelatory and harrowing. The Commission has heard evidence of horrific and horrendous systematic and institutional physical and sexual abuse and rape of children within religious, faith and welfare organisations.

Evidence to the Commission shows that both low and high level officials in institutions supposed to protect children actively conspired to abuse and rape them. In many cases these were highly sophisticated, organized institutional crimes committed against children.

The Commission has exposed the breadth of institutional settings – churches, schools, hospitals, out-of-homecare, children's homes, juvenile centres, NFPs and charities- where abuse occurred.

Hearings have demonstrated that the impact of the abuse has been profound and multi-dimensional and the damage compounds year after year and that suicides and premature deaths of victims are widespread. Evidence presented to the Commission shows that the impact and trauma resulting from the abuse is intergenerational, affecting victims, extended family, partners, wives, husbands, children, parents and grandchildren.

But two years into the Royal Commission, progress has been slow for victims, who still suffer at the hands of the churches and institutions responsible for the abuse, as well as the legal system and the inaction of Federal and State Governments.

Lawyer and campaigner Judy Courtin argues that many survivors who have been fighting for justice for decades, particularly for adequate financial compensation and support, have had enough.

Worn out by having to fight institutions and government, and despite taking serious personal risks by giving evidence in public hearings to the Commission, Courtin argues that many victims and families have had their hopes for justice dashed by the failure of the Federal Government and the responsible institutions.

Courtin writes that many continue to be victimized by the system and by institutions and are shattered that justice has not prevailed.

There is also growing concern that recommendations of the Royal Commission are likely to be cast aside, particularly where they are costly, difficult to implement and/or where they are too much of a threat to powerful institutions, such as the churches, Governments, government agencies and Police.

Earlier this year the Abbott Government bluntly rejected the Royal Commission's call for a National Redress scheme. The Abbott Government scoffed at suggestions that it be the ‘funder of last resort' for people abused within and by institutions that no longer exist.

Judy Courtin writes that the Federal Government not only showed contempt for child victims of sexual abuse, but its response further abuses victims of child sexual abuse. Further, she argues that the Abbott Government abandoned the 65,000 survivors of child sex crimes who now have to fight the institutions where the crimes occurred.

Evidence to the Commission shows that officials in institutions supposed to protect children actively conspired to abuse and rape them, however, more than 80% of alleged clergy sex offenders have evaded criminal accountability.

Many of the victims gave evidence that they tried to tell people in authority of the horrors they suffered, only to be severely punished, dismissed or forgotten.

Victims have provided evidence implicating influential Church, religious and community leaders in cover up of abuse. Crimes were actively denied, ignored or covered up.

Cover ups were reliant on the abuse of institutional power. In addition, authoritarian leadership and toxic power structures and cultures, enabled and extended sexual abuse and its subsequent cover up. Evidence presented to the Commission showed that perpetrators often had a profound sense of entitlement and that the authoritarian nature of the institutions and their cultures aided the abuse and cover up.

The hierarchy and leadership of many churches, faith groups and institutions, as well as public authorities, knew about the abuse as far back as the 1950's and 1960's, but acted to protect their own interests, image and credibility at the expense of victims. The response by most institutions to victims has been hostile, dismissive, legalistic and victim blaming.

Judy Courtin argues that survivors want the whole truth to come out and that should go further than what the offenders themselves did, arguing that:

‘It was much more important to have accountability of the hierarchy on the concealing than accountability of the offender'

Courtin believes the lack of convictions for concealing abuse means church figures and leaders enjoy impunity. Her research shows that there has not been one conviction for the crime of concealing sex crimes and a serious lack of accountability and impunity by the institutions involved. She writes:

The only legal entity for the church that can be sued is a property trust, the trustees of which cannot be held responsible for the behaviour of the offending priests. Victims do not have access to the civil courts and instead have had little choice but to return to the very church that protected their offenders. Based on my research, these hostile and legalistic processes deliver very little. Victims feel silenced by these processes and are forced to sign a deed of release preventing them from ever suing the church or any of its clergy.

The Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide has been charged with the concealment of an allegation of child sexual abuse by a convicted paedophile priest as part of NSW Police investigations arising from the NSW Inquiry.

Cardinal George Pell (formerly Australia's highest rank Catholic leader) has been accused of knowing of serious sexual abuse and rape and doing nothing; of trying to bribe victims to keep quiet; of ignoring or dismissing complaints; of colluding to protect perpetrators; and of transferring known offenders.

Evidence presented at the hearings has shown that Government departments, police, welfare authorities, community leaders, public agencies, NFPs and ordinary citizens also did nothing or were complicit in the abuse. The Commission hearings have shown that those who experienced child sexual abuse in institutions were ignored and disbelieved by the adults and institutions who were supposed to protect them.

Judy Courtin has written that some Police investigations tried to silence and discredit victims.

Many charitable organizations made it possible for powerful and influential people to engage in and conceal highly sophisticated and organized criminal activities. Victims and victim groups have made a serious critique of behaviour by churches, faith and charitable organizations who benefit from significant public funding and support and in some cases tax exempt status.

Some victims and victim groups have called for churches and charities involved in abuse to have their tax free status withdrawn.

Given the power and influence of the churches, it is unlikely that such a recommendation would be supported by Governments.

The Royal Commission has recently published a Research Paper suggesting that organizations be held criminally responsible when their negligence results in harms to children.

The Paper proposes the creation of offences of criminal negligence to hold organisations criminally responsible for the creation and/or management of risk of harm and for their response when harm is done to a child. This would require state governments to create new offences to cover such conduct.

It is difficult to see State Governments supporting this recommendation and no doubt charities and NFPs, as well as corporate and business lobbies who see the risks this recommendation presents to corporations and business involved in profiting from the care and welfare of children, would mobilise to oppose such a recommendation.

In recent years there has been a plethora of State and now Federal Inquiries into child sexual abuse and child protection. The Royal Commission commissioned a study of the extent to which recommendations from those inquiries had been implemented which found that less than half (48%) of the recommendations had been implemented fully.

In light of the implementation gap concerning the failure of State and Federal governments to take up recommendations from previous Inquiries and Commissions, there are serious questions as to whether the Royal Commission's work will make a significant difference for victims or for children.

The signs so far are not overly encouraging.


Nature vs. Nurture: People With Certain Genes Respond More Dramatically To Either A Negative Or Positive Childhood

by Susan Scutti

Genetics may spell the difference between depression or happiness, a new University of Melbourne study revealed, but it all depends on your childhood experiences. People with a particular genotype respond more dramatically to both negative and positive environments when compared to others, the researchers discovered. The very same genetic makeup that increases your vulnerability to an unhappy childhood helps you thrive in a supportive environment.

Why do some adults who were once abused in childhood develop long-term depression? Why don't all survivors become depressed? Many scientists, including the current team of researchers, look to genetics for an answer.

“Over the past decade, genetic variation in over 35 genes have been examined for their interaction with adverse life events,” wrote Dr. Chad Bousman, department of psychiatry, and his co-researchers. Among the most investigated genes is SLC6A4 (dubbed “SERT”) a transporter of serotonin, the mood-regulating neurotransmitter. Serotonin, which flows along the central nervous system and digestive tract, contributes to our sense of well-being.

Each of us has one of three types of SERT gene, either the long-long (l/l) genotype, the short-long (s/l) genotype, or the short-short (s/s) genotype, the researchers explained. Considering this genetic crapshoot, they theorized adults with the s/s genotype would be more likely to be depressed following childhood abuse when compared to formerly abused adults with the l/l genotype.

Nature and Nurture

To test their theroy, the team recruited 333 middle-aged depressed patients, all of Northern and Western European ancestry and living in Victoria, Australia. After performing DNA tests on each of these patients, Bousman and his colleagues tracked them over five years, recording depressive symptoms each year.

Immediately, the team learned that 23 percent of the participants carried the s/s genotype. Looking at these participants, the researchers discovered those who had experienced abuse as a child were more likely to experience severe depressive symptoms in middle age. At the same time, those with no history of abuse were happier than people with other genotypes.

By tracking patients over five years, this research proved that depression and its symptoms may change in time. Importantly, the study suggests that an unchangeable genotype combined with an unchangeable childhood might lead to depression. However, given more assistance and placed in a positive environment, these same people may very well overcome their history and recover more fully from their depression. This, though, has not yet been proven.

In the end, the researchers noted the s/s gene “may be a marker of ‘phenotypic plasticity' rather than ‘vulnerability'...” meaning those with this genotype simply respond more dramatically to their environment, no matter what it is. The combination of genetics and environment, not one or the other, plays the largest role in our lives, this study suggests.



Voicing action against cyberbullying

by Niall Kitson

A survey of attitudes and experiences of cyberbullying amongst young people released by Vodafone as part of its #BeStrong campaign released today makes for disturbing reading if you're a parent or educator.

The survey, conducted by YouGov on a sample of 4,700 students across 11 countries, put Ireland in third place behind New Zealand and the US, when it came to the percentage of young people who had experienced cyberbullying (25%) and first when it came to knowing someone who had been a victim of it (85%).

As well as being more likely to experience cyberbullying, 45% of Irish teens said they felt powerless to do anything about it. Of that, 29% said they had experienced suicidal thoughts as a result.

The results are concerning but not entirely negative. Ireland also ranked near the top of the list when it came to the perception of cyberbullying. Only South Africa had a higher percentage of respondents that agreed with the sentiment that cyberbullying was worse than face to face bullying (64% versus 60%).

Cultural variance

Irish teens are more likely to know someone who has been victimised online and generally consider it as damaging an experience as physical intimidation.

But when it comes to coping skills we Irish are sorely lacking - 40% of respondents admitted they would struggle to find the right words to support a friend who was being cyberbullied.

We have a generation of young people who have experience of online intimidation but lack the social skills to either reach out for help or provide solace for those who need it.

Why these trends are so acutely experienced by young people in Ireland would make for an important study in itself.

Spain and the Czech Republic appear to be the 'safest' places to get online - less than 10% of respondents from both said they experienced cyberbullying and over 50% said it was worse than face to face bullying.

This compares with 15% and just over 40% respectively for the UK, our closest neighbour.

Logic would dictate that more experience of online abuse would lead to greater recognition of the damage it can do but this doesn't seem to be the case.

Where the Czech and Spanish value systems follow a benign logic (learn more, experience less), the message from the UK seems to be 'yes, this happens and it's awful, toughen up and deal with it'.

The pattern is replicated in the US, where comparatively high levels of abuse were met with a comparatively low disapproval rating for it.

The Irish experience is empirically closer to the UK and US than but in terms of demonstrating empathy it is furthest from them. Are kids in the US and UK more cruel or just honest?

Vodafone doesn't have much in the way of answers to that question but is looking into how to give the tools for discussing sensitive topics. It may sound trite but it looks like emoji are becoming potent expressions of sympathy when conversation fails.

The power of a simple visual aid came up last week, as well, with Facebook's announcement of a trial 'Dislike' that fulfils the same purpose.

One of the tenets of social media marketing is to reach out to the consumer where they are as opposed to when you want them to be.

If we can't get young people to speak in adult terms, there's a lot of power in letting them express their feelings in their own way. If emojis are the way to create that sense of empowerment, let's embrace it.



Inverness teacher accused of caging boy, child abuse

INVERNESS -- A Citrus County teacher is accused of abusing and caging a 12-year-old boy living in her home.

Deputies arrested 54-year-old Denise Elaine Hallowell, of Inverness, on Monday on charges of aggravated child abuse.

According to reports, detectives learned of the alleged abuse after the boy's second attempt to run away from the house.

The boy told deputies that Hallowell would lock him in his room from the outside as a form of discipline and deny him of food or use of the bathroom. The boy said she would leave a bucket in his room to urinate in, and his windows were nailed shut.

Detectives said Hallowell would hit him across the face and neck with open hands, and would also use another child in the house to punish him by slapping, punching and kicking him in the groin. The relationship between the two children and Hallowell has not been released.

The boy told officials that he has been held for a maximum of two days without food in the room, and only allowed to come out of his room to do chores, which Hallowell made him do naked.

Deputies said the boy's room was very bare, with only an air matress, a few books and a few items of clothing hung in a closet. The other boy living in the home has a fully furnished bedroom, with computers, posters and various electronics inside. His door has a normal lock on the inside of the room.

The boy told detectives that the other boy in the home is fed different food from him as a form of discipline, such as beans instead of hamburgers.

The boy also stated that the other child and Hallowell would leave him locked in his room while they attended social events and family gatherings. He said Hallowell would call him "worthless" and other profanities.

During an interview with Hallowell, detectives said she denied making the boy do chores naked, and kicking or punching him in the groin. She did admit to spanking the boy during discipline, and said she nailed his windows shut and locked his door because she does not want him to run away again.

She recalled leaving a bucket in the boy's room in case he couldn't make it to the bathroom in time, but says the locked doors were a "mistake." She told detectives that she had removed all of the items out of the boy's room because he was "out of control" and would damage his property.

Hallowell denied incorporating the other child in the home to punish the boy.

During an interview with the other child in the home, detectives said he admitted to holding the 12-year-old boy during physical discipline and that at one time the boy was flailing his arms and he held the boy in a "bear hug" from behind.

Captain Dave DeCarlo with the Citrus County Sheriff's Office said this is one of the worst cases of child abuse his team of detectives has seen in a while.

"What looked like a typical runaway case - turned into a horrible child abuse case," DeCarlo said. "We are just so thankful that this boy trusted us enough to come forward about what was going on inside his home."

Hallowell is being held without bond.

The child has been removed from the home and is being cared for.



Experts: Child abuse is on the rise

by Jennifer Horton

ALEXANDER CITY, AL (WSFA) -- Experts say the difficult case of child abuse in Elmore County that continues to populate social media and news headlines is unfortunately not the exception.

Family Sunshine Center Program Director Marjorie Baker says her agency is seeing more cases of children experiencing physical abuse at home and in the community.

For caring adults who want to ensure all children are in a safe and healthy environment, spotting the warning signs of abuse isn't always physical.

“Look for changes in children," Baker explained. “If that child is acting different, shying away or startled by things that are plain, simple interactive behaviors – you want to pay attention to that. You want to have conversations with another adult who may spend time with the child and ask them if they would pay attention and notice if they see similar behaviors.”

Children 5 and younger understand child abuse in their own way. It's up to adults to detect the signs and provide necessary counseling to help the child become a fully functioning adult.

“Children who are not showing signs may show them later in life," Baker said. “Go ahead and get the child counseling so they can express their feelings and deal with it and learn to regulate their emotions.”

Thankfully most children are resilient and are able to overcome abuse.

For those who are still dealing with a high level of exposure of violence, Baker warns they may have trouble sleeping, focusing and they may not feel very confident. For those who are transitioned into a safe and healthy home, the child may continue to try to provoke the violence to see if the abuse is really over.

For those who are having an internal battle over whether or not to report symptoms of child abuse, Baker puts it simply “That's not your decision." She urges everyone who is suspicious a child may be abused to contact authorities immediately.

The Family Sunshine Center is a refuge for those child who may be abused or suffering physical, mental or sexual abuse. They also offer counseling for victims ages 3 years and older. You can contact the Family Sunshine Center at 334-263-0218.


North Carolina

Child Advocacy Center planned to assist victims of abuse

by Beth Walton

ASHEVILLE — More than a dozen officials came together Tuesday to commit to opening a Child Advocacy Center in Buncombe County. From law-enforcement to representatives from social services and Mission Health, the community pledged to join forces to better support victims of child abuse and prosecute more offenders.

The new, multi-sector approach will allow officials to collect competent and credible evidence, increase convictions and create more positive outcomes for children, said Todd Williams, Buncombe County District Attorney.

“In the DA's office our focus is to prosecute abusers of children and if we can do that more efficiently and speed the recovery of children and reduce their trauma, that's what we're going to do,” he added.

Before the New Year, local nonprofit Child Abuse Prevention Services plans join staff at Mission Children's Hospital Reuter Outpatient Center to form the Child Advocacy Center. The project, which is integrated into plans to open a Family Justice Center downtown, will quadruple Child Abuse Prevention Services budget to more than $1 million.

“It's really us doing business very differently, and approaching how we deal with abuse and trauma in this county differently,” said Geoff Sidoli, the new executive director of Child Abuse Prevention Services.

“Being able to know each discipline more intimately, I think will make us each more able to do our jobs.”

The collaboration among groups will keep the focus on the child, while having better outcomes in the criminal justice system and improving the sharing of information, said Dr. Cynthia Brown, a specialist in pediatric child safety at Mission Children's Hospital.

Young children tell stories differently than adults and it requires a certain expertise to gather information and reduce trauma, she said.

With different groups working together, interviewers at the Child Advocacy Center will be able to approach victims with a cross discipline perspective, limiting the number times a child has to respond to questioning and improving the quality of evidence collected.

“Child abuse is complicated and we always want to get it right,” said Brown. "We will be working together in new and better ways and I'm so excited to be a part of this.”


Living with the aftermath of child sexual abuse

by Sandra Tan

Child sexual abuse is a heavily perpetrated crime against children. As noted in today's story, more children are sexually abused than adults, according to research. Yet this crime often gets the silent treatment in our community and children are left to suffer if shame and cope with aftereffects that last long after their "childhood" is behind them.

According to research gathered by the child abuse prevention organization Darkness to Light, victims of sexual abuse are at greater risk for suffering from post-traumatic stress, anxiety, suicide attempts. They can develop behavioral problems like aggression, defiance and promiscuity.

These children are at greater risk for struggling in school and suffering poorer thinking skills. They are more likely to drop out, use drugs, suffer health problems, or become involved in crime later in life.

Here's more from the victims of sexual abuse who were interviewed for today's heartbreaking story:

Stephanie Johnson, who was raped at age 5 by a teenager who pulled her from her kindergarten classroom, said that even though her parents immediately pulled her from School 31 and enrolled her in Catholic school and therapy after her attack, she said she never recovered her sense of self worth.

As she got older, she said, her friends and cousins would taunt her. They'd highlight her behavior and say, “That's why you got raped.”

The fact that she physically matured faster than her peers didn't help. Though she was an honor roll student through school, she dropped out of college and has found it difficult to stick to her goals of completing her education.

She wonders if she'd be stronger if she hadn't been raped as a child. Now the mother of nine children, two by a man she loved who died of diabetes in his 30s and seven by her current boyfriend, Stephanie said she spent much of her life struggling to feel worthy of love.

“There's like a void in my heart,” she said. “I led a lifestyle that was promiscuous, and when I did settle down, I was involved in abusive relationships. I just felt like I was damaged.”

She's also suffered numerous health problems.

Her cousin, Stevo Johnson, said Stephanie and himself, people even less equipped to overcome the trauma they suffered as children.

Though research indicates that girls are more likely than boys to suffer from sexual abuse, Stevo believes few males – especially African-American males – report this crime. They are least equipped to get help because of cultural taboos. They turn to drugs and promiscuity, drink themselves to death or prostitute themselves to strangers, he said.

"A lot of people don't want to go to anybody," he said. "They don't want to be labeled, don't want to be put in a box."

Stevo said it took years to confide in someone about what happened to him. Until then, he coped by trying to blot the attack from his memory. To this day, he said, he wouldn't be able to recognize his perpetrator if he stood in front of him.

In his search for help, Stevo worked up the courage to speak with his pastor five years ago and gave him a letter sharing what had happened to him. The pastor promised to read it and respond, he said, but the next time they met, the pastor wouldn't meet his eyes and never spoke with him again.

Both parents and community leaders need to do more, say he and other victims and child advocates.

Keyon Lee, a friend of Stevo's who started a small online support group for victims of childhood sexual abuse, said he once heard from a woman who was sexually molested as a child by her stepfather for three years. When she finally worked up the courage to tell her mother about it, her mother beat her and blamed her for trying to steal her man.

"I've come across entirely too many people who have carried this," said Lee, 39.

He and others believe educators, politicians, and church and community leaders have remained disturbing silent on the matter. Lee said he's reached out to Common Council members but never heard back.


US Must Leverage Aid to Stop Child Sexual Abuse Among Afghan Security Officials

by Lisa Curtis

The New York Times Monday ran a shocking story about the U.S. military condoning child sexual abuse among Afghan security personnel. According to the report, U.S. military officers were told by their superiors to ignore acts of alleged child rape and molestation committed by Afghan police officials, sometimes on U.S. military bases.

Adding insult to injury, a Department of Defense spokesperson, Captain Jeff Davis responded to the report that the problem was “fundamentally an Afghan law enforcement matter.”

That may indeed be legally correct, but it also ignores the Leahy Amendment; legislation which prohibits U.S. aid to foreign security forces that violate human rights.

Over the last 13 years, the U.S. has provided about $100 billion in aid to Afghanistan, of which about 60 percent has been to equip and train the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). From both a moral and legal standpoint, the U.S. must ensure its assistance is not going to individuals or groups involved in committing human rights abuses, especially against minors.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., author of the 1997 law, brought this to attention today in a statement in which he noted that “the Department of Defense has a responsibility to vigorously apply the law, including encouraging U.S. personnel who witness such abuse to immediately report it.”

According to the New York Times article, U.S. military personnel who did report suspected child abuse to Afghan commanders and their own chain of command were told by the latter that “nothing else could be done.”

That may be true as far as potential criminal liability goes for child molestation in Afghanistan, a country where such activity may be commonplace. But the Leahy Amendment dictates that the U.S. cannot ignore child rape.

Heritage has long called on the U.S. to remain engaged in Afghanistan, to keep a robust residual U.S. force presence as long as necessary, and to continue to support the Afghan forces in their fight against the Taliban. But this engagement must reflect American values and work to curb human rights abuses in the country, even (and perhaps most especially) when they are committed by those receiving U.S. assistance.

Unless we stand by U.S. principles and values and condition our aid on respect for human rights (in this case of young Afghan boys), the U.S. will lose credibility with the Afghan people and the overall mission to keep the Taliban at bay will become fruitless.

The Department of Defense must correct the record by acknowledging this issue is not strictly one for Afghan domestic law. The U.S., by statute, is compelled to condition its assistance to foreign military forces on them upholding basic human rights.

It should go without saying that the U.S. soldier who stands up for the human rights of average Afghans and reports such abuses should be rewarded, not punished, by military leaders and our own government.