From the Department of Homeland Security
DHS Blue Campaign and North Dakota Public Health Association Announce New Partnership to Combat Human Trafficking
WASHINGTON— The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today announced a new partnership between the DHS Blue Campaign—the unified voice for DHS's efforts to combat human trafficking—and the North Dakota Public Health Association.
“The Department of Homeland Security is fiercely committed to combating human trafficking in North Dakota and along our Nation's northern border,” said Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “The health care community has an important role to play in this fight, and we look forward to working alongside the North Dakota Public Health Association to identify victims of this terrible crime and bring their traffickers to justice.”
Through this partnership, the North Dakota Public Health Association will provide the Blue Campaign's training and awareness materials throughout North Dakota healthcare facilities to raise public consciousness of human trafficking. Blue Campaign tools and resources – including posters, indicator cards, and training videos specific to the health care industry - will help health care providers identify and recognize indicators of human trafficking in health care settings, as well as provide potential victims with information on how to seek support and to report suspected cases of human trafficking.
The partnership will help North Dakota combat the growing problem of human trafficking that is spreading across the state, particularly in the oil-rich Bakken region and in Indian Country.
“The goal is to get the materials into local hospitals and work with tribal communities where there's a disproportionate amount of members who are a part of the human trafficking ring in North Dakota,” said Maylynn Warne, MPH, Executive Director of the North Dakota Public Health Association. “There's a large number of American Indian women affected so we want to be able to reach out to those communities and offer resources.”
Earlier this year, DHS announced the expansion of the DHS Blue Campaign's public awareness efforts to major airports, truck stops, and motorist gas stations across the country to better enable Americans to recognize and report potential instances of human trafficking. In June, the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, and Labor announced Phase II of the Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team Initiative, a strategic plan to develop high-impact federal investigations and prosecutions of suspected human traffickers.
The DHS Blue Campaign works in collaboration with law enforcement, government, non-governmental and private organizations, to protect the basic right of freedom and to bring those who exploit human lives to justice.
For more information, visit www.dhs.gov/bluecampaign.
How Childhood Trauma Can Make You A Sick Adult
by Vincent Felitti
The Adverse Childhood Study found that survivors of childhood trauma are up to 5000% more likely to attempt suicide, have eating disorders or become IV drug users. Dr. Vincent Felitti, the study's founder, details this remarkable and powerful connection.
What we found in the ACE study involving seventeen and a half thousand middle-class adults was that life experiences in childhood that are lost in time and then further protected by shame and by secrecy and by social taboos against inquiry into certain realms of human experience—that those life experiences play out powerfully and proportionately a half century later, in terms of emotional state, in terms of biomedical disease, in terms of life expectancy. In 1985, I first became interested in developmental life experiences in early childhood really by accident. In the major obesity program we were running, a young woman came into the program. She was twenty-eight years old, and weighed 408 pounds, and asked us if we could help her with her problem. And in fifty-one weeks, we took her from 408 to 132. And we thought, well my god, we've got this problem licked. This is going to be a world-famous department here! She maintained her weight at 132 for several weeks, and then in one three-week period regained 37 pounds in three weeks, which I had not previously conceived as being physiologically possible. That was triggered by being sexually propositioned at work by a much older man, as she described him. And in short order, she was back over 400 pounds faster than she had lost the weight. I remember asking her why the extreme response. After initially claiming not to have any understanding of why the extreme response, ultimately she told me of a lengthy incest history with her grandfather, from age 10 to age 21. Ultimately it turned out that fifty-five percent of the people in our obesity program acknowledged a history of childhood sexual abuse. I mean, that obviously is not the only issue going on, but it was where we began. And as we went down that trail, then we discovered other forms of abuse, also growing up in massively dysfunctional households, et cetera. The ACE study was really designed to see whether these things existed at all in the general population, and if so, how did they play out over time?
We studied 10 categories of adverse life experience that were chosen because of their prevalence in the weight program: childhood sexual abuse, heavy-duty childhood physical abuse—I'm not talking spanking—um, major emotional abuse, recurrent humiliation, two categories of neglect, growing up in a home where, one of the members of the household, uh, was chronically depressed, suicidal, mentally ill, or in the state hospital; growing up in a home without both biological parents; growing up in a home where, um, one of the members of your household was alcoholic or a drug user; growing up in a home where mother was beaten; growing up in a home where one of the members of your household was imprisoned during your childhood or adolescence. Those were the 10 categories. In a middle-class population, one in 11 people has experienced six or more of those adverse life experiences in childhood. So this is very common. Totally unrecognized. It was difficult for us to accept their commonness. But on the other hand, these are issues that most people never touch. And so who would know without routinely asking? But at a so-called ACE score of six, experiencing any six of the ten categories that we studied, that person was 4,600% more likely to become an IV drug user than a person who had experienced none of those ten categories. Okay? Now, you know, you think, you read the newspaper, the latest cancer scare of the week, prostate cancer or breast cancer increases 30%, and everyone goes nuts. I'm talking 4,600% increase. The same ACE score of six produces a likelihood of attempting suicide that is between 3,100% and 5,000% greater than the likelihood of suicide attempts in someone with none of those life experiences. So the power of this relationship is enormous.
So ultimately the question arises: how do life experiences in childhood end up with disease states a half century later? There are at least two big categories to account for that. One is through the use of various coping devices. One smokes to feel better; one overeats to feel better; one drinks to relax, et cetera. And those things carried out in heavy amounts have major destructive patterns, even though they may be immediately beneficial. The other broad category has to do with the effect of chronic major unrelieved stress on the workings of one's brain and central nervous system. In recent years, this is relatively new, it's become clear that chronic major unrelieved stress can produce the release of pro-inflammatory chemicals in a person's body, and also can suppress immune system function. Of the ten categories that we studied, any six of them produces a shortening in life expectancy of almost twenty years. The magnitude of this problem is so huge, and the complexity of dealing with it after the fact is so huge, that realistically, the only serious approach is going to have to involve primary prevention. No one knows how to do that, but it's the right question to focus on.
about Vincent Felitti:
A renowned physician and researcher, Dr. Vincent J. Felitti is one of the world's foremost experts on childhood trauma. Leading the charge in research into how adverse childhood experiences affect adults, he is co-principal investigator of the internationally recognized Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, a long-term, in-depth, analysis of over 17,000 adults. Defying conventional belief, this study famously revealed a powerful relationship between our emotional experiences as children and our physical and mental health as adults. In fact, the ACE study shows that humans convert childhood traumatic emotional experiences into organic disease later in life. Revolutionary at its inception, Felitti's groundbreaking research remains extremely relevant to today's healthcare models.
Founder of the Department of Preventive Medicine for Kaiser Permanente, Felitti served as the chief of preventive medicine for over 25 years. Under Dr. Felitti's leadership, his department provided comprehensive medical evaluations to 1.1 million individuals, becoming the largest single-site medical evaluation facility in the western world. During this time, Felitti's revolutionary health risk abatement programs incorporated weight loss, smoking cessation, stress management, and a wide range of cutting-edge efforts to reduce patient risk factors. Dr. Felitti also has served on advisory committees at the Institute of Medicine and the American Psychiatric Association. A noted expert on the genetic disease hemochromatosis, as well as obesity, he educates audiences around the country on these two very common, deadly maladies.
An engaging speaker, Felitti has traveled the world speaking with audiences and various policy leaders about his research. A well versed medical expert, Felitti also uses his knowledge to speak out against domestic violence and other forms of childhood trauma. Drawing on his years of experience, he has become an important voice advocating for the wellbeing of children everywhere. While time may not heal all wounds, Felitti helps show audiences how we can understand these physical and mental traumas, and ultimately, prevent them.
We must hold abusers accountable
by Leigh Anne Manlove
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month. Who cares?
On March 26, 2013, in Casper, Thomas Miller and his wife, Natalie, argued. He chased her out the front door and shot her five times. Miller also threatened Natalie's mother. The Miller children, ages 6 and 2, were in the home when their father killed their mother. We should care about that.
Domestic violence is a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors, including physical, sexual and psychological attacks, as well as economic coercion, used by the perpetrator against a loved one.
In Wyoming, one in every four residents is impacted by domestic violence. A DV victim's ability to maintain economic self-sufficiency because of health care costs, housing instability, legal services, lost wages from missed work, or lost opportunity from missed school.
Intimate partner abuse has a profoundly negative affect on all of us. It is a silent health epidemic that costs our country more than $2 billion annually in medical costs. One quarter of all ER visits are attributable to DV.
Research shows that 50 percent of all batterers abuse the children in the home. Even if they are not physically injured, children who hear and see domestic violence are impacted by it. Witnessing domestic violence is the single best predictor of high-risk behavior by young people, including: drug abuse, juvenile delinquency and engaging in multiple health risk behaviors.
Depending on their developmental stage, children witnessing domestic violence may develop serious medical and/or psychological problems. Boys who witness DV become adults who are 10 times more likely to use violence on their partners, and girls learn that violence is normal and tend to accept it in their adult relationships.
How do we prevent the murders of women like Natalie Miller and far too many others? We talk about what's going on behind closed doors. We report the abuse. We investigate and prosecute offenders. We have laws that reflect the value of human life.
In Wyoming, defendants face greater penalties for illegally killing a big game animal than for abusing an intimate partner. Our public policy makers have put a higher value on a dead moose than a battered spouse. A first-offense DV battery conviction is punishable by up to six months in jail, a fine of $750, or both.
By contrast, the punishment for taking any big or trophy game animal without the proper license or authority is a fine of up to $10,000, up to one year in jail, or both.
Surely the people in Wyoming are at least as important as its wildlife. Why is that not reflected in our laws and, by extension, in our courts?
Investigation and prosecution of domestic violence crimes is difficult. According to a study published by the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, between 80 percent and 90 percent of DV victims will not cooperate with prosecution. Don't take California's word for it -- ask anyone in law enforcement or victim advocacy. They will tell you that domestic violence victims do not want prosecution; they want an end to the violence. They deserve both.
The law does not protect only a cooperative victim, nor does it excuse a perpetrator's criminal conduct if a victim later recants. Without strong leadership and a commitment to evidence-based prosecution, most domestic violence cases are dismissed or reduced to meaningless charges. A batterer who evades prosecution or who is not held accountable will continue to re-offend and will likely escalate.
Consider this: Remaining in an abusive relationship is safer than leaving it. Nationwide, about 75 percent of women who are killed by their abuser are killed after they leave the relationship. Leaving increases lethality.
Oftentimes, victims stay because they believe they have nothing else. Research has shown that victims who leave their batterers have a 50 percent chance of falling below the poverty line. Domestic violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women and the second most frequent cause for families.
Natrona County's Turning Point-Self Help Center can assist with emergency services and long-term solutions for housing, child care, employment/job training and legal assistance for DV victims. Across the state there are similar programs.
We must, every one of us, hold abusers accountable: legislators, law enforcement, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, probation and parole officers, faith community, business people, education system, friends, family and neighbors.
If we fail, there will be another intimate partner homicide and when there is, all of us will bear responsibility. We can do better by each other and by our children, and we should.
UK police: Child abuse cases involving witchcraft, exorcism more than doubled since 2013
by The Associated Press
LONDON – Britain's Metropolitan Police have reported an increase in the number of child abuse cases that involve allegations of witchcraft and exorcism.
Police said Sunday a specialist unit received 46 such cases in 2014, more than twice as many as the year before.
The "Project Violet" unit says 60 incidents have been reported so far this year, continuing the upward trend.
Detective Sergeant Terry Sharpe said the number of incidents remains "small in number" but that "there has been a significant increase."
Detective Sergeant Terry Sharpe said the number of incidents remains "small in number" but that "there has been a significant increase."
He said in one case a 9-year-old boy was called a "devil child" and thrown out of his home by his parents. Another case involved a mother who believed her son was a witch and tried to bite and smother him.
Officials: Border Patrol Agent Harassed Man Who Accused Relative Of Child Abuse
A Border Patrol supervisor is accused of having a man stopped and searched at the border repeatedly to pressure him into dropping sex abuse charges against a relative.
by Salvador Hernandez
A U.S. Border Patrol agent sought to harass a man by falsely flagging him to be repeatedly stopped and searched at the border, officials alleged Friday, after the man accused someone related to the agent of raping an 11-year-old boy.
In one instance, prosecutors allege, the man and his wife were taken out of their car and handcuffed, separated from their children, and held in a cell for nearly two hours.
Officials suspect U.S. Border Patrol Supervisory Agent Martin Rene Duran was trying to pressure the man to drop charges against his brother-in-law, who was being investigated in Mexico on charges of repeatedly abusing and raping an 11-year-old boy for two years.
“This type of corruption is in a category all by itself,” U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said in a statement. “When an officer turns on those he is supposed to protect, and uses his significant power against law-abiding people who had faith in him, it's a special kind of betrayal.”
Duran, 46, faces federal charges of falsifying records and deprivation of rights. His brother-in-law, Raymundo Estrada Figueroa, was also charged with two counts of traveling to Mexico to engage in illicit sexual conduct.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, the victim of the patrol agent's alleged harassment, who was not identified to protect his child's identity, accused Estrada in Mexico of abusing and raping his son from 2010 to 2013 in Tijuana.
Estrada had been dating the boy's mother at the time, according to prosecutors.
After the investigation was launched, officials allege Duran then flagged the victim in the agency's database, falsely indicating that he was “known to carry firearms” and had been “associated with recent threats to CBP personnel.”
The victim, identified only as a Mexican citizen and a legal U.S. resident who frequently travels to Mexico, was stopped at least five times while crossing the border at San Ysidro.
He was never found to be carrying contraband or weapons.
Duran, who worked at the Imperial Beach Border Patrol Station, was taken into custody Thursday.
Toddler's death spurs questions about how we handle child abuse
The recent death of a little girl has some state officials questioning the most basic tenet of child protective services in New Hampshire — keeping families together.
by Mary Pat Rowland
recent death of a little girl has some state officials questioning the most basic tenet of child protective services in New Hampshire — keeping families together.
As the mother of seven, two biological children and five who were adopted out of foster care, it's a tenet I have been wrestling with for nearly nine years. Should I let my adopted children connect with the biological mother who did them great harm and eventually gave them away? Many psychologists and social workers say yes, but sometimes, keeping families together leads to growing up in a home filled with unspeakable trauma or worse, results in the ultimate tragedy — the death of a child.
Sadie Willott is one such statistic. She was just 21 months old when she died Sept. 6 at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. Emergency responders rushed to her Manchester home the day before when they received a call about an unresponsive child. Sadie could not wake up because someone bashed her head against a flat surface. She suffered a fatal brain injury.
Now, Sadie's mother, Katlin Paquette, 22, is facing a second-degree murder charge in connection with the tiny toddler's death, which has sparked outrage and calls for reforms. Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard said the state's Division of Children Youth and Families, which had been involved with Sadie and her mother, failed to protect the little girl.
Less than a month after Sadie's death, Gov. Maggie Hassan announced a comprehensive independent review of child protective services administered by DCYF. “We deeply grieve the loss of any child,” Hassan said. “If as a state we missed any opportunity to save a children's life, it is a tragedy and a failure — one that we must do everything possible to prevent in the future."
“Our society rests on the fundamental principle that all children must be able to grow up in a safe environment, and in the rare instances where their families harm them, we must protect them,” Hassan said.
The attorney general's office will play an active role in the review of Sadie's case and will make recommendations to a commission headed by N.H. Sen. and Hooksett Republican David Boutin.
The commission has an unenviable and perhaps impossible task: to come up with rules to better protect children that are still somehow weighted to support and preserve biological families. I have walked that tightrope with my adoptive children so many times and have ended up losing my balance and falling into a sea of heartbreak and recriminations.
My children love their biological mother, even though she is deeply flawed and even dangerous. And though she did not physically harm them as in Sadie's case, some of my adoptive kids are on a path toward death, albeit a slow death.
Despite my best efforts to raise them properly, several of the older children, who are now adults, have severe addiction problems. No excuses: They are at fault for their own bad decisions and have been shown a better way to live.
But, there is so much more to the story. Traumatic childhood experiences including exposure to addictive behavior in their biological home are also factors in their destructive behavior now.
As I watch their suffering, I can't help but wonder if my children's lives would have been different had the state taken them away sooner and severed the connection to parents who were so sick, they could never love their children the way they deserved to be loved.
Experts recognize childhood trauma as one of the forces driving addiction. It makes my heart ache to think about all of the other children out there who are being exposed to horrible events as they live with their drug-addicted parents. As the heroin crisis deepens in New Hampshire, I wonder how many children are being victimized, imprisoned by a state policy that strives to preserve the biological family, even when that unit is beyond sick.
Sadly, there is no easy answer. Blood ties are powerful. Children continue to love and identify with their “real” parents, even if mom and dad are addicts who never took care of them.
What policy-makers need to pinpoint is when the state needs to step in. When do those blood ties put a child in danger of physical injury or long-term trauma that will result in their slow death?
I am praying for the attorney general and Boutin's committee as they begin the grim task of examining how New Hampshire handles these sad cases. For Sadie's sake, I hope they are bold.
And I pray every day that my children come to understand the negative forces in their lives before it is too late.
Don't let ‘ordinary' child sexual abuse fall back into the shadows
by Peter Wanless
Focus on celebrity cases must not detract from advances in tackling child sexual abuse – and in persuading victims that, if they speak up, they will be heard l
Three years ago we were suddenly plunged into a world of celebrity and VIP sex offenders following revelations of the deeply disturbing crimes committed by Jimmy Savile.
Since then the British public has been deluged with lurid accusations – some specific, some suggestive, against high-profile people. Rolf Harris, Max Clifford and Stuart Hall are among those who have been jailed as a consequence despite their persistent protestations of innocence.
While VIP-related allegations dominate the headlines, a significant shift in confidence and understanding of child sexual abuse has been taking place in our society. For too long victims remained quiet, fearful of the consequences of speaking up, lacking the belief that anything positive would come of it if they did. Now they can be a little more confident that not only will they be heard but that also no one is above the law.
High-profile cases have helped keep child abuse under a spotlight and at the forefront of people's minds but we must not allow it to distract from the reality that VIP child abuse is not typical. Around 90% of sex offences against children are committed by someone they know – a relative, family friend, an acquaintance of some sort. And the vast majority of these offenders are from what you might term “ordinary” backgrounds.
Their horrendous crimes might make them notorious, if uncovered, but celebrities they certainly aren't. If we look at just a handful of recent court cases we can see that the offenders come from all walks of life:
• A retired college principal convicted of dozens of offences against young boys;
• A former town planning officer who attempted to rape a 13-year-old girl;
• A middle-aged couple found guilty of inciting their own children to perform sex acts before taking pictures of them;
• A publican and a shopkeeper who were part of a paedophile ring.
And then of course there is the grotesque case involving seven men who conspired to abuse very young children, even raping a baby and filming the sickening event so others could watch it happening live. These extreme paedophiles included an IT contractor, a businessman, a hospital worker, and a football coach and father of two. People you could encounter on the street or at the school gates without having an inkling of their sordid backgrounds.
So while the media focus is, understandably, trained on particularly high-profile allegations we have to ensure nothing is done to reverse the progress we have made and slide back to the dark days of the 1980s, where child abuse existed in the shadows. There is a very real danger that children could be put at risk if we concentrate solely on celebrity offenders.
Child sexual abuse is not a thing of the past. Recently the NSPCC obtained figures which showed the number of sex offences against children reported to the 43 police forces in England and Wales last year had increased by more than a third. Over 31,000 crimes – 85 a day – including rape, sexual assault and grooming were recorded. And while the majority of victims were aged 12-16, there were still nearly 3,000 aged five and under. Today, like any other, our ChildLine counsellors will be talking to young people who have experienced it. Our duty and responsibility is to help them know that if they speak up they will be listened to, supported, helped to get the justice they seek and given every chance to move beyond the horror of the crimes committed against them.
If they fall silent it could well send us back to those terrible times when child sexual abuse was something few people dared even whisper let alone tried to tackle.
Lawyer grilling Cosby 'goes after guys who hurt women'
by Ann O'Neill
Los Angeles (CNN) -- Oh, to be a fly on the wall when Gloria Allred grills Bill Cosby.
The famed feminist attorney is said to be interrogating the 78-year-old comedian and Jell-O huckster under oath Friday about his alleged serial doping and groping of young women. She says no question is off-limits.
A video camera will likely be rolling, but what it captures will remain under seal for at least the next 60 days. The lawyers have been told not to discuss it, and so the location of this highly anticipated face-off is a closely guarded secret.
But it's no secret that Allred has been eagerly awaiting her moment with a man she views as a sexual predator.
"Mr. Cosby, I'm really looking forward to seeing you in person at this deposition," she said recently on CNN, adding he "needs to get ready."
It was a week in which Cosby took a bicoastal legal bath. Bids to toss out lawsuits by his accusers failed in both California and Massachusetts.
And he faces a tough weekend in the court of public opinion.
On Friday night, 27 of Cosby's accusers, ranging in age from 48 to 80, appeared together in the same studio on NBC's "Dateline." Several said they were drugged and sexually assaulted by Cosby when they befriended him in hopes he'd help their careers in show business.
More than 40 women have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct over several decades. The star has not been criminally charged and has vehemently denied wrongdoing.
On Saturday, Allred will appear at a news conference in Boston to talk about the "status of the deposition of Bill Cosby."
A federal judge in Springfield, near Cosby's Massachusetts home, ruled Friday that three women can continue to pursue a defamation action against Cosby and his handlers. Tamara Green, Therese Serignese and Linda Traitz allege Cosby and his representatives defamed them while defending Cosby. Team Cosby's offiicial line had been that the women fabricated allegations Cosby sexually abused them.
U.S. District Judge Mark Mastroianni ruled that their suit can move ahead, opening the door for other accusers to come forward. The judge said it might be possible for the women to prove that Team Cosby knowingly made false statements as they tried to discredit his accusers.
Earlier this week, a judge in Los Angeles refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Allred. The suit claims Cosby molested her client, then 15, at the Playboy Mansion in 1974. Allred got the green light to take Cosby's sworn statement at a deposition on Friday. Her client, Judy Huth, faces similar grilling by Cosby's lawyers next week.
Huth's is the rare Cosby accuser's case to make it to court. In other cases, too much time has passed. But because she was 15 at the time, the statute of limitations is extended.
Allred has said she might keep Cosby on the hot seat for up to seven hours.
"I think he understands that we will be asking him anything and everything that may bear on his credibility in reference to our client Judith Huth's allegations about what happened at the Playboy Mansion," Allred said.
"He may try to escape. He's going to evade, but we're going to have a lot of questions," she said. "We are going to be persistent. We want the answers. We're entitled to get them."
She expects major pushback from Cosby's team of high-powered lawyers, which includes Marty Singer, the "bulldog to the stars."
"So we'll just have to see how it goes. It's going to be a pitched battle but we're ready for it."
In a 2005 sworn deposition in a different civil case, Cosby admitted to getting prescription Quaaludes to give to women he wanted to have sex with. That deposition only recently came to light.
There's always the possibility Cosby won't show up, or that he might refuse to answer the questions because he faces possible criminal charges in Los Angeles. That case involves a different woman; more than 40 have come forward to accuse Cosby of sexual improprieties, and Allred represents many of them.
It's what makes her Gloria Allred. She's been at it for nearly 40 years. The Cosby case ain't her first rodeo.
Her clients include starlets, personal assistants, nannies and other allegedly wronged women from all walks of life. To say Allred is well-known is an understatement. On her website, she calls herself "the most famous woman attorney practicing law in the nation today." That might be marketing hyperbole, but she's so engrained in the popular culture that she has been the subject of a "Saturday Night Live" skit.
The skit used humor to underscore a simple truth. These words carry real weight: "Look out, Mister, I'm calling Gloria Allred."
Allred often dresses all in red. But she has also been known to wear green, "the color of money," as a Los Angeles Times reporter once observed. She favors knits from St. John.
Some, including Cosby's lawyers, consider Allred a shameless publicity hound. In the Cosby case, opposing attorney Singer sneered that Cosby's deposition was a "publicity stunt" and argued Huth's suit should be thrown out because she approached a tabloid and attempted to sell her story 10 years ago.
Snickers often fill newsrooms and the law offices of rivals when Allred trots out clients such as Rachel Uchitel and Joslyn James -- who allegedly had affairs with golfer Tiger Woods -- for the cameras. Allred doesn't seem to care what her critics say.
Her clients and their cases have changed the course of political campaigns and toppled the heads of major corporations.
Allred has said she is not exploiting her clients, and if they have a story to tell it's better to get their version out than let the rumors fly. Unlike a lot of other lawyers, Allred is not afraid to go public, even if powerful people don't like what her clients have to say.
"A lot of my clients have not begun as celebrities," Allred told CNN in 2010. "They were typical people who were essentially women in crisis, sometimes because of the celebrity man. Because they were involved with a man who was a celebrity, they have become, in a sense, celebrity victims."
A big Allred target has been the exiled movie director Roman Polanski, who has admitted having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977. Authorities in Los Angeles were trying to extradite Polanski from Switzerland but ultimately were not successful. He had pleaded guilty to having sex with a minor but left the United States before he could be sentenced. He's been gone for nearly 40 years.
At a news conference with Allred in May 2010, actress Charlotte Lewis alleged that five years after he left the United States, Polanski had his way with her, too, in France, when she was of tender years.
"If Charlotte's allegations are accepted as true," Allred said, "then Mr. Polanski was able to victimize another child while he was a fugitive from justice."
Allred doesn't remember if she paid attention to the Polanski case when it happened. She had just graduated from Loyola Law School and was setting up her firm with fellow Loyola law grads Michael Maroko and Nathan Goldberg. The firm is still going strong, focusing on civil rights, employment discrimination and sexual harassment. The firm doesn't handle criminal cases, but does represent crime victims.
Allred's life story, as laid out in the first chapter of her book, "Fight Back and Win," is reminiscent of that old Virginia Slims advertising slogan, "You've come a long way, baby."
Gloria Rachel Bloom grew up in a working-class family in southwest Philadelphia. Neither parent got past the eighth grade. Her father was a Fuller Brush salesman. Her mother, who was born in Britain, stayed at home and raised her only child. She emphasized education.
Allred got into the prestigious Philadelphia High School for Girls and won a partial scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania. She met a boy at a mixer, married him during her sophomore year and gave birth to her daughter, Lisa, during her junior year. By her senior year, the couple was divorcing and she was a single mother.
Despite her honors degree in English, Allred went to work as a buyer's assistant at Gimbels department store. She wondered why a man with the same job made $15 a week more than she did.
She got a teaching job at Benjamin Franklin High School in Philadelphia, where most of her students were poor and black. A few years later, in 1966, recruiters from the Los Angeles school district came calling and Allred packed up her daughter and moved to L.A.
That year, she says, while on vacation in Acapulco, Mexico, she was raped at gunpoint by a Mexican doctor, became pregnant and had an illegal abortion that nearly killed her. She did not report the rape, she said, because she didn't think anyone would believe her.
She taught in the Watts neighborhood of L.A. and became involved in labor issues, and decided a law degree would help with her activism. After law school, she served as president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization for Women. She pressed then-Gov. Jerry Brown to appoint more women as judges, and she began to take on women's cases.
One of Allred's most famous cases involved a lawsuit on behalf of an actress on the original "Melrose Place," who claimed she was wrongfully fired and discriminated against when she became pregnant. Lawyers for Aaron Spelling's production company said Hunter Tylo broke her contract by making a "material change" to her appearance.
Jurors viewed charts that producers kept of Tylo's projected weight gain showing she would weigh 144 pounds when it was time to shoot a key bikini scene. Jurors also saw scenes in which star Heather Locklear's baby bump was hidden behind furniture and leopard print sheets. Tylo revealed from the witness stand that she was eight months pregnant. She did not look it, and jurors awarded her nearly $5 million in damages.
Allred's targets: "I go after these guys who have hurt women."
Bill Cosby's Attempt to Dismiss Defamation Lawsuit Against Him Was Thrown Out by Judge
by Bruna Nessie
A significant legal development has occurred surrounding Bill Cosby's scandal.
E! News has confirmed that the United States District Court of Massachusetts dismissed the longtime comedian's attempts to throw out a libel lawsuit brought by three women who say he sexually assaulted them.
We're told the court proceedings will continue with depositions and written discovery beginning as early as within the next two weeks, meaning Cosby can and likely will be deposed.
"This is a wonderful day," Joseph Cammarata, Esq, who represents the plaintiffs, told E! News in a statement.
"As we'd expected and hoped, the judge rejected every one of Mr. Cosby's attempts to throw the case out of court and allowed the case to proceed. We will take Mr. Cosby's deposition at the earliest possible moment. My clients look forward to moving the case forward and to restoring their good names and reputations."
Tamara Green, Therese Serignese and Linda Traitz allege that they were victimized by a sexual assault by Cosby. But because of the statute of limitations, they can't sue Cosby for the alleged crime.
Instead, the three women have filed a defamation lawsuit against the actor, claiming their reputations were tarnished when Cosby's reps told news outlets that the rape claims were "fabricated," "ridiculous" and "absurd," among other comments.
The deposition will be the first time Cosby has spoken about the sexual assault allegations against him since a separate case in 2005. Parts of that deposition were unsealed earlier this month. In the deposition, Cosby admitted he gave Quaaludes to a woman and had sex with her.
Cosby was asked by the woman's attorney, "When you got the Quaaludes, was it in your mind that you were going to use these Quaaludes for young women that you wanted to have sex with?"
He replied, "Yes."
The update on his defamation suit comes on the same day as Dateline's special featuring Cosby's alleged victims.
NBC News National Correspondent Kate Snow sat down with nearly half of his accusers who have come forward publicly, ranging in age from 46 to 80, for an unprecedented conversation about their personal recollections of assault, betrayal and emotional distress.
Knoxville experts work to help prevent child sexual abuse
KNOXVILLE (WATE) – This week is Child Health Week and Friday's focus was on preventing child sex abuse.
The Knox County Health Department teamed up with Children's Advocacy Centers of Tennessee and the East Tennessee Council on Children and Youth to host a child sexual abuse prevention training called “Darkness to Light – Stewards of Children.”
“Darkness to Light” was developed in Charleston, South Carolina, to protect children. They developed the “Stewards of Children” program which is a video based program that has videos of adult survivors of child sexual abuse talking about their experience and talking about what would have helped them, who would have helped them when they were young, and how they wish they had been helped.
Amy Rowling, violence protection educator for the Knox County Health Department, says parents should watch out for behavioral changes in their children.
“If you had a really outgoing child but now they're withdrawn, or bed wetting or nightmares. Just really becoming more volatile, acting out. In a teenager it can be promiscuity or drinking or drugs. Just talking to their children and saying, ‘Hey, what's going on with you?' ” she said.
Darkness to Light hosts local trainings and has a coalition to prevent child abuse that meets regularly.
Child sex-abuse victims deserve time to seek justice
by Linda Crockett
A major focus of Samaritan Counseling Center is preventing child sexual abuse. Our therapists see the devastation it causes, the ripple effect often extending into midlife. Samaritan SafeChurch is a project we started to educate faith communities about sexual abuse prevention.
As director of Samaritan's Clergy & Congregation Care, I started SafeChurch in 2011 because I know that people of faith find it unacceptable that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before age 18.
Many congregations are ready to do the hard work needed to create safety for children and bring healing to survivors, and we have grown rapidly into a national ecumenical training program.
Many parishioners feel ashamed of being in the news for institutional failure to protect children. They tell us if they are to be in the news at all, they want it to be for their fierce commitment to protecting children from sexual harm. They want their churches and communities to be safe places. They care about justice and healing for survivors, and accountability for offenders.
Reforming Pennsylvania's civil statute of limitations would help to ensure such accountability.
In Pennsylvania, adult victims of childhood sexual abuse have only until they're 30 to bring civil action against their abusers. Criminal action may be brought until the victim reaches the age of 50.
The public narrative that statute of limitations reform is all about the Roman Catholic Church must change. It's true that the Catholic Church has fiercely resisted statute-of-limitations reform across the United States.
But this is also true: Ninety-five percent of victims have been abused by family members, teachers, baby sitters, neighbors, others. An estimated 5 percent are molested by clergy of any denomination.
In Pennsylvania, by the time many survivors begin to deal with their sexual abuse, they are well past their 30th birthdays and the window for civil justice is closed under our current statute-of-limitations law. Many victims suffer in silence for decades, unfairly carrying shame that rightfully belongs to the perpetrator.
Offenders are very good at manipulating children to keep the secret and convincing them that the abuse is their fault. Some victims are unable to remember what happened until a stressful midlife event triggers memories that were shoved away in childhood in order to survive.
The reality of delayed disclosure among victims of child sexual abuse is supported well by research. Given all that we know, the window of justice should not close at age 30.
So what does justice for a survivor look like?
First, it means telling their stories. Keeping the statute-of-limitations window open gives survivors an opportunity to tell their stories and, if they are found credible, finally hold the offender accountable — something the survivors could not make happen as children.
Second, justice means restitution. Victims of sexual abuse are at higher risk for post-traumatic stress disorder than combat veterans. They often self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, attempt suicide, have difficulty with careers and relationships. Restitution helps pay for the high cost of healing.
Statute-of-limitations reform will finally shift the cost of healing from the victim to the one who caused the harm.
And finally, justice includes protecting children. If this reform is enacted, more offenders will be identified, and parents will be able to make better decisions about how to keep their kids safe. Many offenders continue to operate in schools, sports, and churches — while their victims of decades ago have nightmares about the children at risk today.
I spoke at a press conference at the state Capitol on Sept. 21 organized by Berks County Democratic state Rep. Mark Rozzi to highlight the urgent need for reform.
We need action on several bills, including House Bills 661 (to raise the age at which a victim may file a civil claim to 50), 655 (to end the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse) and 951 (opening a two-year window for child sex-abuse victims now over age 30 to file civil suits), and Senate Bill 582 (the Senate version of HB 661). These bills are languishing in committee. Similar bills have stalled in the past.
Sharing a podium with Rep. Rozzi and other advocates for children's justice, I offered a voice from the faith community and closed with these words:
“As people of faith, we are tired of a few politicians and institutions standing in the way. Like the prophet Amos, who, in a time when the religious and political elites oppressed the most vulnerable, spoke truth to power with his words, ‘Let Justice roll down like waters!' we demand justice for survivors, accountability for offenders, and the safety of children. What person of any religious tradition, or moral conscience, could stand in the way of that?' ”
Linda Crockett is the director of Clergy & Congregation at Samaritan Counseling Center in Lancaster.
10 Myths About Child Sexual Abuse to Reject—to Help Keep Kids Safe
Your biggest defense is knowledge, so dispel these myths that child sex predators want to you to believe.
by Joelie Casteix
This is no myth: Being a parent is hard.
We live in a world of 24-hour news channels and the Internet, both chock-full of scary stories about children, violence, sexual abuse and scandal. No wonder we're wracked with fear.
We want our children to play outside, get dirty, and build forts. At the same time, we ache to lock them away in a safe room where everything is covered in bubble wrap and all of the food is organic.
But by educating and empowering yourself and your children, you can give kids a "virtual bubble wrap" that will aid them in making good decisions and make them "hard targets" for predators. It's not rocket science—it's just brave common sense.
The best place to start is by dispelling some of the myths that child sex predators want to you to believe. Your child's biggest defense is knowledge.
Myth #1: Knowing about "stranger danger" will save my child.
Teaching stranger danger is important, but strangers account for less than than one-tenth of child sexual abuse. The other 90 percent of child sexual abusers are people that a child already knows and loves. That's why experts encourage parents to start early: teach your children good communication skills, strong body boundaries, and the importance of reporting crimes and suspicious behavior.
Myth #2: Women don't abuse kids.
Yes, women do sexually abuse kids. While women are far less likely to abuse than men, law enforcement has stepped up and is prosecuting more women who target children. As a result, more female predators are spending time behind bars.
Myth #3: Children can't sexually abuse other kids.
The recent Josh Duggar scandal has opened the public's eyes to the harm that predatory children can cause. Bullying experts are also educating parents about how bullying can escalate into child-on-child sexual abuse. The best way to help your children is to ensure that your school follows strong anti-bullying policies and that you talk to your children openly about the problem.
Myth #4: It's okay to make young children hug and kids adults, even if they don't really like it.
When we force a toddler to hug or kiss someone when he does not want to (even if it's Grandma), we are telling the child that he is not in control over who touches his body. We are also telling the child that he should not say no an adult who may want to touch him in sexual ways.
Don't worry about hurting Grandma's feelings. Instead, teach your young children to shake hands, make eye contact, and say hello. That way, they learn respect—not only for Grandma, but also for their own bodies. And if you're honest with Grandma, she'll understand.
Myth #5: It's embarrassing to hear children say words like "vagina." It's fine if they don't learn the real names of their genitalia until they are older.
Yes, it can be embarrassing to hear words like "penis" and "vagina" from a child. But children believe that only silly things are called by silly names. By using the proper names for body parts, you are telling your child that their genitals are important, should be respected, and are not silly or shameful.
Proper name usage will also discourage predators who want to blur sexual boundaries by minimizing the important of a child's genitals.
And if—heaven forbid—something does happen to your child, he or she will be able to properly explain what happened by using correct language that law enforcement and prosecutors can use to punish predators.
Myth #6: Children lie about abuse to get attention.
If a child comes to you to report seen, experienced, or suspected abuse, immediately call 911 or your local social services hotline. It's not your job to investigate abuse or establish the credibility of victims or witnesses.
It's very hard for a child to come forward. Don't make it worse by doubting him or her.
Myth #7: I checked the sex abuse registry, so my kid is safe.
According to Darkness to Light, less than one-tenth of victims ever report their abuse to the police. Even if a child sex predator is prosecuted, there is no guarantee that the predator will show up on your local registry. Check out the registry, but take the next step and empower yourself and your children against all predators.
Myth #8: I don't need to monitor my child's phone/tablet/computer/Xbox. I trust him/her.
Monitoring your child's Internet-enabled devices is not a matter of trust. It's a matter of safety. Predators are cunning and use all kinds of manipulation to earn entrance into your child's world. Keeping an eye on texts, chats, photos, email, and social media is the best way to make sure that a predator is not targeting your child. It's also a great way for you to make sure that your child is not a target or aggressor in cyber-bullying.
Myth #9: Children don't need to know about sexual abuse.
Victims of child sexual abuse will usually disclose their abuse to their closest friends: other children. You do not need to go into explicit detail with your child about sex or abuse. But you do need to tell your children that if a friend comes to them and talks about abuse, they should come to you—the parent—immediately.
Myth #10: The justice system will be more traumatizing to my child than the actual abuse.
Law enforcement wants two things: to put predators behind bars and to protect young victims of abuse. That's why there are special programs across the country where police, prosecutors, and social workers come together to create safe, child-friendly victim interview procedures. The interviews, which are recorded so that the child is only interviewed once, are conducted by specially trained forensic specialists who understand children and who create a natural environment where children can speak safely.
Social workers also closely engage with the victim and non-offending family members to make sure that the victim and the entire family gets therapy, services, and continuing care.
Joelle Casteix is a former journalist, educator, and public relations professional that has taken her own experience as a victim of child sex crimes and devoted her career to exposing abuse, advocating on behalf of survivors, and spreading abuse prevention strategies for parents and communities. She is a regular speaker for the National Center for Victims of Crime, the Institute on Violence, Abuse and Trauma and The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Her blog, The Worthy Adversary, is one of the leading sources for information and commentary on child sexual abuse prevention and exposure. She is the author of " The Well-Armored Child: A Parents Guile to Preventing Sexual Abuse."
Columbus librarians encouraged to report signs of child abuse
by Dean Narciso
Librarians, especially those who work with children or visit their homes, see a lot, sometimes too much: a kid with unusual bruises, homes with drug paraphernalia or parents who appear abusive or slap their kids in public.
But unlike doctors, lawyers, day-care providers and teachers, who are required by law to report evidence of possible abuse to police or social-service agencies, librarians have a legal responsibility to protect the identities and reading habits of their patrons.
The apparent conflict has created confusion. The Columbus Metropolitan Library board unanimously approved a new policy this week to help clarify the roles.
The policy encourages staff members to report cases of abuse or neglect to supervisors and establishes guidelines about how to do so.
“The desire to report suspicions has come into conflict with the requirement for Ohio libraries to protect patron privacy and confidentiality,” Alison Circle, chief customer-experience officer for the Columbus Metropolitan Library, wrote last month in a staff report to the library board.
Library Director Pat Losinski said no particular incident sparked concerns. He called the policy a “pre-emptive matter.”
The new policy states that employees should, within 24 hours of an incident, fill out a report including the name of the child and parents, the address, the child's gender and details about the incident.
The reports are to be reviewed and, when necessary, forwarded to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services or police.
The Ohio Library Council provided legal guidance to Columbus, noting that reporting suspected abuse should take priority even when it requires disclosing personal library information.
“Such improper disclosure of (library) information may be an affront to the affected individual's sense of personal privacy, but the degree of harm would seem to pale in comparison to the potential harm to the child in question of not reporting,” Jason C. Elvers, a lawyer with the firm Vorys Sater Seymour and Pease, wrote to the council in May. “My view is that society's interest in protecting the well-being of children likely wins out here, and favors the library employee's reporting of the suspicions.”
Library outreach is more extensive than ever, said Michelle Francis, director of government and legal services for the council and its 250 member libraries.
“You're going to see some things that you would normally not see,” Francis said.
Other libraries also are considering policy changes to reassure librarians that they wouldn't be punished for reporting evidence.
“I think we would expect our employees to report problems even though we're not required to do so,” said Westerville Library Director Don Barlow. “We've trained our employees that if they think there's abuse, they should report it to their supervisors.”
In the Delaware County District Library, Deputy Director Don Yarman said, “our impulse is to be open and welcoming. So where do you draw the line? Often (librarians) struggle with how much personally do they have to put up with” in relation to customers behaving inappropriately.
A fundamental tenet of libraries is to protect the identities of library users and what they are reading.
But, Barlow said, “if the police were looking for someone, or if somebody is in danger, especially with a search warrant ... I don't see that as a sacred trust.”
Child abuse on the rise in military
by Missy Ryan
Confirmed cases of abuse and neglect of military children increased markedly in 2014, Defense Department data showed Wednesday, prompting concerns among Pentagon leaders about efforts to safeguard the nation's more than 1 million military children.
In fiscal year 2014, officials tracking family violence within the military confirmed 7,676 cases of child abuse or neglect, an increase of 10 percent from the previous year, according to annual statistics on child abuse and domestic violence. Confirmed cases of neglect -- which excludes physical and sexual abuse -- rose by 14 percent, military officials said.
The data, which has not been released publicly and was obtained by The Washington Post, contrasts with a years-long decline in child abuse and neglect among civilian families nationwide.
"It really did get our attention," a Defense Department official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the data. But officials equally acknowledged that they don't fully understand the reasons behind -- or the significance of -- the increase in 2014 abuse figures.
The number of abused and neglected military children dropped steadily from 2004 until 2008, when it began to rise again.
With only limited ability at the Pentagon to analyze complex social science data, the Pentagon has hired an external expert in child abuse to scrutinize the worrying increase in instances of neglect.
Work still to do
"We're hoping to take a deeper dive into the data in the next year," the official said.
While the government has not yet released 2014 data on child abuse among the general population, the rate of sexual and physical abuse among Americans has declined significantly since the mid-1990s. Over that period, the number of neglect cases also declined but at a slower rate.
David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, said the rate of abuse among military families, at 5.6 victims per 1,000 children, remains well below that for the general population, which is around 9 per 1,000 nationally.
"I do think noticing something like that in the data really merits an investigation, to see what could be going on . . . especially in something as important as the welfare of children," Finkelhor said.
Yet he cautioned that the new Pentagon figures may be less indicative of a serious increase in child mistreatment than they appear at first glance.
Understanding the math
Although the number of cases of abuse and neglect rose in 2014, the actual number of child victims fell slightly to 5,838. Military officials have said such a discrepancy may be caused by the fact that a single child can be the subject of multiple incidents, or that multiple people could be charged in the abuse of a single child.
The data also shows a jump in the share of alleged child abusers who are female.
Military officials also received reports of 30 fatalities linked to child abuse or neglect in 2014, 18 of which were deaths among children less than 1 year old. There are 1.05 million children in U.S. military families.
The figures come to light as the Pentagon grapples with the toll that repeated deployments, combat stress and, now, budget pressures and force reductions have taken on military families over the past decade.
While the winding down of the combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan has reunited families, the new figures have prompted concern among Pentagon officials about ongoing strains faced by military families.
"The stress on the force doesn't end when the deployment is going away or slowing down," said Patricia Barron, an official with the Association of the U.S. Army.
The external child abuse expert will focus on the 14 percent increase in child neglect, a Pentagon spokesman said. Teresa Huizar, executive director of the National Children's Alliance, said that neglect was the most prevalent form of child abuse, in part because programs to address the phenomenon did not receive enough funding or attention.
Already trying to help
Pentagon officials described a number of safeguards the military has put in place to curb domestic violence, including placing family advocacy officials on every military installation and educating military leaders and rank-and-file about how to detect, report and prevent abuse. Cases of abuse or neglect are referred to military or civilian law enforcement.
"Providing resources and engaging with military families is both a national security issue and a moral imperative," said Rosemary Freitas Williams, a senior Pentagon official responsible for military community and family policy.
The Pentagon is also struggling to end a chronic problem with sexual assault among service members. In May, the Defense Department released a report showing that instances of sexual assault had fallen but that retaliation against those who report such attacks remains a major problem. For the first time, the military is also expanding the scope of its effort to contain sexual assault to include male-on-male attacks.
The family abuse data also shows positive trends, including a 6 percent decrease in spousal abuse in 2014.
South Central Kentucky groups working to stop child abuse
by Jake Boswell
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) -- According to the state of Kentucky more than 12,000 cases of abuse were confirmed during the 2015 fiscal year. Of that reported number 20 children were abused near death and six were actually killed.
Two of those cases were in the section of the state Warren County falls in.
Earlier this week Chad Lewis pleaded not guilty to the murder of an eight week old baby girl in Barren County. Police said Lewis shook the baby before throwing the girl across the bed. That case won't be reported until the 2016 fiscal year statistics are released by the state.
A group made up of police, attorneys, and the coroner meet anytime someone under 21 dies in Warren County, abuse or not, to discuss ways to make things better.
"If we see that we have children killed in car accidents in a certain area, there's more patrols, more news, more press about it. We try to get the word out for people to try and be more careful in that area. Whether it's changing the speed limit, or looking at the changing of a road," said Warren County Coroner, Kevin Kirby.
For the thousands of children abused across the state, groups like CASA of South Central Kentucky is a resource supplied through the court system.
"It takes people stepping up and realizing they can be a voice in a child's life," said CASA of South Central Kentucky Executive Director, Jana Sublett.
Court Appointed Special Advocates is made up of volunteers that go into homes where children are abused to be the eyes and ears for the court system to make sure each boy or girl is in the best situation possible.
"The child welfare system is overburdened. Being someone that can come in and really monitor that child and speak up for what's best for that child with no other motives," added Sublett.
Unfortunately, helping victims of abuse can be very reactive; dealing with the problem after it happens. But those who are working to help the problem in south central Kentucky say everyone can report if they see something.
"Just don't go with closed eyes to it. The more open eyes we have on things like that, is the only way it's going to be prevented," added Kirby.
Of children reported to be abused, more than one third of them in Kentucky over the last five years have been younger than one year old.
The number of reported children being abused in Kentucky has gone up five years in a row.
If you'd like to learn more information about becoming a court appointed special advocate we've included a link to their website.
Hudson Falls man confronted by victims in child sexual abuse case
by Don Lehman
FORT EDWARD A Hudson Falls man who repeatedly sexually abused two young girls was confronted Friday by one of the girls and the mother of the other, but his efforts to portray himself as a victim did not sit well with the judge presiding over the case.
Washington County Judge Kelly McKeighan called Christopher E. Lee a “pedophile” and dismissed his explanation that drug abuse prompted him to molest the girls.
“I don't know how drugs caused you to take sexual interest in children,” McKeighan said.
Lee, 34, was sentenced to 12.5 years in state prison and 20 years on parole for his guilty plea to two felony counts of criminal sexual act for repeated sexual assaults of girls under the age of 13 who he knew. One was 4 when the abuse began.
The older of the two girls read a short statement during sentencing, telling the judge she was “embarrassed” by being victimized and that it “really hurts.”
“I feel disappointed I didn't tell someone sooner,” she said.
The mother of the younger girl called Lee a “monster” and said the abuse continues to traumatize the girl. She is “terrified” when her mother leaves her alone, she added.
“You have radically changed the way she looks at herself and the world. She is angry all the time and she can't understand why,” she said. “She has been given a life sentence of hurt and shame. You stole her innocence and security.”
Washington County Assistant District Attorney Sara Fischer praised the girls for their strength and maturity, and said no prison sentence would be enough for what they had been through. A decision was made to strike a plea deal to spare them more trauma of going through trial.
“The irony is you get a break because we don't want these children to go through more,” McKeighan said.
Lee read a lengthy statement in which he apologized several times, blamed drugs for causing him to lose “control” and called himself a “caring person.” He said the crimes “leaves an enormous hole in my heart that may never heal.”
Lee's lawyer, Martin McGuinness, said his client plans to appeal the sentence.
Lee implied during his statement that he believed the sentence was too harsh for someone with no criminal record.
The maximum on the charge is 25 years in state prison. Lee was arrested in February, after an investigation by Hudson Falls Police and State Police.
Florida infant missing as drug user parents keep changing their story: police
by Tobias Salinger
A 9-week-old Florida baby is missing as his drug user parents keep changing their story about what happened to him, police said Wednesday.
The grandmother of Chance Walsh alerted the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office on Sunday that family hadn't seen the infant for nearly a month, according to the sheriff's office.
Longtime druggies Kristen Bury and Joseph Walsh told relatives they gave their baby away at a Georgia hotel, claimed he died in a car crash in South Carolina and then said Chance was fine after the Friday crash, officials in the sheriff's office said. The couple are now behind bars on child neglect charges.
Police in both other states confirmed the baby wasn't with the couple in Georgia or South Carolina. Investigators who searched the family's apartment Monday in North Port, around 85 miles south of Tampa, found blood on a bed and in a bathroom at the home, according to arrest affidavits posted by WTSP-TV.
Bury tried to sell baby clothes and said her baby had died three weeks ago, a woman who also stayed at a Red Carpet Inn in Augusta, Ga., told police. It wasn't clear why the family had traveled to stay at the hotel on Sept. 28 and Sept. 30.
Another infant born to the mother died in the past, and this made Bury “despise” Chance, she told her stepmother in a conversation mentioned in her affidavit. Bury said it was better that Chance wasn't around because she was liable to hurt him.
“I loved that baby. I can't take care of him,” Bury told her stepmother.
On Saturday, though, she called her father from Hardeeville, S.C., to ask him for money after the crash. She told him the parents slept in nearby woods with the baby after the crash and that Chance was fine. Yet Walsh said the baby boy had died in the collision the very next day, according to the affidavit.
That's when the relatives reported the missing baby. The parents, who have drugs, burglary and theft on their criminal records, are being held on a $150,000 bond in South Carolina, according to the sheriff's office. Officials in the sheriff's office plan to extradite the pair to Sarasota County jail.
"I get nauseous over these kinds of cases," Sarasota Sheriff's Capt. Charlie Thorpe said at a news conference.
He added, “It's beyond frustrating, because someone knows what happened. Just tell us what happened. We're talking about a child here.”
Royal Commission releases research report on understanding failure to identify and report child sexual abuse
Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse
When it comes to understanding why some institutions fail to identify and report child sexual abuse, research released by the Royal Commission suggests that a new approach that seeks a deeper understanding of why errors occur would be more effective in encouraging safe practices in the future.
The research, ‘Hear no evil, see no evil: understanding failure to identify and report child abuse in institutional contexts' was conducted by Professor Eileen Munro (London School of Economics and Political Sciences) and Dr Sheila Fish (Social Care Institute for Excellence).
Royal Commission CEO Philip Reed said the research draws on two Royal Commission case studies and offers speculative findings on individual and organisational factors that have contributed to the failure to protect children in a timely and effective way.
The study identifies a number of challenges to creating and maintaining a safe organisation where staff members; are quick to recognise grooming or abuse behavior and trigger a process that investigates concerns and can take appropriate action so that children are protected from harm.
According to the researchers, one such challenge is the nature of child sexual abuse itself.
Perpetrators seek to conceal their activities, children and young people who are abused can be unable or slow to ask for help, and many behavioural indicators of abuse and grooming are ambiguous.
Mr Reed said the report contains useful examples of what organisations can do to make themselves safer places for children.
“According to the research, organisations that achieve a very good safety level share a fundamental belief that mistakes will happen and their goal is to spot them quickly,” he said.
“They encourage an open culture where people can discuss difficult judgements and report mistakes so that the organisation can learn.”
“The research will help the Royal Commission understand how child sexual abuse can be better identified and prevented in the future.”
Detecting child sexual abuse is a task that many people may do rarely – if ever – at work. Grooming behaviour in particular is often ambiguous, making it difficult for colleagues, who may not be experienced in detecting grooming, to make sense of the behaviour and recognise it as child sexual abuse.
Organisations that implement systems and processes that provide ways for staff to talk through their judgements and decision making process, and encourage a culture of critical reflection, can help minimise errors of reasoning and cognitive bias.
Read the full report:
See No Evil, Do No Evil
Report from Australia's Royal Commission
About the researchers:
Professor Eileen Munro CBE, Professor of Social Policy, Department of Social Policy, London School of Economics and Political Sciences. Professor Munro led the independent review of child protection in England.
Dr Sheila Fish, Head of Learning Together / Senior Research Analyst, Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE). Dr Fish leads SCIE's work on a systems approach to safeguarding reviews.
Cassie's story shows survivors of child abuse can move on with their lives
by Charis Chang
The tattoo of a blue ribbon on Cassie's neck is one of the few reminders she has of the child abuse she suffered at the hands of her stepfather, now a convicted paedophile.
The 24-year-old Perth woman isn't even sure when the abuse exactly happened, but her first memory of being raped by her stepfather was when she was eight years old.
“I was asleep when it happened so I don't know whether it happened before or not, but the first time happened when I was eight that I was aware,” she told news.com.au
At the time she didn't even know what sex was and her mother, who had a mental illness, was not around, so she didn't have anyone to tell.
“I didn't know if it was normal,” Cassie said.
“My mother wasn't there and I was kind of my mum for my little brother and I didn't want to be taken away from him.”
Despite being in counselling at the time, Cassie said she did not feel comfortable mentioning the abuse during the sessions.
“A lot of people were asking me questions, so I was a very shy child,” she said.
She remembers being abused another two times but the attacks stopped after Cassie pretended to be asleep while moving into a position that made it difficult for her stepfather to do anything.
Horrifically, her stepfather's attention then turned towards a young mentally disabled girl who used to come to Cassie's house to play.
Cassie once walked in on her stepfather raping her friend and another time saw him abusing her when she accompanied the family on a weekend trip to Perth.
“It happened in the same room as us when we were meant to be sleeping,” she said.
“I was really confused,” she said. At the time she was only nine years old and didn't know what to think about it.
“It's all really raw, I didn't know what was going on, I did what I was told, you are putting your trust in your guardian so at the end of the day you do what they say.”
She was eventually taken out of her stepfather's care but Cassie doesn't know what sparked this as she never told anyone what happened to her.
Her stepfather has since been convicted as a paedophile.
It took a long time for Cassie to come to terms with what happened to her. The counselling stopped around that time and she was fostered out to relatives and she was emotionally neglected.
She was also separated from her two-year-old half brother.
“It affected my own personal relationships, I found it very hard to trust males ... I always kept my distance from all males,” she said.
“I never really told an adult figure probably until I was about 19 years old.”
Growing up in a small country town Cassie said she felt embarrassed by the fact she was a DCP (Department of Child Protection) kid and she didn't want to bring any more attention on herself.
“I told one of my friends when I was in high school, I felt really bad about it.
“Being a teenager and having people judging you, I just wanted one less thing to be judged about, to make me different, or stand out more.”
But Cassie did eventually decide to tell one of her foster families and it changed her life.
“I felt relieved, scared of their (the family's) reaction but relieved that I didn't have to keep it (secret) anymore,” she said.
Telling the people close to her, also made her feel that she could finally move on with her life.
“I'm probably able to form relationships, I'm not as paranoid about people judging me or finding out. People who need to know, know, so it doesn't effect anything I guess,” she said.
Cassie has also started seeing a counsellor again and having worked with a number of them, she now realises how important it is to find the right one.
“You either click with someone or you don't,” Cassie said.
But there's no question it has helped her to deal with her past as an adult.
“It helps me understand it and realise it's not my fault and that the emotions I feel are OK as a result of it, and I'm not a damaged person, I'm a normal human being,” she said.
“I'm continuously in and out of counselling and probably will be for the rest of my life, from the rapes and the DCP, it wasn't the greatest childhood but you can't do anything about it.”
Adults Surviving Child Abuse president Dr Cathy Kezelman told news.com.au that it can take a long time for survivors, even with the help of experienced practitioners, to understand the effects of the trauma and gain the tools and strategies to lead an effective life.
“Family and friends can play a good role but practitioners are crucial for many, many survivors,” she said. “Obviously it is a personal choice, it has to be a survivor's choice.”
Earlier this year ASCA released a report which found that Australia could save a minimum of $9.1 billion annually by addressing the impacts of unresolved childhood trauma and abuse in adults.
Dr Kezelman said ASCA had a database of specialist practitioners that it refers people to but unfortunately the Medicare Benefits Scheme only covered 10 sessions a year and this was not enough for many survivors.
ASCA is supporting the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse's final report on redress and civil litigation, which includes suggestion counselling and psychological care should be available throughout a survivor's life and that a monetary payment be provided as recognition of the impact on the survivor.
“It is time for action, not further delays. It is time to respond to the personal stories of so many survivors and help support those who are struggling with the long-term effects of their trauma and help them on their path to recovery,” Dr Kezelman said.
Cassie is one of the lucky ones, the 24-year-old is looking forward to getting married next year and has a job childcare. She has moved on with her life.
It's one of the reasons she wanted to share her story, to let others know that abuse does not have to define you.
“Just because you have a not-so-good childhood doesn't mean it will affect the rest of your life, that you can't have something amazing for yourself, because you can, you can have all your wildest dreams.”
If you need help you can contact the Adults Surviving Child Abuse support line on 1300 657 380. ASCA's upcoming awareness day, Blue Knot Day is October 26 and focuses on how a supportive community can help in the process of recovery.
Sexual offenders ‘should not be named'
by Lisa Simpson
Early education and awareness is key to protecting children from sexual abuse, according to Family Centre's executive director.
Martha Dismont said treatment of convicted offenders was the next most important step to reduce reoffending.
However, the charity would not advise naming sexual offenders because this “has not been shown to be the best method of keeping the public safe”.
Ms Dismont's comments come after the conviction of a former police officer for the sexual exploitation of his daughter and incest, which sparked a debate in the media about the laws governing sexual offences, the public naming of convicted offenders, and victims' rights.
Two local charities have backed Puisne Judge Carlisle Greaves's suggestion that Parliament should consider revisiting the Island's sexual offences laws.
The Island's media council is to discuss the naming of sex offenders at its next meeting and the parliamentary group investigating how Bermuda deals with sex offenders said it could put forward new measures to tackle child sex abuse this year.
Sharing her thoughts, Ms Dismont said: “Child and adult sexual abuse is a horrendous violation of one's being and personal dignity.
“Early education and awareness on how to keep children and others safe from potential perpetrators is best.
“To particularly protect our children from such offences, we must be proactive in educating our parents and young people.” Ms Dismont said the charity Saving Children and Revealing Secrets (Scars) should be congratulated for the work it does to raise awareness of child sexual abuse and to educate the community about preventive measures.
According to Ms Dismont, the meaningful treatment of convicted offenders is the next most important action to reduce reoffending.
But she added: “Naming sexual offenders has not been shown to be the best method of keeping the public safe. We would not advise it, particularly, in Bermuda.”
After the former police officer was convicted, MP Mark Pettingill, chairman of the joint select committee on sex offenders, told The Royal Gazette that a sex offenders' registry remained on the books, but that the group was still debating how much information should be public and who should be included.
Ms Dismont said that research and Family Centre's experience had shown that when it comes to naming convicted offenders, registries or naming and shaming does not really improve public safety.
“It doesn't address the root of the problem,” Ms Dismont said. “They just make people feel safer and in control.”
Instead, focus needs to be placed on the treatment of offenders, she said, as well as educating the public on what they can do to keep themselves and their families safe.
“If the goal is protection of other people, naming offenders will not truly do this, as we know that most offenders turn out to be trusted members or friends of the family. So, unfortunately, this is a false premise of safety and security.” The charity believes the Bermuda Police Service should maintain a registry of sexual offenders and also have a mechanism in place to track and monitor the whereabouts of offenders in the first year after their release from prison.
Proper treatment for sexual offenders should also be mandatory before their release from prison, Ms Dismont said.
After the former police officer was convicted, Sheelagh Cooper, the founder and chairwoman of the Coalition for the Protection of Children, called for victims of sexual offences and their parents to be given the right to waive their anonymity, which would allow for sexual offenders to be publicly named. There is no provision in the law that allows this.
But Ms Dismont said victims and their parents often did not realise the long-term negative and retraumatising effects that being exposed as a victim of a sex offence can have.
“In the heat of the moment, a victim may say, ‘yes, name the offender', because they feel like shaming them and making them feel as horrible as the perpetrator made the victim feel,” she said. “However, once this moment is over, the victim will have to live with being exposed to the public.”
Ms Dismont said treatment and recovery for a victim must include reframing themselves as a survivor and no longer a helpless victim.
“Having the world potentially know your past story may be a constant reminder of the trauma — a constant reminder that one was a victim,” she added.
Shaming offenders publicly would also decrease the likelihood of any chance of healthy reintegration back into society, once they are released, according to Ms Dismont.
“The recent introduction of restorative justice principles within the criminal justice system is critical to developing more restorative practices overall in our society,” she added.
“Offenders should be subject to appropriate consequences and be given the opportunity to redeem their actions. It makes for a much healthier society.”
Senior Lookout: Domestic abuse on elderly on the rise
by Kelly Knox
“Victims and survivors look just like you and me,” said Nicki Richon-Schoel, co-chairwoman of the Coalition for the Prevention of Domestic Abuse, during her opening remarks at a gathering Tuesday on the steps of Gloucester City Hall to recognize October as Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.
According to the Presidential Proclamation — National Domestic Violence Awareness Month 2015, “Domestic violence impacts women, men, and children of every age, background, and belief. Nearly one in four women and one in seven men in the United States have suffered severe physical violence by an intimate partner. Victims are deprived of their autonomy, liberty, and security, and face tremendous threats to their health and safety.”
Domestic violence knows no age and can occur later in life. When two adults have an ongoing relationship, and one uses power and control to inflict physical, sexual, emotional, or financial injury or harm, it is considered domestic violence. Perpetrators can be spouses and former spouses, partners, adult children, extended family, and caregivers.
“We have seen an increase in reports of caregiver neglect, physical abuse, and emotional abuse among people 60 years and older,” says Steve Corbett, protective services director at SeniorCare Inc.
Older people in domestic abuse situations have more difficulty reaching out for help, said Elaine Fernandes, Cape Ann program coordinator for HAWC (Healing Abuse, Working for Change).
When an older person experiences domestic violence, Fernandes says, it is often reported by an outside source rather than a person seeking help for themselves.
“It's very hard for people to talk about family violence in general,” says Sunny Robinson, co-chairwoman of the Coalition for the Prevention of Domestic Abuse. Reluctance to talk can deepen as we age, adds Robinson. There could be many reasons for deeper silence. If the relationship has been abusive all along, the reasons for not leaving can strengthen as the victim ages. Economic reasons can become stronger, fear of being alone can escalate, and victims may feel resigned to the situation feeling there is nothing they can do at this point in their lives.
Furthermore, age-related issues can instigate abusive behavior. For example one partner in an elderly couple can become dependent due to physical or cognitive disability, causing great strain. Regardless of the situation, domestic violence is a crime.
The SeniorCare Protective Services Department works closely with HAWC, the Gloucester Police Department, and other community partners, to meet any and all domestic violence issues impacting anyone 60 years or older.
“We have signed on to the zero tolerance model and abusers are on notice that no level of domestic violence is acceptable,” says Corbett.
If you suspect abuse of a person 60 years of age or older you can call SeniorCare weekdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 978-281-1750 ,or after hours you can call the Elder Abuse Hotline at 1-800-922-2275. All reported incidents are investigated.
Women call for quicker responses to child abuse cases
by Christina Dawidowicz
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The Colorado Springs Police Department is no stranger to calls of suspected child abuse, and each call is taken seriously.
“As soon as we get that information, we'll send out a patrol officer to take an initial assessment of the investigative process to determine what level of injury a child may have, if a child even does have injury,” said Sgt. Mark Chacon with the CSPD Crimes Against Children Unit.
Two women we spoke with are concerned after they said their calls of suspected child abuse were left unresolved by CSPD.
“I honestly thought something would be done in such, like in case with such clear evidence,” said Ashley Atteberry, a concerned neighbor.
In this case, they feel the clear evidence are neighbor statements, reports and photos.
“He had a hand print shaped bruise on one side of his face, light bruising and a cut on the other side,” Atteberry said.
“It's hard knowing that they won't do anything right away. And the police just leaving the kids there, seeing the mark on his face, I mean they had to have seen it,” said Samantha Velazquez, another concerned neighbor.
CSPD officials said they can't remove a child from their home. They also said each case of child abuse is handled differently depending on the level of child abuse. The first level is a misdemeanor, where an a child is hurt, but only left with a scrape or a bruise. The second level is felony, where a child receives a serious injury, like a broken bone.
CSPD investigates the crime, gathers information and forwards it to the El Paso County Department Of Human Services, who can then make the call.
“I think it's ridiculous. I think especially with kids, you need to do something first. You need to hurry up and do something because you don't know, they can't defend themselves,” Velazquez said.
CSPD said while it may seem like a case has been left or forgotten, an investigation may be ongoing.
For now, these concerned neighbors say they just want a long-term solution.
“There's a difference between discipline and abuse. Those boys aren't being disciplined, they're being abused,” Atteberry said.
CSPD said if you have any reason to believe any incidents of child abuse, to report it to Springs police or to call the El Paso County Department Of Human Services in-take line at 444-5700.
Controversial 'Open Secret' Reveals Hollywood Child Abuse Problem
by David A. Patten
When actress Ashley Judd recently revealed that an unnamed studio executive tried to "groom" her for sex by using his powerful position, Gabe Hoffman, a film producer and hedge-fund executive, was hardly surprised.
"The casting couch is almost as old as time," he told Newsmax.
But he adds, "I think the casting couch has just about run its course in our society. We don't tolerate that stuff anymore. We shouldn't.''
Hoffman is considered an authority on the subject because his documentary film "An Open Secret" reveals an even darker, unrelated predilection that he says plagues the entertainment industry: Sexual exploitation of child actors.
The film's director, Amy Berg, was nominated for an Oscar for "Deliver Us From Evil," her 2006 examination of sex abuse cases in the Roman Catholic Church.
Berg deftly wields all the narrative tools of the storyteller's craft – rising action, suspense, plot twists, interludes, surprise endings – to create a documentary that holds together surprisingly well considering the abject subject matter. She offers a gut-wrenching, un-hyped account of the emotional carnage wreaked on children by industry predators.
The documentary introduces five erstwhile child actors identified only by their first names and last initials. Each story follows a predictable arc, how they were discovered, groomed, and ultimately used. The film has been very well received: Reviewers on RottenTomatoes.com give it a 93 percent score with an audience-approval rating of 85 percent.
Many of the film's sordid tales involve Marc Collins-Rector, the co-founder of the now-defunct Digital Entertainment Network, an attempt at online video streaming.
With his chillingly disdainful demeanor, Collins-Rector would be cast as the heavy in just about any Hollywood film you can think of. He has a supercilious smirk and skin that shines like it was coated with a fine sheen of 10W-40.
But in real life, in the case of Collins-Rector, the evil image is no act.
According to the film, Collins-Rector would invite high-profile entertainment mavens to join in sybaritic parties at an Encino, California, mansion. There, aspiring child actors would cavort about the pool and powerful adults – who held the power to realize or destroy their dreams of stardom – enticed them into the hot tub. Some of the children had not yet even reached their teens.
In 2004, Collins-Rector pleaded guilty to multiple counts of child sexual abuse. Among other heinous acts, he admitted to luring five minors across state lines for sex. At sentencing, he was credited with the time he'd spent in a Spanish jail prior to his extradition. He later fled the country after a court awarded a $4.5 million judgment to his accusers.
Collins-Rector paid a small price for the tender lives he'd train-wrecked, and Hoffman says that's all too common. The film documents several predators who are back at work on movie sets.
"There are definitely A-listers out there who have gone through this trauma," Hoffman says.
"You're starting to see a lot of it come out. You're going to see a lot more of it come out over time."
Sexual abuse involving children is hardly new. In 2011, actor Corey Feldman, who starred in the 1980s films "The Goonies" and "Stand By Me," wrote a memoir, "Coreyography," in which he stated he and his late co-star Corey Haim were sexually abused as children.
Feldman told ABC's "Nightline" that child abuse is the "biggest problem" in Hollywood, saying, "It's the big secret."
In an October 2013 appearance on ABC's "The View," Feldman was talking about being abused as a child actor, and warned kids and their parents not to become star-struck, when Barbara Walters jumped in.
"You're damaging an entire industry," she protested.
Hoffman acknowledges the abuse of children isn't just a problem in the entertainment industry. Newsmax contacted SAG-AFTRA, the actors' union, for its comment on the film's revelations. The organization did not reply to several e-mails and voice mail messages. It should be noted SAG-AFTRA officials have been extremely busy in recent weeks hosting their annual convention.
Anne Henry, who appears in the film as co-founder of the non-profit BizParentz Foundation, which counsels the parents of child-actors on handling their children's careers, backs up the film's essential points.
"Henry felt the movie's tag line, "The film that Hollywood doesn't want you to see," was a bit over the top. But it should be noted "An Open Secret" initially received an R rating that has since been reversed.
Hoffman and Henry hope "An Open Secret" makes parents more aware how risky it can be to put their child's fate in the hands of someone who promises to make them a big, big star. Most of the people in the business are upstanding. Some are not.
The film faced unusual difficulties in landing a distribution deal. But in May, it finally received a modest, 20-city theatrical release.
It has since been reclassified as PG-13 and is gradually finding its audience. "An Open Secret" has been screened at Cannes, at London's Raindance Film Festival, as well as in Seattle, Denver, and Los Angeles, to name just a few venues.
Considering the child-abuse allegations against Michael Jackson, and the high-profile abuse scandal at Penn State, some may find it incredible that parents continue to be taken in by smarmy molesters who groom their children right in front of them.
"These pedophiles are smart," says Hoffman. "That's why they fool us, and why they fool other people — good, honest, decent parents who are looking out for their kids."
In September 2012, the California legislature passed and Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Child Performer Protection Act. That law requires any industry professional working directly with children to obtain a Child Performer Services permit. Submitting to a finger print check is also required — an important provision in an industry where stage names are routine.
But Hoffman points out the law does not prevent sex offenders from working on film and TV productions, as long as they do not work one-on-one with minors. Activists say the law doesn't go far enough.
Hoffman would like to see mandatory minimum jail sentences for those who commit child sex abuse in California. Studios, he says, should be treated just like schools when it comes to restrictions on sex offenders.
Henry, meanwhile, would like to see other states pass laws to protect child actors, especially those that dangle big tax breaks to recruit productions there.
"Anyone who wishes to see the film at their local theater can simply submit a request on the Gathr.us website. Once enough viewers in any given locale sign up, a screening is scheduled at a local theater. Movie-goers pay a standard ticket price to see the film they've requested. All profits from the film go to the Courage To Act Foundation, a charity dedicated to preventing child abuse and aiding its victims.
In 2005, BizParentz teamed up with the Screen Actors Guild Foundation to offer a seminar on how to protect young performers, and former LAPD officer Dave Dalton offered parents some free advice.
"You and your kids are a target-rich audience," he warned. "Believe your own instincts."
State lawmakers to announce child abuse registry legislation today
A group of lawmakers will gather Friday in Mount Clemens to announce legislation for a child abuse registry in Michigan.
Thousands of signatures have been collected in the hopes of making a registry similar to the sex offender registry. The list would be made public and include the names of anyone who has been charged with child abuse.
State closing Zelienople treatment facility after allegations of child sexual abuse
by Megan Guza
While staff members of a residential treatment facility watched television and slept through their overnight shifts, eight children ranging in age from 8 to 13 performed sex acts on one another, some by force, according to a state report.
Glade Run Lutheran Services in Zelienople must close in 30 days — its license revoked by the state Department of Human Services as a result of an investigation into the sex abuse allegations.
Glade Run has 30 days to appeal the decision. Officials there did not return a request for comment.
In a letter Glade Run sent to families of children in the residential program and posted on its website, Glade Run president Charles Lockwood said Glade Run will fight the revocation.
“We fully intend to fight this decision, knowing first-hand of the thousands of successes Glade Run's RTF program has to its credit and of the extreme need in our communities for this level of treatment,” he wrote.
Lockwood called the allegations “difficult.”
The DHS report, detailing myriad violations, cited gross incompetence in its decision to shut the facility, saying the lax standards and failure to adhere to procedures and protocols led to the violations.
A call to state child abuse reporting hotline ChildLine alleged a group of children were engaging in sexual contact among themselves, some consensual and some not, according to department spokeswoman Kait Gillis.
The investigation found that inadequate supervision and staff sleeping or watching television during the overnight shifts in one of the facility's housing cottages “resulted in the children's development of a sexual misconduct system that included forcible rape,” according to the department's report. The actions took place between March and July.
“Our No. 1 priority must always be the health and safety of the children that we serve,” said DHS Secretary Ted Dallas. “We will never hesitate to act when child safety is at risk and today's actions are a reminder that we must always remain vigilant.”
Gillis said no criminal charges have been filed.
According to a letter to Lockwood detailing the license revocation, DHS Director Matthew J. Jones wrote that the investigation determined Glade Run “failed to provide supervision to children receiving services … resulting in elopement, self-harm, and numerous instances of sexual abuse and mistreatment.”
The DHS report detailed a trip to Sandcastle Water Park in Homestead in late July during which a 12-year-old resident and 15-year-old resident left the park. They were reported missing to police that day, but the facility did not report the incident to DHS for four days.
The running away resulted in “multiple sexual assaults to the children by multiple persons” during the days they were missing, according to the report.
The 12-year-old “was shot multiple times with a BB gun for refusal to engage in unwanted sexual activity with multiple persons in an abandoned house in Penn Hills.”
The report indicated two staff members, in the deep end of the wave pool, were too far away from the children at Sandcastle, which allowed them to escape.
Other violations included insufficient bed checks, inconsistent medication logs, improper fire drill procedures and incomplete health assessments.
At the time of the investigation, the facility housed 52 children between the ages of 6 and 17.
Glade Run began as an orphanage in 1854 and has locations in Beaver Falls, Butler, Cranberry, Pittsburgh and Zelienople, according to its website. The nonprofit provides autism, mental health, cultural and educational programs to children through both residential and community-based programs.
How Facebook will fight sex trafficking
by Jeff John Roberts
Facebook's software is a whiz at finding friends and picking out faces in photos. Now, that technology will also be used to find bad guys and rescue young victims of sex-trafficking operations.
On Thursday, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Facebook engineers will help his office use “innovative data and analytical methods” to combat online child sex operations.
The plan involves the use of algorithms to scour internet ads, according to a press release describing the initiative. Specifically, the algorithms will look for patterns in images, text, phone numbers, and other data that turns up on sites where commercial sex is sold.
“Facebook is pleased to be working with Attorney General Schneiderman on his efforts to combat the scourge of human trafficking. We look forward to helping the Attorney General and his staff bring attention to this important issue,” said Facebook's director of state public policy.
Facebook declined to further provide details, but a likely guess is the project will draw on Facebook's massive database of “faceprints” to identify victims who appear in the sex ads. Faceprints serve as distinct digital identifiers, similar to a fingerprint, that are based on the unique contours of a person's face. Facebook uses the technology to suggest tags for people when users post a photos.
In the case of sex-trafficking victims, law enforcement agencies could cross-check images of their faces from ads against the Facebook database to discover their identities—and possibly pictures of the people who are controlling them.
In its release describing the initiative, the Attorney General's office cited examples of pimps and sex trafficking rings who posted pictures of minors on websites like Backpage and Craigslist, describing the practice as “modern day slavery.”
The Attorney General's office announced the Facebook partnership as part of a two-day summit on human trafficking that is taking place in Manhattan on Thursday and Friday. Facebook and Schneiderman have colloborated in the past, most recently on a project to send AMBER Alerts to the NewsFeeds of social network users when a child goes missing.
Home planned as Harbor for victims of sex trafficking, abuse
Advocate raising funds to open refuge where victims can heal
by Cathy Molitoris
Rose Marie's life story is a tale of survival.
Born in California and forced to become a sex slave at the age of 3 — with her mother selling her to others — she spent decades in the confines of human trafficking.
After running away for the first time at age 9, she found herself pulled back into the industry, where she encountered serial rape, abuse and neglect.
Despite her harrowing experiences, which included crystal meth addiction, she managed to finally escape, raise three children, and build a life for herself in Lancaster.
But she still suffers from post-traumatic stress.
“I'm pretty well adjusted, but I still have issues,” says Rose Marie, now 53, who will sometimes crawl under her bed for security. “I will hide food. I don't trust people. Sometimes I don't know if I'm crazy.”
It's stories like Rose Marie's (who asked that her full name not be used) that motivated Jen Sensenig to take action.
As the founder and executive director of North Star Initiative in Lancaster, Sensenig hopes to open The Harbor, Lancaster's first home for victims of sex trafficking.
Sensenig has been an advocate for victims of human trafficking for years.
She helped dismantle a ring that included up to 70 women in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland, and she's worked through North Star to raise awareness of the issue, while prompting the community to take action.
“When I first learned about sex trafficking, I wondered, ‘Is it happening here in Lancaster?'” she says. “It was hard to believe, but it is.”
But Sensenig wasn't content to just raise awareness. Instead, she wanted to focus on what happens to the women after they break free from their captors.
“I wanted to focus on the restorative piece,” she says. “That is our niche.”
From her own research, Sensenig knew that life didn't always improve for victims of sex trafficking even after they were freed.
“Many of the women who get out of sex trafficking end up in prison,” she says.
Usually lacking education and even basic life skills, they have a hard time adjusting to a normal life.
Domestic shelters can help, Sensenig says, but most are short-term solutions.
“These victims need more time to deal with the trauma they've been through,” she explains. “We're watching them come back from serial rape, abuse, exploitation.”
She envisions women staying at The Harbor for up to 18 months if necessary.
“It could take the first year just to undo what has happened to them,” she says. “It takes months for victims to trust you and for the healing process to start.”
In its quest to open The Harbor, North Star Initiative staff has found a mentor in a similar program in Atlanta called Wellspring Living.
“We're modeling a lot of our program after them,” Sensenig says.
The Harbor will be staffed 24 hours a day with a house director, program director and coaches, all trained in how to help victims make the transition back to the community.
Nighttime coverage is especially important, Sensenig says, because nights are often the worst times for victims, who tend to relive their ordeal during quiet hours.
Along with counseling, The Harbor will offer life skills classes, programs for residents to earn a GED, and opportunities to partner with local businesses as mentors.
“Our goal is for this program to be holistic,” Sensenig says. “We want to help these women take back what was stolen from them and bring them back to a full life.”
North Star has found a property for the house — a group home donated by a local ministry — but has made a commitment to raise $600,000 by the end of 2015, just part of its capital campaign of $1.5 million.
The campaign kicked off in September with a fundraiser that helped net $70,000 toward the cause .
Sensenig says additional North Star fundraisers are planned, but encourages the community to help by holding third party fundraisers or making outright donations.
She's anxious to put plans for The Harbor into action for opening in the summer of 2016.
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“There are women waiting right now to get in,” she says.
For women like Rose Marie, The Harbor might have made the move from victim to survivor a little easier.
“It would have helped me to have an education. I've never been to school, not one day in my life,” she says, which has made everything from finding a job to getting a driver's license difficult. “A place like The Harbor would have really helped.”
She says she would have liked to have other women to rely on, and the support of counselors, like the ones she found with Sensenig's help.
“I'm not 100 percent now, and I never will be, but this is the life I've been dealt,” she says. “It's either going to make me or break me, and I decided it's going to make me.”
Inspired by women like Rose Marie, Sensenig says her mission to fight human trafficking is a calling from God.
She can't explain why she needs to fight for these victims; she only knows that she must.
And, if she's successful with The Harbor, she hopes it's only the first step on a new path for North Star Initiative
“I want The Harbor to be a solution for what's happening right in our backyard — because it's happening right here — but eventually, I want it to be a solution for the whole country,” she says, adding that she'd love to see homes like The Harbor across the United States.
She chose the name The Harbor for the house because of the word's definition.
“I loved that it represents safety and refuge,” she says. “It's about bringing ships in from the storm to safety.”
But she also liked that “harbor” can be a verb.
“It means taking the action of providing safety and shelter for someone who needs it,” she says. “It's a call to action and it requires a response.”
To find out more, volunteer or make a financial donation to “Light Up The Harbor,” visit northstarinitiative.org and click on “Light Up The Harbor.”
Or, email email@example.com or call 687-7770.
First-ever all boys shelter to help male sex trafficking victims built in Central Florida
Safe house being launched by Florida Dream Center
by Lauren Rozyla and Krystel Knowles
Edie Rhea was trafficked in her own home as a child.
"The first time that I was sold, I was ten," Rhea said.
Until she was 17, her days were filled with constant abuse that would leave her spiraling. As a teenager, she became hooked on drugs and alcohol to mask the pain.
"Guilt, shame, pain, anxieties," Rhea said regarding the effects of being trafficked. "I feel that it rocked my whole childhood. I didn't have a childhood."
Stories by women like Rhea, brave enough to come forward, are the ones that are often reported in the news. But advocates say there is another group of sex trafficking victims who remain in the shadows without many resources to get out.
"There's no one helping boys," said Bill LoSasso, president of the Florida Dream Center. "They're not coming out and telling. They feel worse. What happened to them is bad enough, but they don't want what people are going to say to be even worse."
While there are multiple safe homes for women, there are no safe homes available for boys, LoSasso said. More troubling, he estimates 10-15 percent of sex trafficking victims are boys.
Now, the Florida Dream Center is helping organize the first-ever in the country sex trafficking safe house just for boys. Most times, law enforcement have no where to take the male victims they recover, and many male trafficking victims never seek help, LoSasso said.
"Males seem to have, still to this point, a very stigma attached where they don't even want to tell anybody," LoSasso said.
Because the Tampa Bay are is a sex trafficking hotspot, the Florida Dream Center expects beds in the all-boys safe house to fill quickly. They plan to open five beds to start, but hope to expand to several new all-boys safe houses.
They are modeling the boys small safe house after one made for young girls.
"When kids are in a small environment, and you sort of have high-staff ratios, you can give them a lot of that one-on-one attention that they've never had before," said Natasha Nascimento, who runs a safe house for young, female victims of sex trafficking.
It's important to The Florida Dream Center that the boys have a small, family-like environment to recover and receive counseling.
"We want them to be able to run and play which they haven't been able to do but under our watch," LoSasso said.
Like many girls who are victims of sex trafficking, boys cannot attend regular public school because their traffickers can sometimes locate them there. As a result, the boys' safe house will have it's own "school" so the boys can learn in a safe, secure environment.
There will also be certified therapists and counselors on site to help the boys transition in the process to recovery.
For Rhea, she can't believe the day has come where there will be a shelter just for boys who are victims of sex trafficking.
"This is long overdue. I can't imagine a place like this when I was a child growing up," Rhea said. "I'm praying for a great success for them."
She is in the process of setting up her own safe house for girls, but will be supporting the boys' shelter as it gets built.
So far, the Florida Dream Center has raised $100,000 to purchase the land the shelter will reside on in central Florida. However, they still need about $100,000 to construct the house itself. Once built, the state of Florida will cover about 80 percent of the safe houses' operating expenses.
Help Build The Boys' Safe house
Students raise awareness for human sex trafficking
by Hannah Benson
Over 100 girls on campus are sporting a grey dress of their choosing for 30 days to raise awareness for human sex trafficking in Toledo and around the globe.
“The one grey dress represents the lack of choices women have who have been sex trafficked,” Mackenzie Bowen, President of Panhellenic Council, said.
In addition to raising awareness, the project sets out to raise money for three charities: The Daughter Project, the Circle of Sisterhood and the Aruna Project.
The Daughter Project is a Toledo based non-profit that rescues and rehabs girls who have been sex trafficked.
Bowen said this project “hits close to home because Toledo is the fourth largest city for human sex trafficking in the world.”
According to the Circle of Sisterhood website, it is “a non-profit organization founded and powered by sorority women on a mission to raise financial resources to help remove education barriers for girls and women facing poverty and oppression.”
Bowen said Panhellenic supports the Circle of Sisterhood year round in its philanthropy.
The Aruna 5K raises money to free, empower and employ women in South Asia who have been sexually exploited.
Panhellenic Council sponsors the race with $500, which takes place on the last day of the One Grey Dress Project, October 24.
Many of the girls who participate in the One Grey Dress Project run the race and some of them run in their dresses, Bowen said.
Ashley Hillis, Vice President of Service for Panhellenic Council, said the girls who participate in the project are encouraged to volunteer for the race.
PanHellenic Council had a goal of raising $8,000 within the 30 days and raised $7,500 within the first two weeks, Hillis said.
She attributed this success to the awareness being spread not only in person, but also over social media.
“We are all basically social media,” Hillis said. “We tell the girls that they make the experience what they want it to be.”
Bowen said the project has been gaining more of a following over the years.
She said last year only about 20 to 30 girls from the Panhellenic community participated.
After the success of last year, more girls from the community wanted to participate this year.
Brooke Breckenridge, Vice President of Scholarship for Panhellenic Council, said she participated in the event last year and has seen it on campus since her freshman year in 2012.
She said while the process of wearing the one dress for 30 days has some symbolic relation to the women in these situations, it is more about starting a conversation.
“Some mornings you want to wear anything but the grey dress,” Breckenridge said. “You experience what it is like not to have choices, but I could never compare the grey dress to their experience.”
To donate to the project visit crowdrise.com/OneGreyDress-BGSU.
Keeping Children Safe Initiative to Combat Human Trafficking
by Elyse Mickalonis
REIDSVILLE, N.C. -- It's a crime trade happening across the country and lurking in rural communities.
“Unfortunately people think it's a big city issue, but it's not," said Peg Stephenson, Child Advocacy Center Coordinator. "It happens in rural communities. We need people to be aware of exactly what it is, what the signs are to look for and what to do.”
On Thursday, Rockingham County organizations came together to educate law enforcement officials, organizations and community members about child sex trafficking.
A Department of Justice Report shows between 100,000 and 300,000 children at risk for entering the commercial sex trade in the U.S.
"[Those at risk include] children from lower socioeconomic areas, those who have been drug impacted -- whether that's in their family or them personally -- those who are developmentally delayed," said Stephenson.
Daphne Alsiyao, Rockingham Co. Partnership for Children, said, “North Carolina is number 10 in the country in most reported cases of human trafficking. That includes all areas of human trafficking, not just domestic minor sex trafficking. Maybe there's more awareness or maybe it's actually happening more often in North Carolina.”
Alsiyao says the definition of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking is relatively new.
“According to federal law, anyone under the age of 18 in commercial sex trade is considered a victim of domestic minor sex trafficking. But in North Carolina the age consent is 16, so there's still some confusion in comparison to federal law," said Alsiyao.
Alsiyao says cases of it are often lumped into bigger categories, like human trafficking, sex abuse or teen prostitution -- or not reported at all. Although the definition still isn't clear to many, she says the impact is.
“The average age of entry into prostitution in the U.S. is 12, and that means women who maybe be in prostitution until 35 or 45 started at 12," said Alsiyao. "The life expectancy for someone in prostitution is typically three years.”
It's why they're pushing early childhood intervention and therapy -- to reach kids at risk before it's too late.
The session was a partnership between the Rockingham County Child Fatality Prevention Team, Rockingham County Partnership for Children and the Kaledioscope Children's Advocacy Center.
The next session of "Keep Our Children Safe: A look at Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking in Rockingham County" is Oct. 29.
Parents of student killed in hypnosis scandal speak out
by CBS News
The families of three Florida high school students who died after their principal hypnotized them have prevailed in a civil wrongful death suit against the school board.
Each family will each receive $200,000 in a legal settlement with the Sarasota County School Board. But the parents of one of the victims say the case is about raising awareness, not money, reports Vladimir Duthier of CBS News' digital network, CBSN.
Patricia and Michael Palumbo say their daughter, Brittany, was driven to succeed, giving up her weekends and time with friends to study. In her senior year at North Port High School, she went to her principal for guidance about college.
"George Kenney told her at the time he believed she had test anxiety and he could help her with that anxiety," said Patricia Palumbo.
A few months later, the teen took her own life.
"What I believe happened is my daughter went into her room that night and she blinked her eyes and she entered a calm and relaxed state that allowed her to go through what she went through," said the grieving mother.
Palumbo was one of three students who died in 2011 after they were hypnotized by Kenney. Sixteen-year-old Marcus Freeman was killed when he drove his car off a highway after he apparently hypnotized himself. Wesley Mckinley, also 16, committed suicide a month later.
An investigation found that despite repeated warnings from school board officials, Kenney hypnotized roughly 70 students and staff members from 2006 to 2011. One basketball player reported he was hypnotized up to 40 times to improve his concentration.
While it's unclear whether the hypnotism and deaths were linked, Kenney was placed on administrative leave in May 2011 and resigned the following year. He pleaded no contest to two counts of practicing hypnosis without a license. He received no jail time and served one year on probation.
The Sarasota County School Board said Tuesday's settlement was "in the best interests of all parties involved."
But the Palumbos told CBS News the school board failed them and this was about more than just money.
"The school board is as negligent as Dr. Kenney is, or Mr. Kenney, I should say," said Patricia Palumbo. "I need those other families to know that I'm trying to help their kids and their families so that they don't end up like my daughter and my family."
George Kenney gave up his teaching license in 2013 and was banned from reapplying. CBS News reached out for comment but received no response.
Former Miss America, incest survivor, shares her story
by Maggie Martin
“Scuff, scuff, scuff.”
The sounds of expensive felt soles making their way down the hall of a Denver mansion in the middle of a night.
The slow turn of the door handle on the private bedroom door of a 5-year-old girl.
The child recalls from memory that they were the sounds of terror and of horror in her home.
And she says she listened for them every night of her life until she was 18 years old.
Her father wore these shoes, remembers Miss America 1958 Marilyn Van Derbur.
The late father was a wealthy and prominent Denver businessman and philanthropist. The Boy Scouts building in Denver once had his name on it — since taken off — and he was a chairman of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, said Van Derbur.
“He played the piano. He loved poetry. He was one of the finest speakers I have ever heard ... Mother was beautiful, gracious, lovely. You would look at my family and think, ‘It could never happen,'” said Van Derbur.
Miss America 1958, author of the prize winning “Miss America By Day,” says she is a childhood incest survivor and discusses the incest and the aftermath with passion and obsession in a telephone interview with The Times.
Her father was never charged nor convicted for the crimes the daughter says happened in her childhood and he died before she went public with the story.
However, her mother was still living when the story originally came out in the Denver Post, but before her daughter came out publicly.
Van Derbur brings her story here for the Oct. 14 Gingerbread House Bossier/Caddo Children's Advocacy Center Partners in Prevention 2014 Luncheon. The event is presented by the Ballengee Foundation.
“Proceeds from the luncheon will help the Gingerbread House continue to provide all services free of charge to victims and their families,” said executive director Jessica M. Millen.
“What I have been able to share with America, is that ‘Incest doesn't just happen in ‘those' families.' ... What people need to understand is this (incest) could happen to anybody,” Van Derbur said.
And it does in nine parishes, predominantly Caddo and Bossier Parishes, which Gingerbread serves, Millen said.
Although incest itself is not broken down in figures in 2014, Gingerbread House served 649 victims of child — boys and girls — sexual abuse.
“The children were ages two to 14 — from the poorest of the poor to the wealthiest of the wealthy families, from the blue collar workers to professionals. On the average, we see 54 new children every month,” according to Millen
“This year, we are up to 66 a month, a 22 percent increase,” she added.
She says the biggest threat to children are people they know — from parents to a parent's boyfriend, to the babysitter and others.
“Her's (Van Derbur) is a message of powerful survival,” said Gingerbread House board member Waynette Ballengee. “It will be an inspiring, astonishing story to learn how she rose above it. She has a happy marriage and has raised a child.”
So, a questions begs to be asked: Where was Van Derbur's mother when her father visited her bedroom and that of an older sister? (Two other sisters shared a bedroom and were not molested.)
Well, one night only, there was the “clip, clip, tap, tapping” of expensive stiletto-size heels of house shoes known as “mules” on the linoleum.
When the sound came, everything stopped in the bedroom. There was no sound.
“It is over,” thought Van Derbur. “Finally, it is over.”
But the tapping sound turned around and disappeared into the night.
Her mother knew, said her daughter.
Years later, Van Derbur finally went to tell her mother.
“I was sobbing uncontrollably and tried to get the words out. Her arms were folded. She looked at me and said, ‘I don't believe you. It is in your fantasy,'” said Van Derbur.
“I felt I had been slapped. I walked out the door,” she continued. “And came home sobbing.”
In a subsequent meeting, her mother, then 88, said, “I have no tears for you. I have no tears,” Van Derbur said. “I was with her when she died. I had no love for her.”
In all those years, Van Derbur never talked about her life.
Nor how she endured what she describes.
“I found a way to separate my mind, to departmentalize, to repress all those memories ... The trauma was so severe,” she said.
She said as difficult as it may seem, she was one person at night as her father touched her, and the next day was a popular high schooler, and later college student, who graduated from University of Colorado, Phi Beta Kappa.
In the interview with The Times, Van Derbur talks fast and furiously about her life and what she has done with it after her life began to “implode” at 39. When her own daughter turned 5 — the age Van Derbur was when she recalls that her father began abusing her — it triggered memories and feelings she had long buried deep within her.
She said her body suddenly went into physical paralysis and she was hospitalized for weeks. The struggled continued for years.
In her early 50s, she went public, after the Denver Post ran a front page story on the incest.
“Most adults do fairly well with their lives until they are in the late 30s or early 40s. We are forced to go back and heal childhood wounds and relive,” said Van Derbur.
The Denver Post story, done without an interview with Van Derbur, was headlined “Miss America Overcomes Shame.” It was just one of many stories about her life, including one in People magazine.
Van Derbur thought her life was over when the story was made public.
“People will turn away,” she thought. “No one will see me as the same. No family will want their son to marry my daughter. No university will accept my daughter.”
She didn't know what to do.
She was surprised when people begin to tell her how proud they were of her.
And, when her sister came forward, too, Van Derbur felt people would believe her.
And she helped create an adult survivor program at the Kempe National Center, now recognized as the Kempe National Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse.
Before she came out publicly, Van Derbur confronted her father.
“I drove as fast as I could to get there. The house I grew up in was very big. This was the most difficult thing I had ever done.”
She even made notes because she wanted to be very specific, but she says she didn't go in anger. At the end of conversation, he lay a gun in the palm of his hand and said if she had come any other way, he would have killed himself. She had no doubt he would have killed her first.
In seven years, she called her father a second time, but before she could get to the house, she received a phone call from her mother that her father had died of a heart attack.
The sounds in the night she says she heard have stopped for her.
For many area children, they have not.
So, for the children and the adults who have never found peace, Van Derbur speaks.
Her message is powerful.
If you go
What: Gingerbread House Bossier/Caddo Children's Advocacy Center Partners in Prevention 2015 Luncheon.
Benefits: Gingerbread House.
When: Noon, Oct. 14 at Sam's Town Hotel & Casino, Shreveport.
Presented by: The Ballengee Foundation.
Admission: $125, individual; $1,500, table for 10; $1,500 to $5,000, sponsorships.
What is the Gingerbread House?
•A community-based organization that works collaboratively with law enforcement, child protective services, the districty attorneys' offices and medical and mental health professionals to investigate, prosecute and treat cases of child sexual abuse and severe physical abuse. It is an Accredited Child Advocacy Center with National Children's Alliance.
•Mission: To lessen the trauman experience by child abuse victims as allegations are investigated and to provide support for the victims throughout the investigation, prosecution and treatment phases of cases.
(Source: Gingerbread House Bossier/Caddo Children's Advocacy Center.
Child Abuse Statistics
•One of 10 children will be victim of sexual abuse before his/her 18th birthday.
•Only about 38 percent of child victims disclose the fact they have been sexually abused. Some never disclose.
•About 90 percent of children who are victims of sexual abuse know their abuser. Only 10 percent are bsued by a stranger.
After Ray Rice, The NFL Pledged Millions To Fight Domestic Violence. Here's How The Money Was Spent.
by Lindsay Gibbs
Rob Valente remembers the moment like it was yesterday. It was September 8, 2014, and she was in Washington, D.C., surrounded by hundreds of domestic violence advocates from across the country to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first Violence Against Women Act being signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
At the time, Valente was working as a consultant for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, and that morning she was having breakfast at the hotel with Katie Ray-Jones, the hotline's CEO. Suddenly, between eggs and coffee, Ray-Jones' phone started ringing off the hook.
The messages were not good. NDVH's website was completely down. The hotline itself was being flooded with so many calls that the system was close to crashing.
It didn't take long for Valente and Ray-Jones to figure out what had happened. TMZ had released the now-infamous video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancee, now wife, Janay Palmer in the elevator of an Atlantic City hotel in February 2014.
All over social media and SportsCenter , on repeat, millions of people watched Rice punch Palmer and drag her unconscious body off camera. While questions about the incident had been percolating for months, suddenly there was nothing hypothetical or hearsay about what occurred in that elevator.
As the video circulated, so too did the number for the NDVH. That day, the hotline received an 84 percent increase in calls and chats. Some were from people so traumatized by the video they just needed to talk to someone and find out how they could help. Other calls were from family and friends worried that someone they knew and loved was in the same situation as Palmer. And thousands of calls were from women who recognized themselves in the video, and were reaching out for help and information for the first time.
The already-understaffed hotline was swamped, and was barely able to answer half of the incoming requests for assistance. But a few days later, Ray-Jones got another call. This time it was from the NFL. The league had heard about the problems the hotline was having, and it wanted to help.
That wasn't the only call the NFL made. The league moved quickly to try to repair its badly damaged image in the wake of its bungled response to the Rice incident, vowing to — among other things — educate its players, revamp its personal conduct policy, and support leading domestic violence and sexual assault awareness and prevention groups.
One year later, ThinkProgress checked up on these initiatives, and confirmed that the NFL has indeed devoted millions of dollars and a significant amount of time to trying to figure out how to address domestic violence, both within the league and among the public.
But while that money and time is being put to good use on a national scale, the local domestic violence and sexual assault centers that provide direct service work — the ones that the national groups rely on for the on-the-ground assistance — are still struggling to stay afloat. And while the NFL is trying to address its internal issues through training and regulations, changing the culture of the league is far easier said than done, particularly with the same leadership intact.
The NFL appears to be taking some steps in the right direction. But there's still a long way to go — and no clear path toward getting there.
The NFL's Money At Work
With the NFL in crisis mode in the immediate aftermath of the Rice elevator video becoming public, Anna Isaacson, the league's newly appointed VP of social responsibility, and the rest of her team set out to understand more about domestic violence and sexual assault. They went on what Isaacson described as a “listening tour” across the country, speaking to approximately 150 experts and organizations in just a few weeks as they prepared to take action, both internally and externally.
“Last September we looked around the room and said, ‘We can absolutely make a positive change on these issues,'” Isaacson told ThinkProgress. “We felt that was our responsibility.”
The league's first step was to funnel resources to the NDVH, since its struggles to keep up with the influx of calls had become so public. The NFL dedicated $5 million a year for five years to the hotline.
The NFL also wanted to partner with an organization specifically focused on sexual violence, so experts in the field directed them to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. The league initially donated $1 million to the NSVRC, which was divided among 58 state and territorial anti-rape coalitions to help them deal with the increased volume at local hotlines, leaving less than $20,000 for each coalition.
For 2015, the NFL committed $2.5 million, in a combination of cash and in-kind donations, to the NSVRC, though all of that has not been given yet. The organization's CEO, Delilah Rumburg, told ThinkProgress that the deal with the NFL will be a multi-year, multi-million dollar partnership and that going forward, she hopes to partner with the league on prevention initiatives.
Skeptics might see these donations as a PR move primarily intended to help the NFL repair its own image, but according to the people working at these organizations, the money had an immediate positive impact.
“Even if it is just PR, you see the trickle down effect,” Valente, who is now working full-time as the VP of policy at the NDVH, said.
Before the NFL's help, the hotline was only able to answer 50 percent of its calls, chats, and texts. Now that number is up to 74 percent. Through the end of September 2015, the NDVH has answered nearly 82,400 more calls, chats and texts than it did in the same period of 2014. During that time frame, the hotline received about 50,300 more incoming messages than it did the previous year. While the hotline told ThinkProgress that the support from the NFL did contribute to this increase, it can't directly tie back the specific calls, chats or texts to the NFL's funding since all funding sources are co-mingled.
There are no current concrete plans for the NFL's commitment to last longer than five years, but both parties are expecting the relationship to be a long-term one. “We've been very clear to the hotline that we're in this for a long haul,” Isaacson said.
Last fiscal year, the NFL donated $4 million in cash and $1 million in-kind to the hotline, with the in-kind donations including items like Microsoft Surface tablets, office furniture, and web servers. This nearly doubled the hotline's operating budget overnight — in 2013, the NDVH's operating budget was only a little over $6 million.
The enormous increase in cash flow was a great gift, but also a huge undertaking for the hotline, which had to not only add advocates to answer phone calls, but the support staff — HR, administrators, data analysts — to handle the new hires and to make sure it was using the NFL's money in the most effective ways possible.
Since government funding can't be used for infrastructure, a significant portion of the donation is going toward physical expansion. Not only is the organization getting brand-new servers and technology that will greatly increase the efficiency of the hotline, but they are getting a new, bigger office in Austin next spring that will be able to accommodate the larger staff and allow room for growth in the future. The NFL money also went towards getting office space in Washington, D.C.
The new D.C. office is small, bare-bones and nondescript, but full of activity. A few advocates are stationed in a room together, engrossed in responding to chat and text requests on LoveIsRespect.org, the NDVH site dedicated to teenagers and young adults.
When they have hesitations over how to respond to a problem, or are unsure of what specific resource to recommend from their database of over 5,000 domestic violence and sexual assault organizations across the country, they ask each other, or reach out to other advocates, who are all available to each other online through group chats. The different time zone helps the chat-only line stagger hours more efficiently, and the NDVH hopes to eventually add phone services to its D.C. base.
Valente is stationed in an office next door, now able to devote all of her time toward influencing policy that will be beneficial to domestic violence victims and the hotline. Right now, she is working on using data from a survey the hotline conducted online to influence gun violence legislation. (Disclosure: the Center for American Progress partnered with the NDVH for this firearms survey; ThinkProgress is an editorially independent site housed at the Center.)
Valente is also focused on making sure federal privilege laws are rewritten to apply to internet and text technologies so that texts and chats with the hotline can't be used against a victim in legal battles; and on advocating for the rights of local groups, the on-the-ground organizations and services that primarily make up the hotline's database but didn't get the NFL's help, to receive the funding and training they need.
She's clear that all of the work in the D.C. office is only possible because of the NFL's contribution and commitment to the hotline.
“Everything is because of Ray Rice,” Valente said.
Domestic Violence And Sexual Assault 101
The league didn't just consult experts on how to best help the domestic violence community as a whole, however. After the botched Rice investigation, it was clear that the NFL needed to educate itself internally, too.
The league had showcased a fundamental lack of understanding of domestic violence during the Rice case. First, Goodell interviewed Palmer and Rice together, and then only suspended Rice for two games — a lighter punishment than many players have received for a marijuana offense.
“I got it wrong in the handling of the Ray Rice matter, and I'm sorry for that,” Goodell said 11 days after the video was released. “But now I will get it right… We will get our house in order first.”
In order to get their house in order, Goodell and the rest of the NFL were faced with a tall order: Try to change the culture of a league that had largely ignored domestic violence and sexual assault in the past. Since experts in the field agree that education is a crucial component to prevention since so much about domestic violence and sexual assault is widely misunderstood, Isaacson and her team worked quickly to put together a program that, in speaking with ThinkProgress, she referred to as “Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault 101.”
The NFL administered the program to more than 6,000 league employees last fall, but it was widely panned — particularly by the NFL Players Association, the sport's union, which was worried that the session addressed the players as perpetrators, and was too focused on punishment.
The league listened to the NFLPA's complaints and this summer unveiled version 2.0 of the program, which was administered to the players during training camp. This upgraded training session included four 2-3 minute videos — three testimonials by people who had experienced or perpetrated domestic violence or sexual assault first-hand, and one video about DUIs. Each video was followed by a 10 minute question-and-answer session, intended to facilitate a more open discussion.
According to Isaacson, many clubs also invited local organizations to the sessions, and the league tried to publicize the NDVH, NSVRC, and the NFL Life Line, a 24-hour crisis line that the NFL provides to its players.
But Teri Patterson Smith, the deputy COO and special counsel of the NFLPA, told ThinkProgress that while the union was happy the league had listened to and addressed some of its concerns, she consistently heard from players that the NFL offered no way to follow up on these issues after the training sessions.
As a result, the union has been working on addressing these issues itself, adding routing to the NDVH from the NFLPA's own 24-hour help line, and cultivating local resources that the players can utilize in their hometowns.
“Here's the thing: We want to work together with the NFL,” Patterson Smith said. “We're working with the same population and we want them to be stand-up guys. We want to prevent them from committing violence and from being the victim of violence.”
“But what you have to do is establish a relationship and a circle of trust with the players and their families,” she continued. “We have a close relationship with Off The Field, the wives' association, and we also have meetings with the players sometimes when we're in the team cities. If something does arise, it is us that they call. We don't specialize in doing pop-up initiatives.”
Awareness Vs. Action
The most high-profile initiative the NFL forged last September was a partnership with No More, a “unifying symbol and public awareness campaign” aimed to end domestic violence and sexual assault. The league donated air time during games to the No More PSAs, which were produced by the Joyful Heart Foundation in partnership with Viacom.
The PSAs, which had already been running for over a year before the NFL partnership began, featured celebrities spouting out common excuses and myths about domestic violence and sexual assault — “Did you see what she was wearing?” “He just has a temper” — and concluding, well, “No more.”
Once the ads hit the NFL airwaves a few weeks into the season, the Joyful Heart Foundation started to hear from players who wanted to get involved. The nonprofit wasted no time capitalizing on this interest, setting up shoots in three different states over a 24-hour period on the players' off day. The ads, featuring players such as Eli Manning, Jason Witten, and Antonio Gates speaking out against domestic violence and sexual assault, were shot, edited, and aired within a week. They were shown every week until the playoffs. Overall, the NFL and Joyful Heart calculate that the $40 million in donated air time led to a total of 3 billion impressions for these ads.
“You have to imagine, I'm doing this work for 20 years, this is the dream of all dreams,” Maile Zambuto, CEO of the Joyful Heart Foundation, told ThinkProgress. “We've been saying for 20 years that we need athletes involved, men involved.”
But perhaps because the NFL's relationship with No More has been so visible, it has also been the most scrutinized.
In February, Deadspin's Diana Moskovitz dug into the partnership and concluded No More was nothing more than a “sham,” simply a brand created to promote awareness of the issue that does no direct, on-the-ground work for survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault.
“These logos are an embodiment of magical thinking, promising that you can do good without having to actually do anything,” she wrote.
But Joyful Heart, a nonprofit started by longtime Law & Order: SVU star Mariska Hargitay that aims to “heal, educate, and empower survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse” sees the No More PSAs as an extension of their education initiative. To them, claims of merely raising awareness isn't a critique — it's the goal. The organization partnered with multiple corporations and groups — including the Department of Justice, Avon, Mary Kay, Verizon, Kaiser Permanente, and AllState — to create the No More brand.
“This has been our dream to create a symbol, a universal brand, a way for organizations to come under one umbrella to speak with one voice that together we can end domestic violence and sexual assault,” Zambuto said. “Our goal with No More is to reach bystanders, to reach those who are not otherwise engaged in these issues — especially men and youth.”
Still, as Moskovitz wrote, it's unsettling that such a high-profile initiative doesn't directly translate into action in a field that needs so much assistance on the ground. Experts agree.
“I think raising awareness is always a good thing for someone like the NFL, but of course we want to see more,” Rene Renick, VP of programs and emerging issues at the National Network to End Domestic Violence, told ThinkProgress. (While the NNEDV has talked with the NFL and Roger Goodell over the past year, it does not advise or partner with the NFL in any official capacity.)
“Domestic violence programs across the country have felt significant reductions in funding because of the economic downturn. We've been through a long period of time here where resources have gone down and request for services has gone up. That still hasn't leveled out,” she explained. “We do a lot of advocacy with the states to fund that, but we'd love to see private funding, such as the NFL and sports teams, step up to the plate.”
D.C. Safe is one of the many organizations across the country dedicated to direct service work. Abraham Ahern, the strategic oversight manager, told ThinkProgress that the organization fills a gap for survivors by providing crisis services in the immediate aftermath of the incident — the most disruptive time in a victim's life and the period in which they are at the greatest risk for a follow-up assault or homelessness.
The organization has seen a significant increase in calls over the past year, something that Ahern attributes both to increased awareness surrounding domestic violence and to an overall increase in D.C.'s crime rate. In the last 12 months, the hotline has answered over 10,000 calls and directly served over 6,000 survivors.
Somehow, D.C. Safe does all of that on a $1.8 million per year budget supplied fully through government grants. The organization has a cramped Intake Center housed in the D.C. Superior Courthouse. That center is a one-stop shop for victims and survivors in crisis situations, filled with students from local law schools, police officers, child support assistance, and victim-witness advocates from the D.C. Attorney General's office. The center is also home to a small administrative staff and 16 full-time advocates who man a 24-hour hotline so that they can immediately assist anyone in need.
The organization also has apartments that it can place victims in around the clock. People can stay in the apartments for up to 30 days — a crucial service considering there's a wait to get into many domestic violence shelters. However, D.C. Safe is struggling to maintain ownership of these apartments with such a limited budget and such a volatile real estate market in the district. On September 30, the lease on the shelter expired, and two of their units will have to be relinquished at the end of November.
“Education and outreach programs are important. My main criticism with the No More campaign is it seems to talk around the issue without actually tying it to official resources,” Ahern said. “It's a little too indefinite. I really would love to see these big-dollar and high-profile initiatives reach out to the people on the ground. I'd love to see some more focus on the experience of survivors.”
While Zambuto defends the “undeniable” reach of the No More PSAs the NFL ran last year, she says that she and her team are in the process of strategizing how to take it a step forward and “turn visibility into engagement and action.”
Joyful Heart is currently partnering with Viacom to do research on bystanders so that they can create an effective “bystander tool” in their next round of PSAs. Zambuto said before they launch the next campaign this December, the team wants to make sure they understand what the community of people who aren't currently engaged in domestic violence issues need to hear and how they want the content delivered.
So far in the 2015 NFL season, none of the No More PSAs featuring the athletes have been re-aired, although the NFL told ThinkProgress that those spots “continue to be available to any station in the country that requests them.” The PSA entitled “Listen,” which aired during the Super Bowl, was aired once this season by the NFL in non-sports programming leading up to the kickoff of the first game.
“We're talking with the NFL now about what the future looks like,” Zambuto said. “We haven't come to agreement on anything yet. But we are hopeful that they will continue to use their platform to convey these messages.”
“I don't think [awareness is] the be-all, end-all. I don't think it can singlehandedly fix this problem, but I do believe that one of the greatest, greatest obstacles we face in ending this is silence,” she added. “If we don't talk about it then survivors will continue to get trapped in silence and perpetrators get a pass.”
Setting An Example
While the video evidence of the assault made the incident between Ray Rice and Janay Palmer the most infamous case of domestic violence in NFL history, it was far from the first case to come to the attention of commissioner Roger Goodell. Throughout his tenure, while Goodell racked up a reputation as a harsh disciplinarian, case after case of domestic violence perpetrated by his players went overlooked and unpunished. Of the 56 domestic violence cases that occurred on his watch before September 8, 2014, Goodell had only suspended those players for a total of 13 games.
These statistics led one writer to conclude, “Roger Goodell is a domestic violence enabler who must be stopped.”
It was clear that in order for the NFL to be taken seriously on issues of domestic violence and sexual assault, the league had to change the way it disciplined its own players.
So, using the advice of the 150 experts Isaacson and her team reached out to last September, the NFL updated its Personal Conduct Policy and formed a Conduct Committee to regularly review the policies.
This policy, which was unveiled in December 2014 wasn't that different from the previous one, though it did give the NFL the authority to investigate alleged misconduct independently of the justice system; provide more counseling services for victims, families, and violators; increase the punishment for first-time offenders from a two-game suspension to six; formally make the commissioner's exempt list (a status available for players in “unusual circumstances” that allows them to receive pay and remain under contract without being a part of the team's 53-man roster) the destination for players under investigation; and ultimately put the final decision of every disciplinary action into Goodell's hands. Goodell even appoints the committee responsible for appeals.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the NFLPA has been unhappy with the new conduct policy from the start, even filing a cease and desist order to attempt to prevent the league from implementing it.
“The NFL is not fair or consistent in their doling out of the discipline,” Patterson Smith said. “We're looking for due process and some sort of established protocol, and we want to protect our players from any overzealous NFL punishment.”
Of course, while the union is understandably concerned with protecting its players, many domestic violence experts wish that the league would dole out even harsher punishments to domestic abusers.
“A lot of people think of athletes as role models, so it's important for them to set an example that violence against women isn't okay,” Debbie Evans, the division chief of the Sexual Assault Center and Domestic Violence Program in Alexandria, Virginia, told ThinkProgress. “The NFL has to have a stance that it won't be tolerated.”
While the NFL has gotten a bit tougher on these issues over the past year, the stances have been inconsistent. Seven NFL players have been arrested for domestic violence or sexual assault since September 8 of last year, and one player — Ahmad Brooks of the 49ers — has been charged with misdemeanor sexual battery. Of those, one was placed on the commissioner's exempt list by their team; four players are still playing in the NFL right now; four players were released by their teams after the arrests were made — with two getting picked up by other teams soon afterwards; and only two have received a suspension from Goodell, for a total of nine games.
Both players suspended by Goodell for domestic violence or sexual assault arrests, Rodney Austin (six games) and Jonathan Dwyer (three games), are currently not on an NFL roster and are serving their suspensions as free agents. Austin, a former Detroit Lions guard, was found guilty in a North Carolina court on four misdemeanor charges — including assault on a female and assault on a child under age 12 — but maintains his innocence. Dwyer, a former Arizona Cardinals running back who was accused of head-butting his wife and breaking her nose after she refused his sexual advances, plead guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, and was sentenced to 18 months of probation.
In the past year, almost all of Goodell's high-profile suspensions have been overturned, including the indefinite suspensions of both Rice and Adrian Peterson, who was indicted on felony child abuse charges last September, and plead no contest to a misdemeanor of reckless assault to avoid jail time. Peterson is back playing for the Minnesota Vikings this year, while Rice, who plead not guilty to third-degree aggravated assault and was accepted to a pre-trial intervention program for first-time offenders, has yet to be picked up by a team since the video was released.
Greg Hardy, who spent most of the 2014 season on the commissioner's exempt list after allegedly throwing his ex-girlfriend onto a bed full of rifles and threatening to kill her, was suspended for 10 games by Goodell of the 2015 season. But after Hardy's appeal, the suspension was reduced to just four games. Hardy, who appealed an initial guilty verdict by a judge and had his case dismissed by the prosecutor when the victim failed to appear in court to testify, re-joined the Dallas Cowboys this week.
“After a year, not much has changed,” Karin Roland, the organizing director of UltraViolet, the women's rights activist group that aired an anti-Goodell ad online during last year's Super Bowl, said. “Goodell's efforts to fix the problem look shockingly similar to his long efforts to ignore it.”
32 Teams In 32 Communities
Last December, the NFL directed each team to form a Critical Response Team by the end of 2015 that is educated and trained to deal with crisis situations and to work with domestic violence organizations in their community.
Isaacson said that the league does not oversee this community involvement, though they did provide a list of local organizations to each team and ask for regular updates.
Experts told ThinkProgress that one of the most important things the NFL could do is support local programs through appearances and volunteering, money, and resources. The NDVH isn't the only organization that received an influx of calls and requests after the Rice incident — most local shelters did too, and they need the assistance the most. After all, these are the places that the NDVH is directing its callers to, and it does no good if they show up and the shelter can't accommodate them.
ThinkProgress reached out to all 32 NFL teams for an update on their club's domestic violence initiatives, and heard back from 21 of them. The results were wide-ranging: The Pittsburgh Steelers had just hired a community relations manager, and she was meeting with the Women's Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, but as of September, nothing had been set up beyond that. The Washington team's sole domestic violence initiative was a partnership with Fear to Freedom that involved the rookies assembling care packages for an hour and a half over the summer.
The Baltimore Ravens have strengthened the team's relationship with a local shelter, House of Ruth, and a nationwide initiative, One Love, pledging hundreds of thousands of dollars between the two. The Minnesota Vikings have dedicated themselves to educating the players and their families through initiatives that go beyond the NFL's mandatory training, while the Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks have formed strong partnerships with their state domestic violence coalitions.
Renick, who helps to oversee the state domestic violence coalitions as part of her work with the National Network to End Domestic Violence, wishes that more teams would partner with their local coalitions and invest resources into helping domestic violence victims on the local level, particularly since the NFL promised local support.
“I don't know that that's happened on the level they had hoped and we had hoped,” she said. “Considering the kind of pockets they have, they could do more.”
The individual teams have also continued to vary greatly when it comes to the vetting and tolerance of domestic violence and sexual assault — most commonly referred to by the teams as “off-the-field issues.”
Time and time again, NFL teams have demonstrated that they care a lot more about domestic violence when the player isn't a star. Of the eight players involved in domestic violence or sexual assault incidents in the last year, three of the four who are playing in the 2015 season are established players — Bruce Miller, Junior Galette, and Ahmad Brooks. Meanwhile, bit players or unheralded rookies such as Justin Cox, Austin, and Dwyer, haven't been given a second chance yet.
Then, of course, there's Ray McDonald, who was given three chances by the league. The former defensive end with the San Francisco 49ers, was arrested under suspicion of domestic violence against his pregnant fiancee in August 2014. However, the prosecutor dropped the case, and McDonald remained on the 49ers for four more months, until it was announced he was under investigation for sexual assault in December 2014.
He was released by the 49ers at that time, but was then picked up by the Chicago Bears in March. They Bears were impressed with the fact that McDonald flew himself to interview with them and they heard good things from his former teammates and family members. They didn't, however, hear anything from his alleged victim.
“An alleged victim, I think — much like anybody else who has a bias in this situation — there's a certain amount of discounting in what they have to say,” Bears chairman George McCaskey told reporters while announcing the signing.
Just a couple of months later, McDonald was arrested on domestic violence charges again, and promptly dismissed from the team. McDonald — who has still not received any formal punishment from the NFL — was charged in July with domestic violence and felony false imprisonment stemming from the May arrest. In August 2015, he was indicted on one count of rape by a grand jury stemming from the December investigation.
The Bears weren't the only NFL team who took the “don't ask” approach to vetting potential talent. Jameis Winston was the overall No. 1 draft pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; even though he was part of a high-profile (and botched) rape investigation in his time at Florida State, the Bucs reportedly never reached out to his accuser in their “extensive” vetting.
The Seattle Seahawks were similarly selective this year in their investigation of their first draft pick, defensive end Frank Clark. The Seahawks didn't reach out to any witnesses of his arrest on charges of domestic violence and assault — witnesses whom reporters were able to track down quickly after the draft.
At best, this shows ignorance by the coaches and executives in charge. At worst, they simply don't care.
“You can take a good neighbor, employee, parent, or friend, but that doesn't mean they're like that in an intimate relationship. Nobody wears a sign,” Jennifer Wesberry of D.C. Safe told ThinkProgress.
“There's a myth that batterers are always nasty, but that's not the case. Batterers can be extremely charming,” Renick said. “If untrained folks are just talking to the batterer's side, you're only getting a part of the picture.”
Where Do We Go From Here?
As Domestic Violence Awareness Month kicks off this month, the NFL's initiatives to address the issue remain a work in progress.
“I believe these things take time,” Joyful Heart CEO Maile Zambuto said. “Everything the NFL has done in a year is a meaningful first step.”
Over the past year, as the NFL's attempts at justice and awareness have been executed to various degrees of success, other prominent sports leagues have found themselves in similar situations. MLB, for instance, moved quickly to enact its own domestic violence policies and prevention procedures in the wake of the Rice incident, telling ThinkProgress in April that this was not an issue they had previously been focused on.
The NHL, which hasn't revamped its policies, has acted inconsistently; after suspending Los Angeles Kings' player Slava Voynov in 2014 when he was arrested on domestic violence charges, the league has allowed Patrick Kane to remain with the Chicago Blackhawks as the star is under investigation for sexual assault. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver received praise for his strict and swift punishment of Charlotte Hornet Jeff Taylor when he was arrested on domestic violence charges last September, but the NBA and its Players Association still have work to do before the league policy is comprehensive and clear.
Even women's pro sports leagues haven't been exempt from scrutiny, with high-profile stars such as Hope Solo in the National Women's Soccer League and Brittney Griner in the WNBA both arrested for domestic violence in the last year.
The legal system often isn't any help to sports leagues trying to get it right. Due to a combination of shame, fear, and a mistrust of police, only around one in four domestic violence cases are reported. Of those, only three of the five cases investigated by police result in arrest, and in approximately one-third of the investigated cases, charges are never filed. The statistics are equally troubling in sexual assault cases; 68 percent of rapes go unreported, and only two percent of rapists will ever serve one day in jail.
What role the league should play in these matters is hotly debated and some observers have publicly questioned whether the NFL should be involved at all. Given its track record of arbitrary and inconsistent punishment, is the NFL really in the best position to decide how to regulate off-field behavior?
Nonetheless, expert after expert reiterated the same point to ThinkProgress: Domestic and sexual abusers need to be told that these acts are not going to be tolerated, and with its enormous platform and influence, the NFL can help send that message.
“Writ large, a huge problem with why domestic violence persists is because we treat it like it's some exceptional category of behavior that we can't influence. It's not. We don't do that with any other category of violence, but suddenly, when the victim is a woman, we can't do anything about it,” Abraham Ahern of D.C. Safe said.
“Abusers, in my experience, learn very quickly that there's zero consequence if their action takes place in a certain setting and their victim is a woman or a domestic partner,” he continued. “With no major public sanctions against the players who perpetrate these crimes — I think that it is absolutely an incentive to further violence.”
The NFL has made a commitment to this issue, internally and externally, for better or for worse. This month, No More is working with the league's broadcast partners to educate them on the proper language to use when talking about domestic violence and sexual assault, and the education session that was given to players during training camp will be administered to front office staff members on the club and league level. NFL staff members will also hold an event with Safe Horizon, a domestic violence shelter, later this month.
But it's noteworthy that throughout October, NFL players will don the color pink to signify Breast Cancer Awareness — not purple for Domestic Violence Awareness.
“There's this undertone of victim blaming in the culture that makes it hard to rally around domestic violence as an issue,” Jennifer Wesberry of D.C. Safe said. “That's why breast cancer is an easier initiative to support.”
“Can I just get one sports team to wear purple? That's the dream.”
“Step Up, Speak Out” Block Parties Raise Awareness For Child Abuse
by Chandler Rogers
FORT SMITH (KFSM)--The Step Up Speak Out block parties are a part of the United Way's promotion to end child abuse.
Three River Valley schools Wednesday night (October 7): Howard Elementary and Euper Elementary in Fort Smith and the Boys and Girls Club in Van Buren.
Sam Sicard helped organize the event with the United Way. He said it's all about letting kids and parents know how they can get help.
“We give them this t-shirt with the child abuse hotline number and bracelets and chains, so that they know how to tell someone,” Sicard said.
Sicard said this all began when he learned that child abuse affects one of every four girls and one in every six boys under the age of 18.
“In child abuse, it's so hard for a kid to step up and speak out when something happens, and this event is catered to tell the kids, ‘Hey, it's ok to tell somebody,'” Sicard said. “It's ok to go to your teacher, go to your trusted adult, and tell them when something inappropriate is happening, so it's really important that they hear that message over and over.”
Rham Cunningham, the emcee for the event, said that even though the parties were about having fun, the goal is to combat a serious issue.
Speakers from the Hamilton House came to tell kids to speak up and parents to listen. The parents said it's all about being there for the kids.
“As far as what we're here for, it's for kids, and kids that go through a lot of problems, and we want them to have a voice, and we're their voice, and we're standing up, and we're speaking out for them, and we're here to help them,” PTA member Jill Flanary said.
Additional Step Up Speak out events will be scheduled in the spring.
Empower Me program focuses on preventing child abuse in Talbot County
by Katie Willis
EASTON — Ninety Talbot County community members from more than 20 organizations took part in the first Empower Me training program, which was offered during two sessions, Tuesday, Sept. 29, at St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Easton.
Talbot County Department of Social Services Director April Sharp said, since 2014, the department has responded to 205 instances of physical abuse, sexual abuse or cases of neglect in Talbot County. She said in many instances, there were other children living in the homes, as well.
Sharp said child abuse does not fall into one specific demographic and cannot be attributed solely to those living in poverty. She said child abuse affects children in many different living circumstances and "crosses all economic boundaries."
"There are approximately 7,000 children under the age of 18 in Talbot County," Sharp said. "The program has the ability to provide children with tools so they'll know what to do in an unsafe situation."
Sharp said, according to the Crimes Against Children Research Center, one in 10 children suffers from maltreatment, and one in five girls and one in 20 boys is a victim of sexual abuse.
The goal of the Empower Me program, which is a presentation given through the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, is to train adults to prevent child abuse and provide children with the knowledge to establish safety rules and the resources necessary to alert an adult they trust when they feel they are in danger, Sharp said. She said the core message of the Empower Me program is "all children are special and deserve to be safe," and the program's training and implementation is intended to be a community effort.
Sharp said the difference between the Empower Me program and programs taught in the past is that Empower Me does not educate using fear. She said one example of a fear tactic taught in the past is the idea of "stranger danger," which teaches children to fear strangers, but often can lead to confusion when children are required to identify who is a stranger in their lives.
Sharp said during the program, Alison Feigh, who presented the Empower Me information to the community participants, said more than 90 percent of children who are abducted or are victims of sexual abuse are abused by someone they know.
Sharp said Empower Me teaches adults how to educate children to identify feelings that alert them they may be in danger, how to identify and create healthy relationships, how to set up personal safety rules, how to identify circumstances that may be unsafe and also how to identify five adults they can trust to "become (their) safety net."
"The more children reached by the program, the better chance we have of turning the curve on the number of children victimized in the community," Sharp said.
She said the program reminded her of Frederick Douglas' quote, "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men," and she hopes other members of the community will become involved in the initiative by hosting a certified trainer who will present the Empower Me information to their group or organization.
Katie Russ, a licensed social worker with the Talbot County Department of Social Services, said the program is important because "it is a grown-up's job to keep kids safe, and it's a kid's job to be a kid."
Representatives from more than 20 organizations attended the presentation, including the Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center, local church groups, the St. Michaels Community Center, Critchlow Adkins Children's Center, Mid-Shore Mental Health Systems Inc., the Talbot County Department of Juvenile Services, the Talbot County Health Department, Talbot County Public Schools, Mid Shore Community Mediation Center, CASA of Talbot County, Talbot Mentors, the Talbot County State's Attorney Office, the Easton Police Department, the Talbot County Sheriff's Office, YMCA of the Chesapeake and the University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Easton.
For more information or to request an Empower Me presentation for a group or organization, call 410-770-4848 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parents Found Innocent Of Child Abuse Three Years After Their Baby Was Taken Away And Adopted
“We took our child to the hospital seeking help and they stole our baby from us,” said the parents, who may never see their child again.
by Alan White
Three years ago, the baby's parents, Karrissa Cox and Richard Carter, took their 6-week old baby to the A&E department at the Royal Surrey County Hospital because it had been bleeding from its mouth after it had been fed.
According to a statement on their lawyer's website, their baby had a “torn frenulum, but no other associated bruising or swelling in or around the mouth. In addition the baby had a number of minor bruises on the body. On skeletal X-ray it was said the baby had a number of healing metaphyseal fractures. Subsequently, the baby was found to have Von Willebrands II, a blood disorder which causes someone to bruise more easily.”
The baby was then taken into care and adopted – for two years the parents were allowed supervised contact with their child. “Proceedings were commenced in the family courts where no real challenge to the science was made,” the statement says. “A finding of abusive injury was inevitable.”
During the criminal proceedings, defence experts reported the baby had a vitamin D deficiency along with healing infantile rickets. One defence expert recommended that the Guthrie card (a blood spot sample taken at 5 days old) be tested for vitamin D, but the prosecution dismissed it as “too old” and “unreliable”. However, according to the parents' lawyers, “The defence knew that this child had been fed on formula milk enriched with vitamin D from birth which was likely to have increased the vitamin D reading.”
The Guthrie card was eventually tested and showed “the baby was severely vitamin D-deficient at 5 days old”.
This evidence was challenged by the prosecution, which depended on a report by a doctor who, according to the parents' lawyers, “was the principal evidence that the family court relied upon in concluding there had been child abuse”.
The statement goes on: “Time and again, the defence experts' conclusions were shown to be correct. The prosecution instructed a further radiologist. That expert's opinion, given on 6th October 2015, three and a half years later, concluded that he was doubtful there were any fractures at all.”
Not guilty verdicts were entered, and the prosecution offered no evidence on 7 October 2015.
The child was the couple's first baby. They have not had another since, as any child would have been likely to be taken into care due to the allegations.
“We took our child to the hospital seeking help and they stole our baby from us,” the parents said in the statement.
Cox told The Independent: “I feel completely let down by the system, well and truly let down. It's been a long three years trying to battle this and we're going to fight to try to get our child back.”
She told the paper: “[The child] said mummy and daddy quite a lot and used to get upset when it was time for contact to finish. [The child] wouldn't want to be put back in the car and would cling on, hold on to me. We'd love to have our child back home with us where [the child] belongs.”
Michael Turner QC of Garden Court Chambers, who represented the parents, said: “These innocent parents have been spared a criminal conviction and a prison sentence for a crime they never committed. Their life sentence is that they are likely never to see their baby again.”
Emma Fenn, who also represented the parents, said: “This tragic case highlights the real dangers of the Government's drive to increase adoption and speed up family proceedings at all costs. It also shows the perils of the continued inaction relating to a nationwide epidemic of vitamin D deficiency and rickets and the grave injustice that can result when relying on the opinions of medical professionals alone to conclude child abuse.
“Disgracefully, the parents could not obtain legal aid for the adoption proceedings after the savage legal aid cuts brought in three years ago”.
Texas Man Who Posed As HS Student Sentenced For Child Sexual Abuse
by The Associated Press
WYLIE -- A 23-year-old Wylie man accused of pretending to be a high school student has been sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Donavin Jennings was sentenced Tuesday after he was found guilty of continuous sexual abuse of a girl and indecency with a child.
Prosecutors say Jennings claimed to be 15 when he began dating a 12-year-old girl, but was actually 20.
Authorities say when the girl enrolled at Wylie High School, Jennings pretended to be a 16-year-old student there and walked the hallways with a backpack, rode the school bus and spent time with students.
Jennings was arrested Jan. 16, 2014 at the school after high school officials received a tip about an inappropriate relationship.
Wisconsin Department of Justice
Justice for Children
by Brad Schimel -- Wisconsin Attorney General
In my former lives as an Assistant DA and DA, I spent the largest part of my 25-year career prosecuting Sensitive Crimes cases. That experience included countless child abuse and neglect cases. In that work, I saw firsthand how child abuse and neglect often do irreparable harm to children and families. Worse, the fallout from that abuse and neglect often is passed from generation to generation. We have no higher responsibility in government than to protect our children.
Today, I was proud to stand with Senator Rob Cowles, Representatives Tranel, Macco, Murtha, and Heaton; and legislative leaders who sponsored the “Justice for Children” legislation, addressing a need to change the way abuse and neglect of children is handled in the criminal justice system.
It is time for us to recognize the need to provide stronger tools to address these crimes. The legislation and resources we announced today will help Wisconsin to do the best it can to protect our children.
Here are some of the components of the proposed legislation:
For many years, Wisconsin law has given prosecutors the ability to charge repeated acts of sexual assault of a child as a single continuing offense. That tool has been critical to our success in cases involving ongoing, repetitive sexual abuse. Children often are not able to identify the specific date on which acts of sexual abuse were committed against them. This package of legislation provides an important tool to prosecutors that will enable them to address this challenge.
This is just as true with acts of physical abuse and neglect as it is with sexual abuse. However, under current law, prosecutors do not have the ability to charge repeated acts of physical abuse and neglect as repeated acts. Yet, physical abuse and neglect can be every bit as damaging to a child as sexual abuse. It is long overdue for Wisconsin to give prosecutors the ability to charge long-term physical abuse and neglect as an ongoing course of conduct so that we can achieve justice for these child victims and prevent offenders from committing future crimes against children.
The criminal justice system works best for victims when there's a collaborative approach that brings together a multi-disciplinary team made up of prosecutors, law enforcement, victim advocates, and social services. Under current law, mandatory reporters must report sexual abuse, physical abuse and neglect of a child to the county social service agency. Only as to sexual abuse of a child, however, are social service agencies required to share the report with law enforcement. Wisconsin law does not require that law enforcement be notified when physical abuse or neglect of a child is suspected.
Social services and law enforcement have complementary, but not always identical interests relative to child abuse and neglect. Law enforcement has tools available to it, such as subpoenas and search warrants that are not typically available to social services agencies working alone.It makes sense that the two systems both work together to investigate child abuse and neglect. It will be a force multiplier in our effort to keep our children safe. In Waukesha County where I was a prosecutor, we began conducting collaborative investigations between law enforcement and social services years ago, and I saw firsthand the benefits of this multi-disciplinary approach.
Current Wisconsin law requires that the State prove that a person who neglected a child did so intentionally. This is an oxymoron. By its nature, neglect is not intentional. This proposed legislation would remedy this confusion in our law. This proposed legislation also creates graduated penalties for varying degrees of child neglect. Under current law, a prosecutor has only two options when addressing allegations of child neglect: 1. Charge a misdemeanor if the child does not die from the neglect; and 2. Charge a felony if the child dies as a result of the neglect. This bill provides graduated penalties for neglect based upon the severity of the injury to the child. Thus, more severe neglect can be punished more severely than the current misdemeanor offense.
When police conduct an investigation, the suspect has the right to have an attorney represent them. In fact, if they are in custody, police must tell the suspect that they have that right before they may interview the suspect about the alleged crime. Further, if the suspect cannot afford an attorney, they are told they will get one for free.
Why would we not give a victim who is being interviewed about a crime they did not want committed against them the right to have an advocate present to help them? Further, unlike the attorney representing a suspect as part of an adversarial process, the presence of a trained victim advocate can actually assist law enforcement in doing its job.
SUMMARY OF FOUR BILLS:
These four victim-centered pieces of legislation will enable us to give children the resources they need to navigate the criminal justice system and begin the long process of healing. These tools will enable us to do the very best we can to keep our children safe.
Jill Karofsky, Director of our Office of Crime Victim Services, has worked tirelessly with legislators and other victim advocates to develop this comprehensive solution to some of society's worst problems. I am confident the “Justice for Children” package of laws will be a great asset to prosecutors statewide and hold offenders more accountable than current law allows. State prosecutors who specialize in child abuse and neglect prosecutions, as well as representatives from partner organizations like the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault (WCASA) and Children's Hospital of Wisconsin also have provided critical assistance in developing these bills. Administrator Karofsky was a front line prosecutor in the Dane County DAs Office for two decades and prosecuted countless child abuse and neglect cases. Her leadership led to her appointment as a Deputy DA and then to her current position at DOJ where she leads our fantastic team of crime victim service providers statewide.
CHILD ABUSE RESOURCE PROSECUTOR:
I am also excited to share an additional step that the Department of Justice is taking to better serve children in our state. The Wisconsin Department of Justice is creating the position of Child Abuse Resource Prosecutor. No prosecutor will see a more difficult case than an abusive head trauma case. We used to use the term “shaken baby syndrome,” but the brain injuries are much more complex than that term describes, and in the medical, child protection and prosecution communities, we now instead use the term “abusive head trauma” which describes an array of abuse that can result in severe lifelong disabilities and even death to the child.
Abusive head trauma and other serious child abuse cases have become increasingly complex and require county DAs to become experts in medical terminology and concepts. They must invest countless hours and resources to prepare to present the testimony of prosecution medical experts and to cross examine defense medical experts. The medical evidence varies so widely that it is difficult for prosecutors in our DAs offices to develop the expertise they need to successfully prosecute these cases and bring justice for victims and their families.
This resource prosecutor will provide our county DAs with everything from resources and advice when making charging decisions, to assisting with trial preparation, to second-chairing trials and even taking on primary responsibility at trial in serious child abuse cases statewide. This position will not require any new resources at DOJ. Rather, we are re-tasking a current Assistant AG position to take on this priority. We have had great success with similar subject matter-specific prosecutors, such as our designated violence against women and traffic safety prosecutors, and we are excited to announce this additional designated resource for child abuse prosecutors statewide. Protecting our children is the most important thing we do.
‘Not enough done' on child sex abuse
by Kelly O'Brien
Not enough is being done to keep children safe from sexual harm, according to one of the country's leading sexual abuse charities.
One in Four has called on the Government to tackle the situation immediately.
“We must encourage adult survivors to come forward and take very seriously their accounts of their childhood experiences,” said executive director Maeve Lewis ahead of today's launch of the charity's annual report.
“If we are to keep children safe we must have the commitment and resources to put in place an effective child protection system and a criminal justice system that honours the experience of victims of serious sexual crimes, making sure that sex offenders cannot continue to act with impunity.”
Ms Lewis said this country still has “a long way to go” before it becomes a society where lives are not “blighted by child sexual abuse”.
She said most underage victims of sexual abuse do not come forward, which is why the One in Four organisation has to rely on the testimony of adult survivors.
“Do we really encourage adults to come forward?” said Ms Lewis. “Are their accounts taken seriously by child protection services when they report the person who abused them and is still active in the community? Have we a criminal justice system in place that forces sex offenders to account for their actions? The answer, sadly, is no.”
Last year, the charity provided counselling to 116 survivors and 43 families, a total of 2,643 therapy hours. Advocacy officers from One in Four provided information and support to 672 people.
One in Four also revealed that it had to close its waiting list for four months because it could not afford to employ enough counsellors to deal with the demand for services, something Ms Lewis describes as a “truly terrible situation”.
While Ms Lewis admits she was “heartened” to hear about the new Child and Family Agency, Tusla, which was set up last year, and hoped the response to historic allegations of sexual abuse would improve, she said this was not the case.
“Despite policy and legislative developments, we still meet a child protection service in disarray, with inconsistent responses across the country and poor assessments of risk,” she said.
“We are also not happy with the way anxious, distressed clients are treated by social workers.”
One in Four said it worked with 32 sex offenders and their wives or partners last year. More than a third of the offenders were young men aged between 18 and 25.
“During the past year, sex offenders have travelled from all over the country to access the Phoenix Programme, our sex offender intervention programme,” said Ms Lewis.
“The majority of these men (53%) sexually abused children in their own families. Others abused children they came into contact with in their own communities. Most will never be convicted for their offences because their victims do not want to make a complaint to the gardaí. This means that there are dangerous individuals in every community in this country who are able to continue abusing children.”
This is a problem which needs to be tackled immediately, she said, by properly training gardaí in how to deal with sexual abuse victims in a sensitive manner, by encouraging survivors to come forward, by improving the criminal justice system and by implementing effective intervention programmes for offenders.
For more information on One in Four, go to www.oneinfour.ie or phone 01 6624070.
CAFV seeks support for Domestic Violence Awareness Month
by Paul Collins
Citizens Against Family Violence (CAFV) encourages public participation in Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October. A number of local activities are planned.
CAFV Executive Director Warren L. Rodgers Jr. provided the following local statistics in an email. Since Jan. 1, CAFV has provided services to 248 victims of domestic violence, of whom 45 were children. Ninety percent of the adults are women; and 63 percent were abused by a spouse or partner.
“Eighteen percent of people receiving advocacy services reported the perpetrator used a weapon, including a firearm against the victim. Twenty-two percent of people receiving advocacy services had to relocate or became homeless as a result of domestic violence. Fifty-four percent of people receiving advocacy services reported the presenting domestic violence experience to police,” Rodgers stated.
According to its website, CAFV's domestic violence services include: emergency shelter, safety planning, advocacy (legal and health), photographs of injuries, documentation of injuries, assistance with protective orders, emergency hospital accompaniment, individual counseling, support groups, 911 cell phones, information on victim compensation, and other information and referrals.
“Frequently, victims do not seek out the services of advocacy agencies,” Rodgers stated in the email. “Often, they first go to friends, clergy, the police, or emergency rooms before seeking the services of local advocacy agencies. The key to success is the collaboration of all of the stakeholders to ensure that the victim is safe. Citizens Against Family Violence is working to strengthen those relationships in the community and ensure that those key people who first find out about the incidence of domestic violence are aware of the services available in the community.”
Rodgers said rural community barriers include: transportation; isolation from family and friends; financial abuse, which he said is “huge here,” and threats with guns,
“Without transportation, victims/survivors cannot leave abusive situations. Isolation only makes this more difficult. Trying to reconnect with the community and family members after years of abuse and isolation is very difficult,” Rodgers said.
He noted that CAFV provides emergency transportation and relocation services, and it is focusing on building relationships with various community partners to get resources to victims and survivors.
“Assistance filing for protective orders provides victims with extra safety measures, provides safety at work, school, across state lines,” Rodgers said.
CAFV operates a 14-bed emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence.
“Secure shelter and advocacy services are always available to all victims residing in the city of Martinsville, Henry County and Patrick County. (CAFV) also occasionally provides shelter to victims who are fleeing abuse from other localities in the commonwealth or even other states. We also have a cooperative agreement with the SPCA, who has agreed to allow pets to stay in their shelter while victims are seeking shelter with us. Pets and children are often used as leverage to make a woman stay in a violent home,” Rodgers said.
According to Rodgers, event fliers and a news release, local activities planned in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month include:
“Teaming Up Against Domestic Violence” Community Basketball Game on Saturday, Oct. 17, at Martinsville Middle School gym. The women's game will start at 5:45 p.m. and the men's game will follow (about 7:15 p.m.). Admission is free when you donate: canned food, household cleaning products, hygiene products, over-the-counter medicines and monetary donations.
“Survivors' Voices” on Thursday, Oct. 29, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Uptown Sweets, 1 E. Church St. in Martinsville. Survivors of domestic violence will talk about their experiences with domestic violence and discuss their paths from victim to survivor. Wanda Brown, author of “A Special Gift: My Inspirational Journey to Healing,” will be the special guest. A question-and-answer will follow. Uptown Sweets will provide light refreshments.
The Paint Patrick County Purple Awareness Campaign encourages everyone to wear purple or display purple ribbons and have pictures posted on Facebook to demonstrate support for domestic violence awareness and the desire to break the silence and stop the violence.
At the Apple Dumpling Festival in Stuart on Saturday, Oct. 17, CAFV will host a photo booth with opportunities for participation in the Paint Patrick County Purple campaign. (The festival will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in downtown Stuart, according to the Virginia Tourism Corp. website.)
Café Conversations, a new program of CAFV, will begin in October with monthly informal sessions in cafés around the county to allow county residents to meet CAFV staff and discuss domestic and sexual violence. Dates and locations will be announced.
On Oct. 22 from 6-8 p.m. at Honduras Coffee Shop in Stuart, CAFV will host the “Patrick County Survivors' Voices & #NoMore Illumination.” Domestic violence survivors will lead the Survivors' Voices forum to raise awareness, hope and shed light on domestic violence issues in the community. The program will end with #NoMore Illumination, a candlelight event to bring light to the street for no more silence and no more violence. The public is invited to participate.
Court documents reveal gruesome details in child abuse case
by Emily Wood and Tom Schultheis
HARRISON, Ark. -- Boone County prosecutors said two people charged last week with child abuse admitted to taking out their rage out on their 7-week-old son and 14-month-old son multiple times. Rachel Clayton and Steven Simmons are in jail, and newly-released court documents reveal gruesome details.
Investigators said Rachel Clayton and Steven Simmons lived in a trailer in Omaha without running water or electricity. They said the two parents repeatedly abused their children, and admitted it when they were interviewed.
A detective's affidavit says the mother took the 7-week-old boy to the hospital in Branson for treatment on Sept. 19. Prosecutors say that's when doctors discovered a skull fracture, a compression fracture of his spine, seven rib fractures, a broken finger, deep bruises on the front lobe of the brain, and brain tissue injuries. The child was transferred to a hospital in Springfield, and put in Pediatric Intensive Care.
When a Taney County, Mo., sheriff's deputy questioned the parents at the hospital in Branson, they said the infant had fallen 1.5 feet off a futon-style bed onto the floor.
"They also advised that there were times that they had walked into a wall or doorframe striking the child's head as well," the deputy said.
A doctor in Branson didn't think the infant's severe injuries could have happened as the parents described. Doctors in Springfield also told detectives "that these injuries were in various stages of healing and showed evidence that they occurred during separate acts at separate times during the child's life," according to the affidavits. Some injuries were "weeks old" while others were recent.
Detectives interviewed two older children, a 7-year-old daughter of Clayton, and a 13-year-old cousin. The girls told detectives about seeing the parents "strike, slam, drop, and otherwise abuse" the baby on several occasions because he wouldn't stop crying. They also said Simmons held the baby by the head and pushed it down onto the bed.
According to the affidavit, Clayton later told investigators that she had shaken the baby and tossed him during episodes of rage. She also admitted to striking his head on door frames. Clayton also said she had seen the baby's father violently shake the baby and slam the baby's head onto furniture.
Simmons said he wished the baby had never been born, according to investigators. The affidavit also says Simmons admitted to forcing the baby's face into a pillow and repeatedly screaming, "I hate you!" He also showed with a doll how he violently shook the baby, slammed it onto the bed, and struck the baby's head on a door frame.
Simmons also said he yelled at the baby to shut up, and said he would look at the baby and say, "God, I wish we could get rid of you," according to the affidavits. He told detectives that Clayton had been present during several "incidents of rage" and that he had also seen her "toss" the baby from her lap onto the bed.
The mother said she repeatedly screamed at the baby, "I don't want you!" and "I wish you weren't here," according to the affidavits. She said she let the baby "roll off of her arms" onto the furniture during "episodes of rage and frustration when the baby would not be quiet."
Clayton said "this baby has been the hardest thing she has ever had to deal with," a detective wrote in the affidavit. She also said she saw Simmons, at least four times, violently shake the baby "and admitted that this was not good for the baby." She also said she saw Simmons "slam the baby head first onto furniture and then hold the baby's head face down into the pillows to attempt to quiet the baby," and did nothing to stop his actions, and did not seek medical treatment when his skull became swollen and bruised.
Simmons also admitted that he had struck the 14-month-old toddler because he had soiled his diaper and then played in it.
"Bring that child to the sheriff's office; we will find a home for that child. But to treat it worse than you would an animal, it doesn't make sense. It doesn't! You can't understand the mental state that someone has to be in to do that," said Boone County Sheriff Mike Moore.
Doctors in Branson also noticed excessive bruising on the older child. The baby tested positive for methamphetamine.
Both Clayton and Simmons are in jail. Clayton is charged with first-degree battery and permitting the abuse of a minor. Simmons is charged with first-degree battery, second-degree battery, and permitting the abuse of a minor. If they're convicted of first-degree battery, they could get prison sentences of 10 to 40 years, or life. Second-degree battery could bring a prison sentence up to six years, and permitting the abuse of a minor carries a prison sentence of five to 20 years.
Children's Advocacy Center faces growing child abuse caseload
by JON O'CONNELL
Reported cases of child abuse and neglect rose 31 percent between 2012 and 2014, according to one local agency working to bring justice to those who harm children.
The Children's Advocacy Center, a Scranton nonprofit that assists law enforcement in gathering forensic evidence in such cases for the eight-county region, reports they handled 1,448 cases last year, up 341 from 2012, and most of them out of Lackawanna County.
“Since we've started (in 1998), we've served over 11,000 children,” said Executive Director Mary Ann LaPorta.
Part of a national organization, the CAC is one of 24 centers in the state to act as a mediator among police, the district attorney's office, county children and youth agencies and medical professionals, bringing them together in one place and minimizing the number of times child victims must recount their testimony of abuse.
“When they come here, we know there's going to be healing, and we know there's going to be justice,” Ms. LaPorta said. “As good as it's going to get, there's going to be justice.”
On a daily basis, the small staff works with children from newborn to age 12 in the center on Mulberry Street, and teenagers from ages 13 to 18 in the Teen Advocacy Center around the corner on Wheeler Avenue, to gather evidence through interviews and medical examinations that law enforcement can use to prosecute suspected child abusers.
Forensic interviewer Kristen Cashuric-Fetcho said interviews can last up to 2.5 hours as she works to first gain the child's trust and build a rapport before getting to the tough questions on whether or how they were abused.
It gets complicated when family members become emotional or try to influence the victim to protect the suspect.
So throughout the process, victims have a child advocate to accompany them, making sure they are comfortable, and there's also a family advocate who works with caretakers to answer questions and put them at ease.
The center's role doesn't end when charges are filed or a conviction handed down. The CAC works with victims once they leave to assure they return to a safe living environment and are on a path to a normal, healthy life.
“You can't change what happened; it happened and it's done,” Mrs. Cashuric-Fetcho said. “But you can change what happens to them moving forward.”
What you can do to break the cycle of child abuse and neglect
by Dr. Kurt Senske
The narrative around foster care in Texas usually centers on overloaded caseworkers, traumatized children and a flawed, underfunded state system. However, few of us look in the mirror and wonder what we can do to improve the lives of Texas children in foster care. I challenge you to think and act differently, starting now.
Upbring, the largest nonprofit foster placement and adoption agency in Texas, believes that as members of a caring community, we all share responsibility in helping to raise healthy children prepared to embrace successful lives.
Take for instance Carmen Todd of Austin. Carmen — who had been raised in the foster system — had wanted to become a foster parent for several years, however the timing was never quite right. Carmen remembers being shuffled around and feeling isolated during her difficult childhood, and so long ago, she committed in her mind and heart to providing a loving home — and plenty of stability for children in need. Earlier this year, she followed through on that commitment.
Within a few days of becoming a licensed foster parent, Carmen accepted a placement for an HIV-positive teenage boy (moving in with Carmen and her biological son and daughter). During a visit with a Family Support Worker (FSW), Carmen told her, “She loves Sammy and is so excited to have him.” She said this in front of Sammy and he just beamed. Carmen, as a single foster parent, has been able to nurture his self-confidence and they've quickly developed a strong bond.
Shortly after, a call came regarding a teenage girl who was desperately in need of a stable home life. Once again, Carmen opened her home and welcomed Claire into the family. This foster daughter is also a teenage mom, whose daughter has been placed in another Upbring home. Carmen has been instrumental in setting up visits between Claire and her young daughter.
After opening her home and heart to Sammy and Claire, Kevin — another teenage boy in need — joined Carmen's growing family. When asked about her foster children, she says, “Oh my goodness I love them so much! Recently, Claire was telling me how blessed she felt to ‘get me' and I cried like a baby. Honestly, this is the most humbling and rewarding thing I've ever done…and I could not be happier.”
Remarkably, the story gets better — when Carmen discovered that Sammy had a biological brother placed in a children's home in Houston, she decided to increase her foster care license so she could also take placement of Sammy's brother. And while she loves fostering these children, Carmen wants to take her commitment even further by potentially adopting them, as well.
In the future, Carmen hopes to be able to purchase a larger house and have another adult family member move in; she wants to become licensed to operate a group home.
We are privileged to work with many devoted individuals such as Carmen Todd. If we intend to fundamentally improve the foster care system, we need more people like her, as well as greater participation from every sector of our community. Austin, we're calling on you to help us improve the odds for young Texans in need.
Our mission is to break the cycle of child abuse by empowering children, families and communities. With more than 13 percent of U.S. children subject to abuse or neglect by a caregiver each year, maltreatment of children affects kids of every age, gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic background.
As a mid-September KEYE news story — featuring Carmen's work — about Austin's foster home shortage made very clear, we need more qualified volunteers to take up this important cause. With roughly 1,700 children in Austin in need of foster homes, but only 750 foster families in the region who are actively fostering, there is a looming crisis.
Currently, there is surprisingly little long-term data on Texas foster children, or what strategies prove successful in serving them. In order to fill this void, Upbring is partnering with the University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work on a first-of-its-kind-in-Texas study that will track the progress and wellbeing of foster children. With comprehensive data in hand, we will be better positioned to more consistently care for and meet foster children's varied needs — and we'll be better prepared to help these children as they age out of foster care.
Giving vulnerable children the support and opportunities each one of them deserves is more than one organization or government can do.
We need businesses willing to train and employ 18-year-olds as they exit the foster care system; medical institutions eager to partner with us to improve the health of children in foster care; legislators prepared to support the needs of foster children in a complex system; and volunteers passionate about lending their time and skills to a cause bigger than themselves. And of course, we need more Austinites like Carmen Todd, whose love and devotion as a foster parent has raised expectations for what a childhood can be.
Senske is president & CEO of Upbring, the new Lutheran Social Services of the South.
How not to report on child sexual abuse: An 11-year-old boy does not “have sex with” his adult babysitter
An story about an 11 year-old in England shows how faulty headlines can get
by Mary Elizabeth Williams
Reporters, journalists, and the monkeys with typewriters who work for the Daily Mail — can I put in a plea today to not take horrible stories and make them exponentially worse? Yeah, I'm talking, again, about sexual abuse — this time in the case of male child.
Buzzfeed's Alan White took the story wide on Monday, with a report first detailed in the local Swindon Advertiser. Here's the first line of that unbylined Advertiser piece: “A babysitter who had sex with her 11-year-old charge has been spared jail after the lad's dad, who she had also had a fling with, said his son regarded it as a ‘notch on his belt.”
The story goes on to detail what prosecutor Hannah Squire told the court happened between the now 21 year-old Jade Hatt and the child last November. It's incredibly upsetting and disturbing stuff. Squire said that Hatt “sat on top of him, sat astride him, took off her clothes and removed his. In his words she started bouncing on his private parts. Sexual intercourse took place. According to him it was fairly brief: about 45 seconds. She told him she enjoyed it, he said he had not as it was wrong.” This is what is called rape. Sexual assault. Child molestation.
The child's father — who had previously had a sexual relationship with Hatt — did not see it that way, telling the court the boy “is sex mad. He would have been fully up for this experience and in many ways sees it as a notch on his belt and is totally unaffected by it.” Similarly, the defending attorney argued that “his client was a small, immature, woman and the victim was very advanced for his years.” Judge Tim Mousley concurred, saying, “It was quite clear he was a mature 11-year-old and you were an immature 20-year-old so that narrows the arithmetic age gap between you.”
For admitting to raping a child, Hatt received six-month jail term suspended for two years with supervision. And if you're in the job of handing out justice and use the phrase “mature 11 year-old” in a sexual abuse case, I really do hope there is a hell.
Seeking explanation of the court's rationale, Criminal Law Blog's Lyndon Harris told BuzzFeed News, “If you've got a sensible judge you look to rehabilitate rather than punish – though she certainly needs to be punished, it's not acceptable behavior.” No, raping children is definitely not.
NH lawmaker calls for statewide audit of untested rape kits
National groups want all untested rape kits tested and the results fed into national DNA database
by Lynne Tuohy
CONCORD, N.H. — A New Hampshire lawmaker is proposing an audit of all untested sexual assault kits statewide, saying his research suggests that no one seems to know how many there are and that the gap that could allow serial rapists to keep committing crimes.
Democratic state Rep. Renny Cushing of Hampton, a member of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, proposes putting the commissioner of the Department of Public Safety in charge of overseeing the statewide inventory and contacting local departments to ensure they account for all kits.
"We don't know how many rape kits in the state of New Hampshire have gone untested," Cushing said. "There may be rapists at large."
New Hampshire forensic lab director Tim Pifer said last week he had seven rape kits that had yet to be tested, calling it a "very low backlog." Pifer doesn't know whether local police departments send every kit to the lab.
National groups that advocate on behalf of rape victims — including the Joyful Heart Foundation — want all untested rape kits tested and the results fed into national DNA databases. Lawmakers and law enforcement officials are listening, and major cities across the country, using federal and other grants, have scrambled over the past two years to tally and test stored rape kits.
The Associated Press reported in May that Houston cleared up a backlog of nearly 6,700 kits and got 850 hits on suspects in a national DNA database. Detroit is nearly done testing 11,000 rape kits that were found in a police property storage facility. Those tests have uncovered links to 487 serial rapists who have committed crimes in 39 states and the District of Columbia, according to Ilse Knecht, director of policy and advocacy at Joyful Heart.
Police have said a pattern emerged during the testing of those old kits: Many rapists are repeat offenders who might have been stopped with a timely testing of the sexual assault kits.
Knecht said her organization has no data on untested kits in New Hampshire but supports Cushing's proposal for an inventory.
"We really feel like starting with an audit is the first step toward accountability and determining whether you have a problem in your state," Knecht said. She said there a number of other states are also beginning to look at numbers and procedures.
Tilton Police Chief Robert Cormier, head of the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police, says the association doesn't collect data on rape kits. His department's policy is to take rape kits from the hospital to the state lab immediately "in 99.9 percent of cases." He said the exceptions are two cases in the past seven years in which the women who filed sex assault reports later told police they had lied.
Federal grants have helped municipalities and state forensic laboratories whittle down the backlog of untested rape kits. An additional $80 million in grants was awarded in September.
Pifer, the forensic lab director, said that besides the seven untested kits, the lab has seven others that are deemed anonymous because the women haven't pressed charges. The lab will keep those kits for at least 60 days and test them if any of the women changes her mind, he said.
Pifer said the Department of Public Safety gets a $250,000 grant annually from the National Institute of Justice to help offset the cost of prompt testing of rape kits.
"Without that money, we probably would have a significant backlog in sex assault analysis and DNA analysis," Pifer said.
Knecht said prompt testing sends a message to rape victims that they've been taken seriously and tells perpetrators they will be tracked down.
"By letting kits sit on shelves, we are allowing very dangerous criminals to continue walking our streets and we're sending a message to survivors that they don't matter," Knecht said.
Childhood abuse warps the trajectory of too many Alaskan lives
by Marcelle McDannel
Of all the people I've represented as a criminal defense attorney, one of my favorites was a middle-aged Inupiat with a sharp, self-deprecating sense of humor who'd been living on the streets for over two decades. I'm not going to use her real name, so let's call her Betty. Betty once clobbered a man after he came up behind her and touched her on the shoulder. When the police asked her why she did it, Betty said she had no idea – something about the way he touched her had released a flash of anger so intense she couldn't control it.
But there was an explanation: before she was ever a defendant, Betty had been a victim. Indeed, if there is one experience that unites most of my clients, it's that they've been victims of child sexual abuse and received no help in recovering from the trauma it causes. Even those clients who saw their perpetrators caught and punished by the criminal justice system received little to no professional care after the perpetrator was convicted and sent to jail.
Depression, guilt, shame, self-blame, eating disorders, nightmares, insomnia, anxiety, dissociative patterns, repression, denial, sexual problems, relationship problems, post-traumatic stress disorder – childhood victimization is a substantial risk factor for the development of a host of mental health problems.
A study compared the PTSD symptoms in Vietnam veterans to those experienced by adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse and found sexual abuse can result in symptoms comparable to those of war-related trauma.
But despite the severity of the trauma, when a victim stands up in court at a defendant's sentencing to give what's called a “victim impact statement,” that moment will effectively be the last time the criminal justice system concerns itself with the victim's well-being. Even our Office of Victim's Rights is focused on guiding victims through the defendant's criminal case, ignoring the larger question of what a victim needs to heal. Our system is focused on crime and punishment, not on restoration and healing, and the resources of the state after sentencing are directed at incarcerating and monitoring the defendant. More often than not, victims are sent back to the same environment where the abuse occurred with no tools to cope with its aftermath.
Of course for victims who happen to live in one of our state's more populated areas, and have the wherewithal to seek it out on their own and arrange for payment, trauma-specific counseling is available. But for victims who live in rural areas, particularly Bush villages where even basic medical care is sparse, the resources are virtually nonexistent.
This is a mistake, both in human and economic terms.
Left untreated, trauma does not simply dissipate over time. Without a healthy way to address the impact of sexual violence, many victims turn to drugs and alcohol. These substances are commonly used either as a form of self-punishment, a dulling buffer, a source of comfort or a memory-blocking device.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Addictions, 75 percent of women in treatment programs for drug and alcohol abuse report having been sexually abused. Another study in the Journal of Traumatic Stress discovered that of men who had been sexually abused as children over 80 percent had a history of substance abuse.
The cruel irony of this outcome is that alcoholism, substance abuse and mental health problems, all too often, lead to incarceration – either for low-level misdemeanors or far worse – turning victims into defendants. In other words, lack of treatment creates a self-perpetuating cycle that feeds our already bloated criminal justice system.
Our state government is now looking for ways to overhaul that system, which for years has been growing into an expensive engine of mass incarceration. From 2004 to 2013, our prison and jail population increased by 50 percent. Alaska now locks up a higher percentage of its citizens than almost any other state in the union. And yet the billions of dollars we have spent on incarceration have done nothing to dislodge Alaska as a national leader in rates of sexual assault and child sexual abuse.
Now is the time to consider a radical change to our approach. Let's start looking at the problem of sexual violence in a more holistic manner; as an act that doesn't just require punishment of the offender, but also healing of the victim. At minimum, victims' rights need to be expanded to include guaranteed access to counseling for trauma recovery.
This sounds expensive, but so is incarceration. In 2015, Alaska spent $143 per day or $52,000 per year to lock up just one inmate. An initial investment to stop to the cycle of despair that turns victim into defendant would result in substantial savings by reducing future prison populations. It would also save state, municipal and federal money by preventing or mitigating alcoholism, substance abuse and homelessness.
The savings in terms of human costs would be incalculable. It is heart-wrenching to see how untreated trauma bent the trajectories of so many lives downward. Betty, tough after so many years on the streets but still sharp and funny, should have had a better life. The hurt and frightened little girl she once was deserved our help.
Routine screening for child abuse might spot more cases
by Tara Haelle
The early signs of child abuse among infants and toddlers -- head trauma, cracked ribs or abdominal injuries -- are often missed, and that may be due in part to a lack of standardized screening, researchers report.
"We probably need to increase testing for abusive injuries, but these data are less about an increase or decrease and more about consistency," said study author Dr. Daniel Lindberg, from the Kempe Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect in Denver.
"If your child has a femur fracture, the decision to test for other abusive injuries shouldn't depend on the hospital you go to, or the color of your skin, or your net worth or your demeanor," Lindberg said.
"This study suggests that young kids who present with the most concerning sentinel injuries should at least prompt the provider to consider whether abuse is likely and, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, should prompt them to perform a careful physical examination and obtain other tests to look for hidden abusive injuries," he added.
Such tests would include a physical exam, X-rays, blood tests and CT scans for internal injuries. A skeletal survey, which is a set of X-rays to look for hidden fractures, is particularly important, Lindberg explained.
"The key thing this study tries to recommend is that we move toward a more routine, consistent approach to abuse testing, and away from an approach that is based on a doctor's impression of how parents are acting or whether there are other known risk factors," Lindberg said.
The findings were published online Oct. 5 in the journal Pediatrics.
One expert agreed that more consistent screening would spot more cases of child abuse.
"Pediatricians and other medical providers who care for abused and neglected children have long recognized that specific injuries are more often associated with abuse," said Dr. Thomas Valvano, medical director of the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) Program at Oregon Health and Science University's Doernbecher Children's Hospital.
"The use of protocols [based on evidence] for evaluating children with injuries associated with an increased risk of abuse can also reduce the likelihood that abuse will be misdiagnosed," Valvano said.
An estimated 600 children die from child abuse each year, while another 119,000 continue to suffer from it annually, the study noted. Yet, one in five abuse-caused fractures and up to 30 percent of abusive head traumas are missed by doctors the first time, leaving children vulnerable to further abuse.
The researchers examined the records of more than 4.1 million children under the age of 2 who had been seen at one of 18 different medical institutions during a seven-year period.
From these records, the researchers identified just over 30,000 children who had sentinel injuries, such as bruises or burns in young infants, brain bleeding or fractures in children under 1, and rib fracture, abdominal injuries, genital injuries or bleeding behind the retinas for children under the age of 2.
The researchers excluded children who had been in a car accident or had been previously diagnosed with child abuse. Most of these children -- 90 percent -- had only one potentially suspicious injury.
Among all the children under 2 years of age, 0.17 percent had been victims of child abuse, but percentages were higher among those with sentinel injuries. For example, 3.5 percent of children under 1 year old with burns and 56 percent of children under 2 years old with rib fractures had been abused. Among those with rib fracture, severe abdominal injury or bleeding in the skull, at least one in five children had been abused, according to the study.
Yet medical test usage for identifying abuse varied greatly across hospitals, the investigators found. For example, anywhere from 20 percent to 74 percent of the children received skeletal surveys, depending on the center.
"While the results from the study are not surprising, they do serve as a constant reminder for medical providers on the front lines to be vigilant for red flags in the types of patients' injuries and injury pattern, as well as the behavior and detail disclosed in the history surrounding the injury or injuries," said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
"Doing a thorough history and physical exam, and always maintaining a high index of suspicion for child abuse when the injuries don't match with a history obtained from parents or caregivers is essential to avoid missing cases of child abuse," Glatter said.
The study reveals the importance of establishing a more standardized protocol for assessing possible child abuse, Lindberg said.
Valvano added that while more child abuse cases may be identified with routine screening, that does not necessarily mean more children will be misdiagnosed as abused when they were not.
"The evaluation of child abuse is a multidisciplinary process involving medical providers, child protective services and law enforcement," Valvano said. "Referring children for evaluation by medical providers with expertise in the field of child abuse is key. Child abuse specialists are trained to differentiate between accidental and abusive injuries, and often diagnose accidental injury."
Further, proper testing should rarely lead to "false positives," Lindberg suggested.
"For the most concerning injuries in this study, the risk of abuse is high enough, the risk of missing that abuse is high enough and the risks of testing small enough, that testing should be routine," Lindberg said.
Others who notice suspicious injuries -- especially any bruising in infants under 6 months old -- can play a role in preventing child abuse, too, he added.
"Family and friends should feel empowered to ask about these injuries, and if there isn't a great explanation, they should know that anyone -- not just doctors -- can report a reasonable concern for abuse," Lindberg said.
For more on preventing child abuse, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Brainerd, Minn., area law enforcement, advocates partner for holistic approach in sexual assaults, sex trafficking
by Chelsey Perkins
BRAINERD, Minn. -- Area sexual assault victim advocates have recognized the presence of sex trafficking in the Brainerd lakes area for far longer than the last four months.
Recently, the tracking of sexual exploitation and sex trafficking victims has become a focus in an attempt to develop data that can shed light on the scope of the problem.
Of the more than 10,000 endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 2014, one in six were likely victims of child sex trafficking. Of those, 68 percent were in the care of social services agencies when they ran.
In the last month alone, the Brainerd office of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota reports five suspected and two confirmed cases of sex trafficking victims among its Hope Housing Program participants. In the last five months, the organization has assisted four youth survivors of sex trafficking and 13 suspected youth victims.
Sexual Assault Services in Brainerd reports 21 sex trafficking victims out of the 201 unique sexual assault victims they've serviced between June 2014 and July 2015.
Amanda Schwarzkopf, education coordinator with Sexual Assault Services, said these numbers are almost assuredly higher, but many people do not realize they are being exploited.
"These traffickers, they are brilliant in how they manipulate their victims," Schwarzkopf said. "They'll find out what they're missing and then provide it for them, whether it's financial stability, love and affection, attention, self esteem. ... They (the victims) think, 'This is my boyfriend, someone who cares about me.' It's really, really hard to ask someone to give that up or to look at that as they're being exploited, they're being used, being treated as a commodity."
And these numbers are just among those reported. A study by the U.S. Justice Department on crime victimization found an estimated 68 percent of sexual assaults are never reported.
Prior to the passage of the 2013 Safe Harbor law, state statute treated trafficked youths younger than 18 as criminals instead of victims, a stumbling block that made it more difficult for advocates and law enforcement to collaborate on the issue.
The newly formed Brainerd Lakes Area Sex Trafficking Team, made up of law enforcement, advocates and representatives from the county attorney's office, represents the collaborative efforts of these groups to address the problem through a new lens.
Baxter Police Chief Jim Exsted called this new working relationship a "huge benefit," one that he sees addressing the issue from multiple fronts.
"I think our success is in the fact that our local advocates are seeing victims who are coming forward to talk without any law enforcement intervention, which is one of the goals we were striving for to begin with," Exsted said. "Working with the advocates hand-in-hand and moving down this road together is a huge benefit."
Armed with statistics rather than only anecdotes, advocates hope the whole community will recognize the problem and take action.
"It's going to take the whole community," Schwarzkopf said. "Hopefully with other similar efforts that are going on across the state and across the country and around the world, that can grow so we won't be the only ones that are saying this. It would be a whole culture change."
No demand, no supply
Reducing demand for paid sex begins with educating solicitors on the impact of their actions, advocates say.
Exsted said demand reduction is at the crux of the local law enforcement stings, although the broader goal includes identifying the traffickers feeding that demand.
"We'll continue to work the solicitation angle with the johns, and continue to work on trying to root out the traffickers and get them charged as well. We've known right from the start that that would be difficult and time consuming," Exsted said.
One of the ways education on the issue is addressed is through "john schools." The only school in Minnesota is a collaborative effort between nonprofit organization Breaking Free and governmental bodies to hold offenders accountable and educate them on what trafficking victims face.
"Arresting and prosecuting offenders does not necessarily deter future illegal activity," Breaking Free states on its website. "The best practice in community corrections combines arrest and prosecution with treatment."
"I think ultimately that (demand reduction) may be the most effective tool," Schwarzkopf said. "People who are traffickers, they know what they're doing, they know what they're contributing to and the criminal activity they're engaging in. The buyers - the johns - they're providing the demand. ... If you can end that demand then no one is going to supply it, they're going to find something else to make money."
Exsted said the nature of law enforcement means they are typically on the reactive side of the problem rather than the proactive side, which is another reason partnering with advocates results in a more holistic approach.
"The prevention side of it happens elsewhere, and that's why we're trying to make this more than just about the john sting at the local motel. It's so much bigger than that," Exsted said.
Tools for adults
Recognizing the early stages of sex trafficking - the recruiting, trauma bonding and training traffickers lead their victims through - is one way adults can step in before the situation becomes worse. A chart created by Laster Global Consulting, an education consultant on human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children, outlines how to identify the stages.
In the recruiting phase, adults might notice a sudden change in behavior of the youth, expensive gifts, secretive behavior and short disappearances. Then, trauma bonding begins, marked by running away, rebellion, absence from usual functions and monitoring by the trafficker. Once the training stage is reached, extended disappearances are likely and contact infrequent, with details about day-to-day events kept vague by the youth.
Prevention of these situations in the first place begins at home with education and must be part of a cultural shift, advocates say.
"We need to be teaching our boys, our grandsons, our children, that it's not OK the way that women and children are seen," said Heidi Fairchild of Sexual Assault Services. "This is a societal problem. We allow it, we turn our backs on it because we don't want to see that it exists. Until people change their view on prostitution and sexual exploitation - it's not a choice and their choice is being taken away - our daughters and granddaughters are at risk."
Schwarzkopf said a colleague of hers in sexual assault education suggests every child should have five adults in their life they can reach out to if they need help. This is important, she said, because some children may not be comfortable approaching their parents for fear of punishment.
"I think the most important thing is that as community members, family members and adults that are in the lives of these young girls and young boys, we need to be able to support them," Schwarzkopf said. "Their brains aren't developed. You can't necessarily recognize the difference between, this is someone who is just going to be nice to me or this is someone who is flirting with me, as opposed to, this is someone who is thinking they are going to take advantage of me or harm me in some way."
School curriculum can play a role as well.
Linda Walker, an advocate of women and children, has worked on the national scene since tragedy struck with the abduction and murder of her 22-year-old daughter, Dru Sjodin, in 2003. Walker's efforts through numerous avenues and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children are aimed to prevent child abuse, help victims and their families, and promote safety. Walker said all those efforts to protect children are great, but she came to feel there had to be more that could be done to protect young people.
She pointed to Ruth Luna and David Finkelhor, researchers in child development who identified what programs worked best and what didn't to reduce child victimization. That led to RAD - Resist Aggression Defensively, which focuses on empowering children with self worth and values.
The success rate of the course is remarkable, Walker said, noting the experience of the largest school district in Texas in the Laredo area. She said the more tools children can be given so they can walk around and feel good about who they are and their surroundings, the better.
"We have a tendency to give our kids mixed messages," Walker said. There are the messages about intuition and being aware of strangers when something that doesn't feel right or look right, but the danger isn't always with a stranger - it may be someone they know. Teenagers and young people may fall victim to someone who pretends to want to be part of their lives but have other motives entirely.
"Those are the awkward ages when they are trying to feel accepted and wanted and loved," Walker said. "All of us want to be loved and liked, is what it really comes down to, and that's why building self esteem and self value and self worth to know they have the right to say no to an adult" is important.
Group pushes for traction on issue of child sex abuse
Group seeks programs, laws at local, state level
by Sandra Tan
Fourteen people gathered in the early evening around a conference table in the Martin Luther King Jr. Park neighborhood last week – victims, advocates, educators. Some spoke with calm conviction. Some spoke in frustration. And some spoke from deep-seated pain.
The challenge before them: How to ensure that sexual crimes against children stop being the subject of whispers and shame, and start being an openly confronted community issue tackled in pulpits, schools and legislative chambers.
Though research shows that more sexual crimes are committed against children than adults – kids are victimized at a rate of 10 percent or more – a recent Buffalo News story showed almost no school curriculum or law exists to require better education, prevention or parent notification regarding this crime against the community's most defenseless citizens.
“I'm just amazed that the state supports everything else, but then they leave the children wide open,” said Stevo Johnson, a fashion designer and event planner who was sexually assaulted as a child and now speaks out about the issue.
Sitting in the Masten Resource Center of the Community Action Organization on Fillmore Avenue, the group representing various political, educational and community stakeholders proposed a multipronged strategy for taking an issue that has lingered in darkness and bringing it to light:
• Sex-offender notification: The group wants to improve notification to parents about the more than 600 registered sex offenders who live in the city. There are already two bills at the local and state levels to address this, and the group wants to see both passed.
A bill sponsored by State Sen. Kenneth LaValle to cover the expenses associated with parent notification about sex offenders has passed the State Senate. The group wants a similar bill to be adopted in the Assembly, ideally with the support of Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, whom they hope will also support improved health curriculum regulations in all public schools.
Peoples-Stokes said she's hasn't yet been approached on the issue but is interested in taking up the cause. She added that there are ways parents can get email notification, and she plans to share that information in the next newsletter to her constituents.
At the city level, Common Council President Darius Pridgen has sponsored a resolution requiring a sex-offender notification process for parents. That bill is in committee, with recommendations expected by Oct. 20.
• Prevention through education: The group wants both the Buffalo Public Schools and the state to establish a strong health education program for elementary children and has begun exploring the possibilities for the education of adults regarding how sex crimes against children occur.
The city school district currently offers no health education curriculum for elementary children even though state law requires it. Moreover, the state's current health curriculum regulations are considered outdated by national standards, said Assunta Ventresca, the district's health and wellness director.
• Involving inner-city churches: One common theme stressed by most members of the largely African American group that met last week was the failure of the city's pastors to speak out against this type of sexual crime. They want all pastors to dedicate at least one coming Sunday – dubbed “Sex Abuse Sundays” – to speaking out against child sex abuse, and they raised concerns that churches may be enabling sexual predators within their own walls.
“This is the most secretive thing in the African American community, hands down,” said parent Bryon McIntyre. “Almost all of us know somebody who's molested, or has been molested.”
Though this crime crosses all races and socioeconomic groups, the unwillingness of leaders in the black community to speak out has led to a community practice of silence and shame regarding abused children.
One woman, who had been largely silent for much of the two-hour meeting, said she was a victim of child sex abuse and knows another little girl who has been victimized by her uncle. Parents and grandparents of both the perpetrator and the girl know all about what happened, she said. They've since isolated the girl from the uncle, but he roams free.
“She's scared because she feels like she did something wrong,” the woman said of the little girl. “Everyone knows but no one is speaking or trying to help. It makes you want to hold it inside you because you're scared that you're going to be looked upon as you were being ‘fast.'”
Help and treatment: The group wants to work with existing sexual abuse support groups and make more information and resources available to families about where they can go and who they can call to report a crime, get help and treatment. Although the group's first meeting comprised citizens and parents, the group recognized the need to get more experts in this area to weigh in and participate in future meetings.
Keyon Lee, a small-business owner who wants to see progress made on this issue, and Johnson, the fashion designer and child sex abuse victim, have offered to help organize and promote this issue in the community and plan future meetings.
Lee can be reached at email@example.com. Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
What If Someone Ever Abused My Child?
by Audra Rogers
I see articles all the time encouraging moms to take time for themselves and get away for a quick break. I have written a lot of them, and I fully agree with the sentiment.
But a problem I always face with this is fear. I am very reluctant to leave my kids with anyone other than myself or my husband (we do not have family close by).
What if something ever happened? What if someone ever abused my child while I was gone?
I was a victim of sexual abuse growing up and it has taken me a lifetime to heal from it.
I don't think I could ever live with myself if one of my kids ever came to me and said, "Remember that time you went to such-and-such place? Well..."
I am keenly aware of the signs. I really think I would know if something was happening with them. But then I also remember it never even occurring to me to tell anyone when it happened to me.
My story only came out after I was questioned in a session with a school counselor. The meeting was initiated by a concerned teacher whose daughter I was friends with (both of whom I will forever be grateful for.)
I have one child in public school, and one in a preschool program a few days a week. I want them to enjoy the freedoms of a normal life, but it's always in the back of my mind. And I pray every day.
It isn't a safe world anymore, and the headlines seem to be getting worse. Stories about trusted adults, teachers, coaches, church leaders, babysitters, boyfriends, and family members doing the worst.
I try very hard to strike a balance in being vigilant with their safety without scaring them or living in fear myself. But it's so hard.
You can't leave your doors unlocked or let your kids play outside alone anymore. You can't let them walk two blocks to the neighbors house unsupervised.
I even remember back when I was pregnant and going for the ultrasounds to find out the sex of each of my babies, I prayed so hard for boys. Please let them be boys, I only want boys.
Though abuse certainly happens to both boys and girls, in my damaged mind I was scared to death to have girls because I was worried I would be far above, over and beyond hyper-protective of a girl.
It was so hard for me to be a girl.
I was blessed with boys (and would have been just as blessed with girls,) but "what if" is always in the back of my mind.
What if something ever happened?
How do I practice self-care as a mom without feeling worried that I'm making a mistake in their care?
I think it's so important that we prepare our children as age-appropriately as we can.
Talking about strangers is an important part of it, but I talk about what is appropriate (or not appropriate) from anyone, as most kids are victimized by people they know. I was victimized by one of the closest persons to me.
I have even taken to occasionally watching the news with my 8-year-old son in the room. I know a lot of people would disagree with that, but I just don't think we live in a world where we can or should shield them from everything as a whole. I'd rather be sitting there with him so he can ask me questions.
We don't watch every single newscast, it's too much for my own heart sometimes. But I think it's possible to give our kids a touch of what some of the world is like without causing too much damage.
I need him to know that bad things happen out there, and we should be aware, but I am also sure to stress that there are more good people than bad.
I don't know that I will ever be perfectly at ease with letting other people take care of my children. But I plan to prepare them the best I can, and I pray that I will never see a day where we have to deal with anything more than that.
No moral outrage in the military
Obama regulations prevent troops from halting child abuse in Afghanistan
by James A. Lyons
Recent articles highlighting horrifying child abuse atrocities inflicted on defenseless children by our Afghan military and police partners are but the latest examples of how President Obama is destroying U.S. military forces.
Our military leadership's response to these blatant acts of pedophilia by our so-called Afghan partners has been shocking. In short, the guidance provided to our Army and Marine Corps personnel was to just ignore these Muslim and Afghan seventh-century customs and traditions. They have been instructed to not interfere, even when such horrific acts are being committed on our own bases.
Those U.S. military personnel. whose moral outrage will not let them ignore these atrocities and instead act to stop these unconscionable acts against children, are either disciplined or forced to leave the service. In other words, even if you find a young boy chained to a bed so that a local police commander can sodomize him every night and you hear the screams, you are told to look the other way. This is not only un-American but an act against humanity.
Even the Taliban outlawed such practices and freed a number of children, thereby earning the gratitude of village elders. Does the Taliban with its seventh-century mentality have a higher moral code than the U.S. military leadership? It should be clear to any thinking person that when our honorable military personnel are forced to ignore these crimes against humanity, they are viewed as being complicit.
To those who have followed our involvement in Afghanistan, the current policy to ignore acts of pedophilia should come as no surprise. When “green on blue” attacks gained national attention, our military leadership tried to explain it away by claiming the friction that developed between the two forces was because our military personnel were not sensitive enough to Afghan culture and traditions. In other words, if our Afghan partners conduct violence or kill U.S. military personnel, it is our fault. What nonsense.
Other Afghan cultural idiosyncrasies our military personnel are forced to accept without reservation include wife-beating, rape, drug use, thievery, dog torture, desertion and collusion with the enemy, the Taliban. Furthermore, under no circumstances can our military discuss Islam in any form. The genesis for this goes back to the purging of all our training manuals and instructors who presented Islam in an unfavorable light or linked it to terrorism. It is totally against our core principles and everything we stand for as Americans. It clearly has an adverse impact on individual and unit morale, which affects the ultimate goal of the “will to win.” The bottom line is that we are forcing our great military to submit to Islam and its governing Shariah law, or possibly die.
This is exactly the choice offered to infidels who have been vanquished by Islamic jihad. Our military's silence and acquiescence, particularly by the leadership, is the humiliating price for our coexistence with our Afghan partners. This is unacceptable.
However, the degradation of our military's core principles must be viewed in a much broader perspective. Actually, it is a key element in President Obama's declaration to fundamentally transform America. When you want to take down a country, the first thing you do is weaken its military. We cannot ignore the fact that with or without sequestration, the Obama administration has unilaterally disarmed our military forces and, consequently, our capabilities. Further, the social engineering imposed on our military forces — to include the acceptance of gay, lesbian and soon transgender personnel — further undermines the moral fiber of our military and constitutes a further degradation of our military effectiveness. Forcing women into combat roles only further degrades the situation. The restricted rules of engagement imposed on our forces has reduced our military's effectiveness and caused unnecessary loss of life and debilitating injuries.
Likewise, the pin-prick attacks on the Islamic State cast a shadow over what a dedicated air campaign could accomplish. It projects an image of weakness and ineffectiveness of our true capabilities. It has taken the “awe” of our invincibility and overwhelming force capabilities out of the equation. The net result is that our enemies no longer fear us, and our allies can no longer trust us.
The imposed limit on the application and capability our military force is not limited to the Middle East. For example, in the Western Pacific, to challenge China's illegal actions in the South China Sea, the Obama administration has restricted the U.S. Navy from enforcing its freedom of seas concept that has been a fundamental principle of the U.S. Navy for more than 238 years. Our Asian allies in the Western Pacific watch carefully how we respond to China's aggressive actions. Our directed restraint clearly will not raise their confidence level.
Our national security is being deliberately jeopardized. President Obama's bloviating to Vladimir Putin at the recent U.N. session that he leads the most powerful military in the world was only true on the day he took office. Since then, Obama has systematically degraded our capabilities. The chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee must take forceful action now to prevent further emasculation of our military capabilities.
James A. Lyons, U.S. Navy retired admiral, was commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.
Survivor finds safe harbor: Regional navigator shares story
by Chelsey Perkins
EDITOR'S NOTE: Where names were not known, fictional names were assigned for the purpose of clarity.
Monica Miller never expected to be someone police officers turned to for guidance.
As the northwest regional navigator on sexually exploited youth based out of Support Within Reach in Bemidji, Monica coordinates support services for victims in 20 Minnesota counties, including Crow Wing and Cass counties. The position is one of eight in the state and was established through the 2013 passage of the Safe Harbor law, which redefines youths under 18 in the illegal sex trade as victims rather than criminals.
For Monica, the role is more than just a paycheck - as a survivor of sexual exploitation and sex trafficking herself, she's on a personal mission to ensure victims get the systemic support she did not receive as a troubled teenager.
"I never would have thought in my life that I would be a part of helping train police officers," Monica said. "I'm supposed to be dead."
After nearly two decades of bottling up the pain and shame wrought by her experience, Monica, 38, is sharing her story - one of many such stories carried by those whose lives have been turned upside down by sexual exploitation.
"My story is different than some people's," Monica said. "I believe that all of our stories, all of us as a whole, make up what trafficking looks like and what exploitation looks like for the United States."
A rough start
The average 9-year-old child, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is just beginning the stage of development where peer relationships become more complex and body awareness increases. The likelihood of experiencing peer pressure and negative body image also increases - a pivotal time when adult guidance can help children avoid risky behavior.
At 9, Monica faced many of these challenges herself. Unlike most fourth-graders, however, Monica had already been drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana for a year - two things she had relatively easy access to.
After leaving small-town Waseca with her father to live in Washington, D.C., for a year, Monica returned a different girl than when she left, she said.
"I started using drugs and alcohol when I was 8. For me, it was really about trying to just cover up the pain and trying to be happy," Monica said. "I was being bullied, and I just didn't know how to cope with anything. ... When we moved back to Waseca, I learned to hang out with the older kids. I would use and get high or drunk with them."
Throughout elementary school, Monica continued to hang out with older kids as her friendships with those her age dissolved. At 12, she got her first boyfriend - an older boy who became her first sexual encounter.
"He ended up sexually assaulting me," Monica said. "I didn't tell anybody, (except) I told my best friend. She ended up - because I was depressed and so unhappy - she ended up going to our principal and telling. They called my parents and it just got really ugly from there."
Ugly, she said, because rather than being viewed as a victim of sexual assault, she felt blamed for putting herself in the situation in the first place.
"That was the feedback I got," Monica said. "I ended up skipping school a lot and just getting into trouble."
Another older boyfriend came along, one who helped Monica run away from home and hide out in nearby Owatonna. After some time there, the boyfriend's mother turned Monica in at a youth homeless shelter, from which Monica's own mother soon retrieved her. This would be the first of many times Lolly Randall would intervene in an attempt to help her daughter, whom she'd lost physical custody of in a bitter divorce a decade earlier.
She began living with her mother full-time and attended school in Owatonna, where soon enough she was skipping school again. Her truancy led to a Child in Need of Protection or Services designation, known as CHIPS, which assigned a guardian ad litem and social worker to help her get back on the right track.
On Nov. 6, 1991, Monica was 14 years old and a freshman at Owatonna High School. In what had become routine for her, she decided to skip class - this time, with two 18-year-old men who lived just a few blocks from the school.
"These were known drug dealers, and I think they were gang affiliated and had been in trouble with the law," Monica said. "My understanding is, cameras caught the three of us leaving campus together, so somehow, the school found out that when I skipped that day, I was with them."
Monica said what happened next was another first for her - the loss of her virginity.
"They gang raped me. They took turns with me. I left, and I had no intention of telling anybody," Monica said.
Confronted with more trouble at school, however, Monica reported the rape to a first-year assistant principal. He, in turn, reported it to the police, and the Steele County Attorney's Office sought third-degree criminal sexual conduct charges against the men.
The impact of reporting the rapes again led to negative consequences for Monica. Because of the suspects' gang affiliations, Monica said she faced death threats and could not attend school for a time. When their cases went to court, Monica was put on the stand and soon felt as if she was the one on trial rather than her accused rapists.
"They had my friends go up there and lie about me," Monica said. "My using (of drugs and alcohol) just got really worse. ... I had to sit in this little courtroom and they (the men) were there. It just became really traumatizing."
While both men admitted to having sexual intercourse with Monica to police, according to criminal complaints, just one ended up with a sentence after Monica's mother decided to pull the plug.
"It got to the point where my mom said, 'That's enough,'" Monica said. "It wasn't very long after that, that I ended up going to my first inpatient treatment center for my chemical use. ... I didn't see that I had a problem. Looking back, I thought that what I was doing was normal. I didn't want to talk about the things that had happened to me. I really just wanted to die."
After the completion of treatment, Monica's social worker recommended she move to a halfway house and attend school at an alternative learning center in Austin, Minn., where the next chapter of Monica's story was about to unfold.
'I thought he was my boyfriend'
While some details, like how long she stayed in the various treatment centers and halfway houses she was sent to throughout her life, run together for Monica, there are others that remain surprisingly clear for her. One of those was the place she attended school in Austin, where she met a 17-year-old boy named Juan.
"I can picture it," she said. "You have this really nice brick building, the high school, and then our school, it looked like a metal shack."
Juan sneaked cigarettes to Monica and they became friends. Before long, Juan was encouraging Monica to run away from the program. The two hatched a plan and executed it soon thereafter.
Free from the restraints of monitored living, Monica and Juan went to party at one of his friends' houses.
"I think I was the only female there," Monica said. "They poured me a drink. I was drinking it and then it seemed like just immediately, I was out. I don't remember much, other than I woke up and I was on the bed, my clothes were off, all the lights were on and there was a guy on top of me. When I looked over I could see (Juan), who I thought was my boyfriend, standing at the door collecting money, and there was a line of guys."
A swift hit to the head knocked Monica out again, and the next time she woke up, she found herself in an unfamiliar basement with a much older man - likely in his 30s, she said - who spoke only Spanish.
"What I ended up finding out was, I was locked in the basement of his mother's house," Monica said. "I couldn't leave. He kept me drugged up and did whatever he wanted with me (sexually). If I would make any noise when I heard he'd go upstairs, he would physically hurt me. ... I honestly have no clue if it was a couple days or a couple weeks. It felt like forever."
Whether someone learned of Monica's presence in the basement she is unsure, although one day the man returned her to Juan.
"He (Juan) acted all happy to see me," Monica said. "He said, 'He took you from the party and I didn't know where you were ... and I've been searching for you.' I don't think that's what happened, but I believed him."
Juan told Monica people were looking for them because they'd run away, and the two of them needed to get out of town as fast as possible - to Texas, he said.
While waiting for Juan's friend to pick her up to begin the journey, Lolly again appeared to rescue her daughter, swooping in and thwarting the planned trip south to return her to Owatonna.
"There was no way I was telling anybody what had just happened to me," Monica said. "I think there was even this part of me that thought I deserved this. ... But I didn't want to be locked up anymore. I wanted things to be different. I wanted to just try to forget and start over. I remember begging my mom to stay home, don't send me somewhere else. Because of the CHIPS she didn't have a choice."
The next stop for Monica was an all-girls halfway house in Mora, a placement she vehemently resisted.
"I kept telling my parents, 'I'm not going to stay, I'm going to run,'" Monica said.
Within 24 hours, she did run, with the help of her new roommate, Kiara, who already had a solid plan in place for whomever agreed to join her.
"It was maybe November. We walked and hitchhiked through the snow down to Minneapolis," Monica said.
Once there, Monica said things went even further downhill for her, and quickly. She was immediately launched into the seedy underbelly of the crack cocaine epidemic and illegal sex trade of the big city.
Numbness takes over
The first night in Minneapolis, Kiara brought Monica to the home of a much older man, whom had apparently offered them a place to stay. This offer, as Monica would soon learn was often the case, contained a catch - he expected sex from both of them, which Kiara insisted they oblige.
The next night, Kiara took her to the home of her brothers, when again, Monica was forced to have sex against her will, waking up to one of the men on top of her.
Her body had been objectified so many times by so many men at this point, Monica said she was beginning to become numb to it all.
"I think I learned at a really young age, and through all of this, you just let men do what they want because that's what you're there for, that's all you're good for," Monica said.
A glimmer of hope appeared when Kiara took her to a third location, where inside she met a seemingly normal family with children who told her she could stay there as long as she liked.
"They were cooking up chitlins and cornbread ... and everybody was laughing," Monica said.
In another apartment in the same brownstone building somewhere in North Minneapolis, Monica met James, whom she described as a "very good-looking and well-put-together man."
"He was all sweet to me and had a new outfit for me," she said. "He said, 'I need you to do me a favor, to help my sister (Janelle) here with her kids while she's sick. If you can do this, you can stay here and I'll provide food for you and you'll be safe.'"
So she became the caretaker for the children of Janelle, who Monica eventually learned was a crack addict. A few days later, Kiara returned and told Monica she needed her help shopping.
"As we were walking there, this man threw this plastic thing at us," Monica said. "It had a piece of paper in it and it said the sexual act he wanted. He wanted (oral sex)."
Kiara told Monica to do as the man asked and he would give her $5. When Monica recoiled, Kiara told her if she didn't, Kiara would beat her up and tell James she resisted.
"So that's what I did," Monica said. "When I was done, she made me go into the store and we took purses and we stole clothes. We'd take them back to him (James), and we'd maybe get a dollar."
The clothing they stole was mainly women's lingerie, Monica said, and she suspected this was the clothing James would give to the women who worked for him, just as he had gifted new clothes to her. She had not yet realized she was considered an employee rather than a girlfriend to James, however, and he began to get increasingly sexual with her to assuage her concerns about what Kiara had forced her to do.
Knowing what she knows now, Monica said she believes Kiara may have been acting as a recruiter for James at the halfway house.
"She knew exactly what to do with me, how to break me," Monica said.
The party favor
Some days or weeks later, Monica was unsure, James told her the cops were coming to the apartment building and she needed to leave. Men would meet her three blocks away in a van to take her to safety, James said.
"They ended up taking me to their house and there was about 10 to 12 guys there. They made it sound like it was just a party. We got drunk, we got high. But later, I ended up finding out I was the party favor," Monica said. "They all took their turns on me. A couple of them got pretty violent."
After the men returned her to James' apartment building, in which he housed other women and crack addicts he supplied, Monica told Janelle she was raped.
"She's like, 'No, you weren't,'" Monica said. "'You know exactly what happened.' And that was when I really realized he just sold me."
For the following couple days, Monica was in so much physical pain, she could not even care for Janelle's children.
"I felt like I had rocks in my stomach," Monica said. "I couldn't eat anything, I had fevers."
Meanwhile, back in Owatonna, Monica's mother was frantically trying to get help from anyone who would listen. She'd managed to determine who Monica had run away with, and, after locating Kiara's brothers and paying them for information, where she was. Told the police would not help, Lolly said she and her sister finally found Monica in James' building and rescued her once more.
"I was mad at my mom for finding me," Monica said. "I wanted to go back. ... I think there must have been a part of me that knew that what I was going through wasn't OK, but I think I was too afraid to be locked up again."
Locked up was exactly the state Monica was in soon after for a stay in a children's hospital psychiatric ward. She was then transferred to a children's home in St. Cloud for a year-long stay, where for the first time she shared some of her experience in a healing support group. It was the last time she would tell her story for many years.
"It was just like, 'You're a whore, you're a prostitute, that's not abuse.' I learned at that point, I was a prostitute and that was my choice," Monica said. "That was a part of who I was, and that was a part of where my addiction had taken me, and that was this secret I would have to live with for the rest of my life."
'Anything is possible'
In the intervening years, Monica's drug and alcohol abuse was the one constant in her life, the one thing that kept the self-loathing and shame at bay. It was also self-medication for her undiagnosed mental illness.
"I used for long periods of my life," Monica said. "I got involved with gang members and drug dealers and being around people that I shouldn't have been with. Just this really high-stakes lifestyle."
Monica said she was very promiscuous during this period of her life. Doctors told her she would never have children after contracting gonorrhea, chlamydia and later cervical cancer from her time in Minneapolis. She also said she sought to recapture some of the power she'd learned her body had over men, and used it to get things she wanted. She had relationship after relationship with men who verbally and physically abused her. A couple of these relationships nearly killed her when jilted lovers attempted to take her life in two separate drive-by shootings in Mankato.
This on-the-edge lifestyle was an addiction in itself, Monica said, "because it kept me from having to really think about anything that happened in my life."
Defying the diagnosis she received, Monica did become pregnant twice and now has a daughter and son. As hard as she tried to become sober for them and for herself, she continually returned to using.
When it got so bad she was considering signing over her parental rights to her mother, Lolly gave her an alternative.
"She walked in with the AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) list and put it on the table and said, 'There's a different way,'" Monica said. "That was seven and a half years ago. ... It's been a fight. It's been a struggle. It's not been easy. Every year I feel like I learn a little bit more about who I am and what I am. Some of this was realizing these soul wounds, or these dark secrets that I hold onto, if I don't deal with these, I'm going to end up going back."
A few years ago, Monica returned to school, intent on working in the chemical dependency field to help others emerge from addiction. Two years into the social work program, Monica learned what youth sexual exploitation and trafficking was for the first time.
I finally was able to put what had happened to me all those years into a whole different context," she said. "That totally, totally changed my life. I'm a victim, this is not my fault, these men should have never done these things to me. Somebody should have seen the signs that I was hurting. I shouldn't have been 13, 14 years old in these situations for this to happen. The system failed me. My mom did things to try to get me out of the situation I was in, and nothing happened."
Her recognition of systemic failure in her own case led her to change paths in her education, focusing on how to counsel other victims of sexual exploitation and sex trafficking.
Which led her to today, to a position where she has the opportunity to impact the lives of sexually exploited youths in a positive way.
"We have to stop judging somebody based on their circumstances, and start asking them about their story," Monica said. "That's what I hope I can do. I'm not looking to change the world. If that's what happens, then that's wonderful. For me, it's just about making people treat people like people. It's getting these victims to be looked at as a person.
"My hope in this job is education. Not pretending that it doesn't happen. It happens everywhere. What to look for, where to look, in places you wouldn't think. To help victims if I can. To let them know, if I can live the life I lived and I can be in the job I'm in right now, anything is possible. For any of them."
County and state can do more to protect against child abuse
by Melanie Blow
It was with great sadness that I read about the alleged murder of 4-month-old Vernay-lah Laventure. It was the same grief the community felt about the loss of Bianca Cartagena, Abdifatah Mohammad, Roderick Geiger III, Michael Clifford Jr., Gage Seneca, Austin Smith, Eain Brooks, Mayouna Smith, Jacob Noe and Chandler Zuch. Each death sparked outrage, and motivated Child Protective Services to hire workers and change protocols. And each murder was followed by another.
All child abuse is a matter of life and death. The CDC's Adverse Childhood Experience study shows all abuse and neglect changes how a child's mind, brain, body and cells operate. Abused children who don't die from abuse are more likely to die from suicide, homicide, overdoses, diabetes and other maladies.
The good news is we can prevent most child abuse from starting.
Maternal home visiting programs like Healthy Families NY help new mothers bond with their babies, teach them about parenting and help them overcome obstacles like mental illness and addiction. Evidence proves these programs result in healthier, unabused children.
There is a strong overlap between domestic violence and child abuse, and families experiencing domestic violence are harder to help with such programs. But a series of best practices and a coordinated community response reduce a community's rate of domestic violence crime. While only 15 percent of calls to CPS concern child sexual abuse, many of the parents CPS investigates have experienced it. Educating adults about recognizing and responding to child sexual abuse can spare more children.
Neither Erie County nor New York State can afford our current level of child abuse. A single investigation by CPS costs more than providing a mother in need with maternal home visiting for a whole year. It is rare that a family is investigated only once by CPS. Abuse, neglect and not being “ready to learn” contribute greatly to poor educational performance. And poor educational outcomes, along with the poor physical and mental health and drug addiction caused by abuse, contribute to the crime and poverty threatening to derail Buffalo's economic recovery.
The 11 children killed in our community deserved more. The 3,750 children whose abuse CPS confirms every year deserve more. The taxpayers of Erie County deserve more. And that's why the Stop Abuse Campaign is working with county and state leaders to transform Erie County into a community where child abuse is prevented, not tolerated. Taking the strain off the overburdened CPS will grow Erie County's future by protecting its children.
We must insist Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo fund abuse prevention. One child is too many.
Melanie Blow is operations officer for the Stop Abuse Campaign.
VIP child abuse probe harmed by 'false memories': Leading campaigner suggests it is important not to 'make something huge' out of one or two misleading claims
by Arthur Martin
A leading child abuse campaigner has suggested that the memories of some witnesses in the VIP paedophile inquiry may have become distorted over time.
Peter Saunders, founder of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, said it was important not to 'make something huge' out of the fact that one or two accounts were misleading.
Such a move would be detrimental to child protection and to the current inquiry into abuse, he said.
Mr Saunders voiced his concern ahead of a BBC documentary that calls into question Scotland Yard's investigation into claims of a historical paedophile ring at the heart of the Establishment.
Panorama – the Corporation's flagship investigative programme – will scrutinise the lurid claims of 'Nick', the anonymous witness at the heart of Operation Midland. The programme, to be shown tomorrow night, will examine the validity of Nick's claims that senior Establishment figures were responsible for murdering three boys in the 1970s and 1980s.
Scotland Yard is under pressure to shelve its inquiry after it emerged detectives had 'grave doubts' about Nick's testimony.
Officers have not found a 'shred of credible evidence' to back up his murder claims.
Many detectives believe the inquiry – which has already cost more than £1million – is doomed and should be wound up. Mr Saunders, who sits on the Goddard Inquiry set up to examine independently the claims of historical child abuse, was interviewed by Panorama.
Referring to his interview, he told a Sunday newspaper: 'How they edit it, I won't know until it's out. I was assured it would be balanced.
'If it's not and they make something huge out of the fact that once in a blue moon you get someone whose memory is distorted, that is unhelpful.
'Many survivors are vulnerable people. If something appears to be an attack on other survivors and their integrity, that may dissuade them from coming forward.'
The Panorama report was originally scheduled to be shown in April but was pushed back by six months, reportedly because of tensions with BBC News. The programme asks a series of questions of both the BBC and police over the way the investigation has been handled.
According to the programme's website, these include: 'Why were the allegations described by police as 'credible and true' with no hard evidence or corroboration?' and 'What role have senior politicians and the media played in promoting this story around the world?'
BBC News executives are concerned the investigation will discredit their earlier reports and reopen concerns over how the Corporation handles stories about sexual abuse.
Its competence was previously called into question when Newsnight dropped an investigation into sexual abuse claims against former BBC DJ and presenter Jimmy Savile, amid concerns his accusers were unreliable. This sparked one of the biggest scandals in the BBC's history.
Mr Saunders added: 'They asked if political interference was in the best interests of inquiries and court cases.
'I said politicians getting involved on behalf of constituents is fine. If it's just for the benefit of them or their parties, leave it – it's too important.'
A Panorama spokesman said of the programme: 'It does not blame victims but investigates the conduct of the police, journalists, campaigners and politicians in handling allegations.'