Abuse victims often fear for pets
by Paula J. Owen
Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer impaled a dog's severed head on a stick in his backyard and also impaled the heads of frogs and cats. Albert deSalvo, the Boston Strangler found guilty of killing 13 women, shot arrows through dogs and cats he trapped in boxes as a child. During his childhood, Edmund Emil Kemper killed neighborhood cats and displayed their heads on poles, later killing his own cat and cutting it into pieces. As an adult, he killed eight women, including his mother.
Though the majority of those who abuse or torture animals do not become serial killers, animal cruelty is one of the biggest indicators of a propensity toward further violence, experts say.
In recent years, awareness has grown about a strong link between animal abuse and domestic violence.
Cruelty to animals is a “flashing danger sign,” says Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. because it is a significant predictor of future violence, potentially toward spouses, children and the elderly.
“Animal cruelty isn't normal behavior and is a likely indicator of underlying violent tendencies and great potential for human violence,” Mr. Early said. “Multiple murderers have admitted to abuse or torture of animals when they were kids. Pet abuse is one of four significant predictors of domestic violence. We know with women who enter domestic violence shelters, it is reported that 70 to 80 percent of their abusers, abused or killed the family pet, often as revenge or retribution against their partners.”
Also, animal cruelty is a factor in 88 percent of families where the parents are accused of physical abuse of the children, he said.
“It is often one of the first indicators of abuse in the household,” he said. “When that indicator is present, it is a flashing neon sign, especially in adolescence. It forewarns violence is going to come. A big part of prevention is to stop animal abuse in children when they are receptive to it to avert future violence. Early prevention of animal cruelty is key to breaking the cycle.”
As adolescents get older, he said, they are less responsive to therapeutic intervention.
Mr. Early said his office has four specially trained prosecutors who deal with animal cruelty cases and another working in juvenile court.
“If we can stop animal abuse in children, we know it will help curb violent tendencies to stop it from escalating to violence against people,” he said. “Jeffrey Dahmer cut the heads off cats and dogs before he impaled them. We know there is a correlation so we pay attention to it. After you get beyond the horror of a violent act being done against a defenseless animal, it has to be dealt with swiftly and quickly. If you don't, it's going to lead to human violence. It is a flashing danger sign that needs attention.”
Dr. Lorna M. Grande, a veterinarian and coordinator of the Berkshire County-based Human/Animal Violence Education Network, known as HAVEN, said the coalition found in 88 percent of the child abuse cases they handled, pets in the home were also subject to abuse or neglect. Ms. Grande is an adjunct faculty member at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in North Grafton, and used to teach in the school's Master's program in Animals and Public Policy known as MAPP.
HAVEN was founded 12 years ago and works with district attorneys, humane societies, the Department of Children and Families, animal control officers, therapists for abused children, domestic violence and sexual assault organizations, and law enforcement officials to help them better recognize the link between animal cruelty and violence against humans.
“We want to raise their awareness about the fact that what they may be seeing about animals may be reflective of what is happening in a family,” she said.
Sometimes with an animal abuse situation, she said, they can gain access to a home and become aware of signs of abuse within the home against children or others.
“With Jeffery Dahmer there is a picture of his backyard with a dog head on a stake,” she said. “We say to people, ‘Call somebody.' That level of violence needs to be paid attention to. That is violence when someone does that to an animal.”
The organization also collaborates with SafePet - a statewide foster care program for endangered pets to ensure domestic abuse victims' pets will not be harmed or killed if they leave their homes, Ms. Grande said.
Often, victims will stay in abusive situations out of fear for their pets, who are sometimes a strong source of comfort for them. They fear their pets will be harmed, neglected or killed by their abusers, she said.
Domestic-violence survivor Carloyn L. Ruf said if she had known about HAVEN's shelter program, she would have used it for her beloved cat Midnight, who she had raised since he was a kitten.
Her abuse started when she met her ex-husband in prison. He was serving time for manslaughter and drug possession, she said, and was the “handsome, charismatic, choir director at the Concord prison.” She was a volunteer in the chapel. He was sentenced to 20 years and got out on parole midway, she said.
That was in 1992. Ms. Ruf said he seemed like he had changed and wanted to help people. She said she didn't know at the time he was a crack addict and had post-traumatic stress disorder. Also, several restraining orders were previously taken out against him. She has been in hiding for about a decade, she said, and asked that her ex-husband not be identified out of fear of him.
“The combination (of his drug addiction and PTSD) was very dangerous and he didn't do anything to address either of those issues,” she said.
He would take her with him to pick up his drugs in Fitchburg after they moved to Acton from Boston, she said. The physical abuse toward her started with a slap across the back of the head and progressed from there, she said. She ended up in the hospital numerous times with a broken nose, a shattered bone beneath one of her eyes and broken ribs. Her teeth shifted and she has a scar above her left eye from a speaker he threw into her face, she said.
She said she tried to leave him 10 times.
“But, I was afraid the police would kick in the door and Midnight would get out,” she said.
When she finally did escape, she had no choice but to leave Midnight with one of her ex-husband's cousins in Framingham. She hid out in Ohio for several months and when she got back, she found out Midnight had got out and was missing. She spent days looking for him and finally found him.
“I got Midnight and went to a women's shelter,” she said. “I have my pulse, my relationship with God and my cat. I'm good. I learned when to be on red alert, orange alert and yellow alert so he doesn't find me. That is why I don't let people know where I live. Loose lips sink ships.”
She said if she had known there was a shelter program for pets where Midnight could go, she may have left him sooner.
“That would have been an option,” she said. “You keep thinking things will change, but you don't realize they are just toxic inside. My main concern was me and Midnight. He was always right there for me. I didn't want to leave Midnight with a violent drug addict.”
Retired Judge Martha Grace said it takes a lot of willing people to make a coalition like HAVEN work. She said she would like to start a fledgling group similar to it in Worcester made up of professionals who will take animal cruelty seriously.
Judge Grace completed the MAPP program at Tufts – the only one of its kind in the country - when she retired from the bench.
Ms. Grande spoke at Tufts while she was getting her degree, she said.
“I worked with domestic violence people all the time on thousands of child abuse cases and I never heard pets mentioned. It was astonishing to me,” she said. “It hasn't been focused on. It is not anybody's fault. People just tend to work in silos. Mothers who were interviewed said it is a scary thing to say to a judge that you are afraid to leave the house and protect your children because you are afraid for your dogs and pets because the victims are afraid judges will think they put their pets above their children.”
She said there have been cases where women left their abusers and later received a package with the head of their dog or cat in it.
“I see a need in Worcester County,” she said. “There are pockets in the state where people are doing stuff, but there is no central area where there is a lot being done. Worcester is ripe for a coalition, but it hasn't been focused on. I heard child abuse cases for 20 years and never heard the link mentioned. There is a huge body of work out there on it, and no one is talking about it. When a case comes in with four or five charges, the DA may not know a lot about how to try an animal cruelty case. They may drop the animal cruelty charges and do a plea on the others and the DA and everyone in the system is OK with that. That needs to change.”
She said she talks with groups of social workers from DCF all the time, including from the Worcester DCF offices last year, and wants to go into Leominster and Whitinsville.
“The idea behind HAVEN is that the shelters, humane society and police are involved,” she said. “If a restraining order is called for in the Berkshires in the middle of the night and they say they don't want to leave because they are afraid their abuser will harm their dog or cat, the ACO comes in who has contacts with vets, shelters and SafePet foster homes and the whole system really works.”
Concern mounts on opioid crisis' toll on children
by Michael Levenson
It is the dark backdrop of two of the state's most prominent cases of child abuse: a powerful addiction to opioids that renders adults unable to function as parents.
In Auburn, a 2-year-old who was taken from a mother because of her heroin addiction died of heat stroke in a foster home.
In Boston, another 2-year-old whose body was found on Deer Island was allegedly the victim of her mother's boyfriend, a heroin addict.
Those on the front lines — doctors, judges, drug counselors — say they are seeing more and more cases like this, of opioid-addicted parents so focused on their next score that they neglect or abuse the children in their care.
But the state Department of Children and Families says it has no way to document what to many seems obvious: that the opioid crisis that killed 1,256 Massachusetts residents last year is one of the factors driving an increase in the state's child protection caseload, which has soared to record levels.
The department says its outmoded computer system is simply not capable of tracking such basic information, even though child welfare professionals warn that drug abuse is one of the leading indicators that children are at risk of harm.
“I can't pull that data currently,” said Marylou Sudders, the state secretary of health and human services, who added that DCF will upgrade its computer system to allow it to track all drug-related cases.
Linda Carlisle, who served until last week as acting head of the Office of the Child Advocate, said it is crucial that DCF know which of the 47,000 children it monitors have parents addicted to opioids.
“That's something that really has to be addressed,” she said. “There's no way you can get a sense of the numbers or the scope of the problem without that.”
Yet there is growing evidence that the problem is increasing.
Statewide, the number of children removed from their homes by DCF has jumped 28 percent over the last three years, from 2,655 to 3,383, according to court records.
“We have seen a very significant increase in the number of child abuse and neglect cases, and it is clear that parental opioid addiction is a contributing factor,” said Carol A. Erskine, the first justice of the Worcester Juvenile Court. “And there doesn't appear to be any indication that those numbers are going to diminish anytime soon.”
At UMass Memorial Children's Medical Center in Worcester, 119 children were admitted after serious physical abuse this year, up from 59 in 2012, while the number of children treated for less serious injuries because of abuse has grown to 336, from 199 in 2012.
A “significant number” of those cases involved children whose parents were addicted to opioids, said Dr. Heather C. Forkey, chief of the hospital's child protection program.
“When you're living with a caregiver who is impaired, they are not able to meet your needs as a child,” she said. “Many kids are at significant risk, and while we'd like to leave them at home, DCF — and we as a society — are having trouble doing that safely.”
DCF also received reports of 3,215 infants who were born exposed to drugs between March 2014 and July 2015, according to the department, which started tracking those cases last year.
“There is no question the substance use issue has been a huge problem,” said Rhonda Mann, a spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.
“While we don't collect hard data other than those regarding substance-exposed newborns, this is a growing concern for our social workers and managers,” Mann said.
Doctors point out that children whose parents abuse them and are addicted to opioids are more likely to become addicts and abuse their own children when they grow up.
Yet many parents are reluctant to seek treatment because they are worried that DCF will take away their children, said Dr. Sarah Wakeman, a specialist in substance abuse treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“Right now, there's an incentive not to talk about the fact you have an addiction because you're worried you'll be punished and lose your kids,” Wakeman said. “So we need to create a system where people want to come forward and talk about it so they can get the treatment they need.”
Erskine said the lack of readily available detox programs means that even parents who want to kick their addiction and reunite with their children are unable to, so their children are languishing for longer periods in foster care.
“My view has been that social workers are working very diligently and very hard to get parents into services, but the resources are just not there,” she said.
Doctors said that in addition to suffering from physical abuse, children who live with opioid-addicted parents experience emotional trauma that can have long-lasting effects.
That is the case for one 10-year-old girl whose parents were addicted to heroin and has been raised for the last two years by her grandmother on the South Shore.
The grandmother, who asked that her name not be used, said her granddaughter suffers from night terrors, low self-esteem, and feelings of abandonment after being taken from a home where she was not getting enough food and clothing and was often left alone or locked in her room.
“It's an epidemic, and we need some big, systemic approach to make sure the kids are being taken care of,” the grandmother said.
DCF said it will begin training its workers to better understand opioid addiction.
Dr. Ruth Potee, an addiction specialist at Valley Medical Group in Greenfield, recently led a training session, telling DCF employees that opioid-
addicted parents who neglect their children are suffering from a disease, not a moral failing.
“If this part of your brain is screaming at you, then it's all you can think about,” she said. “It's hard for kids to crowd into that space, so I see more and more often that kids are very appropriately taken away by DCF.”
Authorities: Ohio man with ankle monitor raped girl
14-year-old impregnated, held for months
by Sarah Jorgensen and Ray Sanchez
A 20-year-old Ohio man allegedly raped, impregnated and held a minor captive for months while wearing an electronic monitoring device in a previous abduction case, according to unsealed court records.
Cody Lee Jackson was arrested October 8 at a Greyhound station in Salt Lake City on federal charges of production of child pornography and coercion and enticement of a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity, according to an affidavit written by an FBI agent and unsealed this week in federal district court in Cincinnati.
State charges in the latest abduction include rape, unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and kidnapping, the FBI said in a statement.
Jackson allegedly reached out to a 14-year-old girl on Facebook in early February -- just months after prosecutors in Hamilton County, Ohio, had charged him with counts of interference with custody, abduction and kidnapping in a separate case in Blue Ash, Ohio, according to the affidavit. The previous charges involved two females -- an adult and a minor -- who accused Jackson of holding them against their will at a Blue Ash hotel in 2014.
He pleaded not guilty in that earlier case, posted bond and was ordered to wear a GPS ankle monitor under the supervision of the Sheriff's Office, the court affidavit said.
While residing in Norwood, Ohio, in an apartment rented for him by his father, Jackson had a taxi bring the girl to his home, where they had sex, according to the affidavit.
The encounters continued for weeks, with Jackson at one point destroying the victim's phone and changing the passwords to her Facebook and email accounts as a way of controlling her, the court papers said.
By March, Jackson was allegedly arranging for a taxi to deliver the girl to his home after school each day and imposing strict rules on her behavior, according to the affidavit. She was verbally and physically abused when the rules were broken, the court papers said.
It's unclear whether Jackson has an attorney in the current case. His former attorney did not respond to a request for comment.
The alleged abduction and abuse occurred while Jackson was required to wear the ankle bracelet and to be visited at home by a sheriff's officer.
Mike Robison, a spokesman for the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, told CNN on Saturday that Jackson wore the monitoring device between January 22 and July 31. It's unclear whether Jackson was under any kind of court supervision prior to January.
Robison said there were at least six "unscheduled and unannounced home visits," and that Jackson reported to his officer each week. Robison said he doesn't believe the conditions of Jackson's release included restrictions on the use of social media.
"He complied with all his conditions," Robison said of Jackson, adding the the sheriff's office "did everything we were required to do."
At one point during the teen's abduction, the affidavit said, the 20-year-old mother of one of Jackson's children moved into the home to help keep an eye on the alleged victim and run errands for him.
That woman also was verbally and physically abused by the defendant, according to court documents. The woman sometimes took the minor out of the apartment before visits by the sheriff's office, said the affidavit, which doesn't explain how she knew about visits that were supposed to be unannounced.
The alleged teen victim learned she was pregnant with Jackson's child after more than a month under his control, according to the affidavit.
"After Jackson found out [she] was pregnant, he was nicer to her ... even buying her a giant stuffed animal and gifts from Bath and Body Works, and allowing her to take prenatal vitamins, but eventually he started yelling at her and smacking her again," the affidavit said.
The rapes and abuse continued while the girl was pregnant, according to court documents. And she was prohibited from contacting her family or returning home.
On July 31, Jackson was taken off electronic monitoring after agreeing to plead guilty to a count of interference of custody in connection with the 2014 case, the affidavit said. The abduction and kidnapping charges were dropped as part of the plea deal. Jackson fled Ohio before his scheduled sentencing one month later.
On the same day of his plea, the minor and the mother of Jackson's child managed to escape after he left the apartment during an argument, according to the court papers, which did not provide details about the victim's condition.
Jackson then allegedly contacted the teen girl by cell phone and threatened to kill her and her family if she didn't send him sexually explicit photos of herself on Facebook, according to the affidavit.
After Jackson missed his August sentencing, authorities tracked him through Texas and South Carolina via money transfers from his father.
On October 8, Jackson was arrested after giving a false name and trying to run away from drug task force officers during a check at a Utah bus station, according to Salt Lake City authorities.
Coercion and enticement of a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity carries a sentence ranging from 10 years to life in prison, the FBI statement said. Production of child pornography is punishable by 15 to 30 years in prison.
A cycle of trauma and illness: Analyzing Montana's low ranking for child well-being
by Alexander Deedy
For a myriad of reasons that experts say remain unclear, a state known for its mountains and fly fishing is one of the worst in the nation for youth.
Kids Count data from 2015 ranks Montana as 30th in the nation for overall child well-being and 47th for child health. Montana has one of the highest rates of suicide among teens.
Since organizations started ranking states in the late 1990s, Montana has always been at the bottom, Thale Dillon of Montana Kids Count said. The state consistently has high death rates for children and teens; high rates of traffic crashes; high rates of substance abuse.
Cassidy “Cassie” Holt, a 17-year-old student at the Trapper Creek Job Corps outside Darby, could have been one of those statistics.
When she was just 7, Holt's teachers noticed bruises and duct tape marks on her arms. When her teachers asked what the marks were from, Holt told them that on nights “when he wanted to,” her dad would use duct tape to restrain her.
“He duct taped my hands behind my back and duct taped my mouth to make me shut up and sent me to bed,” she recalled. “And then the next morning right before I went to school, he would cut the duct tape off of me and send me off to school.”
He would spank Holt with a cutting board. He would sexually molest her and say it was tickling.
Holt was taken away from her father and placed in a foster home. As she grew up Holt developed an angry demeanor, sank into depression and planned suicide.
As a teenager, she found help through mental health services available to Montana youth from low-income families.
She was a victim of the adversity of her childhood, and statistics show that she's not alone.
Nearly a fifth of youth who qualify for Medicaid services receive some form of mental health treatment, and close to 30 percent of all Montana teens who responded to a statewide student survey said they had ongoing feelings of sadness or hopelessness. Almost 19 percent reported they had seriously considered attempting suicide.
Matt Kuntz, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Montana branch, said mental illness is a result of biological and environmental factors.
Everyone has varying biological susceptibilities to brain health, and environmental conditions weigh on how the brain develops.
“I think that we also have to be honest and say that there still is a lot of mystery in these conditions, we don't understand all of the reason Montana is hit as hard as we are,” Kuntz said. “And that's a reason why it's also probably not realistic for us to look at one fix, but at a series of system tweaks and changes.”
One agency looking at change is Helena-based ChildWise Institute.
Created several years ago by youth mental health treatment and therapy provider Intermountain, the ChildWise Institute works to educate Montanans about complex trauma known as Adverse Childhood Experiences. A comprehensive study done in the 1990s showed that people who experience ACEs are more likely to suffer health complications later in life.
“The revelation is not that adversity in childhood creates emotional distress; that was something we all knew. Those of us in the mental health field would say ‘duh' to that,” Elizabeth Kohlstaedt, clinical director at Intermountain, said. “But the revelation is that adversity is common, that it's cumulative and that it leads to physical illness and emotional illness in adulthood.”
Kohlstaedt said Intermountain operates under the idea of trauma-informed care. When youths walk into their clinic in need of mental health treatment, staff assume they may have a background of trauma.
And when youths do need treatment from Intermountain, it's because their mental health conditions have reached a crisis stage.
Kohlstaedt said an understanding of trauma and knowledge of ACEs creates the opportunity for people to intervene before an individual reaches crisis level.
“Montana in particular is rife for this kind of change. We have sort of a tough individual attitude of pull yourself up by your bootstraps … and that doesn't work anymore,” Kohlstaedt said. “That created illness in adults and it creates stress in children.”
It's a familial cycle of trauma and stigma -- one that many Montana organizations are trying to break. Those organizations are working hard not just with a moral imperative to improve the lives of the next generation, but with an economic case to unleash the abilities of the next generation.
“If we remain at the bottom that means teens don't get better, so we're trucking away at status quo,” Thale Dillon of Montana Kids Count said. “... But there are lives that are being lost completely unnecessarily and children who grow up without being able to realize the full potential that they have.”
How to Talk to Children About Sexual Abuse
by Josh Landon
It started with a CBS 58 report about the arrest of a former group home operator who police say raped a teenage boy at gunpoint. It has now mushroomed into a country wide search for other potential victims of Jermarro Dantzler who according to sources would allegedly bribe and intimidate victims or witnesses to keep quiet.
Unfortunately we know this can happen anywhere to any child.
Experts on sexual assault tell CBS 58 it can sometimes be even worse for a boy who has been raped due to a long lasting stigma.
CBS 58 is working to learn more details about the rape charges involving Jermarro Dantzler. Meanwhile, experts say his alleged 15-year-old victim may still be recovering physically and mentally.
"That this young man told somebody is incredible, because boys don't usually come forward. There's so much stigma, that they may be gay or that there's something wrong with them, especially if they're raped by a same sex perpetrator," says Cathy Raney who works directly with sexual assault victims at Pathfinders Milwaukee.
She says the warning signs and approach are different between boys and girls, "a girl may continue to have the symptoms of looking withdrawn and depressed where boys are more likely to act out and look angry and mad."
With a child, it's important to be tactful, “you may have to ask them, did someone touch you in your swim suit area? Did someone do something you didn't like?" says Raney.
But you may need to be blunt with a teenager, "where you could just say, did someone hurt you? What happened? I'm noticing a difference.
The Executive Director of Aurora Health Care backs Raney's theory of the stigma surrounding male victims, “there were times in our history, social services would go in and they ask the family if sexual abuse is happening, and they'd only ask the little girls and not ask the little boys."
According to the CDC, one in every six boys are sexually abused before the age of 18, and approximately 1.8 million adolescents have been the victims of sexual assault.
TN goal: Lead prevention of children's 'toxic stress'
by Anita Wadhwani
In the mostly rural communities along Interstate 75 in east Tennessee, well-known to law enforcement as a North-South drug corridor, caseworkers are getting an increasing number of calls to check on the welfare of children who live with parents addicted to prescription painkillers or methamphetamine.
What lies on the other side of a knock on the door is often an abused or neglected child. Even in these circumstances, caseworkers find that a child who has had just one caring adult in his or her life remains resilient, said Julie Rotella, executive director of regional support for the Department of Children's Services.
"For me, a lot of times it's just looking kids in the eye to see whether they have had support wrapped around them," Rotella said. "Some kids can't even look you in the eye or barely meet your eyes. What that tells me is that child doesn't have support in their life. They're in survival mode. Other kids have some hope in their eyes, and you know they've had someone looking out for them."
Research on the far-ranging impact of childhood trauma — what experts are now calling "Adverse Childhood Experiences" or ACEs and "toxic stress" — has prompted state leaders to take a harder look at prevention efforts.
In November, a newly launched Memphis-based charitable initiative, The ACE Awareness Foundation, will convene a Nashville summit of business leaders, charities, social welfare agencies, education officials and state government in an ambitious effort to create a statewide awareness program with the goal of making Tennessee a model in combating toxic stress in generations to come.
In 1995, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente in San Diego launched a long-term study tracking the 17,000 people into adulthood who were being served by the California health insurance agency. The study measured each participants' adverse childhood experiences and how those affected them through life.
As the annual results were released over recent years, researchers concluded that the greater number of adverse experiences in early childhood, the greater the risk for health problems including heart disease and diabetes, depression, suicide, poor anger management, substance abuse and incarceration.
Neuroscientists have documented the impact on a child's developing brain. In the first few years of life, there are 700 new neural connections made in a child's brain every second, according to Harvard University's Center on the Developing Child. In the rapidly developing brains of children from birth to age 3, exposure to even one adverse childhood experience — such as divorce, abuse, a parent with mental illness or one who has died — can cause the brain to rewire.
The whir of brain activity that makes children open to learning in their early years also makes them vulnerable to damage from the stress that accompanies adverse experiences, permanently altering the brain's chemistry.
Those traumas also come at a financial cost, said Chris Peck, director of the Memphis-based ACE Awareness Foundation. Early intervention to protect against adverse experiences, often called "toxic stress," can lead to $143,400 in increased lifetime earnings and $28,200 in reduced health care costs, he said.
In Tennessee, one in five residents had been exposed to three or more adverse experiences in childhood, according to a telephone survey by the Department of Health modeled on a questionnaire developed by the CDC. In some counties, more than 40 percent of residents had been exposed to two or more adverse childhood experiences. A Tennessean with four or more adverse childhood experiences is twice as likely to be out of work and half as likely to have health care coverage as a person with zero.
The ACE Awareness Foundation is partnering with the Haslam administration and the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation to launch a statewide education initiative to make the case to leaders in private industry, health care, government agencies and social welfare organization that investing in prevention efforts now will "save the state a lot of money, reduce the impact on the special education system, the criminal justice and health system so future generations of Tennesseans aren't having to deal with the residue of adverse experiences."
The ACES Foundation will host a summit in Nashville on Nov. 12 to begin to launch a statewide conversation. Director Chis Peck said his goal is for Tennessee to become a national model over the next three years in prevention and in creating ways of instilling resiliency in children. Research from Harvard University shows that even children exposed to multiple adverse experiences can develop resilience if there is just one engaged and caring adult in their lives.
ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES
Stressful or traumatic experiences that disrupt the safe, nurturing environment that children need to thrive are defined as Adverse Childhood Experiences. The Centers for Disease Control developed the following categories of ACEs:
Separation or divorce
Violence between adults
Woman Hurt Stepdaughter, Forced Child to Stage Videos Showing She Hurt Herself: Court Documents
Police arrested an East Hampton, Connecticut, woman who allegedly abused her 5-year-old stepdaughter and then forced the girl to stage videos showing her hurting herself.
Felicia Marie O'Brien, 24, appeared in Middletown Superior Court Thursday to face charges of cruelty to persons and risk of injury to a minor.
O'Brien's stepdaughter was first taken to the hospital with injuries in August and doctors suspected the girl might have been abused. According to court documents, O'Brien told police and a social worker from the Department of Children and Families that her stepdaughter heard voices in her head telling her to hurt herself by hitting her head on a bunk bed ladder.
When police interviewed the girl, she backed up the story and said she banged her own head on the ladder, according to the court documents. Though doctors said the injuries were not consistent with the girl harming herself, police decided not to file charges based on the 5-year-old's account of what happened.
On Sept. 22, O'Brien brought the girl to the Marlborough Emergency Room Walk-in Clinic with severe injuries to her face and eyes. She was moved to Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford due to the severity of the injuries.
O'Brien showed doctors videos she took with her iPhone, showing the girl hitting her head on the ladder. A doctor at the hospital told police the video looked "staged" and that the injuries did not appear to have been caused by the action in the video, according to court documents.
Police interviewed O'Brien and viewed the videos. They took O'Brien's cellphone as evidence and found additional videos on it. Police said the videos appeared to be "practice" videos and that O'Brien could be heard in the videos ordering her stepdaughter to hit her head on the ladder, according to court documents. They said it appeared the girl already had bruising on her face and arm before beginning to bang her head.
Outside court on Thursday, O'Brien's father said his step-granddaughter has mental health issues and that his daughter is innocent.
"My daughter for a year has been screaming for help from DCF from everybody and nobody would listen and it came to this," Leo Cote said. "I'll be the first to admit it she has made many mistakes but she did not do this, that I know."
O'Brien remained behind bars on $250,000 bond. Information on her attorney wasn't immediately available.
Mother Charged With Murder After Allegedly Tossing Baby Girl 6 Stories to Her Death
An emotionally disturbed woman who witnesses said was naked when she allegedly tossed her 6-month-old daughter from the sixth-floor window of a Bronx apartment building Thursday has been charged with second-degree murder in the baby's death.
Tenisha Fearon, 27, allegedly dangled baby Janillah Lawrence from the window of the Tiebout Avenue building in Fordham Heights before throwing her to the pavement 60 feet below. Police and ESU, responding to multiple 911 calls after the 2 p.m. window-toss, had to break the apartment door down to get to Fearon, and encountered her screaming and still wearing no clothes, they said.
One witness said Fearon screamed for help from God.
The baby was taken to Saint Barnabus Hospital with traumatic injuries, firefighters said. She died there later in the afternoon, according to police.
Three more of Fearon's children — ages 4, 8 and 10 — were in the apartment at the time the baby went out the window, police said. It wasn't immediately clear if Fearon had an attorney.
Lawrence's case is the third death of a child tossed from a New York apartment since August.
Last month, a newborn girl with her umbilical cord still attached was found dead outside an apartment building in the University Heights section of the borough. Authorities arrested her mother on murder and manslaughter charges, saying she hid her pregnancy and threw the child to her death from a seventh-story window shortly after giving birth.
In August, police arrested a Queens woman in connection with the death of her 1-month-old son. According to court papers, she told authorities an evil spirit had possessed the boy and she was "stopping the pain" when she threw him from the fourth-floor window. Investigators were looking into whether postpartum depression was a factor, but no clinical diagnoses had been made.
How California's Largest School District Blamed an 8th Grader for Her Rape
The LAUSD's indefensible effort to defend itself.
by Conor Friedersdorf
When “M.S.” was 13, her math teacher at Edison middle school in Los Angeles invited her to be friends online. Soon, according to a California appeals court, the same teacher started sending her sexually explicit messages. That winter, he called the 8th grader into a classroom and told her to shut the door. The teacher, Elkis Hermida, kissed and hugged the student. In March, he drove M.S. (as she's referred to in court records, to protect her privacy), then 14, to a motel, where, according to the court, “they had sexual intercourse.” On a second occasion, “they … had sexual intercourse” in Hermida's classroom.
“The next time they had sexual intercourse was on a Saturday at a motel,” the court records say. “Hermida told her that they were not in a relationship but were just having sex.” At that point, M.S. “wanted to stop having sexual intercourse with Hermida, but did not feel that she was free to do so.” At their next encounter, the teacher wanted anal sex. M.S. objected. “Hermida inserted something into her anus anyway,” the court said.
That May, a friend of M.S. alerted another teacher to the relationship. That teacher reported Hermida, who was quickly arrested, charged, and sent to prison for three years. M.S.'s family sued the Los Angeles Unified School District for negligence.
This is the story of the LAUSD's depraved defense.
* * *
Criminal trials are hard on child victims. Since Elkis Hermida pleaded no contest rather than not guilty, M.S. could've been spared a lot of what victims of sexual abuse go through when aggressive defense attorneys try to impugn their character.
Instead the LAUSD made the civil trial needlessly hard on a 14-year-old that it had already failed to keep safe (though whether it acted negligently or not is as yet undetermined). In February 2013, the school district filed a motion to compel a mental evaluation of M.S. “and to permit questioning of plaintiff about her sexual history.”
The motion was denied.
In October 2013, M.S. moved “to preclude evidence of her sexual history.” The LAUSD opposed that motion too—that is to say, an institution with more than 655,000 students kept fighting to probe the sexual history of an eighth grader molested while in its care. “When she's claiming emotional distress from having been involved in a sexual relationship with a teacher,” the school district argued, “but she's also having sexual relations with other people during this same time period, then that's relevant to her contentions that she's going to suffer emotional distress.”
The LAUSD cited Dr. Stan Katz, a clinical and forensic psychologist that they hired as an expert witness. In a deposition, defense counsel asked him, “So you're saying that victims of sexual abuse who had prior sexual experiences are less traumatized than those who haven't?” To which Katz responded, “They certainly can be.” The expert witness made another statement that the appeals court flagged:
Dr. Katz testified that he believed the relationship made plaintiff more mature. “It always matures someone because you have to go through experiences which most teenagers don't have to deal with. So you learn by experience.”
When asked his opinion as to plaintiff's future prognosis, he stated that plaintiff is doing “quite well” and likely will not need future counseling as a result of the abuse.
Think about that.
In a court of law, America's second-largest school district willfully advanced the argument that an 8th grader who has oral, vaginal, and anal sex with a teacher learns maturity from the experience and is unlikely to ever need counseling as a result.
Incredibly, the trial court ultimately allowed the defense to inject the plaintiff's sexual history into its arguments, bungling the relevant law and prejudicing the jury.
The LAUSD also raised another discrediting argument.
As the appeals court put it:
The District then exacerbated the prejudice by using plaintiff's relationships with boys to argue that she was sophisticated and could, in effect, voluntarily consent to sex with Hermida. They argued during closing:
“And no matter what you say about her mind being overcome, from some reason, by Hermida, Hermida wasn't in her classroom. That was a decision she made. And what did [her friend] Andromeda tell you about plaintiff coming back from one of those episodes? Coming back into the classroom after having met with Hermida and had some sexual acts occur. Me and Hermida just had a quickie. A quickie. And at first she tried to act like she didn't know what it was, and then she acknowledged what it was. Now, a quickie, is that a language or thought process of a naïve person, a person that doesn't know what's going on, a quickie?”
The second-largest school district in America argued that a 14-year-old's knowledge of sexual slang that appears frequently in popular culture should lead us to conclude that she is more able to consent to sex with a teacher who was twice her age.
Even more incredibly, the trial court instructed the jury that “there is no ‘age of consent' with regard to sexual relations involving a minor. A minor is capable of giving legal consent to sexual intercourse unless said minor has such a high degree of immaturity that the minor could not meaningfully agree to engage in the sexual conduct in question.” By law, a 14-year-old cannot consent to sex with an adult.
The appeals court of course reversed the trial court on all of these matters. And it offered a scathing assessment of the LAUSD. “The District ... sought in the trial of this matter to deprive plaintiff of the protections afforded her by law,” the appeals court stated.
Its ruling continued:
The District convinced the trial court that minors can consent to sex with adults and so the law imposing responsibility on minors in other contexts should be expanded to the school setting to impose responsibility on minor students for their own sexual abuse by teachers.
On appeal, the District continues to maintain that a minor student who is the victim of sexual abuse by a teacher bears responsibility for preventing that abuse. The District was wrong in the trial court and is wrong now. There is no case or statutory authority or persuasive reasoning supporting the notion that students sexually victimized by their teachers can be contributorily responsible for the harm they suffer.
* * *
?W. Keith Wyatt is the attorney who represented the LAUSD. In the name of the public, while being compensated by taxpayers, he helped to advance the dubious arguments above. The attorney also criticized the molestation victim in a radio interview.
“She lied to her mother so she could have sex with her teacher. She went to a motel in which she engaged in voluntary consensual sex with her teacher,” he told an interviewer at the public radio station KPCC. “Why shouldn't she be responsible for that?"
In the same interview he said this:
Making a decision as to whether or not to cross the street when traffic is coming, that takes a level of maturity and that's a much more dangerous decision than to decide, “Hey, I want to have sex with my teacher.”
Even after that interview, school district at first insisted that it would keep using the lawyer. Then, last November, LAUSD General Counsel Dave Holmquist announced that the school district was severing ties with Wyatt, calling his remarks “completely inappropriate.”
It seemed that common sense had finally prevailed, even if no LAUSD official was ever held accountable for the district's execrable behavior while litigating the case.
Last week, however, the same public radio station, KPCC, reported that the LAUSD has now rehired attorney W. Keith Wyatt and his firm to represent it in court. “We believe that the suspension was sufficient to drive home our concerns about statements he made,” a spokeswoman for the school district told the news organization. She added that he has already worked on five cases for LAUSD this year.
If you're an attorney who has argued opposite the LAUSD in a case involving the abuse of a minor, I'd be grateful to hear about your experiences at firstname.lastname@example.org, especially if you have knowledge of the school district endeavoring to blame victims for their own rape or molestation on other occasions.
Likens' tragedy continues to bring child abuse to forefront
by Jake Thompson
It's been nearly five decades since the death of Sylvia Likens, but her tragic case has helped change the way child abuse is reported on both national and state levels.
Likens, 16, was murdered Oct. 26, 1965, after months of torture by caretaker Gertrude Baniszewski, her children and neighborhood children in Indianapolis. Likens was laid to rest at Lebanon's Oak Hill Cemetery nearly 50 years ago.
Just before Likens' death, in July 1965 the state enacted the Indiana Reporting Law, a statute requiring professionals who come in contact with children to report suspected abuse. It was repealed and replaced in 1971 with a stricter version, stipulating that anyone who discovers child abuse must report it, with failure to do so being a crime.
“One of the really unfortunate things in Sylvia's case was there were people who were aware of the abuse,” Boone County Prosecutor Todd Meyer said. “They witnessed it first-hand, just civilian people. The culture back then isn't what it is now. Her case did change the whole culture of how we look at child abuse.
“The silver lining from the terrible tragedy that happened to her is, I can confidently say children's lives have been saved as a result of her case, the mandatory reporting and the way as a society that we look at child abuse.”
Meyer will speak at the Sylvia Likens Memorial Service, on behalf of the Boone County Child Advocacy Center, at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25, at the American Legion, 1020 Hendricks Drive, Lebanon.
American Legion Riders will then escort memorial participants to the Oak Hill Cemetery for a service, and those interested may return to the Legion for a carry-in/pitch-in dinner.
The event is open to all, and the public is encouraged to attend.
The BCCAC is donating a memorial steppingstone that will be on display at the Legion. After the service, the memorial will be placed in the front-yard at the advocacy center.
In David G. Gil's book, “Violence Against Children,” he documents 106 reports of abuse in the state during 1967. According to Indiana State Department of Public Welfare, Battered Children Receiving Service, the numbers grew exponentially in the years after with 125 cases reported in 1968, 273 (1972) and 745 (1973).
“I think her case is one that pushed Indiana to say they need this law and make everyone a mandated reporter,” said Cassie Frazier, executive director of the Boone County Child Advocacy Center. “I think a lot of the legislators and lawyers that worked on Sylvia's case, it really stuck with them because that case was the worst they had seen to that point. They had never seen anything like that.”
Indianapolis filmmaker/actor Ivan Rogers donated a 6-foot-10-inch-thick granite memorial in Likens' honor in 2001. The memorial sits at Indianapolis' Willard Park and carries the same inscription, written by Rogers, that is etched on the advocacy center's steppingstone:
“I see a light; hope
I feel a breeze; strength
I hear a song; relief
Let them through, for they are the welcome ones.”
Another inscription written on the back of the Willard Park stone reads: “This memorial is in memory of a young child who died a tragic death. As a result, laws changed and awareness increased. This is a commitment to our children, that the Indianapolis Police Department is working to make this a safe city for all children.”
“We need to do everything we can to protect our children,” Meyer said. “They're our primary assets going forward. We've got to have strong young people to carry on our society. From this tragedy, great strides and improvements were made.”
Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Laws
Definitions: Child abuse or neglect refers to a child who is alleged to be in need of services (CHINS).
Indiana Code 31-34-1: A child is in need of services if before the child's 18th birthday:
• The child's physical or mental health condition is seriously impaired or seriously endangered as a result of the inability, refusal, or neglect of the child's parent/guardian/ custodian to supply the child with necessary food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education, or supervision
• The child's physical or mental health is seriously endangered due to injury by the act or omission of the child's parent/guardian/custodian. An omission is an occurrence in which the parent/guardian/custodian allowed that person's child to receive an injury the parent/guardian/custodian had a reasonable opportunity to prevent or mitigate
• The child is the victim of a sex offense under the criminal citations incorporated into the CHINS definition
• The child's parent/guardian/custodian allows the child to participate in an obscene performance
• The child's parent/guardian/custodian allows the child to commit a sex offense
And needs care, treatment, or rehabilitation that the child is not currently receiving and that is unlikely to be provided or accepted without the coercive intervention of the court.
This definition includes a child with a disability that is deprived of:
• nutrition necessary to sustain life
• medical or surgical intervention necessary to remedy or ameliorate a life threatening medical condition if the nutrition or medical or surgical intervention is generally provided to similarly situated children with or without disabilities
Religious Beliefs/Provision of Medical Treatment:
When a parent/guardian/custodian fails to provide specific medical treatment for a child because of the legitimate and genuine practice of the parent/guardian/custodian's religious beliefs, a refutable presumption arises that the child is not a child in need of services because of such failure. However, this presumption does not prevent a juvenile court from ordering, when the health of the child requires, medical services from a physician licensed to practice medicine in Indiana. The presumption does not apply to situations in which the life or health of a child is in serious danger.
Any individual who has reason to believe that a child is a victim of child abuse or neglect must make a report. In agencies in which there are established reporting protocols, the report may be made to the individual in charge or another designated agent, who also becomes responsible to report or cause a report to be made. This does not relieve individuals who make a report to another staff person of their own obligation to report directly to child protection services or law enforcement unless a report has already been made by the agency liaison. Anonymous reports are accepted. Failure to make a report can be a Class B misdemeanor. Reports should be made to the statewide, centralized Hotline: 1-800-800-5556.
Immunity from liability:
Any person, other than the accused, who reports child abuse or neglect or is involved in the investigation or disposition of child abuse or neglect reports is immune from criminal or civil liability, unless the person acted maliciously or in bad faith.
All reports made to Indiana Department of Child Services are confidential and will only be released to Indiana Department of Child Services workers, police, prosecutors, doctors, or other authorized personnel.
*Above information from pcain.org, the Prevent Child Abuse Indiana website.
Mom who claimed sick child unlawfully taken from her charged with child abuse, neglect
by Dal Kalsi
UNA, SC (FOX Carolina) - - A woman who claimed her sick four-year-old child was “medically kidnapped” in July was arrested Tuesday after investigators with the Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office said they saw “significant improvements” in the boy's health since he has been apart from his mother.
Danielle Headley, 27, was charged with child abuse and child neglect.
Warrants state that the abuse and neglect occurred between Aug. 23, 2011 and July 8, 2015.
Headley's lawyer, Don Smith, said in July that her four children were taken into the state Department of Social Services custody due to possible abuse.
Smith said the sick child had a fatty acid deficiency. The child's doctors, however, asked Spartanburg County deputies to investigate a case of medical child abuse involving the child's mother, according to an investigative report.
"There's not been one piece of evidence of her doing to the child," Smith said.
The report said the mother was suspected of Munchausen by Proxy, a syndrome in which a parent or caregiver creates or exaggerates a child's symptoms and sicknesses.
In a supplemental investigative report filed in October, an investigator noted the four-year-old's health had greatly improved since July.
Investigators said the boy had been taken off prescription medications, had a feeding tube removed, and had been eating regular foods, gained weight, and was “running around and functioning like a four-year-old.”
Headley was arrested Tuesday and released Wednesday from the Spartanburg County Detention Center on bond.
Headley faces up to 30 years in prison if she's convicted. Her lawyer said he plans to fight all the charges and is planning to get her other children returned to her custody as early as next week.
There have been no charges filed against Headley on behalf of her three other children who also remain in foster care.
YWCA, CAPS partner to raise awareness for link between domestic violence, child abuse and neglect
The groups are teaming up for Domestic Violence Awareness Month and tying purple ribbons around the necks of local Elk Art statues
by Andrew Hershberger
If you see purple ribbons around elk in October, keep in mind it's for a good cause.
YWCA North Central Indiana and CAPS are partnering for October — Domestic Violence Awareness Month — to tie purple ribbons around the necks of as many Elk Art on Parade statues around Elkhart County as we can. The purple ribbon is the symbol for domestic violence awareness, and the Elk Art on Parade statues are a symbol of our community's strength against child abuse.
Studies have shown a definite link between domestic violence and an increased likelihood of child abuse in a household. More than 3 million children witness a domestic violence event each year. Children who live in homes where there is domestic violence also suffer abuse or neglect at high rates (30 to 60 percent).
Even in situations where a child is not directly abused or neglected, being witness to domestic violence is acknowledged as an ACE — an adverse childhood experience — that many studies have shown increases the likelihood of physical and mental health problems later in life. As well, children who are exposed to violence in the home often imitate the behavior, acting violently toward other children and exhibiting violent behaviors as they grow up.
Exact statistics on domestic violence are difficult to come by because so many incidents go unreported for myriad reasons. In many cases, victims fear what their attackers would do to them if they found out they had been reported. Sometimes victims are dependent on their attackers financially and feel trapped in the cycle of violence. When children are present, these fears and dependencies can be even greater.
YWCA North Central Indiana provides services to women in crisis through its economic empowerment, domestic violence counseling and sexual abuse counseling programs.
We and the YWCA North Central Indiana are sharing photos of the Elk Art statues with ribbons on them as we get them. If you have any photos you would like to share, tag your posts or tweets with #ElkAgainstViolence.
If you have an Elk Art on Parade statue at your business that you would like to have a ribbon tied around, please email me at email@example.com and we will arrange for it.
Child sexual abuse: How child molesters like Josh Duggar groom victims
by Marilisa Sachteleben
With "19 Kids and Counting" star Josh Duggar in rehab for sexually molesting his sisters, attention turns to child sexual abuse prevention. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Usually, DV usually refers to physical abuse, but there other faces: sexually exploited children. Stats show that 1 child in 10 is sexually molested by age 18 said Darkness to Light. And 3 in 4 of those children were abused by someone they knew well in places they trust (home, relative's home, school, church). So the stereotypical stranger molesting in strange places is far less common.
But parents have two important tools in protecting their children: shared experience and knowledge. Predators are known for "grooming" children for sexual abuse. Here's how child molesters like Josh Duggar groom victims. The abuser singles her out for attention or presents. Abusers treat the child older than he is. This may flatter the child at first. Abusers try to be alone with the victim and isolate them from others. Child molesters cross touch boundaries. They "accidentally" bump the child in private areas or are excessively affectionate physically. If touch looks wrong to you, it probably is. Abusers try to fill needs or parental roles. An abuser encourages confidences that he promises not to tell. She puts the child to bed, takes her to the bathroom or sleeps with her.
It's scary to imagine that abusers ready their targeted victims. But it's also an important weapon against sex abuse. By know the warning signs, parents may catch a predator before he or she can hurt their child. Of if the unthinkable does happen and the child is molested, parents can end it, get help and start the family toward healing more quickly.
The most important thing is that the parents acknowledge abuse. Keeping it secret is the worst possible thing parents can do. Hiding it helps the abuse continue. Anonymity gives the abuser immunity. Parents must respect the child's need for privacy and use discretion in who to tell. They need to be sensitive to the child's comfort level in talking about it. Children must be heard, believed and validated. They need to know that mom and dad will protect them. He needs to know he is not alone.
Why the Victims of Bill Cosby Are My Heroes
by Marci Hamilton
Dozens of women have now come forth in the public square to point a finger at Bill Cosby for drugging and raping them. Their stories are consistent, consistent, consistent, and but for the statutes of limitations (SOLs), he would be facing jail in a series of states.
The SOLs Are a Major Barrier to Justice, and Survivors Are Speaking Up Regardless
The truth is that the SOLs for child and adult rape in the relevant states so far are posing a formidable barrier to justice. It is heartening to watch feminist lawyer Gloria Allred go after Cosby hammer and tongs with the few cases that can be filed under some theory, even if it's defamation. She is now demanding a second deposition in a California case involving a woman who says he raped her at the Playboy mansion when she was 15 years old. There likely would be more cases in California involving underage girls at the Playboy Mansion, but Gov. Jerry Brown in his infinite wisdom vetoed a bill reviving the civil SOLs at the behest of the Catholic bishops. (Once again the bishops succeed in blocking access to justice for all child rape victims, not just the victims of their priests.)
Of course, I am a proponent of eliminating the SOLs for child sex abuse, as I discuss here and here, and I am very grateful to these women for their forceful showing of how deficient the SOLs are for adult and child rape. The level of public understanding of the tragedy of short SOLs for rape has increased dramatically, and these survivors are doing a public service by speaking up and uniting in public.
Cosby's Survivors Are Reminding Us “Nice Guys” Can Be Rapists
But there is another reason we should all be eternally grateful to them: Cosby is an icon, and like so many of the men who sexually abuse and assault women or children, he seems like such a great guy on the outside.
Let's just put it right on the table: Bill Cosby has been a brilliant comedian. And was he prolific. He started as a standup comic who then added an animated comedy show, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, to his credits, which ran from 1972-85. The Cosby Show aired from 1984-92 and was a top-rated show its entire tenure. He also produced the spin-off A Different World , 1987-93, which was one of the top four shows its first four seasons. Reruns also have been successful. Now cable media faces the choice of permanently shelving his very successful shows due to the scandal or waiting to see if the “scandal dies down.”
Thank you to Cosby's victims, because now big media has to debate what to do about a serial rapist in its libraries. It can calculate just how much money it thinks it can make with the discounted scandal value. Or it can choose a different path, such as not promoting shows starring a rapist. We saw what the media did with the very credible allegations against Woody Allen: cover it and then go back to portraying him as a genius and an icon. That was “only” one victim. How does the calculus change when it's over 50 victims? Just curious.
And thank you because no one can avoid this story about this mega-star, which means decision makers like judges and lawmakers are learning that they cannot trust their instincts regarding who is a rapist. Rather, they must attend to facts, and the voices of those who were raped.
We owe these survivors an even greater debt of gratitude because the American public is being forced to hold two dissonant thoughts in mind at the same time: Bill Cosby is a brilliant comedian who has made me laugh many times and a serial rapist. That is not easy, but it is a critical lesson on the way to unmasking our hidden predators, because they are often the ones we love and trust. As former FBI child sex abuse expert Kenneth Lanning instructed, they are often the “nice” guys.
It is their “nice guy” quality that makes them hard to keep away from children and vulnerable women (like ones who are drugged). The victims live alone with their secret humiliation and shame, and in the Cosby cases, with genuine mystery over how far the rape went, until one or more point to the perpetrator. When they stand up en masse , as many of Cosby's victims now have, it is irrational to fight their stories. Rather, we must accept that Cosby has two faces, and one is horrific.
The same is true for too many fathers, uncles, brothers, priests, bishops, ministers, rabbis, imams, elders, prophets, Boy Scout leaders, Big Brothers, teachers and coaches, among others. (Yes, women can be abusers, too, but the vast majority are in fact male.) In this society of image, branding, and relentless coverage of celebrity, we too often mistake the label for the person.
Thank you to Cosby's brave survivors for reinforcing the need to look beyond the label, regardless of the brand, to see the truth.
New York teen dies after hours-long beating at church
by Laila Kearney
A New York couple was charged with manslaughter in the death of their 19-year-old son after allegedly beating him for hours during a family counseling session inside the "sanctuary room" of an upstate Christian church, police said on Wednesday.
The victim's parents, Bruce Leonard, 65, and Deborah Leonard, 59, were arraigned on Tuesday and pleaded not guilty. They were being held in lieu of $100,000 bail each.
In addition, four of the couple's fellow parishioners were charged with assaulting the teenager's younger brother on Sunday at the Word of Life Church in Chadwicks, New York, about 50 miles (80 km) east of Syracuse.
"Both brothers were continually subjected to physical punishment over the course of several hours in the hopes that each would confess to prior sins and ask for forgiveness," Michael Inserra, chief of the New Hartford Police, said at a news conference.
Reuters was unable to reach representatives for the accused or the church.
The older brother, Lucas Leonard, died on Monday afternoon after being driven to a hospital by family members, who falsely told doctors the teenager had suffered a gunshot wound, police said. Leonard's injuries were consistent with blunt force trauma to his torso and extremities, police said.
New Hartford police and the New York State Police said they launched a joint investigation after being notified about the suspicious death.
Through interviews with church members, police said they learned that Leonard's 17-year-old brother, Christopher, had also been severely beaten during the counseling session. The sessions are held after church services and are typically led by a pastor or other church member, Inserra said.
Police sent tactical teams some time between Monday afternoon and Tuesday to the three-story, red brick church, where they eventually located Christopher on the second floor.
Christopher was being treated in an area hospital for blunt force trauma to his body and extremities and was in serious condition.
Sarah Ferguson, 33, the victims' sister, and fellow church members Linda Morey, 54, David Morey, 26, and Joseph Irwin, 26, were arrested on charges of assault in the second degree. They were being held in lieu of $50,000 each.
Several children were removed from the church and turned over to Oneida County Child Protective Services.
Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara said there was not enough evidence to charge the couple with murder.
Additional charges and arrests were pending, police said.
Investigators disclosed little about the Word of Life Church, which describes itself on the front of its parish simply as a Christian church.
Part of the family: Abuse survivors need special care, Australian says
by Carol Giatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As the Synod of Bishops on the family discussed ways to shepherd the Catholic flock, one participant was urging extra special care for Catholics who are either too angry, disillusioned or afraid to return to the fold because of clerical sexual abuse.
Abuse by clergy in Australia has led to a crisis of faith and a loss of trust in the church's moral authority for "a very large number of people," said Maria Harries, who is a member of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council of the Australian Catholic Bishop's Conference and is an observer at the synod.
A significant number of people no longer go to church "because of the abuse and we have to work out ways to deal with that," she told Catholic News Service Oct. 9.
Because many survivors come forward in their 50s and 60s, their trauma not only rocks their older parents or spouses, but also their children and grandchildren, passing on shock waves to multiple generations and extended families and friends, she said.
"So how do you address now a community of pain, a community of agony and a community of trauma?" she asked.
The fallout also extends to religious congregations that have been accused of doing nothing or not enough to address abuse.
The men and women religious who have "always lived good lives and who feel terribly tainted and embarrassed and traumatized by what their brothers have done" are also shattered or disoriented, she said. "Their emotional distress is quite palpable," making them "another set of victims" that needs recognition and a pastoral response.
With 40 years of experience helping those who serve people affected by abuse, mental illness and other disadvantages, Harries said she wants her presence and voice at the synod to represent the "many thousands of people who find it hard to belong to the church."
While the synod fathers want to encourage and promote families who are living out their Christian faith, Harries said there is also "a deep awareness of the pastoral needs of those who haven't managed to achieve perfection or even near perfection."
"What I see is the healing, the total healing that occurs when people care deeply and have no intention to do anything other than to love. I see the healing in that. And that gives great joy," she said.
The Christian faith can offer real help to people who have suffered abuse or other injustices, she said, because it is built on deep respect for and the protection of human life and dignity. Acknowledging the "inadequacies of the human condition" also offers "a great foundation for acknowledging pain," sin and the need to walk life's journey together "for a very long time."
Harries said that many people affected by abuse that she works with "don't ever want to set foot in a church again." However, there are many others who experience the church as "a lifeguard, a beacon and a traveling companion all their lives."
She said the church has not set up enough services and care for survivors of abuse. It's not clear how to ensure quality and effective services worldwide, she said, but some kind of "loose template" needs to be offered with best practices and tools that can be adapted for other cultural contexts.
One way the universal church is offering some general guidance is through the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which Pope Francis established in December 2013.
Made up of 17 members from five continents with direct experience and expertise, this papal "think tank" advises the pope and bishops' conferences with workshops and seminars.
Commission members, who met Oct. 9-11 on the sidelines of the synod, are increasingly becoming a resource for local churches worldwide for developing effective programs, according to a press briefing Oct. 12.
One member, Gabriel Dy-Liacco, a psychotherapist and pastoral counselor, said the bishops have to lead the way with "personal conviction" and pool the national conference's resources to help local dioceses. But then it takes the laypeople who work in the needed fields of policy, law enforcement, judicial systems, social services, education and pastoral outreach to make it work, he added.
For example, in the Philippines, where Dy-Liacco was born and lives, the church led the fight against corruption by spreading the battle cry down to the families, educating them and urging them to take responsibility and action.
Another member, Kathleen McCormack, told CNS that "anybody can write a policy, but it's how it is taken up and how people understand it and how they own it as a community" that spells success or failure.
McCormack, who spent decades helping Australia's dioceses provide essential social services and counseling, said families and children need to learn a "culture of safety" -- that is, what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior between an adult, including a family member, and child, and teaching the child to go for help when there are doubts or concerns.
She said the church must acknowledge abuse exists, admit when it did occur with its members, always be understanding of victims and "open its arms to other people that come forward" with accusations.
Harries said that when it comes to abuse and broader problems facing the family, what people need is not a question of "tampering with doctrine," but rather deeply understanding the lived experiences of "mere mortals."
"There are many successful people who have made the grade, almost to sainthood perhaps, but there are many more who Jesus would know, who we all need to walk with and we not only represent (them) we are them," she said. "We are the deeply flawed people who need to work together."
Understanding domestic violence
by Jill Campbell -- Family Advocacy Program
Survivors of domestic violence are everywhere. What was once seen as "OK," is now recognized as truly damaging. We all have different opinions about what domestic violence is. It's important to know what the true definition is and how it can affect us and those around us. What we need to be able to ask is, "Did the way we were raised and punished have lasting negative effects on us as adults and how we choose to parent?"
We can define domestic violence as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship used by one partner to gain or maintain control over an intimate partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats that influence another person.
Child abuse is another type of domestic violence. It can be defined similarly as when a parent or caregiver, whether through action or failing to act, causes injury, death, emotional harm or risk of serious harm to a child. There are many forms of child maltreatment, including neglect and physical, sexual or emotional abuse.
I would like to offer some information regarding child abuse. One thing to remember is, even if a child is not physically harmed, it is abuse for a child to watch another family member be abused and for a child to watch parental fights.
Looking at the definition for child abuse can give us some insight. If we look at our past, were we ever truly afraid of our parents or caregivers? That kind of fear is emotional abuse. One can make an argument for commanding respect from a child. Fear is very different from respect. Looking at the outcomes, fearful children will sometimes hide themselves and many learn to lie in order to keep from getting punished. Children who trust their caregiver and learn to respect and understand the difference of right from wrong have a very different view of life.
Children who are not afraid can be learning how to be a good citizen. Understanding why a behavior is not acceptable hopefully leads to an individual not participating in that behavior. If they can be redirected to appropriate behavior, they have a new and better alternative.
This is not to say that spanking equals domestic violence. What we here at the Family Advocacy Program want to offer is more options for parents. We want to give parents more tools in their toolbox. Learning some of the many ways to motivate and teach children right from wrong can make families happier and less stressed.
Emotional abuse in childhood as harmful as violence or neglect
by Ashley Welch
Though abusive words don't leave physical scars, they may have the same lasting mental health effects as violence, new research finds.
According to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, emotional abuse can be just as damaging as other forms of child abuse, including violence and neglect.
"Although people assume physical abuse is more harmful than other types of abuse, we found that they are associated with similar consequences," study author David Vachon, a professor in the Department of Psychology at McGill University, said in a statement. "These consequences are wide-ranging and include everything from anxiety and depression to rule-breaking and aggression."
Emotional abuse, including ridicule, intimidation, rejection and humiliation, is experienced by about one third of children worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.
The study authors say their findings could have implications for how different forms of child abuse are recognized and treated.
The researchers analyzed data on almost 2,300 racially and ethnically diverse children aged 5 to 13 who attended a summer research camp designed for low-income kids from 1986 to 2012. About half of the boys and girls who attended the camp had a well-documented history of maltreatment.
At the end of each summer, researchers collected reports from counselors, peer ratings of behavior and child self-reports that were used to assess psychiatric and behavioral problems. If children attended the camp for multiple years, only the information from their first year of attendance was used in the analysis.
The researchers questioned common assumptions about child abuse, including the belief that each type of abuse has specific health effects and the belief that abuse has different consequences for boys and girls of different races.
"Many people have the assumption that physical abuse equals physical aggression and emotional abuse equals anxiety and depression," Katherine Lamparyk, a pediatric psychologist at the Center for Pediatric Behavioral Health at Cleveland Clinic Children's, told CBS News. "But what the study found is that that's not the case at all. Physical abuse can lead to depression just as emotional abuse can lead to physical aggression."
Lamparyk, who was not involved in the study, said these findings could result in a paradigm shift in how treatment for child abuse is approached.
"I think that we have to be a little more broad in our thinking," she said. "We need to look at each individual child and have treatment focusing on the individual and not have the assumption that because you have this specific type of abuse it means that you're going to have these problems. But we need to say that because you've suffered any of these types of abuse, you're likely to have more difficulty and we need to better assess what that might be."
Vachon told CBS News that "another implication is that awareness, prevention, and intervention strategies should not ignore the considerable harms associated with emotional abuse, the most common type of maltreatment."
Lamparyk said future research should look at the cumulative effects of abuse. "There's been other research that has found that if you have two types of abuse then it's going to be more problematic than one type," she said. "So I think it'd be interesting to see how that plays into it especially now that we know we can count emotional abuse as having the same consequences as physical abuse and neglect."
Vachon also suggested looking at whether abuse changes personality itself.
"My interest in this area is to understand how maltreatment changes the way in which children typically think, feel and behave," he said. How do they view themselves, others and the world? What kinds of emotions do they experience? What happens to their confidence and self-worth? Do they trust others? How do they protect themselves from future risk? If there are early changes in thinking, feeling and behaving, it is no surprise that some maltreated children experience mental illness further down the road."
"Ultimately, treatment may be more effective if it targets these immediate changes in personality and the neurobiological events that accompany them," he said.
2 men plead no contest to child abuse in death of 2-month-old Bellevue girl
by Emily Nohr
When Jasmine Thompson was born at the Bellevue Medical Center a year ago, authorities say, methamphetamine was found in her system.
Just two months later she was pronounced dead at the same hospital, having been taken from a dirty home with a moldy bassinet, authorities said.
On Wednesday, two men who lived with and cared for baby Jasmine and three other children accepted plea deals in the case.
Sarpy County Court Judge Robert Wester found Aaron Thompson, 28, and Michael Degarmo, 36, guilty after they pleaded no contest to one count each of negligent child abuse, a misdemeanor.
In exchange, the Sarpy County Attorney's Office dropped three counts of misdemeanor child abuse against each defendant. Thompson, the father of at least two children involved in the case, also must cooperate with the juvenile court.
Chief Deputy County Attorney Tricia Freeman said it's “hard to define what justice looks like for Jasmine.” The men face up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine at their sentencing in December.
“As a system,” she said, “there were so many things wrong,” from a Nebraska Families Collaborative worker who “didn't do his job” to a lack of supervision by the adults in the home.
Bellevue Police Department officers went to 11810 S. 34th St. in Bellevue on Dec. 21 in response to a call about a baby not breathing.
Jasmine, who was made a ward of the state within a day of her birth, was pronounced dead at the Bellevue Medical Center. The cause of her death, however, was inconclusive.
At the house, Freeman said, authorities encountered a strong odor of feces, smeared feces on the walls and a nearly impassable basement. The only baby bottle found at the house contained what “smelled like cheese” and appeared to have sat out for a long period of time, she said.
Three other children — ages 4, 2 and 18 months — were removed from the house, Freeman said. One child had a bad infection around a feeding tube, while the other two had severe diaper rashes, she said.
On Dec. 18, just days before Jasmine's death, a worker from the Nebraska Families Collaborative had visited the house. The collaborative provides case management services for child welfare families.
A third adult who lived at the house, Kristin E. Lary, 30, in June pleaded guilty to one count of felony possession of a controlled substance and four counts of misdemeanor child abuse.
Lary is working through drug court. Court records show she violated the rules of the program and was ordered to serve five days in the Sarpy County Jail between Sept. 28 and Oct. 2.
Freeman said she didn't object to probation for Thompson or Degarmo.
Freeman said the plea makes the men stand convicted, and through probation the court can impose everything from drug testing to community service.
“You have to look at the offender and look long term,” she said.
KCH Developing Program to Help Kentucky Pediatricians Handle Cases of Child Abuse
by Elizabeth Adams
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Pediatricians routinely examine bangs, bruises and bone fractures — the standard acute injuries resulting from normal childhood activity.
But in rare cases, a pediatrician must also question whether a child's injury was the consequence of an accident or a sign of physical abuse or maltreatment. When a caregiver's explanation isn't consistent with the medical evidence or a child informs a provider of mistreatment, the pediatrician grapples with either reporting their suspicion or remaining silent.
To help Kentucky pediatricians navigate these sensitive situations, Kentucky Children's Hospital (KCH) hired its first pediatric specialist in child abuse pediatrics, a subspecialty of pediatrics concerned with examining medical evidence to investigate instances of child abuse or maltreatment. Dr. Christina Howard brings an elevated level of expertise in forensic medicine to KCH after completing a fellowship program with Dr. Melissa Currie at the University of Louisville. Her arrival at KCH signifies the establishment of the first pediatric forensic medicine program to serve Central and Eastern Kentucky. In addition to Howard, Dr. Jacqueline Sugarman, also a board-certified child abuse pediatrician and who has done significant work with the Lexington Child Advocacy Center, and KCH pediatrician Dr. Jaime Pittenger, who has a special interest in child abuse pediatrics, will assist with the program.
Howard works across disciplines and departments at UK HealthCare to advise on cases where medical evidence suggests the possibility of physical or sexual abuse to a child. Acting as a neutral expert, she collects and delivers medical information to several entities involved in a child's welfare, including representatives of the criminal justice system, law enforcement and child protective services when appropriate. In addition, she consults with pediatric providers across Central Kentucky to assist with the process of investigating and reporting cases of child abuse or neglect.
“It's hard for pediatricians because they have relationships with families,” Howard said. “It's difficult to even consider abuse when you are close with a family; they are in a tough position.”
As part of her fellowship training, Howard completed a variety of multidisciplinary rotations both inside and outside the medical field. In addition to training with neurosurgeons and orthopedists, she spent time with members of the judicial system, including court advocates and state attorneys. In addition to working on specific cases, Howard holds a legislative role, pushing for policies designed to prevent and detect cases of child abuse. She advocates with Kosair Charities Face It Campaign to support legislation that will train teachers to identify signs of physical abuse in their students and know how to act to do if they have a concern of abuse.
Every year in the U.S., an estimated two million cases of child abuse are reported to child protective services. According to the Kentucky Department for Community Based Services Child Abuse and Neglect Annual Report of Child Fatalities and Near Fatalities for the 2015 fiscal year, 74 percent of children who died from abuse or neglect were under the age of 2. Howard and her colleagues are frequently involved in cases that deal with children under the age of 4 who are incapable of reporting how an injury occurred, as well as children up to 18 years of age. They are available to help when there are concerns in either physical abuse or sexual abuse.
Howard emphasized the purpose of forensic medicine is to protect children. She said medical evidence could also be useful for absolving a family member or caregiver of any wrongdoing.
“Abuse is not something we want to miss, but it is also just as important not to call something abuse when it is not,” she said.
“We call it forensics because we look at the whole picture. We don't just look at an ear bruise and say that's diagnostic — we take everything into consideration.”
Howard can be reached at 859-218-6727 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elizabeth Smart inspires hope for sex trafficking victims
by Kendra Conion
Kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart is reliving her nightmare to help other sex trafficking victims.
"You're being raped multiple times a day. I was raped multiple times a day. They're being enslaved. I was certainly enslaved," says Smart.
Smart survived nine months of torture. She had been just 14 years old when she was snatched from her bedroom and held captive in 2002.
Thirteen years later, other victims are living that nightmare. Just this week, the FBI rescued 149 underage sex slaves, six in the Bay area.
Smart spoke to a group in Sarasota Wednesday night raising money and awareness for Selah Freedom, a local victim trafficking support group in Sarasota.
Smart sat down one-on-one with 10 News to talk about her mission to bring hope to other survivors.
"I need to share my story, so the survivors know they're not alone. They don't need to be embarrassed, because they've been raped," Smart tells 10 News.
Smart says her captors once stole her hope. At just 14 years old, she was chained up, kept naked, made to watch her kidnappers have sex, and raped daily for nine months, until she was rescued.
"Everything that I had always abhorred had just happened to me. I felt like my value and my self-worth had just gone out the window," Smart says.
Now 27 and married with a daughter, Smart tells her tale of torture to help sex trafficking victims learn there's life beyond rock bottom.
"Even though they've been kidnapped or raped or trafficked, that doesn't need to define who they are," Smart says.
Smart says seeing a major FBI bust this week shows so many children are being enslaved across the country. Agents took down 153 traffickers and saved 149 victims, including six kids in the Bay area.
"What they are experiencing is worse than what I experienced, because I have a family to go back home to. I have a family that never gave up on me that never stopped loving me, so many of them don't have that. That's why they need all of our support. I'm so much more than just my kidnapping," Smart says.
She's found the strength to now fight for survivors and those victims still waiting to be rescued.
"I was not sold out to other predators, which I am so thankful for. Which helps me realize how blessed I truly am and just how much more of these victims the survivors need our help and our attention," says Smart.
Selah Freedom also teaches young girls how to avoid being manipulated.
Anti-Human Trafficking training could extend to Austin City staff
by Robert Maxwell
AUSTIN– City Council will consider a resolution this week that could train more City staff to recognize suspected victims of sex or labor trafficking, KXAN has learned. It's partly a bid to quell a tide of domestic sex slavery where vulnerable Texas children can be brought to major special events around Austin to be sold for sex.
Thursday morning, Austin City Council Member Ellen Troxclair will lead an effort to bring awareness to the issue at a news conference that is to include Mayor Steve Adler, Police Chief Art Acevedo and members of various anti-slavery groups.
“With large events, they sometimes drive a culture that is susceptible to human trafficking. I think it's important that the City staff and those involved in planning organizing, these events – including our public safety personnel are… aware of the possibility that this may be going on around them,” says Troxclair.
The draft resolution obtained by KXAN proposes:
The City recognizes human trafficking is a human rights concern impacting Austin residents, businesses, and communities
The City declares freedom from human trafficking is a fundamental human right
The City promotes these principles and values through its policies, and continues to secure this human right on behalf of its residents
It goes on to propose Council “vote to direct the City Manager to appoint a liaison to local groups that…are dedicated to collaborating with the City and others to achieve the shared goal of ending human trafficking in Austin; to incorporate information about preventing, identifying, and responding to human trafficking into existing training for City employees as may be appropriate.”
The resolution's authors see that staff training could extend for example, to parks or public works personnel who work at or around the annual Austin City Limits music festival or the Code and Fire Inspectors who work South by Southwest festival or City staff who are involved with events around the annual Formula One races.
Already many of the city's sworn law enforcement staff have gone through human trafficking training as part of their continuing professional education.
Since 2011, TCOLE has offered Texas peace officers two related courses. Each was revised in 2013. The first is four hours of classroom time, the second, up to 16 hours.
Commercial sex trafficking statistics
Four out of five counties with populations above 250,000 including Travis County, report that human trafficking is a problem while one in two counties of the same size report that human trafficking arrests are increasing, according to the U.S. National Association of Counties.
One in every 11 cases of human trafficking reported to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center originated in Texas in 2014.
KXAN has reported extensively on the sobering subject, in 2014 profiling a Travis County teen who ran away from home and into the hands of men who allegedly drugged her and held her for weeks.
Wednesday, in San Antonio the FBI reported the recent arrest of one pimp and four underage commercial sex victims. It was part of the ninth annual nationwide Operation Cross Country.
In all, 149 underage trafficking victims were recovered and 153 pimps were arrested. The national effort is spearheaded by the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, along with state and local law enforcement partners across the country. The youngest victim in this year's operation was 12 years old. Of the 149 victims recovered, three of those minors were transgender, and three were males, according to a release.
A decade of reaching out to local survivors
It's been more than a decade since the formation of the Central Texas Coalition Against Human Trafficking in 2004. It coordinates services for victims of trafficking, prosecutes cases of human trafficking, and raises awareness of the issue.
Now, the new Council resolution comes with a formal call to develop plans and policies to prevent and reduce human trafficking related to all City tourism initiatives and City-sponsored events.
The idea first came to Council Member Troxclair's attention in February when the five-year old Austin-based group Allies Against Slavery began promoting a plan to create a network of “slave-free” cities around America.
“There hasn't been a coordinated effort from the City… I think (in the near future) the hope is we can say definitively that we are free from human trafficking in Austin and Travis County, Troxclair says.”
A petition link on the non-profit's website invites people to sign on so “traffickers can't exploit the vulnerable and where survivors can truly heal.”
This weekend, the group is promoting an anti-slavery march downtown. In the fall of 2013, the group staged an anti-slavery summit in Austin.
In 2014, the Texas Attorney General's Office published a Guide to help teachers recognize children being trafficked. It's a valuable resource for parents, too.
Big events like furniture market often a magnet for sex trafficking
A temporary explosion in High Point's population during the furniture market drives an increased demand for sex services, advocates say, and they want visitors to understand that prostitution is not necessarily a victimless crime.
by Jordon Green
Beginning Saturday and running through Oct. 22, an estimated 75,000 people will flock to High Point from around the world to buy, sell and market furniture, accessories and design services.
The twice-annual market is the largest furnishings industry trade show in the world. A 2013 study by the Duke Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness found that the furniture market generates $5.4 billion in economic activity in the 75-mile radius around High Point — a figure equivalent to 1.3 percent of the total gross state product of North Carolina.
While the jobs, receipts by hotels, opportunities for catering companies and laundry services, and tax revenue for local governments are invaluable, there's a dark side to any temporary population boom: an increased demand for commercial sex services that often, unbeknownst to the buyer, can involve coercive employment practices.
“The statistics show that any time there is a large gathering of people and they are traveling to another place for a convention, or for the Super Bowl, victims of sex trafficking are usually brought in,” Sandra Johnson said. Johnson is the executive director of Triad Ladder of Hope, a faith-based organization dedicated to eradicating human trafficking.
“You have men coming in by themselves — and men are not the only ones who buy sex; women do, too,” Johnson said. “People are out of town and they're looking for a good time, and they're there for entertainment. I don't know if they feel like they're more free to do stuff that they wouldn't normally do.”
Data on sex trafficking related to the furniture market and even anecdotal information is hard to come by, but it's clear that there is some level of sex work associated with the market, said Rachel Parker, the anti-human trafficking program manager at World Relief High Point. She and a colleague attended the furniture market a couple years ago and talked to participants to get an understanding of how prostitution comes into play.
“Most of my understanding is that escort services are provided at parties, and hookups happen at those parties,” she said. “You have business people coming from all over the world. If you're coming to wheel and deal with a lot of money, and a lot of alcohol is available, then that's something that's available, too.”
The High Point Market Authority is the official sponsor and organizer of the market, and International Market Centers, the largest showroom operator, also declined to comment for this story.
As a demand driver for commercial sex services, the furniture market is no different than other large-scale events in the Triad, such as the ACC men's basketball tournament or mega-selling concerts.
“In other areas of the Triad, you'll see some of the hotels hopping with young girls,” Parker said.
Triad Ladder of Hope coordinates a year-round effort to distribute soap to hotels along interstate highways. A slip of paper with a hotline that victims of sex trafficking can call for help is placed on the back of each bar, Johnson said, adding that some hotels agree to take the soap and others don't.
Officers with the Greensboro Police Department receive training to identify victims of sex trafficking, spokesperson Susan Danielsen said. The Greensboro Police Department's jurisdiction includes the Interstate 40 corridor near Piedmont Triad International Airport, where a number of hotels that house visitors to the furniture market are located. Patrol officers or members of the vice section are often the first to come in contact with those involved in human trafficking, whether they might be victims or perpetrators. Considering that human trafficking is a federal crime, officers typically refer the cases to the US Department of Homeland Security.
“We always have more officers when these large-scale events are in town,” Danielsen said. “We know that additional people in our area, especially if they're here for a short period of time, have a potential to bring crime. It's not just sex crimes; it's also drugs. It's understandable that there is the potential for these types of crimes to be on the increase because you have more people.”
Calls to the High Point Police Department and Guilford County Sheriff's Office were not returned for this story.
Parker said many buyers believe that commercially transacted sex is consensual. Sometimes it is, but not always.
“If they're under the age of 18, they're understood to be a human trafficking victim,” Parker said. “The human brain doesn't fully develop until age 25.”
Anyone under 18 is too young to post a listing on Backpage, a website that provides a forum for adult services listings, and too young to qualify for a credit card or sign a contract for a phone. Young sex workers also typically rely on adult drivers for transportation to locations where they meet clients for liaisons, Parker said.
“You think this might be a great opportunity, but that person [the pimp] has a weapon,” Parker said. “There's a network that includes a driver. You might be on good terms with everybody. You joke, ‘I wouldn't mess with that person,' but you know that if you cross him you might get beat up. You know that you have limited resources.”
Among the signs of human trafficking exhibited by victims are having few or no personal possessions, lack of familiarity with surroundings and a fearful or anxious disposition, according to the anti-human trafficking organization Polaris.
“Helping our population understand the different pieces of coercion and how this could be perpetrated in our community and looking for ways to prevent it — that's the biggest piece,” Parker said.
Uber will issue Amber alerts to drivers in vicinity of abducted children
by James Vincent
Uber is leveraging its network of drivers in the US to help law enforcement track down abducted children. The app is partnering with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) to issue AMBER alerts to its drivers — notifying them about public about children in danger in their nearby area. These time-sensitive alerts, which are also distributed via radio and television, have led to the recovery of 772 children since 1996. Uber previously piloted the system in Colorado earlier this year, and is now expanding it nationwide
"The AMBER Alert program's success is built on the ability to reach the right people at the right time with these potentially life-saving messages," said NCMEC's direct of special programs, Robert Hoever, in a press statement. "Uber's presence in communities all across the country will be an incredible asset and we are proud to team up with Uber to increase the reach of the AMBER Alert program and help bring more missing children home safely."
The NCMEC has previously partnered with navigation app Waze to send AMBER alerts to its drivers, notifying them of the model, make, and registration of a car in which an abducted child might be traveling. Waze said at the time that its drivers would only be shown the maximum of one alert per week, with the message only appearing if the car is at a standstill. Uber did not disclose any similar details about its implementation of alerts, but said that the program would be launching in more than 180 cities in the US starting today.
Trafficking sting saves 149 exploited children
Over 150 pimps arrested in nationwide sweep 'Operation Cross Country'
by Scott Johnson
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A nationwide sweep called Operation Cross Country IX recovered 149 sexually exploited children, the youngest of whom was 12, including one from the Jacksonville area, and led to the arrests of more than 150 pimps and other individuals.
The FBI partnered with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children for the operation, which was conducted in 135 cities.
In Jacksonville, FBI officials announced 25 arrests and one juvenile recovery as part of the takedown, which was a joint effort with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, Clay County Sheriff's Office, Nassau County Sheriff's Office and Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The vast majority of the children recovered in this operation were girls. The FBI says three were boys and three were transgendered. Most of the children have been given resources for basic needs like food clothing and shelter. Now the FBI is working with different police and private agencies to get additional support for the children.
Kristin Keen runs a group called Rethreaded that works to combat the child sex trade. She hopes this operation brings awareness to what officials are calling a rampant, ongoing problem.
“This is an amazing step forward for our country. I think it'll raise awareness. I'm super proud of our law enforcement and the steps they're taking to combat this. I know our next step is to take care of all these survivors, make sure they have everything they need,” Keen said. “I think sometimes people are in denial that it happens because it's such a horrible crime. I think people have a hard time believing it happened in their own neighborhood, in their own city.”
More than 500 law enforcement officials took part in sting operations in hotels, casinos, truck stops and other areas frequented by pimps, prostitutes and their customers.
The names of the people arrested were not immediately released.
“Human trafficking is a monstrous and devastating crime that steals lives and degrades our nation,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “As a result of the FBI's outstanding coordination and exemplary efforts alongside state and local partners during Operation Cross Country, more children will sleep safely tonight, and more wrongdoers will face the judgment of our criminal justice system.”
Multiple groups around the Jacksonville area are continually fighting against the child sex trade including project SOS, which works with parents and children to make healthy choices.
Dr. Pam Mullarkey Robbins said the children who wind up in the sex trade typically have very minimal interaction with their parents.
“They usually go after children who do not have parents involved in their lives. They may not have a dad either and it's usually a male that starts this. Sometimes they'll pretend they're in love and buy her gifts and so forth and say I'm out of money, and would you mind doing something for one night because I'm out of money and I can't pay my bills. It's all manipulation and control,” Robbins said.
Since its creation in 2003, the Innocence Lost program, a joint effort between the FBI, Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, has resulted in the identification and recovery of approximately 4,800 sexually exploited children.
Prosecutors have obtained more than 2,000 convictions of pimps and others associated with these trafficking crimes, including at least 15 cases that have resulted in life sentences.
Big Rapids Public Safety Hosts Child Abduction Training
by Lindsey Mukomel
Multiple law enforcement agencies worked together during a child abduction training today.
The Big Rapids Department of Public Safety spent nine months developing the training.
Agencies taking part in the Big Rapids training exercise include Big Rapids Police, the Mecosta County Sheriff's Department, Clare County Sheriff and Michigan State Police.
They searched around Brookside Elementary on foot and horseback as if a student never made it to class.
Detective Brian Miller says it's important to have agencies working together and training for a case like this.
"We had an incident a couple years ago and although we had a good resolution I felt that we needed to have something more concrete into place," says Big Rapids Detective Brian Miller.
Another important part of investigating a missing child case is getting information out to the public as quick as possible and that's where news stations like Northern Michigan's News Leader come in. Media also took part in today's drill.
"The media is a huge part of a child that goes missing," says Miller.
As they started the investigation, liaisons were sent to talk to the media, just like they would if we were dealing with a real missing child case.
Today's drill didn't end with handcuffs but the practice makes law enforcement ready if they ever need to hunt down a kidnapper.
"If a situation like that arose or arises again in the future which there's always that potential were better prepared," says Miller.
Experts: Technology affects children's mental health
by Erin Stone
Midland mental health professionals are seeing a changing landscape when it comes to the mental well-being of children. A majority of the children getting professional help in Midland report at least some of their issues stem from experiences they have on social media, mental health professionals say.
“100 percent of the kids I see come in with some issues relating to social media,” said Heather Mason, MISD crisis counselor. “Every single one of the kids I meet struggle, in some way, with social media whether it's, ‘I wanna post this and people don't like what I'm posting,' or I'm following something that could be unhealthy to follow,' or ‘I was on Facebook or SnapChat, and my friend was mean to me.'”
Mental health professionals are noticing that more children are enduring some kind of abuse at an earlier age because of their access to social media and the expansiveness of the web.
“I think now we are seeing (mental health issues) at a younger age versus mostly high schoolers,” said Ursha White, child and adolescent team leader at Permian Basin Community Centers. “Even our second-graders, they are more into social media, and they're dealing with a lot more exposure to the real world -- the bullying and the sexual predators -- than our high schoolers were at that age. We are sending a lot more (younger kids) to the hospital because of the suicidal outcries from bullying -- people don't like them, or they really just want to get away from everything in life.”
However, White and Todd Luzadder, PBCC director of Mental Health Services, are clear that issues kids face on social media are often just one part of a larger picture.
“You have mental illness here, and you have life circumstance over here, is the way I would categorize it,” Luzadder said. “Both of them need intervention, and you've gotta work together as a community to make sure you get everybody treated.”
The number of children receiving help for both mental illness and less severe mental health concerns is growing, he said.
“We're contracted to serve 212 kids at any given point in time, and we're serving 140 percent to 160 percent over our target with no additional funding to do so,” Luzadder said.” And everybody's in the same boat -- MISD, ECISD -- so we all have to lean on each other to make sure we get the needs met.”
The increasing numbers could be attributed to more people being aware of mental illness and parents being better able to recognize it in their children so they're reporting more. But there also could be something bigger going on.
It's probably a combination of both, according to Luzadder and White.
“I think they're exposed to more potential trauma at an earlier age because they're raised with technology; they're not out in the community or meeting people face-to-face, establishing healthy social relationships,” Luzadder said. “It's easier to sit there on the couch and vaguely text somebody. There's anonymity behind that, and I think there's a false sense of security in doing that. Kids' ability to communicate is being diminished because we're not forcing that communication; we're enabling it to curb behind a protective veil.”
“A lot of parents are too busy, and a lot of these kids come from single-parent homes, and it's very hard for parents to be there as a parent while at the same time trying to work,” White said. “"So I think a lot of it is they let technology raise their kids.”
Technology, of course, isn't all bad. PBCC has been using telemedicine as a way to compensate for the lack of physicians in the area. There are also many apps being developed that help children (and adults) cope with mental health issues. For example, My3 helps kids cope with suicidal thoughts and reach out for help when they are feeling suicidal.
“My3 is a safety plan that is a technique a lot of counselors use with people who are suicidal,” Mason said. “So that's one way as therapists and counselors we can help meet kids where they are in a new social media world.”
Professionals in the mental health field agree that when it comes to kids, they must be met where they're at. But especially when it comes to younger children, ignoring a problem can lead to bigger issues later in life.
“Research shows that children grieve as early as they are able to love or become attached to someone or something,” said Kelsee Jones, director of Rays of Hope Children's Grief Centre. “To us as professionals, we take that as a child can grieve as soon as they're born.”
The belief that young children are naturally more resilient can lead to dangerous consequences, Luzadder said.
“In my opinion, that's a drastically overstated and dangerous assumption,” he said. “If anything, I think kids are better at hiding it, which in turn builds a stronger inability for them to deal with it. They internalize it to the point that it becomes completely overwhelming to them later on.”
The single most common factor for children who develop resilience is at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver or other adult, according to research from Harvard University's Center on the Developing Child.
“A lot of times, we can bounce back quickly and we are just kind of on autopilot,” Jones said. “Children, too, don't want to see others hurting so they put on a happy face. So sometimes we say, ‘Well, they're resilient.' But that doesn't account for what's going on inside. So if we don't get the support we need early on, then later in life we see issues come up where we don't really know how to cope with loss and change. We haven't developed the tools in our toolbox to do that.
“We all are born with the capability to move through things, heal from things and overcome obstacles,” she said. “However, if you have more support, you're going to do that in a more healthy way.”
What About the Children? Impact of Domestic Violence on the Young
by Susan Cody
It's National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and it's time to shine a spotlight on childhood domestic violence. This form of abuse has been radically ignored until now. Its consequences for children can be severe, leaving permanent scars and radically changing the adult survivor, even decades later.
Covered up until relatively recently, there's finally a lot of talk about the physical, sexual and emotional abuse of children. We're taking action at last because we know the devastating impact on our young.
But what about the children who are forced to live in a home with one parent being beaten and tormented by another? What's the impact there?
CDV.org says that childhood domestic violence occurs “when a person grows up living in a home with domestic violence. From a childhood standpoint, 'domestic violence' is violence between parents or violence towards a parent – from a stepparent or significant other. And the violence can be physical or nonphysical, or both.”
I spoke to Brian F. Martin, CEO and founder of Childhood Domestic Violence.org, about CDV. Martin himself grew up in poverty and lived through the childhood domestic violence inflicted for years on his mother by her boyfriend. It wasn't until he was an adult that he discovered that both his mother and her boyfriend were children of CDV.
With his father in jail, the New Jersey native spent most of his childhood in this kind of life. He's now a highly successful businessman and New York Times bestselling author of "Invincible: The 10 Lies You Learn Growing Up with Domestic Violence, and the Truths to Set You Free."
Martin is straightforward and likes to get to the point. There are three kinds of people who emerge from a childhood of domestic violence, he says. “There are the ones that fall, the ones that are resilient and the ones who figure it out.”
Those that fall end up addicted, incarcerated, violent and often suicidal. (Martin is the first in four generations not to be incarcerated.)
The resilient adult children of CDV are the ones who do alright on the outside, can hold down jobs and appear relatively happy. But under the surface, the cracks are many: self-medication with alcohol, unhappy relationships, lack of self-worth and guilt. They live with the knowledge that they aren't really happy, but they don't know why.
Many survivors of CDV live with an underlying fear. The resilient adults (like Martin was for a while) are distrustful. They're suspicious. They've grown up in an atmosphere of fear, waiting for the next outburst, the next beating. Forced to watch a parent being beaten, harassed and intimidated, the child emerges into adulthood always wondering when the next attack will happen — even years after the attacker has been stopped.
The key to figuring out a positive future, Martin is certain, “is the ability to connect their adult lives to their childhoods.”
Retrospection, introspection and a helping hand can connect the dots of why an adult survivor of CDV behaves like he or she does. When the reasons start adding up, and when the adult can now make sense of why they are who they are, they can start repairing the damage.
“There is no divine intervention,” says Martin. “Someone needs to step in.”
And the ones who figure it out, like Martin eventually did, are the ones who were lucky enough to have someone intervene and help them unlearn the lies they were taught since childhood.
In his case, his mother gifted him with two books she had seen on the Oprah show that he read and he subsequently heard the penny drop. For others it could be a family member, a friend or teacher who steps in and clarifies to the child that these incessant lies fed to them in their youth were just that: damaging fraudulent and deceptive tactics forced upon them by the one parent abusing the other.
Martin believes this kind of intervention can save a survivor of childhood domestic abuse. He contacted a local domestic violence shelter and asked to volunteer. Later, on a Make-A-Wish trip to Disney he had a chat with a young boy after watching the fireworks. He wondered what the kid's wish was.
“For my mom not to be hurt anymore,” the boy said.
That was the catalyst that started Martin's mission of putting a name on CDV and formulating a plan for survivors.
He started researching the approaches currently being used, only to find there was nothing in place whatsoever. There were no websites, no programs, not even a name for it. There was no official recognition of childhood domestic violence at all.
His website and program (to identity and end the impact of CDV) was one of the first to solely focus on this form of child abuse.
Martin urges people to read the The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, one of the most comprehensive studies on how bad and cruel childhoods translate into adulthood. This was a study done in partnership with the CDC and Kaiser Permanente's Health Appraisal Clinic in San Diego.
The study will open eyes and minds to the link between childhood experiences and adult behaviors. More on the ACE study can be read here.
Martin also promotes his own Change a Life program on his website. Working with world-renowned experts, Martin and his team have put together one of the most comprehensive tools to identity and work with children or adult children of CDV.
The CDV.org website states that “The Change A Life Program is a free, interactive,self-administered online program that will give you unique insight into a child's experience with Childhood Domestic Violence. It will also teach you basic support and safety planning skills while preparing you to act on behalf of a child in need. The step-by-step training process is an easy way to learn the simple things and key messages that can foster resiliency. When you know the right words to say to a child, it can only take one sentence to change the course of their life.”
What else can we do? We can keep it simple, ask those we love if anything is wrong, and encourage them to talk about problems in their lives. Let them spill their secrets in a private, trustworthy environment.
We must always let a person know that a victim of childhood domestic violence is never to blame. No child can ever be held accountable for the actions of an adult.
Are you a child of CDV? It's really OK to be open about your own experiences. Not only can this help you start making sense of your life, it will encourage others to do so, and to finally make that connection between their own childhoods and the lives they lead today.
The darkness of CDV is being spotlighted by Martin and his team. He's now a leading authority and advocate for bringing CDV and its impact into the mainstream. He is unabashed about his group's determination to end the scourge that affects one in seven adults today.
And still, many adults have yet to make the connection. It's Martin's mission to change that.
For every parent that is abused, there is at least one child forced to live through it, too. Being a child of CDV is the single best predictor of being in a domestically violent relationship in adulthood. The cycle has to stop, and you can be a part of that. October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the reality of CDV and its aftermath must be brought to light.
Log on to www.CDV.org to see what you can do to help.
Abuse legislation draws guarded support from child advocates
by Crocker Stephenson
Child advocates voiced guarded support to a package of legislation that would require welfare providers to work with police when investigating allegations of abuse and neglect, saying they welcomed the increase in vigilance but worried the measure would disproportionately target the poor.
"There are just too many situations where children fall between the cracks due to a lack of coordination among health care providers, schools, child welfare and law enforcement," said Sue Conwell, executive director of Milwaukee-based Kids Matter Inc.
"The question is, will the (legislation) develop a stronger response to child abuse as intended or lead to more low-income parents being charged with neglect?"
Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay) and Attorney General Brad Schimel last week announced a package of proposed legislation that, if approved, would require social services agencies to report to police all child abuse and neglect allegations within 12 hours of their referral.
The legislation would also give victims of sexual assault, child abuse and human trafficking increased access to victim advocates.
Another bill would stiffen child neglect laws and make violations easier to prosecute.
Under current law, a successful prosecution for neglect must show intent. The legislation would allow neglect charges to be filed when the alleged perpetrator fails — for reasons other than poverty — to provide food, shelter or medical care to children in their care.
Child welfare workers in Milwaukee County have been overwhelmed with the sheer number of child abuse allegations they have to process. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last year reported that the number of backlogged cases in Milwaukee County had reached nearly 3,000. The state brought in an outside consultant and the number of backlogged cases was slashed.
Eric Thompson, an attorney for New York-based Children's Rights, said that, given the sheer volume of child welfare cases, he was concerned that requiring law enforcement involvement in all referrals may stress the system.
"The more dangerous cases may be buried in an avalanche of referrals," he said.
Children's Rights filed a class-action lawsuit in 1993 on behalf of roughly 5,000 children who were receiving grossly inadequate welfare services in Milwaukee County. The suit was settled in 2002. As part of the settlement, the state agreed to a list of standards for permanency, safety and well-being for Milwaukee County children who have been removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect. The state has yet to meet all the standards and the agreement remains in effect.
Like Conwell, Thompson said he was also concerned that the legislation would criminalize cases better addressed with support services.
"Over-criminalizing parents is not going to solve the problem," he said.
"It might interfere with the legitimate interests of the child to keep families together."
Jason Mugnaini, a legislative aide for Cowles, said the legislation gives police and law enforcement more tools with which to confront abuse and neglect, but preserves their use of judgment and discretion.
"We really want law enforcement to decide if law enforcement needs to be involved," he said.
Joe Scialfa, a spokesman for the Department of Children and Families, said the department has not yet taken a position on the legislation.
DHS works to prevent child neglect, abuse
by Crystal Rosado
LAWTON, Okla._Currently, there are more than 11,000 victims of neglect and abuse being supervised by the state.
In 2013, the Department of Human Services reported more than 1,100 confirmed cases of child neglect in Comanche County alone.
One DHS case worker says they are seeing a rise in drug abuse in the homes. She even singled out meth as a drug heavily used in Comanche County. Despite those problems, there are dozens of ways DHS is trying to turn the unstable homes around.
Child abuse and child neglect cases happen all over the state. More than 11,000 children are currently in the custody of the state, and that's a number Korina Gee, the Department of Humans Services district director of Comanche County, says she is trying to change. But it can be challenging because of the increase drug abuse in the area.
"The cases we are getting, it's not so much a dirty home, it's a deplorable home when we go in there and there are drugs all about," Gee said.
In those homes, it can be more difficult because the parent often needs to be sent to a rehabilitation facility, leaving the child behind. In some cases, parents are just scared to ask for help because they don't know what's available to them.
Melissa Long, a child welfare specialist with DHS, says she sees it often.
"We get calls a lot of the times that kids don't have enough food, enough clothes and these are things that are easy for us to go out and refer them to things in the community. And often, a lot of people are just not aware that we have the services in our community available,” Long explained.
For the young parents struggling to find their way, or those suffering from drug addiction, there are comprehensive home-based services and family services that focus on the day-to-day workings inside the home for a period of six to nine months.
"Safety things, like things not everyone thinks of, like setting up the child locks, making sure your medicines are put up, making sure if you do have a gun that it is locked up and put away out of the child's reach,” Long said.
No matter why case workers are referred to the home, Gee stresses don't hesitate to call, it will most likely save that child's life.
"If you know a child under the age of 18 that you think has been abused or neglected or is a victim, call it in. Don't worry about being wrong, don't worry about someone finding out because it is strictly anonymous,” Gee said.
DHS has a multitude of pamphlets covering a wide variety of topics, including creating a safe environment, connecting with your teen and how to help a child during military deployments.
If you need help, reach out to DHS. If you think you've come across a child being abused, call DHS at 1-800-522-3511.
Vatican aims for child protection norms to be custom-fitted per culture
by Andrea Gagliarducci and Ann Schneible
When it comes to protection against abuse, guidelines need to be implemented according to the customs of each country if they are to be effective, said one official of the Vatican's commission for the protection of minors, which met in Rome over the weekend.
“The important thing about guidelines is that they've got to fit the country that they're in, and the culture that they're in,” said commission member Bill Kilgallon, director of the National Office for Professional Standards of the Catholic Church in New Zealand.
“What we don't want to do is impose something that we don't have the power to impose. But it won't work if you try and impose something that's the same for everybody,” he told CNA.
“Guidelines are important, but the implementation of the guidelines is more important,” he said.
Kilgallon was present at a briefing held following this month's set of meetings of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which ran Oct. 9-11.
As a member of the commission, which has been divided into several working groups, Kilgallon is leader of the group responsible for developing a template of guidelines, aimed at aiding bishops and religious communities forming guidelines of their own.
He explained these guidelines are geared toward prevention of abuse, selection of clergy, religious, and staff, for dealing with complaints, processes for community education, etc. The commission has been broken up into several working groups. During the weekend meetings, these groups each came together and reported on their work thus far.
The New Zealand native said problems in his own country with regard to this issue are the same as in other countries. He said there needs to be, first, a “better-informed Church.”
“There's still a big issue about education, and awareness-raising, about abuse, because the Church should be able to provide a very effective ministry to people who have been abused.”
This does not apply just to victims of clerical abuse, but also abuse within families and elsewhere.
“There's also a continuing issue about making sure that we are very careful in our selection of people to work in the Church, with in employment or as volunteers, so the Church becomes a much safer environment.”
This week's assembly kicked off with Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in the Santa Marta residence. It gathered together its 17 members, which is headed by Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley.
On the slate for the group's October meeting were: guidelines for the safeguarding and protection of minors; healing and care for victims, survivors and their families; formation of candidates to the priesthood and religious life and the education of Church leadership; education of families and communities; theology and spirituality; canonical and civil norms.
Members then set the program for the commission's next meeting which will take place February, 2016.
Announced in December 2013, the commission was officially established in March 2014 by Pope Francis to explore various proposals and initiatives geared toward the improvement of norms and procedures for protecting children and vulnerable adults.
Mental As: Emergency workers, counsellors, journalists at risk of vicarious trauma
by Freya Petersen
The image of the bloodied child flashed into my head as I cycled home from work. It came suddenly and randomly - I'd never seen anything remotely as graphic in real life.
Of course, I knew who it was. Or rather, who they were, because commute after evening commute the images kept coming.
Little Ebony, four months old, found dead in her cot in Adelaide amid evidence of horrific physical abuse. Two-year-old Nikki Coslovich, whose short and, by all accounts, terrible life began and ended in Mildura, Victoria. Chloe Valentine, who was a helpless and trusting four years old when she died, and whose name was synonymous with the failings of an entire state-run organisation set up to protect children from harm, FamiliesSA - that is, until Shannon McCool came along.
As a digital editor for ABC News Online, my job is to read some of the thousands of words submitted by reporters and editors around the country. If it's news and it happens in Australia during my eight-hour shift, I am more than likely to read about it.
Lately, it seems, I've been reading a lot about children who have been physically and sexually abused, and in many cases killed by adults – usually their own parents.
Or perhaps more accurately, I've been noticing a lot that I'm reading about abused kids.
"Oh you're suffering from what we call vicarious trauma," the counsellor told me matter-of-factly. "It's a thing. And it's normal."
I'd booked an exploratory session with him after several months of "visions". Organisations like mine, which care about their employees, and about the financial impost of not caring for them, fund such sessions.
Irritability, anxiousness and a feeling of sadness akin to grief had become more regular at work, and harder to shake off as I re-entered family life at the end of each day.
There was also guilt, arising from the certainty that being several steps removed from the actual trauma afforded little excuse for feeling traumatised, that it was weak, that any attempt to avoid handling the topic of child abuse placed a burden on colleagues, but worst - that avoiding the subject in the course of my work meant turning my back on the real victims.
'Tipping point' in exposure to trauma of others
That my experience had a name came as no small relief, but a new question arose: why now, after nearly 25 years of regular exposure to such stories without any noticeable discomfort? What happened to desensitisation?
"Some people put a barrier up, and some people do so successfully for a long period of time, but something might really have an impact later on," said psychiatrist and academic Professor Beverley Raphael.
Professor Raphael has worked not only with professionals dealing with traumatic experiences in the course of their work, but also the psychologists and therapists assigned to treat them.
She said even most experienced mental health workers were susceptible to vicarious trauma, an affliction that can arise from reading about, hearing about or seeing first-hand the harm done to others.
"People handle it in such a professional way that they don't take it on for themselves, that's certainly possible, but there's often something that's just too much, and I think it's how the amount of work you do in the field and how many cases, or how many patients you have to look after... It might get to the stage where it's too much," she said.
Vicarious trauma is commonly reported among counsellors who treat survivors of childhood abuse, who often must listen to detailed descriptions of traumatic experiences and in some cases help victims re-enact their experiences.
Professor Raphael said professionals exposed to the traumatic experiences of others could reach a "tipping point".
"It's often the amount of times you've heard horrific stories, and you can have a certain capacity to deal with this and make some distance... but it might still accumulate to such a level that you feel your own sensitivities and your own distress taking place," she said.
She said therapists were particularly vulnerable.
"The repetitive and overwhelming numbers of people they see or the horrific experiences that are described for them can become overwhelming," she said.
While many develop strong skills to deal with proximity to trauma in their professional lives, she said, "there often comes a time when it's too much... and the person feels that they don't ever want to do it again. Or it's hit them too sensitively in ways they hadn't expected and they need a break from it.
"They need to work out why it's been so impacting for them personally."
Vicarious trauma 'well-known': Kids Helpline head
While media professionals are compelled to seek out details of horrific cases of abuse, and even photographs of the victims, in the course of their work, they are usually spared from knowing the true extent of the harm inflicted.
Such details and images are kept from general circulation by the police officers, emergency personnel and social workers at the front line.
Wendy Protheroe, general manager of the national counselling service Kids Helpline, said vicarious trauma was a "well-recognised issue" that was carefully monitored and managed when it came to front-line staff.
"It is an incredibly important issue for all people working in these areas to focus on their own resilience and their own coping skills, so that they don't over time enable that vicarious trauma to build up," she said.
"If you are engaging with young people on a regular basis, whether it's online or on telephone, and you're hearing the times when they're in major stress, the times when they will be talking about things that have happened to them, and you are constantly being placed in a situation where you hear that, you need to be able to then work out ways to debrief.
"Otherwise it builds up, and over time you find it difficult. You become traumatised yourself."
Ms Protheroe said while "everybody has a different way of dealing with it", vicarious trauma was addressed in professional training and in regular counselling sessions for staff.
"Whether you are working face-to-face or virtually, you must on a monthly basis be sitting down with one of our psychs and talking about the work that you're doing and how you're coping, and get it back to within the framework of that's your work and, as much as possible, you leave it as you finish work," she said.
She said while no one person was more susceptible to vicarious trauma than any other, personal circumstances could influence whether a person began to suffer the effects of vicarious trauma.
"When I started having my children, for a while, during my work, I would imagine it was my children they were talking about," she said.
"And I had to remember, what's my profession, how am I going to work this into managing my life. I think that's the same with any person who, for example, has just started having their family - they're suddenly much more intense around what happens about those children.
"Generally speaking, the way in which we cope, it's very much personalised to what's happening in your life.
"One thing that is well documented is, if one part of your life is going particularly well, then you have the strength to manage your work life... your ability to cope with what comes at you is stronger.
"But if you are having a difficult time in your home life ... if there's illness, financial [stress], family or domestic violence - whatever the issue is, if that is difficult and then you're working in a difficult space, which could be the ambos, it could be the police, it could be frontline counsellors, then everything in your life matches up and your propensity for experiencing vicarious trauma at that particular time is more intense."
The benefits of 'post-traumatic growth'
Queensland Ambulance Service staff counsellor John Murray agreed personal circumstances could exacerbate the impact of vicarious trauma, but said such trauma need not always be seen as a negative.
"When we witness other human beings suffering, unless we're psychopaths there is an element of feeling with that person," he said.
"The closer you are to that circumstance, the more impact it can potentially have, and that's when we call it vicarious trauma.
"But trauma is part of growth. We all have experiences that rattle our cage, so to speak. Kiddies deal with the trauma of going to school, which is difficult. But where people feel connected to other human beings and supported and acknowledged and normalised, then we tend to grow through those experiences and become a little more resilient.
"So resilience is not being rigid or inflexible or having any sense of, 'it doesn't bother me'. Resilience is about knowing when you've been bowled over but being able to spring back to life and move on with a new-found sense of growth."
Mr Murray said while paramedics were a "self-selecting" and naturally resilient group, when faced with traumatic circumstances they often needed time and outside input to recover.
"Our folk are exposed to a huge amount of acute grief, and that's not just elderly people dying - that's children dying and the grief of families, and that's parents dying and the grief of children," he said.
"A lot of paramedics will say it's the sadness they experience is more difficult to deal with than the actual trauma per se.
"That sadness you feel, you separate from it, compartmentalise a little bit, but as a human being you still feel something for those people."
He continued: "We do a lot of work around self monitoring, acknowledging that it's OK when your cage is rattled - that's always something important to you, when you're feeling vulnerable, and how to best process that - how to talk about it, in particular, and get to a point of acceptance and resolution from that difficulty."
Devil in the detail of terrible tales
So where does that leave a media worker, trained for the most part to remain an impartial observer and simply describe what is seen or heard by front-line emergency workers and counsellors, or in a court, and occasionally in the aftermath of tragic event?
As any avid reader from the pre-Netflix era would attest, imagination is a powerful substitute for the real thing.
It turns out that for me, when reading stories about abused children, the devil is in the detail - and the more horrific the story, the more likely I am to dwell on it long after I've clocked off for the day.
Often the mere fact of having nurtured a child from infancy only to see others mistreating theirs is enough to personalise the impact, although Ms Protheroe lends some helpful perspective: "Some people don't see their children as somebody to nurture, they just see them as an appendage. And that's a totally different story, and one that focuses your mind, particularly if you're going through that stage of raising your own children."
Since becoming aware of and accepting - to a degree - my "new" sensitivities on the topic of child abuse, riding home from work has involved fewer concocted mental images. Tick.
They still appear, and sometimes they force me to delay my arrival home, so as not to appear distracted or withdrawn around my young family.
Other times, the thoughts make me ride faster, as my best source of comfort is seeing my own children, safe and happy, again.
Near Record Number of Child Abuse and Sexual Violence Cases Seen By Missoula First Step
by Jon King
First Step Resource Center in Missoula has been helping to offer medical attention to child abuse and sexual assault victims for fifteen years, but Clinical Supervisor Mary Pat Hansen says that the number of cases handled by First Step in 2015 will likely break Missoula records this year.
“For the past several years, we've had about 400 clients a year: that includes both the adults we serve, and the kids we serve,” Hansen said. “About 80 percent of what we do is children and about 20 percent of what we see are adults, but this year, our volume is up a little bit, and we are probably going to be just under 500.”
Despite an uptick in the number of cases. Hansen says she thinks the high numbers are actually not because of an increase in criminal activity.
“I think that we are seeing an increase this year, based on the good work that the professionals in our community are doing,” Hansen said. “We realize the value of working together. We realize that it is best practice to do this as a team, and not to individually investigate or respond to child abuse or sexual violence. I don't think [the increase] is because of an increase in actual violence or child abuse, I think it is reflective of us, doing a better job and working together.”
Cases come to First Step from a variety of sources, including local hospitals and the police, the goal is that cases of abuse and sexual violence will make it to First Step no matter where they might enter the system.
Hansen says that less than half of the cases handled by First Step actually lead to a conviction, because of the difficult nature of the crimes involved. Often, there is just not enough evidence available. When asked what the most common age of a patient at First Step was, Hansen said she wasn't sure off hand, but likely in the six to ten-year-old range.
Religious teacher gets 3 weeks' jail for child abuse
A welfare and religious teacher at Pertapis Children's Home was on Tuesday (Oct 13) sentenced to 3 weeks' jail for abusing eight children under his charge.
by Vanessa Paige Chelvan
SINGAPORE: A welfare and religious teacher at Pertapis Children's Home was on Tuesday (Oct 13) sentenced to three weeks' jail for abusing eight children under his charge.
Muhammad Abdul Gani, 27, pleaded guilty to the charges on Sep 10. Another six similar charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.
The court heard that on separate occasions in 2013, Muhammad had grabbed two children by their heads and lifted them off the ground. The children were aged seven and four at the time.
Muhammad had also pushed a 10-year-old girl in 2013, causing her to knock her head against a cupboard. Sometime in 2012, he kicked a chair which another 10-year-old girl was standing on, causing her to fall off.
Muhammad is also accused of slapping and caning other children, as well as locking up a four-year-old boy in a cupboard.
The incidents came to light when the Ministry of Social and Family Development lodged a police report in February 2014, after receiving information that some of the children at the home “may have been inappropriately punished physically by some staff”.
In sentencing Muhammad, District Judge Christopher Goh said that as a teacher, Muhammad's actions were "a gross breach of trust and authority" affecting vulnerable children.
However, the judge said that he found "no malice on the part of the accused" and that Muhammad had simply overreacted to the children not following his instructions.
"It's not easy for staff in such homes. I do not envy them", the judge said.
Keep up the good work in preventing child sexual abuse
by Toby Stark
As we read headline after headline about members of our community being arrested for child molestation, child exploitation and/or child pornography, I have a very important message to the people of our state: Keep up the good work!
Child sexual abuse is not new, nor is it necessarily happening more. What is happening is that children and adults are breaking their silence and speaking up. Silence and shame are a perpetrator's most powerful weapons, so when we shatter that silence and wipe away that shame, we start to win the battle.
One in 10 children is sexually abused by their 18th birthday, and the sad truth is, 90 percent of those children are abused by someone they know, love and trust. Does that mean we go through life not trusting anyone with our children? Absolutely not. What it does mean, is that no one can be exempt from our child protection measures. Our children aren't ‘safe' with so-and-so because they are well-known, have a great reputation as a coach, are philanthropic, are wealthy, are related to us, etc.
For example, because 80 percent of all child sexual abuse happens in one-on-one situations, one of the most effective prevention measures is minimizing the time your child spends alone with other adults or older children. That means minimizing one-on-one time with all adults and older children, not just the ones we don't know that well or the ones of the opposite gender.
This is also a great opportunity to educate and empower your children. Without going into details (especially regarding child pornography), this is a time to tell your children that this music teacher or coach or celebrity touched kids' private parts inappropriately and remind them that their bodies belong to them, they have the right to say “no!” to unwanted touches from anyone, and to tell you about any touches that make them uncomfortable.
So, keep up the good work! Keep up the momentum of education and empowerment we are starting to create in our communities. Keep up the courage it takes to disclose or report abuse. And keep up the determination to do something about this.
Toby Stark is the executive director of Chaucie's Place, a child advocacy center that focuses on the prevention of child sexual abuse.
Sex Trafficking, Revealed
Evil trade operates in shadows, and right under our noses
by Deirdre Reilly
When you hear the term “sex trafficking,” what comes to mind? A dramatic documentary? A magazine article whose research was conducted in the shadows of a faraway country?
Sex trafficking — or the commercial exploitation of individuals for sexual purposes as well as the actual buying and selling of them — is actually a booming business right here in U.S. cities, towns, and suburbs across America. Increasingly, it includes vulnerable minors who are lured through social media and the Internet.
In 2014, there were 3,600 reports of sex-trafficking, and those are just the instances that were reported. In Denver, Colorado, more than 250 juveniles have been freed from sex rings in the past three years. In the U.S., girls as young as 8 are being exploited for sex, while age 14 is the average, according to Wellspringliving.com.
In the Denver area, law enforcement is seeing drug dealers moving into the sex trade.
“You can sell drugs one time and that product is out the door, but you can sell a human being time and time again,” Jefferson County Deputy District Attorney Katie Kurtz told 9news.com.
In American apartments and hotel rooms, at workplaces and online, children, teens, and young adults are victims of human trafficking by those who exploit family hardships, the need for money, and even a victim's loneliness. Traffickers operate in an underground world of forced sex and slavery, buying and selling minors as if they were cattle.
The FBI's website profiles a young woman named Alexandria who was eventually rescued from trafficking by that agency. Originally, Alexandria fled her home due to family problems, but immediately crashed into a harsh reality.
“You learn that your parents are really the only ones willing to feed you, clothe you, shelter you,” she says on video.
Soon, a sex trafficker offered her food and shelter, and she was sold for sex in return.
“At first it was terrifying, but then, you just become numb to it,” she said.
The Internet has ushered in a new era of prostitution, offering an unlimited virtual bulletin board for both recruitment and advertisement of enslaved girls. Instead of walking the streets, girls are now sold online.
“Trafficking is now second only to drugs in terms of major issues the U.S. faces,” said Mary Frances Bowley, founder and chief strategic officer of Wellspring Living, a community that shelters and rehabilitates girls and young women saved from sex trafficking. “And the Internet has added yet another doorway for criminals to commit this activity. Social media is also a tool for selling human beings. This is an extremely lucrative business, with its own organizational hierarchy.”
One American sex trafficker outlined his modus operandi in a legal document.
“If you want them young, normally those we have to take by force,” said Kery Rodriguez, a heroin trafficker who also trafficked girls, according to an affidavit obtained by the Orlando Sentinel. “The key is to keep them drugged, and locked up, and have (them) at gunpoint.”
Trafficking victims are no longer confined to runaways, foster kids, or children who have been abandoned by their families. Many of them are from intact families, lured away by clever pimps of the modern age who are skilled at manipulating children.
“These predators are particularly adept at reading children, at reading kids, and knowing their vulnerabilities,” FBI Deputy Assistant Director Chip Burrus, who started the Lost Innocence project, told ABC News.
What is being done nationally to combat this crime against children, both boys and girls, perpetrated by both men and women?
In 2010, the Department of Homeland Security launched the “Blue Campaign, unifying DHS components to more effectively combat human trafficking through enhanced public awareness, training, victim assistance, and law enforcement investigations,” according to its website.
While local and state law enforcement teams track potential predators, grassroots and nonprofit organizations reach out to victims, who often suffer long-term damage from their ordeal.
Psychologist Shaelyn Pham said the mental fallout from enslavement and trafficking is a form of post-traumatic stress disorder.
“When a young girl is being used for sex or forced into the sex-trafficking industry, the child is not only exposed to it once but repeatedly, on a daily basis,” she told LifeZette.
“The repeated traumatic exposure is similar to a soldier who is out in the battlefield every single day,” Pham said. “When a soldier signs up for the military, at least he or she knows what they signed up for (even though they may never really be prepared for what they will witness or go through out in the battlefield). These girls don't have that choice — or at least feel that they do not have that choice, for various reasons.”
Wellspring Living's Bowley, who works with trafficking victims every day, told LifeZette, “We treated our first victim in 2001. Back then, there were not many people working in this field. Homelessness and poverty were on the national agenda in those days.”
Since 2011, domestic sex trafficking has exploded, and Bowley said recovery is a complicated process.
“Even the girls who have been victims sometimes do not self-identify as such,” she said. “It's a form of Stockholm syndrome — identifying with your abuser.”
“What we really want people to know is that these victims are smart, incredibly resilient women,” Bowley said. “There's something truly amazing about them.”
As far as steps to recovery go, Wellspring offers victims a residential home and individual apartments, as well as an assessment center.
“Meet the girls where they are, emotionally. Build trust. Introduce a peer mentor, someone who understands the unique trauma,” Bowley said. “Help the victim to learn to make choices for herself; help her learn she has a voice of her own.”
“What this (trafficking) does to one's self-esteem and self-worth is unfathomable,” Pham said. “Victims lose their sense of self — who they are as a human being.”
Here are a few fast facts from Dosomething.org:
Average age a teen enters the sex trade in the U.S. is 12 to 14 years old. Many victims are runaway girls who were sexually abused as children.
California harbors three of the FBI's 13 highest child sex-trafficking areas in the nation: Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline receives more calls from Texas than any other state in the U.S., with 15 percent of those calls from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Human trafficking is the third largest international crime industry, behind illegal drugs and arms trafficking. It reportedly generates a profit of $32 billion every year. Of that number, $15.5 billion is made in industrialized countries.
Indiana lawyers says they're not bound to report child abuse
by The Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Some child welfare officials say there could be dangerous fallout from an Indiana State Bar Association committee's opinion that lawyers aren't bound by a state law requiring anyone who suspects child abuse to immediately report it.
The bar association's Legal Ethics Committee says lawyers may report suspected child abuse or neglect against their clients' wishes only when they believe it necessary “to prevent reasonably certain death or substantial bodily harm.”
The opinion says a lawyer's duty to keep client information confidential is “generally paramount” over the responsibility to report child mistreatment, The Indianapolis Star reported (http://indy.st/1LggzNl). The committee also cited the separation of powers in its opinion, arguing that the Indiana Supreme Court's Rules of Professional Conduct, which require attorneys to keep information confidential under most circumstances, override the law.
Sandy Runkle-DeLorme, director of programs at Prevent Child Abuse Indiana, said she's worried that many lawyers lack the training to determine the seriousness of a child abuse or neglect situation. She pointed out that people also can report child abuse and neglect anonymously.
“Because it's an opinion and not a change in legislation, I hope that people do what they need to do, which is follow the law,” she said.
Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said he believed the opinion strikes a balance between two fundamental considerations.
“As a society and certainly as a prosecutor, we do not want to see child abuse go unreported and undetected,” Curry said. “The countervailing consideration is just the fundamental rule of attorney-client privilege.”
Curry said people need to be confident that something they share with their attorney is not going to be disclosed. He said attorneys need to know the entire circumstances of a situation in order to “effectively and zealously represent their client.”
The opinion puts the safety of children at risk, Indiana Department of Child Services spokesman James Wide said. Everyone - even therapists, doctors, teachers and ministers - is required to report suspected child abuse or neglect. Those who fail to do can face misdemeanor charges.
“No one's exempt,” Wide said. “We can't agree with that (opinion).”
Attorney Arend Abel, a former chairman of the bar association's committee, said the panel took up the issue because lawyers have asked for guidance.
Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush said through a spokeswoman that she could not comment because the matter could come before the Supreme Court.
Rise in child abuse investigations linked to fears of witchcraft
by Ruth Giedhill
Police are investigating increasing numbers of cases where children are being assaulted because of suspicions about witchcraft.
This year so far, 27 cases of ritual child abuse have or are still being investigated by the Metropolitan Police, including two allegations of rape. This compares to to 24 in 2013, 19 in 2012 and nine in 2011. There have ben 148 referrals to the Met since 2004.
Teachers and other professionals who work with children have been invited to meet police at City Hall in London to discuss the problem.
Allegations included a child being swung around and smacked on the head to "drive out the devil" and youngsters being dunked in water, according to an investigation by the BBC.
Deaths linked to ritual child abuse include Kristy Bamu, 15, tortured and drowned by his sister and her boyfriend in 2010 and Victoria Climbie in 2000, whose aunt and boyfriend had believed she was possessed and who were found guilty of murder.
Det Supt Terry Sharpe said ritualistic abuse was a hidden crime.
"Abuse linked to belief is a horrific crime which is condemned by people of all cultures, communities and faiths. A number of high-profile investigations brought the issue of ritual abuse and witchcraft into the headlines, but it is important that professionals are clear about the signs to look for."
Some families genuinely believed the victim had been taken over by the devil or an evil spirit, he said.
"Regardless of the beliefs of the abusers, child abuse is child abuse."
The independent investigator Richard Hoskings told BBC London 94.9 that most of the cases involved communities from Asia, west and central Africa and that children are being used as scapegots. "Children are being accused of witchcraft and they're being accused of being the source of all the evil that's taking place."
Simon Bass from the Churches' Child Protection Advisory Service said: "We are not remotely surprised that the Metropolitan Police alone has already received 27 referrals of this type this year - or three a month. We are pleased that the Metropolitan Police has undertaken such great work in this area, but we are convinced that this form of abuse is hidden, and that the statutory agencies across the UK are facing similar situations."
Police Fielding More Child Abuse Reports
SANATOGA PA – The series of laws approved in Pennsylvania during the past two years to protect children from abuse and neglect, portions of which took effect this year, have increased the number of alleged abuse cases being received by the Lower Pottsgrove police department, its chief told the Board of Commissioners.
Township “detectives have been fielding an influx of Childline reports,” Chief Michael Foltz said Oct. 5 (2015; Monday). They represent notifications from the state Department of Human Services' Childline and Abuse Registry about potential incidents to be investigated. During September alone, his department received 10 cases from online referrals, Foltz stated in his monthly report.
He also noted the department is actively investigating:
A report of a sexual assault of a 6-year-old child alleged to have occurred during August (2015) in the Rolling Hills apartment complex; and
A pornography case that involves sexually explicit photos sent to a teen-age victim.
Additionally, the chief said, all officers are participating in online training on the state's Sexual Assault Testing and Evidence Collection Act, which was amended this year. The course is offered by the virtual training network of the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, of which Foltz is a member.
A Pennsylvania task force convened in 2012 subsequently made several recommendations on improving state laws to better protect children. That report has resulted so far in more than 20 different pieces of legislation to address the need, including those that expanded the list of mandated reporters of child abuse and broadened the definition of abuse.
The legal package also required local school volunteers to submit to a variety of criminal background and health checks to ensure the children with whom they worked were safe. The Pottsgrove, Pottstown and Spring-Ford school districts all made efforts before the current academic year began to determine their volunteers were in compliance.
Reports of alleged abuse can be made at any time either online, here, or by a toll-free phone call to 800-932-0313. The Childline system reported 29,273 cases of suspected child abuse or neglect in 2014, an increase of more than 2,000 incidents over the 2013 total, according to a report issued in July for last year.
UNICEF anti-child abuse website set for launch
by Novani Nugrahani
UNICEF Indonesia is set to officially launch an anti-child abuse campaign website, www.pelindunganak.org, on Nov. 20, following the launch of its Pelindung Anak (Child Protector) campaign in August.
As well as the website, the campaign aimed at ending violence against children includes television and radio announcements, billboards and social media campaigning.
Prior to the official launch, UNICEF Indonesia says it has rolled out the website and a series of anti-child abuse campaign activities across a number of platforms supported and developed by Ogilvy and Mather Indonesia.
Jointly built by UNICEF Indonesia and the Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry, the Pelindung Anak campaign calls on every Indonesian – no matter what their age, location or profession – to join the national efforts to prevent child abuse.
UNICEF Indonesia's chief of child protection Lauren Rumble noted that 40 percent of children aged 13-15 years reported that they had been physically attacked at least once in a given year and 50 percent of children reported having been bullied at school.
“Violence against children has never been talked about and less than 10 percent of victims are able to come forward,” said Rumble at a Pelindung Anak campaign luncheon in Jakarta on Thursday.
UNICEF Indonesia representative Gunilla Olsson said most people would feel personally distant from the issue of violence against children.
“Most people tend to think that victims of this violence are not their family members and not their children,” she said.
“Still,” Olsson continued, “the gotong royong (mutual help) spirit of communities in Indonesia can serve as a gateway to ending violence against children in the country.”
“If it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to protect a child,” she added.
UNICEF Indonesia's child protection specialist Ali Aulia said that the development of the Pelindung Anak website was important as it could serve as a main information source about child abuse and related topics in Indonesia.
“For its official launch in November, it is expected that the website will already have its own forum, enabling members to discuss various topics around the prevention and eradication of child abuse right across Indonesia,” Ali said.
He said it was urgent for inter-generational cycles of violence to be interrupted as soon as possible because child victims of violence were twice as likely to perpetrate violence as adults.
“Providing information and raising people's awareness of the issue is the first step toward ending violence against children,” Ali said. (ebf)
6 Signs You Were Raised By A Narcissist
Once you figure this out, a whole lot of other things will start to make sense.
by Anna Almendrala
To outsiders, your dad is a larger-than-life social magnet who attracts people from all walks of life. Or your mom is the perfect woman, always looking to please and juggling everything with ease.
But behind closed doors, all pretense falls away. Only you, their child, knows what it's like to endure their cold shoulders for days on end over a minor infraction, or bear the brunt of constant, age-inappropriate demands for perfection and strength. You know what it's like to be parented by a narcissist.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder is one of 10 personality disorders described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, an authoritative psychiatric guide. Narcissists tend to have an inflated sense of self-worth and base their identity on the praise and approval of others. Their intimate relationships are superficial and focused mostly on how other people reflect on them, with little to no empathy for the other person's experience. They genuinely believe that they're better than other people, but they are also prone to feeling intense shame over critiques they receive or mistakes they make.
Researchers estimate that less than one percent of the general population has evidence of “full-blown” NPD, but anywhere from two to 16 percent of people who seek therapy have the disorder. That's usually because the loved ones in their lives have demanded they seek help or risk losing their relationship, career or other life privileges, explains therapist Wendy Behary, founder of The Cognitive Therapy Center of New Jersey and author of the book Disarming the Narcissist: Surviving and Thriving with the Self-Absorbed.
But children of narcissists are rarely in a position to demand that their parents seek help. In fact, they may not even realize that their parents were narcissists until they seek professional help for their own struggles, said Behary, who specializes in treating people with NPD and their "survivors." While narcissists come in all varieties and their symptoms vary across a spectrum, Behary notes that there are a few ways for adult children to tell they may have been raised by a narcissist. In the points below, both she and psychologist Craig Malkin, author of the book Rethinking Narcissism: The Bad — And Surprising Good — About Feeling Special, break down the signs of a narcissistic parent, and what adult children should do to break the cycle of destructive decisions.
1. You're a complete doormat.
A narcissistic parent will trample all over their family to address their own desires without giving much thought to what anyone else needs. Because of this, some adult children of narcissists will actually overcorrect and bend over backwards to make sure no one could ever possibly perceive them this way. Alternately, they may have grown up all their lives being told that their needs don't matter. Either way, the result is the same: They let people walk all over them because they're not in touch with what they need and they don't know how to express it.
"They're not able to say, 'I matter,' and 'I have needs' because that feels narcissistic,” explained Behary. “Someone who's fighting hard not to be a narcissistic parent ends up being trampled on."
"I've seen clients whose parents made them feel sick, crazy, or selfish for expressing the most basic of needs,” agreed Malkin. "One of my clients felt so worthless and frightened as an adult, he suffered from nightmares and cowered in the face of any authority figures because they reminded him of his abusive father."
? What you can do: Learn as much about narcissism as you can, in order to be able to identify the dysfunctional messages you grew up with and start working against them.
“If I meet someone who has grown up with a narcissistic parent, or if I'm clued in that that might be the case, it's really important for me to make sure that they understand narcissism in all of its colors,” said Behary. "We figure out together what type of narcissism their parent had, but even more importantly, we have to look for the part of them that got lost along the way."
2. You're afraid you might be a narcissist yourself.
Not everyone overcorrects in reaction to seeing narcissism. Some children see that the only way to avoid ridicule and abuse is to be like the narcissistic parent, and over the years, this survival tactic turns into the way they genuinely see the world. Adult children who adopted these coping mechanisms may find themselves putting others down out of a fear -- rooted in childhood -- that if they don't show strength first, they could be crushed, just like when they were young, explained Malkin. “Extremely strong-willed children, more extraverted from birth, sometimes become narcissistic themselves in a game of ‘If you can't beat 'em, join ‘em,'” he said.
What you can do: Seek the help of a professional to help you break out of abusive behavior patterns, especially if you already have a partner and/or children.
"Children of narcissists who find themselves name-calling and hurling insults aren't without hope, but they need to roll up their sleeves and work hard emotionally,” said Malkin. “They need to become comfortable feeling -- and expressing -- vulnerable feelings like sadness, loneliness, fear, and overwhelm with those they love."
3. You feel relentlessly competitive with, or resentful of, your sibling.
Narcissists have trouble with personal boundaries and view other people as extensions of themselves. In families with several children, one may be chosen to reflect the narcissist's best qualities. They get the most attention, praise and support, but are also under the most pressure to perform. Another child may be a target for the parent's blame and shame, and scapegoated as a burden that can never do anything right compared to the chosen child. They may also be blamed as the reason that a narcissistic parent is forced to act in an abusive way. Both projections are two different sides of a narcissist's personality, but the chosen child and the scapegoat will have two very different childhoods, and this pits them against each other, even into adulthood.
What you can do: Reach out to your sibling with what you've learned. If you were the chosen child, you might resent your sibling for the fact that they were under a lot less pressure than you. But if you were the scapegoat, you might resent your sibling for soaking up all the praise and glory and leaving none for you. Understand that the narcissist pits people against each other on purpose, to serve their own needs, and that this dynamic wasn't your fault.
"Extremely narcissistic people love to put people on pedestals — almost as much as they enjoy knocking them off them,” said Malkin. "Perfect people don't disappoint, so if you idolize people -- even your kids -- you needn't ever worry about being disappointed or hurt. Scapegoating accomplishes much the same thing. You never have to worry about expecting too much and being disappointed because none of us really expect anything from people we view as worthless."
There is hope for siblings who were put in this position as children, said Behary -- even if the only thing that unites them in the end is the shared experience of having a narcissistic parent.
"They can end up feeling extremely bonded to one another,” said Behary. “Common hostages going through different phases of torture, based on how bad the narcissist might be in their life."
4. At times, you've felt you were more your parent's partner than their child.
Not all narcissists command the spotlight with their bold, brash personalities. Some narcissists demand the attention of the room by playing the victim or describing their problems as greater than anyone else's problems. They may also try to control other people's actions by threatening to harm themselves unless a certain outcome goes their way.
People with this kind of narcissistic parent may feel that they spend their entire childhood running to put one fire out after another, or trying to maintain the peace so that no one is hurt. Some of Behary's clients tell her that they felt more like their mother's husband than their mother's son, and this burden meant that they were doing more of the emotional supporting than the parent was. Or they felt their life was all about keeping their father from getting angry at the family.
“It's the sense of drama that the child feels they have to manage,” said Behary. “In order to do that, they really have to forfeit a lot of their own innate childhood needs.”
What you can do: Take time to acknowledge the young child that's still inside you, and ask what his or her needs were and still are. Behary advocates using the power of imagination -- aided, perhaps, by photos from childhood -- to acknowledge the emotional needs that weren't met and still aren't being fulfilled by your parents.
"She's still suffering in there and she needs someone to care about her,” said Behary. "She needs to be able to feel that she's fine. She needs to know that she has rights too."
5. You derive self-worth solely from your achievements.
Some children of narcissists figure out that the only way to get along in this world is to do as their parent does and derive their self-worth from production, performance and achievement. While they may not be beset by the perilously low self-esteem and overwhelming sense of shame of a true narcissist, some adult children may take on behaviors like workaholism because their performance is the only way they've ever been taught to define themselves.
"The child of the narcissist learns that the only thing that matters is what I can produce in the world, not just my own little being,” said Behary. “[This] is very similar to the way the narcissist can be in the world, except children of narcissists may not have same brash overcoating -- they're more detached, more self-contained."
What you can do: Try to empathize with your parent, suggests Behary. You don't have to feel sorry for them, but it can be helpful to emotionally inhabit the feelings and choices of another person, to understand their thoughts and decisions, even if you don't agree with them. Because of Behary's work with narcissists, she understand that they are often intensely suffering because the survival tactics they learned in childhood are backfiring on them in adulthood.
While some researchers think that there may be a biological basis that makes some people more vulnerable to narcissism than others, others agree that the personality disorder stems from a complex mix of factors that include exceptionally harsh criticism and/or praise in childhood, which causes the child to shield their low self-esteem with a strong, perfect persona. It also makes the child especially needy of praise, admiration and flattery in order to feel normal, while leaving them especially vulnerable to even the slightest criticism, notes the Mayo Clinic.
“I care about the [narcissists] I work with because I know they're suffering underneath,” said Behary. "People will say, ‘You're such a softie on them,' and I say I hold them responsible for their bad behaviors, but I don't blame them for how they were formed.” Behary emphasizes that while narcissists may have turned out this way through no fault of their own, it is solely their responsibility — not their children's — to do something about it.
6. You have no sense of yourself, your wants, your needs or your goals.
A telling trait of narcissism is grandiosity: thoughts or feelings that one is superior to others, even if one doesn't have the achievements to justify it. Narcissistic parents may see themselves as elite, but because they never achieved a certain level of success, they may find meaning in living vicariously through their children, explained Behary.
“Many children of narcissists will say, 'I'm not sure how I ended up in this career because I never really knew what I wanted,'” said Behary. Or, “I always felt like I was poised to be more of a reflection of my mother rather than be my own person."
What you can do: Consider going low or no-contact with abusive or manipulative parents. Not all narcissistic parents are abusive, explains Malkin. But parents with extreme forms of narcissism can leave their adult children feeling like shells of themselves, and sometimes the safest thing for adult children to do is to limit their exposure to these toxic relationships, especially if the parents don't think they have anything to apologize for.
Malkin says there are three signs an adult child should consider going low or no-contact with parents: Abuse, Denial and Psychopathy. No one should ever have to put up with emotional or physical abuse, and if parents can't acknowledge the fact that there's a problem in the first place, there's little chance that anything will change. Psychopathy, which in this case will look like a pattern of easy lies and remorseless manipulation, indicates that the parents aren't just bad at putting themselves in others' shoes — they may actually lack the ability to empathize with others, and may even lack a conscience.
“Abusers are 100 percent responsible for their abuse, and only they can stop it,” Malkin concluded. “Until they do, interactions won't be safe.”