West Michigan fugitives surrender after being profiled on ICE's smartphone app to locate accused child predators
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A west Michigan pair, who absconded during a federal child pornography investigation, are in custody at Calhoun County Corrections Friday after they surrendered to local authorities.
Normann Pittelkow, 42, and Nicole Jacob, 35, were the latest fugitives to be profiled late last week on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Operation Predator smartphone app, seeking public tips about at-large and unknown child predator suspects. The suspects are the targets of a federal investigation being led by ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Authorities followed up on several tips in the intervening week since the pair was added to the Operation Predator app but their exact whereabouts remained unknown. They surrendered to local authorities Friday morning and are being held on state charges.
According to state court records, they are accused of producing images and video of material involving the sexual abuse of minors. Following a Sept. 27 search by the Albion Police of the pair's Albion, Michigan, residence in connection with the probe, officers seized several computers and mobile devices, which contained child pornography. They were charged by federal criminal complaint Oct. 23 for producing and conspiring to produce child pornography.
"The public pressure put on fugitives through traditional and social media has proved once again to be a game changer in one our investigations. “We know that our public appeal played a key role in these fugitives surrendering today," said Marlon Miller, special agent in charge for HSI Detroit.
“Albion Public Safety would like to thank HSI for their assistance in this investigation,” said Chief Scott Kipp. “As a result of their bringing increased awareness to this case, enough pressure was put on the suspects to turn themselves in.”
Within 36 hours of its launch in 2013, the app helped Detroit HSI special agents apprehend a Michigan man, who was later convicted and sentenced on child pornography charges.
Late last year, officials attributed pressure from social media for the surrender of an Ohio fugitive, who is currently serving a federal prison sentence.
ICE's Operation Predator App allows users to receive alerts about wanted predators, to share the information with friends via email and social media tools, and to provide information to HSI by calling or submitting an online tip. Additionally, the app allows users to view news about the arrest and prosecution of child predators and obtain information about ICE and its global partners in the fight against child exploitation.
The smartphone app is part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together.
NC upholds ban on sex offenders using Facebook
The court's opinion reversed a lower court's finding that the 2008 law was unconstitutional
by Jonathan Drew
RALEIGH, N.C. — The North Carolina Supreme Court has upheld a state law prohibiting registered sex offenders from using Facebook and other social networking sites that minors can join.
The court's opinion Friday reversed a lower court's finding that the 2008 law was unconstitutional. The challenge was mounted by a registered sex offender who was convicted of an additional offense after Durham police found his Facebook page.
North Carolina's Court of Appeals had sided with the defendant in 2013, finding that the law infringed on free speech rights by preventing a wide range of communication. The law remained in place pending the Supreme Court's review.
At least eight states have enacted laws restricting sex offenders' use of the Internet in recent years, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, though some laws have been successfully challenged in court.
North Carolina's law bans registered sex offenders from accessing social networking sites "where the sex offender knows that the site permits minor children to become members or to create or maintain personal Web pages." Facebook requires people to be at least 13 to sign up.
The defendant's attorney had argued the law was too broad and could prohibit routine Internet activity, such as using Google.
The state's high court disagreed, saying lawmakers had established specific criteria to make certain sites off-limits.
Writing for the majority, Justice Robert Edmunds stated "the General Assembly has carefully tailored the statute in such a way as to prohibit registered sex offenders from accessing only those Web sites that allow them the opportunity to gather information" about minors.
For example, the opinion said the defendant could join The Paula Deen Network site, where people swap recipes, because it requires users to be at least 18.
Edmunds wrote that the law is meant to limit conduct and that it only incidentally affects speech.
"The justification of the statute — protecting minors from registered sex offenders — is unrelated to any speech on a regulated site," he wrote.
Emails and text messages aren't restricted by the law, the opinion states.
"Accordingly, the regulation leaves open ample channels of communication that registered sex offenders may freely access," Edmunds wrote.
But two justices dissented, saying the law is unconstitutional and places more than an incidental burden on speech.
"This statute completely bars registered sex offenders from communicating with others through many widely utilized commercial networking sites," Justice Robin Hudson wrote in the dissent.
Hudson also said that the law may prohibit sex offenders from visiting news sites or retailers such as Amazon.
Nathan Wessler, a New York-based attorney for the ACLU who specializes in speech and technology issues, argued that the law is overly broad in restricting use of forums that have become "the new town square."
"It's going to result in an impediment to people reintegrating in society after serving their time," he said.
The defendant, Lester Gerard Packingham, was convicted in 2002 of taking indecent liberties with a child in Carbarrus County near Charlotte. For his 2012 conviction related to the Facebook page, he received a suspended sentence and probation.
A lawyer for Packingham, Glenn Gerding, didn't immediately return a message seeking comment on Friday.
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper issued a statement applauding the high court's ruling.
"Our laws bar convicted sex offenders from living near schools and working with young people in real life, and it's just as important to protect kids in the online world," he said.
Will Mishawaka sex offender return to prison?
Man convicted of passing STD to 5-year-old remarries ex-wife
by Virginia Black
SOUTH BEND — A man who left his child molesting victim with anal herpes, inspiring lawmakers to pass a law that allows greater penalties in such cases, is in court this week to determine whether he should return to prison.
Dale Bradshaw, 35, pleaded guilty in May 2013 to a mid-level felony of molesting a 5-year-old boy, after a jury hung on three high-level charges. Sentenced to six years with two years suspended, Bradshaw was released Aug. 6 from New Castle Correctional Facility.
Shortly after he returned to St. Joseph County, a judge placed greater restrictions on Bradshaw's movements by fitting him with a GPS monitor and ordering him to stay at least a mile away from his victim's home. Because he had first listed his residence on the sex offender registry as under the Twyckenham Street bridge, he was accused of being too close to his victim's home.
Now prosecutors have petitioned for Bradshaw's probation to be revoked, charging in court papers:
• He has not completed sex offender counseling, nor has he paid for it.
• He has violated the “exclusion zone around his victim's house” and has not paid GPS monitoring fees.
• He has failed to pay probation-related fees.
The hearing is Tuesday morning in Judge Elizabeth Hurley's court. If prosecutors are successful, Bradshaw could be forced to serve the remaining two years of his prison sentence.
On the county's sex offender registry, Bradshaw is listed as living on South Michigan Street but has no workplace cited. Bradshaw declined to speak with Tribune reporters who visited the home this week.
An Indiana Department of Correction spokesman, Doug Garrison, said the New Castle prison houses many of the state's sex offenders so that they can undergo sex offender treatment. Although he cannot say, because of federal medical privacy laws, whether Bradshaw completed the program there, Garrison said Bradshaw has no sanctions on his record for failing to complete the treatment.
Bradshaw, meanwhile, has remarried an ex-wife since his release.
Probation conditions for Bradshaw, as with most sex offenders, include notifying officials of dating or intimate relationships. Moreover, his conditions include: “You shall not engage in a sexual relationship with a person who has children under the age of 16 years unless given permission by the court and your treatment provider,” and to “never be alone with or have contact with any person under 16.”
Records show Bradshaw filed for a marriage license with Stephanie Nowacki, of South Bend, in 2011; they were divorced in July 2012. They filed for a marriage license again last month.
When reporters approached the 45-year-old woman this week and asked whether she had remarried Bradshaw, she said, “Yeah, but I live where I live, and he lives where he lives.”
(NOTE: This is the law the previous article (above) is referring to. This original article (below) appeared on Feb. 3 2015.)
'Cameron's Law' passes first hurdle
Law would increase charge for passing STD
by Virginia Black
INDIANAPOLIS — An Indiana Senate bill that would increase the level of felony of child molesting when a criminal also leaves a victim with a sexually transmitted disease passed Tuesday 10-0 in its first hearing.
SB 363 was introduced by Sen. John Broden, D-South Bend, and inspired by what happened to a local 5-year-old left with anal herpes in 2013. His molester, Dale Bradshaw, pleaded guilty to C felony child molesting after a hung jury; he was sentenced to three years in prison and is due to be released this summer. The bill would raise such a crime from a Level 3 to Level 1 offense, with the higher prison term.
In its first reading Tuesday morning before the Senate's Corrections and Criminal Law Committee, the boy's grandmother spoke emotionally about the bill. "Cameron has this lifetime sentence and Dale Bradshaw got three years," she said. "This I know will not help my grandchild. But it will help other children in the state of Indiana."
Former St. Joseph County Prosecutor Michael Dvorak, working now for the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Association, also spoke in favor of the bill.
DSS screens out child abuse reports that don't merit investigation
by Lauren Sausser
The South Carolina social services agency received more than 1,300 allegations of “out-of-home” child abuse and neglect last year, but its team of investigators opened fewer than 400 investigations, new data shows.
Some reports were sent to law enforcement agencies for investigation. Others were “screened out” because they failed to meet the criteria for abuse or neglect, as defined by state law.
Taron Davis, deputy director in the child welfare services division for the Department of Social Services, said the agency was not equipped to drill down into the data to provide more specific information about 994 abuse and neglect reports that were not investigated.
She did not know how many abuse allegations were handled by police or simply closed because they did not merit investigation.
“Just because we're not taking action, doesn't mean another entity isn't taking action,” Davis said. “It really varies case by case.”
Agency spokeswoman Karen Wingo said in a prepared statement that DSS receives allegations on a wide range of issues, “a number of which do not rise to the level of abuse or neglect, even if all of the allegations were true.”
For example, she wrote, the team that investigates out-of-home abuse at DSS may receive a tip that a child was bitten by a playmate at day care. The report could be accurate but it doesn't meet the criteria for abuse.
The new 2015 fiscal year data, published on the agency's website, resembles data from previous years. During the 2014 fiscal year, the department received 1,055 out-of-home abuse or neglect referrals but investigated only 431. In 2013, it received 760 referrals but investigated only 399.
Most of the investigations launched by DSS in 2015 involved out-of-home abuse or neglect allegations in foster homes, group homes or psychiatric institutions for children. Investigators rarely found enough evidence to support the claims, their numbers show.
For example, the agency opened 104 investigations into abuse or neglect in group homes and institutions last year but determined only eight cases were “indicated or founded.” Investigators also found evidence to prove 14 cases of abuse or neglect in child day care facilities and 25 cases of abuse or neglect in foster homes.
The agency provided the names of group homes and institutions where it opened investigations last year. But DSS would not disclose where it determined abuse and neglect had been committed because the results of those investigations are protected by state law.
The recent Post and Courier series “Warehousing our Children” determined it is nearly impossible for the public to know where children have been abused or neglected. Meanwhile, South Carolina sends its youngest foster children into group homes and institutions at a higher rate than any other state in the country, even though best practices indicate most children thrive with families, not in residential, congregate care settings. The state spends millions of dollars a year on these facilities, but taxpayers cannot evaluate where children are kept safe.
The newspaper's series reported that child welfare experts have expressed long-running concerns that the embattled social services agency doesn't sufficiently investigate child abuse allegations inside these facilities.
“I think transparency is a problem. They'll say they don't have the staff to do it,” said state Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, a member of the DSS Oversight Committee. “They don't have enough people to follow up on all those complaints. They've requested more staff. We've given them the money to hire more staff and they haven't filled the positions.”
Fourteen positions are funded for the team that investigates out-of-home abuse and neglect at DSS. There are currently two vacancies.
Camden attorney Robert Butcher is particularly concerned that the agency discards reports alleging child-on-child sexual abuse inside group homes and foster homes.
“It's not investigated ... because it's not an adult that's harmed a child,” Butcher said. “And they don't have to track it.”
The state law defining child abuse and neglect includes offenses ranging from abandonment and malnourishment to sexual and mental abuse. It does not specifically mention child-on-child sexual abuse.
“If we receive a report of sexual abuse that is child-on-child sexual abuse, we don't necessarily screen those out,” said Davis, the deputy DSS director.
For example, she said, if an adult is responsible for the welfare of a child and fails to protect the child from child-on-child sexual abuse, the case may warrant investigation.
Butcher represents a Greenville man who filed suit last month against DSS in Richland County. The man, a former foster child named K.C. in court records, alleges the agency failed to protect him from sexual abuse in various group homes and foster homes.
In an interview with The Post and Courier earlier this year, K.C. said he was sexually active with his sister and other foster children between 1999 and 2004. He contends the state agency continued to place him in homes with his sister and other children even though his caseworkers knew that they engaged in sexual activity with each other. They should have been separated and treated for their behavior, he said.
K.C. served time in a Department of Juvenile Justice facility for raping his sister. He went back to prison as a young adult for fondling a child.
“(K.C.), as someone who was sexually acting out (as a child), should have gotten the treatment and isolation that he needed, so he wouldn't have ended up in the DJJ system,” Butcher said. “That's the problem. We're socializing people into the adult system by not treating them when they're children.”
State officials do not discuss pending litigation.
Child sexual abuse: A national tragedy
by Mahnoor Sherazee
“He started looking frail, dropping weight, didn't want to go to school, stopped eating properly and just wouldn't leave my side. I couldn't understand what was going on,” she explained.
It wasn't until a few weeks later that Sadia finally learned why her son had become barely a shadow of his cheerful, outgoing self.
“Our driver had been molesting him,” she said, nearly choking on her tears.
It was cruel to continue asking questions but after a brief silence she regained her composure and offered advice to parents, especially of young children, “Don't trust your children with anyone. Not even some of your most trusted people.”
Another brief pause later she added, “I didn't protect my boy.”
Sadia's story isn't the exception we would like to believe it is. In fact, according to Sahil, an organisation working against child sexual abuse, nearly 40% of all child abuse cases are recorded in urban centres and around 60% of them involve domestic staff as perpetrators.
Other disturbing statistics compiled by the NGO reveal at least 10 children were sexually abused in 2014 per day, up by 17% from the previous year. The total number of children reporting sexual abuse in 2014 was 3,508.
Meanwhile, Madadgar National Online's research state the number of children subjected to abuse in 2014 as 5,319. It is important to mention that Madadgar's statistics include reports of other types of abuse, such as forced marriages, missing children and trafficking, as well.
But the debate should not be based on how many children suffered abuse rather why even one child is left unprotected to be subjected to it.
As a nation, Pakistan has not paid nearly enough attention to dealing with the issue. Meanwhile, thousands of innocent lives have fallen prey to various types of abuse — including physical, psychological and even sexual.
Case in point: Kasur.
National apathy is neither suppressing nor solving the matter; rather, it's making abusers more confident as they roam unchallenged and worse, unpunished.
There are several organisations who work to protect children, create awareness about the issue, offer sensitivity training and counseling but there is still a great deal more to be achieved.
One way of approaching the issue is if medical professionals, especially in the private sector, were empowered to investigate further when suspecting abuse. Such a move could make significant strides in catching abuse at the onset and collecting evidence to ensure perpetrators are punished.
But there are limitations with this approach as well.
“Child abuse is significantly under-diagnosed. Part of the problem is the poor skill level in diagnosing the abuse,” says Dr Junaid Razzak, who is a Professor of Emergency Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the former head of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Aga Khan University Hospital.
He adds, “Child abuse is a medical diagnosis and not just a social issue.”
On the flipside in the absence of a government system that provides quick response to the condition and safety of a child, diagnosing and documenting child abuse seems a fruitless task to medical staff. “Nothing will come of it,” shared a doctor working in the emergency department at a private hospital in Karachi.
Requesting anonymity given the sensitivity of the issue, the doctor said, “Parents tend to get annoyed with us when we want to investigate further.”
A common example is when a child visiting the ER has bruises of various ages on their body. “If we ask too many questions or even point out the old bruises and fractures, they become defensive; some may even take the children away,” the doctor adds.
In Sadia's case, nearly three weeks went by before a physician suggested investigating for sexual molestation and though she was initially appalled and apprehensive, she didn't want the risk refusing.
“Of course, I was initially offended,” she replied immediately when asked about her reaction to the doctor's suggestion. She went on to explain, “It wasn't easy to grasp what the doctor was saying but I thought of how my son's health was deteriorating and went ahead with it.”
Physical cuts, bruises and fractures are one indication but emergency departments aren't the only place to look out for signs of abuse.
Dr Asma Qureshi, who is a consultant dermatologist and cosmetologist, says, “In some cases when children are suffering abuse, it manifests through their skin in the form of acne.”
She further explains, “Of course, that is not true for all children suffering acne but a skin condition combined with a sudden change in behaviour is certainly worth investigating further.”
There are other cases in which children may inflict pain on themselves as a cry for help.
According to a study — scheduled to be published in BMC Emergency Medicine by December 2015 — titled ‘Uncovering the burden of intentional injuries', the boy to girl ratios are 1:0.29 in assault injuries and 1:0.46 for self- inflicted injuries.
Among boys, highest number of assaults and self- inflicted injuries occurred in the older age group (15 to 17 years). Similarly self-inflicted injuries among girls were common in between the ages of 15 and 17, while assaults on girls were more common in the 10 to 14 years age group.
When discussing the main reasons behind self-inflicted injuries, psychological trauma, attention seeking due to neglect, and physical manifestation of other types of abuse are considered most plausible answers, says Dr Farah Iqbal, who is a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Karachi.
“The problem in Pakistan is hardly ever with the lack of laws; rather, it's their implementation that needs serious focus,” says Dr Iqbal, who also works as a consultant for the United Nations on the subject of child abuse.
Sobia Butt is a Lahore High Court advocate and the regional head for the Punjab division of Madadgar. According to Butt, political will on the issue is compulsory if the formation of a fully active and functional authority protecting children is to be formed.
Dr Iqbal had worked on studies which helped draft the 2011 law on child abuse but she laments training to sensitise professionals working with children in the medical and social sector is still lacking.
Butt suggests mandatory sensitivity training for young medical students as part of their programme. Another idea is to conduct training sessions in schools for teachers and students by social workers to create awareness on the issue.
It isn't one child or one family being affected by abuse, the cycle is vicious and if not broken, may lead to many victims becoming perpetrators in the future.
The consequences of unexpressed emotions in adolescent males
by Max W. Davis
In view of increasing incidents reported in the media regarding young males who exhibit aggressive behaviors, as a practicing psychotherapist I feel compelled to address this topic. Many clients seeking help for personal problems include adolescent boys and young men, many of whom are self-referred. Finding the courage and desire to work through difficult issues with a licensed professional is a strong indicator of a positive outcome.
On the surface, boys may appear to be trouble-free while suffering inner conflicts and hurts they do not understand. According to William Pollack, author of “Real Boys,” “Boys can feel detached from their own selves, often feeling alienated from parents, siblings and peers. Many boys feel a loneliness that may last throughout boyhood and continue into adult life.” Pollack also addresses the “Boy Code” which is not in writing. It is programmed into boy's brains, attitudes and behavior. Denying sadness and hurt, feeling embarrassed or ashamed of their own thoughts and feelings, males carry these burdens and frustrations into personal relationships, the workplace and into our complex society. Examples come easily to mind: family violence, child abuse, feeling unappreciated in the work place, road rage — all of which we hear and read about in daily news. Sadly, recent tragic examples are fresh in our memories. If parents, physicians, coaches, school systems, law enforcement personnel and others become more aware and observant of early indicators of trouble, such as mood and behavior changes, early intervention opportunities might help boys to grow into manhood with a healthier balance of feelings and emotions. Here I must add that some of the boys and men that I see in therapy are able to express their “softer” side. In male/female relationships and marriages, females crave this quality in men.
Anger is the most frequent emotion expressed by boys when they are unable to open up about sadness or hurt. Anger can take many forms, including pitching a fit, screaming, cursing, hitting walls, throwing things, and hitting other people. In my practice, there are examples of boys attacking a parent when angry as a result of not getting their way. Some boys become aggressive toward another adult who is assaulting his mother. The weight of anger can be exhausting. Men can be more accident prone when angry than females.
It is acceptable for girls to express their emotions and feelings without the thought of being judged or labeled. It is also socially acceptable for a girl to give another girl a hug to comfort her. Boys engaging in this behavior might be teased, bullied or called unkind names that threaten their sense of masculinity. A double standard exists and has been passed down through the generations. The stereotyped masculine behavior is reinforced by parents, peers, movies, TV and our culture.
What can parents, in particular, do to help their boys become more open in their communication?
(1) Be empathic to situations that might have caused emotional upset. Examples: losing a ball game, failing a test, a death in the family, breakup with a girlfriend, and more. If a boy fails a test or does not make the grades you expect, avoid shaming him because he feels bad enough already. This reinforces his feelings of inadequacy, sense of failure, low self-esteem, anger and depression. He might incorporate those comments as “I don't measure up.”
(2) Too many questions can be annoying. Instead of asking “how was school today, how was the test, who did you sit with at lunch, how was the bus ride home,” etc., simply say “welcome home; relax a bit before jumping into your homework.” In most families these conversations occur when parents return home from work.
(3) Establish rules and set limits regarding TV, Internet and video games. Unmonitored use of Internet, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and other electronic sources of communication can lead to serious problems. I have seen the consequences of bullying through text and “sexting.”
(4) Be fair and consistent in use of “grounding.” Many parents get caught up in the heat of the moment and “over-ground.” Later, they back down and lighten the punishment. Inconsistency is confusing to a young person.
The future of our families and communities lies in the hands of our youth, both boys and girls. However, it seems to me that males are the ones who fight, assault, abuse and kill others because they are angry and more than likely linked to a mental disorder. Let's keep our eyes and ears open and become more observant and connected to the boys around us.
Is Spanking Really That Bad?
by Brianna Sharbaugh
I remember sitting in Advanced Placement English class my senior year. It was only the second AP class my high school had ever offered, and they only allowed a select few to take the class. There were approximately fifteen of us, all of whom graduated in the top ten percent of our class of 400. One day our teacher asked, by show of hands, how many of us had been spanked. All but two of us raised our hands. This informal survey made it clear to me that spanking could not be as terrible as the experts claimed.
However, the research (from here, here, and here) says that children who are spanked:
Are more aggressive than their peers who were not.
Do not trust their parents and learn to mistrust the motives of others.
May stop the behavior in the short term, but will cause more problems later on.
Have lower IQs than classmates who were not spanked.
Have been traumatized and are more likely to abuse others.
Will not know how to solve problems without resorting to violence.
Such findings are disturbing to any parents looking to teach their children right from wrong. But are these findings conclusive reasons parents should never spank their children? Did my senior English class really defy all of the research?
Kitty O'Callaghan at Parenting.com summarizes why many pro-spanking families doubt these conclusions:
Researchers who gather spanking statistics often lump together parents who may smack a well-padded bottom with an open hand once a year with those who regularly reach for a brush or belt strap as discipline…. [combining] those who may spank because it's “good for them” with those who've done it because they lost their temper.
Such a “lumping” skews the data collected in these studies. A child spanked once will have a different outcome than a child who is whipped by an out-of-control adult on a regular basis. These types of spankings should be evaluated separately.
“While spanking has been associated with a wide range of negative effects…studies can't prove that these effects were caused by spanking,” O'Callaghan says. A child who has a lack of self-control modeled to them (i.e. only physical punishment performed at an unpredictable rate and for reasons not well-explained to the child) is likely to repeat these same practices. So, is the problem really that the child was spanked or that no one taught him self-control? Current studies have not adequately answered this question.
The reality is that research also tells us:
94% of three-and-four-year-olds have been spanked at least once in the past year.
74% of mothers believe spanking is acceptable for kids ages one to three.
61% of parents condone spanking as a “regular form of punishment” for young children.
While experts have long touted the horrors of corporal punishment, parents still find spanking to be a valuable tool in disciplining their children.
One researcher dared to speak up against the misleading conclusions on corporal punishment. Dr. Diana Baumrind oversaw research involving more than 100 families and the long-term impact of moderate spanking. She split the study's participants into four groups, based on how frequently and with what force spankings were administered. “Red zone” parents indicated they “used a paddle or other instrument to strike the child, or hit on the face or torso, or lifted to throw or shake the child.” Children in the remaining three zones were spanked less frequently and with less force. Baumrind discovered that once the “red zone” families were removed from the data, “with them went most of the correlations initially found between spanking and long-term harm to children.” While admitting that she herself was “not an advocate of spanking,” she recognized that “a blanket injunction against its use is not warranted by the evidence.” She concluded that “…occasional spanking does not damage a child's social or emotional development.”
Such research indicates that spanking, when used with appropriate force and frequency, can actually change children's behavior in the short term (as all research indicates) without permanently damaging a child psychologically. We need more researchers who are willing to study the effects of spanking performed in a way that is truly designed to teach and benefit the child. Quality research in this area will give parents reliable data to help them discern what role spanking should play in their family's discipline regimen.
County weighs public 'john-shaming' campaign to deter child sex trafficking
by Abby Sewell
F or years, Los Angeles County officials have been grappling with ways to crack down on the trafficking of children for sex on the streets, in hotels and on Internet sites throughout the county. They're now considering another tactic.
County supervisors could vote in the coming weeks on a plan to publicly post the names and police mug shots of people caught soliciting prostitutes, in hopes that the prospect of public shaming will deter johns from seeking sex from minors.
The move is part of a larger effort to redefine minors involved in the sex trade as rape victims and victims of sex trafficking rather than delinquents. That includes new county protocols that bar sheriff's deputies from arresting juveniles on prostitution charges and instead require them to connect the children to services.
It's also part of a wider trend of cities and counties that have launched shaming campaigns to discourage prostitution. But most of those campaigns have not distinguished between johns who buy sex with adults from those who pay to have sex with children. It's not clear whether Los Angeles County will be able to do so.
Supervisor Don Knabe asked county attorneys to look into the feasibility of a “john-shaming” campaign last December. On Tuesday, interim County Counsel Mary Wickham told the board she had developed a plan. Under the proposal, the district attorney would be asked to forward names and photographs of people convicted of soliciting prostitution or loitering with intent to solicit prostitution, which would then be posted on the county website.
Knabe said the proposal would help bring “accountability on the demand side” by publicly shaming johns.
“I really feel strongly that by posting the names and the pictures of those convicted of the solicitation, that's going to have a dramatic effect on the population out there,” he said.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas asked the attorneys to look into how to make a distinction between people convicted of soliciting adults for sex versus minors. He asked they look into including wording to make clear that purchasing sex with a minor is statutory rape.
But it's not yet clear what the mechanism might be to distinguish between johns who solicit children versus adults.
Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey, said the current law on soliciting prostitution makes no distinction whether the adult is soliciting sex from another adult or a minor, although a pending bill in the Legislature would change that. Wickham did not respond to an email seeking comment.
The practice of publicly shaming johns predates the Internet. In 1979, New York City debuted “John Hour” on public television and radio, announcing the names and addresses of men convicted of purchasing sex. And police in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., in the 1980s used to arrest johns in prostitution stings and then send their names out in press releases so they would run in the local Sunday paper.
More recently, a growing number of jurisdictions have taken the campaigns online. San Bernardino and Orange counties post names and photographs of people convicted of solicitation-related crimes. The city of Fresno posts information about johns after their arrests rather than waiting until conviction, but takes the information down after 15 days.
Michael Shively, a researcher who studied municipal approaches to combatting sex trafficking for the National Institute of Justice in Washington, D.C., and now runs a website outlining initiatives around the United States, said there has been no formal social science research on the effectiveness of “john shaming” campaigns.
But, he said, “There are many reasons to think it probably is effective.”
Surveys conducted among men sent to “john schools”—education or treatment programs for those caught soliciting commercial sex—for instance, have found that they were often more concerned about spouses, significant others or bosses finding out about their behavior than they were about fines or jail time.
Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff to Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas, said it would be hard to measure the deterrent effect of their year-old program because the number of solicitation arrests largely depends on the resources police departments put into sting operations.
But, she said, “We know that defendants don't like it, because they try to bargain it away instead of going to trial, which we don't do.”
Kang Schroeder said it would be difficult to specifically call out people who attempt to purchase sex from children, because in most cases, johns are arrested for soliciting adult undercover officers posing as prostitutes. An adult caught actually having sex with a child would face more severe charges, she said.
Childhood sex abuse victim from Ludlow wins $250,000 civil verdict in US District Court
by Stephanie Barry
SPRINGFIELD — A jury on Thursday awarded $250,000 to a 53-year-old Ludlow woman who sued her stepfather for raping her as a child after a three-day trial in U.S. District Court.
An eight-member panel found in favor of plaintiff Kathy Picard, who was at the forefront of pushing new legislation in 2014 to extend the statute of limitations to allow victims of sexual abuse more time to sue their alleged abusers.
Picard sued her stepfather, Louis Buoniconti, a Florida resident, arguing he began molesting her at the age of 7 in their home in Springfield, and escalated to raping her when she was a teen. The jury found in Picard's favor on four counts: battery; intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy; and false imprisonment.
She testified that Buoniconti, whom she believed was her biological father until she was 17, molested her on a brown recliner in the basement of their Moss Street home in Springfield, then began pursuing her in a locked bathroom and her bedroom. She told jurors he appeased her when she was young by calling her "his special girl."
Buoniconti and his biological family members who attended the trial contended the accusations were lies. He represented himself at trial. Buoniconti's brother testified against him, telling jurors he heard "heavy breathing and crying" from Kathy's bedroom after Louis Buoniconti entered on several occasions in the 1970s.
Buoniconti's biological daughter testified, on the other hand, that her father had never been sexually abusive toward her.
Picard was present when former Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law a bill to extend the statute of limitations in question from age 21 to 35 years after a complainant's 18th birthday – which puts Picard precisely at the deadline: 53. Picard filed her lawsuit on the same day in June 2014 when the legislation was passed.
It is the only case of its kind that has gone to trial in federal court in Springfield.
After the verdict, Picard said she wasn't in it for the money.
"For justice. For vindication. And not just for myself, but for other survivors who also can get their day in court," Picard said. "Justice was served. It was emotional. It was difficult, and I'm glad it's over."
Picard added that she was headed from court late Thursday to a weekly support group for victims of sexual abuse.
Her attorney, John B. Stewart, who took the case pro bono, said the trial experience will allow Picard to encourage others in the group to follow the same legal path if they wish.
Searchers find baby's body in South Carolina creek
by The Associated Press
SOCASTEE, S.C. -- Searchers found the body of a baby in a swollen, murky South Carolina creek on Thursday, two days after a mother said she put the 5-month-old girl into the water, according to police.
Divers found the body about 3:45 p.m., Horry County police Chief Saundra Rhodes said at a news conference. Later, more than a dozen rescuers gathered in a circle, praying. Some of them wiped their eyes.
"All of us have a sense of peace knowing we can lay her to rest properly," Rhodes said.
On Tuesday, the girl's mother, Sarah Lane Toney, went to a home about 500 yards across the creek and swamp from her house near Myrtle Beach and told a woman she had put her baby into the creek, police said.
Toney was taken into custody and charged with unlawful conduct toward a child. A judge denied bond Thursday before the body was found.
Toney asked officers at her bond hearing whether her baby had been found, then told the judge she should be released from jail because she didn't plan to leave the area and needed to take care of her older daughter, who was turned over to her father after she reported her baby disappeared in the water.
"I went into the water with her, and I was unable to hold on to her," Toney said at her bond hearing. "I didn't intentionally put her in any danger. I was going with her, and I wasn't able to hold on to her when the water sucked me in."
The baby was found less than 75 yards from her home, Rhodes said. The removal of a large tree helped divers find the body, the police chief said. An autopsy has been ordered to determine how the girl died.
Rhodes said her officers will consult with prosecutors, but she expects Toney to face charges in her daughter's death.
Toney, who also has gone by the last name of Carlson, has an arrest record in South Carolina that dates back to 2008, according to records obtained Wednesday from the State Law Enforcement Division. They included two arrests on criminal domestic violence charges.
The search for the baby, named Grace, could only go on in daylight because the current is so swift and the murky, brown water in the swamp and creek are full of reeds, trees and other vegetation, Horry County Police spokesman Lt. Raul Denis said. Searchers used special sonar equipment, along with boats, canoes and personal watercraft to look in the 6- to 8-foot depths.
Neighbors said Toney kept mostly to herself. Kayle White said she saw Toney pushing the baby around the neighborhood in a stroller, but they never spoke.
"She'd walk up and down the street, but I've never seen that baby up close," White said.
Woman sentenced to life in prison for holding disabled people captive
Four years ago, Philadelphia police found four adults locked in a basement room with no food and only a bucket for a toilet, authorities said.
A small group of captors led by Linda Weston had beaten the victims, kept them chained and captive in locked closets, basements and attics, deprived them of adequate food and medical care, and moved them between Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Florida, the U.S. Attorney's office in Philadelphia said in a statement.
The purpose: To steal their Social Security and disability payments, authorities said.
Weston, 55, of Philadelphia was punished on Thursday. A federal judge sentenced her to life in prison plus 80 years. She was ordered to make restitution of $273,463 to the Social Security Administration and pay $19,600 in a special assessment.
The enterprise victimized six disabled adults and four children from 2001 to 2011, prosecutors said.
Weston and her group allegedly befriended mentally challenged individuals who were estranged from their families. After those people moved into housing provided by Weston, she became their representative payee for Social Security and disability benefits, prosecutors said.
“While confined, the captives were often isolated, in the dark, and sedated with drugs placed in their food and drink by Weston and other defendants,” prosecutors said. “When the individuals tried to escape, stole food, or otherwise protested their treatment, Weston and others punished them by slapping, punching, kicking, stabbing, burning and hitting them with closed hands, belts, sticks, bats, and hammers or other objects, including the butt of a pistol.”
Two people died. Weston told the other people in her ring to move the bodies to other locations before contacting police, the statement said.
Weston pleaded guilty earlier to racketeering conspiracy, kidnapping resulting in the death of the victim, forced human labor, involuntary servitude, multiple counts of murder in aid of racketeering, hate crime, violent crime in aid of racketeering, sex trafficking, kidnapping, theft of government funds, wire fraud, mail fraud, use of a firearm in furtherance of a violent crime and false statements.
Her daughter, Jean McIntosh, and co-defendant Eddie Wright previously pleaded guilty. Co-defendants Gregory Thomas, Sr., and Nicklaus Woodard are awaiting trial.
Hawaii Reps Introduce 'Talia's Law' To Prevent Child Abuse And Neglect On Military Bases
Five-year-old Talia Williams was beaten to death by her Army father.
by Chris D'Angelo
HONOLULU -- Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and Mark Takai (D-Hawaii) introduced federal legislation this week aimed at better protecting children from abuse on military bases.
The proposed law is named after Talia Williams, a 5-year-old who was beaten to death in 2005 by her father, Naeem Williams, then an active-duty infantryman stationed in Hawaii.
The girl's murder reportedly came after months of torture and abuse by both her father and stepmother, Delilah Williams.
According to Delilah Williams' court testimony, Talia was denied food for days at a time, duct-taped to a bed and whipped, and kept out of daycare to hide physical signs of her beatings. Naeem Williams' fatal blow, prosecutors said, left knuckle imprints on the child's chest.
Legal proceedings revealed that multiple federal employees, including military police and employees at her on-base child care facility, failed to report suspected signs of Talia's abuse.
"Despite multiple reports to officials at the Army base in Hawaii where Talia and her father lived, the system failed to protect her," Gabbard said Tuesday during a speech on the House floor.
Currently, military professionals who come into contact with children are required to report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect to a military point of contact, who is then supposed to notify the state Child Protective Services.
"Talia's Law" would "close the communications gap that may exist," according to a release from Gabbard's office, by requiring military professionals to immediately report such cases directly to state Child Protective Services as well as their military point of contact.
"Talia's tragic story is just one of over 29,000 cases of child abuse and neglect in military homes over the last decade," Gabbard said on the House floor. "This is a problem that demands better protections for our children in military families who are being abused, and better support for military families facing the stresses of war, multiple deployments and economic hardship."
A 2013 investigation by the Army Times found 118 children of Army soldiers died in the previous decade due to child abuse or neglect, and more than 1,400 Army children were subjected to sexual abuse.
“Our military keiki (children) should never feel unsafe or neglected," Takai said in a statement. "I hope that through Talia's Law we make the necessary changes to protect these military families and their children."
In February, Naeem Williams was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his daughter, and narrowly escaped the death penalty.
Hawaii outlawed the death penalty in 1957, but since the crime took place on military property, the case was tried in federal court, where the death penalty is allowed. It was the first death penalty case to go to trial in Hawaii since capital punishment was abolished in the territory.
Delilah Williams was sentenced to 20 years in prison as part of a plea agreement.
Talia Williams' biological mother, Tarshia Williams, began pushing for new legislation shortly after she was awarded a $2 million settlement from the U.S. government in May over the death of her daughter.
“I would love for this law to get passed so it can help another child not go through what my daughter went through,” Tarshia Williams said in June.
How cardinal disgraced in Boston child abuse scandal found a Vatican haven
Bernard Law quit as archbishop of Boston in 2002 after criticism of his handling of paedophile priests but although a pariah in the US he was honoured in Rome
by Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Rome and Amanda Holpuch in New York
When Cardinal Bernard Law was forced under public pressure to resign as archbishop of Boston in 2002, he was considered a pariah within the ranks of the American Catholic church.
In an editorial at the time, the Boston Globe – which had helped bring him down by exposing how the archdiocese had covered up years of sexual abuse by paedophile priests – said that Law had become the “central figure in a scandal of criminal abuse, denial, payoff and coverup that resonates around the world”.
The story behind the Globe's exposé is the subject of a new film called Spotlight, which stars Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo and is being released in the US on Friday
The movie is likely to revive questions about the church's handling of sex abuse – both then and now – and revive memories of a painful period for abuse victims and millions of American Catholics.
But Law is likely to be insulated from any controversy: in the 13 years since his resignation, he has found a haven far from Boston, behind the walls of the Vatican.
At the time of his resignation, the cardinal was being pilloried publicly for having turned a blind eye to sex abuse, and embodying a culture that “reflexively placed the reputation of the church above the pain of victims”.
But for years, he served in an honorific role as the archpriest of the Basilica of the Santa Maria Maggiore until his retirement, at the age of 80, in 2011.
Today, Law enjoys the quiet life that any senior and retired cardinal living in Vatican City would: he is a fixture of the annual 4 July Independence Day party held by the US embassy to the Holy See, and was until recently considered an active and important conservative voice within many of the Vatican offices where he served.
“He is living out his elderly age just like many elderly cardinals who are in Rome or elsewhere do, and the way we probably will too if we make it over 80 years old,” said Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman.
Robert Mickens, a longtime Vatican journalist and editor of Global Pulse magazine said Law was “everywhere” during his active years in Rome and apparently believed he had been “badly done by”. Law could not be reached by the Guardian and is known to avoid interviews.
“I think most of the other cardinals see him as a victim rather than anyone who was culpable of anything,” Mickens says. “He was not punished. But if you look at it in terms of his power in the church in the US, he was knocked down a peg.”
At the same time, Mickens notes, the influence he wielded was greater in some respects once he left Boston, because he was living in the heart of the church.
“He did not lose his influence. He was a member of more congregations than any other bishop. There are nine or 10 and he was a member of six of them,” Mickens said. “Cardinals that are members of these offices can't always go to the meetings – they are not in Rome – but Bernie Law did and he goes everywhere and he keeps his head held high.”
Law was considered to have played a role in the controversial decision by the church under Pope Francis's predecessor, Pope Benedict, to investigate American nuns who were accused of promoting radical feminist ideas that were considered incompatible with the church. The investigation ended last year with a mild Vatican rebuke for the nuns.
Mickens has a nuanced view of Law. While the cardinal's name is almost synonymous with the church's cover-up scandal – in which senior officials moved abusive clergy from one parish to another even when they knew the priests had abused children – Mickens said Law was known before the scandal as an important promoter of civil rights in the US.
“In many respects, he did a lot of good things. He was one of the first people, when he was a priest in Missouri, to be in favour of racial harmony, and he worked against racial prejudice,” Mickens says.
But for men like David O'Regan, who was abused by a member of the Boston archdiocese in the 1960s and suppressed the experience until the Boston Globe's investigation made it public in 2002, Law is still a symbol of the church's legacy of abuse.
“Being caught in [Law's] lie, that was such a betrayal to me, because my faith meant so much to me,” he said.
Now serving as the New England director of the activist group Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, O'Regan said that he was one of about 100 people who attended a Spotlight screening last week, organised by the film's distributor, Open Road Films. There were several advance screenings of the film for clergy sex abuse survivors and their families and friends.
The anger and sadness O'Regan felt in 2002 was resurrected during the screening, but he said he is thankful for the film.
“I felt validation,” said O'Regan. “When we first came forward to the church, we were not believed, they minimised what happened to us.”
O'Regan said he and a few other survivors gathered at a restaurant after the screening, talking late into the night. Many of the people there had not seen each other since the scandal caught worldwide attention in 2002. “It was a sort of a reunion in one way,” O'Regan said.
Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the current archbishop of Boston, said the film “depicts a very painful time” in the US Catholic church's history and that the archdiocese continues to ask those harmed by the clergy abuse scandal to grant foregiveness.
“The media's investigative reporting on the abuse crisis instigated a call for the church to take responsibility for its failings and to reform itself – to deal with what was shameful and hidden – and to make the commitment to put the protection of children first, ahead of all other interests,” O'Malley said.
O'Regan said he wept many times as he watched the film, and in an interview with the Guardian he became emotional while describing a scene in which reporter Michael Rezendes, played by Ruffalo, comes to the realisation that “it could've been any of us” who were abused by clergy.
“It could've been any of us,” O'Regan emphasised. “That's a horrible reality I had as a child.”
Behavior Changes in Children May Signal Child Sexual Abuse
by Laura Landgraf - Author, Activist, Survivor
Every Saturday night the Walsh families gathered for dinner, music, and cousin time. There were nine children, ranging in age from 4 to 14. It was boisterously good fun. Kids catapulted across the lawn playing games, adults BBQ'd, and set tables for dinner. The swing hanging from an old oak tree was in constant use.
Later that night, Jamie strapped her 5-year-old exhausted noodle-like daughter into her car seat, and slipped into the front. She took Paul's hand as the dome light dimmed. He turned the music low and they drove home.
Jamie wondered if Priscilla (Pru) might be coming down with something, she was so quiet the following day. Jamie spent extra time cuddling her when she saw Pru pop her thumb in her mouth, a habit she'd broken a year ago. As the week went by, Pru seemed to gain energy, but wet the bed twice. Another anomaly.
The next Saturday, as Jamie prepared their assigned dish for the evening with the family, Pru went quiet. At her grandparents' house, she clung to Jamie's leg as if she'd never let go. No amount of coaxing could encourage her to play outside with her cousins. When Josh, Pru's 14-year-old cousin came in from outside, Pru slid around behind her mother, and buried her face in her skirt. Jamie took Pru out onto the front porch and asked what was wrong. Pru told her Josh said she couldn't tell. Anyone. Ever.
Pru's cousin had molested her at those family gatherings. It blew the family apart when Jamie confronted her brother and his wife about their son. The sad truth is, this is not unique. 90 percent of molestation is done by a family member, or someone known and trusted by them. As a parent, the more informed you are, the more attuned to your child's behavior, particularly when they seem "off" to you, the faster you can step in, if something is wrong.
Here are some telltale signs your child may be being sexually abused. No single behavior indicates child sexual abuse -- except disclosure. If several of these apply, begin asking clarifying questions.
In younger children:
• Recurring nightmares
• Eating habits suddenly change
• Inexplicable mood swings
• Draws frightening images
• Plays in sexual ways with toys (like stuffies)
• Develops a fear of certain people or places
• Mentions a secret shared with an older child or adult, but won't talk about it
• Has different names for private parts than she/he was taught
• Regresses to younger behaviors (such as bed wetting)
• Becomes uncharacteristically clingy and anxious
Sheri came from a very strict home. The only people who babysat them when they were little were their grandparents. In high school she and her sisters were driven to and from school. They were not allowed to take the school bus. They attended church, where both parents were quite active. Sheri was a junior, her older sister a senior. The baby of the family, completing a trio of girls, was nine.
Sheri always wore high necklines and long sleeves, no matter the weather. Beautiful, with long glossy auburn hair, she excelled scholastically, was shy, and at 16 was not allowed to date. She had a best friend who also attended the same church.
Tessa, Sheri's friend, risked detention that day to follow Sherri into the bathroom. Tessa had grown increasingly worried for her friend. Something wasn't right. She slipped through the door. Sheri wasn't immediately visible, having taken a right turn further into the bathroom, but the mirrors over the sink gave her away. Tessa's hand flew to her mouth when she saw Sheri, pocketknife in hand, crying as she cut herself.
Sheri had told no one, but when she saw her father begin grooming her younger sister to take her place, her hard fought-for façade of normalcy began to crack. Tessa insisted Sheri come to her house and talk to her mother. The entire story tumbled out. Tessa's mom went to Sheri's and broke the news to her.
In pre-teens and adolescents
• Cutting oneself (or otherwise hurting oneself)
• Changes in eating habits, excessive dieting or eating
• Sudden unexplained changes in personality (mood swings, insecure, withdrawn)
• Outbursts of anger
• Talk of suicide, suicide attempts
• Depression or anxiety
• Running away from home
• Drug or alcohol abuse
• Unexplained money or gifts
Did you know that more than 50 percent of children wait up to five years before disclosing abuse? If you know what to look for, and create the climate for disclosure by asking clarifying questions you will stop the abuse. As a parent, your best defense is to teach your children early about how special their bodies are, and what appropriate boundaries are. ( Dos and Don'ts for parents ) But if the unimaginable happens, know that the sooner you are able to stop the abuse, the more positive the outcome.
If you -- or someone you know -- need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.
Need help? In the U.S., callNeed help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline. 1-800-656-HOPE for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.
UGA law school alumnus funds nation's first child sexual abuse victim clinic
Groundbreaking opportunity will aid victims, train next generation of attorneys
Athens, Ga. - The University of Georgia School of Law will be the first in the nation to have an experiential learning opportunity dedicated solely to the assistance of victims of child sexual abuse.
The Wilbanks Child Endangerment and Sexual Exploitation Clinic will open January 2016. Initial funding for the clinic has been donated by Georgia Law alumnus Marlan B. Wilbanks, who received his Juris Doctor in 1986. It is expected that many of the clinic's first clients will be those now eligible to bring civil charges against their abusers as a result of the passage of House Bill 17, the "Hidden Predator Act," by the Georgia legislature.
"The act of sexually abusing a child is the attempted murder of a soul. I can see no more important task than protecting those in our society who too often have no voice," said Wilbanks, a longtime advocate for child protection issues. "The underlying goal of this clinic will be to educate, prepare and sensitize the next generation of lawyers as to the ways victims can be protected. On behalf of the children and families who would otherwise not be able to avail themselves of legal assistance, I applaud the University of Georgia School of Law for its willingness to be the first law school in the nation to draw a line in the sand against child sexual abuse."
Wilbanks, who was recognized by the Taxpayers Against Fraud Education Fund as the 2014 Lawyer of the Year, is the second Georgia Law alumnus involved in the DaVita Healthcare Partners false claims settlement agreement earlier this year who has chosen to make a significant investment in training for future attorneys.
Professor Marci A. Hamilton of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, a nationally recognized expert on the subject of child protections and author of "Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children" on the need for child sexual abuse statute of limitations reform, confirmed both the uniqueness and need for such a program. "This will be the first law school clinic that responds to statute of limitations reform for child sex abuse and offers assistance to victims," Hamilton said. "When reforms such as those recently enacted in Georgia are advanced, victims typically come forward who need advice and injunctive relief but whose case would not otherwise be picked up by an attorney in private practice. The University of Georgia School of Law is doing a great public service by assisting these victims and making it more likely that the public will learn the identities of even more hidden predators."
Georgia's Hidden Predator Act created a two-year window of relief from the statute of limitations for bringing civil charges in the case of child sexual abuse. Regardless of when the abuse occurred, victims can bring suit against their abusers until the window closes on July 1, 2017. After that time, the law requires suits to be brought forward before the victim reaches 23 years of age or within two years of the time the victim makes the connection that sexual abuse caused current problems such as substance abuse or relationship difficulties.
"The passage of the Hidden Predator Act signaled a desire by our state's elected leaders to open the doors of justice to the victims of child sexual abuse," Georgia Law Dean Peter B. "Bo" Rutledge said. "We are honored to expand our public service footprint and help those in society who too often remain voiceless. In addition, this opportunity gives our students the chance to serve as advocates for those in our state without access to adequate legal resources. The generosity of Marlan Wilbanks will not only fund the initial phase of this transformative clinic, it will change the lives of the families touched by these crimes and shape the paths of bright aspiring attorneys."
A nationwide search was launched last week to identify a director for the new clinic.
UGA School of Law
Consistently regarded as one of the nation's top public law schools, Georgia Law was established in 1859. Its accomplished faculty includes authors of some of the country's leading legal scholarship. The school offers three degrees-the Juris Doctor, the Master of Laws and the Master in the Study of Law-and is home to the Dean Rusk International Law Center. Georgia Law is proud of its long tradition of providing first-rate legal training for future leaders who will serve state and nation in both the public and private sectors. For more information, see www.law.uga.edu
Teen missing 13 years found safe in Cleveland
by CBS News
CLEVELAND -- Vestavia Hills, Alabama police say a child missing from the area since 2002 has been located in Ohio, according to CBS Cleveland affiliate WOIO-TV.
Julian Hernandez was reported missing by his mother in August 2002 when he was 5 years old. He is now 18.
It was suspected at the time that Julian's father, Bobby Hernandez, took the child.
The Cleveland Division of the FBI says it received a tip October 30 that a person living in the city could be a missing child from Alabama. Three days later, authorities confirmed that person is Julian Hernandez.
Bobby Hernandez has been arrested and charged in Ohio in connection to the abduction and will also face charges in Jefferson County, Alabama. He is being held in Cuyahoga County on a $255,000 bond. He could face additional charges, Vestavia Hills police say.
"We are in the process of getting charges on him and when that happens, when he is adjudicated in Ohio, then he will be extradited back to Jefferson County," Vestavia Hills Police Lt. Johnny Evans said.
Julian's mother and family have been notified that he was found safe.
"She was excited. She was glad to finally get closure to know that he is still alive, 'cause after 13 years of not knowing she was glad to see that he was still alive," Evans said.
Jefferson County District Attorney Brandon Falls says red flags were raised when Julian tried to apply for college. Falls said Julian's Social Security number kept coming back as incorrect. He then approached a school counselor for help. In trying to assist Julian, she discovered he was listed as missing by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Falls said it's unlikely Julian knew he was listed as missing. Falls added that he is seeking interference with custody charges in Alabama against Bobby Hernandez, which is a class C felony and carries a prison term of 1-10 years.
Vestavia Hills Police thanked the FBI's Violent Crime Task Force, the Birmingham Division of the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for their assistance in the case.
New Toolkit Issued to Help Providers Measure Trauma With ACES Survey
by Sarah Barr
A new toolkit is out that aims to help services providers give a survey about traumatic childhood experiences that are linked to negative effects on health and well-being.
The toolkit, developed by The National Crittenton Foundation, offers recommendations about the Adverse Childhood Experiences survey, including how to talk to children and parents about the survey, track results and use the data for public education and policy advocacy.
The ACES survey grew out of a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente that examined the links between traumatic experiences and well-being. The survey asks about experiences such as abuse, neglect and exposure to mental illness and alcohol or drug addiction.
The survey has become a popular tool to measure what individuals have experienced and help them get the assistance they need. It also can be used to educate the public and policymakers about the links between trauma and health outcomes, according to the toolkit.
“This can be an important beginning for discussion about ways the community can come together to recognize trauma and contribute to the healing process,” NCTF wrote in the toolkit.
The toolkit traces TNCF's experiences administering the survey, especially what researchers have learned about the experiences of girls and young women.
Survey results from within Crittenton's network of providers showed that 53 percent of girls and 61 percent of young mothers had an ACEs score of 4 or more on a 10-point scale. A score of 4 or more increases the risk of emphysema or chronic bronchitis by nearly 400 percent and suicide by 1,200 percent, according to the original study.
“We now know more than ever of the negative impact that childhood adversity and the trauma that results from exposure can cause. We have also seen firsthand the incredible resiliency and healing that young women are capable of,” TNCF President Jeannette Pai-Espinosa said in a press release.
The toolkit also includes a sample protocol, case studies and testimonials from women who took the survey.
In one, a woman named Cassaundra wrote that her ACES results changed how she thought about her life.
“The ACE information proved to me that I am a survivor and not a damaged person full of blame and shame. Most importantly, I know it is in my power to take actions to protect my children from exposure to adverse experiences — I can stop the cycle that is my family legacy,” she said.
TNCF released the toolkit in partnership with Ascend at the Aspen Institute.
Trafficked Boys Overlooked
by Yu Sun Chin
For years, the sex trade was "their" problem, a heinous part of culture in poorer nations. But attention here to sex trafficking has slowly increased in recent years with the reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act and other federal state laws.
Still, males remain a largely invisible population within the dialogue on sex trafficking. According to a 2008 study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, in fact, boys comprised about 50 percent of sexually exploited children in a sample study done in New York, with most being domestic victims.
However, the percentage of male victims may be higher due to the underreported and subversive nature of the crime, said Summar Ghias, program specialist for the Chicago-based International Organization for Adolescents.
“We're conditioned as a community to identify female victims more readily,” she said, “because that has been the more prominent focus of the anti-trafficking movement.”
Despite these high percentages of commercially sexually exploited boys, a 2013 study by ECPAT-USA indicates that boys and young men are rarely identified as people arrested for prostitution or rescued as human trafficking victims, and are arrested more for petty crimes such as shoplifting.
Experts say that the law enforcement's attitudes toward male victims are still weighed down by gender biases in trafficking discourse, which pins females as victims and males as perpetrators. Therefore, male victims in custody often fall through the cracks of services that could be offered to help them because they are not properly assessed for sexual exploitation.
“Responses are more or less the same – how can a boy be trafficked, they're much stronger than girls, they could get out of it if they wanted to so,” says Genna Goldsobel, state policy coordinator of ECPAT-USA, a national anti-trafficking organization based in New York.
Many people also mistakenly associate male prostitution with homosexuality, when a majority of the trafficked youths are not gay, said Steven Pricopio, program coordinator of Surviving Our Struggle, an aftercare center for young male trafficking victims.
“When people think about male prostitution, they think of it as gay phenomena, that [the boys] are in control of what they're doing,” Pricopio said. “They don't see them as victims … It's not an issue of sexual orientation, it's an issue of right circumstances which bring you to exploitation or the vulnerability that brings you into being sexually exploited.”
Male victims come from similar backgrounds as female victims, often raised in broken families with a history of neglect and abuse, with at least 70 percent having experienced sexual abuse as children, Procopio said.
A 14 year-old male from the John Jay study, who started prostitution at age 12, said that his family's neglect contributed to his apathetic attitude toward his own life.
“My mother, she's lazy; she wouldn't care,” he said. “She would care if I
died, but that's all she cares about.”
The extent of their trauma is amplified due to their previous experience with sexual violence from a young age, making it difficult for them to identify as victims.
LGBTQ youth, who are more likely to be kicked out of their homes due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, may comprise about one-thirds of this population, according to the John Jay study.
The other two-thirds are made up of non-gay youth and “gay for pay” victims, or young heterosexual men who have sex with other men, said Meredith Dank, Senior Research Associate at The Urban Institute, a Washington D.C.-based think tank.
One 18-year old male from the John Jay study said that although he was heterosexual, he slept with men to sustain himself: “I just gotta do what I gotta do and so I can eat every day. I don't like the fact that I have to be with another man, just to survive. That's what I hate the most.”
Once on the streets, young men are often lured into prostitution not only by pimps, but also by friends through peer networks that may stand to earn cash for “helping them out,” which confuses the cycle of exploitation, Dank said.
A 15-year old male from the John Jay study said he was pressured into the work by his friends, saying that “I didn't know my friends did that — that they sold their bodies.”
Boys are bought and sold in both online and offline venues such as clubs and bars and websites such as backpage.com. Buyers are mostly white and upper-middle class men, and are often professionals with lots of flexibility in their schedule, Procopio said. However, 40 percent of the boys in the John Jay study also reported that they had served a female client.
“It makes boys more distrustful of authority figures because [the buyers] are authority figures,” he said.
Identification of male victims is difficult not only due to the lack of awareness, or focus, from law enforcement and service providers, but also the reluctance of boys to speak up.
Victims are unwilling to come forward to service providers, which may include doctors, social workers, and probation officers, due to feelings of shame and stigma.
An 18-year old male from Bronx in the study reflected on the guilt he associated with his work: “My mother taught me a lesson. If you're ashamed a sumpin'… don't do it, you know? … but at the same time, when you're in the position that I'm in, it's hard to live by it.”
Others are concerned that the service provider will try to criminalize their social network, said Anthony Marcus, who helped draft the John Jay study. The paradigm of child sex trafficking is unappealing to many victims, who may have children themselves and use prostitution for survival, he said.
“A lot of them don't see themselves as children and don't see themselves as victims and don't see themselves as having suffered abuse so it puts a damper on the desire to go to any service professionals,” Marcus said.
Illinois passed the Safe Children Act in 2010, which is meant to protect minors who have been forced into prostitution from criminal prosecution, and place them in the child welfare system instead of the criminal justice system. However, many victims are still reluctant to reveal their victimization because they are unwilling to enter the foster care system, Dank said.
Male victims of trafficking also face a severe lack of aftercare and reintegration services, which may include both short-term and long-term housing options, education and job placement programs, and mental health services. The youth from the study echoed this need for more long-term housing. An 18-year old male from the study described the process of going from shelter to shelter: “Them shelters are 90 days. So, I gotta crash at a friend's house, stay in a open-door type, and get my name back on the list to get another 90 days.”
According to the ECPAT-USA study, out of the 40 informants contacted, only four out of 25 shelters for commercially sexually exploited children serve boys, leaving them no choice but to return to their homes or the streets where they face potential re-exploitation. The absence of services tailored for male victims stem from the lack of general awareness about their experiences and victimization, Procopio said.
Without more concrete numbers on male victims of trafficking, funders may be unwilling to donate to shelters specifically tailored for their needs, Goldsobel said.
“When you don't have statistics, it's hard to get funding. If you don't have funding, then you're not helping victims and they get re-victimized and it comes full circle,” she said.
Rape cases soar to nearly 30,000 in a year in wake of Jimmy Savile scandal
by Claire Miller
The number of rapes recorded by police has jumped by 40% in a year to nearly 30,000.
Police forces in England and Wales recorded 19,316 adult rapes in 2014/15, up 49% from 12,967 the year before, with the increase possibly down to victims feeling more able to make a report and actions to reduce police no-criming.
The number of child rapes was up 28% in a year, from 7,781 in 2013/14 to 9,949 in 2014/15, according to the latest set of figures from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary's Rape Monitoring Group.
Rises in the numbers of rapes being recorded may not be due to an increase in prevalence, but the result of improvements in how the police record crimes, or may mean that victims have an increased understanding that a crime has been committed, or feel more confident in being believed when reporting what happened to them.
As an example, the report says, it may be that in the wake of publicity associated with the late Jimmy Savile and other historical abuse cases, more adult survivors of child sexual abuse, as well as more recent victims, have felt empowered to come forward to tell the police about sexual abuse.
There has been an 87% increase in recorded rapes between October 2012, when Operation Yewtree began, and March 2015.
Increases may also be down to work to stop the wrong no-criming of rape. An inspection of police forces carried out between December 2013 and August 2014 found sexual offences were under-recorded by 26%, compared to 19% for all crimes.
A fifth of decisions to no-crime rape were wrong, and in a fifth of cases (22%) the victim was not told of the decision.
The proportion of adult rapes transferred or cancelled, previously known as no-crime, in England and Wales has dropped from 15% in 2010/11 to 6% in 2014/15, while for child rapes it is down from 7% to 4%.
However, rape is likely to still be under-reported - the 2013/14 Crime Survey for England and Wales found that, of respondents who had experienced a serious sexual assault (including rape) since the age of 16, two thirds of the victims told somebody about their most recent experience, but only one in six told the police.
Overall, the police charge/summon rate for adult rapes in England and Wales has dropped from 18% in 2012/13 to 12% in 2014/15, while for child rapes it is down from 39% to 16%.
Lower charge, prosecution and conviction rates may be because victims are unwilling to support prosecution or because, with historic crimes, the offender has since died.
However, it may also be a warning sign that cases that there are issues within the police and CPS systems.
In 2014, reflecting the seriousness of the offence, nearly every convicted rapist received a custodial sentence; 16 offenders received a caution (compared with 4,556 police-recorded charge/summons in the financial year 2014/15). Of these 16 cautions: 9 were for males aged 10-14; 5 were for males aged 15-17; and 2 were for males aged 18-20.5
Chair of the Rape Monitoring Group, Wendy Williams, said: “This data provides a starting point to allow people - from the public to police and crime commissioners - to scrutinise how rape is dealt with in their area, and ask important questions of the local criminal justice services.
“It does however need to be treated carefully; the data is collected by different organisations, in different ways and for slightly different time periods. For instance, a high number of reported rapes in one of the 42 areas might indicate that victims are more willing to report rape, rather than a particularly high rate of rapes for instance.
“Without data which allows direct comparisons, we can't see what good or bad practice currently exists and it is not possible to track the progress of individual cases of rape through the criminal justice system. The Rape Monitoring Group regularly reviews these digests to try to enhance the quality and quantity of the information so that the right questions can be asked. In the meantime this data provides a platform for further discussion.”
Victims of historic sexual abuse at deaf school speak about their ordeal
by Erika Jones
When deaf children are abused, they can have extra difficulties in letting people know what has happened. One incidence of abuse from an east London school for deaf children has demonstrated the problem in a See Hear and Newsnight investigation which has named the perpetrator for the first time.
With limited vocabulary and lack of awareness, many children at Woodford School for Deaf Children tried to tell people they were being sexually abused by the husband of the headmistress, without success.
"There was a busy road with a playground and there'd be people walking past but we had no communication because we couldn't speak, we couldn't sign and they couldn't understand our voices," says James, not his real name, a pupil at the school in the early 1960s. "We'd try and write notes but our vocabulary was limited. The only word we knew was 'rude'."
It is difficult for a child to tell an adult that they have been touched inappropriately, sexually assaulted or raped. If that child is deaf and can't speak well, or if they use sign language, then communicating even the simplest things can be a challenge.
"We'd make paper aeroplanes and throw them. People would pick them up, laugh and wave and go on their way and we would feel frustrated," says James.
About 90% of deaf children are born into hearing families where the household doesn't use British Sign Language. If the families don't go on to learn BSL, this can create a linguistic barrier. This can have a negative impact on their education and knowledge as witnessed by families over the years and with some research to back this up.
Until recently, most special education took place at residential schools, where deaf children would board on a weekly or termly basis.
In 1951, Eric and Beatrice Ingall set up the Woodford School, a private school for deaf children in east London. Beatrice was headmistress and Eric the bursar, driver and handyman. The couple lived in the same boarding house as the pupils.
The school taught by the "oral" method where they used speech in all lessons. It works by encouraging children to speak and lip-read English, rather than use sign language. It was common to teach deaf children with this method at the time, and is still used today.
If any pupils at Woodford were caught signing to each other they were punished, typically with a ruler on the hand, or by taping pupils hands behind their backs. Few deaf schools taught sign language then.
One former pupil recalls having to stand outside a classroom with the sign "I am a goldfish" around his neck after failing to talk properly. Many former pupils report they were made to feel ashamed for being deaf. They were forced to call the couple Daddy and Mummy, or face punishment. This shame and sexual abuse continued at the school across three decades.
Some pupils have remained silent about their ordeal for many years and the perpetrator of the abuse is named for the first time by BBC's See Hear and Newsnight.
"It was something that took place every day, at any time, morning, afternoon, evening, round the clock. And I didn't see my family from when I was 4 until 11," says former pupil "Miriam" - not her real name. "I was a prisoner in that school."
One victim, Sandra, says: "He smiled at me when he was doing it. I never smiled back. I just sat there terrified. What was I supposed to do? He abused me nearly every week for two years. When he left the bedroom I cried. I refused to cry in front of him because it would be more pleasurable for him. He enjoyed seeing me suffer and I didn't want him to see me like that."
Another pupil, David, says: "I didn't know anything. I thought it was supposed to be fun and that it was acceptable. I didn't realise so I didn't try to stop him. I thought it was a part of normal life."
In 1964 a case was taken against Ingall at the local magistrate's court. He pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting two pupils and, even though he asked for seven other offences to be taken into consideration, was fined only £50 and prohibited from being in the school for two years. It's thought that the couple's influence and connections with the local establishment, some of whom gave good character references at the trial, led to him getting off lightly. A former mayor of Woodford had testified in his favour, suggesting that overwork might have caused the "lapse".
Whilst Ingall was the main abuser, Mrs Ingall is accused of turning a blind eye to what was happening. Despite the convictions, she allowed her husband inside the school to look for his next victims.
"Ingall's wife came and she saw," says Miriam, "...she completely wasn't bothered and left me there with him and went back to her bedroom."
It takes, on average, seven-and-a-half years for a sexually abused child to finally disclose to anyone what has happened to them and, for many, disclosure does not take place until well into adulthood, according to recent research by the NSPCC.
David, abused from the age of three, says it wasn't until he became an adult and attended a course on protecting children that he realised what had happened to him.
Some described their wish to escape and how they would plot to achieve it. Sandra told of how she felt envious of a fellow pupil who was being carried out of the school in an ambulance, being unconscious after a fall. Another pupil, James, recalled a time when he stole a ring, deliberately wearing it in public in the hope that the police would come to arrest him and take him away.
It is said by the victims that Ingall often visited the classrooms to take his pick of the children. When he came in, every child was terrified that it was going to be their turn that day.
He continued his abuse throughout the probation period, and into the next decade. Mrs Ingall retired as headmistress in 1984 and the school itself closed in 1991.
In 1992, nearly 30 years after the original conviction, another complaint was made but the police did not investigate it because Ingall was believed to be senile.
Despite this, seven years later a group of ex pupils rallied together to make fresh charges against Ingall and others. With Ann Stuart, a child abuse police investigator for the Metropolitan Police, they worked on this case for nearly five years and were disappointed when the case was discontinued in 2004 on its second day.
Judge Michael Burr cited the reasons that Ingall was too old, that other potential witnesses had died and that the survivors had left it too long. The remaining witnesses, however, did receive CICA compensation from the Home Office as victims of crime.
Beatrice Ingall died in 2007 and Eric Ingall died in 2012. Their deaths brought little comfort to those that were abused.
This investigation is a collaboration between Newsnight and See Hear, the BBC's long-running programme for deaf people. Watch the report on Newsnight, BBC Two at 22:30 on 4 November 2015. Or catch up on BBC iPlayer afterwards.
Resources to teach deaf children about the dangers of child sexual abuse can be found on the NSPCC's website.
‘It's a joke': Author of ‘Great is the Truth' decries New York's weak statute of limitations, which allowed Horace Mann to cover up sexual abuse
by Michael O'Keeffe
There are plenty of bad guys in Amos Kamil's powerful and disturbing new book on the Horace Mann sexual-abuse scandal, "Great is the Truth."
There are the coaches, teachers and administrators accused of raping and assaulting scores of students for three decadesm, men such as baseball coach/headmaster Inky Clark, football coach Mark Wright and swimming coach Stanley Kops. There are also the officials at the prestigious Riverdale prep school who allegedly ignored and covered up complaints of abuse, leaders such as former headmaster Eileen Mullady and ex-Board of Trustees chairman Michael Hess, the powerhouse New York attorney and a close associate of former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Then there are the unnamed villains: The New York legislators and policy makers who have refused to reform the stingy statute of limitations that makes it almost impossible for adult survivors of abuse to pursue criminal charges and civil litigation in the Empire State against sexual predators and the institutions that protect them.
"It's a joke," says Kamil, the playwright, investigative journalist and 1982 Horace Mann graduate whose 2012 New York Times Magazine article shoved Horace Mann's sex-abuse scandal into the public spotlight. "It's an arcane law that needs to change. The fact that New York does not have the political will to change this is sickening. Where is Gov. Cuomo on this?"
The most important — and infuriating — chapters of "Great is the Truth," which Kamil co-authored with Sean Elder, follow the aftermath of Kamil's 8,700-word Times magazine article, when dozens of survivors band together to seek justice and acknowledgment of the horrifying abuse they endured.
The survivors and their supporters' demands included an independent investigation that would look into how nearly two dozen faculty members were able to rape and assault more than 60 students over three decades, as well as assistance and compensation for the sexual abuse survivors, some of whom struggled with depression and other emotional damage years after they left the Bronx prep school.
The survivors also urged the school to lobby New York lawmakers to change the statute of limitations so victims of sexual abuse could seek redress in the courts. But why would Horace Mann officials work to reform the statute of limitations when it shielded them from liability and allowed them to low-ball victims during negotiations over compensation?
Victim advocates say New York is one of the worst states in the nation for survivors of childhood sexual abuse because of its stringent statute of limitations. As Kamil points out in "Great is the Truth," there are not statutes of limitations for murder, kidnapping or even fraud. l
"But in New York at least," he writes, "sexual abusers of children get a free pass after the victim turns 23."
In New York, victims have only five years from the time their abuse is reported to police, or until they turn 23 years old — whatever comes first — to file a lawsuit against their abusers and institutions that employed them. The law, victim advocates say, encourages churches, schools and other institutions linked to sex abuse to remain silent to escape legal liability.
For administrators who fear how a sex-abuse scandal will impact their schools' reputation and fund-raising efforts, New York's statute of limitations provides a "playbook" on how to cover up sexual abuse, attorney Kevin Mulhearn told Kamil and Elder.
The New York statute of limitations discourages schools and organizations from taking steps to make victims whole and prevent future abuse, says Mulhearn, who represented sex abuse victims from Horace Mann, Poly Prep and Yeshiva University High School. It encourages institutions to do nothing until the statute of limitations runs out — which happens all too frequently.
"The young victim is expected to share their shame with an adult and in many cases go above their abuser's head or to the police in order to pursue justice," Mulhearn says in "Great is the Truth.”
"That's a tall order for any minor but almost unfathomable for someone who just had their world and confidence shaken, their sexuality called into question, and their trust in both teacher and school pulled from them," Mulhearn adds.
State Assemblywoman Margaret Markey has been working since the 2006-2007 legislative session to reform the SOL. The Queens Democrat's Child Victims Act would allow victims to report crimes until they reach the age of 28. It would also open a one-year window for victims previously stifled by the SOL to file civil lawsuits.
As Kamil points out, the bill has passed the Assembly but not the State Senate, in part due to stiff opposition from the Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish groups who fear an onslaught of lawsuits if Markey's bill passes. Advocates for sexual abuse victims privately speculate that Cuomo has remained silent on the issue because he is afraid to further rile the church and conservatives after he signed legislation legalizing same-sex marriage in 2011.
"Someone needs to stand up to these powerful forces opposing this bill," Kamil says. "I point the finger at Gov. Cuomo."
There were some leaders within the Horace Mann community that hoped to take a compassionate approach to the survivors' demands — they wanted the school to acknowledge the abuse, investigate and report on how it went unchecked for so long, provide compensation to make the victims whole and make the Riverdale school a role model in how institutions handle sexual abuse allegations. But the school ultimately chose a get-tough path endorsed by hedge fund honcho and board chairman Steven Friedman. Shielded by New York's statute of limitations, Horace Mann officials played hardball with victims, offering them a fraction of what they thought they deserved while refusing to investigate decades of abuse. Many survivors called it the 'retraumatization."
According to "Great is the Truth," Poly Prep paid nearly $10 million to 12 survivors, while Penn State paid almost $60 million to 26 victims of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Horace Mann paid survivors of its abuse scandal between $4 million and $5 million. "It was shocking to those of us who thought they would come from a more compassionate place," Kamil says.
Kamil says Horace Mann's tough-guy approach reflects the trustees' career paths. Many have made fortunes on Wall Street or in real estate and they approach the negotiations hoping to give as little as possible and get as much as they can. It is not the kind of approach that makes victims feel whole or healed.
But Kamil warns that it's dangerous to generalize. "Great is the Truth" notes that there were many billionaires who expressed disgust at Horace Mann's clumsy attempts to brush off the sex scandal that will haunt it for decades to come.
"Not everyone with money," Kamil says, "is an a--hole."
‘Responding to abuse' — 4-part series opens
by Bob Zyskowski
The impact of abuse of all varieties.
The ripple effect abuse has on families and communities.
The potential for victims' recovery, and how churches and individuals can support that recovery.
All the above were touched upon in the opening segment of “Responding to Abuse,” a four-part series being held Sunday afternoons during November at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis.
The first session on Nov. 1 laid the series' foundation by defining abuse and outlining different types of abuse, abuse's impact on the brain, cycles of abuse and how to respond to victims. From 1-2:30 p.m., a panel of mental health professionals answered common questions about abuse before taking audience questions.
Basilica parishioner Dr. Patty Griffith, a licensed clinical psychologist, moderated the panel that included Dr. Amanda Richards, Dr. Niloufer Merchant and Dr. Tina Sacin, also a Basilica parishioner.
Among the points panelists made:
Those who are abused often think the abuse is their fault. “It's never the fault of the victim,” Richards emphasized.
Family members of those abused may share the victim's shame and often need counseling, too.
Children who are abused have a higher incidence of chronic health issues later in life, but not always.
Childhood abuse may lead to developmental, emotional and cognitive “pauses” that directly impact their adult relationships. Pauses in development might lead to behavior that Richards described as “what 7-year-olds do when they don't get their way.”
Fifty percent of men incarcerated for child sexual abuse said they began their abusive behavior after viewing child pornography.
As with other addictions, the brain “gets used to” porn when it is exposed to it over and over, Sacin explained, “and continually needs to be fed at a different level” to provide the “reward” of excitement.
In the pornography industry, Sacin added, “the degradation of females has become measurably more dramatic and harmful as viewers of pornography want more intense experiences.”
For healing to happen, it is not necessary for abuse victims — some of whom prefer to be called “survivors” — to tell their story, Sacin said.
But, she added, for those who wish to support the victim, “It is necessary to say ‘I'm sorry that happened to you' and to ask, ‘What can I do to help?'”
Many people recover from abuse and go on to live happy and productive lives, Sacin said, but, for some abuse victims, treatment can take years.“
Some people are resilient,” Merchant said. “A lot of growth takes place from traumatic experiences, and a lot of times people who are abused go on to help other people recover.”
Those working with immigrants who have had horrifying experiences and first responders who witness traumatic events may be secondary victims of abuse. To assist both abuse survivors and secondary victims of abuse, Merchant said, “a community needs to provide a circle of love and support.”
She said research has shown that the significantly lower than expected incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder after the 9/11 attacks has been attributed to the circle of support and healing that happened so quickly.
It takes just one caring adult to make a difference in the life of a child, Richards said. “That's the piece to pay attention to as to what we can do as churches and communities.
The series is a response to the child protection protocols set in place in October 2014 by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, said Paula Kaempffer, the Basilica's director of learning.
“I read in the protocols the suggestion to offer continuing education about abuse, and that's what gave me the idea for the series,” Kaempffer said. “We need to educate people about abuse. Education is power in trying to end this.”
She said initially what she had in mind was a response to the crisis of sexual abuse by clergy, but she said she realized that people are victimized by abusive behavior in other settings, including in family, workplace and personal relationships.
The series continues with panels Nov. 8 and 15 and a presentation Nov. 22. Nov. 15 panelists are to include Tim O'Malley, the archdiocese's director of the Office of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment, and attorney Michael Finnegan, counsel with the firm that represents a group of sexual abuse claimants in the archdiocese's Chapter 11 Reorganization.
Brainerd church reaches out to those affected by clergy abuse
by Jennifer Stockinger
Brainerd's Roman Catholic church is reaching out to the community and survivors who were abused by clergy in hopes to help them heal.
The Rev. Tony Wroblewski said St. Francis Catholic Church is keeping with the theme of "A Year of Mercy" as declared by Pope Francis. The church has gathered a diverse group of parishioners to reflect on how the Brainerd lakes Catholic community can integrate the Pope's focus on the Catholic faith and to present actions taken, both within and without the Catholic church, to address past abuse of young people by clergy.
Wroblewski said the church wants to help victims, families and the community heal. The group, named the Mercy Task Force, is studying ways the Catholic community can promote atonement, healing and where fitting, forgiveness.
Wroblewski said that since the Minnesota Child Victims Act took effect, a number of clergy abuse lawsuits have been filed. The act changed the statute of limitations and gives child sexual abuse victims until May 25, 2016, to file civil lawsuits.
Several civil lawsuits were filed in the Diocese of Duluth, which the Brainerd parish is affiliated with. The diocese released a report in December 2013 that 17 former priests were accused of abuse, including the Rev. Kirby Blanchard, who was a pastor at churches in Garrison, Deerwood, Pequot Lakes, Pine River and Brainerd, and the Rev. Leonard Colston, who served at St. Francis in 1980-81.
More recently, a lawsuit was filed against the Rev. Charles Gormly, who was at St.Francis in Brainerd in 1960-61, involving an underage female victim. The lawsuit alleges Gormly's abuse of the survivor resulted from the Diocese of Duluth's negligence and concealment of information about Gormly's sexually abusive past. Gormly died in 1968.
Since 1992, the Diocese of Duluth has had a strict sexual misconduct policy. Safeguards are in place to make sure churches and schools provide a safe environment for youth.
Wroblewski said any adult involved in religious and school programs must have safe environment training and undergo a background check, and anyone convicted of a sexual conduct crime will not be able to work with young people. Wroblewski said staff are taught to look for warning signs of abuse and are trained how to respond, including reporting any incident.
"We have these situations where many of us feel powerless on what to do," Wroblewski said. "We can't change what happened in the past. We deplore any kind of decisions that were made to move a problem priest from one place to another. So what do we do? That is how the Mercy Task Force came about.
"How do we, No. 1, atone for decisions of the past that were terrible even if we had nothing to do with those decisions; how do we as a church respond today to those who are hurting; and how can we be a part of the solution in dealing with abuse that happens, not just within the church which is a small fraction of the larger problems we face in society and family?"
Wroblewski said the church is searching for ways to atone the sins of the past, how the church can make amends and how to move forward.
Wroblewski said the church cannot just say sorry and move on. He said work must be done to heal the community and victims of abuse. The task force has organized focused prayer, a variety of presentations, learning opportunities and scheduled the following public gatherings:
- Weekly "Prayers of the Faithful" at Mass, specifically for survivors of abuse.
- Bishop Paul D. Sirba will appear at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at St. Francis Church for a time of atonement, prayer and dialogue regarding past sexual abuse by clergy. Professional sexual abuse advocates from Crow Wing County Sexual Assault Services will be available for those who would like information and/or support.
- Alison Feigh, director of the Jacob Wetterling Foundation, will present "When Faith Hurts" at 7 p.m., Dec. 11, at the Northland Arboretum. Professional sexual abuse advocates from Crow Wing County Sexual Assault Services will be available.
- Another program is being considered for Lent in 2016.
"The information that comes out disgusts us greatly," Wroblewski said of clergy abuse. "It's painful; we know it is even more painful for those who've had to endure it, the survivors and their families. I would add that although the truth will hurt, the truth needs to be told so we can move forward with honesty and integrity.
"A lot of parishioners have expressed anger regarding past abuse. I think a lot of it is a delayed reaction."
Pat Altrichter, a Mercy Task Force member, said, "Our hope is that on Nov. 6, our community will come together to acknowledge the pain and suffering that occurs because of sexual abuse. The abuse from clergy is especially tragic, and many forms of abuse, in communities across the globe, is far too prevalent. We hope that this community prayer service will unite us in the process of healing for those who are suffering."
Crow Wing County Assistant Attorney David Hermerding also sits on the task force as a community member. Hermerding said the task force's mission is to help the church/the parishioners heal from past child abuse. He said the events planned for the community will allow "the church to get back together and heal and will invite those who were disenfranchised because of some of the abuse to come back to the church.
"We want to reach out to everyone in the community who might have been a victim of abuse. We will have folks from victim services at the events who will be available to those who want services."
Lawmakers seek to strengthen DoD child abuse reporting
by Karen Jowers
The military needs to do more to immediately report suspected cases of child abuse to civilian authorities, according to two lawmakers who introduced legislation in the House on Tuesday.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, cited the case of 5-year-old Talia Williams, who in 2005 was beaten to death by her father while he was stationed in Hawaii. It was later revealed that multiple federal employees, including military police and workers at Talia's on-base child care facility failed to report suspected signs of abuse, Gabbard said. She introduced the bill, named Talia's Law, along with Rep. Mark Takai, D-Hawaii.
“This is a problem that demands better protection for our children in military families who are being abused, and better support for military families facing the stresses of war, multiple deployments and economic hardship,” Gabbard said in a speech on the House floor. Her bill, she said, would close the gap between “mandated reporters” of child abuse and neglect, and the installations' Family Advocacy Programs. Family advocacy is responsible for identifying and reporting abuse, and providing services for victims and families associated with child abuse and neglect, and domestic abuse.
In addition to reporting these incidents to their installation point of contact, such as family advocacy, these mandated reporters would have to report them to their local civilian child protective services agency. Mandated reporters of child abuse are generally those who come in contact with children, such as child care workers, teachers, physicians, psychologists, social workers and others.
“I've introduced Talia's Law today to require military officials to immediately report suspected cases of abuse to state child protective services,” Gabbard said. “We owe it to our service members, their families and thousands of children like Talia to disrupt the status quo and stop another decade of preventable child abuse.”
According to DoD statistics, in the decade from 2005 to 2014, there were 54,702 victims in cases that met the criteria for child abuse and neglect.
“It is DoD policy not to comment on pending legislation,” said DoD spokesman Air Force Maj. Ben Sakrisson. “However, DoD is currently required by law to report all allegations of child abuse and neglect to state/local Child Protective Services.”
According to Defense Department regulations, which are based in law, military family advocacy personnel and military law enforcement must reciprocally provide each other all reports of child abuse involving military personnel or their family members. And within 24 hours, family advocacy must communicate these reports of child abuse to the appropriate civilian child protective services agency for investigation. The military services also have policies for installations to follow to ensure the safety of the child victim of abuse and other children in the household.
While DoD is required to notify local child protective services officials about all reports involving child abuse and neglect, whether they are on or off the installation, civilian child protective services do not have that same requirement to notify DoD officials of incidents that are reported to them.
DoD has recommended that either federal or state legislation be introduced requiring states' child protective services officials to notify DoD of all allegations of child abuse and neglect.
In the meantime, DoD has undertaken a significant initiative to recommend to states that they establish legislation requiring the reciprocal sharing of information from each state child protective services agency to the service branch's family advocacy officials for incidents involving active-duty military families.
Contra Costa Times editorial: Another school district fails to report child abuse
Here we go again: Yet another case of child abuse in our schools apparently enabled by an administrator who failed to pass on suspicions to police.
This time we're talking about the San Ramon Valley Unified School District. It follows cases of reporting delays and, in some cases, outright cover-ups of physical and sexual abuse in schools in Antioch, Brentwood, Lafayette, Moraga, Concord and San Jose.
Like the other districts, San Ramon Valley officials owe students, parents and the rest of the community an explanation of what went wrong. Unfortunately, to date, they've merely stonewalled.
State law is clear: School personnel must immediately notify police or child protective services when they know or suspect a student has been abused. The law is designed to guard against school district cover-ups and ensure trained law enforcement investigators are promptly brought in.
For four years now, Matthias Gafni, an investigative reporter for this newspaper, has documented cases where the system broke down, where school personnel failed to notify police of suspected abuse. In each instance, at least one child was seriously harmed.
Finally, state lawmakers required that school districts train workers annually about their reporting obligations starting this year. Going forward, we hope to see changes. Sadly, we're still learning of more cases from the past.
In San Ramon, the case involves former California High wrestling coach Kevin Lopez, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to eight felony counts of lewd acts on children ages 14-15 and other related charges involved three boys.
While investigating one of the cases, in 2014, police learned about a report to school officials from the prior year. A concerned parent of a former student had told Cal High administrators that Lopez might have inappropriately touched boys and girls.
Police say they were never notified of that report. School officials refuse to comment. Internal district documents that Gafni obtained through a Public Records Act request suggest that administrators conducted their own investigation instead of telling the cops.
The next day, a school official wrote in an email to a teachers' union representative that he had spoken to Lopez and that he could not confirm any of the parent's concerns.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
Rather than telling authorities, the district conducted its own investigation by interviewing the perpetrator. Once again a school official deluded himself into thinking he was better equipped to investigate the matter than people who are actually trained to do so.
We're tired of hearing about these cases. And we're appalled by districts that circle the wagon rather than honestly discussing their mistakes.
Report: Further testing is crucial when child abuse clues are present
Knowing the signs and types of injuries associated with child abuse is key to preventing additional harm or fatalities among abused children, according to a report published in the November issue of Pediatrics.
Researchers looked at 30,355 children with putative sentinel injuries, measuring rates of abuse diagnosis and rates of testing used to identify certain injuries, the report said. Information for the report was obtained through the Pediatric Health Information System database and included patients seen in the emergency department, observation and/or inpatient setting between January 2004 and December 2011. Abuse is commonly diagnosed among children who have sentinel injuries, including the majority of children less than 24 months old with rib fractures, the report stated. Intracranial hemorrhage and abdominal injuries also were associated with more than 20% of cases, according to the report.
Burns and isolated skull fractures showed the lowest rates of abuse diagnoses, though rates were still high when compared the baseline risk for children without putative sentinel injuries, the report said. Researchers noted that although bruises were not that unusual in older children, they can be cause for concern among children 6 months old and younger.
“Several putative sentinel injuries are associated with high rates of physical abuse,” researchers concluded. “Future work is warranted to test whether routine testing for abuse in these children can improve early recognition of abuse.”
Among patient visits logged in the PHIS database during the study period, 7,062 were linked to a diagnosis of abuse, according to the report. Abuse diagnosis rates for children less than 24 months old for each of the 18 participating US hospitals in the PHIS database ranged from 0.04% to 0.46%. Researchers found 34,565 putative sentinel injuries were discovered during 30,766 visits among 30,355 children less than 24 months old. A majority of the children — 89.8% — had only one putative sentinel injury found, with two such injuries being found in 7.6% of patients and three to six injuries among 2.6% of patients.
The study also showed that testing varied widely between facilities for all injuries and testing methods, with the rate of skeletal surveys among infants with skull fractures ranging from a little more than 20% of patients to 74% of patients, the report said.
Radiographic skeletal surveys are recommended as mandatory for children who are suspected of being abused. The American College of Radiology also recommends this practice. The report's authors pointed out that whether abuse risk is immediate, near or long-term, the presence of a sentinel injury should encourage healthcare providers to consider the possibility of abuse and test for more suspicious injuries.
“Previous work has revealed that physical abuse is commonly missed,” the authors write. “Our data reveal an overall high rate of diagnosed abuse, but tremendous variability in evaluation and diagnosis of abuse across hospitals and injury categories. Together, these facts suggest that increased, routine, or [protocoled]testing for children with these injuries can identify other children with abuse that might otherwise be missed.”
Exposed - the system that abandons abuse victims
We're often told child sexual abuse is mainly carried out by ‘grooming gangs'. But, as Sadie Robinson found out, the real problem lies elsewhere in society
There is a dire lack of support and services available for adult survivors of child sexual abuse (CSA).
That's the finding of a new report from the University Campus Suffolk and the Survivors in Transition charity.
The report was based on a survey of 395 adult survivors. More than half said that when they built up the courage to approach A&Es or social
services, they were not believed, listened to or respected.
The report found that most survivors, 70 percent, were abused within their family or extended family. It also noted that survivors are more likely to be women.
It said, “Abuse by adults outside family networks is not typical.” The research highlights “the inaccuracy of linking most abuse with ‘stranger danger'”.
People suffered abuse on average for seven years.
The vast majority didn't report it to police. And it took an average of 12 years for survivors to receive support.
Most survivors said the service they found most helpful was counselling and psychotherapy. Some 57 percent of those surveyed said they would like more of these services. Yet this is woefully underfunded.
As one survivor put it, “I had to wait two and a half years to get dynamic psychotherapy because of staff shortages and waiting lists.”
Another said they only received therapy “through feeling suicidal and in desperation”.
The report condemned “insufficient free-at-point-of-use provision, long waiting lists for too brief counselling programmes and limited options in terms of therapeutic techniques”.
Politicians like to wave away criticisms of past failings by claiming they are now taking the issue seriously. Yet the report found that services have not improved over time.
The authors noted that the government has provided a new victims' fund of £5 million for organisations to support survivors. But the report said, “While increased funding in a period of austerity appears positive, this £5m needs to be viewed in the context of the anticipated cost of the Independent Inquiry, which could be in excess of £260m.”
Researchers noted that high profile abuse scandals, such as that involving Jimmy Savile, may have encouraged more victims to come forward.
But they warned that inadequate services could put people off. “There is some evidence that a poor service experience can represent a barrier to further service use,” they wrote.
Several survivors described stressful or traumatic experiences when trying to get help.
One said, “Statutory agencies have no understanding, no empathy and you are treated as a target or a tick box instead of a real person.”
Download the report at bit.ly/1SbiNC8
'I fell through the net' - how survivors are ignored
Many survivors said they felt ignored when they were abused as children.
One said, “People didn't listen. Abuse was hidden and not talked about.”
Another said, “I displayed all the signs in childhood and teenage life particularly at school but not one noticed, or did anything.
“I fell through society's net.”
One victim felt they were “written off as delinquent” because of their behaviour. Many found negative attitudes as adults too.
As one survivor put it, “It took my whole adult life to find a service that listened to me.”
Another said, “I was not believed. I stopped expecting anybody to believe me.
“Only when I had a complete breakdown did I feel somebody was finally listening.”
As well as asking questions, researchers gave victims space to talk more generally about their experiences of accessing support.
The report said, “The strongest single theme was the problem of restricted access to counselling and psychotherapy.”
Abuse has a long-lasting impact.
One victim described suffering mental health problems including anxiety and depression “on and off over the last 35 years”.
This is because, as they put it, “The abuse I suffered as a child has never been addressed.”
Survivors need sustained support—but the government has failed to fund services to provide this.
One survivor said, “What next after therapy? I feel so alone and abandoned.
“I feel ready for some group therapy but there's none available.”
Victims spoke of feeling “fobbed off” with short term, relatively cheap forms of therapy.
Several said they only received help when they felt suicidal—and even then it didn't last long enough to make a real difference.
“I went to the GP when I was in crisis and had to wait a year for around ten sessions,” explained one victim.
For some the lack of care for victims reflects a deeper problem. The lack of “a society where it's ok to disclose abuse, accepts how prevalent abuse is, that meets disclosures with kindness, compassion and belief”.
The long wait for support
Nearly 79 percent of those interviewed for the report were under 11 when they were first abused. Many of those included in the report, 42 percent, didn't receive support until long after disclosure.
Let down by the police
Only 30 percent of survivors questioned said they had reported the abuse to police. When it was reported, nearly two thirds of the alleged perpetrators were not prosecuted.
The report said, “Even among CSA survivors who have disclosed and accessed support services, almost 90 percent have not seen their abusers brought to justice.”
Some 37 percent did not think police believed them.
Tories slash support funds
Services for abuse victims are being slashed despite the fact that more are asking for help.
The Ministry of Justice funded Survivors UK, a charity for male abuse victims, with £70,000 a year for the past four years.
But now funding is the responsibility of Tory London mayor Boris Johnson.
He has axed it altogether.
The sexually abused carry lifetime scars, especially when they are victimised
For many years there have been attempts to put in place safeguards and protection for women and children, and recently strides were made to put in place “A child protection/safeguarding policy”, which according to a Report which included Montserrat, produced by the Lucy Faith Foundation, “is currently in place and being implemented.”
That report was the culmination of cooperation and many initiatives of, along with international partners, the UK through its Department for International Development (DfID), and the Overseas Territories, CARICOM, OECS, and UNICEF.
The Lucy Faith Foundation report provoked surprise, and highlighted an attitude by former Governor Davis, and by extension DFID and GoM (Government of Montserrat) towards the media in Montserrat, and particularly The Montserrat Reporter (TMR) an attitude that spreads throughout. It is one that has resulted in important information, educational and otherwise not making its reach as it should into civil society, that critical mass. Either prominent media is ignored, whether snubbed and/or most importantly, not supported, the result of course the further perpetration of ignorance with sickening results.
The report noted that government in trying to keep up its promises to work in the interest of safeguarding and protecting children. It had for a few years introduced legislation which it called the ‘Child Justice Bill'. It came as a result of providing, “…that in all actions and decisions made pursuant to the provisions of the Bill concerning a child, the safety, welfare and well-being of the child shall be of paramount consideration,…”
There has been legislation with implications for the Rights of the Child – the Status of Children Act 2012; and among others, “an amendment to the Penal Code Cap 04.02. The Penal Code has been amended to insert a part labeled, “Sexual Exploitation” with Section 138B headed “dealing in people under 18 for sexual exploitation.”
The report is fairly extensive though by no means exhaustive in accuracy, or the requirements of making the intentions meaningful and effective. The reason for this is the result again of not meeting stakeholders, important and interested parties while meeting those with a tendency many of whom think they do the island an injustice to tell the truth about the realities and weaknesses that abound.
Missing too, is one very important component of effectively taking abuse, in particular sexual, to a proper or effective conclusion. Even the police agree that a special unit with special training is needed to deal with such matters. This in fact holds good for all sexual abuse, domestic violence included for ALL, particularly adult women. Above all there is nothing in place to assist and protect the victims of sexual abuse and those who are brave enough to report problems.
This is a huge problem as the stats will show when taken pro-rata. Mrs. Sujue Davis when she was celebrated on International Women's Day, March 2014, recognised, called for change and celebrated acts of courage and determination. She reflected and encouraged women and girls with a call for education, “…Education helps girls and women who know their worth and to gain the confidence to claim them,” she declared.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) speaking about Women's Empowerment and Protection records, “Violence against women is one of the most widespread of human rights abuses. One out of every three women worldwide will be physically, sexually or otherwise abused during her lifetime… Survivors often suffer further victimization by family and society.”
“The consequences of violence against women are debilitating and many,” the IRC says. It works to break this cycle of violence by helping survivors to heal, delivering care to victims of sexual assault,
That is very important and should be worked on immediately if there is any honest intention to ‘Break the Silence' which will not happen until that vital support and protection is offered to those who muster the bravery in the first instance.
The problem today is practised and real in several ways in Montserrat. IRC says, “The psychological and social consequences are devastating, as the prevailing stigma associated with sexual violence often leaves women isolated and increasingly vulnerable. The trauma a survivor experiences goes beyond her own suffering, also rendering great costs to her family and community.”
Again we say, this is very true and real and is an unattended to serious issue, which cannot be excluded from any effort to curb sexual violence against children and women.
Some say it is cultural, but the truth is that there is bad culture that needs to change.
Child abuse inquiry 'will recommend compensation for victims'
Retired judge Sir Anthony Hart is leading what is one of the UK's largest inquiries into physical, sexual and emotional harm to children at homes run by the church, state and voluntary organisations.
The inquiry was formally established in January 2013 by the Northern Ireland Executive to investigate child abuse which occurred in residential institutions over a 73-year period from 1922 to 1995.
While the inquiry's investigative work is not scheduled to finish until next summer, with a report due to be submitted to Stormont ministers the following year, Sir Anthony said he was already in a position to recommend compensation.
"Because our investigations are not complete we are not yet in a position to say what our findings of systemic failings will be, or what all our recommendations will be," he said.
"However, what we can now say is that from the evidence we have heard so far we will recommend that there should be a scheme to award financial compensation to those children who suffered abuse in children's homes and other institutions in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995."
Sir Anthony also announced the names of a further six institutions to be investigated by the inquiry, bringing the total number to 22.
Pediatrician is at the center of storms on child abuse
by Patricia Wen
Dr. Alice Newton races down the hallway of Massachusetts General Hospital in a black-and-white dress and cowboy boots. The longtime pediatrician is more than 10 minutes late on a September morning to deliver a lecture on one of medicine's bleakest topics: hidden signs of child abuse. She is a bundle of energy, part nurturing physician, part streetwise cop.
When she arrives before two dozen medical students, the 52-year-old head of the hospital's child-protection unit launches into a PowerPoint presentation, showing graphic photos of children whose bruises and fractures — described by their caregivers as mere accidents — were the result of violence. l
“If you have a story that's just not hanging together, think about it. Maybe it's abuse,” said Newton, who previously ran the Boston Children's Hospital child-protection unit for seven years.
After toiling in relative obscurity for nearly two decades, Newton has recently emerged as one of the state's most controversial pediatricians, admired by many but reviled in some legal circles as a messianic physician who is too eager to see a dark side in the parents and caretakers who bring ailing — or dead — children into the emergency room.
In the past few years, her medical judgment has been openly questioned in three high-profile cases, two of which involved shaken-baby abuse charges that were later dropped. The third involved her role in filing medical abuse charges against parents of a Connecticut teenager on grounds that they were seeking overly aggressive and inappropriate care for their daughter. She has received threatening calls and letters, and has taken some security precautions.
Her critics don't mince words. Melinda Thompson, attorney for an Irish nanny who was recently released after the shaken-baby charges against her were dropped, referred to Newton as a “maniac” who recklessly misuses her medical power.
“She has become more of a prosecutor than a doctor,” said Thompson, who represented Aisling Brady McCarthy. “I think it's shocking that she's heading a child abuse team at a major hospital.”
But many pediatricians and child advocates defend Newton as a highly respected physician who fearlessly speaks the truth as she sees it. Jetta Bernier, executive director of the Massachusetts Citizens for Children for more than 30 years, said Newton is among the best in her field and “does not shoot from the hip.”
Newton's supporters also see something more insidious at work, which threatens the state's ability to stop harm to vulnerable children.
They say Newton's critics are part of a vocal niche of the nation's defense bar, committed to attacking the medical community's ability to identify child abuse, especially shaken-baby syndrome. Not just in Massachusetts, but in other parts of the country, these tactics have been successful, leading to scores of criminal cases being dropped or overturned in the past decade.
Dr. Cindy Christian, former head of the child abuse committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a pediatrician at Children's Hospital in Philadelphia, said she and others are feeling compelled to speak out against what they see as an ominous trend in child abuse prevention, including the scapegoating of highly competent pediatricians.
“Dr. Newton is very professional,” she said. “She and those that she works with are careful and thoughtful physicians.”
As a student at the Boston University School of Medicine, Newton had initially thought she might like the adrenaline rush of the operating room. But as time passed, she sought to be a different kind of doctor, one that put her closer to fixing problems involving young patients and their families. Newton switched to pediatrics, and then, as she tells it, “wandered into” the field of child abuse pediatrics.
She said a key moment was an educational forum on child abuse held at Boston Children's Hospital one day in the late 1990s. She was drawn to the complexity of cases involving medicine, social work, and the courts, and the detective work of ruling out — or ruling in — possible explanations of a child's physical problems.
In 2006, she became head of the child protection team at Children's, while also working at MGH; throughout most of the past decade, she has worked as a child-abuse specialist and practicing pediatrician at both hospitals.
Her typical day includes calls from doctors in the emergency room or clinics, who see perplexing symptoms and suspect child abuse. They consult Newton, one of a relatively small number of board-certified child abuse pediatricians in the country. Often, she said, she concludes that a child's ailments are related to the ordinary ups and downs of childhood — a bad diaper rash, an accidental fall off a bed, a rare virus.
“I'm not into this to accuse people,” said Newton, who grew up in Boulder, Colo.
But it's when she identifies possible violence perpetrated by a parent or caretaker — and detects a sudden shift toward secrecy within the household — that her work triggers intense emotions among families and clinicians, particularly when infants are involved.
With disturbing regularity — about once a month on average — she is reminded of one of the darkest truths involving crying babies: that throughout the world and over centuries, caretakers can become so frustrated that they vigorously shake or abuse the infant's head. It might be an impulsive reaction, but often it becomes a repetitive abusive behavior, studies show.
The only way for doctors to understand what happened is indirectly through tests such as CT-scans, X-rays, MRIs, and blood work, she said.
“Sometimes it feels like good versus evil,” she said in her small office, which she shares with another staffer, in an administrative building blocks from MGH. “My only motivation is to make sure that the child doesn't suffer further abuse and there's justice for children and families.”
Child-abuse specialists say that, conservatively, several hundred infants a year nationwide are victims of shaken-baby syndrome, which is also called abusive head trauma. Over the past decade, Newton's testimony about shaken-baby syndrome has helped convict numerous defendants, including a day-care provider from the North Shore, an East Bridgewater father, and a Woburn man. This summer, her testimony helped convict a father charged with shaking his infant son, causing permanent neurological damage, while in a Danvers hotel room that took in the homeless.
For the past two decades, she has kept up a grueling schedule, even as she raised three children with her husband, a lawyer-turned-teacher, and weathered a personal health crisis when she was diagnosed in 2006 with breast cancer. Her chemotherapy and radiation began just as she was starting her job leading Children's child-protection program. She said her follow-up appointments in recent years have shown her to be cancer-free.
Despite her years in the stressful trenches of child-protection work, nothing prepared Newton for the public exposure that she would receive beginning in the winter of 2013.
At around 5 p.m. on Jan. 14, 2013, an unconscious 1-year-old infant girl from Cambridge was brought by ambulance to the emergency room at Children's. The baby, Rehma Sabir, had been cared for that morning and afternoon in her family's Cambridge apartment by Aisling Brady McCarthy, her nanny from Ireland, while her parents were at work.
Newton found that the girl had the “triad” of symptoms associated with shaken-baby syndrome — brain bleeding, brain swelling, and retinal damage — and numerous Children's Hospital specialists agreed, including ophthalmologists and neurologists. Newton said she also found signs of past abuse, including healing bone fractures — on the spine and limbs — and significant bruises near one ear, and had systematically ruled out other causes.
Within 24 hours, Newton had a point of view: that the girl had died of a violent act committed a few hours before she was brought to the emergency room, and that she was likely the victim of ongoing abuse in the week or months prior to that, due to her healing bone fractures.
Newton said she is barred from speaking to the media about the specifics of the case, but her conclusions can be gleaned from the public court record.
“When we see blood around the brain, especially in a child without a cause for bleeding . . . then we automatically worry that there's been a trauma that's unexplained and so it does bring up the issue of abuse,” she said in a transcript of pretrial testimony.
When the medical examiner in the case, Dr. Katherine Lindstrom, concurred with Newton that Rehma died of a nonaccidental head trauma, police arrested McCarthy.
But the nanny's defense lawyers passionately fought back, and accused Newton of relying excessively on the triad of symptoms and ignoring other possible causes, a methodology that they say has been discredited by numerous medical specialists who have successfully helped overturn many child-abuse prosecutions.
“This is a Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) prosecution,” her attorneys wrote at the start of a brief to exclude Newton's testimony. “That means it is a prosecution based on a scientific hypothesis that has crumbled over the last decade.”
The defense said Newton, among other shortcomings, failed to take seriously that Rehma had been tested at Children's a month before her death for a rare bleeding condition called von Willebrand disease, and even her own parents said Rehma bruised easily. (Court records suggest Newton did consider von Willebrand disorder, but was told by the child's hematologist that the baby did not have a confirmed case of it; and even if the infant did, it would have been a mild version and not likely to cause catastrophic brain bleeding.)
In perhaps the defense's most compelling argument, McCarthy's lawyers noted that one of the hospital's specialists dated the bone fractures as most likely occurring a month before Rehma was brought to the emergency room — a time when the child was out of the country with her parents and the nanny wasn't caring for the child. (Newton has said healing bone fractures are hard to date with such precision, and court records show doctors also offered a wider time frame for the fractures, from roughly a couple weeks to a couple months, during which the nanny was with Rehma.)
As Newton sought to defend her findings in the McCarthy case, another one of her shaken-baby cases suffered a profound setback.
A different state medical examiner, Dr. Peter Cummings, had decided that he could no longer say that the 2010 death of a 6-month-old boy in Maldenwas a homicide, and ruled the cause to be undetermined.
His change came after Jay Carney, an attorney for the baby's father, Geoffrey Wilson, presented medical reports showing that the child's family had a history of a rare genetic disorder that can cause blood vessels to rupture easily.
That medical examiner's ruling caused the prosecutors to drop charges against Wilson.
Christian, as part of her work for the American Academy of Pediatrics, said she does not know the specifics of the McCarthy and Wilson cases, but knows that medical experts hired by the defense in these cases typically offer a wide array of possible alternate explanations for abuse. She called it the “maybe, maybe, maybe” strategy. However, she said, few can do what seasoned child-abuse medical experts can do, and say that these constellation of symptoms have no other logical explanation but abuse. “Legal justice is not the same as science,” she said.
In the winter of 2013, Newton found herself at the center of a much different child protection battle after the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families took custody of a Connecticut teenager, Justina Pelletier, whose parents had sought treatment for her at Children's.
The parents said the girl's gastrointestinal ailments and trouble walking had to do with a rare metabolic disorder, but Newton and others suspected the girl's troubles were largely psychiatric. When clinicians at Children's Hospital filed medical child-abuse charges, the state took custody of Justina, and assigned the girl to the hospital's psychiatric wing.
Some parents' rights groups, patient advocacy groups, and conservative Christian organizations loudly backed the parents. And while most of them focused their anger on the Massachusetts child-protection agency, which kept custody of Justina for 16 months, and a judge who supported the agency's view, Newton was cast as the medical enabler of a profound abuse of power.
Judges, DCF officials, and doctors received threats. Newton recalls receiving one message over Facebook, suggesting she kill herself.
Ultimately, the girl was released to the custody of her parents in Connecticut in the summer of 2014.
Newton said the past few years have been difficult, though she confesses that she can also be energized by the unpredictable nature of her work.
“I'm a person who likes to have a lot going on,” she said.
But when the emotional strain of her jobs gets to her, she said, she finds ways to decompress, including marathon training and hot power yoga.
Two months ago, prosecutors announced they were dropping shaken-baby charges against McCarthy. They reported that Dr. Lindstrom, the medical examiner in the nanny case, had changed the manner of death for 1-year-old Rehma from homicide to undetermined, and they no longer felt they could prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Lindstrom, in her findings, wrote that she was convinced that new information from attorneys raised the possibility that Rehma had “some type of disorder that was not able to be completely diagnosed prior to her death,” and she cites von Willebrand disease. She also said the girl's death could have been “related to an accidental injury in a child with a bleeding risk or possibly could have even been a result of an undefined natural disease.”
Newton said she got the news through a phone call from the prosecutors' office. She said she sat in shocked silence in her office, having once seen the trial as a chance to educate the public about the realities of shaken-baby syndrome. She said she respects the criminal justice system, but maintains that she accurately interpreted the baby's medical data in front of her.
“I become the voice of the child,” she said.
Preventing child sexual assault
NEWTON — Teens and adults are invited to learn how to detect and prevent child sexual assault at free training sessions on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 10 a.m. to noon or 6 to 8 p.m., at Project Self-Sufficiency, 127 Mill St.
The workshops will be offered by the Enough Abuse Campaign, a cooperative effort of Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey, Project Self-Sufficiency and the Sussex Warren Partnership to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse.
Participation is free and open to anyone interested in stemming the tide of child sexual assault, but advance registration is required.
To register, or to find out more about the Enough Abuse Campaign, call Project Self-Sufficiency, 973-940-3500.
Afghanistan: Sexual Abuse of Boys ‘Resurrected' After U.S. Toppled Taliban
by Edwin Mora
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sexual abuse of young boys by powerful men in Afghanistan, a common practice that was punishable by death under Taliban rule, was “resurrected” after the terrorist group's regime was overthrown by the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, reports a federal watchdog agency.
Members of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) have been accused of engaging in the centuries-old custom known as bacha bazi (literally translates to “playing with boys”).
Bacha bazi “encompasses the ancient Afghan custom of powerful men sexually abusing young boys,” notes the office of the Special Inspector for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), in its most recent quarterly report to Congress. “The Taliban made the practice punishable by death, but bacha bazi has been resurrected since the fall of the Taliban.”
“Under the practice, young boys, also known as ‘chai (tea) boys' are sold to wealthy and powerful men for entertainment and illicit sex,” it continues. “As women are not allowed to dance in public, boys are made to dance and perform feminine gestures and acts. Boys have been raped, kidnapped, trafficked, and even sold by their parents for family prestige and money.”
SIGAR goes on to point out that reports claiming that the practice is somehow “evolving into a nonviolent and consensual practice do not recognize that adolescent boys have not reached the age of consent.”
The practice began making headlines when Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland, a decorated Green Beret, revealed that he was being kicked out of the Army for confronting a U.S.-trained and equipped Afghan local police commander accused of repeatedly raping a 12-year-old boy.
That revelation led to The New York Times declaring that U.S. forces had been ordered to ignore the rape of young boys by members of the Afghan security forces, a report that has been denied by the Pentagon.
A spokesman for the U.S. mission in Afghanistan told the Times that accusations of child sexual abuse by ANDSF members is a matter handled by Afghan domestic law enforcement.
The office of the inspector general at the Department of Defense (DOD) has launched an investigation into the U.S. military's response to allegations of child sexual abuse by Afghan forces.
Although Afghan law does address sexual assault, there is no specific provision that deals with bacha bazi , notes John Sopko, the special inspector general, in the 256-page report to Congress.
“The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has recommended the government criminalize the practice and modify the penal code based on provisions in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human-rights conventions,” he adds.
In condemning the reported sexual abuse of boys, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) (D-VT) argued that the act violates a provision of U.S. law named after him — the Leahy Amendment.
The amendment prohibits the use of U.S. taxpayer dollars to fund any training, equipment, or other assistance for ANDSF members if the U.S. Secretary of Defense has credible information that they have committed a “gross violation of human rights.”
Sopko learned from the component of the U.S.-led coalition charged with training and developing the Afghan security forces that all individuals slated to attend U.S.-funded training were subjected to routine Leahy amendment vetting.
However, the multinational training component, known as the Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan (CSTC-A) failed to state if any Afghan security force members had been rejected due to Leahy violations.
“CSTC-A stated it would enforce any decisions made by the Secretary of Defense to deny equipment or funds to ANDSF units found in violation of the Leahy Amendment,” reports SIGAR.
In response to the Times report that U.S. forces had been instructed to turn a blind eye to the rape of young boys by ANDSF members, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani called for action to discharge Afghan security troops who engage in the practice and to charge them in court.
Although he declared that sexual abuse of boys will not be tolerated, he conceded that Afghanistan “needs time” to deal with the “larger cultural dynamic” linked to bacha bazi given that the custom is centuries old.
Citing a statement from Gen. John Campbell, the top commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, the Pentagon denied that U.S. troops had been told to ignore the rape of children by their counterparts.
While testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Oct. 6, Gen. Campbell said the incidents cited in the Times article occurred between 2010 and 2012.
The general also claimed that U.S. policy in effect since at least 2011 requires U.S. service members to report all suspected human rights violations to their superiors, who will then report them to Afghan authorities.
Gen. Campbell issued a statement on Sept. 22 ordering U.S. and non-U.S. personnel assigned to the American mission in Afghanistan to immediately report suspicions of sexual abuse to the chain of command.
Protect your child from sexual abuse by helping them find the right words
by Áilín Quinlan
It's one thing for parents to read reports of child sexual abuse in the newspapers.
It's another thing entirely to realise your child may have been abused – and that you must sit down and talk to him or her about the ordeal.
Difficult and all as it may be, such a discussion will be even more demanding if the subject of sex or sex abuse is something that has never been mentioned in the family.
Some parents find it extremely difficult to give their children basic information about their private parts or to talk about sexuality or sexual abuse, according to psychologist and university lecturer Dr Rosaleen McElvaney, who has worked in the area of sexual abuse for more than 20 years.
So now she's written a book explaining how parents can talk to children, not only about sex and sexual abuse, but about other difficult life events such as bereavement, bullying and parental separation.
However, she says, sexual abuse is a topic many parents find particularly difficult to tackle.
“Parents become de-skilled in the face of anything to do with sexual abuse because of their own anxiety about getting it wrong or their own discomfort in talking about sex with children.
“They forget that they have the skill to do it,” says McElvaney. “There is no one way to talk with a child about sexual abuse. It depends on how you normally converse with your child and on how they talk about things.
“You have to tailor the conversation to your particular scenario.
“I put a lot of emphasis in the book on knowing yourself and knowing how you feel about something, on getting support for yourself through research and through talking about it with friends or partners before you have the conversation with the child.” It makes the process a little easier, she says, if children have already been given what she terms “the language for their private parts.”
“When I worked in Temple Street I'd ask parents what kind of words their children used for their private parts. In some families they'd say that they didn't have any words – that they ‘didn't talk about that'.
However, she warns, if such matters are never spoken of, a child who has endured sexual abuse would find their experience very difficult to discuss because they simply didn't know such a thing even existed.
“They find it hard to make sense of it and very difficult to communicate, because if you cannot make sense of it, you won't know what to say.
“Sometimes children may be in shock and numbed and not speak about it. They may freeze or not be able to talk or else they will act out or be very boisterous or rowdy.
“They're trying to communicate that something's wrong but they don't know how to do it in a way they can be heard,” explains McElvaney who also worked in the public health service before becoming a lecturer at Dublin City University.
McElvaney recommends starting to talk about the issue of private parts and a child's rights in relation to his or her body even before the playschool years – “start as early as you start having a conversation with the child,” she says.
“Very small children can talk about their own body; about the fact that it's their own body, that nobody touches them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable or touches them in a ‘not nice' way or in a way that makes them feel ‘yucky'.
With older children, she says, you discuss the fact that sexual abuse does happen, “that there are people who touch children in ways that are not ok.” “I would say to start talking about it as soon as you start talking with children at all.”
If you can start talking to a child from a very early age, she says, at least they will be aware that such things can happen.
“The whole thing is so strange and overwhelming that they cannot begin to talk about it.
“You have to get in there first and talk about it so that they know that when or if such a thing happens, they must come straight to you and talk about it.” She recommends reading the information leaflets available to parents from organisations such as the NSPCC in the UK, as well as the Irish Stay Safe guide.
Begin by setting up a family culture of discussing things, she advises – from chatting about tiffs with friends to interesting things that happened in school.
Create a culture early on where children feel they can ask you about things.
However, be warned, McElvaney adds – even if you do this, don't complacently assume that your child will report a sexual abuse incident.
“This is a really difficult thing for children to tell, and people need to understand that and they don't appreciate how difficult it is for children to talk about it.”
It's difficult, not just because they may not be able to make sense of it, she says – children can also think they're in some way to blame for what happened, and may be afraid to tell.
“They may also be afraid that they'll get in trouble, or that the abuser – who may be someone they like – will get into trouble.
“An older child will know there will be trouble and won't want to feel responsible for that.
“Older children may also be afraid that their parents will be upset and want to protect them.”
Be alert and observe behavioural changes she advises – a child who is outgoing suddenly not wanting to go out, or becoming more withdrawn and not wanting to go places or see people, children who are suddenly getting into trouble for the first time in school, having nightmares or becoming easily upset, irritated or experiencing tummy aches.
“These signs are not specific to sexual abuse but they indicate that something is not right in the child's world,” she says.
There are no magic rules to handling the conversation, says McElvaney, other than thinking about it carefully beforehand.
If you're uncomfortable at even the prospect of having such a talk, seek advice from other parents or from websites such as www.staysafe.ie .
The same rules and principles apply to talking to children about other difficult topics such as bereavement or separation, she says.
She adds that, if, in the end, you believe somebody else would be better at talking to the child about the issue, it's important to have this resolved before approaching the child, so that negative non-verbal messages are not communicated to them.
Parents find it difficult to talk to children about topics such as bereavement, but says, child psychotherapist and play therapist Ursula Somerville (MIAHIP) the first thing you need to do is find the age-appropriate language.
“The natural language of children is play – that's how they integrate information,” she explains. Very often a child's real concerns emerge through their creative work, she says, this can be a way into a discussion of difficult life events such as bereavement and parental separation. Be realistic too, she emphasises. “They need to be at the funeral and to be a part of it, and they need to experience other people's grief so that it normalises it for them.
“They should see people crying at the funeral,” she says, adding that as a parent, allow them to express their thoughts in play – whether it is drawing or playing with miniature people, cars or animals for example.” Allow the play to take place without either interpreting it or interrupting the child, she advises, adding however, that in a case where the parent has had a severe loss, and is not available emotionally to hold the weight of their child's loss, it may be a good idea to bring in a professional.
TALK OPENLY AND DIRECTLY TO CHILDREN
Some tips from the CARI Foundation, an organisation providing support to child sex abuse victims and their families:
Talk to your children about sexuality and sexual abuse in age-appropriate terms. Talking openly and directly about sexuality teaches children that it is okay to talk to you when they have questions.
Teach children the names of their body parts so that they have the language to ask questions and express concerns about those body parts.
Teach children that some parts of their bodies are private. Let children know that other people should not be touching or looking at their private parts unless they need to touch them to provide care. If someone does need to touch them in those private areas, a parent or trusted caregiver should be there when it happens. Tell children that if someone tries to touch those private areas or wants to look at them, or if someone tries to show them his or her own private parts, they should tell a trusted adult as soon as possible.
Assure your child that it is okay to get help, even if someone he or she cares about might be upset or embarrassed. Do not try to put all this information into one big “talk” about sex.
Talking about sexuality and sexual abuse should be routine conversations.
Use everyday issues to begin conversations. Be involved in your child's life.
For more information visit www.cari.ie
Schoolkids in Handcuffs
The video that went viral last month showing a white sheriff's deputy in a Columbia, S.C., classroom throwing and dragging an African-American student across the floor may well be indicative of a deeper problem with the security program in that school district.
In May, an office within the Justice Department that monitors federally funded programs opened an investigation to determine whether the school security program run by the Richland County, S.C., Sheriff's Department was complying with federal civil rights law. Although the department has not made public any details, such investigations typically result from civil rights complaints or evidence suggesting discrimination in the way that suspension, expulsion and other disciplinary measures are being applied.
The violent video shows starkly a problem that has grown worse in the United States since the 1980s, when the country started to put more police officers in schools. In many places, the shift created repressive environments where educators stepped back from managing schools and allowed police officers to set the tone, even when that meant manhandling, handcuffing and arresting young people for minor misbehaviors that once would have been dealt with by the principal.
These police-driven policies have not made schools safer. But they do make children more likely to drop out and become entangled with the justice system. And they disproportionately affect minority and disabled children, who are more likely to be singled out for the harshest forms of discipline.
The Obama administration has made combating this problem a priority. It has increased civil rights investigations and required some school districts to rework their disciplinary policies. Last year the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights jointly issued detailed guidelines showing school districts how to reduce arrests and reform practices in which black students are disciplined more harshly than white students engaging in similar behavior as well as to curb the use of punishments — like mandatory expulsion, suspension or ticketing — that have a disproportionate and unjustified effect on students of one race.
Such police-driven discipline is even used against the very young. The Justice Department filed court papers last month in support of a civil rights lawsuit brought by the parents of two disabled children — one 8 years old, the other 9 — who attended public school in Kenton County, Ky. Both children have severe disabilities that make it difficult for them to follow instructions. In both cases, a deputy sheriff responded to misbehavior by handcuffing the children. Their arms were so tiny that the cuffs were applied at the biceps.
The 8-year-old had been found to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. According to court documents, a video of the incident shows the child writhing and crying in pain as the officer berates him, saying, “You can do what we ask you to or you can suffer the consequences.” As a result of the incident, the government maintains, the child continues to suffer emotional distress. The actions of the officer clearly violated the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Children with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to this kind of disciplinary abuse. Federal data show, for example, that they represent 12 percent of the student population but 25 percent of children who get one or more out-of-school suspensions and 23 percent who are subject to arrest for school-related misbehavior.
The Justice Department added its voice to the Kentucky case to make it clear that federal law requires districts to create disciplinary policies that do not have the effect of criminalizing and discriminating against children with disabilities. What's really alarming is that this kind of illegal treatment is not uncommon in schools all over the country.
Don't be shocked by abuse, be aware and act
by Theya McCown
As Domestic Violence Awareness Month came to an end in October, news of another murder-suicide reverberated through the community.
We may be aware of the dark and painful truth that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will be victims of intimate partner violence in their lifetimes. We may be aware that intimate partner violence is the leading cause of homelessness among women and children. We may be aware that intimate partner violence is the No. 1 predictor of child abuse in a home. We may even be aware of the terrifying fact that the time when a woman leaves an abusive relationship is the time she and her children are most likely to be murdered.
But awareness without action is futile.
Perhaps one of the most important consideration moving forward is this: There is always a window of opportunity to reach out to someone living in fear of her partner. Intimate partner homicide rarely appears overnight. It is a horrifically climactic end to an escalating cycle of violence perpetrated by one person to gain ultimate control over another.
Tactics are typically and deliberately subtle early in a relationship, as the abuser grooms his partner. He most likely will employ techniques such as sarcasm, silent treatments or name calling. He will slowly begin to isolate his victim, limiting her contact with friends, family and potential confidants. Typically, this occurs under the guise of infatuation and craving for attention and “alone time.”
Eventually, he displays a “short fuse,” teaching his victim to walk on eggshells. Slowly, she adjusts her behaviors to prevent “setting him off.” He infuses assaults with guilt and shame, often making a survivor believe that his actions are her fault, or that nobody would believe her if she reached out for help. Psychological and emotional abuse undermine the victim's sense of worth, and even her perception of reality.
As the relationship progresses, a skilled batterer will introduce new, more drastic tactics. Name-calling escalates to yelling, which may escalate to throwing or breaking things. Abusers use children as collateral; custody and kidnapping threats are common. Physical abuse may progress from intimidating posturing to shoving, slapping and strangling. The batterer may introduce weapons. Batterers orchestrate a perfect storm that is impossible, at best, to escape.
Without intervention, intimate partner violence characteristically escalates in an upward trajectory toward homicide.
Intimate partner violence is veiled in shame and secrecy. Batterers often are publicly characterized as charismatic, charming and engaging. They come from all classes, races and backgrounds. Victimization likewise knows no bounds.
Intimate partner violence survivors are working in the cubicle next to you, attending the same meetings as you, shopping in the same grocery store, dropping off their children at the same schools, and visiting the same doctors' offices. They are your mothers, your sisters, your daughters, your best friends.
While it can be difficult to recognize a survivor who does not explicitly disclose her abuse, there often are warning signs. Isolation is very likely the first sign. If a loved one begins to withdraw, take time to seek her out.
Other observable behaviors include excuse-making for a partner's behavior, dressing in clothes that may conceal signs of physical abuse, poor attendance at work or school, irritability, exhaustion, or tearfulness.
The truth, though, is that there may be no signs of abuse. Abusers, survivors, and their children all become very skilled in protecting their family secret and fearful of its exposure.
As the community struggles to comprehend the most recent heinous act of violence, expressions of shock and disbelief abound. Shock is a natural response, but it is not congruent with awareness. Be heartbroken. Be angry. Be afraid.
But do not be shocked. Be aware. And understand that awareness is only as valuable as the action it inspires.
Create windows of opportunity. Ask questions. Check in with your friends, neighbors, patients, clients, colleagues and family members. Shine a light.
Understand that you interact every day with someone who lives her life in danger and in fear. Schools, health care establishments and other institutions must develop mandatory procedures that create opportunities for disclosure of abuse. Places of employment must accommodate, rather than penalize, survivors who miss work or need time off to escape an abusive relationship.
Culturally, we must stop asking why a woman stays in an abusive relationship and start asking how we can connect her to the resources she and her children need to be safe.
Let us abandon our shock for understanding. Out of awareness, let us build hope. Out of hope, let us create change.
Theya McCown is president of the board of directors at Womenspace and a master's degree candidate at the University of Oregon whose research focuses on prevention of interpersonal violence.
Tens of thousands of sex crimes against teenagers unreported, charity says
Children's Society research reveals huge disparity between number of recorded offences and youngsters' experiences
by Owen Bowcott
Tens of thousands of sex crimes against 16- and 17-year-olds are going unreported because teenagers fear going to court or do not recognise their ordeals as serious abuse, according to the Children's Society.
The charity compared freedom of information (FOI) requests to police forces and an analysis of the crime survey for England and Wales and found a huge disparity between the number of recorded offences and youngsters' experiences.
Its research, based on FOI requests to 30 police forces, shows that there were around 4,900 reported sex crimes last year in which the victim was aged 16 or 17. The crime survey found that 8.6% of girls in that age group told investigators they were victims – equivalent to 50,000 people. The rate of abuse reported in the survey was higher than for any other age group.
The society's report calls for an better legal framework to provide additional support for teenagers over the age of 16, who are deemed to be above the age of consent but may nonetheless be inexperienced.
The law does not take age-related vulnerabilities, such as emotional and physiological changes and brain development in adolescents, into account in grooming and sexual exploitation cases, the report says.
“It also does not take into account any other factors that make them vulnerable to abuse, for example previous experiences of neglect and abuse, mental health problems, being in care or living away from their birth families,” it says.
“The ability of 16- and 17-year-olds to consent to sexual activity – without a clear definition of what true informed consent is in cases where an adult targets a vulnerable 16- or 17-year-old for sexual favours – can make professionals reluctant or unsure about the course of action they should undertake.”
Matthew Reed, the chief executive of the Children's Society, said: “Too many children are being left to suffer sexual exploitation in silence. Despite 16- and 17-year-olds being at the highest risk, they often receive the least support.
“Dangerous inconsistencies in the law and services need to be changed. These young people are still children and the government must make sure that the police and other agencies have the means they need in order to keep them safe.”
The crime survey for England and Wales traditionally reports far higher levels of crime than the number of recorded offences, sometimes more than double. The figures for sex crimes, however, particularly among teenagers, shows far greater divergence.
The Children's Society report says that half of the young people who did not report sex crimes to the police failed to do so either because they did not consider it worth reporting, feared going to court, or did not want the perpetrators to be punished. Its conclusions come from interviews with the children and young people it works with who have been sexually abused or are at risk of sexual exploitation.
Some teenagers fear they will not be believed or that they will be judged. Others are scared of the perpetrators, or uncertain about what constitutes crime, consent and sexual exploitation.
The report also found that of the cases reported to the police, fewer than one in five resulted in a charge or summons.
Children aged 16 and 17 are often blamed for putting themselves in risky situations, even when they have been specifically targeted and groomed through the use of drugs and alcohol, the Children's Society said.
Students rally for child abuse awareness through new club
by Amy Davis
COOKEVILLE — It's a safe haven of sorts. A place to open up to others who have either gone through similar trials or simply want to offer support.
It's also about awareness — starting conversations about a topic unspeakable among many in the community.
“It's something everybody knows about but nobody talks about,” said Cookeville High School junior Harley Hitchcox, president of the school's student-led club CAARE, which stands for Child Abuse Awareness Resource Education.
It's the Cookeville chapter of an organization that is spreading across the U.S. and abroad, having gotten started in Columbia, Tenn., by founder Valerie Whatley, who had been a victim of child abuse. She even visited CHS in late October to encourage local members as they make plans to spread awareness through projects like erecting a monument in Dogwood Park this spring in honor of Colten May, a Smithville toddler who died earlier this year due to child abuse.
“It's important to me because all the troubles start in the home,” Hitchcox said, noting that child abuse occurs when a child is mistreated in any way, whether it's physically, emotionally, sexually or involves neglect. “And just because you are a victim doesn't mean you're going to be a statistic. I think we should show that and stop this because it's a bad thing.”
In addition to little Colten, the faith-based club represents seven other babies acrosss Tennessee who suffered the same fate at the hands of family members.
Hitchcox said the club is open to all students, not just victims.
In addition to spreading awareness, they have access to scholarship opportunities and are able to develop leadership skills through job shadowing — particularly in professions related to child abuse prevention like law, education and medical.
As for Hitchcox, she plans to job shadow a labor and delivery nurse this summer.
And in April, CAARE members are planning to visit their state representatives in Nashville about the issue.
“We just do so much!” Hitchcox said.
CHS's club is around eight-members strong so far and hopes to gain the interest of more students after a school-wide assembly they are planning for late February or early March.
Members meet every Tuesday during lunch time at school and every other Thursday after school.
They report on club happenings, discuss goals and offer support to those members who may be affected by child abuse.
“Victims will come to us,” Hitchcox said, noting that students are more likely to approach their peers than adults, who have a legal obligation report suspected child abuse. “They can tell us about it, and then we can talk to an adult.”
And keep it anonymous.
“We'll say, ‘My friend is being abused,' and [the adult can] tell us the best thing to do in that situation,” Hitchcox said. “Then we can tell our friend and help them without creating a mess.”
For Hitchcox, it's an empowering endeavor she has high hopes for.
“It doesn't affect the adults; it affects us kids,” she said. “So the best way to stop it is through us.”
Teacher sponsors David Powell and Nadine Jones and adult coordinators CJ Gerndt and Gregg Dennison are available to assist club members as needed.
Anyone interested in learning more can find CAARE Upper Cumberland on Facebook or visit http://becausewecaare.com.
“I hope that everybody in our school and in Putnam County will know what CAARE is and that we will expand,” Hitchcox said.
“We won't get rid of child abuse immediately, but I'm hoping we will make a difference.”
Domestic Violence Awareness: Domestic violence DOES hurt children
According to the California Women‘s Health Survey (CWHS), approximately 40 percent of women in our state experience physical intimate partner violence in their lifetimes.
by Karen Pautz -- Executive Director, First 5 Siskiyou Children and Families Commission
According to the California Women‘s Health Survey (CWHS), approximately 40 percent of women in our state experience physical intimate partner violence in their lifetimes.
Of those, 75 percent have children under the age of 18 living at home.
Each day thousands of children witness domestic violence. Witnessing domestic violence can have lifetime effects.
Witnessing includes seeing actual incidents of sexual and physical abuse, hearing fighting and threats from another room and observing the aftermath of physical abuse such as blood, bruises, tears, torn clothing and broken items.
In addition, tension in the home such as adult victim's fearfulness when the abuser comes home or is in the vicinity is exposure to violence.
We know from research that traumatic experiences produce long lasting stress response. Babies, children and youth who witness domestic violence are chronically stressed. The chaos in the home creates a roller coaster of emotional instability.
Often we think babies and very young children are “too young” to be impacted by exposure to domestic violence. However, the impact is greater when the trauma happens in the formative years of life. The very first experiences of babies are the building blocks for their life.
The younger a child is the more “sponge like” a child's brain is. Eighty percent of human brain develops in the first three years of life, this is the reason that children learn so much in such a short time, including language, walking, etc.
This is the same reason that the younger the child is the more vulnerable he or she is to the impact of domestic violence and trauma.
Chronic exposure to violence creates children who zone out, numb out and are stressed out. It creates anxiety, depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), juvenile delinquency, eating disorders, acting out behaviors, increased drug and alcohol use, inappropriate sexual behaviors and criminal behaviors.
Domestic violence is a major reason that children run away from home.
Stressed children have difficulty with attention span and learning. They have constant fight or flight responses and develop negative coping skills.
Children who are exposed to parents fighting verbally and physically can have difficulty with learning and mental health problems.
They have trouble trusting adults, making and keeping friends, and often are misdiagnosed with attention deficit disorder.
Young children can have night terrors, nightmares and bed wetting issues.
“It is essential for adults in the lives of these children to know the symptoms and be compassionate. when working with them.
Children exposed to domestic violence are misunderstood victims.” said Karen Pautz, Executive Director for First 5 Siskiyou Children and Families Commission and a board member of the Siskiyou Domestic Violence and Crisis Center.
Before labeling a child as lazy, unmotivated, uncaring, defiant, stubborn or mean, learn about their background.
Seek to understand how a child's past or current life situation impacts behaviors. These children and youth need safety, predictability and help with how to react differently from their habitual fight or flight responses.
They need caring adults who truly have their best interest and look past the behaviors.
Acquire knowledge about effective ways to help children manage overwhelming emotions and behaviors.
Get information about local resources and assist parents in understanding the long term effects of domestic violence on children.
Remember, there is a reason for every behavior.
A traumatized baby, child or teenager needs adults who are compassionate, nurturing and understanding, who provide them with opportunities to be successful rather than expel them from programs and safe places.
It is our responsibility as adults to assure that all children in our society have opportunities to be successful, have strong self-regulation skills and are offered pathways to success.
Find ways to love, support and care for the least lovable children in your care.
Audit finds lack of docs, late reports in child abuse investigations
by Troy Carter
Montana's state office responsible for investigating reports of child abuse is promising reforms after a legislative audit identified shortcomings.
The audit of the Child and Family Services division of the Department of Health and Human Services looked at 351 cases, 250 of which were investigated. Of those, the audit found, 20 percent did not meet deadlines for face-to-face contact with the child.
Problems were also found with how the department takes in reports. The audit revealed that 68 percent of intake assessments were incomplete, and 17 percent were completely missing.
From July 2013 to July 2014, Child and Family Services received 15,724 reports, leading to 7,812 investigations. Reports are received via a centralized hotline, and 22 staff members categorize the urgency and type of abuse before reports are assigned to one of 29 county offices.
Priority one reports must be investigated within 24 hours, priority two within 72 hours, and priority three within 10 days.
“For example, in one report where a teen had established a plan for suicide, intake staff found no immediate danger to the child and categorized the report as a P2–respond within 72 hours, rather than as a P1–respond within 24 hours,” the audit said. “When asked about this circumstance, department staff thought the report incorrectly prioritized, with no clear explanation as to why the report was prioritized as a P2 rather than a P1.”
The audit noted that a lack of documentation hurts the department's ability to defend its programs' activities and prevents staff from reviewing applicable history when screening reports.
The department is required to produce a final report within 60 days of the start of an investigation. But the average time to completion in 2014 was 87 days, according to the audit.
“Department management indicate they simply have more children in care, with static resources, which has taxed their ability to complete investigations within statutory time frames,” according to the report. “Our analysis does not support the department's contention.”
In its response, DPHHS agreed with four of five auditor recommendations and said they had already implemented the fifth.
The report will be discussed in the capitol Wednesday at the Legislature's Audit Committee, a body of six Republicans and six Democrats. According to committee rules, members cannot comment beforehand.
How to report child abuse in Pa.
Anyone may report suspected child abuse to ChildLine, the 24-hour statewide system operated by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, at 1-800-932-0313. Any conduct that could be considered a crime may also be reported to a local police department.
One wishing to report sexual abuse or other misconduct by a priest, deacon, employee or volunteer of the Philadelphia Archdiocese may call the archdiocesan Office of Investigations at 1-888-930-9010. Callers will be asked to provide their name, date of birth, current address and phone number, name of the accused, dates and location of the abuse or misconduct, and a brief description of the facts.
The archdiocese is required by law to report suspected child abuse to the Department of Public Welfare's ChildLine. In addition, it is archdiocesan policy to report immediately to law enforcement any conduct that could constitute a crime.
After one's report is taken, a Victim Assistance Coordinator in the archdiocesan Office for Child and Youth Protection's Victim will follow up to discuss what support and services are available. If after making the complaint one wishes to speak immediately with a Victim Assistance Coordinator, the connection will be made.
Anyone designated under Pennsylvania law as a mandated reporter of suspected child abuse should understand the reporting requirements on the Child Welfare Portal of the Department of Public Welfare website, along with other information about making a report of child abuse.
‘Spotlight' on sexual abuse shows how far church has come
by Lou Baldwin
The recent past, and what has transpired because of it, will have a bright light on it Nov. 6 when “Spotlight,” a film that chronicles the sexual abuse scandal of the last decade, hits theaters.
The movie presents the story of the investigative reporting team of the Boston Globe newspaper in 2002 that detailed the intricate cover up of prior sexual abuse of minors by clergy in the Boston Archdiocese. The scandal had been brewing since the 1990s but it was not until the Boston Globe series that the extent of the cover-up was exposed.
The newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize for the series and now the film, even before its official release, has received international awards.
At the time in many Catholic circles there was a tendency to shoot the messenger, inferring the Boston Globe was smearing the Catholic Church. That belief was true for many in Philadelphia, and anyway, so the thinking went, it couldn't happen here. It took two Philadelphia grand jury reports (in 2005 and 2011) implicating scores of Philadelphia priests in child sexual abuse over a very long period of time, and questioning the archdiocesan response, to show how wrong we were.
That's the past. What has been done since then?
At the heart of reforms aimed to ensure sexual abuse will never happen again is the work of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's Office for Child and Youth Protection and its Safe Environment Program.
Heading the office and the program is Leslie Davila, who joined the staff in 2011 but has been working with child abuse prevention and victims' assistance and advocacy for 18 years. Prior to coming to the archdiocese she was assistant director of victim's services with the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office.
Davila said the archdiocese, as part of reforms instituted by the church nationwide in the wake of the Boston Globe series, has “been providing child abuse education programs since 2003 for all adults who are working or volunteering with youth and in 2004 we started conducting child abuse education for students in schools and religious education programs,” she said.
At this time there are about 230 safe environment coordinators in parishes and schools who are tasked with making sure all the policies for the protection of children are being monitored and implemented, according to Davila.
In addition, 35 new facilitators have been trained to join 68 already in place throughout the archdiocese. They train the people in the parishes and schools who will be working with children on how to spot signs of potential abuse and how to prevent it.
“The program is working very well,” Davila said. “We are reaching well over 6,000 people each year on how to prevent child abuse, (teaching) appropriate relationships and interaction with children and how to respond to and report the suspicion of child abuse.”
A part of the program has been ensuring that anyone working or volunteering with children has the appropriate background check prior to assuming that responsibility.
The archdiocese has been requiring this since 2002, according to Davila, but in 2014 the Pennsylvania child protection laws were amended to mandate this universally in the state. Anyone working or volunteering with children must undergo the background check including all teachers and volunteers in both public and private schools.
The process is fairly simple and can in many cases be done online through the commonwealth's Child Welfare Portal. The cost for the background check was lowered from $10 to $8 for employees with no charge for volunteers.
Any allegations of child abuse received by the archdiocese are immediately reported to the appropriate law enforcement authorities, according to Davila.
“To some extent we are exceeding the requirements by law,” Davila said. “Hopefully the background checks will deter anyone with ill intentions or a negative criminal history from coming onto our system.”
Whether it is ferreting out suspected child abuse, reporting it or conducting background checks that can reduce the possibility of child sexual abuse, it is all pieces in a puzzle that must be assembled for an effective program.
“We are committed and we want it understood this happens in all walks of life and we want to protect the larger community,” Davila said. “This is a societal issue, not just the Catholic Church. Our aim is to protect children in our care and in the care of others.”
Spotting a Victim: An In-Depth Look Into San Diego's Human Trafficking Industry
Sex trafficking in San Diego is $810 million industry, study finds
by Candice Nguyen
She's looking down, avoiding eye contact and defers to an older man to see how to respond. He's not dressed for the weather and not in possession of his own travel documents. She's having trouble at home and finds herself alone at a trolley stop.
These are all red flags of a sex or labor trafficking situation that you can help identify and report, Chief Deputy District Attorney Summer Stephan said.
Sex trafficking in San Diego County is a $810 million industry largely run by local gangs, according to a recent report by the University of San Diego and Point Loma Nazarene University. The report details how as many as 11,700 girls, who are on average 15-16 years old, fall victim to the lifestyle every year.
According to local law enforcement officials, if you incorporate labor trafficking to these figures, the numbers would surely skyrocket, although a comprehensive local study on labor trafficking has yet to be published.
Sometimes trafficking is associated with chains and a locked room, but Stephan said it's more out in the open than many may think. According to a 2012 SDSU study, labor trafficking is most prevalent in San Diego's construction, restaurant and hospitality sectors.
“A good 71% of victims of labor trafficking come to this country on legal visas,” she said.
The problem is so rampant, the District Attorney's office is working with the county's hotel/motel industry to train employees how to identify and report trafficking activity. Several airlines are also training employees.
NBC 7 reached out to every airline at Lindbergh Field. The companies that responded to say they've implemented training to specifically combat trafficking include British Airways, Southwest, Alaska Airlines and American Airlines. Many of them partner with the Department of Homeland Security's Blue Campaign .
“With labor, we're looking for people who are not in control of their identification. They're not in control of visas and their ID cards. Someone else is speaking for them, “ Stephan said.
She said many labor victims don't know they're victims. They're told they owe debt and have to work to pay it off.
“If a trafficker says you have to pay a debt, in the U.S., that's peonage [debt slavery]. That's illegal,” she clarified. “You can't be forced to pay a debt through labor.”
According to the recent USD trafficking report, local gangs are seeing sex slavery as a bigger money maker than drugs. The study estimates pimps make nearly $600,000 a year.
Stephan said common areas for sex trafficking recruitment include malls, high schools, trolley and bus stops. Local experts said this is happening all throughout the county and pimps especially target at-risk children and runaways.
To spot a potential victim, Stephan said you should look to see “if she's looking down and not making eye contact, and if there's an older male with her and you say ‘Hello,' and she doesn't respond. Tattooing or branding. Anything with a money symbol."
Tiffany Mester was trafficked for two years in San Diego.
“Even when I got out of the lifestyle, I wasn't fully ready to admit I was a victim until about a year later,” she said.
Mester and Stephan are working to convey, when it comes to trafficking in San Diego, perception is usually not reality. You don't always see chains and shackles. Often, the chains are psychological.
If you see a potential trafficking situation and you believe it's an emergency, don't hesitate to call 911 or local security, according to Stephan. If you have more of a suspicion, you can call the Polaris Project at 1-888-373-7888 to reach experts. Law enforcement will be able to survey, and if warranted, take action.
If you are a victim of trafficking, you can call that number or text LOST or INFO to the number 233733 or BeFree. You will reach a specialist who will assist you in planning your escape and/or connect you to services in the your area.
Stephan said 60% of cases are solved because a community member reported something.
Leaders Raise Awareness on Sex Trafficking
by Megan Carpenter
Federal, state, and local leaders gathered in Burlington City Hall Monday to raise awareness about an issue not typically at the front of mind. Human trafficking.
"This is an issue in which victims do not self identify and it's incumbent upon the community to begin to open their eyes to this issue," says Cindy McGuire, an Assistant Attorney General assigned to the Department for Children and Families.
The campaign to stop sex trafficking was spearheaded by the U.S. Attorney's office. U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont Eric Miller says there are three cases being prosecuted at the federal level, a high number.
"We hope raising awareness will help us recognize this form of trafficking and help put victims and potential victims in touch with the help they need," says Miller.
South Burlington Police Chief Trevor Whipple says his department has conducted two prostitution stings since July of 2014. One led to the arrest of seven men, who were using the "escort" services on a website called backpage.com. Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan did not prosecute the seven men. Instead, the men had to take a class on human trafficking.
"We find in many cases, the women who are soliciting sex are drug addicted," says Whipple. "The person who's their opiate supplier has put them in a position where if they don't perform the sex act, they don't get the drug they're so dependent on."
The U.S. Attorney's office says of its cases lasting more than one year, 75% of victims were women. About 60% were under 30 years old, almost all of were addicted to substances, and more than 25% reported having a romantic relationships with their dealer.
"We also know from national research and our experience in Vermont, youth in state custody are particularly at risk," says McGuire. "DCF has formed its own internal working group to identify those youths who are at risk and those who may have already been trafficked."
Leaders say education is a key part of prevention.
"It is through our partnerships that we've been able to train and educate more than 1,600 professionals and community members about this issue," says Edith Klimoski of the nonprofit group Give Way to Freedom.
"The United Way system in Vermont can be a piece of the solution through our support of the Vermont 211 program," says Martha Maksym, Executive Director for United Way of Chittenden County. "It's an information and referral program for any victim, or person concerned for a victim to access a professional who understands what services are available."
Sex trafficking victims face 'tangled web'
by Sarah Reese
When an 18-year-old woman learned the man she thought she was meeting for sex at a Merrillville hotel was actually a police officer, she took off running and jumped from a second-story balcony.
She broke her hip and pelvis in the fall, but later told police she was more afraid of what her pimp would do if she were arrested.
Lake County Sheriff's Department Detective Darrick Hurst told the story to The Times to show how much control a pimp can have over a sex trafficking victim. Hurst and his partner, Detective John Biter, investigate human trafficking in Lake County and also work closely with the FBI's Merrillville office and U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Hammond office.
Ultimately, the 18-year-old woman couldn't separate from her pimp, who had brought her to Northwest Indiana from Milwaukee, Hurst said. She jumped over a 10-foot privacy fence at a women's shelter and fled despite her injuries.
There is still a warrant for her arrest, he said.
"That's not uncommon for a victim," he said. "Given an out, it's not uncommon for them to not take it right away."
Hurst once thought human trafficking only happened overseas, he said.
He learned how often it happens in Northwest Indiana after Sheriff John Buncich and Special Victims Unit Cmdr. Sharon Bennett asked him to establish the Human Trafficking Unit about two years ago, he said.
"It's been hidden for so long, people don't know it's out there," he said.
‘No concept of where I would go'
Aubrey Lloyd, who was forced into prostitution at age 16 in Colorado and now lives outside Indianapolis, said she escaped the sex trade after a drug dealer working with her pimp urged her to leave.
Lloyd said her exploiters took her and other girls to house parties, apartments and homes, hotel rooms and even a college campus in Colorado Springs, Colo., where they were sold for sex. Police had raided several of those parties, and there was talk in the “family” about who had leaked information, she said.
“We called each other family,” she said.
“We called our pimp Daddy and the house mom, Mom. We did everything for the family. We weren't just working, we weren't just doing these bad things for no reason. We were doing them for the family.”
Lloyd said she was sitting outside one night in 1996 when the drug dealer told her she shouldn't be there any longer.
“It sounds horrible, but I felt rejected,” she said. “I had been living there for almost a year, and I had no concept of where I would go.”
The drug dealer threatened to tell the pimp she was responsible for leaking information to police if she didn't leave that night, she said.
“That, to me, felt more dangerous than running,” she said.
A client picked her up, and she cried as she told him she needed to escape.
“He was scared of getting in trouble,” she said. “He ended up taking me pretty close to my grandmother's house. He dropped me off, and I walked there.”
Hurst said just two women — out of 45 active cases he and his partner have worked — have been ready to seek help and leave the sex trade.
A light for other survivors
Lloyd went on to graduate from high school on time, but her 15-year-old sister was later lured into the sex trade by a different group of people, she said.
Lloyd's family tracked her sister from Colorado to Louisiana and Texas and finally found her in Portland, Ore. She had been sex trafficked for nearly a year and was emaciated and addicted to crack cocaine, she said.
Lloyd said her sister had been in the foster care system and was placed in a care facility, but ran from there to their grandmother's house. After two weeks with family, her sister committed suicide, she said.
"I just felt like she came home to say goodbye, because she couldn't deal with all of the things that she experienced," Lloyd said.
Lloyd said she didn't want her sister's death to be the end of their story. So she went back to college to study social work and planned on becoming a case worker or therapist. She later earned her master's degree in social work and now works as an advocate and mentor.
She consults with agencies helping human trafficking victims by offering training and assistance with program development and implementation, she said.
She provides counseling and mentoring to other survivors and their support systems.
She also advocates for public awareness, prevention, legislation and policy changes. She has spoken to schools, colleges, churches, nonprofits, parents, law enforcement, treatment centers and other groups.
Lake County police first learned of Lloyd through her work with law enforcement, officials said.
‘It's such a slow fade'
People often see the sex trade as a black-and-white issue, Lloyd said, where women and girls make a choice to participate.
Instead, entry into prostitution is often a complicated, deceptive process that leaves girls and women questioning their view of themselves and the world, she said.
“So many people think it's just a clear choice. That you say, ‘Yes, I want to be a part of this.' And it's not,” Lloyd said. “It's such a slow fade. It's such a slow progression. It's such an intense recruitment process.”
Pimps often spend months recruiting women to work as prostitutes, Detective Hurst said.
Sex trafficking victims often have been physically or sexually abused as children, officials said.
"When you approach a girl and you ask her how she got started, a lot of the time it's, 'Well, my sister is doing it. My aunt does it. My friend's mother got me involved,'" he said. "It's just disturbing."
The average age of sex trafficking victims is 18 to 25, but recruitment can start between ages 15 and 17, he said. The Lake County Human Trafficking Unit has not recovered anyone younger than 18 since it began two years ago, but has assisted in a federal case involving an underage victim, Hurst said.
"The goal of the pimp is to isolate that girl away from her family to make her think her family doesn't want her," Hurst said. "Then, once he has her, he makes her think her family doesn't want her back after what she's done. There's some serious mind games.”
Recruiters can be boys or girls, Lloyd said. Victims aren't just poor minority kids in urban settings, she said. She's worked with girls who were recruited from upper middle-class suburbs, from church youth groups and from two-parent households, she said.
“That's why I tell people you have to talk to your kids about this. It's not going to come from a pimp with a fuzzy cane. It's going to come from a kid that looks like your kid. It's going to feel very normal and casual.”
Lloyd said she met her recruiter, a 18-year-old woman, while working a part-time job. Lloyd was 16, and the girl complimented Lloyd on her hairstyle.
Lloyd said she began spending more time with her new friend, going to the mall and movies and spending the night at the friend's house with the friend's mother and stepfather.
Lloyd said she had a history of abuse, which is common among sex trafficking victims because their feelings about past abuse can be used to manipulate them. She had been molested by two male family members, and her mother abused alcohol and drugs.
When the woman began asking about that past, Lloyd didn't think anything of it.
“Instead of seeing that as a warning sign, I saw that as just someone being concerned about what I had been through in my life,” she said.
After several months, the woman persuaded Lloyd to run away from home.
“In my 16-year-old brain, that made sense to me,” she said. “Their house seemed to be quiet and calm and less chaotic.”
Her friend's stepfather told her that night they ran an escort service and she could work for them, she said. Lloyd was adamant she wanted nothing to do with it, she said.
She went to a party with her friend later that same night, but she blacked out after drinking from a can of soda, she said.
“I'm pretty convinced that can of soda was drugged, because I don't remember anything else from that night,” she said. “The next thing, I woke up to being sexually assaulted.”
When the assault was over, her friend's stepfather came into the room and told her she didn't have the option of telling him no, and she was forced into prostitution.
“People would tell me, ‘Why didn't you go back home?' ” Lloyd said.
“I just ran away from a place. Why would I go back home? I really had been isolated from all my other friends, so it wasn't like I could go call another friend of mine. They were very good at really disconnecting me from everyone else in my life. I literally felt like I had nowhere else to go."
'These seemed like normal guys'
Lloyd said her pimp had control over every aspect of her life, from what she ate to how she dressed to what her name and age were. She never accepted money, and all the girls were stripped down at the end of the night to ensure they weren't hiding any tips, she said.
“We were never brought out onto the streets,” she said.
The men knew she was younger than 18, she said.
“These seemed like normal guys. They weren't scary, creepy-looking guys you see on TV,” Lloyd said. “They were doctors and attorneys and even policemen. The people you think are safe were the people that were purchasing us.
"I just kind of felt like the whole world had turned upside down, and I didn't know who was evil,” she said. “I had married guys show me pictures of their kids and their wife. Like what they were doing with me was OK.”
Hurst said he arrested a gas station manager, a construction worker and a man in his late 40s during one sting. All of them were married.
Detective: Goal is to arrest pimps
The Human Trafficking Unit has primarily investigated commercial sex crimes, though the detectives have an open labor trafficking case involving a restaurant, Hurst said.
Hurst said his unit conducts stings using Backpage.com and other social media sites, either by targeting women or by working with female police officers to target men.
When the detectives pose as men soliciting sex, their goal isn't to arrest women, Hurst said. They're hoping the women will give authorities information about their pimps and agree to go to a shelter, he said.
Approximately four out of five women the detectives talk to are sex trafficking victims, Hurst said.
Those who are not identified as trafficking victims still need empathy, Lake County's Cmdr. Bennett said.
"Even the ones that say, 'No, I don't have a pimp. I'm out here on my own,' there's a history. Something happened in that person's life that led them down that path," she said. "It didn't just start that day."
Police treat all of the women as victims, officials said.
"No woman wakes up and says, 'I want to be a prostitute today,' " Hurst said. "They don't choose this life."
Lloyd said some victims may appear to promote prostitution, but such behavior is often caused by the distorted world in which they're living. It's a "tangled web" where alcohol and drugs are often involved, she said.
"It became, 'I've done it. I can't undo it, and I'd rather act like I'm in control over it,'" she said.
Lloyd said she has yet to meet a girl who immediately identifies as a victim.
"This was fun, this was sexy. They were in control," she said.
"They were empowered the whole time. No, you weren't. I know you weren't, because I was there. But I'd much rather admit to being that way than to admit that I was feeling horrible and lost and disgusted the whole time. No one wants to admit to that."
Lloyd said it took her many years before she could identify as a victim of human trafficking. She routinely faces criticism and has been excommunicated by some for sharing her story publicly, she said.
Still, she's proud of the work she does.
"I don't just talk about my story," she said. "I help other people heal and walk a different path they didn't know they had. And that's fun for me."
Hundreds Of Cops Kicked Off Force For Committing Sex Crimes
The number is unquestionably an undercount because it represents only those officers whose licenses to work in law enforcement were revoked, and not all states take such action.
by Matt Sedensky and Nomaan Merchant
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Flashing lights pierced the black of night, and the big white letters made clear it was the police. The woman pulled over was a daycare worker in her 50s headed home after playing dominoes with friends. She felt she had nothing to hide, so when the Oklahoma City officer accused her of erratic driving, she did as directed.
She would later tell a judge she was splayed outside the patrol car for a pat-down, made to lift her shirt to prove she wasn't hiding anything, then to pull down her pants when the officer still wasn't convinced. He shined his flashlight between her legs, she said, then ordered her to sit in the squad car and face him as he towered above. His gun in sight, she said she pleaded "No, sir" as he unzipped his fly and exposed himself with a hurried directive.
"Come on," the woman, identified in police reports as J.L., said she was told before she began giving him oral sex. "I don't have all night."
The accusations are undoubtedly jolting, and yet they reflect a betrayal of the badge that has been repeated time and again across the country.
In a yearlong investigation of sexual misconduct by U.S. law enforcement, The Associated Press uncovered about 1,000 officers who lost their badges in a six-year period for rape, sodomy and other sexual assault; sex crimes that included possession of child pornography; or sexual misconduct such as propositioning citizens or having consensual but prohibited on-duty intercourse.
The number is unquestionably an undercount because it represents only those officers whose licenses to work in law enforcement were revoked, and not all states take such action. California and New York - with several of the nation's largest law enforcement agencies - offered no records because they have no statewide system to decertify officers for misconduct. And even among states that provided records, some reported no officers removed for sexual misdeeds even though cases were identified via news stories or court records.
"It's happening probably in every law enforcement agency across the country," said Chief Bernadette DiPino of the Sarasota Police Department in Florida, who helped study the problem for the International Association of Chiefs of Police. "It's so underreported and people are scared that if they call and complain about a police officer, they think every other police officer is going to be then out to get them."
Even as cases around the country have sparked a national conversation about excessive force by police, sexual misconduct by officers has largely escaped widespread notice due to a patchwork of laws, piecemeal reporting and victims frequently reluctant to come forward because of their vulnerabilities - they often are young, poor, struggling with addiction or plagued by their own checkered pasts.
In interviews, lawyers and even police chiefs told the AP that some departments also stay quiet about improprieties to limit liability, allowing bad officers to quietly resign, keep their certification and sometimes jump to other jobs.
The officers involved in such wrongdoing represent a tiny fraction of the hundreds of thousands whose jobs are to serve and protect. But their actions have an outsized impact - miring departments in litigation that leads to costly settlements, crippling relationships with an already wary public and scarring victims with a special brand of fear.
"My God," J.L. said she thought as she eyed the officer's holstered gun, "he's going to kill me."
The AP does not name alleged victims of sexual assault without their consent, and J.L. declined to be interviewed. She was let go after the traffic stop without any charges. She reported her accusations immediately, but it was months before the investigation was done and the breadth of the allegations known.
She is one of 13 women who say they were victimized by the officer, a former college football standout named Daniel Holtzclaw. The fired cop, 28, has pleaded not guilty to a host of charges, and his family posted online that "the truth of his innocence will be shown in court." Each of his accusers is expected to testify in the trial that begins Monday, including one who was 17 when she said the officer pulled down her pink cotton shorts and raped her on her mother's front porch.
But on a June night last year, it was J.L.'s story that unleashed a larger search for clues.
A nurse swabbed her mouth. A captain made a report. And a detective got to work.
On a checkerboard of sessions on everything from electronic surveillance to speed enforcement, police chiefs who gathered for an annual meeting in 2007 saw a discussion on sex offenses by officers added to the agenda. More than 70 chiefs packed into a room, and when asked if they had dealt with an officer accused of sexual misdeeds, nearly every attendee raised a hand. A task force was formed and federal dollars were pumped into training.
Eight years later, a simple question - how many law enforcement officers are accused of sexual misconduct - has no definitive answer. The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, which collects police data from around the country, doesn't track officer arrests, and states aren't required to collect or share that information.
To measure the problem, the AP obtained records from 41 states on police decertification, an administrative process in which an officer's law enforcement license is revoked. Cases from 2009 through 2014 were then reviewed to determine whether they stemmed from misconduct meeting the Department of Justice standard for sexual assault - sexual contact that happens without consent, including intercourse, sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling and attempted rape.
Nine states and the District of Columbia said they either did not decertify officers for misconduct or declined to provide information.
Of those that did release records, the AP determined that some 550 officers were decertified for sexual assault, including rape and sodomy, sexual shakedowns in which citizens were extorted into performing favors to avoid arrest, or gratuitous pat-downs. Some 440 officers lost their badges for other sex offenses, such as possessing child pornography, or for sexual misconduct that included being a peeping Tom, sexting juveniles or having on-duty intercourse.
The law enforcement officials in these records included state and local police, sheriff's deputies, prison guards and school resource officers; no federal officers were included because the records reviewed came from state police standards commissions. About one-third of the officers decertified were accused of incidents involving juveniles. Because of gaps in the information provided by the states, it was impossible to discern any other distinct patterns, other than a propensity for officers to use the power of their badge to prey on the vulnerable. Some but not all of the decertified officers faced criminal charges; some offenders were able to avoid prosecution by agreeing to surrender their certifications.
Victims included unsuspecting motorists, schoolchildren ordered to raise their shirts in a supposed search for drugs, police interns taken advantage of, women with legal troubles who succumbed to performing sex acts for promised help, and prison inmates forced to have sex with guards.
The AP's findings, coupled with other research and interviews with experts, suggest that sexual misconduct is among the most prevalent type of complaint against law officers. Phil Stinson, a researcher at Bowling Green State University, analyzed news articles between 2005 and 2011 and found 6,724 arrests involving more than 5,500 officers. Sex-related cases were the third-most common, behind violence and profit-motivated crimes. Cato Institute reports released in 2009 and 2010 found sex misconduct the No. 2 complaint against officers, behind excessive force.
Cases from across the country in just the past year demonstrate how such incidents can occur, and the devastation they leave behind.
In Connecticut, William Ruscoe of the Trumbull Police began a 30-month prison term in January after pleading guilty to the sexual assault of a 17-year-old girl he met through a program for teens interested in law enforcement. Case records detailed advances that began with explicit texts and attempts to kiss and grope the girl. Then one night Ruscoe brought her back to his home, put his gun on the kitchen counter and asked her to go upstairs to his bedroom. The victim told investigators that despite telling him no "what felt like 1,000 times," he removed her clothes, fondled her and forced her to touch him - at one point cuffing her hands.
In Florida, Jonathan Bleiweiss of the Broward Sheriff's Office was sentenced to a five-year prison term in February for bullying about 20 immigrant men into sex acts. Because the victims wouldn't testify, Bleiwess' plea deal revolved around false imprisonment charges, allowing him to escape sex offender status. Prosecutors said he used implied threats of deportation to intimidate the men.
And in New Mexico, Michael Garcia of the Las Cruces Police was sentenced last November to nine years in federal prison for sexually assaulting a high school police intern. At the time, he was in a unit investigating child abuse and sex crimes. The victim, Diana Guerrero, said in court that the assault left her feeling "like a piece of trash," dashed her dreams of becoming an officer, and triggered depression, nightmares and flashbacks.
"It had never occurred to me that a person who had earned a badge would do this to me or anybody else," said Guerrero, who is now 21 and agreed to her name being published. "I lost my faith in everything, everyone, even in myself."
A 2011 International Association of Chiefs of Police report on sex misconduct questioned whether some conditions of the job may create opportunities for such incidents. Officers' power, independence, off-hours and engagement with those perceived as less credible combine to give cover to predators, it said, and otherwise admirable bonds of loyalty can lead colleagues to shield offenders.
"You see officers throughout your career that deal with that power really well, and you see officers over your career that don't," said Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty, who fired Holtzclaw just months after the allegations surfaced and called the case a troubling reminder that police chiefs need to be careful about how they hire and train officers.
The best chance at preventing such incidents is to robustly screen applicants, said Sheriff Russell Martin in Delaware County, Ohio, who served on an IACP committee on sex misconduct. Those seeking to join Martin's agency are questioned about everything from pornography use to public sex acts. Investigators run background checks, administer polygraph exams and interview former employers and neighbors. Social media activity is reviewed for clues about what a candidate deems appropriate, or red flags such as objectification of women.
Still, screening procedures vary among departments, and even the most stringent standards only go so far.
"We're hiring from the human race," Martin said, "and once in a while, the human race is going to let us down."
In the predawn hours of June 18, 2014, J.L.'s report made its way to Oklahoma City sex crimes detective Kim Davis. By that afternoon, Miranda rights were being read to the suspect, an officer who had arrived out of the academy nearly three years earlier, a seemingly natural move for the son of a career policeman but one borne of deep disappointment.
Holtzclaw was a high school football star in Enid, Oklahoma, and a standout on a middling squad at Eastern Michigan University. He was a 6-foot-1, 246-pound leader to teammates who called him "Claw," and constantly focused on his ultimate goal of the NFL.
"He trained that way. He talked that way," said fellow linebacker Cortland Selman.
But the collegiate record for tackles Holtzclaw chased went unbroken, and the draft came and went.
He found traces of life on the field in his life on the beat, telling a reporter for his hometown paper that he enjoyed high-speed chases and once charged through two fences while pursuing a suspect on foot on a snow-slicked winter day. He hoped to eventually join the police gang squad.
The Oklahoma City Police Department said Holtzclaw had not received any prior discipline that resulted in a demotion or docked paycheck, but both the department and the state declined to release his full personnel record, citing state law making it confidential.
J.L.'s accusations made Davis and a fellow detective curious about an unsolved report filed five weeks earlier in which an unidentified officer was accused of stopping a woman and coercing her into oral sex.
According to pretrial testimony, the detectives reviewed the names of women Holtzclaw had come into contact with on his 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift and interviewed each one, saying they had a tip she may have been assaulted by an officer. Most said they had not been victimized but, among those who said they were, other links to Holtzclaw were found, Davis said in court. The GPS device on his patrol car put him at the scene of the alleged incidents, and department records showed he called in to check all but one of the women for warrants, the detective testified.
By the time the investigation concluded, the detectives had assembled a six-month narrative of alleged sex crimes they said started Dec. 20, 2013, with a woman taken into custody and hospitalized while high on angel dust. Dressed in a hospital gown, her right wrist handcuffed to the bedrail, the woman said Holtzclaw coerced her into performing oral sex, suggesting her cooperation would lead to dropped charges.
"I didn't think that no one would believe me," she testified at a pretrial hearing. "I feel like all police will work together."
All told, Holtzclaw faces 36 counts including rape, sexual battery and forcible oral sodomy.
One additional accuser who came forward after Holtzclaw's arrest later was charged with making a false report. Supporters of the former officer who congregate on social media express hope that others' claims will be proven false, too, and friends wear T-shirts that say "Free the Claw."
Earlier this year, while out on bond, Holtzclaw answered the door of his parents' Enid home, saying of the allegations: "I'm not going to make any comment about it." His attorney, Scott Adams, canceled an interview and did not respond to calls, emails and a letter.
Adams' line of questioning at the pretrial hearing suggests he will raise doubts about the accusers' credibility and portray investigators as having coaxed the women into saying they were attacked. Many of the women had struggled with drugs. Some had been prostitutes or have criminal records. Most lived in the same rundown swath of the city in sight of the state Capitol dome, and they all are women of color.
Many of their allegations are similar, with the women saying they were accused of hiding drugs, then told to lift their shirts or pull down their pants. Some claim to have been groped; others said they were forced into intercourse or oral sex.
The youngest accuser said Holtzclaw first approached her when she was with two friends who were arguing and he learned she had an outstanding warrant for trespassing. He let her go but found her again later that day, walking to her mother's house. She said he offered her a ride and then followed her to the front porch, reminding her of her warrant, accusing her of hiding drugs and warning her not to make things more difficult than they needed to be. She claims he touched her breasts and slid his hand into her panties before pulling off her shorts and raping her.
When it was over, the teen said he told her he might be back to see her again.
"I didn't know what to do," she testified at the pretrial hearing. "Like, what am I going to do? Call the cops? He was a cop."
Victims of sexual violence at the hands of officers know the power their attackers have, and so the trauma can carry an especially crippling fear.
Jackie Simmons said she found it too daunting to bring her accusation to another police officer after being raped by a cop in 1998 while visiting Kansas for a wedding. So, like most victims of rape, she never filed a report. Her notions of good and evil challenged, she became enraged whenever she saw patrol cars marked "Protect and Serve."
"You feel really powerless," said Simmons, an elementary school principal in Bridgeport, Connecticut, who works with Pandora's Project, a support group for rape survivors.
Diane Wetendorf, a retired counselor who started a support group in Chicago for victims of officers, said most of the women she counseled never reported their crimes - and many who did regretted it. She saw women whose homes came under surveillance and whose children were intimidated by police. Fellow officers, she said, refused to turn on one another when questioned.
"It starts with the officer denying the allegations - 'she's crazy,' 'she's lying,'" Wetendorf said. "And the other officers say they didn't see anything, they didn't hear anything."
In its 2011 report, the IACP recommended that agencies institute policies specifically addressing sexual misconduct, saying "tolerance at any level will invite more of the same conduct." The report also urged stringent screening of hires. But the agency does not know how widely such recommendations have been implemented.
John Firman, the IACP's research director, said the organization also is encouraging its chiefs to hire more women and minorities as a way to improve the environment inside departments.
"What you want is a culture that's dominated by a bunch of people that reflect the community," he said.
Experts said it isn't just threats of retaliation that deter victims from reporting the crimes, but also skepticism about the ability of officers and prosecutors to investigate their colleagues.
Milwaukee Police Officer Ladmarald Cates was sentenced to 24 years in prison in 2012 for raping a woman he was dispatched to help. Despite screaming "He raped me!" repeatedly to other officers present, she was accused of assaulting an officer and jailed for four days, her lawyer said. The district attorney, citing a lack of evidence, declined to prosecute Cates. Only after a federal investigation was he tried and convicted.
It's a story that doesn't surprise Penny Harrington, a former police chief in Portland, Oregon, who co-founded the National Center for Women in Policing and has served as an expert witness in officer misconduct cases. She said officers sometimes avoid charges or can beat a conviction because they are so steeped in the system.
"They knew the DAs. They knew the judges. They knew the safe houses. They knew how to testify in court. They knew how to make her look like a nut," she said. "How are you going to get anything to happen when he's part of the system and when he threatens you and when you know he has a gun and ... you know he can find you wherever you go?"
Though initially out on bond, Holtzclaw has been jailed since July after letting the battery in his ankle monitor go dead.
While he and his attorneys have remained mostly silent on the accusations, he has offered glimpses of his life in online postings. A photo montage he shared showed him flexing his muscles, Eminem playing in the background. He wrote of God's blessings and copied Bible verses, and offered photos of him cuddling his dog. He wrote that he had maintained faith, that winners overcome and cowards run. He portrayed himself as David fighting Goliath.
"Behind these eyes and this big heart is pain," he wrote.
Most of Holtzclaw's accusers also have stayed silent outside of court. Most did not respond to requests from the AP to speak or cited fear or a desire for privacy, but two did agree to interviews.
One woman alleges Holtzclaw coerced her into giving him oral sex. She cried as she spoke, sitting on a dirty couch in a rundown apartment where a blanket attached to the wall with thumbtacks blocked the sunlight. She talked of how afraid she was to go to police, of how images of her alleged attack haunt her. Enveloped in fear, she said she slipped further into drugs.
"I was getting high, but I wasn't feeling," she said. "I was too upset to feel anything."
In the Oklahoma City neighborhood that prosecutors say served as Holtzclaw's hunting ground, a narrow ribbon of road twists through a canyon of untended growth littered with black bags of stinking trash. Locals call the spot Dead Man's Curve.
It's here that Syrita Bowen contends Holtzclaw took her on May 21, 2014, and told her she could submit to oral sex and intercourse or go to jail. In an interview, she said she was convinced it was the cruel joke of some hidden-camera show until he insisted he was serious. She had been jailed many times before, and knew the math: a 15-minute ride downtown, two hours to be booked, up to a day of waiting to move to a cell, hearings drawn out over weeks or months.
She figured she could give him what he wanted in six minutes.
"God forgive me," she said, "that was the easiest thing for me to do."
Bowen agreed to have her name published, and initially she offered a steely front, contending no fear or sadness lingered from her alleged encounter with Holtzclaw. But, before long, tears flowed.
She has known poverty and addiction and imprisonment, and said she was repeatedly raped by a relative as a little girl. The violation she alleges now doesn't even rank as the worst thing to ever happen to her. But she said she thinks about it daily. There are no nightmares, she said, but reminders come in other ways.
Patrol cars seem to pass more often than they did before. Sirens are more jarring. And when a man in uniform goes by, she wonders what might happen.
Matt Sedensky, an AP national writer, can be reached at msedensky@ ap.org or https://twitter.com/sedensky . Nomaan Merchant, a Dallas-based reporter, can be reached at nmerchant@ ap.org or https://twitter.com/nomaanmerchant . AP National Writer Martha Irvine and data journalist Serdar Tumgoren contributed to this report.
Dallas Mother Accused of Trying to Poison Her 3 Children
by The Associated Press
A Dallas mother is accused of forcing her 4-year-old son to ingest ant poison after telling her three children that she planned to kill them and herself.
Thirty-one-year-old Paw Eh was arrested Saturday and has been charged with attempted capital murder.
The Dallas Morning News reports (http://bit.ly/1ShMVfp) that Eh's 12-year-old daughter told investigators she watched her mother fill a spoon with ant poison and water then force it into her 4-year-old son's mouth. Police say Eh also tried to poison the daughter and a 7-year-old son, but was unsuccessful.
The 4-year-old child was being treated at a hospital, where his condition improved from critical to stable on Sunday.
Eh is being held in the Dallas County jail on a $500,000 bond. She didn't have a lawyer as of late Sunday.
More child abuse victims served as advocacy centers expand in state
by Erin Beck
WILLIAMSON — A 5-year-old girl is sexually abused by a family member.
He told her that no one would believe her, but at school, she finally decides to tell a trusted teacher.
The teacher has her tell her counselor.
Police arrive at the school before Child Protective Services, so she next has to tell her story in the back of a cruiser.
At the local hospital, CPS arrives, and she recounts the traumatizing event once again.
That's how it used to happen everywhere in West Virginia. Children who had been through horrific experiences had to relive them over and over again, as soon as they summoned the courage to break their silence.
All along the way, they were internalizing beliefs about the experience, according to Emily Chittenden-Laird, executive director of the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network.
“She thinks she's in trouble,” Chittenden-Laird said. “The police are pulling up in front of her school where her friends can see, and what do 5-year-olds think about the police? Well, they're going to take me to jail or somebody's going to jail or I'm in trouble. This is complicated stuff for kids to digest and experience. There were all these unchecked messages that ultimately a lot of times left kids feeling like they weren't believed.”
The children wondered, “Why do I have to keep telling my story so many times?” Chittenden-Laird said. “The first time, did they not believe me?”
The reporting still happens in a similar manner in some places in West Virginia.
But over the last 15 years, in most counties, it's no longer the case.
Since the first child advocacy center opened, 36 counties are now served by 20 accredited child advocacy centers around the state.
Eight counties, including Cabell, Putnam, Jackson, Lewis, Barbour, Taylor, Preston and Pendleton counties, have expressed interest, according to the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network.
In the counties served, disclosing abuse is now a much different experience.
Assuming schools, police and others follow the proper protocols, instead of children telling the story to many different people, they are taken directly to the local center, where trained forensic interviewers conduct the interview one time.
Police and CPS can watch behind two-way mirrors or on live video, and even request that the interviewer get certain additional information they may need for evidence.
The interview is also recorded, so that kids won't have to testify later.
Before she became director of the statewide network, Chittenden-Laird worked with victims at the center in Greenbrier County.
“I used to get asked all the time, how do you do this work? And it was really hard for me to convey that I don't leave my job depressed every day. Even though these kids are sharing some really weighty things they have experienced and it is sad, the reason that I think I can get up every morning and go to my job is because when a child left, they would say ‘When can I come back and play?'”
‘No child slips through the cracks'
Last week, the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network released data on the increase in new children served as a result of the expansion of child advocacy centers and support from law enforcement and community members.
Since they started collecting the data in 2008, they have seen an 82.39 percent increase in the number of new victims served, from 1,806 in fiscal year 2008-09 to 3,294 in fiscal year 2014-15.
From fiscal year 2013-14 to 2014-15, they saw a 14.6 percent increase, from 2,874 to 3,294.
Mingo County is an example of one county that came together to establish a center in recent years.
Supporters in Mingo County partnered with the Logan County Child Advocacy Center, and the center had its grand opening about a year ago, in October 2013.
Both counties were able to get their centers established through the support of the county commissions.
Other communities do it different ways. There are grants, corporate sponsorships, donations and various sources of funding, although it's always a struggle.
But one essential piece must exist in every community for centers to open up, according to Beth Cook, director of the Logan and Mingo centers.
“You have to have community support, or you're not going to have a center that works,” she said.
Now, instead of being surrounded by the cold environment of a police station, kids who visit the center in Mingo County are instead surrounded by puzzles, stuffed animals, blocks and colorful murals.
“It's a whole different flavor,” Cook said.
Once a month, a team of people involved in child abuse cases, including law enforcement, the prosecutor, CPS and others, meet to track cases, share resources and problem-solve.
After a recent meeting, they reflected on the changes they've seen in their county.
Teresa Maynard, the Mingo County prosecutor, said from her perspective, “the greatest benefit is that no child slips through the cracks.
“Before, sometimes they were being handled by law enforcement, and if law enforcement made a determination not to charge, then I never found out about those kids.”
That follow-up means a lot to Sherry Hatfield. As a domestic violence victim advocate at the Tug Valley Recovery Shelter, she often worried about what happened to the kids she saw at the shelter.
Hatfield said, “We can see that things are being done, that help is there, and that justice is being done for these children.”
Maynard said the number of cases prosecuted has increased in Mingo County, although since a different prosecutor was in charge before 2013, it's difficult to tie that directly to the center.
“It makes better evidence from my perspective, and it increased the likelihood I get pleas,” she said.
The West Virginia Child Advocacy Network also provided information on whether perpetrators of victims served by the center were prosecuted.
While the number of people convicted is small, the number of perpetrators convicted by plea has increased by about 27 percent, from 165 in 2009-10, to 209 in 2014-15.
The number of those convicted at trial has varied over the years, from eight in 2011-12 to 25 in 2009-10 and 31 in 2014-15.
Sgt. Milton Lively, detachment commander for the State Police in Williamson and another team member, said now that the center is established, his officers are more likely to get the evidence needed to pursue cases, because of the expertise of the trained forensic interviewers.
“If you have a victim that's a very young age, these interviewers are trained to communicate with those children and to make them comfortable in their environment,” he said. “If somebody brings them into a police station, they may feel intimidated or kind of closed up because it's an environment where they may not be comfortable.”
Team members also noted that while police may be concerned about outcomes for abused children, child advocates are more likely to be able to match them with the appropriate resources they need for healing and follow up with them later. Child advocacy centers also do on-site therapy.
“I don't know how to say this any differently,” Cook said. “We don't want these kids to be invisible.”
Tiffany Brashear, a therapist whose employer contracts with the center, said that before the center opened, therapy wasn't an option for families without transportation or the gas money to get there.
She said the trauma-based therapy she provides can help prevent post-traumatic stress disorder.
“They'll never forget, but we can help them learn to heal from the trauma,” she said.
Brooke Honaker, a family advocate for the center, is responsible for helping families get through the experience. She described regularly working with distraught children and panicked families, but she doesn't hate her job.
“I love to see them get treatment, and then I love to see the outcome of therapy and them end up being OK,” she said.
Her role can be anything from helping them find the money to pay a power bill to scheduling therapy.
“If they have an exam, I'm right there with them to tell them it's OK, and it's going to be OK, and it may not seem like it is, but later on down the road, we will get through this,” she said.
Another effect of the centers is more difficult to measure.
The subject of abuse, a historically unreported crime that some victims mistakenly believed they should be ashamed of, is now less of a secret in Mingo County, according to Maynard, the prosecutor.
“When the center opened, it really became a topic of conversation among people,” she said. “When I'm out in the community, people ask me what the child advocacy center does.”
Joining Forces Conference aims to educate on child abuse and family violence
by ABC News
LAYTON (Good4Utah) - Prevent Child Abuse Utah is kicking off their 28th annual Joining Forces Conference Monday, November 2, 2015. The event runs through Tuesday, November 3, 2015 at the Davis Conference Center in Layton, Utah.
The Joining Forces Conference focuses on the prevention, investigation, prosecution and treatment of child abuse and family violence.
Attorney General Sean Reyes and his team will open the conference by discussing child sex trafficking. The team will dispel common misconceptions about trafficking, talk about the intersection with child welfare, and explore how professionals working in law enforcement, child and family services, healthcare, and community services are uniquely positioned to identify and help children who are most at risk.
Here is what else attendees of the convention will see:
· A Review of the Hser Ner Moo Case
· Women Who Molest Children: Offender Typologies
· Community Collaboration: How to Help Kids Succeed
· Avoiding the Unjust Acquittal
· The ACE Study: Childhood Trauma and the Most Important Study You've Never Heard Of
· Pornography: A Destructive Influence on Children and Families.
The conference begins at 8:30 am and concludes at 4:30 pm each day.
Find out more at http://www.pcautah.org/
10 warning signs of a child abuse
by India TV News Desk
Parents these days have to tread a cautious path as they need to ensure that while they leave for work, their child is safe at home.
Whoever they are entrusting the responsibility to look after their children, be it a maid or a housekeeper or even a close relative, he or she must be above suspicion.
Nowadays with growing culture of both the parents working full time, they find it difficult to spare desired time for their children.
The abuse not only ruins their innocent childhood but these scars stay with them for entire life. It also affects the child's physical development.
Every year more than 3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States involving more than 6 million children.In other words, a child abuse is reported every ten seconds in Unites States.
In India also, sexual offences against children had risen from 38,172 to 89,423 between 2012 and 2014 while the conviction rate for such crimes was only 2.4%.
While taking a stern view of recent spike in cases of child sexual abuse, Chennai high court has asked centre to consider castration as a punishment for child sexual abusers.
Here we have compiled 10 warning signs of a possible child abuse
1. Abrupt Changes in behaviour. Abrupt changes are observed in abused children's behavioural pattern. They often appear scared, whimsical, anxious, depressed, withdrawn or more aggressive.
2. Inappropriate sexual behaviours. Children who have been sexually abused could also behave in a way that seems inappropriate. The may exhibit overly sexualized behavior or use explicit sexual language..
3. Unexplained injuries. If you see unexplained burns or bruises on your child's body and they are coming up with the unconvincing explanations. Injuries to areas of the body that usually are protected, such as the inside of the legs and arms, the back, the genitals, and the buttocks.
4. Fear of going home. Abused children often express their discomfort or apprehension about leaving school or about going places with the person who is abusing them.
5. Returning to earlier behaviours. Abused children may display behaviors shown at earlier ages, such as thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, fear of the dark or strangers. For some children, even loss of acquired language or memory problems may be an issue
6. Changes in sleeping. Abused children may face difficult having a sound sleep or he may have frequent nightmares, and as a result may appear tired or exhausted.
7. Changes in school performance and attendance. If the child suddenly starts getting lower grades in school or he/she may have difficulty concentrating in school or have excessive absences, sometimes due to adults trying to hide the children's injuries from authorities.
8. Lack of personal care or hygiene. Abused and neglected children may present themselves as consistently dirty and have severe body odor, or they may lack sufficient clothing for the weather.
9. Changes in eating habits. The stress, fear and anxiety takes a toll on the child's eating habit also. It may result in weight gain or weight loss.
10. Risk-taking behaviors. Young people who are being abused may engage in high-risk activities such as using drugs or alcohol or carrying a weapon.
Emotional abuse might hurt a child as much as violence or neglect: McGill University researchers
Emotional abuse may be as harmful as physical abuse and neglect. This finding, led by a team of researchers at McGill University, complements previous imaging research showing that emotional and physical pain both activate the same parts of the brain.
Different types of abuse, same consequences
Emotional abuse — which includes behaviours such as ridicule, intimidation, rejection, and humiliation — is much more common than physical abuse and neglect. Worldwide prevalence estimates suggest that approximately one third of children experience emotional abuse.
However, “although people assume physical abuse is more harmful than other types of abuse, we found that they are associated with similar consequences”, says David Vachon, a McGill professor in the Department of Psychology and the study's first author. “These consequences are wide-ranging and include everything from anxiety and depression to rule-breaking and aggression.”
The discovery may pave the way for more effective means of addressing how different forms of child abuse should be recognized and treated.
Summer camp shows kids of all stripes
Vachon, working with his former post-doctoral mentor Robert Krueger, used data from a study by Dante Cicchetti (University of Minnesota) and Fred Rogosch (University of Rochester) that was conducted through Mt. Hope Family Center. Cicchetti and Rogosh have been running a summer research camp for over 20 years to study low-income, school-aged children ages 5-13 years. About half of the camp-goers had a well-documented history of child maltreatment. Various types of child-, peer-, and counselor-reports were used to assess psychiatric and behavioral problems, and the camp counsellors were not told which campers were abused. Using their data, Vachon studied 2,300 racially and ethnically diverse boys and girls who participated in the summer camp.
Different types of child abuse have equivalent, broad, and universal effects
“We also tested other assumptions about child maltreatment,” adds Vachon, “Including the belief that each type of abuse has specific consequences, and the belief that the abuse has different consequences for boys and girls of different races.”
Once again, the study produced surprising findings: “We found that these assumptions might also be wrong. In fact, it seems as though different types of child abuse have equivalent, broad, and universal effects.”
Need to rethink beliefs about child abuse
The study may significantly change how researchers, clinicians, and the public think about child abuse. “One implication,” adds Vachon, “is that effective treatments for maltreatment of any sort are likely to have comprehensive benefits. Another implication is that prevention strategies should emphasize emotional abuse, a widespread cruelty that is far less punishable than other types of child maltreatment.”
When asked about next steps, Vachon said, “One plan is to examine the way abuse changes personality itself--does it change who we are? The point is to go beyond symptoms and ask whether abuse changes the way we tend to think, feel, and act”.
Assessment of the Harmful Psychiatric and Behavioral Effects of Different Forms of Child Maltreatment, David D. Vachon, Robert F. Kruger, Fred Rogosch, Dante Cicchetti are published in JAMA Psychiatry, doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.1792.