Life after child sex abuse difficult, but survivable
by Riley Johnson
Life for thousands of Nebraska children who are sexually abused almost certainly will include struggles, but counselors, psychologists and survivors say there is hope.
“You're not doomed,” said Lincoln lawyer Susan Napolitano, who was raped by a relative in Michigan in the 1980s.
“It's not what you see in the movies. I don't shoot up. I don't cower. I don't feel like it has dominated my life path.”
It's possible to process and heal, she said.
“It's going to be another brick in your foundation,” she said.
Napolitano remembers summer nights in the Upper Peninsula when she popped the screen off her bedroom window and contemplated jumping.
“(I'd) think about leaving and try to work up the courage to just jump out the window and just go and tell somebody,” she said. “But I didn't trust that that would work.”
Like an estimated 90 percent of child sexual abuse victims, Napolitano knew her perpetrator.
When she was 8 or 9, she said, he started to make her fondle him.
“Don't tell,” he told her.
Every kid needs to learn about sex, he said. He'd be her teacher.
She felt something was wrong, but he convinced her not to tell anyone.
The abuse escalated -- ultimately to sexual intercourse, she said.
“I remember telling him that it hurt, and he wouldn't stop,” Napolitano said. “And that's when I knew that this guy was not who I thought he was.”
Candy and gifts followed the assaults, coupled with apologies and promises it would stop.
But the promises were empty, she said.
Napolitano kept the abuse secret until she was 11, when she wrote a note and left it out for an adult to find, she said.
The abuse continued for about four years, until he left, she said.
Long-term effects of child sexual abuse vary, but many victims have post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, substance abuse issues and anxiety, said University of Nebraska-Lincoln psychologist David Hansen.
One study found children who are raped are about 12 times more likely to attempt suicide than non-victims.
While researchers believe there's strong evidence a significant number of victims have psychological and behavioral issues, some studies suggest as many as 50 percent of them present no symptoms.
Sexually abused children also tend to exhibit problematic sexual behavior, researchers have found. And they are more likely to continue to engage in inappropriate sexual behavior after an adult tells them to stop -- some into adulthood.
Although there's often concern children who are sexually abused will grow up to be sex offenders themselves, Hansen said there's no causal link.
In fact, researchers estimate victims of child sexual abuse are two to three times more likely to be sexually victimized as adults than people who were not abused as children.
Still, Lincoln psychologist Steve Blum said he saw a common trend at the Lincoln Regional Center, where he evaluated more than 1,000 sex offenders over 15 years as a consultant for the center.
About a third of those offenders reported being sexually abused as children, he said.
That might be higher than was actually the case, Blum said, but in several instances the offender's abuse of a child mirrored his or her own.
One man arranged his daughter's room to replicate the room in which he was abused as a child, he said.
When the daughter turned the age he was when he was abused, he molested her, Blum said. At some less-than-conscious level, he said, the man was acting out his own molestation.
Why that happens isn't clear, he said, but one thought is that the victim was powerless when he or she was abused, and by abusing, is taking back that power -- albeit in a very disturbing and unhealthy manner.
Because of that feeling of powerlessness, it's crucial how adults respond when a victim discloses abuse, Blum said.
“If there isn't a supportive, protective response, the trauma that the victim experiences is much greater.”
Layne Armstrong didn't think police would believe him when he decided to tell them what former Project Youth Director Joe Ballard did to him.
But as he watched the ball drop on TV on New Year's Eve 2009, he thought of another year passing and the potential of more boys being abused by Ballard, who also coached youth basketball.
Armstrong was 19 then, and routinely abused meth to mask the pain of being abused by Ballard for six years, starting when he was 11.
Ballard gained his mom's trust, he said, spending time with him that included overnights at Ballard's home. Eventually, he said, Ballard raped him.
He said he tried to drive Ballard away by having the letters KKK tattooed just below his biceps. It didn't work.
But Armstrong was homeless by then and using drugs. When he needed a place to stay, he said, he'd go back to Ballard's.
On that New Year's Eve years later, Armstrong called a former Teammates mentor and opened up about the abuse for the first time.
Then he went to police, who strapped a wire to his chest and sent him to Ballard's apartment, recording a conversation about a sexual encounter between the two.
More victims came forward, and in October 2010, a judge sent Ballard to prison.
He turned 48 on Friday, and is serving 34 to 50 years at the state prison in Tecumseh. He'll be eligible for parole in 2027.
“It takes just one person to save a life,” Armstrong said. “It takes just one person to save 100 lives.
“I was that one person.”
Now 25, Armstrong is married with two kids. He owns a roofing company, and he's sober. He had the KKK tattoos covered with crosses.
“I made my dreams come true,” Armstrong said. “I fought for them.”
But he's not immune to the past. In August, he was drinking with friends and ended up in the parking lot where Project Youth used to be.
Being there brought it all back, he said. Enraged, he punched the car and broke his hand.
He quit drinking after that, and he's learned to deal with the flashbacks through counseling, he said.
“You're always going to be a victim until you're tired of being a victim,” he said. “I'm not a victim anymore."
Bianca is 26 and tried for most of her life to bury the memories of what happened when she was 10.
Her older brother sexually abused her for about six months in their home in rural Nebraska, she said.
“Since it was someone in my family, I felt like I couldn't tell.”
She distracted herself with school, the drive to excel helping her feel good about herself.
But it also instilled a fear of failure. In fifth grade, when the abuse was happening, she got lesions on her skin, among other physical side-effects, Bianca said.
After that, memories of the abuse surfaced now and then, but she'd jettison them from her mind, she said.
Only when she saw a counselor for an unrelated matter during her freshman year in college did she disclose what happened, she said.
Anxiety and depression stemming from the abuse continued, hitting hardest in 2012. She couldn't remember the last time she'd been happy.
She enrolled in a therapy group for child sexual abuse survivors called Wounded Heart and run by counselor Deb Perrin since 2011.
The faith-based program is based on a book of the same name by counselor Dan Allender, who believes that abuse changes the victim's soul.
Perrin said counseling survivors of child sex abuse is her life's calling, drawn out of her own abuse.
She said she was molested and sexually abused by a relative from when she was 3 until her pre-teen years. Until her abuser died when Perrin was an adult, she said, she wasn't sure she was sexually abused because she was so young when it happened.
But in cleaning out the relative's home, she found items that triggered her memory.
She got into counseling in 1984 and ultimately started the local Wounded Heart group.
"You feel more like supported because you've been in such isolation in your head,” Perrin said. "And it's a shameful secret that you don't want people to know about you."
Through the 42-week program, she said, the survivors dive into the trauma through group and individual therapy.
Bianca said that hearing other women's experiences helped.
"It just kind of made you feel less alone and more normal," she said.
Bianca's mother eventually guessed the source of the depression her daughter was battling, and the secret came out, she said.
For all her life, she felt she had to protect her parents from knowing what happened because she knew they would burden themselves with guilt.
They know now, and family dynamics are strained, she said. Her brother feels ashamed, and they're not a cohesive unit anymore.
Bianca has struggled with trust issues and believes the powerlessness she felt during the abuse reared its head when she became intimate with a man as an adult.
Despite that, she doesn't wish her brother ill, she said.
“At some point, I would like to have a conversation with my brother, telling him that I love him and forgive him. That I never want our relationship to be destroyed.”
The hope for victims of child sexual abuse lies in processing the pain head-on, Bianca said.
“Even though it's hard, it's so much richer and more meaningful,” she said. “I feel like I'm seeing the power of God in ways I never would have.”
Susan Napolitano remembers a turning point in her teenage years.
She drank, smoked pot and hung out with older boys. Her self-esteem was low, and the abuse hadn't stopped. One night, her parents grounded her after she sneaked in late.
She swallowed half a bottle of aspirin and went to sleep, she said. Instead of dying, she awoke wired, her heartbeat audible in her ears.
"Just get through this s***, and you're gonna make it," she thought to herself. "This is your trial."
She took refuge in art and English, feeling empowered by teachers who she felt saw the good in her, she said.
"If I did not paint and write and color, I don't think that my mind and heart would have been able to gain the peace to move forward."
In college, Napolitano went through counseling, confronted her abuser in a letter and made peace with the trauma, she said. She took her case to authorities in the 1990s, but Michigan's statute of limitations had run out.
So she moved forward, became a teacher and later fulfilled a childhood dream by becoming a lawyer.
She opted to pursue a career in real estate law instead of locking up criminals, she said. She didn't want her abuse to define her career, she said.
Her life isn't perfect, and trust will probably never come easy.
But the mother of three is not ashamed of what happened to her, and she doesn't want others to ignore what happened to them or be afraid to speak up.
"You discover your character," she said. "You find out who the hell you are."
Raising the issue of modern slavery
by Alison Stephenson
A CHARITY is empowering individuals, communities and organisations to recognise the signs of modern slavery and take action after it was estimated by the Home Office that there are between 10,000 to 13,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK.
The issue was highlighted at an awareness event in Tavistock last week organised by Unchosen, a Westcountry charity, which uses film to fight modern slavery, in conjunction with activist group Stop the Traffik.
Modern slavery can affect men or women, boys and girls and people of any background or nationality as well as those trafficked into the UK. The event at The Wharf was held to give people an insight into what slavery might look like in their area and what they can do about it.
Among the panel answering questions following a short film screening was Jenny Hall from the Devon and Cornwall Police Modern Slavery Unit and Faye Gould from Restore which runs an Exeter safe house for survivors of human trafficking.
There are said to be more people in slavery today than at any point in history and human trafficking generates as much profit as drugs or weapons trafficking — around £20-billion per year, yet only one in 100 victims is ever rescued.
Human trafficking is the movement of a person from one place to another, within a country or across borders, into conditions of exploitation against their will. Unlike its historical counterpart, modern slavery is illegal and involves more subtle means of coercion and control.
Almost anybody can be a victim of modern slavery, although the risk is increased when someone experiences poverty, mental health issues, drug addiction, homelessness, political instability and social exclusion.
British Nationals are the third highest group to fall victim to modern slavery with Romanians at the top, Polish second, Nigerians fourth and Albanians fifth. Some 78% of victims are working in this country legally, contrary to the belief that the majority are illegal immigrants.
Someone is in slavery if one of the following is taking place:
They are forced to work regardless of their mental or physical health.
They are owned or controlled by an ‘employer', usually through mental or physical abuse or the threat or abuse.
They are dehumanised, treated as a commodity or bought and sold as ‘property'.
They are physically constrained or have restrictions placed on their freedom of movement.
The main forms of slavery are:
Forced labour — which is likely to be found in low-paid or low-skill sectors, such as agriculture, construction and manufacturing. Roughly a third of cases of slavery discovered in the UK are of forced labour.
Forced criminality —a type of forced labour where victims are forced to commit crimes for the profit of another person. This can involve anything from pick-pocketing, begging or fraud to drug related crimes such as cannabis farming.
Sexual exploitation — non consensual or abusive acts performed without the victim's permission. Often it may seem like acts are consensual when in fact victims are being coerced or threatened by their employers/traffickers. This affects female and male victims.
Domestic servitude — victims are forced to work in private houses for little or no pay, often with restricted freedom. Roughly a quarter of domestic servitude victims are children.
Forced marriage — when a child or adult has not consented to be in a marriage. Often they are unable to leave and are forced to perform domestic chores or sexual acts.
Child slavery — children are particularly vulnerable to all the above forms of slavery — and are often taken advantage of by traffickers.
Jenny Hall, who is the national policing modern slavery portfolio co-ordinator, said getting victims to testify could be difficult as very often they did not realise they were being exploited as they came from a very poor background.
In some cases they also found it difficult to testify against those who were feeding them and with limited language skills, social skills or money, a life outside of what they had known was even more frightening to them.
It's a fact that 50% of individuals who escape from slavery end up back there within two years. Faye Gould from Restore said being trafficked left an individual broken, afraid and untrusting: ‘All too often they slide back into the life they escaped as they have nowhere else to go,' she said.
‘At Restore we concentrate on what happens to the person once they escape. We provide a safe house for 45 days, aim to find accommodation for up to 12 months and help them rebuild the life that was intended for them.'
There was no one size fits all when it came to victims of modern slavery — for example, well educated young girls from good backgrounds could find themselves sexually exploited — and equally offenders could range from large criminal gangs to individuals like farmers and private home owners.
The homeless were particularly vulnerable and a recent case brought by HM Customs was mentioned whereby a group of people were exploited, many of them homeless, to lay tarmac and decking for very little money and food and were accommodated in poor quality caravans, where the unusable toilets were stuffed with cash.
HM Customs found money and assets valued at £100,000 and 12 cases of trafficking were brought against the instigators.
Large name food and clothing brands were also to blame for exploiting workers, the event was told, and new legislation was due to come in next year whereby firms with a turnover of over £36-million would have to disclose all details of their supply chain.
There were very real concerns that with many refugees and migrants arriving in Europe as a result of the crisis in Syria, they were targeted by child sex trafficking gangs and being used for other forms of modern slavery.
Dr Julia Tomas from Unchosen said the charity's role was to prevent modern slavery and to that end had produced a series of DVDs which were available as a free resource to organisations, agencies and communities: ‘It is so important that people know they can do something about it if they see something suspicious. They can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 and remain absolutely anonymous.'
To find out about the work of Unchosen go to www.unchosen.org.uk, find Stop the Traffik on Facebook, Jenny Hall on Twitter and Restore at To-Restore.org or on Facebook.
Parents of special needs boy charged with child abuse
by The Associated Press
OMAHA — Prosecutors have charged the Omaha parents of an 8-year-old special needs boy with child abuse, saying the boy was malnourished and bruised, and that his teeth appeared to be nearly disintegrated.
Stephen Bauer, 37, and his 32-year-old wife, Megan Finlan, were each charged Friday with two counts of child abuse causing serious bodily injury.
Bauer has been suspended from his job as program director for the Nebraska Family Support Network, which helps children and families affected by mental and behavioral health problems.
Bauer's attorney, Nedu Igbokwe, president of the Family Support Network's board, said the boy suffers from several mental health and behavioral issues.
"I wouldn't jump to any conclusions," added Tom Niklitschek, another member of the Family Support Network's board who is Finlan's attorney. Niklitschek said he doubts the accusations presented by prosecutors are accurate.
The couple, who adopted the boy, were arrested after police were called to Florence Elementary to investigate possible child neglect.
Prosecutors allege that the couple withheld food from the boy at home and that he had been locked in his room for days at a time, forcing him to urinate and defecate on his floor. At school, he would eat food out of the trash can and would lick other kids' plates clean, prosecutors said. The boy is also underweight for his age.
Attorneys for Bauer and Finlan said the couple did everything they could to care for the boy. Igbokwe, Bauer's attorney, said allegations in court documents don't describe "the young man I know," referring to Bauer.
Bauer and Finlan have four other children. The boy and three of his siblings have been placed in emergency foster care.
Flag brings attention to child-abuse victims
by Michelle Willliard
MURFREESBORO — The Child Advocacy Center board of directors and staff, along with the Child Protective Investigative Team, raised the Children's Memorial Flag on Wednesday to commemorate the nearly 2,000 child abuse victims found so far in 2015 in Rutherford County.
The Child Protective Investigative Team investigated five children's deaths and 1,931 child abuse cases from Jan. 1-Sept. 30. The organizations that respond to child-abuse cases as a team are the Department of Children's Services, law enforcement, the District Attorney's Office, and the Child Advocacy Center, Child Advocacy Center director Sharon De Boer said.
“Every child deserves a safe and happy home and to live a life free from physical and sexual abuse.” De Boer said.
The flag raising is part of "19 Days of Activism for the Prevention of Violence toward Children and Youth," which runs from Nov. 1-19. During the consciousness-raising event, 19 local agencies have partnered to bring attention to the plight of abused children in the community.
"One child abuse is too many, and the Smyrna Police Department has detectives strongly trained in helping and assisting victims of child abuse," Smyrna Police Chief Kevin Arnold said.
In 2015, SPD has been dispatched to 178 calls where there was an allegation of child abuse, Arnold said, adding 32 of the cases were confirmed to be child abuse.
"We work closely with the Department of Children's Services, the District Attorney's Office for the 16th Judicial District, and the Child Advocacy Center of Rutherford County to provide a comforting safe environment for these children and we are all devoted to making sure our children's safety is priority No. 1," the Smyrna police chief said.
Arnold's force has been joined by Murfreesboro Police and the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office to serve child-abuse victims and educate the community about child abuse and the resources that are available to assist children and families.
For more information on the “19 Days of Activism” visit the Women's World Summit Foundation website at: http://19days.woman.ch/index.php/en/
“We raised the flag to symbolize all the children in Rutherford and Cannon Counties that have been victims of child abuse this past year. We want to remember the children who were abused and the children whose lives have been lost,” said Ryan Wallace, Child Advocacy Center Community education coordinator.
Wallace continued, “If you want to learn how to protect your child from child sexual abuse call the Child Advocacy Center and sign up for the “Darkness to Light” child sexual-abuse-prevention training. We want to train you so that no child you love ever experiences the horrors of child sexual abuse.”
Arnold said Shirley Key at SPD conducts Smyrna's Darkness to Light training.
"If you or your organization is interested in this valuable training please call 615-459-6644 extension 2318 and speak to Mrs. Key and schedule your training," Arnold said.
To bring a free child sexual abuse prevention training to a business, civic group, church, school, PTO, or sports league, contact Ryan Wallace at 615-867-9000 in Rutherford County or Amanda Pruitt at 615-563-9915 in Cannon County.
Smyrna Looks To One Woman To Help Recognize And Prevent Child Abuse
by Jonquil Newland
SMYRNA, Tenn. - On any given day, 130 young children pass through the doors of the Gingerbread House Daycare Center in Symrna.
"They're precious; they're a gift from God," daycare director, Jennifer Kimbro said.
For the last ten years, its been Kimbro's job to look after them and her staff. "We're here to protect them and that's what our job is here," she said.
Part of that includes two hour training sessions every month with Community Service Coordinator Shirley Key. It is her job to educate youth service organizations on ways to identify child abuse.
"The numbers have gone higher as the population increases," Key said.
Since Jan. 1, 2015, the Smyrna Police Department has received 178 calls of suspected child abuse, 32 of those calls were confirmed cases. "One is too many," said Key.
Before working with Smyrna police, Key was with child services. "[I] realized prevention is key, if we can prevent it from happening," said Key.
Her training focuses on putting the responsibility of protecting children on adults and there are some warning signs she said everyone should be aware of.
"Some of the red flags are people who tend to spend more time with kids than is what's normal," Key explained. "One red flag that is huge is secrets. If there's somebody's who's become involved in your child's life and all the sudden there's a lot of secrets."
She went on to say adults should take notice if other's are buying children toys or bribing them and if extremely young children are informed about adult acts, that is a problem. "Toddlers shouldn't have any knowledge of adult sexual behavior," said Key.
To protect our society's youngest, Key said knowledge is power and daycare services like the Gingerbread House have benefited from knowing what to look for and who to call.
"The things that we've seen in the past, I couldn't ever understand why it happens," said Kimbro.
Key's services are free to youth organizations and businesses in Smyrna and Rutherford County. You can reach her at 615-459-6644, ext 2318.
Warning signs of child sexual abuse
by Riley Johnson
Child abuse and neglect complaints make up the majority of the 7,000 calls to Nebraska's adult and child abuse and neglect hotline each month, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.
But about 13 percent of the calls involve suspicions of child sexual abuse, according to Amanda Nawrocki, who oversees the department's hotline.
Nawrocki knows some people hesitate to report a concern for fear their suspicions aren't strong enough, and she urges them to call even if they know only of borderline inappropriate contact.
"I think people get very concerned that they're not sure if they should report,” she said.
But a child who says someone touched him or her on the inner thigh might have been more severely abused, Nawrocki said.
Parents or other adults shouldn't always assume there will be physical signs of sexual abuse because the genital area can heal quickly, she said.
Inappropriate sexual acting out, which usually involves sexual aggression toward the child him or herself or others, is often a sign, Nawrocki said.
For example, sexual activity among siblings or children of different ages or any behavior involving forced sexual contact should be reported and assessed, she said.
That's not the same as preschoolers playing doctor or just being curious about each others' bodies, she said, but language or knowledge that doesn't match a child's age should raise questions, Nawrocki said.
Habitual masturbation among young children and sexual promiscuity and breaking sexual boundaries among older children also indicate the child might have been abused, she said.
State law requires anyone who suspects a child has been physically or sexually abused or neglected to promptly report it to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The abuse and neglect hotline number is 800-652-1999. In an emergency, call law enforcement immediately.
CHILD ABUSE/NEGLECT: Alternatives to spanking
by John Jesitus
Sparing a child the rod of corporal punishment can circumvent a lifetime of adverse health consequences, said Victor Vieth, JD, in his presentation “Spanking: The Why and How of Counseling Families on Alternative Discipline Measures.”
Pediatricians must not only be cognizant of the medical literature and understand that corporal punishment raises risks for poor medical and mental health outcomes but they must also be able to articulate this fact and provide parents with appropriate alternatives in words they will understand. The research shows that most parents would discipline their children in a way other than hitting them if they knew what those alternatives were and if there were a parenting or other program that could model those alternatives.
Research also tells us that certain cultures and religious communities exhibit higher levels of corporal punishment than the national average. A pediatrician must be sensitive to that and be able to explain these concepts in a way that is culturally sensitive. In the United States, for example, some conservative Protestant communities are more likely to use corporal punishment than many others. However it is possible to work with these communities and try to move them past this practice.
Parents in such groups often cite scripture, specifically certain sections of the Book of Proverbs, in arguing that their belief system requires corporal punishment. Pediatricians may counter, however, by pointing out that several conservative Protestant theologians disagree. Proverbs contains many more verses about corporal punishment for adults than for children, yet there are no whipping posts at churches, and corporal punishment is not advocated for adults.
Phrasing such ideas in common-sense language and pointing parents to resources within their own culture may help change their behavior, as can making better use of hospital chaplains to engage parents who use corporal punishment for religious reasons.
For more suggested strategies, pediatricians may consult a set of proposed guidelines for working with conservative religious groups. 2 According to pediatricians and others who deal with children's health and abuse issues, these guidelines are proving helpful. If more pediatricians follow them, many parents will do something other than hit their children. This can be a primary means of preventing physical abuse in the United States.
If you are going to discuss corporal punishment, it's important to meet parents where they're at from a cultural and religious perspective. Regarding Mr Vieth's comments, I suspect that moving most parents completely from corporal punishment would take more than their knowing alternatives and having a parenting program to model these behaviors. In my experience, I'd say some parents are open to reducing their use of spanking.
Many parents have a fixed, firmly held belief that corporal punishment is a necessary part of parenting. Our challenge is a little bigger than you might think. In our society, corporal punishment is not only acceptable but it is also almost universal. In a 2011 paper I published, 70% of parents in North Carolina reported spanking their infants by age 2 years. 1 In a 2002 study of corporal punishment in North Carolina and South Carolina, 90% of parents reported spanking children aged 3 to 5 years. Rates may be a little higher in the Southeast than the nation as a whole but only a little.
I'm a family physician with more than 15 years' experience in child abuse research who sees parents and children. Although I am opposed to corporal punishment, I never say that to parents. My job is to see how much they are willing to consider alternative approaches. If I see a parent swatting a 4-year-old child throughout a patient encounter because the child is constantly fiddling with objects in the exam room, I'll ask the parent, “How's that working for you?” or “Would you like to try some other strategies?”
It's a success if you can get a parent to stop spanking. It's also a success if you can get a parent to spank 10% less often or stop using a belt or switch. My own research and several other studies show that the more often a parent spanks a child, or if a parent spanks with a belt or switch, the more likely that person is to commit child abuse.
Moreover, due to the phenomenon of extinction, children eventually tune out any form of positive or negative reinforcement that is over-applied without variation. This leads to escalation (bigger treat or bigger stick). Spanking alternatives include positive reinforcement, negative (nonhitting) reinforcement, time-outs and time-ins (special time with a special caregiver), and token economies. Parents need more than a single tool and can parent most successfully when they have other caretakers on the same program, supportive relationships, good mental and physical health, and adequate resources.
Loving the Way It Hurts: The Many Faces of Emotional Abuse
by Scihonor Devotion
We all know that physical abuse in a relationship can be very damaging, but we don't often hear how damaging emotional abuse can be as well. Emotional abuse can damage your self-esteem and have you questioning and doubting your own value, worth and abilities. One interesting thing about emotionally abusive relationships is that it can be very hard to detect, even for the parties involved.
People usually picture abusive relationships with a man abusing a woman, however, we know that women abuse men as well. Let's not lie to ourselves. We all know of that one chick that is always screaming on her man. It can really begin to tear him down as a man. There are many other kinds of abusive relationships such as a friendship, relationships with relatives, parents emotionally abusing their children and even children emotionally abusing their parents.
Sometimes people who are in emotionally abusive relationships don't even realize that they're being abused. They may eventually begin to feel deep sadness, anxiety, depression and stress. These people are often not honest with themselves and sometimes even try to make excuses for their abusers' behavior, trying to hide it, or even just straight up deny that the abuse is happening.
Can emotional abusers ever change their behavior? The abuser's behavior is often deep rooted in anger, frustration or pain that they have somehow experienced in their own lives. So, them getting to the root of their own behavior and changing will not always be easy. The key is for them to want it. They have to want to change. Here are some of the many faces of emotionally abusive relationships. Remember that sometimes, emotional abuse is accompanied by or followed by physical abuse.
1. Hostility – In any relationship, you want to be able to feel safe saying what you feel and being yourself but in an abusive relationship, you may not even be comfortable expressing yourself because of all the tension that exists.
2. Insults – Are you often criticized or made fun of in private or public that you or others don't think is funny? Don't get it confused. There should be lots of fun being thrown around in a relationship but if the fun isn't funny, maybe it's not really fun. Get it? Everyone should be able to accept constructive criticism but if the criticism is not constructive and it puts you down, it is of no benefit to you. Maybe you should find people who will help build you up and not tear you down. Abusers also may accuse you of being too sensitive as a means of deflection. Maybe you are sensitive, but that's more reason to pay closer attention to how you feel about the way you're being treated.
3. Control and Intimidation – Abusive partners want to control you in many different ways. They make sarcastic comments that have a threatening undertone to them. Sometimes they may treat you like a child and want to know who you're with, where you're going and what you're doing at all times. In extreme cases, you aren't even allowed to go out without them. They like to correct you all the time and even try to control all of the money. It gets so bad that you may even have to ask them for permission to do things or a few dollars to buy basic necessities. These abusers do not respect your individuality and uniqueness and try to take your social life or money making abilities away. They'll even destroy things in the house as a means to intimidate you.
4. Accusations – They're always accusing you of something that isn't true. They blame you for everything that goes wrong, even things that you have no control over. They're quick to accuse you of not respecting them because of something you said, did or even didn't do.
5. Deflecting – Everyone else is to blame but themselves. They're always the victim. They say that you or someone else made them do things instead of being responsible for their own actions.
6. Disregarding – Your opinions and suggestions are dumb and unimportant to them. They aren't compassionate or empathetic about your needs and feelings. They belittle your goals and discourage you from accomplishing things. And of course, they will deny their own abusive behavior.
7. Withdrawal – They'll give you the silent treatment and will seemingly ignore you in order to manipulate you or to make you suffer. They'll even try to “punish” you by threatening to leave you or simply acting like they will. They may even withhold sex and intimacy.
If you're in a relationship like this, do you love the way it hurts or do you want to stop being a victim? If so, change your circumstance. Either speak up and demand change, change your own way of handling things, leave the situation, or a combination of all. You can't control what your abuser does, but you can save yourself.
In L.A. County, new thinking on fighting the sexual exploitation of children
Until recently it has been the practice of police and prosecutors to deal with prostitutes under age 18 much the same as with their older counterparts — they would be arrested, prosecuted, offered deals to identify and testify against pimps and traffickers, either jailed or presented with some quasi-voluntary rehabilitation, and instructed to never offend again.
That approach persisted in much of Los Angeles County even as sheriff's deputies and others discovered to their horror that many juveniles arrested for prostitution lived in or had run away from foster homes, where they were supposed to be safe under county oversight. In many cases, they were recruited or compelled into prostitution by gangs that had given up the drug trade as too dangerous and were instead preying on the emotional and physical vulnerability of foster children.
Now, law enforcement officers and local governments here and across the country are demonstrating a growing sophistication in their understanding of commercial sexual exploitation of teenagers and preteens. They are coming to recognize that child prostitutes are less perpetrators than victims. In fact, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors asserted recently, there can be no such thing as a child prostitute, because prostitution involves a consensual sex act in exchange for money or other compensation.
If the act is not consensual, it is rape — whether or not money changes hands. And because in California no juvenile can be deemed to have consented to sex with an adult, any sex act with a person younger than 18 is an act of rape. The adult is not a customer or merely a “john” but a child predator. A rapist. The juvenile is not a criminal, but a survivor.
“No Such Thing” — as in, there is no such thing as a child prostitute — has become a nationwide slogan and campaign in the service of the worthy effort to ensure that sex trafficking victims under age 18 are not treated as criminals but are instead offered the help and protection they need to recover from their ordeal and rebuild their lives.
As with all such slogans, there is a danger that it will become simply an exercise in political correctness and word policing that does little to curb the sexual abuse of children. But change in practice must sometimes begin with a change in attitude, which in turn may begin with better attention to language. Whether deeds will match words, and laws and practices will be updated to support more constructive treatment of victims of child sex trafficking, is largely in the hands of police, prosecutors, social workers and local policymakers.
They should expect to find that their change in approach won't quickly eliminate child sex trafficking. Not all children or teenagers who are trafficked will welcome rescue, or even see intervention as rescue at all. Some will instead see the trafficker as the rescuer — for providing some semblance of order, attention and what passes for love. Others will hold fast to the tragic and mistaken belief that they are unworthy of any life but the one they are leading.
Extricating those minors from commercial sex exploitation will be an enormous challenge, fraught with some of the same subtleties and setbacks that pose such difficult obstacles to drug users who resist detox and rehabilitation. For them, as for trafficked juveniles, arrest is the traditional conduit into services, and the threat of prosecution is the common method to compel compliance. Police and prosecutors will have to be uncharacteristically open-minded and flexible if they are to successfully reinvent their approach to what they once called child prostitution.
Government does not generally possess that kind of dexterity. Nor does the public, which is often more comfortable punishing wrongdoers with ever more onerous sanctions than working through problems systematically to get the best outcomes for the most people. The war on drugs was one manifestation of this approach. It emerged from an earnest but oversimplified quest to combat the corrosive impact of narcotics on families and communities. It generated draconian prison sentences but little success in ending addiction or the drug trade.
As attitudes toward drug abuse shift, and users are slowly coming to be seen as patients rather than criminals, the public and its elected officials have begun transferring their prosecutorial inclinations to sex trafficking. If handled thoughtfully, that could be a positive development. But there are signs of the kinds of excess and overreach that characterized the war on drugs. Beware of definition creep, enlarging the boundaries of what is considered trafficking; and beware of attempts to layer extravagant measures of vengeance on top of appropriate sentences.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, trying to navigate its way through the vexing problem of commercial sexual exploitation of children, now faces this question: Should it publicly shame people who pay to have sex by putting their names and faces on billboards? Customers of adult prostitutes are breaking the law, after all, and those who have sex with minors are child rapists who deserve to be prosecuted and punished.
But if perpetrators who have sex with minors are really going to be charged as rapists, they will do jail or prison time and be listed publicly, for the rest of their lives, on the state sex offender registry. That ought to suffice. Murderers do not end up on billboards, nor do rapists — even child rapists — who didn't pay for sex. Such an idea is rooted in a puritanical instinct. The decision facing the supervisors is whether they want to retreat to that kind of dated and simplistic thinking, just when they are poised to finally embrace a more enlightened approach to child sex trafficking.
Changes coming to childcare rules in Montana
by Ariana Lake
MISSOULA -- It's one of the hardest parts of the day for some parents, leaving their kids at childcare while they go to work.
Officials estimate it's the norm for at least 46,000 kids under the age of six in Montana.
Family members, childcare centers, or home providers sometimes fulfill the need for care and often times the choice for parents comes down to cost.
"I don't think parents can pay more. They can't pay more. Some of them are paying 800 dollars a month. They can't pay more," said Kelly Rosenleaf, Missoula Child Care Resources director.
Eran Fowler Pehan, a mother of two who works as the Poverello Center's director, says it can be difficult to balance a family and a robust career.
"As a working mom and a professional in the community I can tell you without a doubt that I could not do what I do in the realm of homelessness and poverty and helping make Missoula a better place for all of our citizens without having access to this incredible quality childcare that helps me raise my children."
It's a childcare system that is about to undergo a major makeover.
State officials are in the middle of writing up the state plan for a revamped system to meet the qualifications passed with the federal 2014 Child Care and Development Block Grant.
Rosenleaf says the grant supports something integral to kids future success: "The data is very clear that when children have a very strong early childhood experience that they will do better in school and in life."
The state plan will increase the required training for childcare employees. Current Montana regulations only require eight hours of training, and that only primary caregivers have to be CPR- and first-responder certified.
But that could change as state officials plan to enhance training and professional development requirements.
"Increasing training is huge. Eight hours is nothing. And the quality of care is so tied to the amount of education that you have, the amount of training that you have," said ASUM Childcare director Lauralea Sanks.
Sanks has been in the field nearly 30 years, and says the changes will be beneficial but will require some adjusting.
She explained that extra employee training racks up costs for childcare programs and thinks that may eventually trickles down to impact parents' paychecks.
"I can just see fees going through the roof within the community. If centers have to absorb all those costs themselves, it's going to have to come from somewhere." Sanks said,
Some parents say investing in childcare is crucial because there is nothing more important than their child's well being
"Knowing that when you are away, during the day, doing your work, that your children are not just being well cared for but they are being challenged and they are being driven in a way that is increasing their creativity and increasing their play and really just feeding their spirits," Fowler Pehan said.
Many childcare centers across Montana do just that - embodying a safe, caring environment for children.
Many providers say the grant will help support the future of safe childcare programs. "Getting that basis together in the first five years is going to serve us well." Rosenleaf said.
Here is an overview of some of the changes mandated by the new law:
Health and Safety Requirements for Child Care Providers
Requires States to establish health and safety requirements in 10 different topic areas (e.g., prevention of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), first-aid, and CPR).
Child care providers serving children receiving assistance through the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) program must receive pre-service and ongoing training on such topics.
Requires States to conduct criminal background checks for all child care staff members, including staff members who don't care directly for children but have unsupervised access to children, and specifies disqualifying crimes.
Requires States to certify child care providers will comply with child abuse reporting requirements.
Requires States to conduct pre-licensure and annual unannounced inspections of licensed CCDF providers and annual inspections of license-exempt CCDF providers.
States must establish qualifications and training for licensing inspectors and appropriate inspector-to-provider ratios.
Requires States to have standards for CCDF providers regarding group size limits and appropriate child-to-provider ratios based on the age of children in child care.
Requires emergency preparedness planning and statewide disaster plans for child care.
Transparent Consumer and Provider Education Information
States must make available by electronic means, easily accessible provider-specific information showing results of monitoring and inspection reports, as well as the number of deaths, serious injuries, and instances of substantiated child abuse that occur in child care settings each year.
Requires States to have a website describing processes for licensing and monitoring child care providers, processes for conducting criminal background checks, and offenses that prevent individuals from being child care providers.
Funds a national website to disseminate consumer education information that allows search by zip code and referral to local child care providers, as well as a national hotline for reporting child abuse and neglect.
Family-Friendly Eligibility Policies
Establishes a 12-month eligibility re-determination period for CCDF families, regardless of changes in income (as long as income does not exceed the federal threshold of 85% of State median income) or temporary changes in participation in work, training, or education activities.
Allows States the option to terminate assistance prior to re-determination if a parent loses employment, however assistance must be continued for at least 3 months to allow for job search.
Eligibility re-determination should not require parents to unduly disrupt their employment.
Provides for a graduated phase-out of assistance for families whose income has increased at the time of re-determination, but remains below the federal threshold.
Requires procedures for enrollment of homeless children pending completion of documentation, and training and outreach to promote access to services for homeless families.
Activities to Improve the Quality of Child Care
Phases-in increase in minimum quality set-aside from 4% to 9% over a 5-year period. In addition, requires States to spend minimum of 3% to improve the quality of care for infants and toddlers.
Requires States to spend quality funds on at least 1 of 10 specified quality activities, which include developing tiered quality rating systems and supporting statewide resource and referral services.
Requires establishment of professional development and training requirements with ongoing annual training and progression to improve knowledge and skills of CCDF providers.
Requires States to implement Early Learning and Development Guidelines describing what children should know and be able to do, appropriate from birth to kindergarten entry.
Includes provisions on social-emotional health of children, including providing consumer and provider education about policies regarding expulsions of children from early care and education programs and developmental screenings for children at risk of cognitive or developmental delays.
Click here to learn more about the program.
Judge Rules Effects of Trauma Could Constitute a Disability for Students
by Crystal Shepeard
“I was around three years old and I used to have nightmares a lot. I used to sleep with my mom and dad. One night I woke up to my dad screaming at my mom pointing a gun at her. Ever since that night I've had nightmares a lot.”
When “Virgil,” a high school sophomore, shares this story his voice is soft and his speech slow and halting. His twin brother “Philip” describes, in an equally halting and quiet voice, seeing someone getting shot in the back of the head when he was just 8-years-old, “They threw him over the rail, and he was just sitting there bleeding, blood all down the sewer line. It was a horrifying sight. I wouldn't wish that on anybody.” The brothers have seen more than 20 shootings, including Philip seeing the shooting death of friend. They are only 15-years-old.
Virgil and Philip (not their real names) are two of five students and three teachers in a lawsuit against Compton Unified School District. They allege that the district has failed to properly address the educational needs of students that have obvious signs of trauma. The lawsuit is seeking “training for staff to recognize trauma, mental health support for students to cope with their condition and a shift from punitive disciplinary practices to those based on reconciliation and healing.” They also seek to have “complex trauma” recognized as a disability and afforded the protections of the American Disabilities Act.
The other students are 18, 17 and 13 with equally life-long harrowing tales. The teachers report lack of training to deal with trauma in their students, as well as no support from the administration when they ask for help. They have all experienced physical and emotional distress of having to attend student funerals and the mental anguish of trying to provide support for traumatized students.
Marleen Wong has been studying trauma in students for decades and developed successful programs for school districts to deal with student trauma. In her expert declaration she explains, “Complex trauma occurs when an individual experiences multiple, repeated or prolonged exposure to trauma such that the body's stress response more permanently impacts the development of the brain.” Children are more susceptible to PTSD because their frontal cortex – the portion of the brain that regulates stress – is underdeveloped.
According to the National Center for PTSD, any life threatening event or one that threatens physical harm, or witnessing violence can cause PTSD. A 2011 study of U.S. children referred to child protective services found 90 percent of the children with substantiated cases of abuse suffered either neglect, physical or sexual abuse. Another national study found that more than 60 percent of children had witnessed or experienced victimization in the previous year. More than a quarter of them had witnessed domestic and community violence.
Compton's crime rate is five times the national average, which is exacerbated by a poverty rate twice as high. Stan Bosche, a Catholic Priest and counselor at Compton's Soledad Charter School, told Vice News that 80 percent of kindergartners in his neighborhood have been exposed to gun violence. Armando Castro, one of the teacher plaintiffs, said that when a senior student's brother had killed himself after seeing a friend shot to death, she came to school the next day like nothing happened. He noted, “You could just see the hurt all across her face.”
The lawsuit alleges that CUSD failed to take “reasonable steps” to address the needs of these students. They have all been punished severely for anger and outbursts that are common behavioral trauma symptoms. They allege that the lack of active engagement and training of faculty has made it impossible for these students to succeed in school.
Marleen Wong explains how this affects academic performance:
The relationship between exposure to trauma and impairment in school functioning in youth is well-established. Exposure to chronic traumatic stressors in the developing years can cause brain changes that affect memory and cognition. More specifically, violence exposure can reduce a child's ability to focus, organize, and process information. Witnessing violence is associated with lower academic achievement over time and impaired school functioning. Children exposed to trauma also experience decreased IQ and reading ability, lower GPA, increased days of school absence, and decreased rates of high school graduation.
The Compton Unified School District's defense has been that the students do not exhibit the “physical or mental impairment” that would qualify protection under the ADA. They also claim they have done some trauma training for faculty. Wong and the lawyers claim the training was not done by an expert, nor did all staff and faculty receive the training. A federal judge has denied the plaintiffs' request for an injunction to require CUSD to provide the appropriate training and services immediately.
Thus far procedural rulings by the judge have allowed the case to continue. While the motion for class certification was denied, it was dismissed without prejudice, meaning they can seek class certification again. The federal judge also denied the district's motion to dismiss , saying that, “Plaintiffs have adequately alleged, at least, that complex trauma can result in neurobiological effects constituting a physical impairment for purposes” of disability law.
If the case is ultimately successful, it would set precedent to require public schools to provide the resources and funding to address the needs of students with complex trauma, just as they do for all disabilities.
German Police Say Bodies of 7 Babies Found at Bavarian House
by The Associated Press
German police said Friday that the bodies of seven babies have been found at an apartment in a Bavarian town.
Police say a local woman found the body of one baby on Thursday afternoon at the apartment in Wallenfels, near the Czech border, and called the police emergency number. Police then found several more bodies in a room at the apartment.
The dpa news agency earlier reported that a doctor had found the dead babies.
Police and prosecutors now believe there were seven dead babies, police said in a statement. The bodies are being examined by forensic experts, but the examinations "will take some time in view of their poor condition, in some cases," and results shouldn't be expected before the beginning of next week, it added.
Authorities so far have been unable to find the property's former resident, a 45-year-old woman, but are questioning several other people, police said.
It was unclear how long the babies had been dead or who, if anyone, was living there at the time of the discovery.
SWLA sexual assault kits are tested in timely manner
by Theresa Schmidt
SOUTHWEST LOUISIANA (KPLC) -- Rape victims are poked, prodded, swabbed and often photographed to preserve evidence of the crime.
It's put in what's called a sexual assault kit.
Untested kits, sitting on shelves for years, are a huge issue in some places, especially in large metro areas with high crime rates. By some counts, there's a nationwide backlog of 70,000 untested kits.
In 1992, Wendy Guidry and another woman left a local club called John's Barn. They got into Guidry's car.
"I looked up into my rearview mirror. I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked up and all I see is a black mask and a knife. And he put the knife to my throat," said Guidry.
After 20 years, Guidry never imagined the case would be solved.
"I'd say it took many years for me to get to a point where I didn't live in fear everyday. I don't remember which point, which year that I realized we were probably never going to find him," she said.
Then, in 2013, out of the blue, Guidry got a call from a detective saying her rape was solved.
"I collapsed on the floor and cried uncontrollably and told her she was crazy — that there was no way I could do this after almost 20 years,"said Guidry.
Lake Charles police announced the case had been solved after a family member of the other victim requested the case be re-examined and DNA testing more advanced than when the crime first occurred, revealed a match.
In 2013, Chief Don Dixon talked about the case being solved.
"Capt. Hughes took it upon herself and did a very thorough search and found the sexual assault kits and then they were submitted to our local laboratory," he said.
The DNA belonged to Darwin Hutchinson, who is already in Angola State Penitentiary for a 1999 rape. Now he is also imprisoned for crimes against Guidry and her friend.
Police and the crime lab technicians were applauded for their work to solve the case, yet it raised questions about whether other kits need to be re-tested and other cases, re-evaluated, and the speed with which it was being accomplished.
While nationwide, there are thousands of kits listed as untested. The two main law enforcement agencies in Southwest Louisiana said they are caught up.
The Southwest Louisiana Crime Lab is highly accredited and part of the national system called CODIS that allows DNA profiles to be entered and compared to those in other states.
"There must be a problem in other parts of the country or the state, but it doesn't seem to be that problem here, said Matt Vezinot, Calcasieu Sheriff's Office crime lab commander. "Everybody's pretty much proactive and if there's a problem, we deal with it. We do not have a backlog and the crime lab is very capable of handling the workload that is here."
Lab DNA Technical Leader Monica Quaal said they keep up with testing requested by law enforcement.
"As soon as they're submitted to the laboratory, we will screen them for semenal stains, so within about 30 days we're going to work a kit, whether it's a cold case kit or a current kit. That's our policy," she said.
Lake Charles police reported to state police in January of this year that they have zero untested rape kits.
"All of our cases have been sent to the lab for testing. Now all of them have not been tested for various reasons, and that depends on how the investigation went. But anything prior to 2000 we are still working on those because those have to be manually pulled," said Lake Charles Police Lt. Kevin Kirkum, who's in charge of the sex crime section.
It's a tedius process, but he said at a rate of two a month, they are making sure there aren't any old cases from before that were on computer and that merit a follow up investigation, particularly since DNA testing is much more advanced.
"That involves going through thousands and thousands of evidence slips to see if something needs to be sent or resubmitted," Kirkum said.
He pointed out a DNA match alone does not make a case.
"Just a CODIS hit is not going to make it a case. The case has to involve the whole investigation," he said.
Kirkum said they are working to make sure cases don't fall through the cracks. A sexual assault exam is best done within 72 hours of a crime and the exam may last four-to-six hours.
Registered Nurse Tammy Vincent coordinated the sexual assault nurse examiner program here. After going through such an exam, Vincent said it's reasonable for victims to expect their kits to be tested in a timely manner.
"I think that if a patient goes through the entire exam and has all this evidence collected, then they have an expectation that something is going to be done with all the evidence that was collected. They assume that through the testing of this kit, that ultimately, their crime will be solved, " said Vincent.
Vincent said locally, there's a great community response to victims sexual assault but she believes recent legislation will help hold agencies across the state accountable.
"There has to be some type of knowledge of where kits are, what's being done with them and why, if they're not being done, why are they not being done," she said.
Vincent said they should never lose sight of what a sexual assault kit represents.
"We need to make sure that it's not just a box full of stuff, that it represents a human being, whether it be a child, a male or a female, an adult or elderly. This is not just a box full of evidence; it's a box that represents a human being that has been greatly traumatized," she said.
Local agencies said victims, or survivors, as Guidry likes to be called, are welcomed to call if they want to follow up on their cases. And that, said Guidry, is the way it should be.
"I didn't know to call and ask questions about my rape kit. I didn't know that I could. I didn't know that I should," said Guidry.
She also believes victims should be consulted through the process. Laws now in place aim to assure that sexual assault kits throughout the state are promptly tested and stored so that all victims have an opportunity for timely justice.
There are many resources for victims and concerned residents. As well, new laws have established requirements to help make sure kits are tested in a timely manner, and that areas have plans and processes in place to meet the needs of sexual assault victims. Agencies will also be subject to various reporting requirements.
In December 2014 and January 2015, most state law enforcement agencies provided statistics to state police about the number of untested sexual assault kits in their evidence closets. Most in Southwest Louisiana reported zero, but KPLC 's research suggests that agencies did not all use the same criteria for deciding which cases to report to the state.
For example, the Vernon Parish Sheriff's Office reported seven untested sexual assault kits, but a detective there said the cases' dispositions do not warrant further investigation. It appears some agencies that have such cases did not count them in the numbers reported to the state.
As well, some of the numbers may have changed since they were first reported. New numbers are to be reported in February to the Louisiana Law Enforcement Commission, as required by Act 276 of the 2015 session.. Another new law, Act 229, includes a variety of reforms to provide better tracking of kits and timely testing.
Also, a review of state police records also shows some police departments apparently did not submit information. For example Oakdale, Oberlin, Kinder and Fenton are not on the list of police departments that responded.
One of the reason Guidry speaks publicly is to help other victims. She finds RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network a good source for information and help. She also recommends the Joyful Hope Foundation.
Church still stands ready to offer help to abuse victims, says bishop
by Mark Pattison
The US church still stands ready to help the victims of clergy sexual abuse, according to Bishop Edward J Burns of Juneau, Alaska, chairman of the US bishops' Committee on Child and Youth Protection.
“Victims of abuse have helped us see the errors of the past,” Bishop Burns said in a Nov. 10 telephone interview from Juneau with Catholic News Service. “It's important that we assist them in the healing process.”
Bishop Burns added, “We express our gratitude for the way they've called us to look at ourselves, and see that there is a need to change, to be contrite, and to assist in the healing process. It's important that we continue to work together in order to be sure that there is a safe environment within the church, and that we never grow lax in assuring that all our children are safe.”
He cited background checks for close to 99 percent of the diocesan and religious priests and deacons, and safe environment instruction for 92 percent of the estimated 4.4 million children who have been enrolled in Catholic educational programs.
“What needs to be done? We need to get to 100 percent,” Bishop Burns said.
Bishop Burns acknowledged the subject of clergy sex abuse is being brought into the headlines again with the release of the new movie “Spotlight,” which has opened in a handful of cities but will open November 20 in a nationwide release, adding he hoped to see the movie soon.
“I've heard some wonderful acclaims for how well it's presented and how well it's been produced,” he said, but “I'm not looking forward to watching it, because I know the topic is heart-wrenching.”
“Spotlight” deals with the Boston Globe's investigation into clergy sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston.
The stories published by the newspaper in 2002 brought significant changes in the way the church operates with regard to addressing abuse claims and abuse prevention.
Bishop Burns, then the executive director of the US bishops' Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, said he was working as staff when the bishops met in Dallas in 2002, when the abuse crisis was part of the national conversation.
“I still remember the frenzy of media surrounding the hotel and the anxiety of the bishops in addressing this issue, as well as the opportunity for the bishops to hear from the victims of abuse during their general session,” he said. “I remember it being very poignant, very direct.
The bishops recognised at that point that they needed to collectively take action.” What resulted was the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.” Since its adoption in 2002, the charter was revised in 2005 and 2011.
“The Dallas charter has laid clear how we are to respond whenever there is a credible allegation of sexual abuse by anyone in the church,” Bishop Burns said, adding the “zero tolerance” principle was put into place with the charter.
Deacon Bernie Nojadera, executive director of the bishops' Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection – created as another response to the abuse scandal — said he sees the release of the movie as “another opportunity of grace” to show how far the church has come in its response to victims of sexual abuse.
The assertion by some bishops and other church leaders that no institution has done more than the Catholic Church to put a halt to adult sexual abuse of minors is credible to Deacon Nojadera.
“Dr David Finkelhor has told us” the same, Deacon Nojadera told CNS earlier this week Finkelhor, a professor at the University of New Hampshire, is a sociologist known for his research on sexual abuse of children and is director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center.
Before the scandal, it was the case of “get the priest out of here” (the assignment where the abuse occurred) “and not believing the victim,” Deacon Nojadera said. “Now we should always put the child at the center of our conversation,” he added. “No one's going to be working with kids or vulnerable adults without a background check. That's part of the culture now.”
To Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, the culture change is too little, too late.
“I think the church is safer today” because of the “diligent work” of reporters like those at the Boston Globe as well as abuse victims who came forward, said Blaine, who herself had been abused by a priest.
But “those of us who have come forward are just the tip of the iceberg and I think victims today are still treated as though we are the enemy,” Blaine said in a telephone interview with CNS from Chicago on November 9.
While the church did change, Blaine told CNS, “the Catholic Church only did it begrudgingly and belatedly. Most child welfare agencies started demanding fingerprinting and background checks by the mid-(19)80s.”
Victims, she said, often cannot trust the institution under whose watch the abuse occurred to take a part in healing their trauma.
Asked whether seeing “Spotlight” could retraumatize victims, Blaine replied, “I think it can be painful, but I suspect that it will be healing for victims. I think that many victims still suffer in secrecy and shame. I think this movie will give them the opportunity to heal.
“We're already hearing from a lot of victims, before the film came out,” she added. “I got two emails today already from people that were sparked by the movie. They just saw trailers of the movie. And they haven't seen the movie yet.”
Study finds more child abuse in homes of returning vets
by Tom Vanden Brook and Ray Locker
WASHINGTON — The babies and toddlers of soldiers returning from deployment face the heightened risk of abuse in the six months after the parent's return home, a risk that increases among soldiers who deploy more frequently, according to a study scheduled for release Friday.
The study will be published in the American Journal of Public Health . The abuse of soldiers' children exposes another, hidden cost from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that killed than 5,300 U.S. troops and wounded more than 50,000.
Research by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia looked at families of more than 112,000 soldiers whose children were 2 years old or younger for the period of 2001 to 2007, the peak of the Iraq War. Researchers examined Pentagon-substantiated instances of abuse by a soldier or another caregiver and from the diagnoses of medical personnel within the military's health care system.
“This study is the first to reveal an increased risk when soldiers with young children return home from deployment,” David Rubin, co-director of the hospital's PolicyLab and the report's senior author, said in a statement. “This really demonstrates that elevated stress when a soldier returns home can have real and potentially devastating consequences for some military families.”
Rubin said the study will help the Army and other services learn "when the signal [of stress] is the highest and the timing for intervention to help the returning soldiers."
The Army said it will use the information to help serve soldiers and their families better.
"While incidents of child abuse and neglect among military families are well below that of the general population, this study is another indicator of the stress deployments place on soldiers, family members and caregivers," said Karl Schneider, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs. "Since the end of the data collection period in 2007, the Army has enacted myriad programs to meet these kinds of challenges head on, and we will continue working to ensure services and support are available to soldiers, families and their children."
The study focused on the first two years of a child's life because of the elevated risk for life-threatening child abuse among infants exceeds risk in all other age groups. In all, there were 4,367 victims from the families of 3,635 soldiers.
The rate of substantiated abuse and neglect doubled during the second deployment compared with the first, the study found. For soldiers deployed twice, the highest rate of abuse and neglect occurred during the second deployment and was usually a caregiver other than the soldier.
“The finding that in most cases, the perpetrators were not the soldiers themselves reveals to us that the stress that plays out in military families during or after deployment impacts the entire family and is not simply a consequence of the soldier's experience and stress following deployment,” said Christine Taylor, the study's lead author, a project manager the PolicyLab.
Researchers had an ongoing interest in the topic, Rubin said, which coincided with the Army's interest in determining how to better serve its returning soldiers and families.
A key finding was that mandatory reporting of child abuse by the Army to the Pentagon's Family Advocacy Program appears to have been largely ignored; 80% of the instances were not reported to the program. The program offers parenting instruction, child care and classes to ease a soldier's transition home. Those services may not be offered widely enough to meet the need, the study found.
Silent No More: Speaking Out about Child Sexual Abuse
Jack Schriber's recent admission to sexually abusing a student when he was an EVSC teacher in the 70's is still causing ripples across the Tri-State.
Schriber was a prominent community leader, and many in the Tri-State worked with him, trusted him, respected him. Reaction ran the gamut of disbelief, to disgust, to disregard.
But as Eyewitness News Shelley Kirk reports, for one group, it will never be that easy.
The sign says "Holly's House," but this is the house that Kathy built - literally
"I did this, and that, broke up the side walk, hung lights, ran wiring," said Kathy Boyd, board chair at Holly's House.
Back in 2007, when Kathy Boyd heard her electricians union was looking for volunteers to renovate this building into a haven for victims of sex crimes, she knew she had to be part of it; because, she was one.
Kathy won't talk about it on camera, but when she was a child, she was a victim of sexual abuse. It still haunts her.
"Not something that goes away. It lessens, and it's not an everyday thought, but something happens throughout the course of your life, and it may just be one event and all sudden you get these feelings. Shame, guilt, or distrust, you really don't know where to share with that."
It took years before she would tell anyone. Something experts say is more common that we realize.
”There are many, many adults - countless in fact – that have never spoken about it. That's normal, very normal,” said Sidney Hardgrave, executive director at Holly's House.
Experts say 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before age 18. 60% of them never tell anyone.
At Holly's House, about 400 children reported a sex crime in a year. That means there are 600 children every year walking around the Tri-State who are victims we will never know about.
"I've had people say, this happened so long ago, I wish I had an answer to that because it doesn't change anything,” Kathy tells us, “There are some things that are unforgiveable."
“Not like a scratch, salve won't help,” Sidney says, “This is not a physical act, an emotional act."
Boyd often speaks to groups about child sexual abuse. She spoke of one talk before a women's auxillary; everyone there was over 55 years old -
"After talking over, half came up and said same thing happened to me. Nobody ever talked about it back then. We just didn't talk about those things."
And for some sex crimes like the Schriber case, if enough time passes, the offender can't be charged - even if he admits to it.
"We take sex assault on a child and we wait from 70's to 2015 – 40 years - statute of limitations ran out. There is something wrong with that," Kathy said.
She fears that contributes to a victim's silence. But boyd - turning from victim, to advocate, to warrior – says, while it's not always about the offender, it is always about the victim.
Holly's House is here for them, whenever they choose to talk. She says it's never too late to seek help.
“It may be just going and having a conversation will change it. Even if they don't want to report it. Maybe they'll know they are not alone. Forgiveness is for you. Make my heart not so heavy. Make me a little bit more open to the sunlight of the spirit that I can actually open my heart up to people and do good in world."
If you are a victim, or if you know someone who is a victim of child sexual abuse, you can visit Holly's House website by clicking here.
‘Tom's Secret': A novel approach to dealing with child sexual abuse
by Josh Dell
Ronit Raphael does not do things in half measures.
Alongside running a luxury cosmetics company out of Geneva, she is determined to end child sexual abuse not just in Israel but across the world.
“Actually, I raise this topic in almost every business meeting that I have with clients, suppliers and partners worldwide,” reveals the Israeli businesswoman, whose viral video campaign “Tom's Secret,” made in cooperation with the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, has been seen not just in over 600 schools across the country but in nations as far and wide as Greece and Guam.
Child abuse in Israel remains a major issue. According to a recent survey of child abuse by professors Zvi Eisikovits and Rachel Lev-Wiesel of the University of Haifa, 18 percent of Jewish Israelis and 23% of Arab Israelis were the victims of child sexual abuse – in effect, almost one in five children in the country.
“Tom's Secret,” launched in 2013, is a short animation video that has a two-fold purpose: to guide parents on how to identify child sexual abuse and to encourage children to talk.
A short and simple video, it tells the story of Tom, who upon being told by his mother that he is going to stay the night at a friend's house, eventually, through talking with his mother, is able to bring himself to reveal to her that he was touched inappropriately by the friend's brother.
Child-related topics have long been Raphael's field of interest, but only within the last three years has she been able to truly focus in on them. As the founder and head of her company, L. Raphael, her focus on high-quality dermatological skin care has led to L. Raphael spas in both the Four Seasons New York and the Kempinski hotel in Moscow, and her brand being estimated as worth tens of millions of dollars.
As a result of Raphael's endeavors, the project is operating on a global scale, in cooperation with a wide range of child-safety organizations, including Pass the Word IL and American children's charity Child Lures Prevention.
The focus on child abuse in Israel has grown considerably in recent years, but remains an area in which a vast amount of work is required. According to Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, executive director of Israel's National Council for the Child, “In the past few years there has been more awareness of the subject, but we still don't know the real scope [of the problem] and its characteristics.”
Putting things into perspective, Kadman explains in further detail that “about 60% of the sexual assaults are done by a family member or a close relative or acquaintance of the child, and only 40% of the assaults are done by strangers.”
In the Knesset, “Tom's Secret” has made substantial impact, having been screened before the Committee on the Rights of the Child, resulting in substantial media coverage across Israeli media.
Nevertheless, the committee's head, Kulanu MK Yifat Shasha-Biton, is acutely aware of the steps that the government needs to take.
She reveals that out of 2,349 cases of alleged child sexual abuse opened by police in 2014, 1,326 were closed due to lack of evidence, 600 were closed due to lack of public interest, and 170 were closed because of an unknown attacker.
In her view, “These numbers do not deter future offenders and lead to a gradual increase of child abuse.”
An area within Israeli society in which child sex abuse remains extremely high is among the ultra-Orthodox community.
Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg, a haredi rabbi based in Brooklyn who gives lectures in both the US and Israel to ultra-Orthodox communities on the need to provide sex education to teenagers, presents the situation starkly.
Discussing what he refers to as the “rabbinate mafia,” Rosenberg paints a picture of communities in which rabbis are able to threaten members of their congregations with total exclusion from community life if they report any offenses against children to the authorities.
“There is so much molesting going on in the haredi community,” he explained. “The people in Israel don't believe who their enemy is. It's not just the pedophiles; the enemies are the rabbis. The rabbis are the ones who intervene and ostracize people.”
Though numbers are nearly impossible to calculate, due to the insular nature of much of the community, it is an issue that Kadman describes in no uncertain terms as “a very serious problem.”
Though debate rages as regards its scale, Shasha-Biton considers child sexual abuse in the haredi community an issue that the justice system deals with properly, albeit with significant room for improvement. In her view, the government's work has “shown a positive direction toward treating sexual abuse in haredi/Orthodox society. We are still in the course of the working process in order to better strengthen the treatment in those environments.”
For Raphael, “Tom's Secret” is doing its utmost to work with haredi groups. “Our strategy here is to partner with organizations in these communities that are open-minded and are working on making an internal change through education of teachers and parents,” she observed.
She noted that “in Jerusalem, our movie was adopted by B'kdusha, an educational center that teaches healthy intimacy within religious communities.”
As regards child sexual abuse in general, Raphael remains clear that there are basic steps that can be taken across the board to help all children become more aware of the issue. Methods she recommends include “initiating conversations with the kids at home and teaching them the difference between safe and unsafe touching; defining body parts that are considered private; encouraging them to ‘tell secrets' when they feel unsafe or confused.”
Though her business means that she finds herself “constantly juggling from the US to Europe and Israel,” it is clear that Raphael's desire to ensure “Tom's Secret” and its message are spread as widely as possible is resolute.
If her success in the business world is anything to go by, a great deal stands to be gained for children in Israel and across the world from her endeavors on their part.
Childhood "Milestones" In This PSA Track The Brutal Reality Of Child Sexual Abuse
by Louise Jack
(Video on site)
A hard-hitting new film from U.K. charity, The Children's Society, exposes the harsh reality of child sexual exploitation.
The two-minute film "Growing Pains" is directed by Sam Miller ( Luther ) and charts significant childhood moments. Whilst a camera tracks through an unremarkable family home and into teenage Emily's bedroom, the shot lingers on a growth chart, of the kind kept by millions of families, etched on a wall.
A girl's voice talks through the milestones, beginning with her first steps and getting a new teddy. As the story unfolds, the "milestones" become darker and it's clear the girl has been abused by a group of men. She says, "I met their friends. They drink a lot. I don't like where they touch me," and later, "Abused by all of them tonight. I blacked out."
The campaign, created by agency VCCPme, also includes a direct mail element in the form of a full-size wall chart. The initiative comes in the wake of a report by the Children's Society, "Old Enough To Know Better? Why sexually exploited teenagers are being overlooked". The report found many sex crimes against older teenagers go unreported because the victims are scared they will not be believed and furthermore, are let down by the law, which does not afford 16 and 17-year-olds with the same protections as younger children in the U.K., leaving them particularly at risk.
The new report builds on the charity's existing campaign and study, "Seriously Awkward: How vulnerable 16-17-yearolds are falling through the cracks", which examines what happens when an older teenager reports they are being exploited. The Seriously Awkward campaign is calling on the U.K. Government to "strengthen the law so that all 16 and 17-year olds being sexually exploited are protected from harm, get the support they need and the justice they deserve".
Report: 2 New England States Worst for Child Sex Trafficking
by Ally Donnelly
A new report card looking at how states are combating child sex trafficking ranked two New England states in last place.
When the advocacy group Shared Hope first started doing these rankings, 26 states received failing grades, including Massachusetts. The Bay State has made strides with a steady B for the last three years.
New Hampshire and Maine are tied with Hawaii and South Dakota for the lowest rankings in the country, with all receiving grades in the low D's.
Improvement across the country has been vast. No states received failing grades, and several jumped up.
In the rest of New England, Connecticut and Vermont got C's and Rhode Island got a D.
Shared Hope evaluates what laws the states have on the books to prevent sex trafficking, how they prosecute the traffickers, and, importantly, the buyers and how they treat victims.
A major issue noted is that only 15 states protect minors from being criminally charged as prostitutes.
Tattoo artists help victims of sex trafficking transform pimp 'brands'
by Angelica Carrillo
EUGENE, Ore. - Two Eugene business women are helping other women heal through transformation art.
Suzen Tattoozen and Vanessa Truett are providing free coverups to survivors of sex trafficking.
The two have raised $2,000 from the community and will combine their efforts to help 6 women begin their healing process.
Tattoozen said she has already helped three survivors who had their pimp's name tattooed on their bodies, a constant reminder of a horrific time in their lives.
Truett narrowly escaped such a fate herself, so this is something that is very special for her.
“The thought that people use tattooings and brandings as a way to mark property, I found that absolutely horrid and just despicable on multiple levels," she said. "As an artist, the idea was inhumane.”
Tattoozen is a custom tattoo artist, so she designs unique works of art for each person.
One of the first clients agreed to speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Having to look in the mirror every day and every time I got into the shower and saw these tattoos, you see somebody else's claim on your body, and it's devastating," the 42-year-old said. "I never thought I was worth more than his (the pimp's) brand.”
If you know someone who's been a survivor of sex trafficking and want more information about Transformation Ink or want to donate to help more women, you can contact the Tattoo Collective, 245 Van Buren, Eugene, Oregon, call (541) 255-2734, or visit the project's tattoo page.
Workshop targets child sexual abuse
by LAURA HAYES
When Gabrielle Gipson was a child, her father told her that boys don't hit girls. “The first time a man hit me I ran home and said, ‘Dad, he hit me,' because I knew it was wrong,” she recalled.
The same, Gipson realized, can be applied to inappropriate touching.
Gipson, executive director of You Have the Power, will be facilitating “Abuse Proof Your Kid,” a one-day workshop dedicated to the prevention of child abuse. Hosted by the Winona County Primary Prevent Project: Stop Sexual and Domestic Violence (WCPPP), Gispon will speak about what signs of abuse to look for, the impact of sexual abuse and what steps parents or guardians can take to make their children a harder target.
“Right now we're look at over 16 million survivors of child sexual abuse here in America,” Gipson said. “That's a lot of people who have gone uncared for. That's too high of a number for me or for anyone.”
Gipson continued, explaining that a number of people don't know the signs to look or listen for. She said that abuse comes in all shapes and sizes, noting people should pay attention to warning signs like grooming, special attention or adults who isolate children from their peers. She added that teachers and parents needed to watch out for “vulnerable” children who may have low self-esteem or are bullied. Abusers, she said, will then give those children attention that they may not be receiving in other part of their life.
“Those kids who are really vulnerable may like the attention and not realize that the physical boundaries have been crossed,” she said.
Gipson estimates that one in four women will be assaulted by the time they're 18 and one in six men. The average age is 9.6 in women and 9.9 in men. She said that 93 percent of people who are abused know their abusers in some capacity, whether it is family members, friends or acquaintances.
“We as adults have a responsibility to the kids to identify this and not leave them in the dark and unprotected,” Gipson said. “We rely on the kids to tell and most of them won't tell.”
WCPPP Secretary Lynn Theurer said that while abuse can't be stopped 100 percent of the time, because abuse happens in many forms, she hopes that the workshop will help break the cycle of blaming the victim. “Prevention isn't 100 percent but what are the steps we can take to change as a community?” Theurer said.
Theurer continued, saying that people often don't talk about sexual abuse. “We need to sit down and have a conversation,” she commented. “How do we open up these really tough topics that can lead to harm and death?”
According to Gipson, one of the ways to prevent abuse is by teaching body safety rules so that children know what is appropriate and inappropriate touching. Parents can also be more “reflective” instead of “authoritative,” asking their children about their day so that they can differentiate between a good day and a bad day.
“Give them the ability to say no,” she advised. “Most kids this day and age are told, you do not say no to an adult. Teach them how to say no and when to say no.”
“Abuse Proof Your Kid” will be held on November 14 from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Winona State Haake Hall Dormitory conference room. The workshop is open to all and is free to attend.
To register, email or Karina Kujawa at email@example.com or 507-453-9563, extension 1127.
Parents in ‘Girl in the Basement' case sentenced to 68 months in prison
by Amy Renee Leiker
The girl stood up in court, walked before those who supported her – and those who didn't – and lowered the microphone to meet her slight, but now healthy, stature.
Pressed against her was a stuffed animal and a folder of photographs authorities took of her body to document the abuse. Nearly two years ago, when she was removed from her home, the teen weighed 66 pounds – weakened from severe beatings and starvation.
Once, she told authorities, she knew parents must disciple their children.
But on Tuesday morning before a packed courtroom gallery, she told the mother and father who took her in – the couple who were to be her refuge from a birth mother who abused and neglected her – that they were wrong for inflicting such punishments.
They were wrong, she said, for forcing her to drink hydrogen peroxide and her own bodily fluids, and to eat dog food.
They were wrong for chaining her to a bed in a windowless basement room with a bucket for a toilet. For attacking her with a hard-core foam bat and a broken curtain rod.
For stealing her childhood.
“I am so angry and so hurt by what … (my parents) did to me. It was beyond horrible,” the girl said, her voice steady at the court hearing where her parents would be ordered to serve the maximum 5 years, 8 months in prison for inflicting years of physical, emotional and mental abuse. “Two people who took me in as a foster child and then adopted me, they were supposed to protect me and give me a good life. But the opposite happened.
“I will never understand why I was their main target. Why they hated me so much, called me names, put me down, beat and hurt me so much. At times I thought they were going to kill me.”
The teen at the center of the abuse case became known as “The Girl in the Basement” after The Eagle began reporting last year on the child-in-need-of-care case that placed her and her three siblings in foster homes.
The girl is not being identified to protect her identity. She was 14 years old when authorities placed her in police protective custody in March 2014.
The mother and father were criminally charged with multiple counts of child abuse, aggravated battery and other criminal charges about a week after The Eagle published its first story about the girl as part of its In Need of Care series last June.
Initially, the parents denied the abuse. But in July, the mother and father pleaded guilty as charged: Three counts of child abuse, two counts of aggravated battery, one count of aggravated endangerment of a child, one count of criminal restraint.
The father also was convicted of one count of criminal damage to property for breaking out a Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office patrol car window when he was arrested, of violating a protective order and intimidating a witness for asking one of his adult daughters to recant or change her testimony in the child abuse case.
Although some of the couple's proceedings had been held jointly, on Tuesday they received separate sentencing hearings at the request of the father's defense attorney, Charles O'Hara. He acknowledged that the father was culpable for the abuse because he knew it was happening and refused to stop it, but said the mother was responsible for actually inflicting it.
Four relatives of the father allowed to speak on his behalf Tuesday characterized him as a good father and war veteran who loved his children; they said they saw no signs of abuse. They and O'Hara asked the judge to grant the father probation.
The mother's attorney, Ryan Gering, told the judge that she was a woman who had made mistakes that would be better addressed through community-based treatment programs instead of prison. The mother is “willing to do what it requires to make sure that these things will never happen again,” he said, also asking for probation for his client.
But Sedgwick County Assistant District Attorney Angela Wilson said there was no program that could fix what went wrong with the parents. She called the abuse “unconscionable” and the worst she has seen in her 20-year career.
The couple “created a prison for this young lady – for this child – that the child felt that she could never escape. … So judge we're asking you to impose the maximum sentence in this case,” she said.
“And we submit to you that it's not enough.”
Sedgwick County District Court Judge Patrick Walters ordered each to serve 68 months prison – just more than one year for every year of abuse they admitted to subjecting their adoptive daughter to.
“I keep coming back to the duration and severity of abuse for the victim who spoke here today,” Walters said. “… What she said is true: No human being should have to ever endure that type of abuse. It's just not humane. And to make matters worse, it was done by the individuals that were supposed to protect her.”
The Eagle has not named the mother or father because doing so would identify the girl and her siblings. The Eagle began following the girl's case in April 2014 after District Judge Tim Henderson gave the newspaper special access to child-in-need-of-care petitions to be transparent about how the system works and to show the public the extent of child neglect and abuse in Sedgwick County.
The couple adopted the girl when she was 4. Neglect from her biological mother left her severely underweight and developmentally delayed.
This abuse case came to the fore after another child in the girl's home, an 11-year-old boy, disclosed the abuse to a school counselor. A doctor later diagnosed her as a victim of child torture.
On Tuesday morning in court, the mother and father both made tearful pleas for leniency before their sentences were imposed.
The girl, in court, said she will likely forgive her adoptive parents one day for the abuse. But, she said, she will not forget.
“I have a life now. And that life is overstuffed with joy, love, peace, fun and most importantly, God,” she said.
“I was the girl in the basement. I was a victim with no way out. And facing potential death. But no more.
“I'm not the girl in the basement. Now, I am a victor. A survivor.”
A Sedgwick County girl who was abused by her parents addressed them in court Tuesday during their sentencing:
“Your honor, I'm here today because I am so angry and so hurt by what … (my parents) did to me. It was beyond horrible. Two people who took me in as a foster child and then adopted me, they were supposed to protect me and give me a good life. But the opposite happened. I will never understand why I was their main target. Why they hated me so much, called me names, put me down, beat and hurt me so much. At times I thought they were going to kill me.
“I'm glad that they finally told the truth and admitted their guilt. But I know that they are not sorry in their hearts. They should be sorry for what they did. But they're not. They're only sorry that they finally got caught. They deserve the worst possible sentence, just like they gave me.
Parents are supposed to love you, not think of new ways to hurt you just for the fun of it. I was so weak, tired and really thin when I was taken out of that house. As if starving me from food was not enough, they made me drink hydrogen peroxide. It made me so sick, plus lots of other yucky things and it hurt my mouth and my teeth and caused lots of damage. They thought it was funny when I was hungry and they would not let me eat while everyone else was eating and tease me with food in front of me to look at, but then give me nothing. Or when they did give me something to eat, it was nasty things like dog food.
“They put me in with the dogs a lot in the super cold garage in the winter, freezing, wet, made to stand like a statue with my arms holding weights so long it felt like they were going to fall off my body.
“This is worse: They really got mean when they made me drink my own vomit and urine and my own poop. It was disgusting. What kind of person would do something like that? All the beatings, kickings, knocked down, slamming my head into doors, pushed down the stairs and more messed with my teeth as well as my insides and who knows what else. They often put me out in the freezing cold garage completely naked, not even any underpants, while being soaked in water and made to stand perfectly still. Many times they made me sit in a scalding hot water, which caused me to have extremely painful blisters. So many years of very bad stuff.
“Then they took me away from school for a whole year and kept me home. As if that weren't bad enough already, it got real bad, real quick. No more teachers or nurses to notice me starving or to see the bumps on my head or marks on my body. They could hurt me all they wanted, and they did.
“Another horrible thing I wish I could forget but can't yet, more times than I can count I was chained up by my neck and sad to say, I was usually naked. I was also left to sleep that way, even in the cold of winter on the concrete floor or in the bathtub. They didn't care. Being chained up by my neck all night or even during the day, unable to hardly move, was worse than horrible. Those people did everything within their power to harm me and to keep me trapped where I could have died. What would it feel like to you if you were chained up naked and made to drink your own vomit? What would it feel like to you if you were made to eat dog poop or drink your own urine? What if you were made to go to school in urine-soaked clothes? How would you like to not have a bathroom to use all night and you had to use a bucket to go pee and poop in and most times with no toilet paper. And sometimes you weren't even nice enough to leave the bucket. What if you were duct taped to a chair or a bed naked with socks stuffed in and duct tape all over your mouth and head? Think of what it felt like to have your hands and feet tied with duct tape, tied up to a bed and to be beat all over your body with a belt. Sounds fun, huh? It wasn't.
I can't believe how common it became for you to not only lock me in the basement room but how common it was also to chain me up with chains around my neck. Holy cow! What in the heck were you thinking?
Your anger was out of control. Hurting me, putting me down, embarrassing me, threatening me and more. Living in fear all the time was awful. And then the small dog cage. Do you have any idea how much my body, legs and arms hurt after being locked in that cage all night? I was a prisoner, so hurt and nowhere to go. It was so small and I was squished inside for all night and not allowed to move. What a scary time. You treated me like a dog and much worse. How would you like it if your head was held under water or if you were hung up in the garage by your neck almost choking to death or if you had the drill held in front of your neck and were threatened to have a hole drilled into your throat if you moved.
“I was so scared I was going to die, especially when you did mean things and would even tell me you wanted me to die. You even told me I was going to end up in a body bag in the bottom of a lake. There are so many more things that you did I'm not even going to say because there are way too many.
“But guess what the bad thing is? The bad thing is that you're not even sorry for what you did. You're only sorry that you got caught. If I were you, I would already be right here, begging on my knees, begging to be forgiven and apologizing. But you show no remorse. Absolutely none at all. You have no heart. And if you did, it's frozen solid.
“But guess what? That's why I'm writing this. Because I want the longest prison time for you. Your honor, please. Give them many, many, many years in prison. I would be very grateful to you because what they did was wrong and still is very painful to me. Just thinking about what they did to me is very hard. It makes it hard for me to do things in life. Thinking about it really messes with my emotions.
If you're the one would who went through all that stuff that you put me through then you'd be in the same position that I am. Even your own kids testified against you. Doesn't that make a siren go off in your head? If your own kids are testifying against you that should make you think, whoa, I really screwed up. Big time.
You say you have health problems. Yeah, right. You did back then, too. Well, you sure weren't sick enough to keep you from losing your temper and hurting me and putting me through all that stuff. So you're definitely not sick enough for probation. Your health problems are not even an inkling of what health problems you gave me.
But now, I am blessed by the Almighty King. He gave me the strength to endure what you put me through and he is healing me. I have a life now. And that life is overstuffed with joy, love, peace, fun and most importantly, God. I will forgive you one day but never ever forget. But I can't do it right now. You have to pay first. I have been a prisoner most of my life because of what you did. And now it's your turn to be one.
You honor, for the way I was treated, I recommend at least 14 years in prison. Why? Because of the nearly 14 years of my life that they took away and damaged. They came close several times to taking my whole life completely away. I hear that people get less of a prison sentence when it's their first crime. But it's not. They have committed thousands of crimes against me over the years. Plus, doesn't it count that he tried to keep my brother from the authorities? That he tried to get my sister to change her testimony? And … (my father) even broke a police car window when he got mad. Laws have been broken. Doesn't that count for anything?
“I was the girl in the basement. I was a victim with no way out. And facing potential death. But no more.
“I'm not the girl in the basement. Now, I am a victor. A survivor. Thank you.”
Kosair Children's Hospital on ways to prevent, spot child abuse
LOUISVILLE (WHAS11) -- According to Kosair Childrens Hospital, child abuse unfortunately is a common problem in Kentucky and Indiana. Kosair Children's Hospital says each day they treat at least one child for abuse.
Kentucky and Indiana average 25 to 30 child deaths each year involving child abuse and neglect.
Doctor Erin Frazier, Medical Director of Children's Hospital Foundation Office of Child Advocacy, said child abuse is a problem that is completely preventable.
She says it is important to look out for physical and emotional signs of abuse in children including bruising and cowering away from a particular adults.
Doctor Frazier said children are 50 times more likely to die from child abuse and neglect by an unrelated caregiver.
"Everyday at Kosair Children's Hopsital there is at least one child admitted due to child abuse and neglect. Not all of these children pass away and die, but many of them are left with long term consequences of child abuse such as seizures, developmental delay blindness and other injuries. It is always important if you suspect abuse, you are a mandated reporter. You should call and report. Just because you are reporting does not mean it is going to be substantiated, but you should always be safe than sorry. You don't ever want to think what if I had made that phone call? Would that child still be alive," Dr. Frazier said.
Here are some resources from Kosair Hospital:
Child developmental milestones?
Ky., Ind. see increase in child abuse victims; both states in top 10
LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (NEWS RELEASE) – Going into early April, many Kentuckians and Hoosiers would like a top ranking, but not for this. Kentucky and Indiana are among the top ten worst states in the nation for the number of children who are abused and neglected, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services “Child Maltreatment 2013” report. Kentucky ranked 10th in the number of child abuse victims (20,005) and Indiana was eighth (21,755). Those numbers are worse than the rankings from 2012 — 13th for Kentucky and 10th for Indiana.
On the bright side, Kentucky has seen a decrease in the number of child deaths due to child abuse and an improvement in ranking. Indiana, however, has seen an increase in deaths.
2012 deaths 2012 death rate 2013 deaths 2013 death rate
Kentucky 26 2.55 23 2.27
Ranking 18th 15th 22nd 17th
Indiana 23 1.45 28 1.77
Ranking 22nd 30th 18th 21st
Numbers from “Child Maltreatment 2013” report.
“We treat so many issues as public health concerns: childhood obesity, Type 1 diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer,” said Stephen P. Wright, M.D., medical director of Kosair Children's Hospital and chair of the Partnership to Eliminate Child Abuse. With more than 1,800 children abused in this country every day, why isn't child abuse viewed as a public health issue?
“As something that is 100 percent preventable,” Wright said, “why aren't we doing everything we can to stop it?”
Strides have been made in Kentucky over the past several years, with the passage of House Bills 157 and 285, which required training for medical professionals and those who work with children, respectively. The training helps these individuals spot the early signs of child abuse that can lead to death.
“This is everyone's concern — not just professionals who deal with children,” said Erin Frazier, M.D., pediatrician with Kosair Children's Hospital and UofL Physicians, and board member for Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky. “There is something each and every person can do to prevent abuse.”
In recognition of April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, what can you do?
* If you're a parent and you feel yourself about to lose control, step away. Listen to your favorite song, take a few deep breaths or call a friend.
* Keep a list of friends' or family members' phone numbers to call for support if you are feeling frustrated or angry.
* Everyone can learn the TEN-4 bruising rule: Children under age 4 should not have bruising on the torso, ears or neck. Infants that are not mobile should never have any bruises.
If you see these bruises, there is a good chance the child is being abused and you can do something before it's too late.
* If you know a parent who may need a break, offer to babysit so mom or dad can have an hour or two to themselves.
* Offer to run an errand for a neighbor with small children who has difficulty getting out of the house. A small gesture like that can greatly reduce stress for the parent.
* If you see someone about to raise their hand to a child, ask them if they need any assistance. Sometimes the situation just needs an interruption.
More ideas are available at DontHurtChildren.com.
In Kentucky, the number to call to report suspected child abuse is (877) KY-SAFE1 (597-2331). In Indiana, call (800) 800-5556. The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline, (800) 422-4453, offers professional crisis counselors who can provide intervention, information and referrals to emergency, social service and support resources. Calls are confidential.
The “Child Maltreatment 2013” report is available from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Children's Bureau at www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/child-maltreatment-2013.
Southwest Ohio nurse sentenced for failing to report child abuse
by The Associated Press
DAYTON >> An Ohio prosecutor says a former nurse has been sentenced to jail time, community service and probation for failure to report child abuse or neglect in the 2011 case of an emaciated teen who died.
Montgomery County authorities say Mary Kilby was sentenced Tuesday after pleading guilty earlier to the charge from the death of 14-year-old Makayla Norman. Authorities said the girl had cerebral palsy and weighed 28 pounds.
Prosecutor Mat Heck Jr. says a judge suspended 165 days of Kilby's 180-day sentence and credited seven days served previously. She will report Nov. 13 to jail. She also has 160 community service hours.
Kilby's attorney has said she has expressed remorse.
Two other nurses were convicted in the case. The girl's mother was sentenced to nine years for involuntary manslaughter.
Six Steps for Healing From Child Sexual Abuse
by Laura Landgraf
I remember the day I knew I wasn't crazy.
My dad, who had a black belt in manipulation, was the strategist behind the custody war for my children - on behalf of my soon to be ex-husband. At the heart of this maelstrom, lay my shattered self. I'd discovered that my dad was still molesting, my marriage was over, and neither my parents nor my children's father minded aiming through my kids to get at me. I was in this mess because I'd had the audacity to speak the truth about our incestuous family, and was in the process of removing grandparent rights, in protection of my children.
A headache tapped at my temples, inside out, as I took my coffee and stepped outside. Our backyard was an oasis of beauty on that sunny, warm California morning. The kids were off to school, and I was reading a book that was supposed to help me understand me better. (So said my therapist.) I didn't want to. Who wants to read about incest? But if I was going to protect my kids, I was going to have to toughen up, so I locked eyes on the page and got to it.
Soon I had to get up to get a box of Kleenex. The author gave language to my tumbled emotions. To feelings I couldn't have described. She was adamant - it is never a child's fault. Not my fault? Your reactions were normal given abnormal circumstances. They were? Through shimmering tears, feeling validated for the first time in my life about the way I saw my history, a long dormant emotion stretched in my heart. Hope. I'm not crazy. I'm. Not. Crazy.
I had a lot of work to do to get healthy, and it took time. I still have residual vulnerabilities related to my childhood. But I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that one can rise from victim to victor. Here are a few tips gathered over time:
Trust - The inner you that went into hiding, as a child, needs to know the "adult" you is safe. To build trust, treat the wounded "you" the way you would have liked to have been treated when you were little.
Validate - Validate you by acknowledging that the sexual abuse you were subjected to (or any abuse) wounded you, clear to the depths of your soul. Your response to being wounded was completely normal under abnormal circumstances.
Be angry - It's okay to be angry. In fact, it's better than okay. Be enraged at the injustice. You have to get angry before you can get well. Think of your anger as a healthy response. It is.
Grieve - Mourn your betrayal, mourn what 'might have been,' what your family could have looked like, what a carefree childhood should have felt like. Grieve your loss. People who bury their grief stay stuck in it.
Allow sorrow - Feel sadness for your inner child's pain. It was so lonely - this feeling that there was something, somehow, wrong with you.
Face forward - Acknowledge your history - but do not let it define you. Believe you are strong enough. You are - you survived. You are stronger than you think.
I am who I am today because of my history. I didn't choose my mom and dad, I was born to them. I would be a different Laura -- not better, not worse -- just different, had I had another set of parents. What I know is that because I experienced what I did, I understand the heart of another in the way only those who share a history of childhood abuse can. In this I am certain: if I can do it, so can you.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-656-HOPE for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.
Feds turn tables on child sexual predators, use their own technology against them
by Jerry Markon
Since the dawn of the digital age, new technologies have helped fuel a surge in child sexual abuse and online exploitation, sending law enforcement officials scrambling to keep up with the lewd behavior by computer.
Now, increasingly, the feds are turning the tables: using the bad guys' own technology against them. Through better computer processing power, quicker culling of online images and use of social media, law enforcement officials are making more arrests and finding more child victims, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is helping to lead the charge.
"The use of technology is a double-edge sword,” said Mike Prado, an associate deputy assistant director for Homeland Security Investigations and head of ICE's newly expanded cybercrime center in Fairfax, Va. “Child pornography has proliferated because off the Internet, the availability of digital cameras, web cameras, and increased processing power. But from our perspective, we're able to use that technology to our advantage in a lot of ways.”
ICE, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, announced this week that its Homeland Security Investigations arm had arrested or assisted in the arrest of 2,394 child predators worldwide in 2015, an increase of 150 percent since 2010. The agency also identified or rescued more than 1,000 victims of child sexual abuse and online exploitation in 2015, a number that officials said has also grown substantially in recent years. The agency did not begin keeping reliable statistics on victims until 2013.
ICE officials attributed the increase in great part to their better use of technology. Working with private industry and through their own in-house experts, they said they have vastly expanded and quickened their ability to review tons of data in a short amount of time, search computer hard drives and use digital cameras to better identify child victims. Every year, ICE officials said, their forensic analysts can comb through about 40 percent more data collected from search warrants than the previous year.
The agency has also expanded its use of social media and a smartphone app launched in 2013 to seek the public's help with fugitives and suspected child predators, an app that it says was the first of its kind in U.S. federal law enforcement.
ICE was created by the 2002 merger of customs and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. Although it is far better known for enforcing immigration laws, its agents also investigate crimes such as terrorism and narcotics smuggling. Child exploitation falls within ICE's jurisdiction because so much of it crosses international borders, and the agency says it is a huge priority.
The better technology has “enhanced our abilities significantly,” said Prado, who added that even as law enforcement scrambles to keep up with child predators, “the problem is getting worse, not better, unfortunately. It's becoming easier to photograph and video, to document the abuse of a child and share it with someone around the world.”
Still, there are also more successes, such as when Homeland Security Investigations used social and traditional media in March to seek help identifying a man seen on a video molesting an 8-year-old girl. A North Carolina man was soon charged, after more than 1.6 million views on Facebook and Twitter led to more than 80 tips.
And just last week, ICE officials used the smartphone app and other social and traditional media to help find a Michigan couple who had fled during a child pornography investigation. The pair has been charged with producing and conspiring to produce child pornography.
ICE Director Sarah R. Saldaña said abusers of children should expect more of the same. “When a child is being sexually abused or exploited, it's a race against time for investigators to identify and rescue that child,” she said in a statement this week. “ICE is fully committed to conducting victim-centered investigations in which the identification, rescue, and stabilization of the victim is the first priority.”
Alabama police charge 8-year-old with murder in death of 1-year-old
by Ed Payne
An 8-year-old boy has been charged with murder in the beating death of a 1-year-old girl while their mothers went out clubbing, Birmingham, Alabama, police said.
The girl's mom, Katerra Lewis, has been charged with manslaughter in the case.
"The sad part is you had an adult mother here who had the audacity to leave her 1-year-old in the custody of several other children at the house and none of those kids were over the age of 8," Lt. Sean Edwards said at a Tuesday news conference covered by CNN affiliate WBRC.
"It is believed while the mother and friend were at the club; the 8 year old viciously attacked the 1 year old because the 1 year old would not stop crying," a police statement said. "The 1 year old suffered from severe head trauma as well as major internal organ damage which ultimately lead to her death."
Out for the night
According to police, Lewis and her friend left their kids alone around 11 p.m. on October 10 to go to a club. At least five children were left alone, none older than 8.
When the women returned around 2 a.m, they didn't check on the children.
Lewis found her baby unresponsive in her crib hours later and called authorities, police said. The Jefferson County Coroner ruled the death a homicide.
The 8-year-old is in the custody of the state Department of Human Resources.
Edwards said the Birmingham Police Department has never charged someone so young with murder before.
For the infant's mother, the cost could go well beyond any possible sentence if convicted of manslaughter.
"I think her punishment is going to be something she'll have to live with the rest of her life, her actions that night, choosing the club over taking care of her 1-year-old," Edwards said.
I was very scared - Lorena Bobbitt
by Andrew Buncombe
New York - It is more than 20 years since Lorena Bobbitt made herself one of the most talked-about victims of sexual abuse in history by slicing off her husband's penis as he slept, and throwing it into a field.
She was found not guilty of assaulting John Wayne Bobbit; and he was acquitted of the spousal rape on her that she said had made her snap.
He went on to start a rock band and then became an actor in adult movies, to pay his medical bills for the nine-hour operation to reattach his appendage.
He was recently seriously injured in a road accident.
Now, Lorena Bobbitt has reappeared to reveal the life she has built for herself in the years since, her new husband with whom she had a child, and the work she has done establishing a foundation to help abused women and children.
Surprisingly, she also claimed that her ex-husband had repeatedly tried to contact her since that fateful night.
“He tried. But I always deleted his number,” the 46-year-old said, speaking on Steve Harvey's chat show. “I mean, you know, I have my life. I have a new life now and I just want to focus on what is positive, and I have surrounded myself with positive people.”
The woman who leapt unwillingly to international celebrity was charged with malicious wounding, but was acquitted on grounds of temporary insanity. She spent 45 days under psychiatric evaluation.
Appearing on Harvey's show, Bobbitt received rapturous applause from the audience.
“Few tales of lovers who lost it have left a bigger impact than John and Lorena Bobbitt,” said Harvey.
“Their volatile marriage, filled with allegations of abuse and infidelity, came to a gruesome conclusion when, in a fit of rage, Lorena took the one thing most precious to her husband and committed the one act every man fears the most.”
Bobbit told the mainly female audience that she realised her story was more than a little strange, but that it was important to highlight the years of alleged domestic abuse she suffered.
“My body couldn't take it. My mind couldn't take it. I was very scared, so obviously I snapped,” she said. “I cut off his penis because he abused me that much.
“That's what happens when a man pushes a woman so far and so low. I found myself in the street with a penis in one hand and the knife in the other,” Bobbitt said. “So yeah, that happens.”
She said she now lived in Virginia with her second husband, David Bellinger and her 10-year-old daughter, Olivia, and was committed to charity work.
She had founded Lorena's Red Wagon in order to help domestic abuse survivors. “It basically helps women and children through family-oriented activities... I can provide for them.
“When a victim leaves the house they don't have time to pack. They just take the first opportunity they get to leave,” she said.
“If any child in the shelter has a birthday we bring cakes... I want to bring hope to women and children of domestic abuse, and that's what we do.”
Abuse survivors turn to vigilantism: 'it shouldn't be us doing this work'
‘Paedophile hunters' say not enough is being done about online grooming, but police say such groups put children at risk and jeopardise official investigations
by Robert Booth
Two child abuse survivors have turned to internet vigilantism to trap paedophiles after becoming frustrated at a lack of police resources to tackle online grooming.
The men have begun posing as 13- and 14-year-old girls in Facebook groups and chatrooms to carry out stings on men who try to meet for sex. Operating under the banner of Paedophile Hunters London, they have secured one conviction, and six other men they have targeted are facing charges including attempted sexual assault.
Jay, 29, who requested that his real name was not used, said he considered the stings “my therapy”. His colleague, JB, 36, said: “Being a survivor of child abuse. I believe no other child should suffer what I went through, so if I can stop a child being raped, tortured or even murdered, that is what I should do.”
They said they wanted to expose “a lack of funding or cuts where not enough is being done to stop this vile crime”.
One of the men arrested following their sting had told them he wanted to have sex with a six-year-old and had already had sex with a 14-year old, a crime of rape. “It should not be us, the public, doing this work,” they said. “But where the police and authorities fail to act, we must step up to prevent others being hurt.”
Police deny failing to act against online child grooming and are urging PHL and similar web vigilante groups to stop. At least a dozen groups have been operating in the UK in the last two years under names such as Dark Justice and Letzgo Hunting. A new group, Unknown TV, launched in September in south-east London and claims to have carried out 16 stings in the last month, including five in one night.
Unknown TV has used physical force to detain targets. Last week police were called out to one of the group's stings following an erroneous report they were planning to use baseball bats. The group has appealed to supporters for funds to buy stab vests.
The paedophile hunters confront suspected abusers in public and then post videos of the stings online. Despite providing evidence leading to several convictions, detectives say the practice puts children at risk and jeopardises official investigations.
“Vigilantes like this should not continue because they are taking risks they don't understand,” said the Norfolk police's Ch Const Simon Bailey, the national policing lead on child abuse. “Revealing the identity of suspected paedophiles gives the suspect the opportunity to destroy evidence before the police can investigate them. It can jeopardise ongoing police investigations, and these people have no way of safeguarding child victims.”
He said people wrongly accused in public may be tempted to kill themselves. “That is an appalling consequence to contemplate,” he said.
The National Police Chiefs Council said that despite expected nationwide cuts of up to 25% in central government funding, they are prioritising child sex abuse and anti-grooming investigations. The National Crime Agency said it set up a joint operations centre with GCHQ to target child sexual exploitation.
JB and Jay showed the Guardian how they joined Facebook groups where older men sought to meet young girls, and then posed as children. Early in the exchanges the hunters state their age and ask if that is OK with the man. Often the messages will then turn sexual. One Scottish man said he wanted to meet JB's 14-year-old decoy and exchange naked pictures with her. He sent her several pictures of his penis.
When Jay first entered chatrooms to set up his decoy character, he said, he was “absolutely disgusted” by the explicit way adult men would talk to people they believed to be children. “They wouldn't do it on the street, but on the internet it is a different world and it is not being policed,” he said.
He admitted that his first instinct when preparing to confront suspected paedophiles in public was to “give them a good kicking”, but said he resisted the urge. “The adrenaline was running through me like never before,” he said of his first sting.
When preparing to confront a “very muscular” suspect who “had no life in his eyes” recently, JB became so afraid for his safety that he aborted his plans and called the police. The man was arrested and charged.
PHL insists it does not reveal the identity of its targets until conviction, but other groups do. Last month Unknown TV, whose members wear branded black tops, broadcast a video of one man being marched through a town centre, his captors calling out to passersby: “You want to know what a paedophile looks like? This is what he looks like.”
In one film they pinned a man to the ground and in another they frogmarched a man, who appeared to have mental health issues, off a train platform.
Another hunter, Shane Brannigan, admitted in September that encounters could teeter on the brink of violence. “Not sure how much longer I can contain myself,” he said in a Facebook post. “Looking forward to one coming at me so I can defend myself.”
He added: “We have absolutely no duty of care for any nonce we expose, the police and government and other limp wristed pc Toby's [politically correct fool] give them plenty of that.”
Paedophile hunters came to public prominence in 2013 when the Midlands groups Letzgo Hunting and Stinson Hunter mounted several stings that resulted in convictions. But it can be rough justice. Gary Cleary, a man accused by Letzgo Hunting, subsequently killed himself.
Asked about the activities of paedophile hunters, a Scotland Yard spokesperson said: “The Metropolitan police service does not support activities by individuals to target suspected paedophiles. This type of action could jeopardise or interfere with ongoing investigations, and our advice to anyone who has information about suspected child sex abuse – online or otherwise – is to contact police so we can investigate.”
Lawmakers say Minnesota is not putting child safety first in abuse cases
by Don Davis
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota legislators who crafted legislation earlier this year to make sure a child's safety is first priority in abuse cases say the state is not following through with that requirement.
Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, opened a Tuesday meeting of a legislative child abuse task force meeting chastising state and county officials working on the issue for not putting safety first. "When you walk in, that child has to be safe."
"People seem to have forgotten safety," Sen. Kathy Sheran, D-Mankato, said.
Kresha and Sheran, co-chairs of the task force, did not like the mission statement of the county-state panel working to implement this year's child safety law: "Children are positioned within their cultural foundation and their families to achieve their fullest potential."
The legislators said the mission statement does not say children's safety should be the top priority. Sheran said state and county officials are going down a "slippery slide" away from safety first.
Legislators earlier this year passed a bill, signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton, to change the priority in child abuse cases away from keeping the child in his or her family. Instead, the new law specifically says a child's safety must be the paramount concern.
Assistant Human Services Commissioner Jim Koppel said in an interview that he disagrees with Sheran, Kresha and other legislators critical of his department.
"I think we have child safety as the paramount concern," he said. "I think the department is following the intent very well."
Others in his department pointed out that the "vision" of the state-county task force, listed even before the mission statement, puts "safe children" first. And right after the mission statement comes the goal that "children are safe."
The new law and discussion that surrounded a well-publicized child abuse case prompted changes in counties.
"We are doing a better job assessing, we are going to be doing a much better job providing the right information to the right people so the right actions can be taken," Koppel said.
Child abuse hit center stage early this year when reports surfaced that 4-year-old Eric Dean died in Pope County two years ago after 15 reports had been filed stating that he may have been abused. The county child-protection agency investigated one report and one was given to law enforcement officers, even though state law requires that every suspected abuse case should be referred to law enforcement.
With that as background, lawmakers easily passed legislation aimed at spurring more investigation into child abuse reports and making more information available to investigators.
Koppel said many counties changed how they dealt with child abuse after reading about the Dean case, before the state made any changes. Counties have primary responsibility to investigate abuse.
A governor's task force on the issue made 93 recommendations for changes. Eight were included in this year's law, many can be implemented without new laws, some are expected to be debated in future legislatures and the Human Services Department says some are unworkable as written.
Kresha said that the 2016 legislative session, to last just 10 weeks, will be too short to make further changes in child abuse laws, but the issue likely will arise again in 2017.
'Guardians of the Children' biker org helps victims of sexual abuse
by Samantha Esquivel
ROSWELL, NM -- While they may look intimidating, Guardians of the Children is a biker organization that has dedicated itself to building awareness and providing unconditional support to children that are victims of sexual abuse.
“What we are is a child abuse advocacy group. We are not a biker gang, we are not a club, we are not an MC, but we do a ride and most of us do ride bikes and we help out kids,” said Rocket, one of founders of Guardians of the Children.
Guardians of the Children in the Pecos Valley Chapter is present in the tri-county areas of southeastern New Mexico - working in Chavez, Eddy and Lee counties.
“Just because the abuse stops doesn't mean that the damage is gone. Some of these kids have no hope. Until we finally get introduced to them, they don't know where to go. They don't know where to turn, and it isn't just the children - it's the families we are here to help too,” said Rocket.
Originally, The Guardians of the Children biker group was started in San Antonio in 2000. In 2014, Rocket and four others founded and began the southeastern New Mexico chapter.
Mark and his family recently have been supported by the Guardians of Children for the past six months and say the group has impacted his and his family's life for the better.
“One of the biggest things they have done is come along side us in a time that is very dark and very bad and given the comfort to our family,” said Mark.
Today, there are about 40 members; all take part in helping families deal with stress and overcoming sexual abuse. The organization also works hand-in-hand with other advocacy groups like Children Advocacy Agencies and Victim Assistance Groups to raise awareness of sexual abuse.
For more information on the Guardians of Children visit: guardiansofthechildren.com
Escaping the Streets: Shreveport-Bossier City hotbed for human trafficking
by Charisse Gibson
SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) -- It's a taboo topic that can make the hairs stand on the back of parents' necks, but still some believe their child could never become the victim of human trafficking.
Human trafficking and molestation have proven to be gateways into prostitution and yes, there is a difference.
When a child is under the age of 18 and is forced to have sex for money, that child becomes a victim, not a willing participant. It turns out, the Shreveport-Bossier City area sees many victims and one of the key factors could be location.
Thelma Stewart, a victim of human trafficking, says her childhood didn't consist of visits to the park or family pictures but sexual, physical and emotional abuse. When she decided to stand up for herself, she was put out of the house at just 11 years old. Thelma was alone and unwanted, making her the perfect target for sex traffickers.
"She told me about this big old house and all of these other little girls," says Thelma. "I wasn't the youngest I had a friend there. Her name was Crystal, she was 9 years old. She didn't make it out."
Thelma says she made it out of the trafficking house she referred to as "The Agency" thanks to dark luck.
"The last guy who rented me, he ended up overdosing, so I ended up busting a window out and leaving," says Thelma. "For the next year and half, I was in a mental institution when I was found wandering the streets. I was 13 years old."
Thelma's childhood trauma would lead to her addiction to heroin. For work, she did the only thing she knew to do: have sex for money. Unfortunately, Thelma's case isn't so uncommon. Prostitution and sex trafficking isn't as glamorous as you see in Hollywood films like "Pretty Woman" or television shows like "The Client List," and unlike the movie "Taken," it isn't just happening overseas. In Thelma's case, it was happening in Houston, Texas.
Laurie McGeehee hears stories like Thelma's all too often. She says a number of juveniles, mostly runaways, that come into the Caddo Detention Center have fallen victim to sex trafficking.
"They would look malnourished to us, a lot of them would have an STD (sexually-transmitted disease) or had gone without sleep," says Laurie. "They get recruited based on what their needs are. If they are a runaway they are automatically in survival mode, so they need food, shelter, clothes, a place to stay and they need to be safe."
According to Laurie, there is no discrimination when it comes to recruitment. As we saw in Thelma's case, men and women recruit for sex trafficking. Some young girls have also been known to be trafficked by their own family members, which usually begins with a pattern of molestation in the home.
Jessica Miller, Executive Director at the Gingerbread House, says they serve up to 54 new children every month who have been molested or trafficked in the Shreveport area which totals up to about 650 for the year. In order to put the abusers behind bars, the Gingerbread House conducts forensic interviews to help these victims with their testimony before it's too late.
"The average starting age of a 'prostitute,' as they would like to call it is 1. That is a child who is a victim of a crime," says Miller. "That is not a child who makes the choice to live that lifestyle. Last year in 2014 we served 28 victims of child trafficking right here in our community. I's slavery on our very own soil."
Both Jessica and Laurie say most women that are prostituted have suffered from some sort of sexual abuse in their childhood which means those 650 children each year who are sent to the Gingerbread House risk being swept into human trafficking and inevitably prostitution.
The reason it's happening in Shreveport and Bossier City could have a lot to do with location.
FBI Special Agent Chris Cantrell says the proximity of Shreveport to I-20 and the I-49 corridors make the area a perfect target for sex traffickers and pimps.
"Most of our arrests are those individuals that are transporting the victims from Dallas to Atlanta and maybe north to New York or vice versa," says Cantrell.
He recently headed up Operation Cross Country, a joint national operation conducted for the past few years by local law enforcement and the FBI to arrest pimps and prostitutes and to rescue children. This year, that sting led to the recovery of 149 children nationwide, including 2 in Shreveport. He says each year gets more difficult since the game of "sex for sale" has changed and pimps and traffickers are making their deals online, making it difficult for the FBI to track them all.
"It has now been involved into a larger area of concern using the internet, social media," says Cantrell. "We have found that it's now children of younger ages and it's a challenge because there are a variety of sites. It has become a venue subject to criminals to use the social sites to do recruitment."
When children are rescued from sex trafficking, organizations like the Gingerbread house and a new response team at the Caddo Juvenile Detention Center work to get them help in hopes of reversing the damage already done by their abusers.
For those who feel they are too far gone into this lifestyle, there are places like Purchased. Founder Cassie Hammet says it is a ministry that helps to re-teach women who have lived their lives in prostitution how to get off the streets and into legitimate employment. It also offers them medical care and helps them to dig deep to the roots of their problems.
"The reality is they're broken on every level most of the time," says Hammet. "It's hard. It's hard for them to leave the sex industry and what we want to be is a program that acknowledges that it's hard."
Thelma started the program 2 months ago, hoping to graduate and become a voice of recovery for women forced into this life. She hopes to one day return to the very streets that caused her so much pain, and "be one of those that rescues that little girl on the other side of that door. I would love to be."
If you have a suspicion that a minor is being sexually abused, you can call your local police or the Gingerbread House at 318-674-2900. If you know a woman who needs help to get out of the sex industry, you can visit the PURCHASED website.
Human trafficking survivor: I was raped 43,200 times
by Rafael Romo
Mexico City (CNN)Karla Jacinto is sitting in a serene garden. She looks at the ordinary sights of flowers and can hear people beyond the garden walls, walking and talking in Mexico City.
She looks straight into my eyes, her voice cracking slightly, as she tells me the number she wants me to remember -- 43,200.
By her own estimate, 43,200 is the number of times she was raped after falling into the hands of human traffickers.
She says up to 30 johns a day, seven days a week, for the best part of four years -- 43,200.
Her story highlights the brutal realities of human trafficking in Mexico and the United States, an underworld that has destroyed the lives of tens of thousands of Mexican girls like Karla.
Human trafficking has become a trade so lucrative and prevalent, that it knows no borders and links towns in central Mexico with cities like Atlanta and New York.
U.S. and Mexican officials both point to a town in central Mexico that for years has been a major source of human trafficking rings and a place where victims are taken before being eventually forced into prostitution. The town is called Tenancingo.
Even though it has a population of about 13,000, Susan Coppedge, the U.S. State Department's Ambassador at Large to Combat Human trafficking, says it has an oversized reputation when it comes to prostitution and pimping.
"That's what the town does. That is their industry," Coppedge says. "And yet in smaller, rural communities the young girls don't have any idea that this is what the town's reputation is, so they are not suspicious of the men who come from there. They think they have got a great future with this person. They think they love and it is the same story of recruitment every time."
Mistreated from the age of 5
Karla says she was abused for as long as she can remember and felt rejected by her mother. "I came from a dysfunctional family. I was sexually abused and mistreated from the age of 5 by a relative,' she says.
When she was 12 she was targeted by a trafficker who lured her away using kind words and a fast car.
She says she was waiting for some friends near a subway station in Mexico City, when a little boy selling sweets came up to her, telling her somebody was sending her a piece of candy as a gift.
Five minutes later, Karla says, an older man was talking to her, telling her that he was a used car salesman.
The initial awkwardness disappeared as soon as the man started telling her that he was also abused as a boy. He was also very affectionate and quite a gentleman, she says.
They exchanged phone numbers and when he called a week later, Karla says she got excited. He asked her to go on a trip to nearby Puebla with him and dazzled her by showing up driving a bright red Firebird Trans Am.
"When I saw the car I couldn't believe it. I was very impressed by such a big car. It was exciting for me. He asked me to get in the car to go places," she says.
'Red flags' were everywhere
It didn't take long for the man, who at 22 was 10 years older than Karla, to convince her to leave with him, especially after Karla's mother didn't open the door one night when she came home a little too late.
"The following day I left with him. I lived with him for three months during which he treated me very well. He loved on me, he bought me clothes, gave me attention, bought me shoes, flowers, chocolates, everything was beautiful," Karla says.
But there were red flags everywhere also.
Karla says her boyfriend would leave her by herself for a week in their apartment. His cousins would show up with new girls every week. When she finally mustered the courage to ask what business they were in, he told her the truth. "They're pimps," he said.
"A few days later he started telling me everything I had to do; the positions, how much I need to charge, the things I had to do with the client and for how long, how I was to treat them and how I had to talk to them so that they would give me more money," Karla says.
Four years of hell
It was the beginning of four years of hell. The first time she was forced to work as a prostitute she was taken to Guadalajara, one of Mexico's largest cities.
"I started at 10 a.m. and finished at midnight. We were in Guadalajara for a week. Do the math. Twenty per day for a week. Some men would laugh at me because I was crying. I had to close my eyes so that that I wouldn't see what they were doing to me, so that I wouldn't feel anything," Karla says.
There would be several other cities. She would be sent to brothels, roadside motels, streets known for prostitution and even homes. There were no holidays or days off, and after the first few days, she was made to see at least 30 customers a day, seven days a week.
Karla tells how she was attacked by her trafficker after a john gave her a hickey. "He started beating me with a chain in all of my body. He punched me with his fists, he kicked me, pulled my hair, spit at me in the face, and that day was when he also burned me with the iron. I told him I wanted to leave and he was accusing me of falling in love with a customer. He told me I like being a whore."
And then came a child...
One day, when she was working at a hotel known for prostitution, police showed up. They kicked out of all of the customers, Karla says, and shut down the hotel. She thought it was her lucky day -- a police operation to rescue her and the other girls.
Her relief turned quickly to horror when the officers, about 30 she says, took the girls to several rooms and started shooting video of them in compromising positions. The girls were told the videos would be sent to their families if they didn't do everything they asked.
"I thought they were disgusting. They knew we were minors. We were not even developed. We had sad faces. There were girls who were only 10 years old. There were girls who were crying. They told the officers they were minors and nobody paid attention," Karla says. She was 13 years old at the time.
In her nightmare world even a pregnancy was cause for horror not joy.
Karla gave birth at 15 to a girl -- a baby fathered by the pimp who would use the daughter to tighten the noose around her neck: if she didn't fulfill his every wish, he would either harm or kill the baby.
He took the baby away from her a month after the baby was born, and she was not allowed to see her again until the girl was more than a year old.
Karla Jacinto was finally rescued in 2006 during an anti-trafficking operation in Mexico City.
Her ordeal lasted four very long and tormenting years. She was still a minor, only 16, when it ended -- but she has endured a lifetime of horror that will stay with her as long as she lives.
CNN independently verified portions of Karla's story. We have spoken with the United Against Human Trafficking group she was referred to after being rescued, and to senior officials at Road to Home, a shelter where Karla lived for one year after her rescue. Due to the clandestine nature of the human trafficking business, corroborating everything Karla told us is not possible.
'Take the blindfold off your eyes'
Karla is now 23 years old. She has become an outspoken advocate against human trafficking, telling her story at conferences and public events.
She told her story to Pope Francis in July at the Vatican. She also told the U.S. Congress in May.
Her testimony was used as evidence in support for H.R. 515 or Megan's Law that mandates U.S. authorities share information pertaining to American child sex offenders when these convicts attempt to travel abroad.
Her message is that human trafficking and forced prostitution still happens and is a growing problem in our world.
Karla says: "These minors are being abducted, lured, and yanked away from their families. Don't just listen to me. You need to learn about what happened to me and take the blindfold off your eyes."
Doing nothing, she says, puts countless girls at risk of being trafficked for years and raped tens of thousands of times, just like she was.
You can help end sex trafficking by donating to a charity or making another pledge.
Find out more at cnn.com/freedom
Sex Trafficking: The Abuse of Our Time
by George Phillips
The State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report estimates that more than 44,000 trafficking victims have identified throughout the world, out of which the Department of Justice has gained convictions in just 184 cases.
Compare this to the International Labor Organization 2012 estimate of a total of 20.9 million trafficked victims in the world and hundreds of thousands in the United States.
The media usually pays scant attention to their plight.
Esperanza was a sixteen-year-old girl when she was brutally raped by a man named Rey. He forced her to become a sex slave, and eventually brought her to New York, where she was raped, beaten and threatened in brothels day after day
Like so many other trafficking victims, Esperanza could not speak English. A man who saw the bruises on her body connected her with Safe Horizon, a program that specializes in helping trafficking victims; they helped to rescue her.
On the other side of the world from Esperanza, Sina Vann, in Cambodia, was taken as a sex slave when she was 13.
Sina and the other girls were kept in underground cages -- not able to see the difference between night and day. They were then brought into a room where they were raped by man after man.
Sina was rescued in a raid organized by a former sex slave, Somaly Mam, who now runs an anti-trafficking program.
The fifteenth anniversary of the landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 took place recently, on October 28.
After hearing of the plight of many women in Eastern Europe, Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey authored the Act to set forth the legal framework for prosecuting criminals involved in the crimes of modern day slavery, and to support traumatized victims in the U.S.
In addition to strengthening U.S. laws, the TVPA also targeted human trafficking throughout the world. The State Department annually reports on the efforts of all nations to combat trafficking. It also targets with sanctions on non-humanitarian aid countries that fail to meet minimum standards.
Last year, thanks to their lack of effort to combat human trafficking, authoritarian regimes including Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe, along with 19 other countries, were subjected to sanctions.
Nevertheless, even though from 2007 to 2014 there were a total of 218 new or amended anti-trafficking laws in the world, only a small percentage of the world's trafficked victims are being rescued.
The State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report estimates that more than 44,000 trafficking victims have been identified throughout the world, out of which the Department of Justice has gained convictions in just 184 cases.
Compare this to the International Labor Organization 2012 estimate of a total of 20.9 million trafficked victims in the world, with hundreds of thousands in the United States.
A United Nations report also shows that trafficking among children is on the rise. One out of three trafficking victims is a child; girls and women make up 70% of trafficking.
The media usually pays scant attention to their plight. A University of North Carolina study details how, when it comes to stories about sex trafficking victims, the media often fails to report the nature of the crime and the need for action.
Only 16% of sex trafficking cases were covered as a human rights issue, according to the study, and 41% failed to mention possible solutions to the tragedy of human trafficking.
Many newspapers advertise "massage parlors" -- often fronts for trafficking and prostitution rings -- in their sports pages.
At the forefront of trying to uncover massage parlors that are fronts for these rings has been, for example, the Polaris Project, a Washington DC based anti-trafficking organization. It estimates that in the U.S. there are an estimated 9,000 massage parlors, in which, every day, 27,000 women are suffering in prostitution or forced human trafficking. The Polaris Project's hotline has identified more than 2,000 cases of human trafficking related to massage parlors.
In 2010, after years of pleas from the Polaris Project on behalf of victims of trafficking and prostitution, The Washington Post finally announced that it would no longer accept ads from massage parlors.
Yet, fifteen years after the signing of TVPA, the fight continues.
Esperanza and Sina are two of the very few lucky ones who have been rescued from human trafficking. But all of us, especially in the media, need dramatically to increase our efforts to rescue the millions of others trapped in one of the darkest, most vicious human rights violations of our time.
George Phillips served as an aide to Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey, working on human rights issues.
1,004 victims of child sexual exploitation identified, rescued by ICE in 2015
New technologies giving HSI special agents the tools to identify more victims, faster than ever before
WASHINGTON – More than 1,000 victims of child sexual abuse and online exploitation were identified or rescued in fiscal year 2015, as part of child exploitation investigations conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
“When a child is being sexually abused or exploited, it's a race against time for investigators to identify and rescue that child,” said ICE Director Sarah R. Saldaña. “ICE is fully committed to conducting victim-centered investigations in which the identification, rescue, and stabilization of the victim is the first priority. When we identify a victim, more often than not we also find the perpetrator.”
HSI special agents arrested or assisted in the arrest of 2,394 child predators worldwide in 2015, in child exploitation investigations ranging from possession, production and distribution of online child pornography to child enticement and child sex tourism.
In one of the first cases of the fiscal year, a 41-year-old California man, Blake Robert Johnston, was charged federally after his arrest by the Martinez (California) Police Department for transporting a 14-year-old girl from Oregon to northern California to engage in sex. According to court documents, Johnston allegedly met this girl, and several other minor victims, in online chatrooms, groomed them online, and then sexually abused them in order to produce child pornography. More than 60 child victims who were allegedly sexually abused or exploited by Johnston have been identified in 27 states and five countries. Additionally, through this investigation, HSI identified a number of additional child predators who allegedly communicated with Johnston and traded images of child sexual exploitation material.
Using new technology to identify and rescue victims
While new technologies have exponentially increased the volume of child exploitation material being traded and produced, they are also giving investigators the tools to identify more victims, and to intervene faster than ever, according to officials at the ICE Cyber Crimes Center.
In 2015, HSI analyzed more than 7.5 petabytes – or 7,500 terabytes – of data seized during search warrants; this equals 127.5 million hours of music; 150 million file cabinets filled with documents; more than a trillion pages of text; or almost 100 years of high definition video.
More than half of that data was related to child exploitation investigations. And, every year, HSI forensic analysts see about 40 percent more data collected from search warrants than the previous year.
This staggering amount of data means that finding victims in need of rescue can be like finding a needle in a haystack. HSI special agents address this issue by using the latest technology available to help process that data, and by focusing on victim identification.
Four years ago, in 2011, ICE's Cyber Crimes Center launched a victim identification program to improve efforts to find and safeguard victims of child pornography. Since then, ICE has expanded this capability across the agency.
In 2015, the center expanded the footprint and capabilities of its forensic and victim identification laboratories and conducted victim identification training with special agents and analysts across all of its domestic field offices.
HSI also currently participates in a major collaborative effort known as Project VIC, which is helping to create technology solutions that reduce the amount of time to forensically process data, allowing special agents to concentrate their efforts on newly identified victims and reduce the time spent viewing previously discovered explicit material.
Seized data is now being analyzed in weeks, as opposed to six to nine months.
“Project VIC promotes a victim-focused methodology, speeds the identification of child victims and reduces officer burnout,” said Maura Harty, president and CEO of the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, the program coordinator for Project VIC. “Project VIC is very much a public-private partnership, with numerous law enforcement and other governmental entities, as well as private businesses combining forces to achieve our shared goals - there simply is no better way to help children.”
This year, as part of Project VIC, the Department of Homeland Security's Science & Technology (S&T) Directorate's Non-Cooperative Biometrics Program will evaluate and integrate cutting-edge technologies, such as facial recognition and text identification into current HSI forensic tools. The program is aimed specifically at technologies to aid in the fight against child sex abuse, but because those are some of the most technologically challenging cases, the program has implications for other missions as well. S&T plans to have the new tools ready for use by HSI within the next year.
These developments are having a direct effect on the number of sexually abused and exploited children being rescued and the speed with which they are found, according to investigators.
HSI's recent efforts to safeguard and protect children have also included the use of media and social media to make public appeals to help identify and rescue children and locate suspected producers of child pornography. Tips from the public can be reported anonymously through HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app, by phone or online, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download or visit the online suspect alerts page.
HSI cases around the country this year have also included:
In March 2015 , HSI sought the public's help, through the media and social media, to identify an unknown child predator who was seen on video molesting an 8-year-old girl. More than 80 tips received by the HSI Tip Line helped investigators apprehend William Akers in Raleigh, North Carolina, less than 24 hours later. HSI special agents also rescued a 3-year-old child.
In April 2015 , HSI Los Angeles initiated an investigation based on a lead from law enforcement authorities in Switzerland. A search warrant executed a few months later resulted in the seizure of data that contained evidence of child pornography production involving two children, ages 6 and 14, at a Los Angeles residence. HSI arrested Francisco Tzarax and identified the two children in the videos. He is awaiting trial on state charges.
In June 2015 , Kevin Brian Keys was arrested in Michigan for sex trafficking a minor, and for production and distribution of child pornography. Prior to his arrest, a 16-year-old victim was reported missing and possibly abducted. Special agents recovered her in Minnesota in September 2014.
In July 2015 , Kevin Rebbie, a part-time children's book author, was indicted in Pennsylvania after investigators discovered he had placed a hidden camera in a bathroom to record a 15-year-old minor, who he had also sexually abused. A forensic examination of electronic media seized from Rebbie revealed 19 deleted video files of sexually explicit material involving four additional minor victims. Further investigation led to the identification of two additional victims following his arrest.
In October 2015 , HSI Columbus (Ohio) and the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force arrested Eric Chavis for conspiracy to produce child pornography. He and several co-conspirators were charged with producing pornographic rap videos which were uploaded to various social media sites. To date, HSI has identified three juvenile victims: one 16-year-old and two 17-year-olds.
These investigations were conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 14,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
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 to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.
Child sex abuse has lifelong impact: Why victims should talk
by Julie Cornell
OMAHA, Neb. —Some Omaha men recently told the FBI that a west Omaha businessman molested them when they were children. But the FBI says too much time has passed to look into the allegations. Agents would need to talk to more recent victims.
[Video: Child sex abuse has lifelong impact: Why victims should talk]
Therapists are urging other victims to come forward. But it's not as easy as it sounds.
After years of therapy, Dennis Dugan said he can talk about it.
“I knew what he did was wrong, but who's going to believe a 12-year-old,” said Dugan.
He was 12, when he said a close family friend -- an older man -- touched him inappropriately -- outside a hot tub at the man's west Omaha home. He said it happened two different times.
“It's very disturbing,” he said.
Dennis says that molestation created trust and relationship trouble his whole life.
“Dennis is one of the most amazing people I've worked with,” said Sally Kaplan, Dennis' therapist. She's worked with sexual abuse survivors for more than 30 years.
“Dennis came to me 3 years ago as probably one of the most depressed people I've ever worked with. I was so worried about him,” said Kaplan.
Kaplan said Dennis felt empowered, when he went to the F.B.I. with information about the alleged abuser.
“I think he's fooled people for so long, I think some people are afraid to believe the truth,” said Dennis, a 42-year-old businessman.
The FBI told him, his case was too old.
When he started sharing his story, He said other men told him they suffered similar abuse by the same guy.
“He is a master manipulator,” said Dennis.
Dennis and Kaplan are working with Michael Gillum -- trying to rally the other victims to step forward.
“In this case we've made huge strides in identifying likely victims,” said Gillum.
Michael Gillum is the Pennsylvania child psychologist who exposed serial child molester Jerry Sandusky in 2008. Sandusky was later convicted of 45 counts of child abuse.
Some Omaha families hired Gillum as a victim advocate to assist with the case here in Omaha.
“A lot of victims haven't told their wife, parents, brothers or sisters,” said Gillum.
Therapists say victims don't tell because they're afraid. As children, they fear they'll be blamed.
As adults, they worry that they'll be judged.
“Probably the main reason is fear, shame, not wanting to get in trouble,” said Kaplan.
Both Kaplan and Gillum said when victims don't process that childhood trauma it can damage their lives.
“A lot of people don't realize their anxiety, depression, drug or alcohol issues, relationship issues are tied to what happened to them,” said Gillum.
Dennis and other men helped Giillum create a list of 45 boys who had close contact with the man in the 1980's and 90's.
Many of the boys attended Creighton Prep.
Dennis said there will be tremendous healing when there's justice.
“I want him to say it's over. What he did was wrong and he's got to be held accountable for what he did,” said Dennis.
No one has been arrested or charged in connection with this case.
Gillum said any victims' identities will be protected by the F.B.I.
He urges these men to come forward--to get the therapy help they need to process what happened to them. Gillum is available to help victims find qualified therapists. He's acting as the victim advocate in this case.
Gillum can be reached at 570-321-6390 during business hours, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
His website is silentnomore.co. The site links to the "Let Go Foundation", which provides support to adult victims of sexual abuse.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine urges any victims of sexual abuse to report it to law enforcement so that a criminal investigation can begin. Project Harmony in Omaha has trained staff to offer support and resources, 402-595-1326. Trained forensic investigators can help victims sort through the trauma.
Nebraska's Child Abuse and Neglect hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 1-800-652-1999.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said it's important for victims to file a police report so they can investigate.
A Neighbor Can Mean the Difference Between Life and Death for a Child
Communities Need to Get Involved to Help Prevent Child Fatalities and Abuse; Learn the Basic Steps to Help a Child at Risk and Take Action, Says The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children
NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - Nov 9, 2015) - Too many babies have died in the past three months after being thrown out of windows, allegedly by their mothers. Too many children suffer abuse and neglect everyday by family and acquaintances. Too many parents are in crisis, and need assistance. Citizens and neighbors need to get involved to help stop these tragedies and protect children. It can mean the difference between life and death for newborns and children under the age of four.
"Child abuse is 100% preventable, and it is everyone's responsibility to protect children," says Dr. Mary Pulido, Executive Director of The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. "Most child abuse occurs behind closed doors, therefore, it is important for concerned friends, family members and neighbors to make themselves familiar with the signs of abuse and neglect, and learn how to report it if they have suspicions. Reporting a possible child abuse case can be difficult, yes, but it is always better to make the phone call. It may save a child's life."
According to the 2013 national child maltreatment data, approximately 3.5 million reports of child abuse and neglect are reported each year involving more than 6.4 million children. The data estimates that 1520 children died in 2013 from abuse and neglect. Nearly 86% of the children that died were infants to four years old. One or both parents caused the vast majority of those fatalities.
"When a child is brought to the attention of the authorities, the children and their parents can get the help that they need to prevent abuse, strengthen their family and stop another tragedy from occurring," says Dr. Pulido.
A Neighbor's Path to Protecting A Child From Abuse and Neglect
Dr. Pulido says that all citizens should learn the basic steps to help a baby or child at risk, and encourage their neighbors to do the same.
Learn the Signs
Adults should take the time to recognize the red flags for a victim of child abuse.
Some abuse signs are physical:
Bruises and welts on face, lips, mouth, torso, back, buttocks, thighs in various stages of healing; Burns, bite marks, injuries to both eyes or cheeks; "Grab-marks", fractures, head injuries, lacerations or abrasions.
Some abuse signs are behavioral:
Fear of parents and fear of going home; Reports of an injury by the child seem suspicious; Wariness toward adult contact; May wear concealing clothing to hide bruises or injuries; Manifestations of low self-esteem; Suicide attempts.
For more information on the signs and symptoms of both child abuse and neglect, please visit nyspcc.org.
Learn the Numbers
If you witness a child being abused, or hear a child screaming in pain, call 911. The police are trained to handle these calls.
If you have suspicions that a child is at risk, every state has a hotline to make a report. Calls can be made anonymously. The NYSPCC believes even if you are not certain about the specifics, make the call.
National Child Abuse Hotline
1-800-4 A Child
Learn the Resources and the Laws
Every state in the United States has a law that allows an unharmed child to be relinquished to the proper authorities, no questions asked. It was developed as an incentive for mothers in crisis to safely give up their child to designated location where the babies are protected. The locations that are designed Safe Havens vary by state, but they include fire stations, police stations, hospitals, and emergency medical providers by responding to a 911 call or a church. These providers then contact child protective services to let them know the child has been relinquished.
Crisis Nurseries are another option for parents at their wits end or are in an emergency situation whereby they cannot care for their children. These programs were developed to prevent child abuse and neglect. Most offer free 24/7-crisis nursery care for children up to age 12, when parents who are over-stressed, need a break, or have an emergency arise. Usually, a child can be left for up to 72 hours at a time. The services vary, but at most programs, the children can receive medical services, developmental screening and assessment, age appropriate recreational play, education, including transportation to local schools and crisis counseling for parents. The staff at these programs work with the parents to develop a safety plan for the children's return to home.
Parent Crisis Helplines
The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress offers a nationwide crisis helpline for each state. These hotlines offer counseling services for issues such as parental crisis, suicide prevention or domestic violence. They can put the parent in touch with one of the crisis nurseries or explain the Safe Haven law, if it applies. They can also provide a supportive outlet for a stressed out parent to discuss the difficulties that they are having in parenting their children. The counselors range from trained volunteers to paid professional staff. Many operate 24 hours a day and offer services in several languages too.
For more information or to arrange an interview or bylined article with Dr. Pulido, please contact Susan Kriskey, Kriskey + Lane Communications, email@example.com (917) 836 - 5250.
About The New York Society For The Prevention of Cruelty To Children
The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NYSPCC), founded in 1875, is the first -- and one of the most highly respected -- child protection agencies in the world. The NYSPCC responds to the complex needs of abused and neglected children, and those involved in their care, by providing best practice counseling, legal and educational services. Through research, communications and training initiatives, we work to expand these programs to prevent abuse and help more children heal.
The NYSPCC's unique work is used as a model for child welfare agencies across the nation. Since its founding, The NYSPCC has investigated more than 650,000 cases on the behalf of over two million children, and has educated over 46,000 professionals on how to identify and report child abuse and neglect. Please visit www.nyspcc.org for more information.
Exemptions for child abuse reporting weighed
by Jessica Masulli Reyes
WILMINGTON, Del. — A Delaware judge is considering the constitutionality of a state law that exempts priests from being required to report suspected child abuse disclosed during confessions — and, if the law is constitutional, whether it should protect elders in a Jehovah's Witnesses congregation.
The Attorney General's Office filed a lawsuit against the Laurel Delaware Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses last year alleging two elders failed to report to state authorities a sexual relationship between a woman and a 14-year-old boy, both of whom were members of the congregation.
State law says individuals and organizations must report suspected child abuse and neglect immediately via a 24-hour state hotline, unless they learn of the abuse in an attorney-client setting or "that between priest and penitent in a sacramental confession."
On Monday afternoon, Superior Court Judge Mary M. Johnston heard arguments in Wilmington about whether the elders should fall under the exemption for priests. This then led her to question if it is constitutional to have language in a law that only protects clergy of one religion.
The judge, who called the case "very interesting," is expected to issue a ruling later.
A 14-year-old boy disclosed to his mother in January 2013 that he was in a sexual relationship with Katheryn Harris Carmean White, a fellow member of the congregation and a teacher's aide at Seaford Middle School, according to the lawsuit.
The boy and his mother met with elders at the religious hall that same day, and the elders said they would speak with Carmean White regarding the allegations, the suit said.
Four days later, the elders met with Carmean White, but did not call the state hotline, according to the suit.
She was arrested in February 2013 and admitted to authorities that she had sex with the boy about 40 times over a 10-month period. The now 37-year-old woman was convicted of third-degree rape, fourth-degree rape and child endangerment, and is serving a six-year prison sentence.
Francis McNamara, a lawyer arguing on the congregation's behalf, told the judge that Carmean White and the victim shared information about the sexual relationship during confidential meetings that are equivalent to a Catholic confession.
"It is part of that shepherding responsibility," McNamara said about the spiritual nature of the meeting.
The judge questioned whether any conversation between a parishioner and church elder could then be considered confidential and exempt from reporting.
"It depends on the subject matter," he said. "The effectiveness of this statute cannot be only for priests."
?The state, however, said the meeting, especially with Carmean White, was not a sacramental confession.
"The idea of this being confidential is questionable," said Deputy Attorney General Janice Tigani.
The case — and in the question of whether the law is constitutional — could have an impact on reporting in the state. If the law is deemed unconstitutional, priests would then be required to report abuse disclosed to them during confessions.
The judge said the statute's language is problematic. It forces judges to analyze religions to see if certain practices should be considered confessions and to review the intent a person had when they disclosed information, she said.
A similar issue arose in Sussex County recently when Eric Bodenweiser, a former political candidate charged with abusing a young boy in the 1980s, asked a judge to rule his pastor couldn't give prosecution testimony because the conversation he and the pastor had was exempt from mandatory reporting.
The judge in Bodenweiser's case declined to interpret the law as only allowing Catholic confessions and the pastor did testify. That ended in a mistrial; Bodenweiser later pleaded no contest to a lesser charge.
Steven Tyler Uses His “Big Voice” To Help Child Abuse Victims, Launches Janie's Fund
by Janice Malcolm
The iconic rock star that is Aerosmith's frontman Steven Tyler is set to begin building a philanthropic legacy as great as his musical one. On Monday Tyler announced that he would be forming a charity that is dedicated to helping young girls who are victims of child abuse and have suffered through sexual abuse and neglect. The name of the charity group is Janie's Fund, so called for the 1989 Aerosmith song “Janie's Got a Gun.”
Steven Tyler says that the creation of Janie's Fund has been a long time in the making and in fact, the song that inspired the title the band had tackled the systemic issue of child abuse as well as incest through its lyrics. The lyrics are actually about a young girl, abused by her father, getting her revenge.
“Janie's Got A Gun” was initially born of Tyler's desire to help young girls who have been victims of abuse. The philanthropic initiative will put Tyler in a partnership with Youth Villages. In addition to the hope that some much needed healing can be brought to neglected and abused girls, Janie's Fund is also dedicated to bring awareness to the issues these children face and raise money to help implement tried and proven programs to address and overcome the trauma and mental anguish that sexually abused and neglected girls endure.
“As a father and grandfather, I want to focus my energy on things that really matter and leave behind something else in this crazy world along with my music. I am starting Janie's Fund to give a voice to the millions of victims who haven't had one and encourage everyone to join me on this mission.”
Sunday marked the the 26th anniversary of the “Janie's Got a Gun” release, and Tyler took the opportunity to use the platform to launch the fundraising aspect of Janie's Fund. It is scheduled to continue throughout the rest of the year. Those who sign up with the program during the remaining 51 days of 2015 will become Founding Members of Janie's Fund and will also receive limited-edition merchandise from Steven Tyler. Rolling Stone wrote that the singer has launched a Prizeo page that fans and anyone who is interested in helping the program can visit to sign up. The page is full of rewards based on the amount donated that range from a t-shirt, earned by donating $50, to a dinner with Steven Tyler – among other prizes – for donors who give $75,000.
All Founding Members of Janie's Fund will receive acknowledgement on the website, and all donors will be entered into a raffle to win the “Ultimate VIP Rock Experience with Steven Tyler.” Should they win, they can walk down the red carpet with the rock star to celebrate his upcoming solo album's release party and also hang backstage with Tyler before and after the party. The Prizeo page includes an inspiring message from Tyler.
“Now…We can't undo what's been done by abuse in this country…but we CAN let these girls know they are loved, get them the help they need, and assure them that there is MUCH LIGHT at the end of the tunnel.”
Time relayed that the fund was announced through Twitter with the hashtag #JaniesGotAFund and will also be providing “extended care” to girls who leave the foster care system after turning 18. Celebrities like Bono, Jennifer Lopez and Sir Elton John received personal pleas from Tyler for assistance last week. They all received large custom mystery crates that included a handwritten note from Aerosmith's Steven Tyler saying that, “I may have a big mouth, but now I need your voice.” More celebrities are expected to receive crates this week in honor of the “Janie's Fund” charity.
If you or anyone you know is a victim of child abuse, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).
Dealing with Suspicions of Child Abuse by the Other Parent
Divorcing parents often struggle emotionally with the reality of having less time with their children; this adjustment is particularly difficult when one parent believes that the other parent is abusing the children.
by Allison C. Williams
Divorce is a time for making adjustments. Divorcing parents often struggle emotionally with the difficulty of having less time with their children because the children are now residing out of their primary care and/or splitting their time between both parents. This adjustment is particularly cumbersome when one parent believes that the other parent is abusive or neglectful of the children.
Deciding the right course of action is critical. The stakes are high, and making the wrong choice could place your child at risk of serious physical or emotional harm. Here, we discuss the definition of child abuse in New Jersey, which will help you decide if your child may be at risk. We then provide some action steps to identify when your child may be the victim of maltreatment at the hands of their parent.
DEFINITION OF CHILD ABUSE OR NEGLECT
Most parents have an idea of what constitutes child abuse and neglect. Burning a child, leaving a young child home for a weekend alone, failing to feed or diaper a baby and committing sexual abuse on a child victim are pretty obvious examples. However, the New Jersey statute N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21(c) includes six broad categories of conduct far in excess of what we normally consider child abuse. The most frequently cited statutory provision relied upon the Child Protective Services is N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21(c)(4)(b), which defines an abused or neglected child as one who is harmed or placed at imminent risk of harm as his parent or guardian fails to exercise the "minimum degree of care" in providing for the child's needs.
That very broad language was enacted to cover all forms of child maltreatment which could have been prevented had the parent or guardian performed some act or failed to engage in some conduct. To flesh out what this language means, we turn first to the New Jersey Administrative Code, which has a long list of alleged abuse or neglect categories. But, to abbreviate the discussion, one would only know that the categories of potential maltreatment include actual harm (burns, cuts, fractures, etc.), as well as potential harm (risk of mental or emotional impairment; risk of harm due to substance abuse; environment injurious to health or welfare).
Oftentimes, divorcing parents see changes in their children that they attribute to the stress of the change in familial structure. Because the emotional toll of divorce may be substantial for children, parents should be mindful not to assume the child is being harmed by the other parent simply because the child has difficulty separating from one parent at times when he is to go to the other parent, or because the child reports feelings of distress at sleeping over at the other parent's home. These behaviors may be normal. However, a seasoned mental health professional may be required in order to determine whether a child's change in mood, attitude or behavior is concerning for child maltreatment.
Here is a list of a few commonly addressed concerns for child abuse or neglect and what New Jersey Courts have to say about them:
Spanking (and other forms of corporal punishment) - Corporal punishment is legal; however, it cannot be excessive. Corporal punishment that leaves cuts, bruises, welts or requires medical care can be sufficient. If no medical care is needed, look to whether the conduct is isolated or a part of a pattern of abuse. Also, did the circumstances warrant the punishment? Division of Youth & Family Services v. K.A., 413 N.J. Super. 504 (App. Div. 2010)
Domestic Violence - Exposure to domestic violence is not per se child maltreatment. The child must have witnessed an act of domestic violence, and there must be causal relationships demonstrated between witnessing the incident and emotional harm to the child. Division of Youth & Family Services v. S.S., 372 N.J.Super. 13 (App.Div.2004)
Substance abuse/alcoholism - A parent should not exercise visitation, even supervised visitation, while impaired (this includes drugs and alcohol); however, Title 9 is not intended to extend to all parents who imbibe illegal substances at any time. Division of Youth & Family Services v. V.T., 423 N.J. Super. 320 (App Div 2011)
Living conditions - Substandard, dirty and inadequate sleeping conditions are unfortunate incidents of poverty; they do not establish child neglect or abuse. Failure to educate and provide intellectual stimulation was not the intended definition of educational neglect; parent contribution to truancy or interference with normal education is required. Doe v. G. D., 146 N.J.Super. 419 (App.Div.1976)
Sexual abuse/molestation - In order for a court to make a finding that a child has been sexually abused, either the child must testify, or his disclosure of abuse must be corroborated - i.e., there must be some direct or indirect evidence to support the child's statement. Age-inappropriate, precocious sexual knowledge may qualify as corroboration. Division of Youth & Family Services v. Z.P.R., 351 N.J.Super. 427 (App.Div.2002)
The above list is by no means an exhaustive list of child abuse and neglect concerns. But, these are the issues that arise most often in the context of divorce. If you believe that your child may be the subject of child maltreatment, you should consult an attorney who specializes in handling child abuse and neglect matters.
Woman who said she lost child in creek charged with homicide
by WSOC TV
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina woman who said she lost her 5-month-old daughter in a rain-swollen creek told a police officer she entered the water because she was "trying to find God," according to a report released Monday.
Charges against 33-year-old Sarah Lane Toney were upgraded Monday to murder/homicide by child abuse in the death of her daughter, according to court documents. Toney had been charged last week with unlawful conduct toward a child.
The body of her baby, Grace Carlson Santa Cruz, was found Thursday following a two-day search of a creek near the woman's home in Socastee, South Carolina, not far from Myrtle Beach.
Horry County Deputy Coroner Darris Fowler told the AP on Monday that an autopsy last week determined the death was a homicide but the specific cause of death won't be known until toxicology tests are completed, which could take several weeks.
According to the police report, an officer was dispatched Nov. 3 to the home of Toney's neighbor, who said Toney had appeared at her door soaking wet and said she had carried the child into the creek and had come out without her.
Toney told the officer "the water was moving fast and she slipped multiple times and on the last time she lost control" of the child, the report said.
When asked why she entered the water, Toney "initially stated that she (the child) was crying." But moments later she stated "that it was because she was trying to find God," the report said.
The officer's report added that when he interviewed Toney after the incident he found her "to be in emotional distress ...," the report said.
Toney said at a bond hearing last week on the unlawful conduct charge that she didn't intend to put the child in danger but wasn't able to hold onto her in the water.
She was to appear later Monday for a bond hearing on the homicide by child abuse charge which carries a sentence of from 20 years to life in prison.
Authorities said that Toney does not yet have an attorney and has asked to have a public defender appointed to represent her.
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 State Law Enforcement Division records.
She was arrested twice for criminal domestic violence, receiving a one-year probationary sentence in 2010. Toney also has several arrests for shoplifting and traffic-related infractions like driving under the influence and hit and run. State police records don't show jail sentences on those offenses.
Toney is currently on probation from several charges including shoplifting and lying to authorities, according to state records.
When 'parenting' becomes abuse
WANTING the best for their children has caused many parents to become strict and overprotective. Adhering to the principles of the Bible and of their parents and grandparents has also caused many to discipline in excess of what is legally allowable in today's society.
How do you know that your style of parenting has become abuse? Clinical psychologist Dr Pearnel Bell said there are a number basic roles of parents and any decision to prevent a child from accessing any of these constitutes abuse.
"Parents are expected to care for, nurture, and provide food, shelter, clothing, spiritual, emotional and physical care. If a child is lacking significantly any of these areas because of parents' neglect, that constitutes an abuse of parental rights," Dr Bell explained.
She pointed out that some unreasonable parents, often eager for their children to learn new concepts at school or new skills, will go as far as refusing their children food while forcing them to study, or refusing the children access to other needs such as leisure time in a bid to force them to learn.
"Often what we see is an overlap in the cases where children are abused, and there can be a combination of this, for example when a child is denied food, health care attendance, or is physically assaulted by a parent who wants them to learn a lesson," Dr Bell said.
"But this should not be seen as discipline or being strict; this is abuse."
She said an even more common type of abuse meted out by parents who fail to consider the level of emotional damage they may be causing their children is verbal abuse. This, she said, takes the form of words that are frightening, intimidating, and which lower the child's self-esteem. She said while the scars are not present on the skin, these harsh words could severely impact a child's emotional development, and they could become dependent, insecure, fearful adults.
Dr Bell also mentioned that using children as a meal ticket is also characterised as abuse.
"Parents sometimes send their children out to earn a living not only for themselves but for the entire family. This also constitutes neglect and abandonment of a parent's responsibility to provide financially for a child," Dr Bell explained.
She encouraged parents to develop self-control and exercise patience when interacting with their children regardless of the situation in which they find themselves. She said abuse does not only hurt the child, but could transcend several generations since the abused children are at greater risk of becoming abusers themselves.
Protect adopted children with the ‘re-homing' bill
Adoption is usually an arduous process, in part to ensure that parents are not only able to welcome a child into their home, but are also committed to building a family. That's why it is hard to believe that some parents who adopt children actually change their minds and want to give them away. Even harder to believe is that, in some cases, it's perfectly legal to transfer custody of adopted kids to someone else with little to no legal oversight. That's why the Massachusetts Senate introduced and approved a measure that criminalizes the practice, known as “re-homing.” The House should move swiftly to pass the bill as well.
Re-homing is more common in international adoptions, where parents may feel overwhelmed with troubled children who have a history of emotional trauma or need special care. It is a form of human trafficking that went mostly undetected until a Reuters investigation two years ago exposed the practice, documenting instances of adopted children who ended up in the care of sex offenders. The probe also revealed the existence of many online forums where parents who wanted to dissolve an adoption could find interested families who would take them. Shockingly, the custody transfer would happen outside the US legal system — only involving, in most cases, a simple power-of-attorney document.
The Senate recognized the need for safeguards and passed a bill last week, sponsored by Senators Jennifer Flanagan and Bruce Tarr, the minority leader, to regulate transfers of adopted kids. The proposal criminalizes re-homing, establishing fines for people who bypass the Department of Children and Families and adoption agencies to give away or accept, and in some cases, sell or buy children. It also strengthens requirements for adoption agencies to provide pre- and post-adoption services to parents in order to avoid the disruption or termination of the adoption.
Five states have enacted laws to deal with unregulated transfers of adopted children, according to a September report by the US Government Accountability Office. Massachusetts should join them. Re-homing is a deplorable manifestation of the Internet age, where exchanges of goods and services of all kinds are easily facilitated. When adopted children are proffered as the goods, strict laws are needed to protect them from potential abuse and neglect.