More victims sought after arrest of Orange County photographer on child pornography charges
SANTA ANA, Calif. – Federal and local investigators are appealing for the public's help to identify additional underage victims following last week's arrest of a professional photographer from Orange on multiple state charges related to the possession of child pornography.
Christopher Brown, 42, was taken into custody Friday in a local shopping center parking lot by investigators assigned to the Orange County Child Exploitation Task Force (OCCETF), including special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and deputies with the Orange County Sheriff's Department.
Brown is charged with possessing and manufacturing child pornography; digital penetration and oral copulation with a child; and failure to register as a sex offender. Brown, whose next court appearance is set for Sept. 29, remains in custody in the Orange County Jail on $500,000 bond.
Orange County investigators received information from the Los Angeles Internet Crimes Against Child Task Force (LAICACTF) about Brown and his alleged involvement in numerous acts of sexual misconduct. Brown, a professional photographer and children's tumbling teacher, was suspected of being in possession of numerous photographs and videos depicting female minors. Investigators immediately began analyzing electronic data and conducting a preliminary investigation into Brown's alleged sexual misconduct.
After several days of investigation, Task Force officers executed a search warrant at an Irvine hotel where Brown was staying. During the search, investigators collected a computer and an external hard drive believed to belong to Brown. In addition, investigators seized Brown's cell phone and GoPro camera at the time of his arrest.
Brown works throughout the country and allegedly used his profession to lure teenage girls into posing for illicit photographs and engaging in sexual misconduct. Investigators have collected numerous illicit photographs and videos. In 2005, Brown was convicted in Virginia of possession of child pornography. He failed to register as a sex offender in California when he moved to the state several years ago.
Anyone with additional information regarding additional victims is asked to call the Orange County Sheriff's Department's Special Victim's Unit at 714-647-7418 or 714-647-7000. Anonymous tips may also be submitted to Orange County Crime Stoppers at 855-TIP-OCCS (855-847-6227) or at: www.occrimestoppers.org
Governor approves 'yes means yes' sexual consent education for California high schools
by Lisa Leff
SAN FRANCISCO – Gov. Jerry Brown has approved legislation aimed at making California the first state in the nation to bring lessons about sexual consent required at many colleges into high schools, his office announced Thursday.
Last year, California became the first to require colleges and universities to apply an “affirmative consent” or “yes means yes” standard when investigating campus sexual assault claims. That policy says sexual activity is only considered consensual when both partners clearly state their willingness to participate through “affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement” at every stage.
The legislation Brown endorsed requires that school districts include health as a graduation requirement to teach about “yes means yes” and sexual violence prevention starting next year. It also asks state education officials to update curriculum guidelines for high school health classes with information about those topics.
“California must continue to lead the nation in educating our young people — both women and men — about the importance of respect and maintaining healthy peer and dating relationships,” Assemblyman Rocky Chvez, R-Oceanside, said after the bill cleared the Assembly in September.
The measure had no organized opposition and received near-unanimous bipartisan support in the Legislature. Supporters said it was needed to teach teenagers about healthy sexual boundaries and relationships before they get to college and into the workforce.
In July, New York became the second state to write the affirmative consent standard into law for college campuses. But it's becoming the norm at colleges around the country that are under the same pressure to reduce and better handle sexual assault cases.
Although the new law for high schools will take effect on Jan. 1, its immediate effect will be mostly emblematic.
The California Department of Education commission that develops curriculum standards is not scheduled to revise health education guidelines until 2018, and then only if provided funding for the work.
As a result of previous legislation, that commission also has been asked to update health standards with learning goals related to mental health, abusive relationships and sex trafficking prevention.
The affirmative consent law Brown just signed only applies to school districts that require a health course as a condition for receiving a high school diploma. The state Legislative Analyst's Office said five of the state's largest school districts, including Los Angeles Unified, have such a requirement.
Brown also signed legislation requiring all school districts to provide comprehensive sex education classes twice between grades 7 and 12. Currently, sex ed is not mandatory, although the vast majority of school districts provide it.
The measure, AB 329, by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, also updates the instruction provided in schools on HIV prevention, makes clear that sex education must address students of all sexual orientations and adds new language relating to teen relationship abuse and sex trafficking.
Parents would still be allowed to excuse their child from some, or all, of the sex education curriculum.
A 2011 report from the University of California, San Francisco, found problems with school districts compliance with the current law on sex education. Among its findings, only a quarter offered the required information about emergency contraception and a quarter omitted required HIV prevention topics.
Incest — too often all in the family
by Glenn Dowell
Incest is without question, one of society's worst crimes.
In its strictest definition, states an incest survivor, “incest is sexual intercourse between people who are too closely related to marry.” It also includes other sexual acts, such as fondling, molestation and exhibition, since these, too, leave deep and lasting emotional scars.
Abuse by step-parents or close family friends also falls into this category because of the child's trusting relationship with them. Many molesters appear to be upstanding members of their community and church.
I worked with a friend for many years who was highly regarded in his church. He was also a school psychologist who had unsupervised access to special needs children.
He was known to be willing to give a ride to children who needed transportation home and to purchase gifts for children on his caseload. We were frequent visitors in each other's homes.
He lived in a rural area, far removed from the city, where he was able to practice his recreational trade as a beekeeper, providing me with honey from their hives, which to me was better than that I purchased from the stores.
My friend whom I will call Charles, however, held a secret. He was a pedophile and sexual abuser. When I learned his secret, I was devastated. Here was a man whom I had allowed in my home, around my own children, in some cases, an adult family member being present.
I discovered his secret after the death of my mother. You see, for several months after her death, I isolated myself from my friends, finding comfort only in my memories of her while she lived.
After my depression related to her death had subsided, the first person I called was Charles. I actually attempted communicating with him several times without success. Each time I called a family member would politely inform me that my friend was “away and unavailable.”
In frustration, I finally called and insisted that they tell me what was happening with my friend. Charles' adult son finally intimated to me that, “Glenn, my father sexually abused my 15-year old daughter, and the family prosecuted him.”
He went on to say that his father had actually sexually abused his daughter over a two-year period of time. The son went on to say that he still loved the father, but the current distance between them can never be corrected or changed.
I discovered that the daughter was in treatment and that the trauma caused by the father would take years to heal. In essence, he emphasized, he no longer considered my friend, Charles, as his father.
Incest, sometimes a family affair
Incest crimes such as the one committed by my friend Charles, sadly, go unreported. A few years ago, in a small county in northeast North Carolina, parents along with their six sons ranging in age from 19 to 27, were charged with a number of crimes related to the alleged sexual abuse of their 16-year-old sister.
The sheriff said the alleged abuse began when the girl was 4 years old and continued until she was almost 15.
Bottom of form
Charges against the brothers ranged from rape to sexual assault, according to the sheriff in that county. The men's parents, John Jackson, 65, and Nita Jackson, 54, face charges of felony child abuse.
“Part of the investigation revealed that, at one point, the mother observed some of this activity and never did anything about it,” the sheriff said of the charges against the parents
The extent of incest is not known. What we do know is that it is difficult for families to report to authorities when inappropriate sexual behavior occurs among or between family members.
The full extent of this problem, even today remains hidden. Of the known sexual abuse, 75 percent is committed by the children's own parents.
The victims are usually girls between 8 and 12, with 20 percent under 7. There are also many young boys abused by both men and women, with increasing incidents occurring in our schools and churches.
One girl out of four and one boy out of 10 will be sexually assaulted at least once before the age of 18 — and for those trapped in the nightmare of incest, the average period of abuse is seven years.
The hurt and long-term effects are understandably alarming. In recent studies, we know that among prisoners and prostitutes is a strange relationship characterized by having been sexually abused as children.
For a long time, until a few years ago, I operated under the assumption that a child resulting from incest would be retarded or externalize behavior that would clearly indicate the need for psychological intervention. I was familiar with the practice of some cultures marrying among relatives but never personally encountered an individual who was the offspring of an incestuous relationship.
In a metro-Atlanta school system I was introduced to a 15-year-old young lady who was doing quite well academically, and appeared to be progressing normally through adolescence. Even though there was an appearance of this healthy exterior, someone in her family decided that she would enter counseling at an early age to avoid potential social adjustment or mental problems.
You see, this young lady was not personally assaulted, she was the daughter of her mother's father. This made her grandfather her father as well. The person who gave birth to her as a result of this incestuous relationship, has to live with the fact that she is both mother and sister to the child.
No one can truly predict what is going to happen to this young lady in the future. When I met her, she seemed to be full of life, concerned only about the typical problems facing teenagers.
Her case, however, reveals that incest and the molestation of our children should never be all in the family.
Caught in the spotlight: Christian leaders who mishandle sexual abuse disclosures
by Boz Tchividjian
A few months ago I wrote about the deceitful, but all too successful, ways sex offenders in the church act when confronted with abuse allegations. Tragically, the sex offenders are not the only ones who deceive when confronted with abuse disclosures. Too often, leaders of faith institutions respond similarly when confronted with the mishandling of sexual abuse disclosures. Instead of acknowledging the failure and grieving over the pain the institution has caused an already traumatized victim, some leaders immediately move into self-protection mode and will stop at almost nothing in shifting the focus away from their own reprehensible failings in order to protect personal and organizational reputations. (On an encouraging note, as I my last blog post noted, more and more church leaders are responding to abuse disclosures in a manner that places the affirmation and care of the victim above all else.)
A spotlight is switched on whenever an abuse survivor steps forward to tell others how institutional leaders mishandled their sexual abuse disclosure. Spotlights that shine light into dark places are seldom welcomed by those responsible for the darkness. These spotlights come in many different forms and sizes. Some are media reports or articles, while others take the form of lawsuits and criminal cases. In recent years, many survivors have been empowered to turn a blog or a Facebook page into bright and stubborn spotlight. A few years ago, I learned of a faith institution whose leaders had failed miserably when learning that children under its care had been sexually and physically abused. Years later, a handful of these children who were now adults privately confronted the leaders about how their failure to respond had devastated the lives of so many who had been abused. The leaders expressed concern and promised to “look into it”. After two years of empty lip service, the survivors realized that the leaders had little or no plans to do anything. The sad reality was that as long as these conversations remained private, many of the survivors believed that the leaders had nothing to lose by dragging it out as long as possible with the hope that they would simply go away. Instead of continuing the endless and fruitless private dialogue, these brave young adults decided to turn on a spotlight in the form of a public blog that exposes the horrors committed by offenders and the ongoing failures by the institutional leaders to properly respond to these crimes. Over time, this spotlight grew brighter as it reached more and more people around the world. Suddenly, empty lip service was no longer a viable response as the institution no longer controlled a private narrative.
Instead of focusing time and energy in doing the right thing when a spotlight is turned on, many leaders will focus time and energy trying to get them turned off, or at the very least pointed elsewhere. Fortunately, truth can be quite stubborn and has a way of finding the spotlight regardless of how hard others try to turn it off or point it elsewhere.
Turn off the spotlight . This is simply an effort by leaders to take the matter out of the public eye where they have very little control. Turning off the spotlight allows leaders to retake control of the narrative by taking it out of the public eye with little or no accountability. Here are just two ways that leaders attempt to turn off spotlights that are beginning to have an impact.
Turn it off, you're hurting Jesus. Leaders caught in the spotlight will often claim that the public exposure of their failures is the airing of “dirty laundry” that hurts the name of Jesus. Do you see the deception and danger of this tactic? Those who are bringing truth to the light are the ones accused of somehow hurting Jesus. Really? Perhaps, keeping dark and ugly truths silent is what hurts Jesus. Perhaps, bringing this junk out into the light is what Jesus is all about. Isn't the Gospel all about a God who brings light into the darkest of places?
Turn it off, you're hurting other victims. If the hurting Jesus tactic doesn't work, leaders will often attempt to turn off the spotlight by claiming that it is hurting other victims. This tactic is reprehensible because it exploits other victims in order to protect personal and institutional reputations. An abuse survivor once told me that church leaders requested that she stop speaking publicly about how they had grievously failed her in light of her own abuse. They “advised' that the mater be addressed privately as it was hurting other abuse survivors. Fortunately, she didn't listen to their “advice” and kept the spotlight on. Victims are marginalized when leaders demand that they not share their stories in the manner in which they have decided, publicly or privately. This tactic is deceptively clever because it attempts to paint a bold survivor as an insensitive perpetrator in a disgusting attempt to shame the survivor into turning off the spotlight and putting the institution back into controlling the narrative. Leaders who really care about abuse survivors shouldn't be attempting to control or silence them. Instead, perhaps they should be focusing their efforts on providing those other struggling survivors with qualified and experienced assistance.
Point the spotlight elsewhere. When leaders aren't successful in turning off spotlights that are shining their way, they will often do the next best thing…try and point the spotlight elsewhere. The hope being that if the spotlight can shine someplace else, their mishandlings will be overlooked or minimized.
Point it towards the perpetrator . What better place to turn the spotlight towards than the actual perpetrator. In attempting to turn the spotlight off of themselves, leaders will argue that the focus should be exclusively on the one who committed the horrific crime. In doing so, they make very convincing statements about the horrors of sexual abuse and how such offenders should be punished. They emphasize this point by highlighting some of the heinous particularities of the offense, hoping that the watching world becomes so disgusted with the perpetrator that the failures by the leadership pale in comparison. Shifting the spotlight towards the egregiousness of the offender's behavior does not make the failed responses of leaders any less wrong and hurtful.
Point it towards the victim . At first, this may sound like a bad and ruthless tactic. However, we sadly live in a culture that is still quick to discredit sexual abuse victims. Shining a spotlight that casts doubt upon a victim's character or credibility will naturally reduce any concerns about whether the leaders mishandled the situation. I recently learned of a clergy who abused his position to engage in a sexual relationship with an adult parishioner. When confronted about the matter, the minister laughed it off claiming that the victim was an alcoholic and couldn't be trusted. Sadly, this attack of the victim's veracity gave the church leadership the “perfect” excuse to do nothing. Other attempts to discredit victims can be more subtle such as claiming that victim was partially responsible for the sexual abuse, or that the victim is exaggerating about the type or gravity of the abuse. Attempts to discredit victims come in all shapes and sizes with the sole objective of shifting the spotlight away from the leadership's responsibilities and failures related to this crime.
Point it towards anyone but me . The reality is that many leaders who are caught in the glare of spotlights that expose ugly truths will work feverishly to point at anyone but themselves. An all too convenient tactic is to demonize those who express support for the victim. Their motives are questioned and their behaviors are labeled as “ungodly”, all the while the leader claims to be unfairly persecuted. This is done with the hope that the focus will shift from the mishandling of a sexual abuse disclosure to the persecution of Christians. Supporters aren't the only ones who find themselves maligned by leaders desperate to push away the penetrating spotlight. I recently learned of a pastor who actually blamed unsuspecting and devastated parents for not protecting their child from being sexually abused by an adult. Little doubt that this distressing claim was an attempt to turn that darned spotlight off of his own failed response to this crime.
Spotlights don't get turned off or turned away easily. I believe that has everything to do with the amazing individuals who bravely step forward and risk so much to have them turned on. So many of these heroes have spent their lives struggling in the shadows, all the while the leaders who failed them continue to pastor churches and operate ministries without ever thinking about the destruction and pain they have caused. A good friend once told me that the higher you go in church leadership, the less likely you are to encounter Jesus. I can't help but wonder if those holding the spotlights are hoping to see Jesus somewhere in the lives of these leaders who profess His name. I like to think that Jesus is actually standing alongside these courageous souls helping them hold the spotlights in place and making sure that they stay on.
Perhaps, Jesus is the spotlight.
Child abuse cases number in 100s
by Cara Chapman
PLATTSBURGH — In 2014, the Clinton County District Attorney's Child Advocacy Center handled 257 cases of child abuse.
The total in Clinton County was 230, with the remainder in Essex County, said Executive Director Richelle Gregory.
According to the Advocacy Center's website, 166 cases were sexual abuse allegations, 32 were physical abuse allegations, and 27 were a combination of the two.
Gregory said numbers are going to be pretty high this year because programs have continued to educate the local population.
"When I first started, it was 90 cases of child abuse in Clinton County," she said.
"We've more than tripled that number just through education and having people better report, identify, and (having) a better net for pulling (offenders) in and making sure they go through and get processed."
There's not a high figure when it comes to how many children report being sexually abused, according to Cory Jewell Jensen, a sex offender evaluator and treatment provider at the Center for Behavioral Intervention in Beaverton, Ore.
"Only 5 to 13 percent of kids will tell when it's happened."
Additionally, only 30 percent of cases result in an arrest, and only 30 percent of those result in convictions, she said.
She added that about 5 to 20 percent of sex offenders are female, and 65 to 70 percent of offenders molest kids and sexually assault adults.
"Organizations that cater to kids have two times the number of sexual offenders as the general population," Jensen said.
CHILD ADVOCACY CENTER
Gregory said the Child Advocacy Center's two biggest goals are to decrease trauma to children and increase prosecution rates.
"We decrease trauma to children in two main ways," she said. "One is training forensic interviewers, and those are people that are available and trained to talk to children in a developmentally appropriate way and to not introduce any information or topics that they don't already have knowledge of."
The center also employs child-friendly interview sites.
"We can get the interviews out of police stations, schools, kids' homes, hospitals — doing that in a child-friendly place where we can minimize the number of interviews and the number of a times a child has to tell the story," Gregory said.
She said increasing prosecution rates involves having a multi-disciplinary team of professionals contribute to the cases.
These include mental-health professionals who provide trauma-informed therapy, forensic medical examiners, pediatric nurses and examiners, victim advocates, law enforcement, Child Protective Services and the DA's Office.
"So from inception of the case to the prosecution, it's a more holistic view," she said.
Law enforcement personnel are trained in this model, and Child Protective Services case workers are trained in forensic interviewing.
Dr. Karyn Patno, who is based out of the Vermont Children's Hospital in Burlington, is a pediatrician with a sub-specialty and board certification in child abuse.
She also is a member of the Advocacy Center's team.
"Then, of course, the victim advocacy piece ties all of those components together because that's someone that can be with the family from inception through prosecution and plays a liaison role with all the team members and systems," Gregory said.
Gregory said the Advocacy Center currently has multi-disciplinary teams that not only work on cases in Clinton and Essex counties, but also Franklin County and with the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe.
"We've started a new initiative here, which is different than the state,” she said.
She credited the regional approach to Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie, saying, "We were able to collaborate with the other district attorneys and the Tribal Council ... to meet national child abuse standards for investigations."
Contact the New York State Child Abuse Hotline at (800) 342-3720 if you suspect that a parent, guardian or someone who is legally responsible for a child is abusing that child.
You can also reach out to your local law enforcement.
If you have questions, contact Executive Director Richelle Gregory at the Clinton County District Attorney's Child Advocacy Center at 324-6959.
Trauma of sexual abuse lasts lifetime
by Mike Emery
The trauma of child sexual abuse haunts victims throughout their lives.
Psychological and physical problems impact them through adulthood, caging them in their own prison far longer than many of their abusers spend behind bars.
These abusers often are grandfathers, fathers, step-fathers and trusted family friends. A child's loved ones sentencing them to that horror.
“And then you wonder, too, how a person has gotten to that place that this is an OK thing to do,” said Karen Bowen, director of Court Appointed Special Advocates of Wayne/Union County. “How do you get to feeling that's OK. That's always really bothered me. Until you know how they got to this place, you'll not stop it.”
Numbers behind the problem
Nationally, one in 10 children will suffer sexual abuse before turning 18, and that figure rises to one in seven for girls, according to Darkness to Light, a national organization working to end child sexual abuse. That means 1.8 million American adolescents have been sexual assault victims, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, with 82 percent of those victims female. During 2012, 62,939 child sexual abuse cases occurred in the United States.
“We do have an issue, a problem with child abuse,” said Amanda Wilson, executive director of JACY House, a child advocacy center in Richmond that conducts forensic interviews with children and offers educational programs. “The more education we have, the more able we are to prevent abuse.”
Children younger than 9 years old are victims in 34 percent of sexual assaults in the United States and children 17 and younger are victims in more than 70 percent of those crimes, according to the Department of Justice. Children younger than 12 are victims in 15 percent of all rapes, while victims between 12 and 17 account for 29 percent, according to Darkness to Light.
In Indiana last year, the Department of Child Services substantiated 2,804 cases of child sexual abuse after investigating 17,318 cases, according to statistics provided by James Wide, the agency's communications director. The 2013 totals were 3,124 substantiated cases from 18,090 investigations.
DCS substantiated nine cases of child sexual abuse in 79 investigations during the first six months of 2015 in Wayne County. There were 28 substantiated cases in 205 investigations during 2014 and 35 substantiated cases in 208 investigations during 2013, according to Wide.
The number of victims is surely higher, too, because only 38 percent of child victims disclose they were sexually abused, according to Darkness to Light.
“People are recognizing it more and not as afraid of acknowledging that it's happening,” said Bowen of CASA, an organization that provides children involved in abuse cases volunteer advocates who look out for the children's best interests. “We're teaching children it's wrong and they're right to speak up and say this is happening to me. There's awareness in children that secrets don't have to stay secrets.”
She added the awareness grows with each generation that is taught abuse is wrong.
“If we keep teaching kids for generations, it becomes less hidden and people are getting prosecuted and people are telling,” Bowen said. “Oprah (Winfrey) and Roseanne (Barr) lived with it all their lives before they would say anything about it. A lot more children are coming forward with those things.”
High-profile incidents, such as those involving celebrities Jared Fogle and Josh Duggar, who both had wholesome television images, also bring the existence of child sexual abuse into the open. Duggar's admission that he assaulted his sisters shows abuse exists within families.
“The public's also starting to realize these things happen, and it happens a lot,” said Richmond Police Department Detective Tom Legear, who investigates child sexual abuse cases and is the 2015 board president for JACY House. “Major cases have brought it to the forefront and well-known people talking about being victims themselves.”
Perpetrators mostly are known to the victims, either family members or family friends. About 90 percent of child victims know their abuser, according to Darkness to Light, with 30 percent abused by family members and 60 percent abused by someone the family trusts.
“It's not like the old days of Stranger Danger,” Legear said. “It's family or a mother's boyfriend or a father's girlfriend. It's harder for kids to fathom family members who are taking care of them doing wrong.”
Potential perpetrators groom children and families, building relationships and trust. Grooming can involve buying gifts for a child, offering to baby-sit and take care of children or taking children on an activity or outing.
“That lets them have access to the child,” said Wilson, whose organization serves Wayne, Fayette, Franklin, Henry, Rush and Union counties. “When they cross that line, the child is thinking they love this person and are scared to tell. They might think this is the way it's supposed to be or that nobody will believe them because everybody loves this person.”
JACY House teaches the Speak Up Be Safe curriculum to all kindergarten through sixth-graders in Wayne and Union counties and to one grade level in Fayette County. A Reid Community Benefits grant is enabling the training to expand to teach children from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.
“We're really good about other risks,” Wilson said. “We teach fire safety, water safety and seat-belt safety, but not always body safety.”
The body-safety program teaches children five tenets: It's my body, ask an adult if I am safe, I have choices, tell someone and it's never my fault.
“It teaches children what they need to do, to tell adults they feel unsafe,” Wilson said. “We teach that it's the adults' job to keep them safe, but the adults didn't know what to do.”
So now training has now expanded to adults, using the Darkness to Light Stewards of Children curriculum, thanks to grants from the Wayne County Foundation and Women's Fund. The next Stewards of Children class will be 5:30 to 8 p.m. Oct. 29 at the Golay Community Center in Cambridge City.
“It teaches adults how we need to react and respond if a child tells about abuse or if the adult suspects abuse,” Wilson said.
The curriculum explains facts about child sexual abuse, identifies situations where sexual abuse might occur, offers strategies for protecting children, explains the importance of talking about sexual abuse with children and adults and points out signs of sexual abuse.
However, sexual abuse is just one area where children are victims of criminal abuse. Through June 2015, DCS also substantiated 10 physical abuse cases in 176 investigations and 115 neglect cases in 752 investigations in Wayne County. During 2014, there were 22 substantiated physical abuse cases in 355 investigations and 150 neglect cases in 1,445 investigations. During 2013, DCS substantiated 15 physical abuse cases in 286 investigations and 112 neglect cases in 1,176 investigations.
JACY House has more than doubled its overall number of forensic interviews from 147 in 2008 to 327 in 2014 primarily by improving its relationships with surrounding counties. In 2008, Wayne County cases comprised 76 percent of the forensic interviews, but in 2014, that percentage fell to 51, even though the 168 Wayne County cases in 2014 are more than the total cases in 2008.
Wilson said 60 percent of the children interviewed at JACY House disclose some type of abuse. Often, children might not be ready to disclose during a first visit and will disclose abuse on a subsequent visit. Wilson said national statistics show it takes 20 years on average for a person to disclose being sexually abused as a child.
Consequences of abuse
For victims who disclose and those who don't, abuse often leads to other significant issues as an adolescent and as an adult.
Victims are twice as likely to drop out of school, three times more likely to abuse drugs and experience three times as many sexual behavior problems, according to Darkness to Light. Girls who have been sexually abused as a child are 2.2 times more likely to become teen mothers. Wilson said 66 percent of first pregnancies for teenagers are preceded by child abuse.
“Children and families are groomed for the alleged perpetrators to have access to them,” Wilson said. “It really messes with their understanding of how relationships work when they get older.”
Bowen said victims struggling with relationships with the opposite gender might become promiscuous.
“Some become promiscuous and go that way, and some totally avoid altogether those types of relationships,” she said.
Wilson said one female victim told her she chose to become promiscuous because she lacked control during her abuse.
“She said, ‘I chose to be promiscuous because I could control that,'” Wilson said. “She had control of everything that happened.”
The impact of abuse can lead to dysfunction and distress in the victims' adult lives.
According to Darkness to Light, the victims are at a significantly greater risk of post-traumatic stress, anxiety symptoms, depression and suicide attempts. Adults who were child sexual abuse victims also are 30 percent more likely to have serious medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer, heart problems, stroke or hypertension, and women who suffered abuse are twice as likely to become obese.
“It leads to a lot of issues as adults, mental health issues and physical issues,” Wilson said. “It makes a big difference in adult life.”
Investigating abuse cases
While victims battle the damage caused by abuse, the criminal justice system works to protect the victim as much as possible, limiting the times the victim repeats a story and often keeping the victim out of the courtroom by reaching a plea agreement.
“We do anything we can to not traumatize the child more than they have been,” said Wilson, a trained forensic interviewer.
A forensic interview is conducted after child sexual abuse is alleged. A multi-disciplinary team often composed of DCS, law enforcement and the prosecutor's office watches on a closed-circuit TV at JACY House as a trained forensic interviewer talks to the victim. Those watching communicate through a wireless earbud with the interviewer if they need a point clarified or have a question.
“Imagine a child who's been a victim is walked into a police department, and they sit down in an interview room with a uniformed officer or a detective who talk to them about things that were done to them,” Legear said of how interviews were conducted before JACY House's founding in 2003.
At JACY House, children are taken into a house and sit in a more comfortable room. The interview is recorded so the child doesn't have to be questioned repeatedly by each agency involved in the case.
“I think it helps with getting information from the child,” Legear said.
That information then helps Legear when he interviews a suspect.
“Because we got good info off the bat, I've got what the child explained happened and the facts and information about what occurred when I speak to the suspect,” Legear said. “He knows I know, and hopefully, that will lead to a confession or help me get the case resolved and to the prosecutor.”
Information from the interview becomes even more important because physical evidence often is lacking. The crime might have involved only touching or the passage of time precludes evidence on the victim's body. Legear said Indiana law now allows prosecution of child sexual abuse cases until the victim is 31 years old. He said he's had cases 10 years old result in convictions.
“It's very, very hard to try because of the nature of the crime against a child by primarily adults,” Wilson said. “Because of the nature, there's very rarely physical evidence like you see on TV. These cases are much harder to put together because nobody has a perfect memory.”
Interviewers can build corroboration by asking about environmental things such as where the abuse happened, what was on television, furnishings in the room and clothing worn. Investigators also can have specially trained medical staffs in Indianapolis examine victims for evidence, Legear said.
The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office receives the investigation report from the law enforcement agency with the case's jurisdiction. From there, the decision is made whether to file charges, then whether to seek a plea agreement or go to trial.
“Our prosecutors are really good about looking at what's in the best interest of the child,” Wilson said.
Reasons for plea deals
Plea agreements protect the victim by eliminating the need to testify in court.
“I think the goal of everybody is to avoid as much strain and conflict for the child as we can,” Wayne County Circuit Court Judge David Kolger said. “You want to keep the child out of the courtroom if you can.”
He added that research has shown the “child should never be in a courtroom.”
“I cannot imagine what it's like to be a 10-year-old kid and go out there and have to relive what happened,” he said.
Wayne County Prosecutor Mike Shipman said in an email: “We consult with a parent about what plea agreement, if any, to offer a defendant. The overwhelming majority of parents do not want to see the child go through the trial process and are very supportive of a plea agreement. Many parents sign the agreement showing support for the sentence.”
With a plea deal, the defendant agrees to plead guilty to charges in exchange for a preset sentence. In some cases, a plea agreement might offer the defendant less serious charges than originally filed or dismiss some charges if multiple charges were filed. In other cases, the plea agreement might guarantee a penalty on the lower end of the prison sentencing range for the crime.
Shipman wrote: “Factors that we consider in reaching a plea agreement are: child and parent's opinion, corroborating evidence to support a victim's testimony, nature of the crime, defendant's criminal record.”
The Palladium-Item has covered 17 cases where men ranging in age from 21 to 77 were sentenced during 2014 and 2015 for sexual crimes against children, with their sentences ranging from two years to 60 years in prison. Nine of the cases were resolved by plea agreements.
Some plea deals sacrifice years of an offender's possible punishment to spare the victim from having to participate in a trial.
“You get a plea agreement where you might like a little more time there, but he's taking responsibility, will be in a position to receive counseling and will have to register (as a sex offender), and that protects a lot of people,” Kolger said.
A check of the Wayne County Sex Offender Registry on the Wayne County Sheriff's Department website revealed 139 people registered with Wayne County addresses. Of those, two of every three registered (92) had specifically committed crimes against children.
Plea agreements must be approved by the case's presiding judge, who must accept the deal as it is presented to him or reject it entirely. Most are accepted as reasonable resolutions.
“The prosecution and defense counsel have done a pretty good chunk of work and come to us with these arguments on the strength of the case and the negatives,” Wayne County Superior Court I Judge Charles Todd Jr. said. “If there's no conviction, he walks away and it's been a traumatic experience.”
That's the risk of going to trial. A plea agreement guarantees punishment for the accused, but a trial could end in a not-guilty verdict.
As much as public opinion might form against someone accused of committing a sex crime against a child, the accused retains the presumption of innocence and all constitutional rights. That creates a balancing act of protecting the victim from trauma and protecting the defendant's rights.
And with evidence sometimes difficult to obtain, “the whole case,” Kolger said, “typically is a child.”
Shipman said prosecutors take special steps when preparing a child for trial.
“Children who have been victims of sexual abuse often receive special attention when preparing a case for trial. We will meet with the parent(s) and the child multiple times before a trial,” he wrote in the email. “We will take the child and parent to a courtroom. We will ask the child questions while seated in the witness chair. We often have a guardian appointed for the child. The guardian will work with the child and parent(s) to help cope with the process.”
Yet, there remains unpredictability. The child must testify, often against a family member or family friend.
“Part of the weakness is having a 5-year-old sitting in court,” Wayne County Superior Court II Judge Gregory Horn said. “You don't know how that child is going to react. One will make a wonderful witness, and another falls apart and won't say anything at all.”
CASA's Bowen said she's worked with children who could not face their abusers and others who successfully testified. One who struggled was 4 or 5 and had to face the man who molested her to give a deposition.
“For her to have to sit with this man who had done these things to her with all of the grooming stuff that goes with it, she was petrified,” said Bowen, adding that charges were not pursued.
On the other end, effective testimony can result in conviction.
“A young lady was able to testify, willing to testify, gave really good testimony and got a conviction,” Bowen said.
Of the resolved cases followed by the Palladium-Item the past two years, three of the victims were 5 years old or younger at the time of the abuse, with eight more between the ages of 6 and 10, and seven between the ages of 11 and 14. Some of them had to face a courtroom and describe exactly what happened to them.
“I testify a lot and I'm nervous on the stand,” said RPD's Legear. “I can only imagine a 5- or 6-year-old on the stand with 12 jurors, the defense attorney, the suspect, the prosecutor's office, me if it's my case and everybody in the audience. I can only imagine what goes through their head and their heart at that time.”
Little leeway for sentencing
Whereas a plea agreement takes any sentencing leeway away from a judge, a guilty verdict at trial gives the judge a range of prison time to consider.
“There are different levels of child molesting, and people don't realize there are different things for different levels,” Horn said. “Possible penalties are very, very different, but they all say child molesting.”
Indiana criminal code was changed on July 1, 2014, by the state legislature to create six levels of felony charges. Specific actions against a child victim are slotted by statute into the six levels, and each level is assigned a minimum, maximum and advisory prison sentence.
Child molesting, for example, can be a Level 1 -- the highest level -- felony depending on the act performed and factors such as the age of the perpetrator, use of force and injury sustained by the victim. However, it also can be a Level 2, Level 3 or Level 4 felony.
Other charges, such as child exploitation, child pornography, child solicitation and child seduction are lower-level felonies. Sexual misconduct with a minor has charges -- depending on age of perpetrator, age of victim and exact acts -- ranging from a Level 1 felony to a Level 6 felony.
”We're limited by what the legislation does,” Horn said. “We're limited by what the possibilities are. The legislation sets out what the possible penalties are, and we operate within those possibilities.”
The sentence range for a Level 1 felony is 20 to 40 years in prison, with a 30-year advisory sentence. For Level 2, it's 10 to 30 years with a 17.5 advisory; for Level 3, it's three to 16 years with a nine-year advisory; for Level 4, it's two to 12 years with a six-year advisory; for Level 5, it's one to six years with a three-year advisory; and for Level 6, it's six months to 2.5 years with a one-year advisory.
The 2014 legislative change did reduce the good-time credit earned by those committing murder or Level 1 to Level 5 felonies. They now earn one day of good-time credit for every three days served, rather than the previous one-to-one ratio. That means the inmate must serve 75 percent of the prison sentence instead of 50 percent, so where an inmate once served 20 years of a 40-year sentence, the inmate now would serve 30 of the 40 years.
Child molesters whose crimes involve intercourse or deviate sexual conduct who are 21 or older or whose victim is 12 or younger and child molesters whose actions result in serious injury or death to the victim have their ability to earn credit further restricted. Credit-restricted felons receive one day of good-time credit for every six days served, meaning they serve 85 percent of their sentences.
Judges listen to arguments about aggravating and mitigating factors, such as the perpetrator's criminal history, or lack thereof. They begin with the advisory sentence then decide if aggravators outweigh mitigators or vice versa, and adjust the sentence accordingly within the legislated range.
Judges also sometimes have the discretion to assign multiple sentences as concurrent or consecutive. Concurrent sentences are served at the same time, while consecutive sentences are served one after another.
“These are gut-wrenching cases you lose sleep over, you really do,” Todd said.
Indiana Department of Child Services hot line: (800) 800-5556
Bill Aims To Protect Child Victims Of Sex Trafficking In Pennsylvania
by Deanna Garcia
Protecting the youngest victims of human trafficking from further trauma is the goal of a bill making its way through Harrisburg. The “Safe Harbor” bill would identify child victims of human trafficking and protect those who've been forced to perform illegal acts from criminal prosecution.
“The children involved here have been treated horrifically and traumatized and brutalized,” said Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery). “There is no other context that I can think of in the law where we take victims that have been treated in such a way and then subject them to the criminal justice system.”
In 2014 there were 3,598 reports of sex trafficking within the United States according to the Polaris Project. Globally, it's estimated that about 4.5 million people are forced into sexual exploitation. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that in 2014 one in six endangered runaways were likely sex trafficking victims; that's up from one in seven in 2013.
Children who have been trafficked have been charged with prostitution, drug possession, loitering, and other offenses related to prostitution. SB 851 would require that sexually exploited children be diverted away from the criminal justice system and toward social services. It would also require law enforcement to report to the Department of Human Services any encounter with a minor who has been subject to sexual exploitation.
This is the latest effort to crack down on human trafficking; Leach pointed to two previous bills passed and signed into law in Pennsylvania which better define human trafficking and make it easier to identify, arrest and prosecute traffickers.
“To me, it's the third part of the very good work we've done so far on human trafficking in Pennsylvania, turning it from one of the least progressive to most progressive states in dealing with this terrible issue,” he said.
The Polaris Project previously had Pennsylvania ranked near the bottom among states with laws regarding human trafficking; it has moved up in the rankings since, going from a tier three to tier one.
The Safe Harbor bill is awaiting action by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The War on Sex Trafficking Is the New War on Drugs
And the results will be just as disastrous, for "perpetrators" and "victims" alike.
by Elizabeth Nolan Brown
"Sex Trafficking of Americans: The Girls Next Door."
"Sex-trafficking sweep nets arrests near Phoenix truck stops."
"Man becomes 1st jailed under new human trafficking law."
Conduct a Google news search for the word trafficking in 2015 and you'll find pages of stories about the commercial sex trade, in which hundreds of thousands of U.S. women and children are supposedly trapped by coercion or force.
A few decades prior, a survey of "trafficking" headlines would have yielded much different results. Back then, newspapers recounted tales of "contemporary Al Capones trafficking illegal drugs to the smallest villages and towns in our heartland," and of organized "motorcycle gangs" trafficking LSD and hashish. "Many young black men in the ghetto see the drug trade as the Gold Rush of the 1980s," the Philadelphia Inquirer told readers in 1988. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) warned of a "nationwide phenomenon" of drug lords abducting young people to force them into the drug trade. Crack kingpins were rumored to target runaways, beating them if they didn't make drug sales quotas.
Such articles offered a breathless sense that the drug trade was booming, irresistible to criminals, and in desperate need of child foot soldiers. Lawmakers touted harsher penalties for drug offenses. The war on drugs raged. New task forces were created. Civilians were trained how to "spot" drug traffickers in the wild, and students instructed how to rat out drug-using parents. Politicians spoke of a drug "epidemic" overtaking America, its urgency obviously grounds for anything we could throw its way.
We know now how that all worked out.
The tactics employed to "get tough" on drugs ended up entangling millions in the criminal justice system, sanctioning increasingly intrusive and violent policing practices, worsening tensions between law enforcement and marginalized communities, and degrading the constitutional rights of all Americans. Yet even as the drug war's failures and costs become more apparent, the Land of the Free is enthusiastically repeating the same mistakes when it comes to sex trafficking. This new "epidemic" inspires the same panicked rhetoric and punitive policies the war on drugs did—often for activity that's every bit as victimless.
Forcing others into sex or any sort of labor is abhorrent, and it deserves to be treated like the serious violation it is. But the activity now targeted under anti-trafficking efforts includes everything from offering or soliciting paid sex, to living with a sex worker, to running a classified advertising website.
What's more, these new laws aren't organic responses by legislators in the face of an uptick in human trafficking activity or inadequate current statutes. They are in large part the result of a decades-long anti-prostitution crusade from Christian "abolitionists" and anti-sex feminists, pushed along by officials who know a good political opportunity when they see it and by media that never met a moral panic they didn't like.
The fire is fueled by federal money, which sends police departments and activist groups into a grant-grubbing frenzy. The anti-trafficking movement is "just one big federal grant program," Michael Hudson, a scholar with the conservative Hudson Institute, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal . "Everybody is more worried about where they're going to get their next grant" than helping victims, Hudson said.
Because of the visceral feelings that the issue of paid sex has always provoked, it's easy for overstatements and false statistics to go unchallenged, winning repetition in congressional hearings and the press. Yet despite all the dire proclamations, there's little evidence of anything approaching an "epidemic" of sexual slavery.
THE NUMBERS DON'T ADD UP
From 2000 to 2002, the State Department claimed that 50,000 people were trafficked into the U.S. each year for forced sex or labor. By 2003, the agency reduced this estimate to 18,000–20,000, further reducing it to 14,500–17,500 in subsequent reports. That's a 71 percent decrease in just five years, though officials offered no explanation as to how they arrived at these numbers or what accounted for the drastic change. These days, federal agencies tend to stick to the vague "thousands" when discussing numbers of incoming victims.
Globally, some 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimates. But the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2006 described this figure as "questionable" due to "methodological weaknesses, gaps in data, and numerical discrepancies," including the rather astonishing fact that "the U.S. government's estimate was developed by one person who did not document all his work." And even if he had, there would still be good reasons to doubt the quality of the data, which were compiled from a range of nonprofits, governments, and international organizations, all of which use different definitions of "trafficking."
Glenn Kessler, The Washington Post 's "Fact Checker" columnist, began digging into government-promulgated sex-slavery numbers last spring and discovered just how dubious many of them are. "Because sex trafficking is considered horrific, politicians appear willing to cite the flimsiest and most poorly researched statistics—and the media is content to treat the claims as solid facts," Kessler concluded in June.
For instance, Rep. Joyce Beatty (D–Ohio) declared in a May statement that "in the U.S., some 300,000 children are at risk each year for commercial sexual exploitation." Rep. Ann Wagner (R–Mo.) made a similar statement that month at a congressional hearing, claiming the statistic came from the Department of Justice (DOJ). The New York Times has also attributed this number to the DOJ, while Fox News raised the number to 400,000 and sourced it to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). But not only are these not DOJ or HHS figures, they're based on 1990s data published in a non-peer-reviewed paper that the primary researcher, Richard Estes, no longer endorses. The authors of that study came up with their number by speculating that certain situations—i.e., living in public housing, being a runaway, having foreign parents—place minors at risk of potential exploitation by sex traffickers. They then simply counted up the number of kids in those situations. To make a bad measure worse, anyone who fell into more than one category was counted multiple times.
"PLEASE DO NOT CITE THESE NUMBERS," wrote Michelle Stransky and David Finkelhor of the respected Crimes Against Children Research Center in 2008. "The reality is that we do not currently know how many juveniles are involved in prostitution. Scientifically credible estimates do not exist." A lengthy 2013 report on child sex trafficking from the Justice Department concluded that "no reliable national estimate exists of the incidence or prevalence of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of minors in the United States."
Common sense should preclude believing the 300,000 number in the first place. If even a third of those "at risk" youth were peddled for sex in a given year, we'd be looking at nearly 110,000 victims. And since advocates often claim that victims are forced to have sex with 10, 20, or 30 clients a day, that would be—using the lowest number—1.1 million commercial child rapes in America each day. Even if we assume that child rapists are typically repeat customers, averaging one assault per week, that would still mean nearly 8 million Americans have a robust and ongoing child rape habit, in addition to the alleged millions who pay for sex with adults.
Common sense should also immediately cast doubt on another frequently cited statistic: that the average age at which females become victims of sex trafficking is 13. "If you think about it for half a minute, this statistic makes little sense," wrote Kessler. "After all, if it is the 'average,' then for all those who entered trafficking at age 16 or 17, there have to be nearly equivalent numbers who entered at age 9 or 10. But no one seriously believes that."
Still, the obvious implausibility of the statistic—and its routine debunking—hasn't stopped it from reaching the upper echelons of public discourse. Kessler's own Washington Post ran it uncritically in 2014. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D–Minn.) made the claim on the Senate floor this year, citing the FBI. The DHS also asserts that "the average age a child is trafficked into the commercial sex trade is between 11 and 14 years old," sourcing it to the DOJ and the government's NCMEC. Yet none of these federal agencies take responsibility for this stat. When Kessler followed the facts down the rabbit hole, the original source in all cases was...the self-disowned Estes paper, in which interviews with 107 teens doing street-based prostitution in the 1990s determined that their average age of entry into the business was 13.
"So one government agency appears to cite two other government entities—but in the end the source of the data is the same discredited and out-of-date academic paper," wrote Kessler. "It would be amusing if it were not so sad."
Author and former sex worker Maggie McNeill has traced other uses of the age-13 figure back to a similarly narrow and unrepresentative study, this one looking at underage streetwalkers in 1982 San Francisco ("Victimization of Street Prostitutes" by M.H. Silbert and A.M. Pines). Among these interview subjects from three decades ago, the average age of their first noncommercial sexual experience was 13. The average age of entry into prostitution was 16, and the report made no mention of sex trafficking at all.
Surveys of adults working in the U.S. sex trade have yielded much higher average starting ages. A 2014 Urban Institute study involving 38 sex workers found that only four began before age 15, 10 started between the ages of 15 and 17, another four started in their 30s, and the remaining 20 began sex work between the ages of 18 and 29. A 2011 study, this one from Arizona State University, found that of more than 400 women arrested for prostitution in Phoenix, the average age of entry was about 25.
"Regardless of whether the number is 300,000 or 30,000, something must be done to protect these children at risk of exploitation and trafficking," said Moira Bagley Smith, a spokeswoman for Rep. Wagner, when Kessler challenged the figure. But it's exactly this kind of thinking that inflicts real-world policy damage. Whether there are 30,000 or 300,000 crime victims makes a great deal of difference in terms of fashioning an appropriate response, as does the context of the victims' circumstances. Separating the mythology of sex trafficking from the facts is crucial for addressing problems as they exist, not problems as we might want, fear, or imagine them to be.
A 2010 study from Rutgers University professors James Finckenauer and Ko-lin Chin took an in-depth look at Chinese women working in America's illicit massage parlors, which are routinely denounced by politicians as hotbeds of sexual slavery. Indeed, Finckenauer noted that 93 percent of the women he interviewed would be considered sex trafficking victims under common legal definitions, which include any person who arrives in a foreign country for sex work regardless of whether force or coercion is involved. Yet not one of the 149 Chinese women interviewed said she was sold into prostitution, and only one reported being forced or coerced into it. "There is more diversity among the parties involved in prostitution than is commonly supposed, and to portray them all in the same way as victims is an oversimplification," the researchers concluded.
Under federal law and most state laws, anyone under 18 who is engaged in prostitution is considered a sex trafficking victim. But study after study has found most youths in the sex trade do not have "pimps." And if they are forced or coerced into the work, it's often at the hands of a family member or romantic partner, not some child-snatching stranger.
Pimps themselves claim to steer clear of underage sex workers. In interviews with 73 people who had been incarcerated for crimes such as promoting, profiting from, or compelling prostitution, the Urban Institute found that most tried to avoid business relationships with teens (though these respondents, along with the police officers Urban interviewed, also claimed it was common for teenagers to lie about their ages). "I was determined to stay away from the younger bitches; 16 gets you 20," said one respondent. "Bitch better have a felony charge and stretch marks to mess with me," said another. "I know she is grown and been to jail."
"This particular business ain't about pimps going to high school and recruiting a girl," said a third. "Government don't understand how this game original come about. Girl run away from home, look older than what she is. They think pimps are going out and enticing them."
By any estimation, teen runaways make up a major proportion of underage individuals in prostitution, forced or otherwise. Runaways are especially likely to engage in what sociologists call "survival sex"—exchanging sex not for a set fee, but for food and a place to crash.
Sixty-eight percent of minors engaged in street-based prostitution in New York City say they've sought help from youth services organizations, according to Kate D'Adamo of the Sex Workers Project. "New York City funds roughly 200 beds for a population of 4,000 unaccompanied, homeless youth," D'Adamo told TechCrunch . "When all the beds are full, it is street economies like the sex trade which they turn to in order to provide basic needs. If we want to identify the most vulnerable, all we have to do is provide support when someone stands up and says 'I need a place to sleep tonight.'"
Instead, we fund police task forces to monitor Internet ads for weeks in search of suspect code words or tattoos. We pass laws mandating more prison time for pimps. We set up elaborate sting operations for both sex workers and their customers. We hang "Are you being trafficked?" signs at strip clubs and highway rest stops, and train airport staff on how they can spot the signs of sex trafficking. We act as if sex traffickers are organized, jet-setting, diabolical, and legion. We are chasing our own mythology, to the detriment of actual results.
A look at human trafficking investigations in the U.S. makes this clear. In July 2015, for instance, Homeland Security, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, and other Arizona state agencies conducted a joint "human trafficking enforcement operation" that involved randomly stopping commercial trucks as well as running the license plates of passersby. The 30-agent, nine-hour stunt resulted in 28 stops, the checking of 5,576 license plates...and zero arrests for human trafficking. Police did arrest one woman for prostitution, however, and are continuing to investigate another who said she worked in "adult entertainment."
Last April, the FBI released its first crime data on state-based trafficking investigations. In the 13 states reporting for last year, law enforcement looked into a total of 14 human trafficking incidents, ultimately making a grand total of four arrests.
Between 2008 and 2010, federally funded task forces investigated 2,515 suspected incidents of human trafficking, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. An "investigation" was defined as "any effort in which the task force spent at least one hour investigating" the incident. Of these cases, only 6 percent led to arrests. From 2007 to fall 2008, federal dollars funded 38 sex-trafficking task forces, of which 15 found no confirmed victims or suspects, 14 reported between one and four cases, and nine reported more than five. Of the total 1,229 suspected incidents that year, sex cops found just 14 underage victims.
"Given the obstacles to locating victims in black markets" some disparity between estimated numbers and confirmed cases should be expected, wrote the sociologist Ronald Weitzer in a 2011 Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology paper. But "a huge disparity between the two should at least raise questions about the alleged scale of victimization."
Of all the myths and misinformation about sex trafficking in America, the most pernicious may be that our current laws are insufficient. Pushing his new Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which passed last May, Sen. John Cornyn (R–Texas) declared that it would "provide law enforcement with the tools" to hold human traffickers accountable. Another co-sponsor, Sen. Mark Kirk (R–Ill.), said the bill "gives police and prosecutors the tools they need to go after sex traffickers." Such statements—and there are plenty more—imply that we currently lack tough anti-trafficking laws. Yet for at least 15 years, federal policy makers and agencies have been continually strengthening these laws and increasing funding for their enforcement.
Things really got going with the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) in 2000, though before this federal agents could bring human trafficking charges under various statutes, including the Mann Act (passed in 1910 to prohibit transporting a minor across state lines for the purposes of engaging in prostitution), the Tariff Act (passed in 1930 to ban importing goods made with forced or indentured labor), and various laws related to peonage, indentured servitude, and slavery. But the TVPA, signed by President Bill Clinton in the waning days of his presidency, specifically established as federal crimes "forced labor," "sex trafficking," and "unlawful conduct with respect to documents in furtherance of trafficking." It also created a national Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, and gave the feds authority to seize traffickers' assets.
The TVPA's 2003 reauthorization gave law enforcement the ability to use wiretapping to investigate sex trafficking and child sexual exploitation, increased the minimum and maximum sentencing requirements for a variety of sex offenses, and instituted a "two strikes, you're out" rule requiring mandatory life imprisonment upon a second sex offense involving a minor, "unless the sentence of death is imposed." The 2005 reauthorization added human trafficking to crimes that can trigger the federal Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law, expanded asset forfeiture possibilities, and directed the CIA to study "the interrelationship between trafficking in persons and terrorism." It also increased funding for the prosecution of "persons who engage in the purchase of commercial sex acts."
In 2008, legislators enhanced criminal penalties for human trafficking and expanded what qualifies to include several new areas, including anyone who "obstructs, attempts to obstruct, or in any way interferes with or prevents the enforcement of" anti-trafficking laws. It specified that in minor sex trafficking cases, "The Government need not prove that the defendant knew that the person had not attained the age of 18 years." And it significantly increased federal funding—doubling some appropriations and more than tripling others—for anti-trafficking efforts at home and abroad. The 2013 reauthorization increased federal involvement with state and local anti-trafficking efforts.
This year's Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act made soliciting paid sex from a minor a form of federal sex trafficking; established a Domestic Trafficking Victims' Fund into which anyone convicted of trafficking must pay $5,000; and lowered the evidentiary standard for proving trafficking charges. The act also established that websites and publishers—from classified ad sites such as Craigslist to social media services such as Twitter and Reddit—may be charged with sex trafficking if any victim is found to have advertised there. And it created a "HERO corps" of military veterans who will work with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents to fight cybercrime, including "digital intellectual property theft" and "hidden marketplaces."
Sen. Cornyn called it a "first step."
The State Department's 2014 Trafficking in Persons report states explicitly that our current penalties for human trafficking "are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious offenses." Penalties for forced labor, involuntary servitude, or peonage range from five to 20 years without aggravating factors; possible life imprisonment with them. Sex traffickers can receive up to life imprisonment, and are required to serve at least 10 years in prison if the victim is under 17 and 15 years if the victim is under 14. Victims may also independently file a civil cause of action; something 117 have done since 2003, with a 75 percent success rate.
In addition to federal anti-trafficking laws, states have been adopting a flurry of their own measures. In 2014 alone, 31 states passed new laws concerning human trafficking. Since the start of 2015, at least 22 states have done so.
Echoing the policy choices of the drug war, one common trend in these laws has been harsher sentences for trafficking offenses, including new mandatory minimums. In Florida, helping a minor engage in prostitution in any way now comes with mandatory life imprisonment. In Louisiana, labor trafficking of a minor comes with a five-year mandatory minimum, and sex trafficking of a minor 15 years. In New Jersey, soliciting a minor for paid sex comes with a minimum $15,000 fine. Some states have also started adding "aggravating" factors that trigger higher penalties, such as the offense taking place within a certain distance of a school or group home.
Another trend is adding trafficking-related offenses to those that get perps on sex-offender registries. Last January, Arkansas passed a bill requiring anyone convicted of trafficking in persons or "patronizing a victim of human trafficking" to register as a sex offender. Increasing criminal penalties on patrons, or "johns," has been hot in state legislatures, too.
In 21 states, "sex trafficking laws have been amended or originally enacted with the intent to decisively reach the action of buyers of sex," according to the anti-trafficking nonprofit Shared Hope International. In 2014, Michigan changed soliciting someone under 18 for sex from a misdemeanor to a felony sex offense. Florida recently stipulated that people found guilty of soliciting prostitution (from someone of any age) must do 100 hours of community service and attend "john school," where they will be educated on "the negative effects of prostitution and human trafficking."
Expanding police/prosecutorial power to fight and profit from trafficking is also common. At least 21 states now allow police to use wiretapping in trafficking investigations. And many states allow asset forfeiture for those convicted of sex trafficking or prostitution. For instance, in Colorado, "every building or part of a building including the ground upon which it is situated and all fixtures and contents thereof, every vehicle, and any real property" are up for grabs if they've been used in conjunction with prostitution of any kind.
The final category of popular new state laws seems predominantly concerned with "raising awareness," be it via classes for hotel employees, programs in school curricula, or signs posted in strip clubs. Dozens of states now require certain entities—from adult-entertainment businesses and job-placement firms to hospitals, rest stops, and airports—to post the National Human Trafficking Hotline number, or face penalties. In Georgia, failure to do so can result in fines of between $500 and $5,000.
Federal agencies are also in the trafficking publicity game. In July 2015, the DHS announced the expansion of "awareness efforts to major airports, truck stops, and motorist gas stations across the country," where it will fund messages describing "the signs of human trafficking" on signs, video monitors, and shopping bags. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission conducted more than 250 human trafficking "outreach events" in 2013 alone.
If there's no empirical evidence that domestic human trafficking is increasing, and the State Department says we already have adequate laws to go after traffickers, then what's driving this current legislative frenzy?
One factor is opposition to prostitution, even between consenting adults. Since the 1990s, a coalition of Christian and radical feminist activists has been working to redefine all prostitution as sex trafficking. While the Clinton administration was unsympathetic to their efforts, they found a friend in President George W. Bush. In a 2002 National Security Presidential Directive, the White House stated that prostitution was "inherently harmful and dehumanizing." Hence the administration's new rule: Non-governmental organizations receiving federal funds to fight human trafficking (or AIDS) must explicitly oppose prostitution.
"Prostitution is not the oldest profession, but the oldest form of oppression," a State Department publication from 2004 reads. The agency stated that "the vast majority of women in prostitution don't want to be there," that "few activities are as brutal and damaging to people as prostitution," and that "prostitution leaves women and children physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually devastated," with damage that "can never be undone."
"Since the early 2000s, anti-prostitution policies at the federal level have translated into increasingly aggressive state and local-level policing of sex workers and their customers," wrote Kari Lerum, Kiesha McCurtis, Penelope Saunders, and Stephanie Wahab in a 2012 article for Anti-Trafficking Review . This conflation of trafficking and prostitution "has allowed for federal dollars to be used locally for anti-prostitution purposes," the authors noted. "Anti-trafficking raids, such as Operation Cross Country held annually since 2006, have resulted in the arrest of many sex workers nationwide using federal anti-trafficking dollars."
The goal of Operation Cross Country, according to the FBI's website, is "to recover victims of child sex trafficking." In 2014, more than a dozen cities took part. Knoxville, Tennessee, to cite one participant, uncovered zero underage victims of sex trafficking, but it did arrest eight women for prostitution, four women for promoting prostitution, two women for human trafficking, and four men for solicitation. In Newark, New Jersey, one 14-year-old victim was identified and 45 people were arrested for prostitution or pimping. Richmond, Virginia, found no child victims but charged 26 people with prostitution and two with pimping. In Atlanta, dozens were arrested for prostitution, loitering, soliciting, and drug possession.
Phoenix officials announced the most victims recovered: five minors and 42 adults. But dig beyond the press release and you'll see the adult "victims" included women willingly working in prostitution. Officers posing as clients answered these women's online ads and then apprehended them. One 20-year-old "victim" had her arm broken by the cops when she tried to flee. A 16-year-old victim was booked on prostitution charges when she refused to let officers contact her parents. After failing to secure emergency shelter for two adult victims who had no money and no identification, police returned them to the motel where they'd been apprehended "so they could try and arrange funds to get back" home.
INSTITUTIONALIZATION OF A MORAL CRUSADE
In a 2012 paper published in Politics & Society , Ronald Weitzer suggested that the 1990s anti-prostitution crusade has become fully "institutionalized" in the 21st century. "Institutionalization by the state may be limited or extensive—ranging from consultation with activists, inclusion of leaders in the policy process, material support for crusade organizations, official endorsement of crusade ideology, resource mobilization, and the creation of legislation and new agencies to address the problem," Weitzer wrote. Sound familiar?
"Some moral crusades are so successful that they see their ideology fully incorporated in government policy and vigorous efforts by state agencies to combat the problem on their own," he noted. In other words, "the movement's central goals become a project of the government."
It's hard to think of a better representative of this institutionalization than the Polaris Project, one of America's biggest anti-trafficking groups. Founded by a man who now runs the website Everyday Feminism and a woman who now works for the federal government, Polaris has drafted multi-pronged model legislation for the taking. Compare Polaris' recommendations with state trafficking laws, and you'll find near verbatim language in some, and shared assumptions and goals in almost all.
How did Polaris gain such influence? One way is through state "report cards." Advertised as a measure of states' commitment to fighting human trafficking, it's basically a measure of how closely their laws hew to the Polaris policy wishlist. Among the must-haves: a law requiring the display of the national human trafficking hotline number, which Polaris runs with funding from Health and Human Services. States that fail to enact all of the Polaris-endorsed policies wind up with bad grades, which the organization then publicizes extensively.
Another driver of state trafficking policies is the Uniform Law Commission (ULC), a nonpartisan organization that drafts model state legislation in a variety of areas. In 2010, ULC was asked by the American Bar Association to prepare a plan for tackling human trafficking. The result was drafted in collaboration with Polaris, Shared Hope International, the National Association of Attorneys General, and the U.S. State Department, then approved by the bar association in 2013.
In the first half of 2015, two states enacted laws based on ULC's model legislation and four others introduced them. Four states enacted ULC-based trafficking laws in 2014 with 10 more attempting to. Among the model legislation's main tenets are court-ordered forfeiture of real and personal property for traffickers, providing "immunity to minors who are human trafficking victims and commit prostitution or nonviolent offenses," and imposing "felony-level punishment when the defendant offers anything of value to engage in commercial sexual activity."
That last bit is part of what's known as the "end-demand" strategy, or the "Nordic model," which focuses heavier penalties on sex buyers than sex sellers. Popularized by Nordic feminists, it's since become the law of the land in Canada and is rapidly influencing American policy, with many religious-based anti-trafficking groups also adopting its rallying cry. As a result, cities and states around the country have begun increasing penalties for prostitution clients and rebranding them as sexual predators. In Seattle, for instance, the crime of "patronizing a prostitute" was recently rechristened "sexual exploitation."
The theory behind "end demand" is that if only we arrest enough patrons or make the punishments for them severe enough, people will stop trying to purchase sex. Voila! No more prostitution, no more sex trafficking. If that sounds familiar, perhaps you're old enough to remember the '80s, when a similar approach was supposed to bring down the drug trade.
"Ending the demand for drugs is how, in the end, we will win," President Ronald Reagan declared in 1988. Indeed, it was how we were already winning: "The tide of the battle has turned, and we're beginning to win the crusade for a drug-free America," Reagan claimed.
In reality, the number of illicit drug users in America has only risen since then, despite the billions of dollars spent and hundreds of thousands of people locked away. In 1990, for instance, 7.1 percent of Americans had used some sort of illegal drug in the past month, according to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. By 2002 it had risen to 8.3 percent, and by 2013 to 9.4 percent.
The utter failure to "end demand" for drugs hasn't dented optimism that we can accomplish the trick with prostitution. During the "National Day of John Arrests" each year, police pose as sex workers online and then arrest would-be clients. Each year, hundreds of men are booked in these stings and charged with offenses ranging from public indecency and solicitation to pimping and sex trafficking. If these anti-trafficking efforts sound a lot like old vice policing, that's because the tactics, and results, are nearly identical.
In a study released last year by Shared Hope International and Arizona State University, researchers examined end-demand efforts in four metro areas over a four-month period. Between 50 and 60 percent of these efforts involved police decoys pretending to be teens, and no actual victims. A typical tactic is for police to post an ad pretending to be a young adult sex worker, and once a man agrees to meet, the "girl" indicates that she's actually only 16 or 17.
Shared Hope is candid about the fact that most of the men soliciting sex here are not pedophiles and not necessarily seeking out someone underage. But "distinguishing between demand for commercial sex acts with an adult and demand for commercial sex acts with a minor is often an artificial construct," its report asserted. So to save the children, we need to prosecute men who have no demonstrated interest in children, because in the future they may seek sex with adults who could actually turn out to be old-looking teens—got that?
"One shortcoming of the reverse sting approach is that no live victims are rescued from trafficking," Shared Hope admitted. "But it does take intended perpetrators of child sex trafficking off the Internet and off the streets."
A federal war on prostitution doesn't play well with large segments of Americans. Fighting human trafficking , on the other hand, is a feel-good cause. At a 2012 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) speech, President Barack Obama insisted that we must call human trafficking "by its true name—modern slavery." And what kind of monster would be against ending slavery? Which brings us to another factor driving all this trafficking action: It makes politicians look good.
At a time when Republicans and Democrats can barely agree on anything, human trafficking bills have attracted huge bipartisan support. Here is an area where enterprising legislators can attach their names to something likely to pass. And if it doesn't pass, for whatever reason, it's ripe for demagoguery: " My opponent voted against a bill to fight modern slavery! " Tough-on-crime policies, particularly tough-on-drugs policies, used this tactic for decades, until mass incarceration finally lost its luster.
Undoubtedly, many lawmakers do legitimately want to help trafficking victims and hold bad guys accountable; political point-scoring is just a happy side effect. But a less happy side effect is a slew of bad laws, violated rights, and squandered money. The federal government has given away scores of millions in grant dollars for this quixotic crusade.
The resources spent on prostitution stings and public awareness campaigns are resources diverted from mundane but more effective strategies for helping at-risk youth, such as adding more beds at emergency shelters. The State Department's latest Trafficking in Persons report notes that "shelter and housing for all trafficking victims, especially male and labor trafficking victims, continue to be insufficient." Advocates routinely say the biggest barrier to escape for many trafficking victims is simply a lack of places to go.
"Studies focused on New York City consistently report that homeless youth often trade sex for a place to stay each night because of the absence of available shelter beds," noted the Urban Institute in a report last year. "These figures are even more striking for LGBTQ youth...According to a survey of nearly 1,000 homeless youth in New York City, young men were three times more likely than young women to have traded sex for a place to stay, and LGBTQ youth were seven times more likely than heterosexual youth to have done so. Transgender youth in New York City have been found eight times more likely than non-transgender youth to trade sex for a safe place to stay."
What's more, many of the policies in place to fight trafficking actively work against their own stated mission. The criminalization of prostitution keeps sex workers from reporting abuse and keeps clients from coming forward if they suspect someone is being trafficked. Victims themselves are afraid to go to police for fear they'll be arrested for prostitution—and indeed, they often are.
In 2012, 579 minors were reported to the federal government as having been arrested for prostitution and commercialized vice. Prosecutors say they need this as a "bargaining chip" to make the victims testify against their perpetrators. We're just using state violence and the threat of incarceration against children in order to save them!
Another misguided government target is the classified advertising website Backpage, home to many an "escort" ad. Lawmakers accuse the site of "profiting off of child exploitation," even though only a miniscule percentage of Backpage ads—which anyone can put up—are posted by traffickers rather than adult sex workers. Both legislators and anti-trafficking groups have long been intent on shutting the site down. Yet "street-based sex workers, across studies, face much higher rates of violence than indoor sex workers," says Serpent Libertine, a Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP)-Chicago board member. "It's hard to understand how eliminating a low-barrier way to work indoors would promote safety."
Vera Lamarr, also with SWOP-Chicago, pointed out that Backpage cooperates with law enforcement in the U.S. more than many other sites do. "It's hard to understand the desire to take down a website that voluntarily supports efforts against trafficking and willingly cooperates with law enforcement," Lamarr says. "If Backpage closes, their user base could easily migrate to a less cooperative site" or be forced back out on the streets, where traffickers don't leave digital records.
But at least we're getting the really bad guys, right? That's also up for debate. Peruse trafficking arrest records and you'll find many folks like Amber Batt, an Alaska woman who faces 10 to 25 years in federal prison (plus a lifetime on the sex-offender registry) for running an escort service featuring adult women who freely elected to work there. Or Julie Haner, a 19-year-old Oregon sex worker who was charged with trafficking after taking her 17-year-old friend with her to meet clients. Or Aimee Hart, 42, who served seven months in prison and faces 15 years on the sex-offender registry for driving her adult friend to a prostitution job. Or Hortencia Medeles-Arguello, a 71-year-old Houston bar owner arrested as the leader of a "sex trafficking conspiracy" because she allowed prostitution upstairs.
There's Trenton McLemore, 29, who faces federal sex trafficking charges for "facilitating" the sex work of his 16-year-old girlfriend by purchasing the girl a cellphone and sometimes texting clients for her. He faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years and possible life in prison, thanks to a joint effort of Irving, Texas, police; Homeland Security; and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. And Alfonso Kee Peterson, 28, arrested in July for telling a 17-year-old on Facebook that he could help her earn a lot of money from prostitution. The "teen" turned out to be a police decoy. Despite the absence of any real victim or any activity beyond speech, Peterson was charged with one felony count of human trafficking of a minor, one felony count of pandering, and one felony count of attempted pimping; he faces up to 12 years in prison. This important sting apparently warranted the work of several local police departments, the California Highway Patrol, and the FBI.
Even if we grant that some of this activity is unsavory, is it really the sort of behavior that warrants lengthy prison sentences and attention from federal agents? Since when is what adults—or even teenagers—willingly do with their genitalia a matter of homeland security? Is this really what President Obama had in mind at the CGI conference when he compared anti-trafficking laws to the Emancipation Proclamation?
"To be sure, linking trafficking and slavery could, in theory, surface important similarities between political economies of chattel slavery (largely) of the past, and modern-day trafficking," the American University law professor Janie Chuang wrote in a paper published in the American Journal of International Law last year. "Drawing out such nuanced comparisons is not, however, the current trajectory of slavery creep. Instead, this version promotes an understanding of trafficking as a problem created and sustained by individual deviant actors, and thus best addressed through aggressive crime control measures."
For a fraction of the money spent on these measures, state governments or private foundations could fund more beds at emergency shelters. The resources that churches, charities, and radical feminists use trying to convince people that all sex workers are victims (and their clients predators) could go toward helping that minority of sex workers who do feel trapped in prostitution with job placement or getting an education. For the vast majority of vulnerable sex workers, the greatest barriers to exit aren't ankle-cuffs, isolation, and shadowy kidnappers with guns, but a lack of money, transportation, identification, or other practical things. Is helping with this stuff not sexy enough? As it stands, many of those "rescued" by police or abolitionist groups find that their self-appointed saviors can't actually offer them housing, food, a job, or anything else of urgent value in starting a life outside the sex trade. Awareness doesn't pay the bills.
Kamylla's story typifies this rescue paradox. A Texas mother who had fallen on hard times after an injury ended her construction career, she started working in prostitution last year. One day, producers from the A&E television series 8 Minutes contacted her, having seen her ad on Backpage. Though 8 Minutes was marketed as a reality show where a rogue pastor found and "saved" sex trafficking victims in real time, Kamylla and others (who were selling sexual services willingly, even if their situation wasn't optimal) actually talked with producers several times beforehand. The show promised to help with her overdue rent and finding a job, she says. After filming, they gave her $150 and told her they'd be in touch soon about further assistance.
They never called. When Kamylla followed up, the producers referred her to the same unhelpful social services she'd already tried on her own. Eventually Kamylla returned to Backpage, posting an ad using the same phone number that the producers had used to contact her. The first call she received was from an undercover cop, who arranged to meet her and another sex worker at a motel. Once the women agreed to oral sex for money, "he opened the door and nine police officers came inside the room," she says. Both women were taken to jail and booked on prostitution charges.
In a world with no gray areas—one where traffickers are always evil predators and victims always utterly helpless, where sex workers are never ambivalently engaged with their work, and the bright line between teendom and adulthood is always apparent and meaningful—in this world, the raid-and-rescue model of addressing sex trafficking may make some sense. You don't give a girl chained to a bed a condom and call it a day.
But in the world as it exists, sometimes a 17-year-old runaway chooses prostitution because it's better than living in an abusive foster home. Sometimes a sex worker gives all her money to a man because she loves him or thinks she needs him, or that he needs her. Sometimes a struggling mother doesn't love the sex trade, but finds it the best option to feed her kids. Sometimes an immigrant would rather give hand jobs to strangers than face whatever drove her to leave her own country. Harm reduction strategies like handing out condoms in popular prostitution areas, offering STD tests, or even just facilitating online advertising (rather than street work) could prove lifesaving to these women.
Yet when it comes to the way we talk about commercial sex, you have to be a victim or a predator. We've created a narrative with no room for nuance. We traffic not in facts but in melodrama. In TV broadcasts, campus panels, and congressional hearings, the most lurid and sensational stories are held up as representative. Legislators assure us that their intent is noble and pure.
But remember: Tough-on-drugs legislation was never crafted or advertised as a means to send poor people to prison for life over a few grams of weed. It was a way to crack down on drug kingpins, violent gang leaders, evil crack fiends, and all those who would lure innocent children into addiction, doom, and death. Yet in mandating more police attention for drug crimes, giving law enforcement new technological tools and military gear with which to fight it, and adding ever-stricter prison sentences and punishments for drug offenders, we unleashed a corrupt, authoritarian, biased, and fiscally untenable mess on American cities without any success in decreasing drug rates or the violence and danger surrounding an activity that human beings stubbornly refuse to give up.
Unless we can learn the lessons of our past failed crusades, the war on sex trafficking could result in every bit as much misery as its panicky predecessors. Here's hoping it won't take us another four decades to realize that this prohibition doesn't work either.
The strange disconnect between Pope Francis' words and actions about sex abuse
by Kieran Tapsell -- National Catholic Reporter
On his tour of the United States, Pope Francis has forcefully reminded the world about the importance of looking after the planet and the perils of climate change. His criticisms of the world economic system and the plight of the poor are timely and welcome. There is very little that Pope Francis can personally do about either of these things except to do what he has done — warn and exhort.
But there is one thing that he can personally do about child sexual abuse, and that is to change canon law by abolishing the pontifical secret over allegations of the sexual abuse of children by clergy and religious.
In an address to bishops in Philadelphia, Pope Francis said:
"The crimes and sins of sexual abuse of minors cannot be kept secret any longer. I commit myself to the zealous watchfulness of the church to protect minors, and I promise that all those responsible will be held accountable."
The maintenance of secrecy for these crimes is imposed by Article 25 of Pope John Paul II's motu proprio, Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela of 2001 and by Article 30 of its revision by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, which impose the pontifical secret on all allegations and proceedings relating to child sexual abuse by clerics. The footnotes to Article 25 and Article 30 apply Article 1(4) of Pope Paul VI's instruction, Secreta Continere , which defines the pontifical secret as the church's highest form of secrecy, and like the secret of the confessional, is a permanent silence. Since becoming pope two and a half years ago, Pope Francis has made no attempt to change this maintenance of secrecy, the very thing he condemned in Philadelphia.
Like Pope Benedict XVI in his 2010 pastoral letter to the people of Ireland, Pope Francis ignored the role of canon law in the cover up, and said, "I deeply regret that some bishops failed in their responsibility to protect children." There was not a word about the fact that in most cases such bishops were complying with the pontifical secret under canon law, and its requirement to try and cure the priest before any attempt was made to dismiss him.
A dispensation to allow reporting to the police where the civil law requires it was granted by the Holy See to the United States in 2002 and to the rest of the world in 2010, but where there are no such civil laws, the pontifical secret still applies. Very few countries have comprehensive reporting laws.
Francis is the Bishop of Rome, but his own Italian Bishops Conference, of which he is the primate, announced in 2014 that Italian bishops would not be reporting these crimes to the police because Italian civil law under the 1929 Lateran Treaty with the dictator, Mussolini, did not require them to do so.
On Jan. 31, 2014, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child requested the Holy See to abolish the pontifical secret over allegations of child sexual abuse by clergy and to impose mandatory reporting. On May 22, 2014, the United Nations Committee against Torture requested the same thing.
On Sept. 26, 2014, The Vatican responded and rejected these requests, stating that mandatory reporting under canon law would interfere with the sovereignty of independent nations. If that were true, the church should not even have a canon law that applies to Catholics all over the world. Canon law only interferes with such sovereignty when it requires Catholics to disobey the civil law. Where there is no conflict between canon and civil law, canon law has no more effect on a nation's sovereignty than the rules of golf. Mandatory reporting under canon law would only interfere with national sovereignty if the civil law of a country prohibited the reporting of child sexual abuse by clergy. No such country exists.
On March 19, 2014, Pope Francis said that Pope Benedict had supported "zero tolerance" for clergy who sexually abused children. On May 26, 2014, he pledged to apply the same "zero tolerance" standard. But the figures produced by the Holy See's representative at the United Nations, Archbishop Tomasi, show that the Holy See's tolerance is not zero but 66 percent. Less than one third of all priests against whom credible allegations of sexual abuse of children have been made have been dismissed.
In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI dismissed Fr. Mauro Inzoli, who was accused of abusing dozens of children over a 10-year period. In 2014, Pope Francis reinstated him and required him to live a life of "prayer and penance", the same punishment that Pope Benedict XVI handed out to the notorious Fr. Marcial Maciel. When Italian Magistrates asked the Vatican to have access to the evidence submitted to Inzoli's canonical trial, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith refused, stating, "The procedures of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith are of a canonical nature and, as such, are not an object for the exchange of information with civil magistrates." Pope Francis himself maintains the secrecy that this week he condemned.
In matters of child sexual abuse, Pope Francis has no constitution, no Congress, no Senate and no Supreme Court that could restrain him from changing canon law. He has no obligation even to consult anyone. He is the last of the absolute monarchs.
He can take out his pen at breakfast, and write on his napkin an instruction to abolish the pontifical secret in cases of child sexual abuse and to order mandatory reporting everywhere. He can instruct it to be translated into Latin and to have it published on the Acta Apostolicae Sedis . It then becomes canon law.
On Jan. 21, 2014, after the United Nations hearings, Thomas C. Fox, the publisher of this paper, wrote that Pope Francis " does not understand the full magnitude of the related sex abuse issues, or, if he does, is yet unwilling or incapable of responding to it."
One can only hope that Pope Francis means what he says in his address in Philadelphia, but up to the present time, there is a strange disconnect between what he says and what he, personally, has done. Cardinal Francis George wrote in an article in 2003 that if you want to change a damaging culture, you first have to change the laws which embody it. The buck for maintaining secrecy over the sexual abuse of children within the church truly stops with Pope Francis.
[Kieran Tapsell is the author of Potiphar's Wife: The Vatican Secret and Child Sexual Abuse (ATF Press 2014).]
Report: Trauma Work in Connecticut Must Continue
by Sarah Barr
Many services for children and families in Connecticut incorporate trauma-informed care, but more needs to be done to improve outcomes for children, according to a new report from the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut.
The group recommended expanding trauma screening and access to evidence-based care, developing a statewide plan to address trauma and including trauma-informed care training for all professionals who work with children.
Trauma can have lifelong adverse effects on children's emotional and physical well-being. It has been linked to developmental delays, behavioral health problems and difficulties in school and is associated with chronic health issues such as diabetes and emphysema, according to the report.
Jason Lang, a clinical psychologist and co-author of the report, said too many children are suffering in silence. The outcomes associated with trauma should be a call to act as urgently as if a toxic chemical or disease were harming children, he said.
“It's a concern that's not talked about as much as it could be,” he said.
Since 2007, more than 50,000 children in Connecticut have been screened for exposure to trauma, the report said. That leaves nearly 800,000 children who have not.
In addition, more than 8,600 professionals in the state have been trained in trauma-informed care and more than 8,700 children have received trauma-focused, evidence-based care.
The report looked at four areas of a trauma-informed system: workforce development, practice changes and use of evidence-based practices, screening and collaboration.
Each area includes a checklist that other states or cities could use to see how they can improve. The report also includes specific recommendations for how Connecticut can improve in those areas.
Juvenile Jails Adopting ACE- and Trauma-Informed Practices
by Ed Finkel
Jane Halladay, director of the service systems program at the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, which developed the Think Trauma curriculum for staff members in juvenile correctional facilities, remembers a young man who was very difficult to handle, especially first thing in the morning.
When he woke up, it was as if he had just emerged from battling demons in his dreams. “He was extremely confrontational, aggressive, ready for a fight,” Halladay says. “In treatment, it came out that the staff woke people up by turning on and off the lights — and it came out that he had once been stabbed in the neck and had come to in the ambulance.
“They understood the impact,” she says. “They made it a policy to wake him up every morning before they turned on and off the lights. All of his behavioral issues completely disappeared. He was a completely different youth.”
Youths convicted of offenses that land them in facilities to serve out their sentences have a disproportionately high number of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). One Florida study recently put hard numbers on this intuitive reality — half of the Florida juveniles reported four or more ACEs, compared with 13 percent of those in the CDC's ACE Study.
This is important, because a high number of ACEs can cause chronic disease, mental illness, violence, being a victim of violence and early death. (See ACEs 101 for more information.)
After decades of get-tough policies that often morphed delinquent youth into hardened criminals — i.e., further traumatizing already traumatized kids — state, local and private facilities are developing ACE- and trauma-informed training for staff and systems for their facilities. They realize that the time these post-traumatic youth spend under their roofs can be a time for healing — if it's handled right.
Six years ago, New York state asked staff members in the Division of Juvenile Justice and Opportunities for Youth to “evolve their understanding of their role,” says Joe Tomassone, acting associate commissioner for programs and services.
“Their role becomes to be an agent of change,” he says. “The historical days of juvenile justice being about custody are gone. Juvenile justice in this country right now is about supports and services and treatment focus. We believe that, given their age and the plasticity of their brains, that they can have a different life outcome. That's why we wake up every day and do what we do.”
At the local level, the correctional facilities in Randall County, Texas, turned in a trauma-oriented direction more than 20 years ago, says Neil Eddins, deputy chief probation officer for detention and residential services, who serves as facility administrator.
“Boot camps were in vogue,” he says. “A lot of folks were in that, march 'em around and scream at them [mentality]. They used a program designed to get young people ready for war in a juvenile justice setting. That didn't work. Those kinds of things don't change the heart.”
Things have certainly changed in Texas since then: Juvenile supervision officers at Randall County and throughout the state receive trauma-informed care training as mandated by the state legislature in 2013. Barry Gilbert, training officer in Randall County, says the Texas Juvenile Justice Department developed a six-hour training to address the issue, and the county further addresses trauma-informed care and ACEs as part of its ongoing training for officers. “We use the ACE score and discuss the long-term impact of high ACE scores on individuals' lives,” he says.
Some states have shut down traditional prisonlike correctional facilities and opened group homes, which tend to be more amenable to trauma-oriented care, says Carly Dierkhising, assistant professor at the School of Criminal Justice and Criminalistics at California State University-Los Angeles.
A couple of years ago Dierkhising and Halladay were among those who participated in a national Juvenile Justice Roundtable to think through what a trauma-informed system would look like in the juvenile justice arena.
“There are places trying to implement it in a variety of different settings,” she says. “It's a trickle-down process. I always say we started trying to inform folks who worked in justice about what is trauma, why you should care, the prevalence of youth in their system [who have experienced trauma] and how it might impact their behavior. Then people started asking, ‘What do we do about it?' Which is really great, as someone who has been advocating for this.”
Halladay, whose organization has been working to disseminate best practices in partnership with the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, says the political and funding climate for trauma-informed juvenile justice work has brightened in recent years. “It's now infiltrating the federal mandates, or at least it's becoming part of the language,” she says. “There are more strategies and practices available. There's also a really long way to go.”
The Think Trauma curriculum, on which National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) has trained staff at about 80 sites around the country — and which has been adapted for probation and other community-based work — starts with the link between delinquency and trauma.
“It goes to talk about how to create a trauma-informed individual safety plan around what triggers the trauma [and] what helps the child feel better and more relaxed,” Halladay says. “We do training with staff and help to implement and sustain it. If people know it well, they're more likely to practice it.”
The center and its partners continue to flesh out the elements, focusing on what's unique to juvenile justice and figuring out the right measures to make systems as thoughtfully trauma-informed as possible, Halladay says. They're talking about parent and caregiver trauma, and how best to reach and engage families in the process. They're also developing best practices in cross-system collaboration with child welfare, education and health care, she says, building continuity of care within the limits of what personal information can be shared.
The final section of the Think Trauma curriculum prompts staff to look at their own ACEs, Halladay says. “You can input the results and show everybody later in the training the average number [of ACEs among people] sitting in that room,” she says. “That's always a huge eye-opener for them. We have a lot of different tools and approaches for individuals, but also for a program or organization, to address ACEs and reduce [staff] burnout.”
Dierkhising says she sees mounting evidence of the proliferation of trauma-informed programming in juvenile justice, which she finds encouraging but also somewhat concerning. “I can't believe the number of webinars I see come across my listserv,” she says. “It's hard to track this kind of stuff, especially now when it's proliferating so much, which also worries me — we really need to be evaluating what people are doing. … We need to be carefully monitoring these practices as we're implementing them, to make sure they're working in settings like juvenile justice.”
The state of Missouri began implementing what Dierkhising says would “probably be considered a trauma-informed model” decades before other states, at a time when few people were even thinking about a trauma perspective.
“It was before its time,” she says of Missouri. “It wasn't developed based off trauma research. … A lot of the principles were there, like family engagement and a therapeutic community. But you might not necessarily be getting trauma treatment.”
Missouri's Division of Youth Services Treatment Services believes that delinquent youth need to undertake a “process of self-exploration” to change their life trajectory, says Rebecca Woelfel, director of communications for the department. “This process addresses their history, development, trauma and family dynamics, and how these have influenced their present situation, perceptions, emotions, decisions and behavior,” she says.
Youth and families are closely involved in the treatment planning process, which unfolds during the first 45 days from commitment and explores any trauma issues identified during that process, Woelfel says. Youth in residential care can address trauma through daily group meetings, sessions with individual advocates and as part of family sessions with their guardians.
Woelfel says traditional corrections programs are housed in “sterile” environments, while trauma-informed programs try to create a “warm, humane” backdrop. Traditional programs take a “correctional” approach that does not allow youth to feel safe in disclosing their trauma histories. Trauma-informed programs support a caring culture by increasing staff-to-student ratios and intensively training staff, she says.
In Missouri, that means more than 200 hours of training in the first two years for new staff, Woelfel says. “Being trauma-informed is an underlying theme in DYS training,” she says. “DYS treatment beliefs align with trauma-informed principles. Staff are trained in our treatment beliefs from day one and throughout their employment.”
Within three months of being hired, staff members take a course specifically aimed at working with trauma survivors, and within two years, they receive additional, in-depth training on other trauma-specific issues like childhood sexual abuse.
“Staff work in stable teams and are assigned to one group of 10 to 12 youth who they stay with during the course of the youth's stay,” Woelfel says. “This allows for continuity of relationship and increases safety, which allows youth to address past trauma.”
In developing its trauma-informed practices, New York state turned to a national organization called the Sanctuary Network, a community of organizations working to create trauma-informed, safe cultures in mental health and social service settings, Tomassone says.
First, the division of juvenile justice needed to look up from its day-to-day work, he says.
“There had been lots of literature developing in the field that spoke to factors important to look at, when dealing with adolescents,” he says. “Trauma was a theme that kept coming up over and over again. We wanted to incorporate best quality research and practices. We had to take time out. That's a tricky thing. Things tend to move at 100 miles per hour, but we wanted to pause and take a look at what we were doing, and how to incorporate new information about trauma.”
In partnering with the Sanctuary Network, the New York system wanted not only to serve youth better but also its staff members, Tomassone says. “We wanted a healthier community to deal with trauma with not only our kids but also the folks who work with our kids,” he says. In both cases, a key tenet is that “people are doing the best they can, and with help and support and engagement with other people, they can do better.”
Such a nonjudgmental approach enables staff members to keep in mind the likelihood that a youth who is lashing out, cursing somebody or being physically aggressive is still reacting to past trauma, Tomassone says. “We try to understand it in the context of, if that kid could do better, wouldn't they?” he says. “Our goal is to get them to another place. We don't ignore the context of what they're doing; if you don't start there, it becomes problematic.”
That means not labeling a youth as “an aggressive kid,” for example, Tomassone says. “That puts them in a box,” he says. “It doesn't open the door to changing behavior. You're not going to punish that out of them. You have to account for it in your formulation, and you have to account for it in the interventions you do for a kid.” And when a youth is being resistant, “They need more information. They need to be engaged. They need to understand why what we're asking them to do is important.”
The staff training is ongoing because of the need for changing techniques and changing culture, Tomassone says. ‘It's not just a training you offer for a week or two and then say, ‘OK, go do this,' ” he says. “You have to constantly nurture, monitor and support to make it effective.” With 11 residential facilities statewide, he adds, “The scope is huge.”
The state has just begun to collect measurable results, Tomassone says, having recently developed a quality assurance function to do so. “Six years in the life of an institutional culture is not a long period of time,” he says. “We're still looking at the variables of what we're trying to target — quality outcomes for kids and quality outcomes for staff.”
That culture change is definitely the most challenging aspect of the transition, Tomassone says. “When you approach somebody and talk about expanding their understanding about not only the kids they're working with, and how trauma impacts their behavior, but we're also asking them to change their role — it's a lot to swallow,” he says. “We work at it almost every day, helping people understand. And through that new understanding, we open their eyes up to all sorts of connections and how to build relationships.”
As with any culture change, some staff “gravitate to it like a duck to water, or whatever metaphor you want to throw in there,” while others are more hesitant and need support and coaching, Tomassone says. “It's not always obvious to people. Some people are put together differently, and they're not interested in being more psychologically self-aware,” he says. “But we assume they're doing the best they can and try to help them understand how this would be beneficial to them in their work and their life. They have to see how the improvement of the quality of their work goes up when they're better able to engage kids, and they have more tools.”
North Carolina began a transition to more trauma-informed juvenile justice about three years ago with money from the MacArthur Foundation. This allowed the state to begin training staff in correctional centers on trauma-informed care, using curriculum developed by the NCTSN, says William Lassiter, deputy commissioner for juvenile justice.
The state started moving in this direction after staff and management started noticing that many of the female detainees entered the system having experienced sexual abuse of some form in the past, and facilities started asking male youth similar questions about trauma and ACEs, Lassiter says. A staff member who had worked with NCTSN in the past encouraged the relationship, he says.
“We saw the numbers and the need — so many kids who had been exposed to trauma,” Lassiter says. “We wanted a way of dealing with those kids, and we wanted to move away from a correctional to a therapeutic model. It's been a change in the way we do business. We've gone from facilities with 200-plus kids to 32 kids, focusing on therapeutic interventions. We knew trauma was a big part of why these kids were acting out.”
In addition to psychologists and higher-level professional staff, North Carolina employs “what we call counselor techs,” who typically have associate's or bachelor's degrees, and who help work with trauma-impacted youth, Lassiter says. Staff training on trauma has been infused into the four-week curriculum all participate in at the outset of their employment, he says. “Our staff like the training; it makes sense to them,” he adds.
Every child that enters a state facility receives a Crisis Assessment and Response Plan that identifies their trauma triggers, which the staff uses to better understand them and de-escalate crisis situations, Lassiter says. The accompanying form documenting the plan helps staff to implement their training day to day. “I tell people all the time, I want that form wrinkled and with coffee stains on it,” he says. “I want you to use it all the time. We're getting there, and that form is going to help us.”
Making sure that trauma-informed training gets integrated into daily use is probably the most significant challenge juvenile justice systems face, Lassiter figures. “One of the things we're working on is fidelity, and making sure staff are following through on what they've learned with the triggers,” he says. “We've done really well on getting most people trained. It's just that last step of fidelity and good implementation. When it's in the heat of the moment, do you remember it?”
Staff also look at their own ACEs, Lassiter says. “They have to do it first, identify their triggers and how that informs how they treat the youth today,” he says.
Florida and Kentucky are among states that are just teeing up trauma-informed approaches to juvenile justice, both with the help of psychologist and juvenile justice consultant and trainer Monique Marrow, who has dual affiliations with the Center for Trauma Recovery and Juvenile Justice at the University of Connecticut and the Center on Trauma and Children at the University of Kentucky.
Florida plans to spend a year piloting its approach in three Department of Juvenile Justice sites and take a very comprehensive approach, with a “combination of training staff, providing a group intervention to youth, and then working toward developing a better, multidisciplinary team to address youth trauma,” Marrow says.
Kentucky, with roughly the same budget as Florida, plans to roll out trauma-informed care to juvenile justice facilities statewide, Marrow says. “They want everything,” she says. “They have not necessarily funded themselves to do everything.”
In both cases, Marrow will start with the 10 ACEs in the original CDC ACE Study and build outward from there “because ACEs does not include experiences that many incarcerated kids have, particularly in urban areas,” she says. “The staff will be looking at selecting appropriate screening measures.”
Marrow also wants to ensure that both states are creating a broad trauma-informed environment, not just reacting to youth experiencing symptoms in the moment. “Every aspect,” she says, “allowing youth the opportunity for voice, for choice, empowering them to be able to speak on their own behalf, involving families.”
And Marrow says staff will be talking about their own ACEs, as well. “The very first activity they do is finding your ACE score,” she says. “They complete the 10 questions. That is part of the training. We talk about the fact that many of the staff called to do this work have their own [trauma] backgrounds. That impacts often positively, but sometimes in a detrimental way, their ability to work with this group. We talk about knowing that and owning that.”
Ohio's Department of Youth Services also has invited Marrow in to help boost trauma-informed training and practice, although she and her concepts are no stranger to that state. She worked there as deputy director of treatment and rehabilitative services from 2005-08, during which time the DYS worked with the state's Department of Mental Health to implement trauma-informed approaches and overall improvements in the quality of care for youth.
During that time, youth in DYS facilities that implemented trauma-informed training experienced a significant decline in restraints, seclusion and threats against staff, along with reductions in measures of post-traumatic stress syndrome like nightmares, avoidance symptoms and levels of hopelessness, depression and anxiety, Marrow says.
“The youth talked about the fact that the unit felt safer and better,” she says. And more experienced staff who had seniority privileges — and who had avoided positions that involved working directly with youth — suddenly started asking to work with them. “That told me that there was something to it,” she says. “They felt they had more tools to use, they could engage in treatment, they were part of the team. Of course, we also had fewer staff injuries.”
These changes, which came out partly in response to a lawsuit filed by a group of advocacy organizations, lapsed for a period of several years, Marrow says, but the state is currently “reinvigorating” its response toward trauma, closing “multiple” facilities and shrinking the number of kids who are locked up from about 1,700 in 2008 to about 500 by last year.
Ohio remains under formalized court monitoring under a federal consent decree first reached in 2008 and amended last year to specifically target dramatic reductions in the use of solitary confinement.
County-level facilities, comprising some or all of the correctional landscape in certain states, have been moving in a trauma-informed direction as well. At the Central Ohio Youth Center in Marysville — Ohio has both state- and county-level facilities — problem behaviors among youth continued to escalate during the 2000s. By 2010, “We were at a crisis state, feeling like we could not manage the youth in our organization,” says Emily Giametta, clinical administrator for the 40-bed facility. “We were not trauma-informed.”
Central Ohio had been using techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy to target thinking errors, she says, but the youth continued to suffer from reactions typical of post-traumatic stress disorder and did not seem to be building resiliency. There was high turnover among staff members who were experiencing vicarious trauma and burnout.
Giametta started researching best practices and came across Marrow, who came to the facility in May 2011 and helped to launch trauma-informed training. She also found research that shows the average youth in the American juvenile justice system had experienced about six traumatic events in their lifetimes, while Marysville's population averaged nine.
“We were hitting above the national average — that was a big concern,” she says. Marrow's training “was to go over the trauma lens, promote health and recovery; we felt like we were building a foundation. … We were shifting to working on relationships and giving our kids coping skills to deal with PTSD reactions.”
The facility began systematically interviewing youth about their past and forming regular group sessions to address trauma starting in 2012. “That has dramatically changed how we do things,” Giametta says. “Our kids are feeling like they have more self-control; they have coping skills if they hit their trauma triggers. We went from a facility that restrains kids to going months and months without a restraint. It's been healthier for kids and staff and made a huge difference from top to bottom, going from a punitive to a relationship-based approach.”
While youth typically have multiple trauma triggers, staff and clinicians at Marysville start down the path of healing by identifying one issue that a youth seems to feel most comfortable processing, Giametta says. “It's less threatening,” she says. “They do one-on-ones with a therapist plus group support. What really starts to be healing is that the kids can support one another, too. That's another layer.”
Staff members walk youth through the theory behind trauma-informed care so they understand better what's happening in their brain and bodies when they have PTSD reactions, Giametta says.
“When they feel upset, they know what they're reacting to,” she says. “We go over hyper-arousal and what that's like. Their body and brain have been on high alert for so long; this allows them to feel like they're in control. We're working on monitoring some of the changes in their mood and feelings.”
New staff members are trained in the basic knowledge about trauma “before they hit the floor” and then take an annual refresher course that addresses any vicarious trauma issues they might have experienced, Giametta says. “That's certainly something that occurs,” she says. “We do have staff who get triggered, as well.”
In Randall County, Texas, administrators, clinicians and staff have tried to balance giving youth in their custody their support while making it clear that they need to rise above a “victim stance,” Eddins says. Many arrive with a multiplicity of issues.
“Some of them have some really sad stories. It's tough for compassionate people,” he says. “We also very much believe in individual responsibility and accountability. We recognize that kids have sad stories, and we want to help them work through their issues. At the same time, we don't want to let them use [ACEs] as an excuse for bad behavior. … You show these kids that you're pulling for them, and at the same time, you're going to hold them accountable.”
The most challenging part of this effort is training staff not to stand in judgment when youth act out, Eddins says. “We all have our biases,” he says. “I don't want them to be robots. I want my staff to be real people. But for folks in this business, you have to believe in intrinsic value; you have to believe that every human being, regardless of what they've done, has some value. Sometimes that's hard.
“For instance, we've seen a propensity in young people offending sexually on young victims. There's a lot of folks who have hang-ups with that,” he adds. “I'm a daddy. I have children in my home. I can imagine how I would react. But we have to take the stance — I tell my folks, ‘If you know you have a hang-up in that area, that's where I want you to pull up your fair-o-meter.' ”
Many of those who have perpetrated such crimes were first victims themselves, Eddins says, at the hands of parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts. “That gets a little skewed. Those stories are hard. Our first response is, ‘That shouldn't have happened,' ” he says. “Then, we've got to help this young person deal with this, involve counselors and have places to work through those issues. At the same time, it cannot be an excuse for misbehavior.”
That requires separating what they've done from who they are, which many adults have never successfully managed, Eddins says. “What are your core values and beliefs? What are your motivations?” he says. “We've got young people focusing on concepts that are probably beyond their years but because of the predicament they're in, we must do that.”
Clinicians perform an initial 30-day assessment with testing and psychological evaluation to pin down as much information as possible. Youth are asked to write their autobiographies in an unflinching way, but “not so we can rub their face in it. They need to take a complete look,” Eddins says.
That process brings them face to face with their ACEs and can help build a sense of control over their autobiography in the days ahead, he says. “Just because my dad was abusive doesn't mean I have to be abusive. Because my dad was an alcoholic doesn't mean I have to be. We also have to recognize that we have those influences in our life that we have to battle.”
Through that process, staff members are tasked with holding kids accountable for misbehavior with true consequences, but without making it into a power struggle, Eddins says. “These kids will kick our tails,” he says. “They've shown they're willing to break the law. If the staff does the same thing, it doesn't turn out well. We tell staff, ‘You're going to out-positive these kids.'
“Look for what they do well and emphasize it,” he adds. “Then, the kids start to replace negative reinforcers with positive reinforcers: ‘I'm being recognized for what I'm doing well.' This is not rocket science. It's kind of like 1950s middle-class values — treating people with respect and developing a relationship and helping them work through their struggles and their issues.”
Staff members meet weekly and talk about their own issues, Eddins says. “We have to hold one another in check,” he says. “We asked staff to do the ‘who am I?' piece” that helps them get in touch with their own trauma issues. That's something you're not going to get up there and share because it's going to have some dirt in there. But they've got to walk around in these kids' shoes.”
At the Berrien County (Mich.) Juvenile Center, staff focused on rational behavioral training (RBT) to de-escalate youth behavior until about three years ago. Mary Ann Witkowski, clinical and treatment services manager, says RBT is “all good stuff,” but she wanted to move the program toward a more clinically oriented approach.
At first, Witkowski worked to get families more involved in an integrated treatment approach, offering parenting classes on how to deal with out-of-control behavior. “We got into finding out family history and issues, and lo and behold, many of these kids have tons of trauma in their lives — sexual abuse, substance abuse, violence is huge, the whole gamut of issues,” she says.
That led to educating treatment staff on trauma issues, which was a mixed bag given that many staff had been there for many years and were “old school, brought up in a custodial mindset,” she says. “We tasked ourselves with trying to move out of that custodial mindset and help the staff work with the kids from the kids' perspective. … Some people were like, ‘This information is great — it's a great way to look at it.' Other people said, ‘Everybody has had things go on in their life. You have to suck it up and deal with it.' It's an evolving process.”
To date, Witkowski would not say Berrien County has become completely trauma-focused but she believes the shift in training has moved the culture in that direction. “It's helped the staff become more empathic with what the kid has lived through,” she says. “They try to respond to the kid in an empathic way rather than a directive way. It's not just, ‘Do it because I said so.' We're trying to get the staff to understand that the kid is reacting to them based on previous experience and events.”
Berrien County has emphasized a nonphysical, literally hands-off approach in which staff members attempt to verbally de-escalate youth, Witkowski says.
“When you have a kid who is acting out for whatever reason, keep in mind the other issues around the kid,” she says. Then afterward, youth see their case managers to process the event in addition to the initial de-escalation. “Hopefully, we can circumvent away from a case where the kid has to be physically managed,” she says, adding that isolation is “not an option” in the facility.
Staff members also talk about their own ACEs as part of their training, Witkowski says. “It really depends on the individual staff,” she says. “We really stress with them that it's OK, everybody has to deal with their own stuff. Here, it's even harder if you have a lot of personal baggage because the most severe of the severe are here.”
Fight child sexual abuse with education
Nobody wants to talk about child sexual abuse. It's a topic that is at best uncomfortable and at worst excruciatingly painful. It's so much easier to remain silent.
Abusers count on that.
Which is why Tara Walker Lyons' willingness to share her story is all the more worthy of applause. In helping to personalize a vast and largely faceless issue, Lyons is not only showing tremendous courage, she is helping to shatter the silence that protects abusers - and leading the way for Montana to prevent more children from becoming victims.
Childhood sexual abuse occurs with sickening frequency, affecting at least one in 10 children. Lyons herself estimates she was abused more than 100 times over the course of several years, starting at the age of 6.
Now, at 27, Lyons regularly travels from her home in Hamilton to talk directly to offenders in the prison system as a member of the Montana Department of Corrections' Victim Impact Panel. And this summer, she shared her story with an even wider audience by posting a video and creating a Facebook page dedicated to discussing childhood sexual abuse. It's called “Defending Innocence.”
Lyons' efforts to end the culture of silence that surrounds child sexual abuse were chronicled in the Missoulian and Ravalli Republic earlier this week. Her immediate plans include receiving specialized training, and then taking steps to advocate for new legislation that would require Montana's public schools to teach sexual abuse prevention.
Specifically, Lyons would like to see Montana adopt Erin's Law, named for a child sexual abuse survivor who became a successful author and activist. The legislation, which has been passed in 26 states, has three main components:
Students in all grades are taught to recognize sexual abuse and report it to a trusted adult. This information is taught in an age-appropriate way.
All school personnel are taught about child sexual abuse, including how to recognize it and how to report it to the right authorities.
Parents are provided with information about child sexual abuse, including resources available to support children who have experienced abuse.
Unfortunately, children's sex education is a controversial topic in Montana, and Erin's Law is bound to meet with opposition from parents who would prefer to keep their children in the dark about such hideous crimes.
While respecting a family's right to opt out, it's important to point out that this information could have ended Lyons' abuse had she had access to it when she was a child.
As she said in the Missoulian article, “No one ever said that talking about it could save you.”
That's why Montanans should push for this legislation in our state. It would ensure that critical information – information that could save a child from years of abuse – reaches those who need it most.
And it's why, with or without legislation, every parent should make sure to learn about child abuse, and open the door to that difficult conversation with their children. Right now.
Child abusers rely on their young victims' innocence and ignorance to maintain the silence that allows them to remain undetected. Montana must arm its children with good information and a willingness to speak up in order to end that silence.
Doctors explain possible signs of child abuse
by Carolyn Callahan
MOUNT WASHINGTON, Ky. —As police investigate the abuse of a 2-month-old girl, local doctors are working to prevent it.
The baby girl's parents are in jail in Bullitt County and we're told the baby is recovering.
No one at Kosair Children's Hospital can comment on the case out of Mount Washington.
According to data from the Department of Health and Human Services, Kentucky is one of the top 10 worst states for the number of children who are abused and neglected.
"There is not a day that goes by in this hospital that we do not have a child admitted for some type of child abuse," Dr. Erin Frazier with Kosair Children's Hospital said.
Frazier is a pediatrician and has a lot of experience with child abuse cases.
"Babies who are not walking around and cruising should not be bruising," Frazier said.
Doctors say the most overlooked sign of abuse is bruising.
They utilize the TEN-4 bruising rule. TEN stands for torso, ears and neck.
"Any child that has bruising on their torso, ears, or neck, if they're 4 years or younger, should be checked out by a pediatrician because it could be a sign of abuse," Frazier said. "To get a bruise on a young baby you have to have pretty good impact. Sometimes people will say, 'Well, I think that the brother hit him with a toy.' That's not going to cause a bruise on a young baby."
Sept. 25, a 2-month-old girl was in intensive care at Kosair Children's Hospital after police say she was abused by her parents.
The baby has a brain injury, broken wrist and broken ribs, but doctors determined the wrist and rib injuries were old injuries.
Her parents, Brian Ray and Jocelyn Myles, are charged with criminal abuse.
Frazier cannot comment on this case, but says child abuse is 100-percent preventable.
"Put the baby in a safe place, like their crib, on their back. Take a few minutes for themselves. Sometimes it's helpful even for parents, if they are having a hard time, to put some earphones in, just listen to a song, calm themselves down. Then they can go and readdress the situation," Frazier said.
Parents also need to be careful about who takes care of their children.
"If you wouldn't leave your wallet with this person, don't leave your child with this person," Frazier said.
Abuse can have serious impact on the child's future. For instance, traumatic brain injuries can cause life-long medical issues.
"They can have problems with vision, with blindness, they can have seizures, they can have learning deficits, a lot of things like that. There's a lot of psychological issues that are carried on for children that have other kinds of abuse," Frazier said.
Frazier also encourages parents to ask for help if they need it.
"Parenting is probably the most important job that we have. So I think it's OK for people to start to say, parenting is tough, it's not easy. It's OK to admit that you need help," she said.
If you suspect a child is a victim of abuse, you should call the Child Abuse Reporting Hotline at 1-877- KYSAFE1.
Family breaks silence on child abuse of son
by Adam Rodewald
DE PERE — Sarah Kerbel lifted her limp baby off a chair in his caretaker's home. A knot twisted in her chest. Two dogs barked wildly at her feet.
“Efrem,” she said. He didn't open his eyes. He could barely lift his head.
The caretaker stood in the middle of the room apologizing profusely for neglecting to call earlier in the day. The 7-month-old boy might have an ear infection or the flu, she said.
For the next three days, Efrem couldn't drink without vomiting. Then the soft spot on his head began to bulge.
Doctors diagnosed him on Jan. 24, 2013, with a subdural hematoma, a traumatic head injury associated with shaken baby syndrome or physical abuse.
The caretaker, who ran an unlicensed day care out of her home, admitted later to harming Efrem. She was ultimately convicted of four counts of child neglect and one count each of disorderly conduct and obstructing an officer.
Efrem seemingly has made a full recovery, but the incident and its aftermath continue to haunt the Kerbels.
For more than two years they ground through the county's child protection system, court rooms and hospitals. They kept to themselves, telling only a few of their closest friends and family what had happened, because prosecutors had warned them not to talk openly about the case.
The couple felt as if they were stranded on an island — completely alone.
“The more that Sarah and I started talking about it, you know, we came to the conclusion that one thing we lost through all this was a sense of trust and community,” Andrew Kerbel said.
The Kerbels became determined not to let anyone else fall into this hole in the child protection system, where parents of victimized children have nowhere to turn for guidance.
They launched a grassroots organization called Seeds From Seeds, where families dealing with child abuse can share resources and support each other.
Their first event, a public presentation and group discussion on the long-term effects of head trauma, is Tuesday.
“We're on a mission. We know it's going to take a long time, but we have to do something. We have to do something for Efrem,” Sarah Kerbel said.
Almost lost twice
Efrem J. Kerbel was born eight weeks premature on June 17, 2012. Sarah Kerbel had developed severe HELLP Syndrome, a life-threatening pregnancy complication similar to preeclampsia. She required an emergency C-section to save her life.
Efrem spent 27 days in the neonatal intensive care unit. Sarah Kerbel made a promise to him then that he would never have to go there again.
But seven months later he was back, and inches from death.
“Stupid me. I found this caretaker, and she sent him there again. I had promised to protect him,” Sarah said. “That was hard to deal with.”
Investigators initially suspected Sarah had abused Efrem. Andrew Kerbel said he had to sign an order stating he wouldn't leave his wife alone with their son.
This was the first of many surprises, he said.
On Jan. 28, four days after launching the abuse investigation, a police officer and social worker interviewed the day care provider, Kimberly L. Zimmerman.
She said during the interview that she was responsible for Efrem's injury, and she needed to be punished, according to the police report. She said she did not shake the baby but maybe set him down “a little rough” when rushing to stop her son from falling off a couch.
Zimmerman was charged with recklessly endangering safety, a felony that can be punished with up to 10 years in prison and $25,000 in fines. However, she pleaded guilty to the lesser counts of neglect, disorderly conduct and obstructing an officer. She was sentenced to 8 months in jail with Huber work release.
The sentencing lifted a weight off the Kerbel's shoulders for the first time, they said. Justice had been served, and the woman who hurt their son would be off the streets.
But then, Zimmerman was released on a remote-monitoring device.
“We got completely blindsided. Completely,” Sarah Kerbel said.
The experience lit a fire. They'd been quiet for long enough. It was time to tell their story so others could maybe avoid, or at least be prepared for, the same twists and turns they went through.
Filling a hole
Brown County is a resource-rich community. The Willow Tree Cornerstone Child Advocacy Center provides a safe haven for families to seek counseling, medical assistance and other help during an abuse case. A county victim/witness program helps them through the court process if a case proceeds that far.
But, as the Kerbels learned, finding those resources can be difficult.
"You're in these situations where it's very emotional, you're afraid for your child, you don't know what's happening, you hope your child is getting the best treatment possible — but you just don't know," said Karen Doreau, coordinator of the Brown County Victim/Witness Assistance Program.
Doreau is helping the Kerbel's focus and launch their organization.
"We're trying to fill that gap in terms of just providing information for parents who might have a myriad of questions regarding, 'What happens now?'" she said.
Hundreds of families enter the child protection system every year in Brown County.
County social workers investigated 884 abuse and neglect cases during the first eight months of 2015.
Lana Cheslock, manager of the county's children, youth and families division, said the county is on pace to have slightly fewer cases than last year. If the trend continues, it could be the first drop after at least six consecutive years of increasing abuse cases.
Statewide, about 5 percent of substantiated child abuse and neglect cases in Wisconsin involve day care workers, teachers or other nonprimary caregivers. That amounted to 312 cases in 2013, the most recent year for which information is available from the state Department of Children and Families.
Of those cases, 116 involved licensed and unlicensed day care providers.
“This is a really big subject, and it's not talked about enough,” Andrew Kerbel said.
“We really wanted to figure out a way that we could make information more available to people while at the same time trying to form this sense of community for others who are going through what we went through,” he said.
Seeds From Seeds
The name of the Kerbels' organization stems from their son's name. Efrem, in Hebrew, means fruitful. By planting their seeds of knowledge about the child protection system with others, the Kerbels hope those individuals will also be fruitful and share with more people.
“The victims need their story out there. It doesn't have to be reaching out to media. It's just letting your voice be heard,” Andrew Kerbel said.
The organization is holding a string of public events called the "Upswing Series." Each event will be an informal discussion with a professional involved in the child protection system. Families of victims, other professionals, service providers and interested community members are invited to attend.
The first event Tuesday will feature Dr. John Taylor of Prevea Health, who will speak and answer questions about the potential long-term effects of abuse on children.
The second event, on Dec. 10, will focus on law enforcement's role in child abuse cases. It will feature Detective Thomas Schrank of the De Pere Police Department.
email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @AdamGRodewald and on Facebook at Facebook.com/AdamGRodewald.
The first event in the Seeds From Seeds Upswing Series will feature Dr. John Taylor of Prevea Health speaking and taking questions about child abuse injuries.
When: 6:30-8 p.m. Tuesday.
Where: Brown County Law Enforcement Center, 300 E. Walnut Street, Green Bay.
Online: For more information, visit seedsfromseeds.org
Penn State conference looks at long-term effects of child abuse
by Blake Cohen
UNIVERSITY PARK — Expert researchers from across the world gathered Wednesday and Thursday to showcase recent progress related to child maltreatment and other forms of trauma and chronic stress at Penn State's fourth annual Conference on Child Protection and Well-Being.
The conference, which was held at the Nittany Lion Inn, presented the long-term effects of child abuse on endocrinology, immunology, brain development and genomics.
“I hope that there's an exchange of information and ideas that will prompt additional research into the causes and effects of child maltreatment,” said Frank Vandervort, a representative of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children.
Bekh Bradley-Davino, a professor at Emory University, spoke about how early child abuse can lead to mental health problems later in life.
“Multiple studies demonstrate that environmental factors, particularly stress and trauma which occur during childhood and adolescence, are robust predictors of risk for many psychiatric disorders,” Bradley-Davino said.
His findings concluded that an abused child aged zero through 5 is more likely to develop problems later in life than any other age group. Post-traumatic stress disorder and depression are two of the main complications that are likely to arise from early child abuse.
Idan Shalev, a professor of behavioral health at Penn State, talked about how bullying and physical maltreatment shorten the length of a person's telomeres in his or her DNA.
A telomere is a gene in the DNA that shortens every time the cell divides. When the telomere gets too short, it dies. Shortening of telomeres is usually associated with aging and cancer.
Shalev displayed multiple studies that concluded children who are abused or bullied have considerably shorter telomeres than children who are not.
The Conference on Child Protection and Well-Being was created in 2012 after the Jerry Sandusky scandal prompted Penn State to become “a leader in the research, prevention and treatment of child sexual abuse,” according to then-president Rodney Erickson.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Domestic Violence: Statistics & Facts
Get Help: Call Our Free Anonymous Domestic Violence Hotline: 800.621.HOPE (4673)
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic Violence is a pattern of behavior used to establish power and control over another person through fear and intimidation, often including the threat or use of violence.
Other terms for domestic violence include intimate partner violence, battering, relationship abuse, spousal abuse, or family violence.
Who is Most Likely to Suffer from Domestic Abuse or Become a Victim of Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence and abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, income, or other factors.
Women and men can be victims of domestic violence.
How Many Men are Domestic Violence Victims?
Men are victims of nearly 3 million physical assaults in the USA.
How Often Does Domestic Violence Occur?
1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime.
Why Does Domestic Abuse Happen?
No victim is to blame for any occurrence of domestic abuse or violence.
While there is no direct cause or explanation why domestic violence happens, it is caused by the abuser or perpetrator.
When and Where Does Domestic Violence Occur?
Domestic violence is most likely to take place between 6 pm and 6 am.
More than 60% of domestic violence incidents happen at home.
What Happens to Victims of Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness among families, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
At least 1/3 of the families using New York City's family shelter system are homeless due to domestic violence.
Domestic Violence in America: General Statistics and Facts
Women ages 18 to 34 are at greatest risk of becoming victims of domestic violence.
More than 4 million women experience physical assault and rape by their partners.
In 2 out of 3 female homicide cases, females are killed by a family member or intimate partner.
What are the Effects of Domestic Violence on Children?
More than 3 million children witness domestic violence in their homes every year.
Children who live in homes where there is domestic violence also suffer abuse or neglect at high rates (30% to 60%).
Children exposed to domestic violence at home are more likely to have health problems, including becoming sick more often, having frequent headaches or stomachaches, and being more tired and lethargic.
Children are more likely to intervene when they witness severe violence against a parent – which can place a child at great risk for injury or even death.
What are the Effects of Domestic Violence on Mental Health?
Domestic violence victims face high rates of depression, sleep disturbances, anxiety, flashbacks, and other emotional distress.
Domestic violence contributes to poor health for many survivors including chronic conditions such as heart disease or gastrointestinal disorders.
Most women brought to emergency rooms due to domestic violence were socially isolated and had few social and financial resources.
What is the Economic Cost of Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence costs more than $37 billion a year in law enforcement involvement, legal work, medical and mental health treatment, and lost productivity at companies.
What Happens if Domestic Violence Victims Do Not Receive Help?
Without help, girls who witness domestic violence are more vulnerable to abuse as teens and adults.
Without help, boys who witness domestic violence are far more likely to become abusers of their partners and/or children as adults, thus continuing the cycle of violence in the next generation.
#1 FACT: Most domestic violence incidents are never reported.
Help change the facts. Speak up, speak out, and make a difference for victims of domestic violence.
Inquiry into abuse support services hailed
An investigation into the adequacy of current treatment services for child abuse survivors has been welcomed by the organisation that supports an estimated five million Australian adults affected by childhood trauma.
On Thursday, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse called for submissions from interested parties on current advocacy, support and therapeutic treatment services for people suffering the aftermath of abuse.
Cathy Kezelman, president of Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA), told AAP the inquiry by the commission was much needed.
"There has not been a substantive piece of work that scopes what is and what isn't - and can actually back what people have been saying anecdotally," she said.
Commission CEO Philip Reed said on Thursday that through public case studies and more than 4000 private sessions, attention had been drawn to the lack of quality support services as well the difficulties survivors faced when seeking therapy.
Dr Kezelman, AM, said there was an across-the-board requirement for this investigation because of a misconception about what survivors of child sexual abuse needed.
There was an assumption they could be "fixed" in the current Medicare allowance of 10 sessions per year, she said and described this as outrageous and potentially quite damaging.
"When a child is repeatedly sexually abused in childhood, it affects their developing brain and has much more profound global effect," she said.
Therapists needed to be trained to understand the difference between this type of trauma and single-incident trauma, Dr Kezelman said.
When people are abused as children, it has an impact on a developing sense of self, and to start to repair that and help people feel safe takes a very slow-building therapeutic relationship, she said.
Earlier this year, ASCA released an economic report, The Cost of Unresolved Childhood Trauma and Abuse in Adults in Australia, which estimated unresolved trauma was costing the nation $9 billion a year.
The report, done by Pegasus Economics, was based on Bureau of Statistics data and estimated the cost to the economy based on people who had suffered childhood trauma and were not able to contribute in the workplace or pay taxes and the cost of providing revolving door crises services.
Dr Kezelman said the cost of not providing the right care and support to survivors was double the slated $4.3 billion cost of the royal commission's recommended redress scheme, which included funding for counselling and psychological care.
Once the commission receives submissions, it will publish a consultation paper.
Final recommendations on advocacy, support and therapeutic services will be contained in the royal commission's final report in 2017.
You can help stop child sexual abuse
by Chip Womick
ASHEBORO — Patti Marlowe used to think all child sexual predators looked like monsters.
“I didn't think I knew one,” she said, “much less that I was married to one for 10 years.”
After Marlowe remarried, her 16-year-old daughter revealed a terrible secret: Marlowe's ex-husband — the girl's stepfather — had sexually abused her for years.
The man used fear to keep the girl quiet. If she told her mother, he told her, her mother would kill him and go to jail, and the girl would be alone.
“My little girl thought she was protecting me,” Marlowe told a group Tuesday during a luncheon at the Randolph-Asheboro YMCA.
Today, Marlowe's ex-husband is serving a 13-year prison sentence.
And Marlowe is prevention specialist for the Darkness to Light (D2L) partnership with the YMCA of Greater High Point, which brought its award-winning prevention program “Stewards of Children” to Guilford County two years ago.
Since then, more than 2,000 adults have completed the two-hour training on how to recognize, prevent and react responsibly to the reality of child sexual abuse.
David Ozmore, president and CEO of the High Point YMCA, also spoke at the luncheon.
Child sexual predators, he said, are often trusted adults — among them, coaches, teachers, pastors, family friends and family members: “This is not an issue of the creepy old man in a trench coat at the mall.”
Child sexual abuse is the most prevalent health issue children face in the United States today, he said. One in 10 will be abused before they turn 18. More than 90 percent will know their abuser.
“It is our job in Randolph County, and in Guilford County, to protect children,” Ozmore said.
Now, the “Stewards of Children” training, which is free, will be offered in Randolph.
Patrick O'Hara, executive director of the Randolph-Asheboro YMCA, and about a dozen of his staff took the training last week.
“It's probably one of the best things I've done for my staff because we're still talking about it,” O'Hara said. “We want to get the word out. We cannot do it without you.
”The goal is to grow D2L's Partner in Prevention network, which is made up of organizations that have trained at least 90 percent of staff and volunteers in the evidence-based Steward of Children curriculum — and commit to train new employees and volunteers. The course counts as CEU credits for those who qualify.
Tuesday's meeting brought together representatives from many Randolph agencies and organizations that touch children — from schools and social services to law enforcement and the courts.
Several agreed that the need to educate the public is great.
Major Aundrea Azelton of the Randolph County Sheriff's Office talked about the department's CARE (Child Abuse Reduction Effort) program, a local curriculum developed under former sheriff Litchard Hurley in 1992. Among the lessons taught to second-graders in the county (and their teachers and parents) is how to identify abuse. Children learn that they have the right to feel safe and to tell a trusted adult if someone is making them feel unsafe.
“What we see as a drawback to that,” Azelton said, “is we have children disclose (abuse) who are not taken seriously. … I think this program can give the community an idea of how prevalent (abuse) is. People do need to know.”
“We deal with these cases every day,” said Det. Debra McKinzie of the Asheboro Police Department. “Stacks and stacks and stacks of 'em.”
Lisa Dodge agreed. Dodge is district administrator of the Guardian ad Litem program. A Guardian ad Litem is a trained volunteer appointed by the court to advocate for the best interests of an abused or neglected child.
“I'm here to tell you,” Dodge said, “it's happening in Randolph County.”
Marlowe said she is willing to share her story to help uncover other stories.
“I know one thing,” she said, “everybody in this room knows someone (who is a child predator). You may not know you know someone.”
A video shared at the luncheon highlighted that notion. It featured male and female survivors of child sexual abuse talking about what had happened to them.
They represented a cross-section of races, cultures and socio-economic circumstances — and demonstrated that, as in the case of Marlowe's ex-husband, a school photographer and respected members of the community, outward appearances can be deceiving: One of the survivors was Marilyn Van Derbur, Miss America 1958, whose father had sexually abused her.
Shawn Columbia, the Y's aquatics director, shared a devotion before the luncheon. He said he had worked with Margaret Hoelzer, an Olympic swimming medalist who was another survivor featured in the video. After the Olympics, Hoelzer revealed that she had been abused by the father of a friend when she was young.
“This is a blessing that we can bring throughout the community,” Columbia said. “It's not just the kids. You don't know who out in the community that this may touch.”
* * *For more information, call Patrick O'Hara at (336) 625-1976, ext. 2003, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call Patti Marlowe at (336) 869-0151 or contact her via email at email@example.com.
5 steps to protect children
* Learn the facts: 1 in 10 children are sexually abused. Over 90 percent of them know their abuser.
* Minimize the opportunity: Eliminate or reduce isolated, one-on-one situations to decrease risk for abuse.
* Talk about it: Have open conversations with children about our bodies, sex and boundaries.
* Recognize the signs: Know the signs of abuse to protect children from further harm.
* React responsibly: Understand how to respond to risky behaviors and suspicions or reports of sexual abuse.
Stop arresting children who are forced into prostitution: Malika Saada Saar and Robert Ross
by Robert K. Ross and Malika Saada Saar
There are few crimes as insidious and evil as the rape of a child by an adult. Law enforcers in California work night and day to find and arrest adults who commit this heinous crime. And once statutory rape is revealed, the people of our state demand swift and unrelenting justice for the perpetrator and health services for the boy or girl who is the victim of the crime.
The above is indisputable, right?
What a lot of Californians don't realize is that there are hundreds of girls, some as young as 12, who are raped every year and the buyers are released after a slap on the wrist, while incredibly, the girls are arrested and thrown into jail.
What's the catch? It's that these girls are trafficked and “sold” on the street corners from Oakland to San Diego, or online. Simply put, we as a state have created a distinction between raping a child and paying to rape a child.
This disparity of justice has to end. Child rape is child rape, whether money is exchanged and whether the rape happened in the back of a car or in the back of an empty classroom.
Last year, we sat in a courtroom in Los Angeles and watched very young girls plead guilty to “child prostitution.” They were girls like our own daughters: intelligent, strong and willful. But they were also girls who had been deeply abused. They had been made into property, sold to the highest bidder, repeatedly raped, and branded — on their faces, necks, or chests — with the names of their traffickers. And then arrested for prostitution, although most of them were not even of legal age to consent to sex.
Those of us in the medical and public health professions are witness to the ways that rape can destroy boys and girls. Unless they are given immediate and extensive mental health services and other support, they are likely to suffer deep behavioral and emotional challenges into their adulthood. But children who are victims of commercial serial rape — often sold to many men every single night — are rarely given access to the health services they need. They are arrested instead.
Some in California defend the practice of arresting trafficked girls on the grounds that it is the only chance to interrupt and sever the trauma bonds the girl has formed with her trafficker. Others, who are anxious to get traffickers behind bars, argue that they need to be able to exert what is called a “twist” over the girls: threaten her with arrest unless she cooperates with law enforcement and testifies against her trafficker.
What gets lost here is that the girl is a child. An abused child. Do we arrest abused children for the abuse committed against them? Do we arrest a child raped by a teacher in order to extract a testimony against her abuser? No, we do not.
In the last few decades, we have made significant progress in addressing, and responding to, the distinct injuries and traumas of child sexual abuse. We have recognized the need for comprehensive health and counseling services specific to children exposed to violence. That's exactly what we need to do for our children who are being bought and sold — provide them access to services and supports — and not criminalize them.
It is time for those of us who take care of our kids — parents, doctors, nurses, and advocates — to lead the fight against the practice of arresting children for prostitution. It makes no sense, and it goes against everything that we have learned about what abused children need, and deserve, in order to heal. Our children are not prostitutes — there is no such thing as a child prostitute. They are victims and survivors of child rape.
Robert K. Ross, MD, is president and CEO of The California Endowment. Malika Saada Saar is a human rights lawyer and executive director ?of the Human Rights Project for Girls.
Now let's get results for survivors
by Angela Constance
TODAY sees the launch of Scotland's independent National Inquiry into the Historical Abuse of Children in Care.
It is a significant landmark coming less than four months after the appointment of the chair, Susan O'Brien QC and marks the start of the Inquiry's official business.
When I addressed the Scottish Parliament in May I said that I expected the inquiry to report within four years of its start date. While the remit of the inquiry now extends beyond that originally envisioned and is ambitious in its scope, it is vitally important that the survivors who have campaigned for justice for so long know that they will receive answers within a reasonable timescale
The inquiry will examine instances of abuse of children in care, including residential care; children's homes; secure care; borstals and young offenders institutions and those placed in foster care. It will also take in allegations from survivors who were boarded out, part of child migrant schemes; those in school hostels and health care units providing long term care; as well as independent boarding schools.
In reaching the decision to commission a national Inquiry I met with survivors and their advocates. They bravely shared their experiences of abuse, but also the effect of fighting to make their voice heard, be believed and answer questions about what happened to them.
I understand that many have become frustrated at the wait this summer to see everything in place to fully examine the failures that allowed these horrific abuses and betrayals of vulnerable young people to take place. My aim throughout this has always been to get the terms and arrangements of this inquiry right to ensure we do not raise the hopes and expectations of all those who have worked with us only to come up short by rushing into decisions that will not deliver for them.
The survivors I have spoken with have campaigned their entire adult lives. They want their experiences recognised but they are also very clear that they need this inquiry to deliver its findings in a timely fashion.
We have established this inquiry with their interests at the heart of the process, so that it might meet their demands to shine a light on these injustices and make sure that we remain forever vigilant in protecting our care services and all young people who rely on them.
Now that the inquiry is going live it will be for the chair and her panel to make arrangements for future evidence sessions and engagement with survivors and others.
There is still work for the Scottish Government to do, but it would not be right to pass this milestone without reflecting on how far we have come.
While Ms O'Brien and her team continue to push forward with this work the Scottish Government will also continue to implement the enhanced support for survivors of abuse in care with an additional £13.5 million invested over five years.
We have also been consulting on the removal of the three-year time bar preventing survivors of childhood abuse seeking to raise a civil action and will continue with this work.
I want to reiterate my thanks for all of the dedication that survivors and their supporters have shown throughout this process and pledge that the government will continue to be on their side.
This inquiry will be the most far-reaching to be held in Scotland. It is the result of work by many people who were badly failed as children and I am confident that with their continued support it will deliver the results they need.
The people of Scotland would expect no less and it is what survivors deserve after all this time.
Angela Constance is the Cabinet Secretary For Education and Lifelong Learning
Police launch child sexual exploitation awareness campaign
DEVON and Cornwall Police has launched a new campaign which aims to raise awareness among parents, teachers and carers of the warning signs that a child is a victim of child sexual exploitation or at risk of becoming one.
Child sexual exploitation is a form of sexual abuse in which a young person is manipulated or forced into taking part in a sexual act, often in return for attention, affection, or gifts.
The young person might think that their abuser is their friend, but the abuser might threaten them or become violent towards them. The abuser will try to control the young person and isolate them from friends and family.
Both young males and young females are at risk and children as young as 10 years old may be targeted and groomed.
Detective Inspector Andrea Kingdon said: "Educating parents, teachers and carers about the signs of child sexual exploitation is an essential part of our strategy for preventing this type of crime.
"Young people may display clear signs that something is amiss or has changed in their lives and that they may be vulnerable.
"We hope that by raising awareness among key adults in children's lives, crimes can be prevented and young people protected.
"Tragically, some young people aren't aware that what is happening to them isn't normal, so they are either unable or unwilling to extract themselves from an abusive or exploitative situation.
"Adult intervention, be it from a parent, trusted teacher or carer at an early stage can help put victims and potential victims back on the right track."
Anne Billington, headteacher at Offwell Primary School near Honiton, said: "It is a sad reality that primary school-aged children are at risk of sexual exploitation. We recognise the importance of educating teachers and parents about the warning signs of CSE, so that action can be taken to safeguard our children as early as possible.
"It is essential that agencies work closely together. We welcome this initiative by Devon and Cornwall Police."
Devon and Corwnall Police is working with partner agencies across the region to distribute information to educate people about the signs and behavioural changes a young person may exhibit if being abused or exploited.
For further information, help and support about CSE visit www.devon-cornwall.police.uk/CSE
Female paedophiles: Why women sexually abuse children
As a woman is jailed for her part in running a 'depraved' child sex abuse ring, Radhika Sanghani speaks to experts about what motivates female abusers
by Radhika Sanghani
Marie Black, 34, has been sexually abusing children for the last 10 years.
She was at the centre of an “utterly depraved” sex abuse ring where two boys and three girls - all aged under 13 - were raped and abused.
Black organised sex parties where children were ‘raffled' to people who would then rape and abuse them.
A judge, who jailed her for life, said it was ‘the most harrowing case' he'd ever seen.
“The children were subjected to sexual abuse of the worst kind,” he said. “They were simply passed around like toys.”
Black was jailed along with two men who were also part of the sex abuse ring: Michael Rogers, 46, and Jason Adams, 44, as well as Carol Stadler, 59, who was found guilty of assault causing actual bodily harm.
But while the men were respectively found guilty of 14 and 13 counts, including rape, (Stadler was clearled of nine other charges bar the assault), Black was found guilty of 23 offences.
It's why she is now being labelled as the ‘mistress' of the gang.
This has shocked many. Sadly paedophilia and sex abuse rings are rarely out of the headlines, but a female ringleader who has sexually abused children is more unusual.
We find female sex offenders abhorrent
Forensic psychologist Nina Burrowes says the gender of female abusers often accounts for some of our shock: “I do generally believe [women sexually abusing children] happens less often than men, but it happens a lot more often than you realise. I suspect it's much more underreported.”
She suggests that society has not been willing to learn more about female paedophilia (where adults are sexually attracted to children) and female child sex abuse (where they either act on those impulses and sexually abuse children, or do it for different reasons).
“We find it abhorrent because it challenges our ideas of women and motherhood,” she explains. “We also find it frightening because we like to live with the idea that men are dangerous and women are safe, so when you see children to a male stranger in the park it's dangerous but if they're talking to a woman it isn't.
“Female sex offenders challenge those notions, which is why a lot of people struggle to believe these things.”
Yet women are paedophiles and child sex abusers. Franca Cortoni, professor of criminology at the University of Montreal, has written extensively on female sex offenders and tells me that though there is an overlap in the way male and female child abusers think, there can be specific motivations for women to offend.
“We do know there are women who are motivated by sexual interest in children but they are only a tiny proportion of female sex offenders,” she explains. “Most women are motivated by an intimacy need. They want to feel close to someone.”
Some of those women will choose an adolescent victim – such as recent cases of teachers having sex with teenage boys and grooming them. “These women are more into the idea of a relationship,” explains Cortoni. “They just choose an adolescent instead of an adult partner because they're less threatening, and they can be in charge.”
Women offending with male partners
But when it comes to women who chooses a prepubescent child as their victim, she says: “I think they have a different type of need. It's no longer that relationship need. They want to feel close to someone who can't reciprocate in that context. They want to feel totally in charge.”
Another key difference between male and female sex offenders is that a third of women do it alongside someone else – typically a male partner.
This is a common feature in the most high-profile cases of female offenders, such as Rosemary West, who helped her husband Fred to rape, torture and murder children and women, and Myra Hindley, who murdered and sexually assaulted five children alongside Ian Brady.
It's also a crucial part in the Black case, where her two former partners were part of the sex abuse ring.
Cortoni says: “There's definitely a very tiny indication that for some of these women, it's because they've been coerced. That doesn't mean physical violence. It could be very much emotional or psychological. They're akin to women who are victims of domestic violence.”
This was part of Black's defence from her lawyers, who said she had suffered domestic violence at the hands of Adams and that he “was a very manipulative” man who exploited her. But barristers representing Adams and Rogers rejected this notion saying: “She is the common denominator between all the offences.”
Male coercion of female abusers
But there have been cases where this coercion is clearer. Paedophile and former Lostprophets singer Ian Watkins was jailed in 2013 for child sex offences including the attempted rape of a baby. But as well as committing the crimes himself, he also encouraged a female fan to abuse her child during a webcam chat, as well as enticing another to join him on his paedophilic mission.
The judge sentencing him at the time, Mr Justice Royce, said: “You had many fawning fans. That gave you power. You knew you could use that power to induce young female fans to help satisfy your insatiable lust and take part in the sexual abuse of their own children.”
Cortoni explains more about these kinds of female sex offenders: “They'll do whatever he says in that context because they lose who they are. Some believe it will bring them closer to their partner. Often it's to do with their own background and whatever happened when they were raised.
“People think they're mentally ill but they're not always. I prefer to say they're predominantly dysfunctional.”
Serial sex offenders
While some of the most high-profile cases of female sex offenders show them committing repeated crimes against children, such as Black and West, it isn't a typical pattern. Instead Cortoni explains that serial female child abusers are rare:
“The make-up of women is different to men. I think in terms of sexuality and preferences, women as a group tend to require more affiliation and closeness with their sexual partner. When serial sexual offending occurs, it's normally from deviant sexual arousal.
“They [typically men] are either strongly attracted to children and want more variety or they're aroused by violence, like serial rapists. Women's sexual patterns don't work quite the same way.”
The only worry is that this could change. Tony Beech, criminological psychology professor at the University of Birmingham says that women don't commit as many crimes as men but they might, very gradually, start catching up.
“Women seem to be more like men these days,” he explains, referencing a recent rise in drinking and violence. That wouldn't necessarily affect their chances of becoming paedophiles, which is based on sexual attraction to children, but it could mean an increase in women being sexually violent towards children.
It's why, as Burrowes says, society needs to start recognising and believing that women can be child sex abusers too: "It's something we really need to open our eyes and ears to.”
How social workers can help support children in domestic abuse cases
Refuge charity Hestia explains how social workers can better interact with refuges to support victims of domestic abuse
by Abid Gangat
Each year more than 950,000 children across the UK are affected by domestic abuse, either directly as victims, or indirectly as witnesses. This is higher than the entire population of Leeds, with a further estimated 30,000 children staying in domestic abuse refuges across the UK – the population of Whitstable.
Children are often highly traumatised after experiencing or being exposed to abusive behaviours, controlling environments or physical violence. Without access to targeted support focused on their individual needs and experiences, these problems can (and often do) extend into adulthood.
Despite these staggering figures, the approach to supporting these children is heavily focused on the mother, assuming children will also benefit. While this is important, especially when ensuring initial safety, it fails to take into account the impact domestic abuse has on children.
Working with refuge staff
At Hestia, refuge staff work closely with external social workers providing multi-agency support for women and children escaping abuse. In 2014, Hestia supported more than 4,000 women and child survivors of domestic abuse.
Upon arrival it is important domestic abuse survivors receive the best support possible and, when working in a multi-agency dynamic, communication is key. Due to pressure and time restraints on social workers, it is essential that, when working with residents of domestic abuse refuges, they allocate time to talk with the clients' key workers.
Refuge managers stress the importance of inter-agency communication; one said their best worked case was where a social worker came into the office, sat down and asked them for an update on every visit.
This reflexive inter-agency communication (be it a scheduled meeting or a cup of tea and a catch-up before meeting with a client) is crucial when supporting survivors of domestic abuse, as it has a complex impact on both women and children and on inter-family relationships. Without insight, the best interests of these children could be compromised.
It is imperative for social workers and other external staff to have full knowledge of child development, and the understanding that it can be severely impacted by domestic abuse. Post abuse, children may have behavioural problems such as eating disorders, bedwetting, and depression. The emotional and psychological damage often leads to children feeling guilt, shame, anxiety and withdrawal. Domestic abuse may stunt a child's development, which can become apparent through their educational progress.
Hestia's campaign, Hidden Child, aims to ensure that all children in refuges receive support. Its recommendations include that the Department for Education consider granting children living in refuges the same level of priority as ‘looked after children' regarding access to school admissions and pupil premium. Local authorities should also commission direct support services for children in refuges.
Clinical commissioning groups should fund specialist therapeutic programmes for children living in refuges, and provide funding to ensure provision of a children and family worker to support this vital work. The campaign also recommends that the Home Office addresses the needs of children in refuges through the next national violence against women and girls strategy.
Support for families
“Support” can come in many forms; practical support can involve acting as the families' advocate, including accompanying families to other support agencies, attending court cases, and writing reports on the child's welfare.
Alongside advocacy work, it's important to engage children with positive activities – like play sessions, homework clubs and school holiday activity days. Through activities like these, families can adjust to new surroundings which, in turn, has a positive impact on the mental health and behaviour of the children.
Healing together is the core of our approach, and it's important that agencies working with children in refuges remain aware of the impact of domestic abuse on the parenting dynamic. Much of our work focuses on restoring and supporting the relationship between mother and child, with whole-family activities offering huge benefits. Providing clearer insight and understanding into the family dynamics helps build positive family relationships needed to break the cycle of abuse.
For more information about Hidden Child, or to see how you can help these families, please visit: www.hestia.org/hiddenchild
CASA volunteers focus on kids
by Laura Bauer
In cases of child neglect or abuse, where a child is in state care or under state supervision, children have several adults working their case in court.
A social worker represents the state. That worker follows policies and procedures to make sure a child is safe. A guardian ad litem represents the child's legal interests in court.
But it's the CASA — Court Appointed Special Advocate — volunteer who is the most personal. A private investigator of sorts.
It's the volunteer's role to find out information about the children, including what brought them into foster care.
“The role of the CASA is to learn as much about the child as possible,” said Lois Rice, executive director of CASA for Johnson & Wyandotte Counties.
Not every case gets a CASA, because there aren't enough volunteers. A CASA is often assigned in severe instances of abuse and neglect, or cases with a large sibling group.
A CASA volunteer typically carries one case at a time, although experienced volunteers can handle two. State social workers sometimes juggle 30 or more.
Through the course of the court case, the CASA can bring up issues to the social workers and judge. A child may need therapy or have concerns at school.
In the end, the volunteer then will make a recommendation to the judge.
“Finding the right family for a child, that can make all the difference in the world,” Rice said. “To get the support, the care, the physical and emotional nurturing so that they can feel safe again.
“With that proper home environment and services, the kids can be very resilient and overcome those early behaviors and adapt to a more warm and caring and nurturing home.”
To volunteer or donate
For more about CASA, including how to volunteer in the Kansas City area, go to www.casakc.org, or call 913-715-4042 on the Kansas side. In Jackson County, call 816-984-8204.
Other ways to help include donating money or supplies such as diapers, baby wash, toothpaste and “birthday bags” for children in foster care.
Forensic scientist Dr. Henry Lee, whose cases include Nicole Simpson and JonBenét Ramsey, offers Baystate trauma conference his expertise
by Anne-Gerard Flynn
HOLYOKE - Forget "C.S.I.," "Bones" or even "N.C.I.S." In the world of real forensic science, Dr. Henry Lee is the star. The much interviewed forensic scientist has consulted on cases, ranging from the 1994 murders of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman to the 1996 murder of six-year-old Colorado beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey to the 2008 murder of two-year old Caylee Anthony.
He was asked to review evidence in a re-investigation of the 1963 assassination of President John Kennedy, and more recently was asked for input on the murdered Massachusetts toddler finally identified after four months as Bella Bond.
"I only do cold cases now," said Lee who, at 76, retains his youthful smile and signature dry sense of humor. His investigations may not be active cases, but he remains active in a number of areas. He is organizing an upcoming conference on cases that involve police shootings that includes St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch, and he was at the Log Cabin Tuesday as keynote speaker for a Baystate Medical Center conference on pediatric trauma.
Lee, former director of the Connecticut State Police Forensic Science Laboratory. relished the fact the conference brought together medical providers as well as law enforcement officials. His talk covered the importance of documentation and team effort in determining cases that involve child neglect and abuse.
"I think a lot of the family violence is basically because of drugs and alcohol. With my work I see a lot of child abuse, not necessarily all sexual abuse, but physical abuse. This is happening not only in the United States, but around the world," Lee said.
"This is why this conference is an excellent vehicle to get everyone, from the police officer to the hospital worker to the emergency people to family workers, to face this issue of how we can reduce the violence. How we can help with traumatic stress of those who work in this area, and how we can help them to consult with the family and explain to young children the loss of a classmate."
Lee said his talks stress the fact that his field of forensic science is only one of almost 36 sub-specialties that work to determine the cause of a crime.
"As forensic scientists we exam the physical evidence," Lee said.
"Where we can particularly help is in those investigations where the victim is young and cannot speak for themselves. A lot of cases involve family members and they refuse to talk to the investigator or they lie to them. So you have to rely on physical evidence."
Lee added that forensic scientists, in working with police on investigations into child abuse, look at patterns of evidence in several different ways.
"Injury pattern you won't see the first day. You have to wait to the second or third day to see the contrast and determine what type of instrument was used," said Lee of the first pattern type.
The second pattern, Lee said, relates to body markings.
"You might not always have an open wound, but a settled marking on the body. The investigator has to have the knowledge of how to link this to a certain event," Lee said.
"The third type of pattern involves why a child is brought to a hospital. Someone might say the child fell or stepped into hot water - maybe a teapot was on - the investigator really doesn't know. You have to look at the pattern and whether or not it is consistent with the alibi of the story or inconsistent. You can try to take the temperature of the water to correlate with the damage. Could the water cause such a kind of injury?"
Lee said bite marks on a child are another pattern. They may be a sign of neglect, or of sexual abuse.
"You go to the family and check the home situation to understand the living style, sanitation condition, and possibility of sexual abuse," said Lee. He added a pattern of emotional abuse may cause a child to become withdrawn.
Like his TV counterparts, Lee said it is important for evidence to be preserved and documented at every point of contact from the scene of the crime through transport to the hospital to the medical examiner.
"Without the physical evidence, there is not much we can do," Lee said.
Lee said the media frequently asks about the high profile cases he has consulted on and, while memorable, he said the ones "that really touch you" are the "day-to-day cases."
"Most investigators are touched by these cases," Lee said, "especially the ones involving senior citizens or younger people. The ones who cannot speak for themselves and they need someone else to help them. "
Unlike his TV counterparts, Lee said it takes longer than a 60 minute show to solve a crime and involves much teamwork.
He recalled the murders of a grandmother, her 40-year-old son and her eight-year-old granddaughter. He said it took weeks for investigators to solve the case, but they did.
"It was a terrible case. They died of multiple stabbing wounds. The grandma had 24 stabbing wounds, the son had 37 and the girl had 14," said Lee, who added the media became less enamored with his international reputation as days passed without an arrest.
"Solving the case is not by myself. It is team work You need the police officer, the forensic scientist, you need the community support, the witnesses. You need everyone coming together to solve the case. Sometimes you watch too much TV where they say we solve the case alone. This is not possible."
Lee added technology has both improved as well as complicated crime scene investigations.
"It is two-edged sword. Technology helps, but of course technology hurts too. DNA helps find a suspect, except when there is a mixture of DNA," Lee said.
"Unfortunately science is not always black and white like television shows," said Lee, adding that hair, bite marks and incomplete fingerprints cannot definitely tie someone to a murder but do provide important clues.
Connecticut's chief criminologist, from 1979 to 2000, and its public safety commissioner for two years before retiring in 2000, Lee is credited with creating the forensic science program at the University of New Haven, where the Institute of Forensic Science is also named for him. He is also credited with helping to develop the state police laboratory into a 38,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility.
His quiet professionalism stands in contrast to the brutality of some of his case work, and hardly hints at his career start in Taiwan, where he grew up and attained the rank of police captain in Taipei. He came to the United States in 1965, worked menial jobs and earned a forensic science degree from John Jay College in 1972. He continued his studies in biochemistry at New York University, earning both a master's degree and doctorate.
Lee took at teaching job at the University of New Haven, in 1975, and began volunteering his services at the state crime lab. His focus on science and the proper gathering of evidence helped spread his reputation as a reliable criminologist, and he has worked on cases both here and abroad as well as been sought out by news reporters and talk show hosts for his opinions.
His "Police Involved Shooting Incidents: Legal Process, Investigation and Forensic Evidence " will be held Friday and Saturday from 8:30 and to 4 p.m. at the University of New Haven's Bucknall Theater in Dodds Hall Besides Lee and McCullough, participants include U.S. Attorney General Deidre Daly, noted forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht, retired Police Chief Mel Tucker, Dr. Michael Baden, the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy on Ferguson teenager Michael Brown for Brown's family, and retired Detective Rick Graham. For more information, call (203) 932-7460.
The Adversity Faced in Childhood That Has No Name
by Brian F. Martin
Did you know that growing up facing adversity in your childhood home has an impact on your life that can last well into your adult years?
The adversity negatively wires a developing brain. This can cause us to struggle with our relationships, emotions, behaviors, and health. What's more, one of these adversities doesn't even have a name.
You have heard of physical child abuse, sexual or emotional abuse...
The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study examined a wide range of childhood adversities and documented the impact they can have on a life. Most of these adversities are well known. You have heard of physical child abuse, sexual or emotional abuse, losing someone to incarceration or divorce, and others. But one adversity in particular has practically no awareness -- Childhood Domestic Violence (CDV) -- which is when a child grows up living in a home with domestic violence.
What is in a name?
Growing up with childhood domestic violence encodes a series of negative beliefs, or LIES, in your developing brain. The brain's job is to find evidence of what it believes is true. So if you believe that there is something wrong with you -- that you are a fearful, angry, or worthless person early in life -- the brain does its job and finds evidence as to why that belief is the truth.
So if you don't even know what to call the adversity you faced, how can you begin to unlearn the lies that the experience encoded?
Finding a name for his adversity
Roger "Rock" Lockridge shared his story of growing up with childhood domestic violence in my book INVINCIBLE: The 10 Lies You Learn Growing Up with Domestic Violence, and the Truths to Set You Free. A critical step for him was realizing there was a name for the adversity that he grew up with and how having that name set him on his journey towards discovering the truths.
In a recent interview with Amanda Kippert at domesticshelters.org, he shared this turning point: "The fact that there was a name ... I had tried for years to find some way to identify this thing I was feeling. Childhood domestic violence seemed so simple but was something I couldn't think of. Once I was able to understand it, I was able to overcome it."
Visionary organizations are leading the way to greater awareness
What good is a name if no one knows it? A select group of visionary organizations are leading the way to greater awareness. Domesticshelters.org and writers like Ms. Kippert are now calling CDV by name, highlighting its importance in the general conversation of domestic violence.
In a previous blog post, I told you about a new initiative that the New York City Department of Education is introducing in select schools to help teachers spot clues that students might have been exposed to violence, understand how that can affect students, and know what resources are available to them.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) recently hosted a series of webinars for its constituents to educate them on the effects of growing up with domestic violence. They now regularly use "CDV" in their communications on the topic.
As part of the launch of INVINCIBLE last year, free copies of the book were distributed to nearly 4,000 Boys & Girls Clubs of America locations across the country to help train staff on CDV and how it impacts children.
As other organizations join these leaders in calling CDV by name in their own materials and outreach, more of those who grew up with domestic violence will have the opportunity to give their experience a much-needed name, just as Roger did.
How can a name change society?
It made a difference in Roger's life, but how can a name change society?
Those who experience childhood domestic violence are six times more likely to die by suicide, 50 times more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, and 74 times more likely to commit a violent crime against another. UNICEF calls CDV "the single best predictor of children becoming either perpetrators or victims of domestic violence later in life."
Addiction, violent crime rates, and the number of incarcerated individuals can be reduced with simple awareness. Knowing the name "CDV" and being able to apply it to their own experiences or those of loved ones gives those who grew up with it a greater chance to unlearn the lies and not be another statistic.
What can you do?
Sharing your experiences with CDV is a great first step in helping yourself. But your story is also important to the millions of other people who faced the same childhood but don't know what to call it. Your story serves as a guiding light. You, too, can be a pioneer in raising awareness of CDV by just using the name.
The paperback edition of INVINCIBLE, filled with riveting stories just like Roger's, is coming out this October and is currently available for preorder.
Do you want to help children who are currently growing up with CDV? I urge you to take a look at the Change A Life program. It is the only online training program currently available that is proven effective to help guide, prepare and qualify an adult to step into the life of someone who grew up facing adversity in their childhood home. It's free and takes only 30 minutes.
Simply by using the term "CDV," you are making a difference. And as more organizations and individuals use it, the closer we get to naming the "unnamed" childhood adversity.
Prosper teacher says she was blamed for reporting colleague's sexual misconduct
by TOM BOGGIONI
A high school principal in Texas –already under fire for conducting daily Bible readings with his students — has been accused of harassing a whistle-blower teacher for going to the cops about a fellow teacher sexually assaulting a student, reports the Dallas Morning News.
According to former teacher MariBeth Thomas, Prosper High principal Greg Wright called her on the carpet for turning to the police after a student confided in her that a teacher had been touching her and making sexual advances.
In a lawsuit filed against the school district, Thomas claims Wright was upset with her for going to the police, saying he viewed news of the molestation as a public relations issue.
“I'm all about the team. I'm all about PR and how this high school looks, and we're going to take care of this young lady, and we're going to do it in a confidential manner to protect her, to protect all parties that are involved,” Wright said during a March meeting in his office that was recorded. “That's why we have an internal police department to take care of these serious situations.”
“You don't ever go outside the parameters of Prosper ISD police,” Wright told Thomas, adding that, if allegations got out, then the media would be alerted.
According to the teen who went to Thomas, the unidentified teacher touched her thighs while insisting that he “liked” her when she was alone with him during a tutoring session.The high school junior reportedly said she immediately got up and left the room.
Thomas states that after being reprimanded by Wright, she received her first bad evaluation and was excluded from meetings. According to her attorney, she also received harassing texts from colleagues.
According to Prosper ISD assistant superintendent, Michael Goddard, principal Wright did nothing wrong, stating that district internal security should have been given the opportunity to investigate before bringing in outside authorities.
“Was it an uncomfortable meeting? Absolutely. Was she reprimanded? No,” Goddard said. “I think there could have been softer ways to handle it, sure. But the message of making sure we have the correct information before moving forward was important.”
Goddard did not address whether the teacher is still at the school.
Principal Wright already has his hands full after receiving a letter from the Freedom from Religion Foundation accusing him of reading from the Bible to students at the their morning “See You At The Pole” prayer sessions. According to the Friendly Atheist, Wright is reportedly planning a Christian “First Priority” club that, according to a parent writing on Facebook, “will meet twice per month in the auditorium. They will sing, pray and praise.”
Added the parent: “He's encouraging students to be proactive and make their daily walk with Christ a priority.”
Britain's Botched Child Abuse Scandal
Scotland Yard feeds a media frenzy against top politicians by publicizing salacious and anonymous accusations.
by Philip Jenkins
To put it mildly, it was an awkward social situation. After murdering a small boy during a pedophile orgy, a senior Member of Parliament determined to castrate another victim with a knife. He was prevented from this act by a former British Prime Minister who was present at the event. That fellow-pervert suggested that this was going a little far, even for a group that had already murdered several other children. How far we have traveled from Downton Abbey.
If I seem to be treating such a horrific story sarcastically, I honestly do not know how else to respond to such a monstrous and fantastic allegation, or the fact that senior ranks of the British police have treated this phantasmagoric tale—and countless others of the same sort—as sober fact. Lives and reputations have been ruined. Fortunately, it now seems that the whole disastrous saga of falsehoods is about to collapse amidst purges and resignations, with growing warnings about police reliance on “narcissists and fantasists.” The main question presently is how much of the British legal and criminal justice system will go down with this horribly flawed investigation. Dare we hope that common sense will at last prevail?
Some months ago, I outlined the mythology of “elite pedophile rings” that had been circulating in Britain for some years. The allegedly homicidal MP in question was Harvey Proctor, the former Premier was Edward Heath, while other rumored perpetrators from the early 1980s included multiple figures at the highest ranks of politics, intelligence and the military. One of the accused was former Home Secretary Leon Brittan, others were the heads of MI5 and MI6. As the saying goes, extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence, and that was certainly applicable in this instance—but what was extraordinary was how incredibly weak-to-non-existent was the evidence offered.
The whole “Westminster Pedophile Ring” extravaganza depends on the unsupported testimony of one anonymous man, “Nick,” a 47-year old administrator in the National Health Service, and a former nurse, who reports being present at various events as an abused child victim. His claims may theoretically be correct, but as yet, no corroboration has been found to support them. Even so, he became the star witness for a special police investigative unit, Operation Midland, and last year one leading officer described Nick's testimony as “credible and true.” As even the Metropolitan Police has now admitted, the prejudicial word “true” should never have been uttered in this context—but how convenient never to have to take any of these cases to trial! If the police were able simply to declare the charges true then ideally, nothing would be left except to build the bonfire for the accused.
Over the months, Nick's tales have faced increasing skepticism, and major new exposés should be forthcoming within the coming weeks, as long-postponed investigative documentaries finally appear on British television. Nick's many critics point out that he had for years reported suffering extensive abuse as a child, but only very recently did he add the charges about elite offenders and MPs. So why on earth did the police call Nick “credible”? Later statements explained what this meant. Yes, police might sometimes encounter serial liars and hopeless fantasists, but in police eyes, “Nick” did not fit that bill, as he is a respectable, well-spoken, middle class guy not actually slavering at the mouth. Therefore, he could not be lying. Even if he is reporting events factually, it is surely very bad practice to judge someone's reliability or truthfulness wholly on their demeanor and speech habits.
We have to be cautious about using the word “lying,” which implies deliberately and knowingly making false statements. It is simple, though, to cite examples where people have falsely reported child abuse, without actually lying. In the 1990s, many thousands of patients of so-called recovered memory treatment recounted atrocious sufferings at the hands of ritualized and Satanic abuse rings. Some of those patients presumably had been abused in some form, but we can say with total confidence that the vast majority of the episodes they were reporting never happened as objective realities. These people, too, generally presented as rational, well-balanced adults, often from decent professional backgrounds, and they genuinely believed what they were saying. But what they described still never happened.
Quite apart from recovered memory cases, other people do indeed tell false tales—although we might again cavil that they are not consciously lying. Of course serial liars exist, and some genuinely reach the point where they do not know the difference between truth and fiction. Britain's Daily Telegraph recently exposed one alleged abuse victim, “who also claimed to have evidence of two murders, had been convicted of making hoax bomb calls, had falsely confessed to murder, and been accused by a judge of telling ‘whopping lies'.”
In the real world, such a career history would devastate the witness's credibility, but in the mirror universe of child abuse investigation, it actually bolsters the claims. Let me explain that paradox. Central to that whole mindset is one simple statement that has achieved the status of a religious creed: victims never lie about child abuse. Children don't lie, nor do adults reporting their childhood sufferings. If you doubt this fact—if you use a word like “alleged” victim—then you are an accomplice to that abuse. If you seek to challenge or discredit statements about abuse, then you are also striking at all future victims and survivors who would be discouraged from reporting their experiences. Doubt is of the devil.
That approach helps us understand the extreme tolerance granted to purported victims who on the face of it sound deeply unconvincing: the ones with lengthy records of psychiatric treatment and commitment; with multiple convictions for petty crime and fraud; with decades-long involvement with substance abuse, including the hardest and most destructive drugs; and the serial liars. What about the ones who utter not a word about the alleged crimes until 20 or 30 years after the event? Surely, these are not credible?
Oh ye of little faith. Listen to the experts, read the professional journals, and you shall know the truth. In fact, we are told, the degree of mental disorder and social malfunction in adult life is a direct and inevitable consequence of the childhood abuse, and the severity of that abuse is directly proportionate to the degree of adult dysfunction. In simple terms, the worse the acts of childhood molestation and rape, the more likely the lying and substance abuse. Of course they seem to be crazy people, drug addicts, and persistent liars, and that fact proves the truth of their claims. Got that? Equally, the worse the abuse, the longer the time period before they might feel able to expose it to the world.
Then, we add the last critical element, of anonymity. No abuse victim wishes to be exposed to scorn, so of course he or she is granted anonymity in making charges, a luxury not afforded to the alleged abuser. That protection is doubly necessary when the victim is exposing the horrors attributed to politicians and intelligence officers, who might seek revenge. In practice, then, we have the perfect situation for the generation of accusations: the more improbable or ludicrous the charges, the more likely they are to be believed, and all accusations can be lodged from behind a wall of secrecy.
In a powerful press conference, Harvey Proctor gave the police a simple choice. Charge him immediately with murder and let the case go before a jury—or else identify “Nick” publicly, and prosecute him for wasting police time. And let the police involved be moved to some other function where their skills can be used more profitably, such as traffic duty.
His challenge stands.
Childhood trauma can have deep roots
by Katherine Lymn
When a child is unruly in the classroom or doesn't respond well to praise in a foster home, more often than not there's a traumatic experience behind the behavior that needs to be addressed. Adults caught in the cycle of crime or abuse often can trace it back to trauma they experienced early in their lives.
About 200 people, including domestic violence shelter staff and foster parents, gathered Tuesday at the Oshkosh Convention Center to learn how to address this issue during the Fox Valley Trauma Informed Symposium.
For too long, the community has asked what's wrong with a person to make them act out, commit crimes or have other antisocial or unacceptable behaviors, said Lyn Beyer, executive director of Reach Counseling Services. The Oshkosh-based sexual assault prevention and response group organized the event, the first of its kind in the Fox Valley.
Instead, Beyer said, "We have to ask what happened to you that brought you to this place."
The key is to help individuals heal from trauma that could affect them for years, she said. And that can help break the cycle of generational abuse and poverty.
Trauma, Beyer said, "really is the root of many of our society issues."
Sessions covered LGBTQ-specific responses to trauma; how to help traumatized victims through the use of horses or yoga; and the complex traumas of being a victim of human trafficking.
Reach Counseling offered discounted registration fees to teachers, foster parents, childcare providers, clergy or anyone who may encounter traumatized individuals in their day-to-day work "on the front lines," Beyer said.
She said trauma awareness is a community issue. Companies' human resource professionals, for example, can be more trauma-aware by knowing what questions to ask when someone has several absences from work for unknown reasons.
Like Beyer, Sara Daniel of Milwaukee's SaintA human services agency, encouraged a focus on trauma-informed care in day-to-day interactions, not just in a therapist's office. Daniel said she hopes for everyone from local parent-teacher associations to rotary clubs to better understand the effect of trauma on health and success later in life.
Diana Aronson and Bryn Wehrwein were two of several members of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Head Start staff who attended Tuesday's event. While Head Start always has had a focus on working with parents and children together, the symposium is validating what they have seen and reinforcing the importance of asking someone about their behavior.
"We will definitely ask more questions earlier," Wehrwein said.
Sometimes childhood traumas can be linked to health problems later in life, from alcoholism to obesity, said Daniel, director of clinical services and staff development at SaintA.
Experiences like car crashes or sudden deaths are one kind of trauma, but many of the providers present on Tuesday may interact with children who have experienced more "complex, developmental trauma," Daniel said, like an upbringing peppered with abuse or the troubles of a parent with addiction.
Someone who grew up facing abuse naturally will appear more edgy or defensive, Daniel said. "Of course you learned that," she said. "That's how you survived."
Child abuse victim: Change law
by Marcia Moore
MIDDLEBURG — Frozen by fear, Carol Krouse Rearick stayed silent for three decades about the sexual abuse she endured as a child.
Between the ages of 13 and 16, the former Selinsgrove resident said she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by men she knew and felt helpless to fend off.
“I was afraid that if I told I would be put in foster care,” said Rearick, now 50 and living in South Carolina.
The married mother of three is speaking out in support of a proposed Pennsylvania law to eliminate the statute of limitations on criminal and civil actions involving child sexual abuse.
Introduced in the House earlier this year, Bill 655 would allow victims to pursue alleged child predators regardless of the amount of time that has passed, a proposal favored by state Rep. Fred Keller, R-85, of Kreamer.
“I support whatever we can do to strengthen laws that protect children,” Keller said Monday.
Under current law in Pennsylvania, victims under the age of 18 who were born before Aug. 27, 2002, have 12 years after their 18th birthday to file criminal charges. Victims under the age of 18 born after Aug. 27, 2002, have 32 years after their 18th birthday to pursue an alleged perpetrator in the criminal courts.
Snyder County District Attorney Michael Piecuch supports eliminating the statute of limitations on sex crimes against children, but cautions against giving victims false hope.
“These cases are the absolute worst, aside from homicide for which there is no statute of limitations,” he said.
Sexual assault crimes are also the hardest to prosecute.
“If you're bringing charges 30 to 40 years later, talk about a cold case,” Piecuch said. “There are serious evidentiary issues.”
If eliminating the statute of limitations would help victims gain closure and keep the heat on child predators, Keller said, it's worth supporting.
“It might be a deterrent if someone knows the potential for litigation lasts forever,” he said.
Rearick said she would have liked to have the chance to formally accuse her abusers in a court of law.
“I could at least say I tried to make them pay for what they did,” she said.
Man pulled 4-year-old autistic boy's teeth in ‘vicious' child abuse case, prosecutors say
by Elahe Izadi
The mother of a 4-year-old boy went to the Upper Perk Police Department in Pennsylvania “visibly upset” and carrying a plastic bag containing three teeth, bloodied and intact to the root, according to authorities.
Those teeth, she reported, belonged to her 4-year-old son. Prosecutors on Monday accused Nicholas Kernechel of pulling the boy's teeth in the July incident and announced charges against the 27-year-old, including aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of a child.
The boy was in the care of Kernechel the night of July 18, according to Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman's office.
Kernechel was the live-in boyfriend of the boy's mother, and the 4-year-old is autistic, the Associated Press reported.
“It's hard to use the word ‘motive' to describe an event like this, that is just so callous and vicious,” Ferman said in a video interview with the Pottstown Mercury. “From what we surmise, the little boy wasn't doing exactly what this defendant expected or wanted him to do, and it was a reaction purely in anger.”
She added the incident represents “one of the most horrific cases of child abuse that we've seen in a very long time.”
Kernechel's attorney Patrick McMenamin Jr., said his client didn't abuse the child and the injuries were “an unfortunate accident,” AP reported.
McMenamin added that Kernechel had been helping the child get out of bed to use the bathroom when the boy slipped, fell and hit his head on a table and floor.
In addition to the missing teeth, the boy “had visible, severe facial and dental injuries, including an extremely swollen upper lip, a bloody upper gum line, and bruises all over his face,” prosecutors said in a statement.
Montgomery County prosecutors allege that after the boy's teeth were pulled, “Kernechel left [the boy] in his bed, bleeding and crying, and failed to tell his mother about his injuries when she returned to the apartment in the early morning hours.”
The Mercury newspaper reported the boy's mother told investigators she left her son with Kernechel while she went out with friends for about two hours.
It wasn't until the following morning that the mother found her son inside his room, “asleep on the floor, lying on top of dried blood,” reads a statement from the district attorney's office.
Investigators asked the boy about the teeth, to which he responded Kernechel “hit and take them [his teeth] out,” prosecutors said.
A judge set Kernechel's bail at $100,000 during his arraignment and forbade him from having contact with the mother and son. His next hearing is scheduled for Thursday.
Child abuse survivor to speak in Odessa
by Ruth Campbell
John Borgstedt, a survivor of what authorities considered one of the worst instances of child abuse in Texas history, will speak at A Call to Action event, set for 6 p.m. Oct. 23 at Asbury United Methodist Church, 4001 E. University Blvd. The event is free.
In a phone interview earlier this week, Borgstedt said his mother suffered from Munchausen by proxy syndrome. Also known as medical child abuse, Munchausen by proxy was named after Baron von Munchausen, an 18th-century German dignitary known for making up stories about his travels and experiences in order to get attention, according to the Kidshealth.org website.
According to the site, “by proxy” indicates that the child's caretaker is making up or exaggerating symptoms in a child, not in themselves.
Borgstedt said his mother, now deceased, placed him in institutions starting at age 3 and would admit him into the emergency room under false pretenses and just leave him there.
Other instances the 38-year-old East Texas resident cited include being left out on Galveston Beach all day resulting in third-degree burns and his mother drugging him so he couldn't get out of the bath tub in hopes he would drown.
He went from his mother to being a ward of the state and suffered abuse at the hands of his caretakers. “I couldn't count the number of facilities I was in from age 8 to 18. After that, I had so much hatred toward society and authority figures that I wanted not only my mother and father to fear the sound of my name, but also society,” Borgstedt said.
Because of what he went through and the feeling that the system had failed him, Borgstedt felt the public was responsible for it. He said he got into organized crime, moving guns into Canada and Mexico. He went to prison for five years, got out and decided to try and change things for children.
When you see cases of children killing their parents, people don't consider what might have led up to the crime, Borgstedt said. He said he's not condoning what these people may have done. Borgstedt said he had a chance to kill his mother once, but one of his two sisters stopped him. He also has a brother.
He said he now has no association with his family.
Now an award-winning author, motivational speaker and child advocate, husband and stepfather, Borgstedt wants people to know that past circumstances don't have to affect their future.
He didn't want to have children himself for fear that the cycle might be repeated. “There's something within that line that I don't want to reproduced,” Borgstedt said. “I also look at it on a more positive note: I have a lot to offer. …”
Knowing he had a story to tell, Borgstedt said he had to find a market and figure out how he could be the most helpful to children. After his first speaking engagement before a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) gathering, things took off.
The first three weeks his book “I Love You Mom, Please Don't Break My Heart” was out, he said it hit 25,000 outlets worldwide.
Despite his accolades, Borgstedt said his speaking engagements are nerve-racking.
“I never feel that I'm good enough,” he said. But people react with hugs, handshakes and bags of mail. At a book signing at a Barnes & Noble in Battle Creek, Mich., a youngster asked him to put a motivational quote in his book and said the book stopped him from killing himself.
“It's those that they really hit home,” Borgstedt said. “I've tried to commit suicide myself. I flatlined on the table,” but the doctor revived him.
By offering this presentation, Carrie Kennedy, prevention specialist at Harmony Home, said the agency is hoping to bring awareness of child abuse and educate the community about it.
Harmony Home is hoping to offer a presentation every quarter, culminating with the Champions for Children event in April. April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, Kennedy said.
A question-and-answer period will follow Borgstedt's talk and documentary. Those who wish to attend are asked to respond using the eventbrite link at http://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-call-to-action-event-with-john-borgstedt-tickets-18639789111?aff=eac2.
Child protection conference to focus on effects of abuse
by Mario Marroquin
UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State is trying something new with its Conference on Child Protection and Well-Being.
The annual event being held Wednesday and Thursday will focus on the effects of child abuse rather than means of prevention and raising awareness, as previous conferences have done.
More than a dozen experts in the biology of stress, maltreatment and trauma will participate in the conference, which is open to the public and is being held at the Nittany Lion Inn.
For Jennie Noll, director of Penn State's Network on Child Protection and Well-Being, the conference is about bringing together researchers and educators in the field with those practicing in the field, such as pediatricians.
“Hopefully… we will have a dialogue that translates the sciences into useful strategies. This would be new interventions, or different kinds of therapies, or different ways to start to recognize when different health problems begin to manifest,” Noll said.
The conference aims to shed new light onto the fields of endocrinology, immunology, neuroscience and genomics as they affect long-term behaviors in victims of child abuse.
Exploiting conversations among researchers and practitioners not only can lead to a decrease in the long-term, harmful physical effects of child abuse, but can also decrease health care spending by creating programs better designed to help child abuse victims throughout their lives, according to assistant director Sandee Kyler, a member of the Penn State Social Science Research Institute.
In addition to hosting the annual conference, the network coordinates with university, local, state and national organizations to raise awareness of child maltreatment. The organization hopes to increase public investment, research and prevention.
Individuals can register the day of the event. Penn State students can attend both days for free with a valid ID. The conference begins with Penn State President Eric Barron's remarks at 8:35 a.m.
Sudbury teachers need to confront child abuse: Report
by Harold Carmichael
It may be a difficult thing to do, but teachers need to report any suspected cases of child abuse they come across, a senior Greater Sudbury Police officer said Tuesday.
In such cases, teachers must have "fierce conversations" with a student suspected of being abused or neglected to get that child help, Greater Sudbury Police Det.-Sgt. Jordan Buchanan said.
"They are the ones we don't want to have, but we have to have them," he said. "'You are coming in every day with bruises: I have to know what's going on.'"
Buchanan made the comments as the Council of the Ontario College of Teachers - the self-governing body of Ontario's 239,000 elementary and secondary teachers - released a four-page professional advisory entitled The Duty to Report in a briefing in Sudbury.
The Duty to Report is one of the recommendations made by an inquest jury that that looked into Jeffrey Baldwin's death. Jeffrey was a five year-old Toronto boy who died after suffering years of mistreatment by his grandparents.
Council of the Ontario College of Teachers officials are unveiling the advisory at six events across Ontario, including Greater Sudbury.
Joe Jamieson, the college's deputy registrar, said the thrust of the advisory was teachers have a professional duty to report when they suspect child abuse or neglect.
"Knowledge of the duty to report with college members is generally uneven and sometimes inaccurate," he said. "As full-time professionals, teachers are often the first people to see and suspect child abuse, the first to call the (Children's Aid Society), and provide help when help is needed."
Some surprising statistics came out in the presentation, including the fact Children's Aid Societies across Canada receive 750,000 calls annually and that Ontarians make about 171,000 of those calls.
In 97 per cent of the cases where the CAS gets involved, the child remains in the home.
Jamieson said the professional advisory aims to make teachers more aware of the signs of possible child abuse or neglect, and to contact authorities. Ontario teachers, he said, are both legally and ethically bound to report such cases.
"If we increase our collective knowledge, increase our level of response, and act quickly, we increase the chances of children leading happy and productive lives," he said.
A teacher who suspects a child is being abused or neglected should report it to the authorities immediately and be prepared to testify in court, if the need arises, Jamieson said.
"Report even if the child says 'this remains confidential,'" he said. "Your duty to report overrides confidentiality."
The umbrella of child abuse and neglect includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, abandonment or separation by a parent or caregiver, and emotional abuse.
"Learn the signs of child abuse and neglect and be aware that the symptoms of poverty reflect the signs of neglect," he said.
An Ontario professional who fails to report a suspicion of child abuse or neglect can be fined $1,000, the group heard.
Olwen Lavoie, director of services at the Children's Aid Society of the Districts of Sudbury and Manitoulin, explained how reports of child abuse and neglect are handled.
Lavoie said there is a common misconception that the CAS is "punitive" to families and removes children from homes.
In fact, most children stay in the home; in the event a child has to be removed, the CAS looks for extended family to taken him or her in, she said.
When asked about the scenario of a teacher suspecting possible child abuse or neglect and worried about being wrong, Lavoie said the teacher should still make a report.
"We want people to call us with situations," she said. "When you see things that relate to the protection of the child, call us and have a discussion with the social worker. 'This is what I'm seeing and why I'm concerned.'
"When you make the call, be prepared to report. If that launches an investigation and it turns out the concern is not validated or substantiated, I think that's OK.
"We have had an opportunity to go and deal with the family, the child, and help them out with their struggles and challenges. When you see something, there is something going on. It may not be a substantiated child welfare issue, but there may be some things the family needs help with."
Army whistleblower on Afghan child abuser faces discharge
by Sasha Foo
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) - For the first time since he was handed his walking papers, a Green Beret who confronted an alleged child rapist in Afghanistan is speaking out in his own defense.
Sergeant Charles Martland is fighting the Army's order to discharge him by November 1st.
Sergeant Martland said he is being punished for a September 2011 encounter with an Afghan police captain who he claims was sexually abusing a child.
Martland said an Afghan boy had come to him and his team leader, reporting that he was tied up in the police commander's home and repeatedly raped for two weeks. When his mother tried to stop the abuse, she was beaten.
Martland said he and his team captain, Daniel Quinn then confronted the commander.
Martland said he body slammed the Afghan and kicked him in the ribcage.
Because of those actions, both men were later taken out of the camp in Afghanistan and returned to the U.S.
Now faced with discharged, Martland is still trying to stay in the service.
In his first public statement, Sergeant Martland said, "Kicking me out of the Army is morally wrong and the entire country knows it."
Daniel Quinn has since left the Army and says the Afghan leader did not deny the abuse and laughed off the accusations.
East County Congressman Duncan Hunter is taking up Martland's cause to stay in the Army.
He said he will submit Martland's statement on the encounter to the House Armed Service Committee.
Last month, Hunter told KUSI, "The Army should stand up for what's right and should not side with a corrupt Afghan police officer."
In court records and recent interviews published in the New York Times, U.S. Servicemembers said they were instructed by their American commanders to look the other way and not to intervene in these cases of child sex abuse.
Some Pentagon leaders have defended the response to abuse allegations saying no such policy has ever existed.
Warren Jeffs' son, daughter allege sexual abuse
by Tricia Escobedo
For the first time, two children of Warren Jeffs have alleged that the imprisoned leader of the polygamous Mormon sect sexually abused them as children.
Becky and Roy Jeffs, both adults, made the revelations to Lisa Ling on her upcoming CNN show "This is Life," which premieres Wednesday night. They both recently left the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints, or FLDS.
Becky told Ling that she first told one of her sisters, after her sister revealed she was abused as a child.
"I thought, I'm not the only one molested, he's done it to her it must be something that was in his nature," Becky Jeffs says on the show. "Where does it end? If he had this in him, how can I trust him? How is he really our prophet?"
CNN reached out to Warren Jeffs' attorney who did not have an immediate response from his client.
Becky and Roy are among four of Jeffs' children who have left the FLDS, which is based in the twin cities of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, where recent floods devastated the community.
Warren Jeffs fathered some 60 children with some of his estimated 78 wives. The elder Jeffs is serving a life sentence, plus 20 years, after he was convicted in 2011 of the aggravated sexual assaults of a 12-year-old girl and a 15-year-old girl who Jeffs claimed were his "spiritual wives."
Despite his imprisonment, Jeffs is still firmly in control of the 10,000-member Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The FLDS is a breakaway Mormon sect that openly practices polygamy, something the mainstream Mormon church renounced more than a century ago.
Pope Francis finally met with sex abuse survivors but more action is critical, activists say
by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Abby Ohlheiser and Terrence McCoy
PHILADELPHIA – Twice during his historic visit to the United States, Pope Francis praised bishops, priests and nuns for bearing up under the sexual abuse crisis that has afflicted the Catholic church, angering victims who hoped he at least would acknowledge their suffering.
On his last day, the pope addressed church leadership again – this time revealing he had just met privately with five survivors of abuse, assuring them he believed their stories and vowing that clergy and bishops would be held accountable for “the sins and crimes” of abuse.
“God weeps,” he said before an international collection of bishops and clergy gathered at St. Charles Borremeo Seminary outside the city. “It continues to overwhelm me with shame that the people who were charged with taking care of these tender ones violated their trust and caused them tremendous pain,” he said, according to the Washington Post translation of his remarks, delivered in Spanish.
Pope Francis met with the survivors, three women and two men, as a group and individually and prayed with them, according to a news release from the Vatican. It was his second such meeting; he had celebrated mass with six survivors last year.
His meeting and promise “to support your continued healing” were heartening to some victims' advocates and unimpressive to others.
“It's definitely encouraging that he did take time to meet with the victims,” said Pennsylvania State Rep. Mark Rozzi, who had been abused by a priest and is the sponsor of a bill that would lift the statute of limitations for two years so victims can testify about clergy abuse. “But now we need action to follow those words. That would be true justice.”
The Sunday remarks and meeting with survivors were nothing more than a “smart public relations move,” said David Clohessy of the main support group, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “Is a child anywhere on Earth safer now that a pope, for maybe the seventh or eighth time or ninth time, has briefly chatted with abuse victims? No.”
The five chosen for the early-morning meeting with Pope Francis were not all abused by Catholic clergy, according to the Rev. Federico Lombardi, a spokesman for the Vatican. Some had been molested by teachers or relatives. Lombardi said that the composition of the meeting was intended to show the “larger perspective” of sexual abuse beyond the church. Both Francis and the U.S. bishops have argued that molestation is a serious issue throughout society.
But this choreography also struck some advocates as a deliberate deflection of responsibility for a scandal that continues to reverberate through the Catholic church.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has been the subject of repeated grand jury investigations, which found that many priests accused of abuse continued to serve in ministries, and a church official is in jail for covering up crimes. Last week, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee offered a plan in bankruptcy court to settle claims with some 550 victims, and a Pennsylvania priest was convicted in a sex tourism case of abusing boys in a Honduras orphange.
“As with all things related to the Catholic Church, you have to listen to the words and then you have to watch what they do,” said John Salveson, a clergy sex abuse survivor, prominent activist and president of The Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse.
Salveson said the Vatican has been aware of possible solutions “for years, if not decades.” They include releasing the identity of priests who have been defrocked for abusing children; involving civil authorities when there is abuse, particularly in other countries, and extending the statute of limitations on clergy sex abuse, he said.
“The reason this all continued is that these priests don't get prosecuted and the bishops who hide them don't get prosecuted and because they are protected by the statute of limitations,” he said.
The pope's outreach is useful to the extent it eases victims' suffering, said Marie Collins, a member of an advisory commission the pope set up to help him improve the church's response to abuse.
“If it's going to help their healing, then it's a positive experience for them. It's a very positive experience for them,” said Collins, a clergy abuse survivor from Ireland. But, Collins added, the meeting “really is not connected [to the] work for the future of child protection.”
Instead, she said, the pope's decision to set up a papal commission advising him on how to handle the issue going forward was “the most positive change to happen” so far.
The meeting happened at the seminary at about 8 a.m., just before Pope Francis's remarks, according to Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi. The meeting lasted for a half an hour.
“Words cannot fully express my sorrow for the abuse you suffered,” Pope Francis told the survivors, according to a copy of his remarks released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “I'm profoundly sorry that your innocence was violated by those you trusted,” he said.
“For those who were abused by a member of the clergy, I am deeply sorry for the times when you or your family spoke out, to report the abuse, but you were not heard or believed,” the pope said to survivors, “Please know that the Holy Father hears you and believes you. I deeply regret that some bishops failed in their responsibility to protect children. It is very disturbing to know that in some cases bishops were even abusers.”
He pledged that “clergy and bishops will be held accountable when they abuse or fail to protect children.”
Immediately after the remarks at the seminary, the assembled clergy praised the pope's remarks on the sexual abuse scandal. “I thought it was very, very good and it was very clear. And from that point of view, it was an excellent visit among so many excellent visits,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Vice President of the USCCB.
He said “there is a good deal of work already being done around the church [on the matter]. To the extent that we will not let up on what we said we would do.”
Pope Francis 'Overwhelmed With Shame' Following Meeting With Child Abuse Victims; Survivors Group Blasts 'Feel Good' Move
by Stovan Zaimov
Pope Francis spent time on Sunday during the last day of his U.S. visit to meet with five adults who had been sexually abused by Roman Catholic clergy as children, declaring that he remains "overwhelmed with shame" at what was done to the victims. A survivor's group has criticized the meeting as a "feel good, do nothing" gesture.
"I hold the stories and the suffering and the sorry of children who were sexually abused by priests deep in my heart. I remain overwhelmed with shame that men entrusted with the tender care of children violated these little ones and caused grievous harm. I am profoundly sorry. God weeps," Francis told bishops at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Pennsylvania.
The Vatican leader reportedly met three women and two men who had been abused as children during a half-an-hour meeting. The pope spoke with the victims, listened to their stories, and prayed with them. He also thanked them for revealing the truth, and promised that the Church will do all it can to bring those guilty to justice.
"The crimes and sins of the sexual abuse of children must no longer be held in secret. I pledge the zealous vigilance of the church to protect children and the promise of accountability for all," he said after the meeting.
"You survivors of abuse have yourselves become true heralds of hope and ministers of mercy. We humbly owe each one of you and your families our gratitude for your immense courage to shine the light of Christ on the evil of the sexual abuse of children."
The Survivors Network of those abused by Priests, which has long been critical of the Catholic Church, has said that Francis has held a number of meetings now with abuse victims, and has made numerous speeches and promises on the issue, but still too few clergy have been brought to justice.
"Is a child anywhere on Earth safer now that a pope, for maybe the seventh or eighth time or ninth time, has briefly chatted with abuse victims? No," said SNAP Director David Clohessy.
"A smart public relations move. That's what this meeting is. Nothing more," he added.
"It fits church officials' carefully-crafted narrative. Years ago, prelates pretended the abuse and cover up weren't happening. That no longer works. So now they pretend it's not happening NOW, that it's all 'in the past' and only healing remains to be done. They know, however, this is deceptive and dangerous."
In a press release Clohessy also brought up the Bible verse in Matthew 7:9-11: "Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?"
The Christian Post has noted that since becoming pope, Francis, has taken a number of steps to address the sex abuse scandal, including appointing a commission that includes victims, lay experts, clergy and bishops to make recommendations on Vatican policy.
He has also accepted the resignation of at least three U.S. bishops who were found to have mishandled abuse allegations, including two bishops in Minnesota, and one in Kansas City-St. Joseph in Missouri.
Later on Sunday, Francis held a large open-air mass in Philadelphia before thousands of people to end his six-day visit to America.
The Vatican leader focused his speech on the importance of families, and said:
"Anyone who wants to bring into this world a family which teaches children to be excited by every gesture aimed at overcoming evil — a family which shows that the Spirit is alive and at work — will encounter our gratitude and our appreciation."
Francis arrived back at Rome Monday morning local time.
Pope Francis' Meeting With Sex Abuse Survivors Isn't Enough To Fix The Problem, Support Groups Say
by Josephine B. Yurcaba
In Philadelphia on Sunday morning, Pope Francis met with five sex abuse survivors in his first move to address decades of sex abuse allegations that have marred the Catholic Church's image . He said that "great harm" was caused by the actions of previous Church leaders who committed these acts and that "God weeps" for the survivors, according to the Washington Post. What has Francis done to address the Church's dark history of abuse? Support groups for clergy sexual abuse victims say not enough.
Francis spoke about his meeting with survivors just before his prepared remarks at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia on his last day in the United States. He said he is committed to "careful oversight to ensure that youth are protected and that all responsible will be held accountable," according to a translation of the Spanish remarks by the Post. Although support groups and advocates drawing attention to clergy sex abuse applauded Francis' direct address of the scandal, many said that simply meeting with survivors is not enough. Additionally, Francis came under fire Friday when he made several references to the scandal in a speech at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York. He addressed the scandal's affect on clergy rather than the greater, lifelong impact of sex abuse on the survivors, according to the New York Times:
You have suffered greatly in the not distant past by having to bear the shame of some of your brothers who harmed and scandalized the church in the most vulnerable of her members. I accompany you at this time of pain and difficulty.
Francis met with three women and two men who, now adults, suffered clergy abuse as children, according to the Times. But David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, one of the nation's most prominent support and advocacy group for victims of clergy sexual abuse, told the Times that the pope's action was "a smart public relations move ... nothing more":
Is a child anywhere on earth safer now that a pope, for maybe the seventh or eighth time or ninth time, has briefly chatted with abuse victims? No.
Marie Collins, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and an abuse survivor from Ireland, told the Post that the pope's meeting is a nice gesture if it helps the survivors in their healing process, but she said that it "really is not connected for the work for the future of child protection." She said real, institutional reform or a process for dealing with alleged sexual abuse is what's actually needed. The pope has set up a papal commission to advise on how to handle the issue going forward, which Collins said is "the most positive change to happen" so far .
The pope has expressed that the Church will have a "zero tolerance" policy for sexual abuse, but, in an op-ed for the Boston Globe, Anne Barrett Doyle pointed out that "zero tolerance" isn't a compulsory policy outside of the United States. The policy that any offending bishop be removed from the Catholic Church immediately after his first offense was instituted in response to a cycle of abuse and cover ups that was revealed in the U.S. in 2002, according to the Boston Globe.
Unfortunately, this policy doesn't extend outside of the U.S. In other countries, priests who molest minors are supposed to receive “just penalties,” which can be as simple as a mild warning. A policy framework that the Vatican sent to the world's bishops in 2011 said a priest need only be removed if his ministry would be “a danger for minors or a cause of scandal," according to the Globe.
These kinds of discrepancies, which allow priests to maintain their positions as long as it won't attract negative publicity, are what people like Collins and Clohessy want to see addressed. They want to know how the Catholic Church is going to protect children worldwide — even when an offending priest's actions might not generate negative publicity for the church.
Pope pledges vigilance to protect kids from abuse
by MARINA VILLENEUVE
Pope Francis on Sunday made his strongest statement yet on clergy sex abuse, vowing to hold “all those responsible” accountable, but his words fell short of expectations for victims' advocates, who say he still has taken no decisive steps to punish church leaders who covered up child abuse by priests.
In a week in which Francis seemed to burnish his image as a reformer with bold statements about climate change, immigrants, and the poor, his vows to demand accountability of bishops and justice for pedophiles came across to victims' advocates like the company line.
Minutes after privately apologizing to five survivors of priest sexual abuse on Sunday morning, Francis veered off script and promised a crowd of Catholic bishops and seminarians that he would hold accountable clergy members who sexually abuse children.
“I am profoundly sorry. God weeps,” he said. “The crimes and sins of the sexual abuse of children must no longer be held in secret,” the pontiff said in Spanish to an audience in St. Martin's Chapel at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary outside Philadelphia. “I pledge the zealous vigilance of the church to protect children and the promise of accountability for all.”
Two survivors of clergy sexual abuse who staged protests around the pope's visit said Sunday they were disappointed by his remarks. Both leaders in the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, Barbara Dorris and Becky Ianni said Francis has had 2½ years to hold accountable the bishops in the U.S. who covered up abuse in their dioceses, but he has not acted. Francis pledged this summer to create a tribunal to investigate bishops, as advocates have previously pushed for.
Dorris noted Pope Francis has removed men complicit in a recent financial scandal at Vatican. “He is capable of courageous action, and publicly holding accountable people who break the rules,” she said. “What we haven't seen him do is do the same thing to church officials who hide clergy sex crimes.”
Ianni, director of the Washington, D.C., and Virginia chapters of SNAP, said the pope's comments Sunday seemed to be a response to a negative reaction to his remarks last week, in which he said bishops confronted the crisis with “courage” and focused on their hardship.
Ianni said rather than ordering more church internal investigations, Francis should let law enforcement conduct inquiries into the matter.
“What we need for the pope to do is to turn over all the Vatican records and insist the bishops turn over the records on abuse to the secular authorities whose job it is to investigate them,” she said.
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said that for an hour Sunday morning, Pope Francis met with five adults — three women and two men — who were sexually abused as children by members of clergy, family members or teachers.
The pope prayed with each person and one by one, listened to their stories, according to information provided by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The bishops' conference said Francis felt “pain and shame,” particularly for those hurt by clergy or church workers, and that the pontiff renewed his commitment to making sure victims are heard and helped, that the guilty are punished and that crimes of abuse are prevented in the Roman Catholic Church.
In remarks at St. Martin's Chapel, Pope Francis said that survivors of sexual abuse have grown up to become “true heralds of hope and ministers of mercy.”
He praised their “immense courage to shine the light of Christ on the evil of the sexual abuse of children.”
“I remain overwhelmed with shame that men entrusted with the tender care of children violated these little ones and caused grievous harm,” he said.
The pope's remarks follow criticism by groups advocating for abuse victims who have long voiced frustration with the Catholic Church's slowness or failure to remove clerics suspected of abusing children, as well as for denying for years that there was sex abuse.
During Pope Francis' visit to the United States, SNAP released statements deploring his “vague and brief references to the ongoing abuse and cover-up crisis.”
“He talks and acts like the church hierarchy is the real victim in this crisis,” the group said in a statement, pointing to media coverage of the pope's remarks to nuns and clergy members earlier in the week.
David Clohessy, SNAP's director, said Sunday the pope has raised victim advocates' expectations for him because of his “genuine reform” on a number of issues in the church, but added that he continues to be disappointing on the matter of sex abuse because he has yet to focus on allegations of bishops covering up crimes.
“He could meet with a thousand victims,” Clohessy said in an earlier statement Sunday. “But that wouldn't safeguard a single child.”
This spring, Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop Robert Finn, who had remained on the job after becoming the most senior U.S. Catholic official convicted of failing to report suspected child abuse. In July, two bishops in Minnesota resigned after prosecutors accused them of having ignored evidence that a priest was a pedophile.
Since he began his papacy, Francis has met with abuse victims and established a Vatican commission tasked with preparing recommendations for change. This year, he implored the world's bishops to work with the commission and “take whatever steps are necessary” to protect children from sexual abuse by religious leaders.
In June, Pope Francis approved the creation of a Vatican department to investigate bishops who cover up or fail to prevent sexual abuse.
The pope's apparently unscripted comments Sunday preceded his prepared remarks about the importance of family.
Using the metaphor of small neighborhood stores that have given way to sprawling supermarkets, Pope Francis said the rise of consumerism and the loss of a sense of community has led to loneliness and fear of commitment among young people.
It is the role of priests, the pope said, to actively support and encourage young people to start families.
“A pastor must show that the ‘Gospel of the family' is truly ‘good news,'Ÿ” he said.
Adding that Catholics are “not immune to changes in the concrete world,” Francis acknowledged the fervent debate over same-sex marriage. He said that despite the legalization of same-sex marriage in the U.S., the church must move away from “explaining doctrine” and instead spread the Catholic faith.
About 300 bishops from countries including the Congo, Ukraine and Canada filled the warmly lit seminary chapel, whose rafters were decorated with brass-colored gold flowers and designs in shades of turquoise and rose.
Also witnessing the remarks were the 146 seminarians, who broke out into joyous claps and smiles when Francis greeted them in the loggia — a long, grand hallway leading to the chapel.
Seminarian Alessandro Giardini of Philadelphia said the Pope's words fit perfectly into everything else he had said this past week about the importance of family.
Giardini also hoped that his clear message on sexual abuse would help restore trust in the Catholic Church.
“It is important now, especially in America, to have accountability,” said Giardini, a first-year theology graduate student. “To protect children and continue to heal.”
Pope Francis, on Flight Home, Strongly Condemns Child Sexual Abuse
by Jim Yardley
ABOARD THE PAPAL AIRPLANE — Hours after meeting with sexual abuse victims in Philadelphia, Pope Francis on Sunday night again strongly condemned priests who molested children as “sacrilegious” and publicly acknowledged that bishops had covered up abuse cases.
“When a priest abuses, it is very grave because the vocation of the priest is to make that boy, that girl grow toward the love of God,” Francis said. “For this reason, the church is strong on this and one must not cover these things up. Those who covered this up are guilty. Even some bishops who covered this up.”
Francis spoke during a wide-ranging news conference aboard the papal airliner after his trip to Cuba and the United States. He remarked on a variety of topics, including the issue of conscientious objection, the peace talks in Colombia, the so-called Roman Catholic divorce, the construction of border walls to block migrants in Europe — and he also tossed in a grinning endorsement of New York.
After a trip in which huge crowds turned out to see him, Francis on Sunday tried to salve the one major contentious point that erupted during his time in the United States: his comments on sexual abuse. Many victims were infuriated after Francis praised and comforted American bishops in Washington for their handling of the crisis before he met with any victims.
The controversy stewed until Sunday morning in Philadelphia, when Francis met with a group of abuse victims and their family members. Later that morning, Francis condemned the sexual abuse crisis during a meeting with global bishops. On the plane, Francis was asked why he had felt the need to offer bishops comfort and consolation even as feelings about the crisis remained raw in cities like Philadelphia.
“I felt the need to express compassion because something really terrible happened,” the pope replied. “And many of them suffered who did not know of this.”
He added, “What happened was a great tribulation.”
He then acknowledged that some bishops had covered up abuse cases. As pope, Francis has removed a handful of bishops for their roles in protecting abusive priests, and he said the comfort he had offered the American bishops should not be interpreted as minimizing the scandal.
“It's a terrible thing, and the words of comfort were not to say, ‘Don't worry, that was nothing,' ” he said. “No, no, no. But that it was so bad that I imagine that you cried hard. That was the sense of what I meant.”
On other topics, Francis expressed hopes that a tentative peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, would be realized by the March deadline. He said he had spoken twice to President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, while Vatican diplomats had also been involved.
“I was very happy, and I felt like I was part of it,” he said.
The Argentine pope has regularly spoken out on behalf of migrants, and on Sunday he again described the deep roots of the migrant crisis while dismissing border barriers, like the one being constructed in Hungary, as pointless. He recognized that Europe was facing a difficult situation but promoted dialogue as a solution, not walls.
He defended his recent changes to Roman Catholic rules on marriage annulments, saying the changes had improved the system but had not transformed it into an administrative “Catholic divorce.”
Asked about government employees who refused to discharge their duties as an act of religious conscience, including refusing to grant marriage licenses to gay couples, Francis did not offer specifics but described conscientious objection as “a human right.” It was unclear whether he was aware of the recent controversy in which a county clerk in Kentucky, Kim Davis, refused to grant a marriage license to gay couples, citing her religious beliefs.
Finally, Francis expressed gratitude for the “warmth of the people, so lovable,” that he encountered in the United States. He described the welcome in Washington as “warm, but more formal.” The reception in Philadelphia, he said, was “very demonstrative.”
But for New York, the Argentine pope broke into a grin and started waving his hands, searching for words.
“New York was a bit exuberant,” he said.
Petition Calls On Associated Press To Stop Using Term ‘Child Prostitute'
by NewsOne Staff
A Change.org petition urging the Associated Press to stop using the term “child prostitution” has gained traction on social media, with entertainers, journalists and activists adding their voices — and their tweets — to the cause.
In a letter to the AP's Style Guide Editor David Minthorn, Withelma “T” Ortiz Walker Pettigrew, the creator of petition on behalf of Rights4Girls, a Washington D.C. based organization which “works to make the lives of U.S. young women and girls a human rights priority…so that every girl may possess the right to be safe and live a life free of violence and exploitation, details her own molestation and traumatic experience as a survivor of child rape and sex trafficking:
I was not a child prostitute or child sex worker. I was a victim and survivor of child rape. And so are the other kids out there now who are being bought and sold for sex. They are victims and survivors of child rape.
But, too often, when the media reports on child sex trafficking, or attempts to tell our stories, the way we are described mislead the public about what is happening to trafficked children.
According to research by the Human Rights Project for Girls (Rights4Girls), The California Endowment, and The Raben Group, there have been more than 5,000 instances in the past five years when reporters for print, wire, and online outlets have used the phrase “child prostitute,” “child prostitution,” “underage prostitution” or other variations on the phrase to describe these exploited children.
I, with the Human Rights Project for Girls, understand it is the media's job to convey a situation or an issue with precision and clarity. “Child prostitute” may seem clear because it conveys the fact that money is exchanged for sex, but it is also misleading because it suggests consent and criminality when none exists. Many of us are not even of legal age to consent to sex. I was 10. And girls like me are beaten, kidnapped, gang raped, and tortured into selling our bodies to adults, every night. This is not about choice. This is about abuse and rape.
Read full letter here.
Historical abuse: witch-hunt, scapegoat, moral panic?
by Dr Johanna Motzkau and Dr Nick Lee
The scale of the historical child abuse committed by some individuals is startling. The fact that this abuse went unprosecuted for decades raises the question of how that could happen. Many people, us included, are struggling to make sense of it all.
How the issue is framed in popular culture, in policy debate and in academic life will have serious consequences both for further investigation of individual cases and for wider inquiries. We are concerned about the recent use of a cluster of terms in attempts to frame these events: witch-hunt, scapegoat and moral panic. Very recently Harvey Proctor accused police to be conducting a ‘gay witch hunt' against him, a claim cited again in coverage about sexual abuse allegations against Paul Gambaccini being dropped
These terms can all too easily frame normal processes of criminal prosecution and legitimate inquiries into past abuses as irrational and disproportionate. We can see why commentators would reach for these terms. Historical child sexual abuse is a very complex issue that raises doubts about children's safety in the past and in the present, and about adults' failings in their moral and professional duties to nurture and protect them. This is why responses are so often sought with urgency. Given this, readily available framing devices have a strong appeal. They are tools to help us make sense. But what kind of sense do these terms make? Each in its own way ends up minimising the reality of historical abuse and, just at the point where survivors are being heard, suggests we stop our ears once again.
The critical force of the term ‘witch-hunt' rests on there being a consensus view that there are, in reality, either very few or no ‘witches' at all. Further, a ‘witch-hunt' would be conducted using deeply suspicious methods of gathering and testing evidence (including ‘witch dunking'). It is remarkable then that the term is used in the context of successful criminal prosecutions that have established that crimes did indeed take place (e.g. the term is bandied around by the media and commentators in June/July 2014 after Rolf Harris'conviction.
In what sense could a proven sexual offender be understood as a ‘scapegoat'? Perhaps the idea is that as we go about judging the actions and mores of previous decades by our own contemporary standards we select individuals to carry a disproportionate load of blame for our culture's historical shortcomings. But the actions in question were just as criminal decades ago as they are today.
‘Moral panic' is, perhaps, the most sophisticated of this cluster of terms. It derives from the work of criminologist Stanley Cohen in the 1970's. The basic idea was that when a given group of people share the sense that they are losing social influence, they may try to regain their status by campaigning against a putative moral or behavioural trend or event. So-called ‘moral entrepreneurs' who lead such campaigns can benefit. It's a strong idea and generalizes well beyond 1970's UK criminology. Campaigns against nuclear weapons, abortion and GM crops have been just as much shaped by these processes as complaints about swearing on television and banning punk rock gigs. But there is a strong consensus in the UK that sexual offending and sexual abuse of children are wrong. This is not a domain in which moral entrepreneurs can distinguish themselves. Further, the sexual abuse of children comprises activities that are already criminal offences and has done for many years.
To call the current focus on historical sexual abuse a ‘moral panic' may be intended as a call for a sense of proportion. Historical child sexual abuse cases certainly sell newspapers and generate website ‘clicks'. We would suggest, however, that we are currently witnessing processes of criminal prosecution that are normal and proportionate (if delayed), along with other normal forms of public accountability. The legal system does not get it right all the time. It never will. It is particularly stretched and at times baffled by these cases, and there is consensus that more can be done to improve procedure; but this is indicative of the complexity of these cases and of legal reform, and not a result of moral panic.
It is indeed important to highlight exaggerated and unhelpful reactions by the media, and to remain sceptical towards ‘quick fix' policy making that monopolises isolated issues (e.g. child sexual abuse in public institutions) only to divert attention and resources from longstanding problems at the heart of child protection (e.g. poverty, inequality, neglect and intra-familiar abuse). But this can be done without referring to moral panics as for example Featherstone, White and Morris show in their recent book. The fact that in the past the pendulum of concern has swung steadily (and repeatedly) from ignorance to alarm does not mitigate the seriousness of the problem of sexual (and other) offences against children; and while it seems impossible to control such pendulum swings, this should not be taken to demean the motives of those committed to do something about child abuse (historical or recent). We might reasonably consider this period of heightened sensitivity an occasion to learn and improve.
Once terms like moral panic, scapegoat and witch-hunt are in play it is difficult to maintain a differentiated view of ‘what really happened'. Talk of witch-hunts and scapegoats implies that all those at the centre of attention are innocent or that no findings could be legitimate or safe. Talk of moral panic stymies analysis by conflating issues and closes down debate, as contributors have to hedge against being seen as moral entrepreneurs.
Declaring a moral panic in this context is ultimately a self-fulfilling prophecy. Even if this is clearly not intended, it provides traction for those who are indeed keen to play down the problem, conflate issues and point out that there's ‘nothing to see here'. This does not add transparency or a sense of vigilance and proportion. It takes us straight back to the no win situation where the voice of actual victims is just as difficult to hear as that of those falsely accused.
If you heard allegations that child sexual abuse had taken place in your workplace, wouldn't you want to know whether and if so how that happened?
Lifting the lid on Australia's child sex abuse
by Marie McInerney
Earlier this year, Mr Blenkiron relived the horror of his school days, telling an inquiry into child abuse about how he would be pressed against the wall at the back of the classroom while his teacher physically and sexually abused him, with the other students ordered to look away.
"If there was no sexual abuse after the belting, then you knew you'd had a good day," the 53-year-old told a hearing of Australia's landmark Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Giving testimony from his hometown Ballarat, in regional Victoria, and hearing harrowing stories from other survivors of child abuse brought back the pain, Mr Blenkiron told the BBC.
"I was a mess for about two months," he says.
But he was determined to shine a light on the abuse that has claimed the lives of many of his peers, through suicide and substance abuse, and that turned him into "a ticking time bomb".
The Royal Commission is an historic opportunity to draw a line in the sand under that pain, he says.
"It has to uncover the horrors of the past, it has to help those who were affected to get the best possible ongoing support today, and it has to make sure all our children are safe in future," he says.
That's a measure of the huge challenge facing the Royal Commission, set up in 2013 in response to public outrage over allegations the Catholic Church had for years covered up evidence about paedophile priests.
The then Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard promised the investigation into how government and private institutions responded to allegations and instances of child sexual abuse would "change the nation".
The signs are hopeful, with the Commission acting on a scale and scope that few expected, and with a sensitivity to those abused that the UK's fledgling Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has indicated it may follow.
But the stakes are high. Many victims - or survivors as the Commission describes them - want people at the highest levels to be held accountable, and they want meaningful compensation.
Over the past two and a half years, six commissioners have held 32 public and 4,000 private hearings at sites across the country, from an outback orphanage run by the Sisters of Mercy to one of Australia's most prestigious schools, Geelong Grammar, once attended by Prince Charles.
It has documented abuse by teachers, priests, nuns, foster carers and fellow students, and this year, extended its investigations into sporting bodies and the entertainment industry.
It will make recommendations on how to improve laws, policies and practices to prevent and better respond to child sexual abuse in institutions.
Commission's work so far
Confirmed 12,000 allegations of abuse relating to 3,500 religious and state institutions
Referred 727 matters to police
Receives, on average, 40 requests per week from victims for private hearings
Held community forums in dozens of regional towns and cities, including in remote Aboriginal communities
Last year, the Australian government granted the Commission's request to extend its work for another two years, for a total cost of about A$500m ($351m, £231m).
It has called high-profile witnesses to give evidence about what they knew of abuse in their institutions, most notably Australia's most senior Catholic Cardinal George Pell, who is now the finance chief at the Vatican.
The Commission, which will report at the end of 2017, has exceeded expectations by highlighting abuse "from almost every area of society, every walk of life", and by showing that such abuse continues today, says Sydney University Law Professor Patrick Parkinson.
"They've been very wise and shown beyond reasonable doubt the level of the problem in Australian society and the level of cover-up," he says.
Its impact is apparent, he says, with organisations "scrambling to review their policies and procedures" about child protection and very senior people "embarrassed" by their failures to prevent or report abuse.
But he says there are big issues to settle, including the Commission's call for Australian governments to set up a single national redress scheme for survivors.
Such a scheme is estimated to cost up to A$4bn but would still only pay compensation of, on average, A$65,000 per survivor. Many say that is not enough.
In any case, the federal government has said it will not be part of a national scheme, a response that shocked many survivors who fear they will have to deal with the very institutions involved in their abuse if they want compensation, says lawyer and doctoral researcher Judy Courtin.
It is too early to judge whether or not the Royal Commission will meet survivors' expectations, Ms Courtin says.
Her research shows survivors want to tell their stories and have them publicly acknowledged, to hear the truth from institutions about what happened, to be compensated for the long-term impact on their lives, and for those in senior positions who concealed abuse to be held accountable.
"They want the bishops and others who have covered up crimes to be criminally accountable," she says. "That's high up on the list."
The Commission's work has prompted more police prosecutions of historic cases of child abuse, says lawyer Warren Strange.
In the past, a lack of witnesses and the fact it can take most victims up to 20 years to report their abuse have been stumbling blocks for police investigations.
But Mr Strange says any long-term systemic change about how institutions deal with claims of abuse will be more important than the number of prosecutions that result from the Commission's work.
He is an executive officer of knowmore, a government-funded independent free legal service that is often the first point of contact for victims who want to give evidence to the Royal Commission.
They come, he says, from all backgrounds - from great disadvantage to people with successful careers.
They want the scale of what happened and the failure of institutions to respond appropriately exposed. But the main motivation for many of the people who tell their stories is not about themselves, he says.
"They say 'I don't want what happened to me to happen to any other children in future'."
Parents, police and schools can all do a better job of preventing child sexual abuse
Little is more horrifying or more intractable than the curse of child sexual abuse. That goes not only for the act of abuse, but for all the ramifications churned up in its terrible aftermath, including the thorny question of prevention.
Prevention was the subject of a compelling and, yes, horrifying story a week ago in The Buffalo News. The bottom line is that much more can be done, but in the end, much responsibility will always rest with parents and guardians, and even they cannot guarantee perfect safety.
Still, everyone can do better, beginning with the public entities that have systems in place to share information. What to do with that information remains a question since, as a map that accompanied the article showed, you often don't have to look far to find a registered sex offender in the neighborhood.
Still, knowing is better than not knowing and it is possible to do a better job of allowing concerned adults to know where to find information about the location of registered sex offenders and even to push that information out to them automatically. That should be the goal, along with helping those adults to understand how best to use that information.
Little is more horrifying or more intractable than the curse of child sexual abuse. That goes not only for the act of abuse, but for all the ramifications churned up in its terrible aftermath, including the thorny question of prevention.
Prevention was the subject of a compelling and, yes, horrifying story a week ago in The Buffalo News. The bottom line is that much more can be done, but in the end, much responsibility will always rest with parents and guardians, and even they cannot guarantee perfect safety.
Still, everyone can do better, beginning with the public entities that have systems in place to share information. What to do with that information remains a question since, as a map that accompanied the article showed, you often don't have to look far to find a registered sex offender in the neighborhood.
Still, knowing is better than not knowing and it is possible to do a better job of allowing concerned adults to know where to find information about the location of registered sex offenders and even to push that information out to them automatically. That should be the goal, along with helping those adults to understand how best to use that information.
The Buffalo School District and Buffalo Police Department could both do a better job. Neither proactively issues notices to parents about where sex offenders live, arguing that the law doesn't require it and that the state registry is easily available to anyone via the Internet. Both points are correct, yet both are evasions.
The law doesn't require common sense, either, but it doesn't prevent anyone from using it. Common sense demands sharing important, potentially lifesaving information in the most efficient way possible. That may not be by letter, which, as school officials in West Seneca have discovered, could contain outdated information by the time it is mailed out.
But that doesn't mean nothing can be done. Businesses and online services routinely send out automatic emails or even text messages to clients who request them. It doesn't seem too much to believe that police or the school district could set up a similar system, automatically updating subscribers about changes in the registry.
The information has limitations, but could be valuable, nonetheless. For example, more than 100 registered sex offenders live in the ZIP code that includes Martin Luther King Park, and more than 60 percent of those people were convicted of a crime involving a minor. Recidivism can be high among sex offenders.
Still, how much of an actual risk those people are to any particular child is a question mark, given another depressing fact: Between 75 and 90 percent of victims of child sexual abuse know their attacker. These crimes are often committed by people the children and their families trust and may even love. It's hard for society to protect against that kind of vile deception. It's hard even for parents, but in such cases, their vigilance may be the best protection, as incomplete as it is bound to be.
Maybe better solutions can be devised. But as parent advocate Samuel L. Radford III observed, “Let's use the sex offender registry until we've got something better.”
That's what you call common sense.
“They Told Me It Never Happened”
What's at stake when police arrest women who they believe falsely reported rape? For Lara McLeod, it was her reputation, her mental health, and maybe even her baby nephew's life.
by Katie J.M. Baker
Lara McLeod never wanted to report her rape. In those first few hours, the 19-year-old was barely able to put what had happened to her into words. Joaquin Rams, Lara's older sister's fiancé, had forced Lara to have sex with him, she said — just two weeks after Lara's sister, Hera, had given birth to Joaquin's baby.
Joaquin warned Lara not to tell anyone, she said, because it would ruin her family's life. Lara feared that was true, but she broke down and told her parents the next day. They rushed out the door in a panic to pick up Hera and the baby. All Lara wanted to do after that was go back to sleep.
Instead, later that evening, she got a call from a police officer in Prince William County, Virginia, the suburb of Washington, D.C., where Joaquin and Hera lived. He wanted to know whether what Lara had told her parents was true. When Lara said it was, the officer told her that she needed to come to the station immediately for a formal interview.
After a cursory investigation of the claim they compelled her to file, the police abruptly concluded Lara was lying about being raped and arrested her. Hera was charged with obstructing justice for aiding Lara's alleged deceit, and had to spend her savings on legal fees to get them dismissed. Lara's charges were eventually expunged, but not before her reputation was destroyed. She says she still has severe panic attacks whenever she sees a police officer.
But the worst was yet to come.
In the ensuing battle for custody over Prince, Hera and Joaquin's infant son, it emerged that not only had Joaquin lied about his name, employment history, and age — he was a decade older than he had claimed — but he had also once been a suspect in his ex-girlfriend's shooting death and a person of interest in his mother's death, too, although he was never successfully charged in either case. He had been accused of child abuse by his other son, although never convicted, and ran an amateur porn site.
But thanks to the charges against Hera and Lara, Joaquin was able to portray himself as a comparatively fit parent — and the victim of a smear job. The judge granted Joaquin unsupervised visits. Three months later, EMTs found Prince unconscious on the floor of Joaquin's house. The 15-month-old died the next day. Months later, Joaquin was charged with capital murder.
Joaquin, who has been in jail without bail ever since, adamantly denies any wrongdoing in the deaths of his son, ex-girlfriend, and mother, and denies he raped Lara. His upcoming trial, in which the prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, has attracted plenty of media attention. But the mishandling of Lara's rape allegations — the night that started it all — has never been reported until now, and authorities still refuse to explain why they were so quick to press charges against the sisters.
Internal documents and recordings of private meetings obtained by BuzzFeed News, none of which have previously been made public, show how grievously the police botched their investigation from start to finish, allowing their beliefs about sexual assault to influence the way they pursued the case.
In a private meeting with the McLeods, the chief of police admitted the department bungled aspects of the investigation, calling parts “improper,” “sloppy,” and “shortcutted,” saying he was “disappointed” that the detectives “didn't pursue every possible means to either support the allegations or the conclusions that they were reaching or disprove them.” But he stressed that women do lie about rape, so it was important for officers not to be too credulous — and that it was only his “personal opinion” that police shouldn't have pressed charges.
“It is not uncommon for people to make false, malicious, salacious allegations of sexual assault,” he said. “That does happen.”
Lara is stuck putting the pieces of her life back together. Now 23, she still has no clue why the police told her to report a crime, then arrested her for doing so. She only knows one thing for sure, she says: No one should ever report a rape to the police.
“The night I was raped, I said I wanted to be left alone,” Lara told BuzzFeed News in August. “People say rape is serious and you should report it, but look what happened to me: I reported my rape, and they told me it never happened.”
Before Hera met Joaquin in February 2010, the McLeods were a tight-knit, fortunate family. Both sisters attended private boarding schools and elite colleges. Lara, who is 11 years younger than Hera, studied opera and journalism in college before moving to the West Coast, where she works at a tech company. After Hera graduated, she worked for Teach for America and competed on the reality TV show The Amazing Race with her father before moving to Washington, D.C., where she's worked the kind of high-powered consulting jobs that earn six figures and require a security clearance. Hera didn't have much time for romance, so she tried online dating, where she met Joaquin.
The judge who presided over Hera and Joaquin's custody battle was struck by the differences between the two. “What attracted the two of you together on the internet, god knows,” he said. Hera's family was equally baffled. Joaquin was a goateed musician who didn't have a steady job or any discernible talent. But he won Hera over by talking about how much he loved his 10-year-old son, whom he had raised as a single dad ever since what he claimed was the child's mother's tragic accident. He spoke confidently about his aspiring music career and often said he was on the phone with R&B stars or meeting with business partners. He had a recording studio in his four-bedroom house, drove a Mercedes-Benz SUV, and bought expensive electronics.
Hera is the first to admit she didn't try too hard to poke through the holes in his story. She was 29, and Joaquin, who told her he was 26, was her first serious boyfriend after years of travel and adventure. He “spoke with such conviction,” she said, “that it seemed impossible that the things he told me weren't true.”
The fantasy began to unravel a few months after they started dating, when Hera became pregnant. Hera knew it was risky to have a baby with a man she barely knew, but she had a steady salary and had always wanted kids. That rationale, combined with her Catholic upbringing, convinced her to go for it, she said.
Suddenly, Joaquin had no money and expected Hera to pay for everything, she said. He stopped eating and showering and made comments about how he should kill himself so Hera could collect life insurance. In December 2010, Joaquin was charged with domestic abuse on a juvenile after his son told a school counselor that Joaquin had punched and kicked him, according to a visitation evaluation report. Joaquin told Hera that his son was overreacting to a spanking. Hera, determined to keep her newly formed family together, convinced herself that Joaquin, who was never convicted of the charges, was telling the truth and experiencing depression. She started attending counseling sessions with him.
“I felt trapped,” she said, “but I wanted my son to have a father.”
Lara and Hera had always been close, but the two grew apart when Hera started dating Joaquin and Lara went off to college. That's why Lara agreed to go to a Lil Wayne concert with Joaquin on July 16, 2011, two weeks after the baby was born. Lara didn't like Lil Wayne any more than she liked Joaquin. But he was family now.
It was the summer after Lara's freshman year, and she was living at home at her parents' house in Gaithersburg, Maryland, about 40 miles away from Joaquin's place in Manassas, Virginia. The night of the concert, Hera and the baby spent the night at the McLeods' in case Joaquin and Lara stayed out late — he had told Lara he would take her backstage and to an afterparty. On the way to the show, Joaquin asked Lara if she was willing to do whatever it took to succeed in the music industry. She wasn't sure what he meant, she told the police.
Later on, Lara said, instead of taking her backstage, Joaquin brought her back home to explain: She could either have sex with him, right then and there, or he would take her to a party where she would be gang-raped by a group of men.
Lara later told the police that she tearfully argued with Joaquin into the early morning. When she protested that her sister had just given birth to Joaquin's baby, he claimed he and Hera had agreed that Joaquin could sleep with Lara that night, the police report states. Lara even tried saying she had her period — that always discouraged pushy guys at college — but Joaquin was relentless. Earlier in the night, he had shown Lara the gun he had on him, she told police. Later, he put her phone in the trunk, and she didn't know anyone in the area to ask for help, she said. As the night went on, Lara began to realize there was no escape. Joaquin led her into the basement.
The rape itself was an “out-of-body experience,” Lara said. Either her sister had put her in a position to be raped by Joaquin, Lara thought, or she had just destroyed Hera's new family. Afterwards, Joaquin dropped her off at a subway station, gave her a hug, and told her not to fight him so hard next time, she says.
When Lara told her parents what had happened the next day, Hera knew immediately that her sister was telling the truth.
“I wanted so badly to believe that he was who he said he was,” Hera said. “But then it was like someone finally threw a big bucket of water on me and I woke up screaming. I realized I didn't know this person at all. I just saw a monster.”
After Hera's parents picked her and the baby up, she called the police — not to report the incident, but to ask for an escort, so she could go back to the house and get the baby's things. When the officer entered, Joaquin, who later said in court that he was “confused” as to why the officers were there, started yelling that he had never touched Lara. Suddenly, the officer later said in court, the routine escort request “became an investigation for an alleged rape.”
Another police officer, Detective Bradford Cavender, called Lara to confirm the allegations were true, then told her she needed to come down to the station for an interview. Lara didn't want to go — it was late, and she was groggy and shell-shocked — but she still wasn't worried. It didn't occur to her that even “if you were innocent, someone might not believe you,” she said.
The police report notes Lara's reluctance to report her rape multiple times. Cavender, who interviewed Lara when she got to the station, wrote in the report that Lara said “she never wanted to call the police.” When he asked what Lara wanted from the investigation, she said she just wanted Joaquin to “leave my family alone.'”
Virginia law defines rape as sexual intercourse that is accomplished against one's will, not just by force but by “threat or intimidation.” Even so, Lara didn't say she was “raped” in her account, according to the partially censored police report obtained by BuzzFeed News, but instead made statements such as “He was having unconsensual sex with me and it was painful.” It was the police that first used the word — and then used it against Lara later.
Cavender appeared skeptical of Lara's claims from the start. He repeatedly questioned her as to why she didn't try to escape, even though Lara told him she was afraid of Joaquin's gun, and that he warned her she would “fuck my family life up” if she didn't comply. Cavender asked Lara why she didn't keep her arms down when he tried to take her shirt off, even though she told him over and over again that she didn't struggle because she was “terrified.” Lara used the word “catatonic” to describe her mental state by the time she yielded to Joaquin after hours of arguing. “Despite being in a catatonic state she remembered that he led her by the arm into the house through the garage entrance,” Cavender noted.
Police sent her to get a rape kit and then met with Joaquin and his lawyer.
Joaquin initially told police he “did not touch” Lara, he later admitted in court. Now, he'd changed his story. They had sex, but it was consensual, he said. (Later, in court, he would also say it wasn't the first time.) And he had proof, he told the police and later said in court: a video he had secretly recorded using a camcorder Hera had left their house with a few hours before.
The police were seemingly unconcerned that Joaquin had videotaped a 19-year-old having sex without her knowledge, which is a crime in Virginia. Instead, they summoned Hera back to the station and demanded to see her camera. After a few minutes of confusion she took it out of her purse and handed it over.
The police scrolled through the camcorder's contents but didn't see the video. Joaquin told them he might be able to retrieve it, so they allowed him to take the camcorder — evidence in an alleged sexual assault — to his attorney's office, where, with the help of an “IT guy,” the video appeared. Police would later admit in court that they had no idea what Joaquin did — whether he used a computer program, or backup software, or inserted a different memory card — just that he “knew how to use the camera a lot better than any of us would be able to.”
Cavender described the tape in his police report. Both Joaquin and Lara were onscreen, he wrote. He heard Joaquin say, “Look, think about how things are gonna be, once we can get over this,” and, later, “Don't be shy, we're gonna get this over with.” But Cavender was more interested in Lara's movements. She had already told the police that she didn't try to leave the basement during the sex itself, but she had said she cried, told Joaquin he was hurting her, and said “no” repeatedly, according to the report. Cavender wrote that he could not hear Lara crying out as she had said, and that the video contradicted her chronological account. He concluded that she was an “active participant in the sexual intercourse” because she did “not appear to be struggling” in the video Joaquin had provided, and “at no point during the sexual intercourse did Lara ever tell him to ‘stop.'”
Many neurobiological studies show that rape and trauma victims have fragmented memories of assaults. Our brains often react to life-threatening situations by shutting down, which is why victims can't always provide a linear account, experts say. Cavender didn't appear to consider that a factor. But if he was concerned about the seeming discrepancies between Lara's account and the video, there were any number of paths he could have pursued.
Cavender could have sought out the security footage from the 7-Eleven where Lara told him that Joaquin had taken her while they were arguing about whether she'd sleep with him. Cavender could have reviewed Lara's medical records or run Joaquin's name to see if he had ever come to the attention of local authorities before. The police record does not indicate that the detective did any of those things, however. Because by the time Cavender finished reviewing the videotape, Joaquin was no longer the one under suspicion. Lara was.
He asked Lara to come back to the station two days later. Unaware that she was under investigation, she showed up without a lawyer.
Cavender and another detective, Kimberly Norton, interrogated Lara. Was there a possibility Lara had ever had sex with Joaquin before, or that she slept with him that night in hopes of meeting people in the music industry? If someone had been watching, would there have been any doubt in their mind that she was raped? Lara said no, Cavender wrote.
They asked Lara if there were inconsistencies in her testimony; she said if there were, she didn't mean them. It was hard for her to remember exactly what had happened, she said, since she had been so distraught. But she couldn't understand why the police were fixated on the sex instead of the three hours before, especially since she had admitted that her case wasn't a typical stranger rape case.
Cavender noted that Lara said, “At the point where he had sex with me, yeah at that point I was a willing participant because I wanted to get it over with.” But Lara wouldn't “admit” that she had wanted to sleep with Joaquin, which made the detectives upset. They told her that Joaquin didn't deserve this, she says.
“I gave Lara one last opportunity to tell me the truth and to admit if it was consensual sex and she again denied that it was consensual,” Cavender wrote in his report. He finally told her he had a tape of the two of them having sex and asked if Lara wanted to watch it.
Lara started panicking. No, she didn't want to watch a secret video of her recent sexual assault. That's when the police told her it was time to teach her a lesson, she said.
“Despite being contradicted on almost every part of her story from the first interview, Lara refused to admit that she lied about reporting the rape,” Cavender wrote. “She continued to assert that she was a [ sic ] unwilling participant.”
Lara and Hera still haven't seen the video. Joaquin's prosecutors have the camcorder now, and have said they may use other footage on it as evidence in the upcoming trial. Hera believes Joaquin doctored the recording — as it later came out in court, he had the know-how. Even if he didn't edit it, “the tape represents one moment in time in which he had control over her,” she said. “He knew when to turn it on and turn it off.” (Joaquin's lawyer, Daniel Morrissette, told BuzzFeed News that the recording “shows that Ms. McLeod's participation was consensual,” although he would not say if he had actually seen the video himself.)
The police charged Lara with making a false report to law enforcement. Assistant District Attorney Claiborne Richardson signed off on the charges and told the police to also charge Hera with obstruction of justice for deleting the video, according to the police report. Two women with perfectly clean criminal records — who had never wanted to report the rape in the first place — ended up charged with crimes.
Lara says she wasn't even read her rights before she was handcuffed and marched out of the station. She thought her mom would be waiting at the end of the road. Instead, they frisked her, told her to take out her piercings and let down her hair, and carted her off to jail.
“I don't know what I did!” Lara recalled saying over and over. “They said, ‘Don't play dumb, you know what you did.'” She spent the next few hours sobbing behind bars. As soon as they let her out, she started apologizing.
“The police told me I had to apologize,” Lara said. “So I kept saying, ‘I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.'”
Making a false report to a police officer is a misdemeanor offense in 42 states and a felony in eight. These laws exist because filing a false report can have serious consequences for the accused. An innocent person might be arrested, booked, and subjected to a forensic examination and public scrutiny. Sometimes police spend extensive time and resources investigating a false claim — in those cases, they might seek restitution.
But given that the majority of sexual assaults are not reported to the police, there's reason to tread carefully when it comes to those reports, experts say. Because sexual assault is such a deeply personal violation, victims are less likely to report the crime. They're also less likely to go to the police because they are so often unbelieved: The possibility of being ridiculed, doubted, shamed, or even thrown in jail dissuades many from coming forward.
Sexual assault allegations may be deemed false just because a victim is uncooperative, police have doubts about her credibility — often because she's a sex worker, poor, or a minority — if drugs and alcohol are involved, if the victim has mental health issues, or simply if there's not enough evidence. In other words, just because a police officer determines a report is false doesn't mean it is, which is why there are no consistent studies on the rate of false rape allegations, although the most widely accepted research puts it in the range of 8–10%.
Still, the prospect of false rape claims seems to loom large in police perception, which may be one of the reasons only 7% of sexual assault reports lead to arrest and just 3% lead to prosecution, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.
“One of the biggest problems in rape investigations is that police think women lie,” said Lisa Avalos, a University of Arkansas law professor who researches the prosecution of false rape claims. “When police think that, they typically fail to thoroughly investigate their rape complaints, thus doing a disservice to those victims as well as to the community as a whole, because a predator remains at large.”
The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) says rape claims must be fully investigated before false reporting charges are considered, and it directs police to be open-minded and sympathetic when interviewing victims and not to judge a victim's credibility by her reaction to the rape. Some states have developed their own best practices, such as the Oregon Attorney General's Sexual Assault Task Force, which instructs officers not to arrest women for making false reports if the reporter was compelled to make the report, or if the report did not result in harm to the accused or in the use of significant agency resources.
But both federal and local investigations across the country have found that police often fail to follow these guidelines, instead letting deep-seated stereotypes about sexual assault — that women often lie — influence their decisions. A 2012 federal investigation into how Missoula, Montana, handled sexual assault complaints found that the police, prosecutors, and local university all responded inadequately and failed to take sexual violence seriously. In 2013, Human Rights Watch published a report on police mishandling of sexual assault cases in Washington, D.C. Although the district said it had policies in place to prevent mishandling of sexual assault cases, the report found the department often failed to investigate complaints and discouraged victims from reporting their assaults, in some cases even threatening to charge them with false reporting.
There are no comprehensive studies on how often women are mistakenly charged with false reporting of sexual assault, but high-profile cases from Wisconsin to Washington state have frightening similarities: Victims were pressured to recant reports and prosecuted for lying, then vindicated years later, when their rapists were caught by other authorities after raping more women.
Women wrongly charged with false reporting have won big: Pennsylvanian Sara Reedy landed a $1.5 million settlement from the police in 2012 after enduring a similar ordeal. But it costs money and energy to fight back against police and prosecutors. Rape victims often just don't have it in them.
“My rape was awful,” Lara said. “But the way the police handled it was even worse.”
Lara spent the rest of the summer of 2011 in bed, reading and hiding from the world. She quit her job working at a summer camp. She flinched every time a family member touched her. A lawyer advised her not to fight the charges in court and helped her work out an agreement where she had her charges expunged in exchange for community service.
Lara never admitted guilt or even entered a plea, legal documents show. But that didn't stop both strangers and prosecutors from claiming she did.
Just two weeks after her arrest, a burner email account sent emails to Lara's ex-boyfriend and sorority sisters claiming that she had been charged with filing a false rape report and that the police had determined no rape occurred. The email included a link to an article on a website that posts false rape claims that mentioned her parents' home address. Other websites reposted the charges alongside Lara's mugshot. Lara said she lost friends her sophomore year of college over the allegations and had trouble finding a job the following summer.
Even worse, the authorities were spreading false information. Assistant DA Richardson, who had signed off on the charges against both sisters, wrote in a January 2012 email to the mother of Joaquin's ex-girlfriend, obtained by BuzzFeed News, that Lara had pleaded guilty and had “already received a partial sentence,” both of which were untrue. He said that Hera had “gained access to a crime scene under false pretenses and removed evidence” that “determined that the allegations of rape brought by Ms. McLeod's sister were untrue,” and wrote that the sisters' efforts “to manipulate this office and to ignore their actions will not occur.” (Richardson did not respond to requests for comment.)
In reality, the charges against Hera were dismissed in May 2012 in about an hour and a half, with the judge calling Joaquin's testimony “incredible.” But it cost Hera $50,000 in legal fees, she said.
Hera's lawyer argued during the short trial that Joaquin was deliberately trying to use the situation to his advantage in their ongoing custody dispute. “If he can show, when he goes back to this review hearing, that Ms. McLeod was convicted of a crime and show that she is a bad person, it will enhance his argument that he should have more custody,” he said.
Although Hera's case was dismissed, that's exactly what happened.
By then, Prince was almost a year old. During the custody proceedings, the Washingtonian reported, a police officer testified that Joaquin was a suspect in the 2003 shooting death of an ex-girlfriend named Shawn Mason. A different ex-girlfriend testified that Joaquin had asked her if she knew anyone who could carry the murder out. A social worker said Joaquin had been charged with domestic abuse of his older son. Hera discovered the music career was a lie: Joaquin's only current means of support appeared to be his older son's Social Security benefits and his mother's life insurance, which he collected after her death, ruled a suicide, in 2008. She also learned that Joaquin was mistakenly under the impression that he was the beneficiary of Shawn's life insurance policy, according to a report by a social worker who interviewed him as part of a 2004 custody proceeding for his older son. Additionally, she found out that Joaquin ran a pornography website on the side.
Judge Michael J. Algeo was concerned about the porn and other aspects of Joaquin's lifestyle, but dismissed the ex-girlfriend's testimony — she had also said Joaquin was abusive — because Joaquin had taken photos of her before and she “likes to get undressed and go on websites.” Joaquin admitted that it was unwise to have had sex with Lara, but portrayed himself as the guileless victim of a conspiracy by the two sisters — one who lied about the rape and the other who tried to hide the exculpatory video. “I mean, the fact that I could have served eight to 10, 15 years of my life for something that [Hera] had done, that really concerns me, because the fact is that she had evidence in her possession and she chose to delete it,” Joaquin said in court that March.
Judge Alego gave Hera sole custody, but eventually granted Joaquin the right to unsupervised visits despite Hera's insistence that he was a danger to their young child. On the fourth unsupervised visit, she got a call that Prince had been taken to the hospital in a coma.
EMTs had found him cold and wet, with a bruise on his forehead and dried blood in his nose, according to the Washingtonian. Hospital officials had even notified Child Protective Services, noting “obvious unexplainable injuries,” the Washington Post reported. An autopsy found “fluid in the sinuses, airways, lungs and intestines” and “small bruises and abrasions on the face and upper chest and back.”
He died the next day, at 15 months old.
Police and prosecutors charged Joaquin with capital murder the following January, alleging he drowned Prince to collect more than $500,000 from three life insurance policies they say he obtained before his death. (Joaquin has said that he was just trying to help his son, who had been suffering from febrile seizures.) They have encountered some setbacks: Last fall, the Virginia medical examiner reversed the initial ruling of drowning to “no known cause of death,” and a judge denied the request to connect it to the deaths of his mother and ex-girlfriend, ruling that “a propensity” to commit crimes is not admissible to prove guilt in one specific case. Prosecutors are still seeking the death penalty, and the trial date is set for January 2016.
Lara was never allowed to see her medical records from the night she went to the hospital for her rape kit, although she remembers a nurse telling her her injuries were consistent with sexual assault. When Lara requested them recently, the hospital told her she would have to ask the police. When she requested them from the police, she was told her records were exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, since they were associated with a criminal case, even though it was now closed.
Two members of the Manassas city police force, which investigated Joaquin's ex-girlfriend's and mother's deaths, would not comment on the upcoming case. One retired detective said he believed Joaquin was “guilty of three murders.”
Manassas Sgt. Christine Perry said she had “met and spoken with many people” who Joaquin hurt “either physically, mentally, emotionally, or financially.”
“How he continued to come out on top and be able to play the victim himself still astonishes me,” she said.
The McLeods demanded that the Prince William County Police Department conduct an investigation into how it handled Lara's rape allegation. In fall 2013, Police Chief Steve Hudson invited the family in to discuss the results. Lara didn't want to attend the meeting, but she wrote a letter to the police detailing what their actions had cost her.
She spent her college years having flashbacks, isolating herself, and crying in her room, she wrote. She had lost friends from the nasty articles. She lost her faith in the justice system. And her baby nephew was gone forever.
“I'm not really sure how your police force can fix anything two years later,” she wrote. “I'm not looking for monetary compensation, and an apology just isn't enough…you not only ruined my life, but you ruined my family's life. It took me two years to finally get some of myself back, and I assure you that I will never be the self-confident, bright eyed girl I once was.”
The family had specific requests: Train officers on how to properly respond to sexual assault. Discipline the detectives that charged the sisters. Make a public statement, so someone who googles Lara — a potential employer, say — would not see the outlandish charges.
“A few of your concerns, I think, have been corroborated,” Chief Hudson told Hera in the meeting, a recording of which was obtained by BuzzFeed News. He admitted that the decision to allow Joaquin to recover the video was “improper” and “violates our policies on handling evidence.” Hudson said the police report was “sloppy” and he thought some aspects of the investigation had been “shortcutted.”
“I think fatigue played a part in this,” he said, “and not a good part.”
Hudson admitted that the detectives had “reached a conclusion and didn't pursue it further” and that, “in hindsight,” he would “prefer that the charges not have been made.”
“One of the shortcomings in this case is the fact that they didn't do further investigation on the specific charge against you,” he said to Hera. “To leap to the conclusion that you needed to be charged at the time you did I thought was cut short.”
But he said there was nothing “technically improper” with the charges brought against Hera and Lara, as it was the detectives' “judgment call.” And, he said, even if the police hadn't charged them, Joaquin still wouldn't have been arrested for rape. When Hera asked whether it was common for the department to charge women with falsely reporting rape, Chief Hudson said that he didn't know if he would “call it an aberration.” The department deals with about 9 or 10 charges of false reporting a year out of 80–100 reports, he said.
As for the idea that his officers needed further instruction on handling sexual assault cases, he said their training was already “cutting edge.” He said they would address some issues internally but could not elaborate on what or how.
“Is there nothing your department can do to say ‘we made some mistakes and we're fixing them?'” Hera asked.
“I would certainly think that it would be possible for me to say, in this investigation we uncovered some concerns about the methods used in the investigation that we are addressing administratively and internally,” Chief Hudson said, but he would have to ask their attorneys. “That's probably about as far as I'd be able to go.” He couldn't say Hera and Lara should never have been charged at all, because that was just his “personal opinion,” he said.
Later, Hera says, the department told her they could not make any public statement at all.
When Human Rights Watch faulted the D.C. police for how they handled sexual assault cases, the report included recommendations for police departments nationwide. Departments should hold officers accountable if they do not document or investigate cases, create an effective complaint procedure for victims or observers of improper treatment, respond seriously and transparently to those complaints, and submit to outside oversight.
The Prince William County police told the McLeods they couldn't say whether they would make those or any similar changes. But, it appears, they haven't even tried one simple fix: keeping data on how often they arrest women for falsely reporting rape.
In July, Prince William Detective Samuel Walker said it's standard protocol to arrest people for falsely reporting rape because the department tries “to deter false allegations,” but “only if they can determine that the person is at fault.” However, he said, the department does not track how often it arrests people for falsely reporting sexual assault to a police officer, making it impossible to know how big — or how small — the problem actually is. Walker also said the department would be unable to provide BuzzFeed News with data detailing the number of women who report sexual assault per year to the Prince William police, or with a clear breakdown of how many of those reports are deemed “unfounded” and why.
Cavender, Norton, and Hudson did not respond to BuzzFeed News' requests for comment. Prince William Police spokesperson Sergeant Kim Chinn said BuzzFeed News' assertions were “erroneous” and that the case had been “investigated internally and criminally, and then reviewed again in response to your inquiry.” She said she could not comment further due to legal constraints.
Paul B. Ebert, commonwealth's attorney for Prince William County, said his office could not “confirm or deny” any allegations related to Lara as there were no records involving her.
Assistant DA Richardson has since come under fire for allegedly instructing police to take photos of a minor's erect penis for evidence in a “sexting” case.
Hera hasn't spoken to Joaquin since the day her parents told her he raped her sister. But every year on Prince's birthday, she sends a letter to the authorities who she holds just as responsible for his death. This year, she included a photo of Prince with his two front teeth in, smiling and sitting on a red truck — with his birth and death dates printed above.
“On July 1st, 2015, I would have turned four,” the card said. “May you always remember how the decisions you make impact the lives of innocent people. I will never forget you. I pray you will never forget about me.”
This year, Kimberly Norton, one of the two officers who charged the McLeod sisters, put the card in a new envelope and mailed it back to Hera unopened. She rewrote her return address in block letters. Not Detective Norton, as Hera had written, but “SGT K. NORTON.” She had been promoted. So had Detective Cavender.
MP opposes call to waive abuse anonymity
by Lisa Simpson
Mark Pettingill would strongly oppose giving the parents of victims of sexual offences the right to waive the anonymity of their children.
The One Bermuda Alliance MP spoke out after Sheelagh Cooper, founder of the Coalition for the Protection of Children, called for the law to be amended so that victims of sexual offences, or their families, could decide whether a convicted offender's name was made public.
However, Mr Pettingill, the chairman of the joint select committee investigating how the Island deals with sex offenders, was more amenable to the idea of victims waiving their anonymity once they became adults.
“One has to be really careful — with all respect to Sheelagh, who does great work — with giving a parent the right to waive the anonymity of their child,” Mr Pettingill said. “That to my mind is a protection. I would be strongly opposed to that approach.
“Let's say that was a 12-year-old, what that child could be subject to at school because their name gets out.
“That, to my mind, strikes me as a greater protection than allowing for the release of the child's name on that one,” the former attorney-general said.
“That person, when they are an adult and want to come along and say, ‘I was sexually abused as a 12-year-old', sure that's their right to do that and they want to tell their story. It's a little bit of a different game to the 11-year-old that's got to go to primary school and all the kids know.”
Mr Pettingill agreed with Ms Cooper that there was no provision in the law that granted victims the right to waive their anonymity. However, he said this “would be a sensible something to look at” as long as it comes “from the victim, once they are of age”.
“It takes a hell of a lot of courage to stand up and say ‘I was sexually abused',” he added.
“People carry those secrets for years and it destroys their lives. Every day it destroys their lives, they never get by it and it causes them to turn to drink or drugs, or have family problems, or heaven forbid become offenders themselves. It's a very precarious path to walk on how you deal with all these things. We have to look at it objectively with regards to protection. We have to look at it subjectively with regard to the victims and their families.”
According to Ms Cooper, the legislation prevents the naming of a convicted sexual offender if that would lead to the identification of the victim.
“We are suggesting to amend the legislation to give victims or the victims' families that option,” she said.
“I realise that the stated purpose of the prohibition is the protection of the victim's identity but we make the point that the law should be amended to allow the victim or the victim's parents to decide whether the convicted person's name is published.”
Ms Cooper's call came after a former police officer was jailed for 15 years for the sexual exploitation of his daughter and incest but the media could not report his name for legal reasons.
“Because of the laws that prevent the media from naming the convicted offender we, the public, will never know who it is that we need to protect our children from,” she said at the time.
At the sentencing of the former officer, Puisne Judge Carlisle Greaves also suggested that Parliament should consider revisiting the Island's sexual offences laws to bring the maximum penalties for incest and certain other sexual offences in line with those for sexual exploitation.
Mr Justice Greaves noted that the maximum sentence for the sexual exploitation offence was far greater than the maximum sentence for incest, which he described as “inadequate in this jurisdiction”.
Mr Pettingill said he “absolutely” agreed with Mr Justice Greaves's recommendation, adding: “That's what you need to hear from judges, that they are making a comment on the law they sit and deal with it every day.
“We as legislators have to have our ears open and say, ‘Hey, this is what the judiciary is saying, this is what we need to do'.
“Same thing with the prosecutors, we need to listen. Same thing with the defence attorneys, we need to listen — there have to be balances.”
Shock child abuse claim as watchdog says parents use 'home schooling' as cover-up
by Tom Edwards
PARENTS who abuse their children are escaping detection by suddenly opting for 'home schooling', it has emerged.
The explosive revelation has come from the chairman of Worcestershire's Safeguarding Children Board, who says she is "extremely concerned" about evidence of con-artist parents suddenly removing their children from school as soon as concerns emerge around sexual abuse.
Diana Fulbrook, who is the independent chair of the board, says there is growing evidence from schools and health professionals that some abusers are seeing home schooling as an option for escaping the clutches of police and social workers.
Mrs Fulbrook, who acts as a watchdog over children's social care, is now going to write to Government ministers to ask them to give councils specific powers to launch investigations into families they suspect are playing the system.
At the moment the law gives families rights to suddenly pull their child out and register for home schooling without any powers to delay it, review the decision or investigate why.
But the board says there is firm evidence, both in Worcestershire and around the country, of sexual abusers taking advantage of that to escape the authorities.
Your Worcester News can also reveal how within the last year one serious case review has taken place in Worcestershire where Mrs Fulbrook says home schooling was "a feature" of the abusive parents' strategy.
She wrote to the Government last year about it and is now contacting the Department for Education again to raise serious concern.
It comes at a time when Worcestershire has 317 children being educated at home.
"I have to stress with the vast majority of parents who do home schooling, we have no concerns about them whatsoever," she said.
"But there is a loophole and some schools have expressed concern, and we've heard it from paediatricians, that when questions start to be asked (about suspected abuse victims) a very small but very worrying number then decide to 'home educate'.
"The local authorities can't do anything to monitor them, it's extremely concerning, indeed there's real concern around the country about this.
"There's been a few high-profile, serious case reviews where a child has died and they've been home schooled - and we had a case review last year in Worcestershire where home schooling was a feature.
"It's a small minority but clearly, it's seriously worrying. We've seen this happen."
She told your Worcester News her concerns are being reiterated around the country by other independent safeguarding children's board bosses.
The fears have been backed up by school governors in Worcestershire, who also say some parents go further by hopping across different council boundaries to flee any detection - moving house regularly.
Lib Dem Councillor Fran Oborski is governor at two schools and used to work as an education officer role at Birmingham City Council.
"You get parents who are caught out and they go for home schooling, move from Worcestershire to Birmingham, then to Dudley, then somewhere else without being detected," she said.
The concern comes at a time when Worcestershire County Council has around 690 children in care, costing taxpayers nearly £30 million.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS
SECTION 57 of the Education Act 1996 gives parents the right to home school if they wish.
The only way to try and get them back into mainstream education is if council chiefs deem the child 'not in receipt of a suitable education', which can result in officers using the law to apply for a 'School Attendance Order' ordering them to return or risk prosecution.
But councils have no statutory duties to monitor the quality of home education on a 'routine basis' under the law.
Bosses at County Hall say they are determined to work as effectively as they can within its limitations.
Councillor John Campion, the cabinet member for children and families said: "When we are made aware of a child who is home educated, we'll make informal enquiries about the arrangements that are being made to ensure a suitable education is taking place.
"The council also recognises that when a parent elects to home educate this does not, by itself constitute a safeguarding concern.
"However, we do recognise that there is a small percentage of children who are electively home educated, likewise for those who are in school, who are considered to be 'vulnerable' and we ensure that the robust safeguarding procedures that are in place are followed to ensure that these children are identified and supported in the best possible way."