Thanksgiving: Survivors of child sexual abuse of yesterday, today and tomorrow
by Vicki Polin -- Skokie Sexual Abuse Examiner
For many families in the United States who celebrate Thanksgiving, it is time of year filled with wonderful memories of families getting together.
Thanksgiving (like any other holiday) often mean that families get together, routines are changed, and there is also the added stress of cleaning and preparing meals. These issues alone can be extremely stress-producing. Unfortunately the reality is that there are parents who are already inclined to use their children as an outlet for emotions and urges, and they are more likely to do so when under the pressure of increased anxiety. Needless to say, many adult survivors of childhood abuse report that their abuse became more intense around and during holidays. For that reason we are asking everyone to say a prayer for the children and their family members, so they get the help they need.
I'm personally asking that each person who reads this article promise to make a phone call, if you suspect a child is either being abused and or neglected, please give that child the gift of a lifetime by calling your local child abuse hot-line regarding your suspicions. Doing so may help prevent any further harm, and it can often lead to a whole family receiving the help and healing that are needed to end the cycle of abuse.
Thanksgiving is a time of year when adult survivors of childhood abuse (emotional, physical and sexual abuse) may be faced with the challenge of deciding if they should go home for the holidays, spend it with friends, or be alone. It is also a time of year for many to have a flood of painful memories reemerge. Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may increase. It is not uncommon for survivors to find it safer to retreat than to participate in holiday functions.
Each individual survivor needs to figure out what works best for them to stay emotionally healthy. It is critical for survivors to be kind to themselves with whatever decisions they make regarding where they choose to spend Thanksgiving: be it with family, friends, or alone. We all need to respect their decisions, especially if a survivors decide not to celebrate.
To reiterate, it is important to be aware that it is not uncommon for symptoms of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) to emerge even after times of relative remission and/or intensify in those already struggling. Survivors may experience an increase in disturbing thoughts, nightmares and flashbacks. Thoughts of self-harm, even suicide may be an issue. The important thing to remember is these feelings are about the past, that the abuse is over, and that it is of utmost importance for you to be kind to and gentle with yourself.
This is written as a reminder to all survivors: YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
If you know someone who is a survivor of childhood abuse (emotional, physical and sexual abuse), it might be a good idea to check up on them a few times over the holidays. Make sure survivors have invitation to thanksgiving dinner, and that if they say no, let them know they can always change their mind and come at the last minute.
Over the years we've spoken to many adult survivors who find it very painful to even consider going to anyone's home for the holiday. Maybe this is true for you, too. It is OK. Someday you may feel different, but if the pain is too intense, it is important that you do things that feel healing to you, it is important that you set boundaries to do what feels safe for you.
Remember that whatever works for you is OK: you are not alone in this struggle, not wrong, not bad for having second and third and forth thoughts about how to celebrate and even whether to celebrate the holiday. Look into yourself and see what you need, than do what you can to do it and be kind to yourself for needing to make these adjustments.
To those of you who are survivors . . . thank you so much for Surviving!
Building Hope: Man Moves Past the Abuse he Suffered as a Child
Civil suit allows prosecution on decades old sexual abuse,
by Tom Holt -- Idaho Falls Post Register
Matt Morgan’s effort to punish his uncle for sexual abuse three decades ago has traveled a unique legal course.
After exhausting traditional legal avenues, Matt Morgan’s legal team used claims of fraud to bring Terry Morgan to justice, winning a $395,000 judgment.
It is a legal tactic that could be used more extensively in the future, especially for those trying to press sexual abuse cases that can’t be prosecuted because the statute of limitations has expired, said Boise attorney Andrew Chasan.
Chasan said the pursuit of Terry Morgan under a fraud claim is innovative and could open doors for other victims. Chasan is currently utilizing a fraud claim against the Boy Scouts of America, alleging that the Idaho branch of the scout group knew scouting posed a danger to young boys.
He said pursuing a single abuser for fraud is inventive.
“It (Morgan’s case) doesn’t have the strength of precedent as if it came from the (Idaho) Supreme Court,” Chasan said. “But it helps prop the door open for others.”
Matt Morgan approached Clint Casey and Dan Skinner in September 2012.
They decided to take a two-pronged approach to the case.
First, they attempted to overturn the state’s statute of limitations for child abuse, which provide a case can’t be prosecuted after five years.
Court records show District Judge Dane Watkins Jr. ruled July 9, 2014, that he would not allow the child abuse claims to proceed. Idaho Code 6-1704 says criminal child abuse claims can be brought forward if the victim is over 18 and becomes aware of the abuse “within five years of the time the child discovers or reasonably should have discovered the act, abuse or exploitation.”
When that claim failed Matt’s attorneys endeavored to find a new route. They argued fraud, basically claiming that Terry Morgan had lied to his nephew.
Watkins allowed the fraud claims to stand. Watkins said the theory behind fraud was not restricted claims of financial harm and that Terry lying to Matt could be considered fraud, court records show.
“Nothing in Idaho expressly confines fraud to commercial transactions,” Watkins said.
The lawyers argued Matt was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and dissociative amnesia in 2010. Dissociative amnesia causes a temporary wipe of the memories of abuse. The diagnosis made litigation possible under a fraud claim. Matt’s affliction opened the door to a fraud claim. Testimony from Matt’s family members saying Terry Morgan groomed Matt for abuse bolstered the case.
A unanimous jury decision on Nov. 6 found that Matt’s uncle had groomed him for sexual abuse which amounted to fraud under Idaho law.
Skinner said this verdict allows accessibility for victims to confront abusers who were never pursued criminally.
“We did a little research and we realized that maybe this is something that hasn’t been done before,” Skinner said.
Chasan said that though this use of fraud is insightful, it has been used before. The most famous case was when defendants sued tobacco companies for damages, claiming companies knew the danger of cancer but kept it from the public.
“The reason (the defendants started to win) was internal documents proving the tobacco companies knew tobacco was a harmful product, but they failed to warn the public,” Chasan said. “That opened (the tobacco companies) to fraud.”
Skinner said Matt’s case cannot yet be utilized on a national level.
Terry Morgan’s attorneys appealed the case to the Idaho Supreme Court on July 2, court records show. If it survives appeal, the decision could become precedent for similar cases nationwide.
“People could use it in district level courts in Idaho,” Skinner said. “But as far as citing to authority in all the other states, we’re not there yet.”
Matt may never see the money because Terry Morgan can’t afford it. But Matt said the real victory is shining a light on child abuse.
“I think the statute of limitations should be changed,” Matt said. “There needs to be some good positive things that come from this experience.”
Stories of lives not 'ruined'
It was inspiring to read stories in last Sunday's Journal Star about local people who were subjected to sexual abuse as children, and went on to successful, rewarding lives.
Too often media emphasize the odious nature of the crime, in a well-meaning effort to convey the impact, and never follow up.
Using phrases like a molester “ruined” his or her life makes it sound as though survivors can never overcome the crime.
Journal Star reporter Riley Johnson found multiple survivors, and through his journalism they told their stories.
The editorial board is sure that we speak for thousands of readers when we say that we hope the stories give other victims hope and confidence that they can deal with the trauma.
Susan Napolitano, who was raped by a relative in Michigan in the 1980s, remembers the night as a teen when she swallowed a half-bottle of aspirin. Rather than dying, she woke to the sound of her heartbeat reverberating in her ears.
“Just get through this s***, and you're going to make it,” she remembers thinking.
And she did.
Today she is an attorney in Lincoln and the mother of three children. “You're not doomed,” Napolitano said. She doesn't want others to ignore what happened to them. She wants them to speak up.
Layne Armstrong did exactly that when he broke one of the most notorious child abuse cases in Lincoln wide open. His abuser, Joe Ballard, was a respected figure in youth sports in Lincoln. Armstrong wore a wire to get evidence. After his courageous act, other victims came forward. Ballard is serving a prison sentence of 34 to 50 years.
Armstrong has every right to draw strength and self-respect from his actions, and he does. “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.”
The most encouraging thing is that the survivors who stepped forward to tell their stories are not alone. There are others. And there is help. There are seven child advocacy centers across Nebraska.
Here are phone numbers to call.
Nebraska Adult and Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline, 800-652-1999.
National Child Abuse Hotline, 800-422-4453.
In an emergency, call 911.
‘Hippie ex-priest' put ‘Spotlight' on sexual abuse
Richard Sipe's studies of celibacy helped uncover the Catholic Church's scandal
by Peter Rowe
In the new movie “Spotlight,” a character describes Richard Sipe as a “hippie ex-priest shacking up with some nun.”
When the real Sipe heard this line, he laughed. The 82-year-old La Jollan is often called worse: Traitor.
Sipe never appears on screen in “Spotlight,” a dramatization of the Boston Globe's 2001-02 investigation of the Catholic Church covering up the crimes of pedophile priests. Yet his insights, formed after decades of research on priests, permeate the film.
A psychotherapist who treated troubled clergy, Sipe drew on about 500 case files for his 1990 study of celibacy, “A Secret World.” Another 500 priests were also interviewed, plus an equal number of lay people who had been sex partners — as adults or children, willing or unwilling — of Catholic clergy.
His conclusions: At any one time, no more than half of priests are practicing celibacy. Most of the others are engaged in sexual relationships with women or men, but Sipe found that 6 percent prey on minors. (After further research, he revised that figure to 6 percent to 9 percent.)
A scholarly work from a small publishing house — New York's Brunner/Mazel — “Secret World” nonetheless rocked a 2,000-year-old global institution.
“This is very important and has to be published,” an abbot told Sipe after reading the manuscript. “But it's a good thing the church no longer castrates or burns at the stake, or you would be in trouble.”
While he escaped execution, Sipe has been verbally flogged for 25 years. TheMediaReport.com, a website decrying “media bias in coverage of sex abuse in the Catholic Church,” calls Sipe “an angry ex-priest” who uses “the issue of clergy sex abuse as a means to advance his attack on the Catholic Church, especially its teachings regarding human sexuality.”
Victims of sexual abuse, though, praise the man and his work.
“He's an absolute hero,” said David Clohessy, executive director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). “He's just a very wise and compassionate man who has made an enormous contribution to understanding and exposing this crisis.”
In his office at home, the walls are covered with reproductions of murals depicting the Last Judgment. A computer dominates one desk, a sculpted nude female torso another. In his lair, Sipe looks neither angelic nor demonic. He looks frail — a walker waits by his chair, thanks to old skiing injuries — yet joyful.
“I don't have any regrets about what I went through,” he said. “I couldn't have accomplished any of this without being a monk and a priest.”
‘What it's about'
Sipe grew up in Minnesota, part of a large Catholic family. He remembers his parents as faithful, not fanatical. It was his idea, not theirs, for the naive ninth-grader to enter a Benedictine seminary.
“I was one of 10 kids,” he said. “You had to stand out in some way!”
He was allowed to date through high school, and 70 years later can still rattle off the names of girlfriends. His monastic preparations continued, though, through college. He became a Benedictine monk in 1953 and a priest in that order in 1959, vowing obedience, poverty and chastity.
That last vow didn't worry him, Sipe said, thanks to his ignorance. “You don't know what it's about, what sex is about, what an adult sexual relationship is or what it's like to fall in love.”
While studying psychiatry and religion in Rome, he grew fascinated by the question of why some priests — such as the Very Rev. Ulric Beste, a Vatican official and a mentor — remained celibate and others did not.
He continued his studies at St. John's University Mental Health Institute in Minnesota and as a fellow at the Menninger Foundation. At Maryland's Seton Psychiatric Institute, a hospital where struggling priests were sent for treatment, he collected data on the sexual lives of his patients.
In 1966, Margaret Mead toured Seton. The anthropologist encouraged the priest to study this matter in a dispassionate manner. To this day, Sipe doesn't refer to errant priests as “pedophiles.”
“I say they are priests who have sex with minors,” he said.
Sipe's tone, especially in “Secret World” and a 2003 sequel, “Celibacy in Crisis,” is free of outrage and judgment. Some victims are disturbed by this clinical approach, but not SNAP's executive director.
“There's just way too much blaming and shaming and anger by people from all sides in this crisis,” Clohessy said. “Richard does a superb job of focusing on behavior and not beliefs, on facts and not theories.”
He's also more than a scholar. As a fellow priest, he understood his peers' struggles.
“I was part of the culture,” he said. “And I was a data keeper.”
That data would help direct the Boston Globe's investigation, which inspired similar probes. As the church's sex scandal erupted around the world, it seemed that no diocese was free of predatory priests — including San Diego.
Persona non grata
In his 30s, Father Sipe fell into a severe depression. In therapy, he came to the conclusion that he could no longer serve as a priest. In 1970, he was granted dispensation from his priestly vows.
Soon after, he married Marianne Benkert, a former nun and psychiatrist who had worked at Baltimore's Loyola University. He opened a private practice, taught, wrote and devoted himself to his new role as husband.
Soon, he was a father. Walter Sipe, the couple's son, graduated from Harvard and enrolled in the UC San Diego School of Medicine. His parents bought a La Jolla home in 1996, where their son took up residence. Three years later, after he graduated, his parents moved in.
Sipe was in La Jolla when the Globe learned of his research. In October 2001, he and Marianne flew to Boston to meet with the journalists. After the Spotlight team's first stories on sexual abuse by clergy appeared in 2002, Sipe was contacted by media from around the world.
He's still sought as a source and an expert witness. To date, he's testified in about 250 cases brought against Roman Catholic priests accused of rape and other sexual crimes. He's also been invited to speak on college campuses, in public forums, in conferences addressing this crisis.
One place he hasn't been invited: The offices of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego.
“I've been blackballed,” Sipe said. “Bishop Robert Brom sent his chancellor here to say I was not welcome in the chancery. If I came, it would only be in the presence of a lawyer.”
In San Diego, so many victims came forward that the diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2007. Later that year, the church agreed to pay $198.1 million to 144 victims. The diocese's bankruptcy petition would be terminated in January 2014.
The diocese, Robert McElroy said when he was named San Diego's bishop this March, had to do a better job of preventing these crimes.
“We can never relax on that issue,” McElroy said then. “We can never think we have done enough to have put that in the past.”
This week, the diocese declined several Union-Tribune requests to outline steps it has taken to prevent a recurrence.
In the long run
These crimes are not committed only by Catholic clergy, a truth that was underscored last week by two news stories. Former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle was sentenced to prison for possessing child pornography and having intercourse with two minors; and the Associated Press reported that military prisons contain more sexual abusers of children than any other type of offender.
Next year, Sipe himself will testify in child sex abuse cases involving two non-Catholic religious leaders.
Yet he is convinced that the crisis in the Catholic Church is unique, and rooted in that institution's attitudes toward sex and gender. While he welcomes the new tone set by Pope Francis, he doesn't expect any rapid changes.
“I think there is something starting,” he said. “But the real change will not come until the church allows optional celibacy and the ordination of women.
“And these changes will cause more problems, and then more changes. This is an evolutionary process.”
Change is constant, even in an institution that seems to move at a glacial pace. Those images of the Last Judgment on the walls of Sipe's study? One is a reproduction of an 11th-century work, showing a welcoming Christ in a vast paradise. Hell is almost an afterthought, shunted to a small corner of the canvas.
“Now look at Michelangelo,” Sipe said, gesturing to the framed poster of the 16th-century painting on the Sistine Chapel's ceiling. Half of this masterwork is devoted to souls being hurled into damnation.
Sipe laughed. “That says it all.”
Years ago, Sipe stopped attending weekly Mass. He's not a member of any parish and doesn't regularly partake of the sacraments. But ask if he's given up on the faith of his childhood, and he smiles.
“My view of being a Catholic is that I am a Catholic in the long run of things,” said the former priest and ex-monk. “I am a part of the change.”
Victim of prolific child sex offender: 'If I didn't come forward, who would come forward?'
Says there is no 'mild predator'
by Jordan Fischer
Michael Crider couldn't let his attacker's story go unanswered.
"I was 12, hadn't quite turned 13 yet … that was when he first made his sexual advances," Crider said.
For nearly three decades, Crider says he's kept the trauma he experienced as a child close to his chest. That changed when he saw Jack Reynolds, a prolific sex offender now living in "sobriety" in Madison County, do an interview with RTV6 last month.
Reynolds, who spoke candidly about his years sexually abusing children – and his years in prison for those crimes – claims to have molested at least 300 victims. Crider was one of them.
"Even when I called in, I contemplated it over the last couple of days, because my face was going to be out there. I was going to be the face of one of those 300 individuals," Crider said. "But if I didn't come forward, who would come forward? There needs to be a face of those victims, and somebody needs to speak up. So that's why I came forward."
A position of trust
Crider first met Reynolds in the '80s while a member of the Boys and Girls Club of Noblesville, where Reynolds was working as a volunteer and referee. He says Reynolds, who was around 40 at the time, often forced him to pose as a relative during the time he abused him.
"He made me call him Uncle Jack," Crider said. "He actually wasn't even married at that particular time, but he was engaged to his wife. And I actually had to sing at their wedding. As his 'nephew.'"
Crider says the attacks from Reynolds continued for more than a year.
"He would follow me around in his vehicle," Crider said. "Sometimes I would make it to school. Sometimes I wouldn't."
Reynolds was eventually sent to prison for 12-and-a-half years when a boy he attempted to molest at a sleepover turned him in. While he was in prison, Crider wrote letters urging he not be paroled. He also had to deal with his own trauma – something that came to a head after his grandmother, who raised him, died when he was 17.
"I was placed in a padded room in St. Vincent's, with, basically, a NERF bat, and I beat the walls for maybe two hours. That's how extensive an impact it had on me," he said. "But I can honestly say that it was liberating getting it off my chest, because I think from that point it no longer made me a victim."
The voice of his abuser
Jack Reynolds contacted RTV6 in October with an offer: He, a convicted sex offender with hundreds of victims, wanted to share his story.
He spent the better part of two decades behind bars, first on a five-year sentence in the Florida correctional system and then for more than 12 years in Indiana. He was released early thanks to a favorable post-conviction relief ruling, but says he hasn't re-offended since 1989, when he was arrested for the final time in Tipton, Indiana.
Reynolds said he came back to Indiana after his incarceration in Florida without any intention of changing his ways.
"I began molesting children [in Indiana] by becoming a high school official with the IHSAA," he said. "I also got married to a woman to hide what I was doing in society. I wanted people around me to think, you know, he's normal. He's married. He has a job and a place to live, there's no reason to question."
Post-prison for the second time, Reynolds married his high school sweetheart Francine, who died in 2007, and pursued continuing sex offender treatment in an aftercare program. He also began attending sex offender counseling groups six times a week.
Reynolds didn't shy away from the reality of his life: He wears rubber bands every day to snap himself when he gets "urges" -- desires to re-offend that still well up after 26 years of "sobriety." On his wrists, Reynolds has tattooed "Not today" and "Not ever again" – constant reminders of his past crimes.
Even simple, mundane tasks like going to the grocery store remain a challenge.
"If I'm alone in the store and I have 'eye candy' walking around and I catch myself I will push my cart and say 'No!' out loud. That warns me that I'm in a danger zone," Reynolds said. "People around me can look at me and think I'm crazy, but I do not care. I know what I'm doing. That's part of me remaining safe."
Crider says at that part of the interview, he was horrified.
"I was actually kind of shocked by his responses. First of all I was shocked when, as a grown man, he said he was in a grocery store and he referred to children as 'eye candy.' That was horrific to me in the worst way," Crider said. "I was thinking, for someone who's in rehabilitation, why would you be referring to children in that matter? I just don't see how flipping a rubber
Gripping documentary about ex-NHLer Sheldon Kennedy offers hope to victims of abuse
by Bill Brownstein
The title seems innocuous enough: Swift Current. It's not. It was in this small Saskatchewan town where a hockey-playing teen intent on living the Canadian dream had his world turned upside down.
The documentary Swift Current — making its world TV première Saturday at 9 p.m. on Global — chronicles the nightmare that Sheldon Kennedy underwent at the hands and twisted mind of his predatory coach Graham James. It is a harrowing, heart-wrenching doc yet also one that can offer hope to victims of sexual abuse.
Many are aware of parts of the Kennedy story: He was molested by James as a junior star with the Swift Current Broncos. He went on to an erratic eight-year NHL career — with Detroit, Calgary and Boston — which was essentially undone by his self-destructive behaviour, entailing excessive consumption of alcohol and drugs. He went public in calling out James, who served 3½ years in prison for his crime before his release in 2001. The disgraced coach is now in a Laval prison serving a seven-year sentence after being convicted of sexual assault on former NHLer Theoren Fleury, his cousin Todd Holt and another player — all resulting from Swift Current Broncos days.
He rollerbladed across Canada in 1998 to raise awareness and funds for sexual-abuse victims, and he is the director of the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre for victims of child abuse in Calgary.
The nightmare didn't end for Kennedy after going public with his charges against James and his rollerblading tour of Canada. If anything, it intensified. His demons persisted, and nearly drove him to the brink.
Director Joshua Rofé does a masterful job of filling in the holes and getting Kennedy to open up once-secret compartments.
Rofé goes back to Swift Current to dig up another piece of the puzzle: the 1986 bus crash wherein four of Kennedy's teammates died, and coach James “denied therapy” for the survivors, perhaps because he feared that revelations of sexual molestation of players might surface.
Rofé also focuses on Kennedy's family life in their native Brandon, Man. His dad was aggressive and physically abusive and thus Kennedy proved to be an easy mark for James, who was viewed as a “hockey god.” Kennedy was naïve and was also terrified of James, who he said once threatened him with a shotgun. And so began his descent with drugs and drink in order to forget. He also started cutting himself.
Kennedy's life further deteriorated in the NHL. Marriage and a daughter didn't settle him down. He was consumed with guilt and for not speaking out about his “ugly secret.” When he spoke out, he feared no one would listen, because of his bad-boy reputation. As Kennedy put it: “hockey didn't want to hear about sexual assault.”
But eventually the league and the public did want to hear about it. And suddenly bad-boy Kennedy was cast in another role: “But I wasn't ready to be a superhero.” Uncomfortable with sudden adulation after his rollerblade mission, he fell further. His marriage came apart. His daughter drifted away. He hit rock-bottom.
He sought counselling at seven high-end treatment centres. He wanted to end it all.
Then, through the auspices of the NHL, he entered a rehab facility in 2004. And Kennedy has not only remained clean and sober since but has also helped provide much needed therapy for others who have had to deal with similar abuse dilemmas.
The dramatized TV movie, The Sheldon Kennedy Story, didn't really get to the heart of the story, largely because it was released in 1999 — before his big slide. Kennedy's 2006 autobiography, Why I Didn't Say Anything — The Sheldon Kennedy Story, filled in many of the blanks. But Kennedy feels Swift Current really hits home.
“When (director) Joshua first approached, I said we're not just going to tell the Sheldon Kennedy story all over again, one that many were already familiar with,” Kennedy, 46, says in a phone interview from Calgary. “I felt we really had to focus on the impact of abuse on the victims, which I think society has a hard time understanding — because a lot of it is invisible.
“What we know today is what kind of impact early childhood trauma — sexual and severe physical abuse — has on developing brains. And when kids are living in a state of fear and anxiety and shame constantly, it changes the brain. Whereas back in the day, it was pull ourselves up and we're good to go.”
Kennedy notes that the hardest thing for a victim to do is to come forward to address the abuse.
“That's because most of the time they know the abuser or it's a family member and that when they tell their story, it's over. But what we really wanted to nail in the film is that it's just the beginning and victims probably become more vulnerable after.”
Kennedy is armed with some alarming stats about how the lives of abuse victims unfold: “Kids that are abused are 26 times more likely to end up in the streets; 30 per cent less likely to graduate from high school; 72 per cent of those who have gone into detox have said they were abused as kids; 80 per cent of those with mental-health concerns are all driven from early childhood abuse and trauma. Yet we always wait until someone's on the street or addicted or in prison to try to help them.”
“It's all about connecting the dots. If you look at me and (the two victims appearing in the film), we all had suicidal thoughts. We were all self-harmed. We all acted out various addictions. It's very consistent. And if you look at the impact on our families, it has a huge ripple effect.”
One of the more revealing moments in the doc comes when Kennedy's mother describes how disgusted she was to learn so many years later that she was putting James up in her home, serving him meals and treating him like royalty all the while he was molesting her son.
“The way abusers like Graham James operate is by gaining the trust of parents more than anyone in order to have access to their kids. My mother then felt so awful that she could have fallen for that. But the reality is that I don't know why she would have thought anything different,” the candid Kennedy adds.
“Today we understand that when an adult is spending a disproportionate amount of time with a young person, we need to ask questions, because that's not normal. It hurts when I look at my mom and see the enormous shame and guilt and pain that she's had to live her life with.”
Nor did Kennedy's hockey-playing brother Troy emerge unscathed. Initially, Troy felt jealous about all the attention Sheldon was getting from James.
“Troy, too, carries this shame and guilt about not saying anything. There were whispers and innuendoes about James, and Troy was also playing in the Western Hockey League. But I don't hold grudges against people for not saying stuff. Many just didn't know what to do.
“Yet if we look at Hockey Canada today, it has set in place a mandatory system where every coach gets abuse-awareness training,” he says. “What I like about this film is that it shows the ugly side but it also shows that there's a way to get your life back. And that's the message we have to give to people, because sometimes when you're in those situations, the only way you see out is through suicide. We need to show them that they can be who they believe they are.”
Despite programs and public scrutiny, Kennedy is well aware that predators are ever lurking. His Child Advocacy Centre does 125 investigations a month — just in Calgary alone. “And we believe we're only getting 10 per cent. In 95 per cent of the cases we see, the child knows their abuser and in 47 per cent of them, the abuser is a parent or a guardian.
“There's no question that we've come a long way and Canada is probably leading the pack around the world in terms of creating awareness, but there's still a long way to go. The Graham Jameses of the world operate on levels of ignorance and indifference, and the best thing we can do is create knowledge within ourselves and have the conversation with our family. We may never be able to stop this, but what we can do is give people the courage to come forward, to nip it in the bud before it becomes a terror.”
Kennedy concedes that in his wildest dreams he would never have envisioned himself ending up as an advocate for the abused.
“Absolutely not,” he says. “But I don't think I've ever made a conscious decision to say that this is the work I'm going to do. It just kind of evolved. When I received the Order of Canada last year, I was chatting with Governor-General David Johnston and telling him that 10 years ago the issues that I represent would never be recognized on a level like this — and that I would have been the last person that anyone would have ever thought would get an Order of Canada.”
Clearly, times have changed.
Letter: State needs child abuse registry
Re: The Detroit News' Nov. 18 editorial, “Reject short-sighted child abuse list bills”: As sponsors of Wyatt's Law, which creates a child abuse registry to protect children, we felt the need to respond and clarify what this bill package actually does.
Wyatt's Law was prompted by a constituent of Rep. Sarah Roberts whose son, Wyatt, was severely abused by a repeat child abuser who had previously been prosecuted by Rep. Derek Miller. Wyatt's mother suspected that her ex-husband's girlfriend was abusing her child, yet she was unable to find a resource to find an answer to her suspicions. Our legislation creates that very resource so parents can protect their children from convicted child abusers.
The Detroit News stated that the Michigan State Police already maintains a list of people who have been convicted of child abuse crimes. This is true; however, this list is not a viable resource for parents and guardians. The News is referring to the Internet Criminal History Access Tool system that allows the search of public criminal history records. We considered using this system as part of our legislation, but ICHAT has several problems.
Wyatt's mother had no way of knowing or finding out the date of birth of the suspected child abuser. This would be a common problem many people would face when trying to use ICHAT to find someone convicted of child abuse. The registry we created with Wyatt's Law would be free to search and one would not need to know a person's date of birth to perform a search.
The editorial provided claims we simply don't agree with. First, that simple accusations or reports alone will put someone on the registry. That is absolutely false. Wyatt's Law would only require people who are actually convicted of child abuse to be placed on the child abuse registry. This requires the highest burden of evidence that exists in the American criminal justice system. Second, that parents of abused children will be less likely to report child abuse due to their concern of the possibility of the abuser being put on a registry. A parent will not be inhibited from reporting child abuse when the well-being of their children are at stake .
We understand that some are concerned that this registry may cause social stigma or complications finding a job. However, we are more concerned with preventing repeat child abuse than problems the abusers may experience. If someone is convicted of criminal abuse of an innocent child, they should have to register to help prevent repeat abuse cases.
Rep. Vanessa Guerra , D-Saginaw
Rep. Derek Miller , D-Warren
Rep. Sarah Roberts , D-St. Clair Shores
How witnessing domestic violence damages children
by Cosima Marriner
Children who witness domestic violence during the breakdown of their parents' relationship do worse than their peers socially and academically, become distrusting of adults, and can develop antisocial behaviours.
And a majority of parents who separate, experience physical or emotional abuse during their relationship breakdown, according to a new Australian Institute of Family Studies survey of 6000 recently separated parents.
The study highlights how family violence impacts on children. Half the parents interviewed said their children had been exposed to family violence, and 70 per cent of these believe their children had suffered as a result.
"Our research shows that any exposure to family violence leads to poorer outcomes for children," report author Rae Kaspiew said. "It impacts their educational development and their social and emotional wellbeing. Exposure to a difficult dynamic between the parents impacts the child's ability to develop optimally."
Dr Kaspiew said it was the third study in six years to show the same prevalence of family violence, and the negative effect it has on children. "It's kind of concerning to still be seeing it. It reinforces that reducing the prevalence and impact [of family violence] is very difficult to change."
Parents were most likely to say witnessing family violence had made their child fearful, anxious and upset. Some children became more clingy, while others withdrew emotionally. Children also became scared of other adults who were the same gender as the parent responsible for the abuse at home.
Some separated parents said they felt their relationship with their children had changed as a result of family violence. Mothers particularly reported their child had become more protective of them or other family members in the aftermath.
Parents also observed children having problems with bedwetting, sleeping, eating, being desensitised to violence and aggression, and not wanting to see the other parent. Parents worried about what effect witnessing family violence would have on their children later in life.
Dr Kaspiew said parents in family violence situations needed to be aware of the impact it could be having on their child, and try to prevent them being exposed to the violence.
"You need to pay extra attention to how they're feeling. Some children may need counselling," she said.
One in five kids who had been affected by family violence developed antisocial behaviours such as aggression and violence, with parents suggesting they were modelling negative behaviours they had seen at home.
The study also found that a higher proportion of children who witnessed family violence did worse at school and socially, than those who do not come from violent homes. Young children aged one to three who witnessed prolonged physical abuse exhibited more behaviour problems than their peers.
Emotional abuse is the most common form of family violence parents experience after separating, affecting 61 per cent of women and 55 per cent of men. This abuse includes insults, making defamatory comments, threatening harm, damaging property, monitoring whereabouts, and preventing access to money.
Dr Kaspiew said it was "almost as damaging" for a child to witness emotional abuse as see physical harm at home.
One fifth of parents experienced physical abuse before or during separation, ranging from cuts and bruises to gunshot or stab wounds. The incidence of physical violence fell dramatically after separation, affecting 5 per cent of fathers and 6 per cent of mothers.
Two thirds of parents said their mental health suffered as a result of domestic violence before or during separation. Fathers who experienced domestic violence were more likely to take days off work as a result, while mothers were more likely to cut back on their social activities, and feel insecure and intimidated.
Fayette County has higher rate of children living in foster care than the state
by valerie Honeycutt Spears
Fayette County had a higher rate of children living in foster care from 2012 to 2014 than the state rate, according to child well-being rankings released recently by Kentucky Youth Advocates.
Chief Fayette Family Court Judge Lucinda Masterton said she thinks that the numbers could be the result of the community's heroin problem and a lack of manpower with state social workers.
“It's a combination of really sad factors,” Masterton said.
“We're facing a heroin epidemic,” she said. Also, said the judge, “Families have a succession of cabinet workers. It's frustrating for the families and it's frustrating for the court system. It's frustrating for everybody.”
“The bottom line is we don't have enough social workers who are trained, who are experienced to handle the case load that we have.”
The report says a rate of 52.3 per 1,000 children under the age of 18 are in out-of-home care in Fayette County compared with the state rate of 37.2 per 1,000 children under the age of 18 who lived in out-of-home care due to abuse or neglect.
Out-of-home care includes placements in licensed foster homes with relatives or unrelated caregivers, or institutional placements such as group homes or residential treatment facilities. Data is collected to reflect the county of the case manager's office, which usually corresponds with the county in which a family is being served.
Masterton said efforts are under way to reduce the number of children in out-of-home care in Fayette County.
Fayette has an early assessment program in which parents get intensive case management for issues such as addiction, poverty and domestic violence.
There is a pilot program in Masterton's division operated through the Targeted Assessment Program at the University of Kentucky. The program is a joint effort with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. When a child is placed in foster care, a social worker in the UK program is at the initial hearing and meets with the parent almost immediately to conduct a psychosocial evaluation. They then meet with the parent within the next day to get them treatment and other services more quickly.
In another effort, if appropriate relatives can't be found for a child to live with, officials look for someone who has an emotional connection to the child that is similar to a relative, such as a neighbor.
Also, Masterton said Fayette County officials hope to get a program that is working in Jefferson County. In the Jefferson County program, Masterton said, drug-addicted parents get intense support from mentors, social workers, drug addiction counselors and other professionals so they can maintain custody. Those parents have to show they are making progress with their recovery and solving their other problems.
Anya Weber, a spokeswoman for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said in response that it is not uncommon to expect higher than statewide average out-of-home care numbers in more urban and populated areas, like Fayette County. Substance abuse is a leading risk factor in child abuse and neglect cases and the number of children in court-ordered Cabinet custody, she said.
In Fayette County's Department for Community Based Services office, “We have a high staff turnover rate,” Weber said. “We currently have 14 open positions and are working to fill them to reach the county's full position complement.”
“Staff turnover is higher in in our larger counties, where the department is in more competition with non-state government agencies hiring for social work jobs,” she said.
Fayette County also has a higher rate of young people incarcerated in the juvenile justice system than the state rate, the report said.
From 2012-14, a rate of 45.3 per 1,000 children between the ages 10-17 were booked into a juvenile detention facility compared with a rate of 37.5 per 1,000 children in that age range statewide.
The local numbers involve juvenile cases that originated in Fayette County.
The 2015 Kentucky KIDS COUNT County Data Book released Nov. 15 ranks counties on overall child well-being based on 16 different indicators organized into four domains: Economic Security, Family and Community, Education, and Health.
Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, a Louisville-based advocacy group, said Fayette County's overall performance in economic well-being, health and education is encouraging.
But Brooks said opportunities to “hold families together and, in those cases where that is simply impossible, to support kin raising those kids are not lofty ideas — they are imperatives.”
Another troubling number for Fayette County involves incarcerated youth, Brooks said. He said Kentucky Youth Advocates calls for broad diversion programs and inter-agency collaboration to help children avoid incarceration.
Judge's rare public plea finds adoptive family for teen
by Jim Stingl
It worked! A rare public plea by a judge to find a loving home for a child stuck in residential treatment led to a joyful adoption for 14-year-old Napoleon "Polo" Scott.
That Milwaukee County judge, Christopher Foley, presided at the hearing Friday and, as is his custom, invited Polo to wear a black robe, sit in the judge's chair and bang the gavel to make his own adoption official.
"It feels excellent," said the boy, who smiled nonstop but was too media-shy to say much more, except to thank his new family and the small army of case managers and child welfare workers present in Children's Court.
His pops, as Polo calls him, is Don Carlos Scott Jr., 53, who responded to Foley's plea in my column last year and added the boy to his family of three grown biological children, five foster children, and another boy, Hakeem, 15, whom he adopted two years ago.
Scott, who is divorced and lives on Milwaukee's west side, is program director at New Horizon Center and has worked with at-risk youths for 20 years here. His father was incarcerated for much of Scott's childhood, and Scott promised himself he would be a solid dad to his own kids someday.
After reading about Polo in the newspaper, he contacted Children's Hospital of Wisconsin Community Services and met the boy. They clicked right away.
"We went from there to a couple of day visits, then some extended day visits and an overnight at my home, and then a couple overnights and then we went to transitioning him at my house as a foster kid," Scott said. By then he knew he wanted to adopt Polo.
"He's a loving kid. Hakeem the same way. They both have this desire to be loved and to give love back. I have no problem stepping up to the plate for them," he said.
Looking sharp in his necktie and shiny shoes, Polo was one of 19 children, including one group of four siblings, who joined new families Friday at the Milwaukee Adoption Day celebration. That's good news, of course, but on any given day in Wisconsin approximately 1,200 kids in foster care are in need of a permanent adoptive home.
Children's Court can be a sad place populated with kids who need to be removed from dysfunctional families or punished for juvenile crimes. So adoption proceedings like these are a welcome respite.
Foley, a judge for more than 30 years, has presided over hundreds of adoptions, mostly children much younger than Polo. But this one is special. Polo was a hard case who suffered severe neglect and abuse at home. It was Foley who terminated his parents' rights to the child several years ago.
Polo originally was placed in a foster home with his sister. She was adopted by that family, but he has lived mostly in residential treatment settings, including SaintA in Milwaukee, where he was friends with Hakeem, now his brother. As Polo entered his teenage years, Foley resolved to find the boy a family, one that could handle his academic, emotional and behavioral challenges.
"I think for the people in this room who know this young man," Foley said in court Friday, "he's touched our hearts and our families in a very, very special way. We want him to know that, and to know how much we love him."
The judge thanked Laura and Chris Sandretti and their children who, after his public plea, became friends and mentors to Polo and plan to continue to be in his life. The Sandrettis were in court for the happy event.
Polo's current caseworker, Jordan Koconis-O'Malley, testified that Polo has made significant strides since his foster placement with the Scott family in March. She told me that the boy also thrived in his transition from residential treatment to more of a house setting at Genesee Lake School in Oconomowoc last year and early in 2015. He now attends Washington High School in Milwaukee with an individualized education plan.
As the proceeding concluded, Scott hugged his new son, whom he expects will be with him long past age 18.
"He knows he's loved. He's got a lot of passion, and I've got a lot of passion. And he's going to be safe," Scott said. "He's a kid who quickly lets things go. He doesn't stay focused on negative things. He's always smiling, and he's very helpful. He's just got a lot of joy to himself."
Ex-Subway pitchman Fogle gets more than 15 years
by The Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS | Former Subway pitchman Jared Fogle was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison on Thursday for trading in child pornography and having sex with underage prostitutes, with the judge describing his "perversion and lawlessness" as "extreme."
Judge Tanya Walton Pratt disregarded prosecutors' recommendation that Fogle get 12½ years behind bars, opting for a stiffer term of 15 years and eight months in prison. She could have sentenced him to up to 50 years.
In explaining her sentence, the federal judge noted how fortunate Fogle was to land his lucrative deal to be the face of Subway after he lost more than 200 pounds in college, partly by eating the chain's sandwiches.
"What a gift, to have such a professional windfall fall in your lap," she said. But Pratt said Fogle blew the chance he'd been given by living a double life and pointed out that the crimes he committed weren't victimless.
"The level of perversion and lawlessness exhibited by Mr. Fogle is extreme," Pratt said, who also ordered Fogle to submit to a lifetime of post-prison supervision and pay a $175,000 fine. She recommended that Fogle receive sex offender treatment in prison and said she'll recommend he serve his time at a federal lockup in Littleton, Colorado, that specializes in such treatment.
Fogle didn't show any visible reaction when he heard his sentence, but some family members who were in the courtroom began crying and hugging each other after judge ordered Fogle taken into custody.
Before he was sentenced, the 38-year-old father of two addressed the court, apologizing to his victims and his family and vowing to be a better person.
"I so regret that I let so many of you down," he told the court.
"I want to redeem my life. I want to become a good, decent person. I want to rebuild my life," he said.
Fogle pleaded guilty to one count each of travelling to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor and distribution and receipt of child pornography, as per a deal he struck with prosecutors in August, a month after his suburban Indianapolis home was raided.
Child abuse victim: 'As a young kid, I didn't know what normal was'
by Katie Heinz
INDIANAPOLIS -- Child advocates say they are hopeful Jared Fogle's sentence will offer his victims a sense of support from the justice system.
But a local man who experienced abuse as a child says the physical and emotional scars last a lifetime.
It's something Keith Morris kept quiet for years.
He was repeatedly abused by a national church leader starting when he was 12 years old.
"As a young kid, I didn't know what normal was," Morris said.
Morris says a pastor, urged him to travel with the church leader for a full week.
"About anything you could imagine happened to be that week. I have physical scars from what happened," Morris said.
Morris says he buried his past before attempting suicide almost 25 years later.
"The way that I picked to die was I was going to jump off a bridge because every time this man victimized me, I would fall to the ceiling and watch what was going on," Morris said.
He is not alone.
Child advocates say the emotional scars from abuse never go away and the recovery is lifelong.
"Child sexual abuse has been proven to be a trauma, actual literal, diagnosable trauma. It is a bad experience that happened to somebody. It is truly a trauma," Toby Stark said.
Toby Stark is the executive director of Chaucie's Place, a not-for-profit aimed at preventing child sexual abuse. She says that while the lives of Jared Fogle's victims are forever changed, we might be able to help prevent abuse.
"It is very easy for us to shake our head and walk away and go that's just terrible, and be disgusted for those few moments and go on with our life. What we're imploring of people is to please take the next step and say what can I do about it?" she said.
Morris hopes sharing his story raises awareness.
"There are thousands that don't get caught or thousands that are walking the street and don't get caught or are never caught," he said.
Stark says child pornography has the potential to traumatize victims for the rest of their life because the images do not go away.
She says what makes the trauma worse, is that in 90 percent of cases, the victims are abused by someone they know.
Michigan judge OKs use of photos, report in child abuse case
MOUNT CLEMENS, Mich. (AP) - A judge has decided prosecutors can use a report and photos depicting a messy house against a suburban Detroit couple whose 11-month-old daughter died after eating a morphine pill.
Harold and Kimberly Murphy of Warren are charged with second-degree child abuse in the October 2013 death of Trinity Murphy. Prosecutors argue that the couple committed the "reckless act" of maintaining an extremely messy house that allowed the child to ingest the pill that was intended for her recently deceased grandmother.
The Macomb Daily (http://bit.ly/1S7L5gM) reports that the couple's attorneys have said it's unclear how the child got the pill.
The judge recently granted a prosecutor's motion to allow the jury to see photos of the house and a Children's Protective Services report indicting the house was in disarray.
A trial is scheduled to begin Dec. 1.
Indiana organizations team up to prevent child sex abuse
by Alexis McAdams
INDIANAPOLIS, IND. – Research from the Indiana Youth Advocacy group shows that nine out of ten sex abuse victims are abused by someone they know and trust.
“They can be a coach, it can be a doctor, it can be a teacher, it can be a lawyer. It is not just a stranger,” says Tracie Wells with the Indiana Youth Services Association.
Those scary statistics are what has prompted the Someone They Know Campaign, a new movement aimed at sharing education and awareness through social media. The movement is targeted at stopping child sex abuse.
“Prevent Child Abuse Indiana is about stopping it before it stars. That is why we want to educate and empower,” says Wells.
The campaign is a collaborative effort between Prevent Child Abuse Indiana and Indiana Youth Services Association. The group publishes sexual abuse awareness videos and information on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. The videos use child actors who explain who a predator can be and the warning signs we should all look out for.
“Most child sex abusers have multiple victims over a period of several years. That is why education is important,” says Wells.
Youth advocates say that the national attention on the Jared Fogle case has brought the conversation on child sex abuse to the forefront. Youth advocates say almost all child sex abuse occurs during a one on one setting and after it happens, it is very difficult for kids to come forward and talk about the abuse.
“It does feel a little uncomfortable to have kids talk about child sex abuse. It is supposed to be an uncomfortable conversation, but it is one that we all need to have,” says Wells.
Manatee County Sheriff's Office Maj. Connie Shingledecker: Volunteers needed to combat child abuse
by Jessica De Leon
SARASOTA -- The image of an 8-year-old Manatee County boy who was beaten and starved before being taken into custody was shown side by side with a photo of the boy seven months later, smiling and looking healthier.
An image of a mother changing her baby's diaper on an ironing board just before she walked away leaving the baby unattended.
The desperate screams and cries of a 6-year-old girl named Lisa, as her stepfather attacked her mother, recorded during the 911 call she made, echoed in a Sarasota ballroom.
"These are powerful reminders of the important work we do every day and the important work that we have been doing in the more than 6,000 hotline reports investigated in Manatee, Sarasota and DeSoto counties this past year," said Manatee County Sheriff's Office Maj. Connie Shingledecker during a keynote speech Thursday at the Children's Guardian Fund Fall Luncheon.
More than 300 people sat in silence as they watched the images of the victims of child abuse. Some grew teary-eyed as they listened to the 911 call.
The Children's Guardian Fund provides resources to the Guardian Ad Litem program in the 12th Judicial Circuit -- which includes Manatee, Sarasota and DeSoto counties -- and whose goal is to advocate and enrich the lives of children in foster care or the care of the court.
Family violence threatening a child is the second-highest category for allegations received of maltreatment of children, according to Shingledecker.
"Just imagine living through that every day," she urged everyone after playing Lisa's call. "Domestic violence affects the ability to learn and develop emotionally."
Substance misuse is the No. 1 allegation of maltreatment reported, Shingledecker said.
Shingledecker, a passionate advocate for children, is the major at the Investigative Bureau at the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, which includes the Child Protective Investigative Division.
The CPID is under scrutiny after 11-year-old Janiya Thomas was found dead in a freezer last month -- two days after she was officially reported missing. The department had an extensive history of investigating allegations of abuse against her mother, Keishanna Thomas.
Thomas, who is in the Manatee County jail, has been charged with aggravated child abuse and abuse of a dead body. Autopsy results are pending, and Janiya's death remains under investigation.
There are 1,064 children now in the care of the 12th Judicial Circuit, Shingledecker said. More than 500 children have been sheltered this year.
"The Children's Guardian Fund supports the Guardian Ad Litem Program with the goal that every child sheltered shall have a volunteer child advocate to speak for them," Shingledecker said.
Due to the increase in children being sheltered, the program needs more volunteers, she added.
"Substance abuse is at the heart of most of our child maltreatments that result in children sheltered in both Manatee and Sarasota counties," Shingledecker said. "How did we get here?"
Shingledecker reminded the crowd of the height of the pill mill epidemic with Florida as its epicenter.
"So what took the place of the pain pills? Heroin," Shingledecker said. "Not just any heroin will do. It's heroin laced with fentanyl."
The consequence in Manatee County has been a spike in overdoses, she said. As of Oct. 31, Manatee County has recorded 536 overdoses this year, she said.
Shingledecker cited the tragedies during home invasions when parents are drug dealers as one of many examples of how substance abuse affects children. She referred specifically to the slayings in July of Esther Deneus and her boyfriend, Kantral Markeith Brooks, in their Bradenton home in front of their children.
"The faces of child abuse and neglect we saw here today are reminders of how critical our work in child protection is," Shingledecker said. "These faces of joy and hope for the future are a testament to how much your support means to the children and families we serve."
Shingledecker concluded by quoting scholar Forest Witcraft, becoming emotional in the process.
"One hundred years from now, it will not matter what your bank account was, the sort of house you lived in or the kind of car your drove," Shingledecker said as she choked back tears. "But the world may be different because you were important in the life of a child."
Trinidad and Tobago
‘Disturbing trend of child abuse in T&T'
by Camille Hunte
Today is Universal Children's Day.
It is the day when children's rights are recognised and promoted all across the world. But here, in Trinidad and Tobago, there remains a disturbing trend of child abuse, according to Children's Authority director Sharifa Abdullah-Ali.
As a result, the Authority plans to roll out a public awareness campaign over the next few months to educate parents and the wider public on the issue.
This comes on the heels of numerous acts of violence against children that have engaged national attention in recent weeks.
This week alone, two toddlers--two-year-old Keira Singh and three-year-old Aarti Ramkhalawan—became victims of violence.
Singh was killed when gunmen opened fire on her Diego Martin home, while Ramkhalawan remains at hospital after being stabbed by her father who killed her mother and later committed suicide.
Several videos also depicting violent acts against children made the rounds on social media earlier this month before engaging police attention. Yesterday, Ali-Abdullah said the acts of violence being perpetrated against children were startling and have caused her many sleepless nights.
She was speaking on CCN TV6's Morning Edition programme.
Ali-Abdullah said hundreds of children fall victim to violence and abuse each month in Trinidad and Tobago.
Over the last six months alone, the Authority has dealt with more than 2,500 cases of child abuse, averaging between 400 to 500 cases per month, she said.
Around 150 of these were “emergency cases”.
Ali-Abdullah said sexual abuse accounted for 22 per cent of the cases, while neglect and physical abuse cases were also common.
“The level of violence and the kind of cruelty against children we are seeing is very alarming. We are getting cases of parents who are burning their children's hands on hot stoves. There are parents who are beating their children to a pulp using a rolling pin and other instruments,” she said.
She said some children were beaten mercilessly to the point where medical attention was necessary. Some cases have involved children being denied food or given dog food to eat.
“We have found children, including babies, in human filth,” she said.
“It is very, very alarming and very, very concerning the kinds of cases that are coming to us. It is a disturbing trend.”
Also speaking on the programme, Cheryl Moses-Williams, public education and communications manager of the Children's Authority, said the media has a crucial role to play in educating the public.
She said the media must be careful in their reporting of issues involving children.
The public education campaign will involve a seminar for media practitioners, as well as visits to schools and meetings with parents and other stakeholders, Moses-Williams said.
Carly Simon Reveals Childhood Sexual Abuse
"It was heinous," singer says. "It changed my view about sex for a long time"
by Kory Grow
Carly Simon revealed in a new interview that she was the victim of sexual abuse as a child for years, beginning at age seven. She told People that a family friend, who was in his teens, carried on a physical relationship with her until her mother banned him from the house and sent her to a psychologist.
The singer, now 70, said that she'd told her older sisters about the molestation, but they refused to believe her. "I told them the first year that it was happening, and they thought I was just trying to be one of the bigger girls," Simon said.
When her mother barred the boy from visiting the home – Simon is unclear as to whether or not her mom was aware of the abuse – she did not know how to handle it. "I was devastated because I thought I was in a romance, which I think happens to a lot of girls," she said. "Your libido overpowers everything. You're so libidinous even at the age of nine and ten. And sometimes there's an outlet there. I bet in many more cases than we know about there is."
She said she even tried to protect the boy when she met with a child psychologist. "I wanted to keep it quiet, because I wanted to keep it going," she said.
She wrote about the incident in her memoir, Boys in the Trees , which will come out next week.
Looking back on the incident in her People interview, though, she felt disgusted. "It was heinous," she said. "It changed my view about sex for a long time."
Bulk of Kiwi kids feel unsafe online – survey
by 3 News
Four out of five New Zealand children go online worried about what might happen to them, a survey suggests.
The figure is "staggering" and one of the highest in the world, says the ChildFund Alliance, which is running a Free from Violence and Exploitation campaign.
Its Small Voices, Big Dreams survey asked 5800 10- to 12-year-olds from 44 countries, including 661 from New Zealand, where they believed they might be at risk of physical or emotional abuse.
Eighty percent of New Zealand children said the internet, and the figures were only higher in Sweden, Australia and France. The global average was 28 percent.
"It's an astonishing figure; our kids are all too aware of the dangers on the web," said ChildFund New Zealand chief executive Paul Brown.
The internet was part of many children's daily lives – required to use tablets and apps at school – but they didn't always feel safe using it.
The survey also found 81 percent of Kiwi kids were wary of the dangers of walking alone but 52 percent were wary of being at school and 50 percent at home.
Danish children felt far safer in those places, the survey found.
"To think that half of Kiwi kids believe a home has the potential to be the opposite for children – a place of danger – is heart-breaking."
The children said they thought adults could protect them better by listening to what they had to say.
"Whether we're listening to a child in Africa whose basic needs for survival aren't being met, or a Kiwi kid feeling threatened by cyberbullies; the suffering and struggles of all children are important to us. It's about genuinely listening to them and acting upon their suggestions."
Children's Risky Areas:
80 percent of New Zealand children believe they are at risk on the internet. Less than Sweden (84 percent), Australia (85 percent) and France (87 percent)
81 percent of New Zealand children believe they're at risk walking alone. At home (42 percent), at school (42 percent) and with friends (30 percent)
In Denmark just 50 percent see danger in walking alone, online (37 percent), at home (10 percent), and at school (8 percent)
Nigeria: Ending Violence Against Children, Obligation for All
by Chidi Odinkalyu
A four-year-old girl raped by her uncle; a 10-year-old boy beaten to death by his father; yet another heart wrenching story of abuse. No day passes without similar stories in the media. Many of us will sigh and turn the page, searching for the financials, the latest corruption scandal, or the sports news. We seem to have become desensitised to these horrors our children suffer.
Today, on Universal Children's Day, and as the Goodwill Ambassador on Ending Violence Against Children, I urge you, please read on.
The global call for children to be protected from all forms of violence, in all settings was sounded on this day in 1989, when the UN adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Africa reinforced this call to end violence, one year later, when it adopted its own African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. Nigeria readily signed up to both treaties in 1991, and in 2003 we passed our own national law - the Child's Rights Act - bringing in comprehensive protection for children from violence.
Paper commitments, however, are meaningless without action and our children continue to suffer extreme levels of physical, sexual and emotional violence. One in six children (16.7%) in Nigeria, according to the National Violence Against Children Survey, conducted by the National Population Commission with support from UNICEF and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suffer such violence. By any measure, that is shocking, horrific and, for Nigeria as a nation, an embarrassment.
One in four girls (25%) and one in 10 boys (10%) will suffer sexual violence before they reach 18 years old; this year alone, nine million of our children will have been subjected to rape and sexual abuse. And they suffer in silence. They are prevented from reaching out for help by shame, stigma and a lack of knowledge about where to get help.
Before they have turned 18 years, half of all of our children will have been whipped, intentionally burned, punched, kicked, hit or threatened with a weapon. These cannot be dismissed as acts of discipline. These are acts of violence that have no place in an upbringing that should enable our children to flourish.
Violence - sexual, physical and emotional - is not confined to children who are poor or marginalised. It does not just affect children in the north-east who are affected by the conflict there. It transcends wealth, location, and family circumstance. It can happen to any child, anywhere. It can happen to your son or daughter, your brother, sister, niece, nephew or cousin, to your friend. Adults who suffered violence are significantly more likely to use violence themselves.
Violence against children constrains our development and costs us between two and eight per cent of our GDP. In September this year, the UN included a target to end violence against children in the Sustainable Development Goals, explicitly linking, for the first time, a violence-free society for children to economic growth.
I was proud to speak at the launch of the Year of Action to End Violence Against Children in September, at which President Buhari personally called on each and every one of us to take action. We have a moral obligation to act, a civic duty, and a legal obligation.
I am proud to be the Goodwill Ambassador for this campaign. If I can inspire even one person to take action - to stop perpetrating violence; to protect children from violence; to make children aware that they have a right to grow up free of violence; to help a child speak out, and to show compassion and support when they do - it will have been worthwhile.
You too can join this fight. It's time to take action! Together, Let's End Violence Against Children.
- Prof. Odinkalu is Chairman, National Human Rights Commission and the Goodwill Ambassador for End Violence Against Children
Exposure to toxic stress in childhood linked to risky behavior and adult disease
by Ziba Kashef
How a mother responds to her baby's cries can make a big difference in the child's ability to learn, develop, and thrive. While a warm, supportive response can help the baby calm down and feel secure, a distant or angry reaction leaves the child to fend for herself in a scary world. Over time, the lack of nurturing in the face of adversity in childhood can contribute to “toxic stress” — a harmful level of stress that can affect the child's well-being well into adulthood.
“Toxic stress is the prolonged experience of significant adversity,” says Monica Ordway, PhD, APRN, PNP-BC, Assistant Professor at Yale School of Nursing (YSN). Left unchecked, toxic stress in early childhood strains the stress response system and even alters the developing brain. “Over time, without intervention, toxic stress will lead to an increase in adverse health outcomes that would last a lifetime for these children.”
What is toxic stress?
The term “toxic stress” refers to stress that is not only overwhelming to a child but also not alleviated by the buffering of supportive adults. A concept developed by the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, toxic stress describes the body's response to negative events or experiences that are either powerful, repeated, or prolonged. A child who routinely suffers abuse, neglect, or other forms of hardship, such as poverty, may be at risk for this harmful form of stress.
Toxic stress has gained attention in recent years as advances in the areas of epigenetics, neuroscience, and life-course science have all pointed to it as a source of poor outcomes for children and adults. “This is a rapidly evolving field,” says Andrew Garner, MD, PhD, FAAP, a primary care pediatrician at University Hospitals Medical Practices in Cleveland. He explains that experts in developmental science have long understood that catastrophic events, such as experiencing or witnessing trauma, have negative effects on children. But now “people are beginning to realize that there is a spectrum of childhood adversity,” says Garner. Family circumstances that were considered routine — such as divorce or separation, parental mental illness or substance abuse, or growing up in poverty — are anything but. “Whether the adversity is catastrophic or more routine and mundane, the effect on the body is similar. There's that common denominator of the physiologic stress response,” he explains.
When stress is positive or tolerable — a child gets an immunization or starts day care — the proverbial “fight-or-flight response” kicks in temporarily. The fight-or-flight response, in which stress hormones rise and inflammation increases, is healthy and crucial for survival. But when the stress response is prolonged and not eased by caregiver support, it becomes toxic to the brain and other organ systems, according to a report co-authored by Garner et al., and published in Pediatrics. The part of the brain that triggers the stress response (the amygdala) may become overdeveloped and overactive, while other areas of the brain that govern memory, learning, and decision-making underdevelop. “Most worrisome,” says Lois Sadler, PhD, RN, PNPBC, FAAN, Professor at YSN, “is that areas like the prefrontal cortex, which is where we do most of our thinking and decisionmaking, may not become as developed as the other, more emotion-regulated parts of the brain.” The combination leaves young children with a chronically heightened stress response system.
These changes in the brain's architecture and functioning can have far-reaching effects. In a child chronically exposed to toxic levels of stress, the changes may result in chronic anxiety, learning delays, or poor social skills. Over time, toxic stress affects behavior and lifelong health. “Some of the effects of toxic stress are more immediate, and some are more delayed responses that may not show up until later,” Sadler explains
Adversity and its effects
No one knows how many children experience toxic stress, but a growing body of research on “adverse childhood experiences” suggest that it may be common. In the late 1990s, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention collaborated with Kaiser Permanente to conduct the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study. The research on more than 17,000 adults found that those who had experienced abuse, neglect, or family dysfunction during childhood were more likely to develop unhealthy behaviors and serious disease in adulthood. “What we found in the ACE study was that in a clearly middle-class population — which made it even more unexpected — a remarkable number of people had had toxic life experiences in childhood that were still playing out roughly a half century later,” says Vincent Felitti, MD, an internist at Kaiser Permanente and co–principal investigator of the ACE study.
More than one in four adults surveyed had experienced at least one of the childhood adversities, and one in eight reported four or more ACEs, including emotional, physical, or sexual abuse; emotional or physical neglect; and household dysfunction (divorce or separation, domestic violence, parental substance abuse, parental mental illness, and an incarcerated family member). The most common ACE was physical abuse, reported by 28.3 percent of adults. “What we found in a general population was that in fact ACEs were remarkably common and remarkably destructive,” Felitti says. ACEs are linked to both risky behavior and adult disease. According to one paper published in American Journal of Preventive Medicine, people who experienced four or more ACEs were more likely to be at risk for alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, and suicide. They were more inclined to smoke, and be inactive and obese. Most disturbingly, those who suffered the most adversity in childhood were more likely to develop diseases such as ischemic heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, skeletal fractures, and liver disease.
The original ACE study findings were recently confirmed by a follow-up study released in late 2014 by the Center for Youth Wellness and the Public Health Institute. The study report, “A Hidden Crisis: Findings on Adverse Childhood Experiences in California,” found that a majority of more than 27,000 adults surveyed, or nearly 62 percent, had experienced one or more types of childhood adversity. The research confirmed the link between four or more ACEs and disease, such as asthma, stroke, and depression. It also found that those who endured the most childhood adversity were at risk for other poor life outcomes, including poverty, unemployment, and lack of health insurance.
These data are mirrored by what nurse practitioners like Ordway have seen in practice. She cites poverty, food insecurity, and even maternal depression as examples of factors that contribute to childhood adversity and toxic stress in families. “Single parenthood can place financial strain and burden on the parent that often increases their level of stress, which impacts the child,” she says. Even in two-parent households, long hours and job insecurity can take a toll and interfere with the ability of the caregiver to provide the type of supportive, responsive environment that would otherwise buffer stress.
Additional forms of adversity may include environmental factors like violent crime or gang activity at the neighborhood or community level, notes Sadler. Inside the home, open conflict between parents, the presence of transient or intoxicated family members, and exposure to violent media could undermine a child's ability to feel safe. What the science has demonstrated is that the impact of these exposures, and the toxic stress that follows, is not benign. “When we start talking about changes in the way the genome works, the way the brain architecture is formed, that helps people begin to understand the way early childhood experiences are literally embedded in the body,” says Garner, “and therefore strongly influence behaviors, productivity, and health down the line.”
Solutions to toxic stress
Child development experts may not be able to eliminate the triggers of toxic stress — poverty, neglect, abuse — but they can help support families from the prenatal stage onward. “What's the thing that tends to prevent toxic stress? It looks like it's safe, stable, and nurturing relationships,” says Garner. With the support of a caring adult, a child's stress response can return to normal, even in the face of significant adversity such as divorce or death of a family member. The presence of protective adults makes it possible for a young child to adapt to stress in healthy ways that facilitate growth and healthy development.
One effective strategy for helping new parents build the skills they need to buffer stress for their children is home visits from nurses and other providers. For example, the Minding the Baby® (MTB) program, developed by Sadler and her colleagues at the Yale Child Study Center, Fair Haven Community Health Center, and the Cornell Scott Hill Health Center in New Haven, is an evidence-based intervention that begins with mothers at the prenatal stage. From the third trimester up to age two, pediatric nurse practitioners and clinical social workers visit mothers — typically teenage parents — in the home environment to provide health and mental health care. By intervening early, MTB nurses target two generations — the stressed-out young mother and later, her child. “It's a double layer of trying to help parents understand their own responses and their own underlying feelings that may be coloring the way they interact with their child, as well as trying to understand the child,” says Sadler.
Parents who are overwhelmed by their own challenges are often less equipped to offer the care and support children need to handle adversity. “Often caregivers have the right intentions but they did not experience positive parenting as a child themselves to prepare them to parent their own children,” notes Ordway. A mother who grew up experiencing toxic stress as a child may still be coping with the effects or have few positive parenting examples to draw from. “There's an intergenerational issue here, where they're raising their children the way they were raised, so there was often no role model to show how to sit and talk to the child about their feelings or emotions,” Ordway adds.
Home visiting programs address these intergenerational issues. In the MTB program, through a process called “parental reflective functioning,” young mothers learn to better understand the feelings, intentions, and needs that underlie their own behaviors and those of their child. “It's a gradual process because it's a different way of thinking about themselves and their children than they have probably ever done before,” she notes. New mothers who reflect not only on their own feelings, but also on the developmental needs and emotions of their fussy babies, are better able to respond positively. “That helps them be more sensitive to what the baby might needor to try different things,” says Sadler.
Research on home visiting programs shows they work. In a paper published last year, Sadler et al. found that children in the MTB program are much more likely to develop secure attachments to their mother. “What we're hoping is that this secure attachment in a high percentage of families is going to work like a protective shield against the toxic stress that they are encountering in their lives,” says Sadler. “That is, ‘yeah, scary things can be happening, but mom's going to make it okay.'” Another well-known home visiting program, the Nurse Family Partnership, has shown many positive results for children and families.
Working with Sadler, Nancy Redeker, PhD, RN, FAHA, FAAN (YSN's Beatrice Renfield Term Professor of Nursing, Director of the school's Biobehavioral Laboratory, and Professor at Yale School of Medicine's Department of Internal Medicine), and a pediatric sleep working group, Ordway is exploring additional interventions that could be applied by primary care providers, either in a medical home or in private practice. Specifically, they are looking into ways to help improve the sleep patterns of children and parents. “We know that the same health outcomes experienced by children exposed to toxic stress are similar to what we see in children who experience sleep deprivation or poor sleep quality, leading to poor health outcome risk,” says Ordway. “One of the theories we have is if we can support parents to develop healthier sleep quality, better sleep duration for children, that may be a way of buffering the effects of toxic stress.”
To effectively address toxic stress, however, both Sadler and Ordway explain that multiple interventions are essential. “There's a need for different kinds of programs that fit the particular needs of families or communities,” says Sadler. Some individuals may have specific needs that fit well with components or strengths of particular interventions. Certain families may need to participate in an intensive home visiting program, while others might benefit from a sleep intervention provided in a pediatric or family primary care setting. “A diverse menu of interventions will be most successful,” Ordway adds.
Garner describes a range of possible interventions that reflect a comprehensive public health approach — from evidencebased therapies to treat those children who have experienced trauma to targeted interventions that would screen and identify those at risk. Parenting programs and early intervention programs can help address the problem before children start to experience the effects of toxic stress, such as developmental delays. Another public-health-oriented approach, he notes, would be some form of universal primary prevention that all children receive, such as social-emotional learning in school. “Our real long-term goal is to help kids build skills so that when they have adversity, they deal with it in an effective manner,” he says. “If we can somehow find a way to make adversity more tolerable or even positive so those experiences are opportunities to learn and grow, that's what we're trying to do.”
The role of nurses
Nurses are already on the front lines in the battle against the negative effects of toxic stress. From prevention, intervention, and treatment, nurses often spend more time with patients in different settings and have opportunities to minimize the impact of adversity on children and families. Whether they are registered nurses, nurse coordinators, nurse practitioners, or nurse researchers, nurses across disciplines play a key role in identifying those at risk and developing the most effective interventions.
To support families, nurses can also work in interdisciplinary teams. “We're really good at doing that as nurses,” notes Ordway. “The most successful programs will incorporate an interdisciplinary approach — social work, nurses, physicians all together working to identify how we can better support these families.”
Nurses can also have an impact by raising awareness and influencing policy. “I think, as nurses, we also need to be very active in changing some of the governmental policies around how we support families,” says Ordway. One example, Ordway notes, is to advocate for policy change that would allow nurses to refer families with depressed mothers because of the link between maternal depression and adverse childhood outcomes. “That's a policy that as nurses we can impact,” she explains.
For the sake of our children, let's end the horror of sexual abuse
by Rajeev Chandrasekhar
Imagine being a parent to a three-year-old and hearing that your child has been molested at school. Then having to struggle for months and years to get justice, while at the same time having to deal with the emotional and psychological scars of your child.
Two years ago, a brave mother who decided to fight for her child approached me and made me focus on the issue of child sexual abuse (CSA) - and through the process of helping them, the uphill task for a parent/child became obvious to me.
The first reaction I got was a state minister's - “It is not our responsibility” - but soon it became clear to me that it was not just government apathy but also discomfort and defensiveness people felt while talking about CSA.
The responses ranged from believing that CSA was a “Western” phenomenon, to CSA being a rare aberration.
A 2007 study, in which CSA was described as ‘The Conspiracy of Silence', by the then Minister of Women and Child Development, disclosed some very disquieting facts.
Of the children interviewed, more than half (53 per cent) stated that they had been subjected to one or more forms of sexual abuse. Over 20 per cent of those interviewed said they were subjected to severe forms of abuse, defined in the report as “sexual assault, making the child fondle private parts, making the child exhibit private body parts and being photographed in the nude”.
Of those who said they were sexually abused, 57 per cent were boys.
In 2005, Save the Children and Tulir - Centre for the Prevention and Healing of Child Sexual Abuse - surveyed 2,211 Chennai-based school-going children.
As many as 15 per cent of the children interviewed reported having experienced severe forms of abuse.
These studies point to child sexual abuse being prevalent and widespread rather than exceptional.
That in the last 68 years, the government has neither sought to conduct a national study on this, nor considered it important to institutionally address this comprehensively, is a sign that we are letting our children down.
The role of the government in ensuring the protection of children - who constitute over 30 per cent of the country's population - needs more examination: What do the institutions mandated to protect our children do to monitor CSA and prevent abuse? How does the system respond when it receives an allegation of abuse, and how does it treat victims after they are abused?
We do have a law! It's called the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
While it provides for a detailed list of procedures mandated to be followed by different stakeholders in the response system, the gaps in implementation have been glaring.
A 2013 report by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) suggests that there is considerable inconsistency in the way three pivotal stakeholders - police, doctors and courts - in different parts of the country respond to cases of abuse.
The police, the primary point of contact for an abused child, are highly short-staffed, and lack the specialised training and psychological competencies to handle these cases in a sensitive manner.
As a result, police stations remain hostile and intimidating spaces, which dissuade parents or children from pursuing cases.
Special child crime units are required in every police jurisdiction.
Post assault, medical examinations by government hospitals are yet another weak link in the systemic response. In 2012, a three-year-old girl from Bengaluru was subject to tests that grossly violated her bodily privacy.
The HRW report suggests that doctors approach such cases with a view to simply collecting evidence, rather than assisting in the healing and recovery of the child, and that this adds to the trauma of victims and parents.
The courts, too, are lethargic in disposing of cases of child sexual abuse, despite POCSO mandating trials within a period of one year.
Through my questions in Parliament, I learnt that of the 6,816 alleged perpetrators booked under the POCSO Act, only 166 convictions have been made, while 389 accused were acquitted.
The conviction rate under the Act is a paltry 2.4 per cent. The tragic corollary to this is that pendency rates for child rape cases have actually increased from 20,594 in 2010 to 37,519 in 2014 - an increase of about 84 per cent.
While the judicial process dawdles along, eight cases of child sexual abuse continue to be reported every day. The number of registered child rapes rose 151 per cent from 5,484 in 2009 to 13,766 in 2014.
This combination of slow trials and low conviction rates, along with the lack of a child sexual offenders registry, means that offenders are free to continue to live or work among children where they offend again, given the repeat offence nature of such criminals.
Sexual abuse leaves deeply destructive effects on the psyche of a child - and will only contribute to sustaining the pernicious cycle of abuse.
While there is considerable awareness about child rights for our 430 million children, including focused programmes and resources on important issues like health, education, girl child rights, etc, we have not done enough to protect them from abuse.
This is an issue that needs to be openly acknowledged by the political leadership. This is why I have started a change.org petition, requesting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make this a priority of his maximum governance agenda.
Our children are the losers with this denial and apathy. They deserve better. Today on the World Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse, I am hoping that we can collectively wake up to our responsibility to ensure a safer childhood for children of India.
Fayette man wants sentence for beating 20-month-old boy thrown out
by Liz Zemba
A Fayette County man who severely beat a toddler wants his jail sentence of up to 22 years thrown out.
Raymond Allen Matteson, 37, formerly of Smithfield, contends his 11- to 22-year sentence for beating a 20-month-old boy is illegal because it represents the mandatory minimum. He and his attorney, James Natale of Uniontown, cited a recent Superior Court finding that mandatory minimums are unconstitutional.
But prosecutor Mark Mehalov, during a hearing on Thursday, said Matteson is mistaken because the sentence is actually the maximum allowable under the law.
A jury in 2014 found Matteson guilty of aggravated assault, simple assault, child endangerment and reckless endangerment for beating the boy while baby-sitting in 2013.
Fayette County Senior Judge Gerald R. Solomon imposed a sentence of 11 to 22 years.
The child suffered permanent brain damage and was left unable to walk, talk or crawl.
His parents, Lori Brundege of Smithfield and James Hay of Connellsville, did not attend Thursday's hearing and could not be reached for comment.
In 2014, they described Matteson as a cowardly “monster” for whom no prison sentence would be long enough.
Based on the Superior Court's finding he cited, Matteson wants the sentence vacated and a new sentencing hearing held.
Mehalov, an assistant district attorney, said that although prosecutors gave written notice they would seek the mandatory minimum sentence of five years, Matteson received the statutory maximum.
Mehalov said when Solomon imposed the sentence in 2014, he made a point to note it was higher than the guidelines, in part because of the victim's young age.
“There was no minimum mandatory imposed,” Mehalov said. “The court sentenced to the maximum.”
Natale said the sentence is illegal because “it's such a high departure” from the mandatory minimum that “it can't be justified in any way without any resentencing.”
Solomon, who did not immediately rule on the petition, said he will take the attorneys' arguments under consideration before issuing an order.
Ex-Subway spokesman to be sentenced on child sex charges
by Susan Guyett
Former Subway sandwich spokesman Jared Fogle on Thursday is scheduled to be sentenced to prison after he officially pleads guilty to child pornography and sex charges.
Fogle, who became famous after losing weight on a diet that included sandwiches from the fast food chain, agreed in August to a deal with prosecutors under which he would plead guilty to charges of child pornography and traveling for illicit paid sex with minors.
Under his agreement with prosecutors, Fogle is set to change his plea to guilty on Thursday and be sentenced by a U.S. district judge in Indianapolis. Subway fired Fogle when reports of the plea agreement emerged. He already began paying $1.4 million in restitution to 14 minor victims.
Federal prosecutors recommended last week that Fogle spend 12 and a half years in prison and be under lifetime supervision. After leaving prison, he would also have to register as a sex offender in any state where he worked or lived.
The sentencing recommendation leaves the door open for further charges against the well-known pitchman, if other evidence emerges. Authorities have so far identified 12 victims of child pornography in Indiana, along with two teenage victims of child prostitution in New York, according to court documents.
Fogle has stated that he was sexually attracted to children as young as eight years old, the government said.
Investigation: Opaque military justice system shields child sex abuse cases
by Richard Lardner
WASHINGTON – More inmates are in U.S. military prisons for sex crimes against children than for any other offense, an Associated Press investigation has found, but an opaque justice system prevents the public from knowing the full scope of the crimes or how much time the prisoners spend behind bars.
Of the 1,233 inmates confined in the military's prison network, 61 percent were convicted of sex crimes, according to the latest available data, obtained through the federal open records law. Children were the victims in over half of those cases.
Since the beginning of this year, service members victimized children in 133 out of 301 sex crime convictions, with charges ranging from rape to distributing child pornography.
Child sex assaults in the military have received scant attention in Washington, where Congress and the Defense Department have focused largely on preventing and prosecuting adult-on-adult sex crimes.
“This disturbing report exposes, once again, that our military's justice system has glaring and unacceptable failures,” Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Mass, said Wednesday of AP's investigation. Tsongas, co-chair of the congressional Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus, said she would be taking a closer look at what she described as “alarming findings.”
Daniel E. DeSmit, a Marine Corps chief warrant officer, spent at least $36,000 viewing and producing child pornography over the span of six years. In emails examined by Navy criminal investigators, DeSmit described his preference for sex with prepubescent girls as “the best experience.”
A military judge in January found DeSmit, 44, guilty of a litany of sex offenses and sentenced him to 144 years behind bars. But he'll serve just a fraction of that. In an undisclosed pretrial agreement, the Marine Corps slashed his prison term to 20 years. When the AP asked for the investigative report into DeSmit's case, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service rejected the Freedom of Information Act request on privacy grounds. The report was released only after the AP appealed.
The director of a support group for survivors of clergy sexual abuse said Wednesday that no one should be forced to file FOIA requests to learn about who committed or concealed child sex crimes.
“Governmental officials must be more open about sexual violence in the military,” said David Clohessy of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “It's just that simple. Otherwise, the safety of children and adults will be jeopardized. And public support for the armed services will be hurt.”
The military justice system operates independently of state and federal criminal courts. The U.S. Constitution mandates a presumption of openness in civilian courts — trials are open to the public, as are court filings, including motions and transcripts, with exceptions for documents that have been sealed. Anyone can walk into a county or U.S. courthouse and ask to read a case file, on demand, without providing a reason. That openness is designed to provide accountability.
But visibility into military trials is minimal. Court records are released only after many Freedom of Information Act requests, appeals and fees, and often months of waiting. While military trials are technically “open,” as are civilian trials, they take place on military bases, which are closed to the public.
“I can sit at my computer in New Haven and find out what was filed five minutes ago in a case in federal district court in Seattle,” said Eugene Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale Law School. “But to get copies of motions filed last week in a general court-martial at Fort Lewis would take months if not years, while the Freedom of Information Act wheels ground along.”
Under military law, children are defined as “any person who has not attained the age of 16 years.”
Asked why the biggest group of inmates is behind bars for sex crimes against kids, Pentagon officials said judges and juries view these crimes as intolerable and are more likely to impose harsher prison terms. They also said military prosecutors pursue verdicts in cases their civilian counterparts would never take to court — and the confinement numbers reflect that commitment.
Air Force Col. Chuck Killion, director of the Air Force judiciary, said that since 2008 the Air Force has secured convictions in 199 out of 223 child sexual assault cases — an 89 percent rate.
“It's not as if there are child sex crimes being swept under the rug somewhere,” Killion said. “We simply don't do that.”
But the Defense Department does not make it easy for the public to learn about child sex cases. After DeSmit's conviction in January, the Marine Corps summed it up in two sentences.
“At a General Court-Martial at Okinawa, Japan, Chief Warrant Officer 4 D. E. DeSmit was convicted by a military judge alone of conspiracy to commit sexual assault and rape of children, aggravated sexual abuse of a child, sexual abuse of a child, and possession of child pornography. The military judge sentenced the accused to 144 years of confinement, a reprimand, and dismissal,” a summary of the court-martial released by the Marine Corps reads.
And that's all the service would have said publicly, had the AP not pressed for more information, including NCIS's 198-page investigation of the allegations against DeSmit.
The most significant detail missing from the Marine Corps' brief public summary was the pretrial agreement. DeSmit had struck a deal with the military, according to court records. He pleaded guilty to 18 counts, including conspiracy to commit rape of a child. His prison sentence was limited to 20 years, not 144 as the Marine Corps had said publicly.
And he will do even less time if he is eventually paroled. In the military justice system, DeSmit is eligible to be considered for release from prison after serving one-third of his term.
DeSmit is one of dozens of sex offenders who have benefited from pretrial deals, according to the AP's analysis of the summarized results of courts-martial released by the military services. Since the beginning of July, 31 soldiers, sailors and Marines were convicted of sex crimes against children. Twenty of those cases had pretrial agreements.
Things to know about the findings:
• Child sex offenders are the biggest group of inmates: Of the 1,233 inmates confined in the military's prison network, 61 percent were convicted of sex crimes, according to the AP's analysis of the latest available data, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. Children were the victims in over half of those cases.
• An opaque legal system: The U.S. military justice system is not transparent. Unlike state and federal courts, the military services keep tight control over court-martial records, such as trial transcripts and pretrial agreements. They release only brief summaries of the results of trial. There is no publicly accessible database or website to find out where a convicted service member is serving his sentence or how much of the sentence the person actually serves.
• Child molesters' privacy is protected: Convicted service members are afforded a degree of privacy not available to defendants in civilian courts. For example, records from most federal court cases are available online through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records, known as PACER. The military does not have a comparable repository. To obtain records from military trials, a request must be made through the Freedom of Information Act, which includes an exemption that allows the government to withhold records if their disclosure might invade personal privacy.
• Pretrial agreements can reduce sentences: Pretrial agreements between the accused and military prosecutors can result in drastically reduced sentences for child sex offenders and other criminals. The Navy, Marine Corps and Army recently began including references to plea deals in their summarized trial results. The Air Force does not.
• No mandatory prison terms: Military courts do not impose mandatory minimum prison sentences for sexual assault crimes. The only mandatory minimum punishment for penetrative sexual offenses is a dishonorable discharge for enlisted service members and dismissal for officers.
Kansas agency to lower evidence standard in child abuse claims
by The Associated Press
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- The Kansas agency that investigates child abuse plans to lower the standard of evidence needed to substantiate a claim of abuse or neglect.
The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Department for Children and Families Secretary Phyllis Gilmore told state lawmakers Tuesday that the agency will decrease the standard of evidence from "clear and convincing" to "preponderance of the evidence."
The change will not constrain judges, who decide whether to remove a child from a home, but will make it easier for the agency to get individuals accused of abusing or neglecting a child onto a state registry. People placed on the registry are prohibited from working or living in a child care home or facility.
State Sen. Laura Kelly said she would like clear-cut examples of what difference the change in standard of evidence would have made in certain cases.
Children's Advocacy Center Expects Project to Cost $20,000
by Dric Deabill
SCRANTON, PA -- Advocates that help victims of child abuse are in the process of planning the first-of-its-kind healing garden in Lackawanna County.
The project is expected to cost roughly $20,000 in all.
The effort got a boost Wednesday morning from Lackawanna County commissioners who pledged $5,000 towards the project.
The empty land where the county's first "Healing Garden" will be located doesn't look like much right now.
Located directly behind the Teen Advocacy Center on Wheeler Avenue in Scranton's Hill Section, officials expect the healing garden for child abuse victims to be a quiet, peaceful place where kids can begin the healing process.
"It's going to be very private with different areas for reflecting, for mediation," Jess Farrell, Development Coordinator with the Children's Advocacy Center said. "There's going to be a butterfly garden included."
The project is the brainchild of workers at the Children's Advocacy Center of northeastern Pennsylvania.
Since opening its doors in 1998, the facility has helped more than 11,000 kids deal with sexual and/or physical abuse.
"Our numbers are increasing exponentially and unfortunately child abuse is out there but more people are aware of it," Children's Advocacy Center Associate Director Jennifer Aglialoro said.
The project will be getting a big helping hand from this year's Leadership Lackawanna class. The class has adopted this project as one of the things it wants to concentrate time and fundraising on.
While the Children's Advocacy Center has two facilities to help kids and teens, they know children like to be outside and when they have to disclose traumatic events that have happened to them, it is often difficult.
"Healing Gardens" like the one that is planned in Scranton have popped-up in other parts of the country and have been successful.
"It's a very stressful time for them so we're going to be using this space to help them decompress, help them just relax a little bit," Aglialoro said.
If all goes according to plan, workers at the Children's Advocacy Center in Scranton hope to have the new healing garden completed in the spring.
'Staggering' Rates of Child Abuse in East, Southern Africa
by Anita Powell
JOHANNESBURG— A new report finds that children across East and Southern Africa suffer huge amounts of abuse. UNICEF says this epidemic of violence hurts more than just the children - it hurts society.
Researchers say they have found a “staggering incidence” of violence against children in East and Southern Africa.
The numbers, indeed, are hard to swallow. The new study, released Tuesday, found that that two in five girls under 18 have endured sexual abuse and that more than seven in 10 children have reported severe beatings at home or school. In Tanzania, for example, kids said those beatings included being kicked or punched.
The study is a collaboration between many agencies including the Africa Child Policy Forum, Save the Children, and the United Nations Children's Fund.
James Elder, regional head of communications for UNICEF in Eastern and Southern Africa, says research is still being done on what causes these countries to have a disproportionately high rate of child abuse - though he notes that child abuse is a worldwide phenomenon that transcends culture and nationality.
He says possible causes include social stresses, pervasive violence in society, instability, and poverty and that the solution is equally complex.
“It really does involve everyone from families, mums and dads, to government. … So we're talking about parents and children being equipped with life skills, having an understanding about how to deal with conflict resolution, how to deal with frustrations in ways that don't involve hitting children," he said. "We're talking about changing attitudes in the way children are seen, giving children a higher standing in society, which obviously is a long-term strategy, but it's very important."
The scars of abuse linger well beyond childhood, he says. And they hurt everyone.
“Research shows that children who constantly have violence at home do worse at school, potentially have less earning impact," Elder said. "So that parent who brought that child into the world therefore has a responsibility."
And, he says, parents should think of themselves as well. Africa's population is growing in leaps and bounds and is significantly younger than any other continent.
And so, he says, caring properly for children isn't purely for children's sake - one day, these children may be the ones caring for their aging parents.
You can help prevent child abuse in Indianapolis
by Marisa Kwiatkowski
Advocates relaunch a Prevent Child Abuse chapter for Marion County by seeking volunteers to help.
Thousands of Marion County kids in the child welfare system.
A deluge of heroin-related cases .
As of September, the Indiana Department of Child Services has investigated more than 25,000 allegations of abuse or neglect this year in Marion County, state records show. The agency determined 4,657 children had been abused or neglected.
Prevent Child Abuse Marion County would like you to be part of the solution.
The organization is hosting a community forum from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Southeast Community Services, 901 Shelby St.
"Child abuse and neglect is preventable," the organization said in its flier. "You don't have to be a social worker of even have a college degree to be part of the solution. If you care about your community and care about kids, you can make a difference."
It will be Prevent Child Abuse Marion County's first event in three years. A previous incarnation of the organization fizzled in 2012.
Sam Rogers, who works in commercial real estate, agreed to help with Prevent Child Abuse Marion County because he heard stories of children in need from his wife, who is a therapist and used to be a high school counselor. Rogers said he felt it was important for community members who don't work with the child welfare system to be involved.
"So many kids feel like they're in a dark place with no way out because they're being abused," he said.
Lynn Howard, founder of the nonprofit Changin' Faces Inc., said she wants to educate Marion County families on ways they can prevent sexual abuse, such as making sure more than one adult is present during a child's extracurricular activities. The majority of children who are sexually abused know their attacker, she said.
Heather Wildrick-Holman, an early intervention education and training coordinator at the Children's Bureau, said Prevent Child Abuse Marion County wants "everyday" people to know how to prevent child abuse and to share that knowledge with others in their neighborhoods, churches and schools. She said the organization also wants to identify gaps in serving families that need help.
Wildrick-Holman has a simple goal for Marion County: happy and healthy children.
"The things that happen to us as children have a longitudinal impact into the future," she said. "I want to have happy children who are going to go on to be healthy, happy adults."
Child sexual abuse is a priority, so why isn't government acting on it?
This is an issue that needs to be openly acknowledged by the political leadership.
by Rajeev Chandrasekhar
Imagine being a parent to a three-year-old and hearing that your child has been molested at school. Then having to struggle for months and years to get justice whilst at the same time having to deal with the emotional and psychological scars of your child. Two years ago, a brave mother who decided to fight for her child approached me and made me focus on the issue of child sexual abuse (CSA) - and through the process of helping them, the uphill task for a parent/child became obvious to me.
The first reaction I got was a state minister's - "It is not our responsibility" - but soon it became clear to me that it was not just government apathy but also discomfort and defensiveness people felt while talking about CSA. The responses ranged from believing that CSA was a "Western" phenomenon to CSA being a rare aberration.
In a 2007 study, described as "The conspiracy of silence", by the then minister of women and child development, disclosed some very disquieting facts. Of the children interviewed, more than half (53 per cent) stated that they had been subjected to one or more forms of sexual abuse.
Over 20 per cent of those interviewed said they were subjected to severe forms of abuse, defined in the report as "sexual assault, making the child fondle private parts, making the child exhibit private body parts and being photographed in the nude". Of those who said they were sexually abused, 57 per cent were boys.
In 2005, Save the Children and Tulir - Centre for the Prevention and Healing of Child Sexual Abuse surveyed 2,211 Chennai-based schoolgoing children. As high as 15 per cent of the children interviewed reported having experienced severe forms of abuse.
These studies point to CSA being prevalent and widespread rather than exceptional. That in the last 68 years, the government has neither sought to conduct a national study on this, nor considered it important to institutionally address this comprehensively is a sign that - though constituting over 30 per cent of the country's population - we are letting our children down.
The role of the government in ensuring the protection of children needs more examination - What do the institutions mandated to protect our children do to monitor CSA and prevent abuse? How does the system respond when it receives an allegation of abuse and how does it treat victims after they are abused? We do have a law!
It's called Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. While it provides for a detailed list of procedures mandated to be followed by different stakeholders in the response system, the gaps in implementation have been glaring.
A 2013 report by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) suggests that there is considerable inconsistency in the way three pivotal stakeholders - police, doctors and courts in different parts of the country respond to cases of abuse.
The police, the primary point of contact for an abused child, is highly short-staffed, and lacks the specialised training and psychological competencies to handle these cases in a sensitive manner.
As a result, police stations remain hostile and intimidating spaces, which dissuade parents or children from pursuing cases. Special child crime units are required in every police jurisdiction.
Post assault, medical examinations by the government hospitals are yet another weak link in the systemic response. In 2012, a three-year-old girl from Bangalore was subject to tests that grossly violated her bodily privacy. The HRW report suggests that doctors approach such cases with the view to simply collect evidence, rather than assist in the healing and recovery of the child, and that this adds to the trauma of victims and parents.
The courts, too, are lethargic in disposing of cases of child sexual abuse, despite POCSO mandating trials within a period of one year. Through my questions in Parliament, I learnt that of the 6,816 alleged perpetrators booked under the POCSO Act, only 166 convictions have been made, while 389 accused acquitted. The conviction rate under the Act is a paltry 2.4 per cent.
The tragic corollary to this is that pendency rates for child rape cases have actually increased from 20,594 in 2010 to 37,519 in 2014 - an increase of about 84 per cent. While the judicial process dawdles along, eight cases of child sexual abuse continue to be reported every day.
The number of registered child rapes rose 151 per cent from 5,484 in 2009 to 13,766 in 2014. This combination of slow trials, low conviction along with lack of child sexual offenders registry means that offenders are free to continue to live or work among children where they offend again, given the repeat offence nature of such criminals.
Sexual abuse leaves deeply destructive effects on the psyche of a child - and will only contribute to sustaining the pernicious cycle of abuse. While there is considerable awareness about child rights for our 430 million children, including focused programmes and resources on important issues like health, education, girl child rights, etc, we have not done enough to protect them from abuse. This is an issue that needs to be openly acknowledged by the political leadership.
This is why I have started a Change.org petition, requesting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make this a priority of his maximum governance agenda. Our children are the losers with this denial and apathy.
They deserve better. Today on the World Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse, I am hoping that we can collectively wake up to our responsibility to ensure a safer childhood for children of India.
Teen testifies in sexual assault case involving rabbinical student
by Andrew Beam -- Times-Herald Record
MONTICELLO -- The 15-year-old boy who accuses a South Fallsburg rabbinical student of sexually assaulting him said he sleeps with a small pocket knife beneath his pillow since the alleged assault occurred.
The teen - who was 11 years old when he said the incident occurred – testified in Sullivan County Court on Monday that he keeps the knife there because he's “paranoid.”
Monday was the first day of testimony in the nonjury trial of 29-year-old Haim Boukris. He is charged with predatory sexual assault against a child and first-degree sexual abuse, both felonies.
The teen told Sullivan County Assistant District Attorney Eamonn Neary that in 2011, Boukris took him to an empty bungalow colony and forced oral and anal sex on him. He said the alleged assault happened after Boukris offered him a ride home. He said he was “scared and confused” about what was happening to him.
In the days after the alleged assault, the boy said he started having trouble sleeping and that he “had more anger than usual.”
Kenneth Gribetz - Boukris’ New City attorney - questioned why the boy accepted a ride home from Boukris when he lived within walking distance of the grocery store.
“I was confused, sir,” the boy told Gribetz. “I was 11.”
The teen’s father also testified on Monday. He told Neary he and his wife knew something was wrong with their son before they learned about the alleged incident – two years after his son said it happened. He lost focus in school, became depressed and started wetting the bed, the father said. The Times Herald-Record is not naming the father to protect the identity of the alleged victim.
In 2013, the teen finally told his father what happened, said the father.
“It took some time, but he started crying, shaking and then screaming,” the father said.
Gribetz then asked the father why he sought out someone other than the police to first report the alleged abuse of his son. It was not clear who the father first told.
The father said he was fearful of being ostracized from the community if he spoke to the police. He said he knew that if he told a therapist about the alleged incident, the therapist was required to tell the authorities.
“I’m sure you’re aware of the pressure in the Jewish community and church when someone opens their mouths to the authorities, and the hell we go through,” the father said. “The ramifications in the Jewish community of how you’re treated for going to the authorities is sickening.”
The trial is being heard by Sullivan County Court Judge Frank LaBuda.
Sexual assault victim shares personal experience during presentation at SU
by Joanna Orland
It took Jennifer Nadler 13 years to admit that she was sexually abused during her childhood.
Nadler, an adjunct professor of English as a Second Language at Onondaga Community College, gave a presentation entitled “No More Sorrow, No More Silence: The Voice of a Survivor” on Thursday in the Falk Complex. Her presentation was part of the National Week of Action, a part of the It's On Us initiative, a national educational campaign launched by the White House.
“I can't stand the word ‘story' when it comes to sexual abuse,” Nadler said. “If anything it's not a story, it's history. So today I share with you my truth.”
Nadler's truth began when she moved in with her aunt and uncle at age 12. Her parents had moved from Queens to Long Island, and she wanted to finish seventh and eighth grade at her Catholic middle school. Shortly after moving, her uncle began sexually abusing her, and it continued regularly for two years.
After she graduated from Le Moyne College, she began teaching middle school. It was there, when she was faced every day with students who were the same age she was when she was abused, that Nadler began to realize that she had to address the psychological effects of her abuse, she said.
Nadler said her Type A personality is why she found solace in a book called “The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse.” The book provided a list of steps — a list for Nadler to check off as she crossed each mark. She wanted to heal herself.
But healing is not linear, Nadler said.
Nadler acted out to cope with the pain, she said. She found herself deep in a hole, and began the healing process by checking into a hospital. She said she tried all sorts of therapies and quit her job to make healing her full-time profession.
After leaving the hospital, where she faced her past head-on for the first time, Nadler said she was grappling with coming to terms with it all. She would clean her house and scrub each shower tile with a toothbrush, but the dirt never seemed to fade.
She said she later realized this was an outward manifestation of what was going on inside her.
Nadler talked about the idea of the locus of control, the psychological notion that people feel they control what happens to them. She was a child during her abuse and felt it was her own fault what happened. She said this is why children are often afraid to come forward.
After 13 years of silence, she told her friends, family and her parents about the abuse. She decided to report it to the police, but she was aware that she had missed the statute of limitations by only one year. She said she did it in case any other survivors of her uncle's abuse came forward.
Looking back on the day she reported her abuse to the police, Nadler said she walked outside of the station, looked at the American flag and “finally felt a little freedom.”
After much grief — for the innocence lost, for the child who was not protected, for everything that was and never would be — Nadler said she was finally able to get in touch with her anger.
“The day I shifted from grief to anger was the day I went from being a victim to being a survivor,” she said.
Following 13 years of serving time for a “crime” she did not commit, Nadler said she was finally able to see that what had happened was not her fault. Her abuser was an adult and she was a child. This was her “light bulb moment.”
The band Linkin Park was also a solace for Nadler throughout the healing process, she said, and served as a soundtrack during her lecture. She learned that the lead singer, Chester Bennington, had too been a survivor of sexual abuse as a child.
As for forgiving her abuser, Nadler said she has. To her, forgiveness is not letting bygones be bygones.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and to discover the prisoner is you,” Nadler said.
Nadler added that conversations about sexual abuse are changing. As a child, Nadler said she was never really educated about sex and her body. However, as a survivor and as a parent, her 8-year-old son is already well educated about the fact that his body is his own.
“The message of today is that we can change the culture,” she said.
Special Report: A look at child abuse and neglect deaths and how they can be prevented
by Kristin Price
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- A Lake Isabella mother is expected to be sentenced Monday in the beating death of her one-year-old daughter. A jury convicted Amanda Reese of child endangerment resulting in death.
Deputies say Reese knowingly left the girl in the care of an abusive boyfriend to go out drinking and partying. The boyfriend, Jared Ramirez, is serving 15 years to life in prison for the death of young Sophia Lynn Taylor.
Sophia Lynn is one of 30 Kern County children who died since 2010 because of abuse or neglect. All of them were under four years old. More than half hadn't reached their first birthdays.
Child Protective Services Assistant Director, Antanette Reed, said young children are the most vulnerable to abuse or neglect. "They don't have a voice. They're not at the age where they can talk. Usually children who are under school age they don't have other eyes on them," said Reed.
Reed said the people who are supposed to be protecting them, are also most likely to hurt them. "Our child death data indicates that it's usually the mother, the father, or both that cause the child death," she said.
In the last five years, 18 child abuse or neglect deaths have been prosecuted. Men are the more common offenders, but in relationship to the child, mothers more commonly faced charges. In many cases not for committing the crime, but for letting it happen.
Kern County Supervising District Attorney Melissa Allen oversees the newly created family violence unit that works on child abuse and neglect cases. Allen said, "If we can prove that one was the abuser and that the other knew of the abuse, had a duty, had a legal duty to stop that abuse, we can then prosecute both."
The majority of these deaths involved families with prior CPS and criminal history. Although it's a common thread, Department of Human Services Ombudsman, Curt Williams, said a caretakers past struggles don't necessarily predict the future.
"When you think about the issues that a community struggles with, where there's poverty and things like that, it's all the same indicators in that community that are facing our families that might come in and have some sort of an issue where a child has died," said Williams.
In the last five years, the number of Kern abuse and neglect deaths is decreasing. So far this year, one child died from abuse. Although the numbers seem to be improving, Williams said it doesn't necessarily mean the problem is going away.
Williams said, "I'd want to be careful about saying there are any positive trends out there because like I said, the numbers are so small sometimes these things ebb and flow."
Another frequent shift lies within CPS itself. Reed says there are 257 CPS employees and 22 vacancies. "Sometimes we lose staff to other areas of social work other than child protective services," said Reed. "We have a hard job, but we are vested in making sure the kids in Kern county are protected."
All of the agencies involved are working toward the same goal. While 18 cases were charged, 12 others weren't.
"Sometimes we can't prove it beyond a reasonable doubt and that is very difficult to death with and understand when children are involved," said Allen.
If you need help or resources, here are some important phone numbers. If there is an emergency, call 911 first. If you need information you can call the Kern County Network for Children 661-636-4488 or 211 Kern County, a program of Community Action Partnership of Kern. If you know of a child abuse situation, call the child abuse hotline 661-631-6011.
Local nonprofit is making impressive strides to preventing child abuse
Child abuse and bullying may seem to be immune from solutions but not to a Jacksonville nonprofit.
A local program is making a huge impact statewide.
¦ It teaches a half-million Florida schoolchildren how to protect themselves and their friends from being victims of child abuse, sexual abuse and bullying.
¦ It produces solid, research-driven evidence that leads to pupils coming forward with reports of abuse, abusers being identified for victimizing children and kids being put in safer environments.
¦ It is so easily implemented that counselors in hundreds of Florida schools have been effortlessly instructed on how to teach the lesson plan to pupils — and in an efficient, age-appropriate manner that doesn't require huge chunks of classroom time and leaves staffers raving about its effectiveness.
¦ It is provided free of charge to any school in any Florida district that requests it.
In the Duval County public schools alone, this prevention education is being provided to every pupil in kindergarten to sixth grade as well as kids in all but 12 of Florida's 67 counties.
This impressive work is ably carried out in inspiring fashion by the Monique Burr Foundation, a local nonprofit whose Child Safety Matters program is winning national acclaim for its revolutionary approach to educating children to avoid being victimized by abuse — and, equally important, empowering those who have been abused to report it and prevent it from ever happening again.
“(Child Safety Matters) is comprehensive in approach and scope, and it saves lives,” said Ed Burr, the Jacksonville businessman who launched the Monique Burr Foundation nearly 20 years to honor his late wife, a devoted child advocate.
“When you can break the cycle of abuse,” Burr told the Times-Union editorial board, “you can change the lives not only of those kids but the generations that (follow them).”
The Child Safety Matters program has been extremely effective because it acknowledges the factor of polyvictimization — that children who are being sexually abused are usually being traumatized in other ways, too (bullying, violence, etc.) — and the reality that most kids are being victimized by adults and others they know or believed they could trust.
By using such a holistic and wide-ranging method to address abuse with pupils while in a classroom setting, Child Safety Matters has encouraged children to not only recognize when they are becoming targets of abuse, but to identify people they can immediately speak with and share what's happening.
Among the strong partners are the Florida Department of Education, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, the Florida Department of Children and Families, Gov. Rick Scott's office, the National Educators to Stop Trafficking and the Cyberbullying Research Center.
HIGH MARKS IN EVALUATIONS
Recently, the Child Safety Matters program was the subject of a rigorous, several-month evaluation by Florida State University's respected School of Teacher Evaluation and received high marks not merely for how it empowered children to learn about preventing abuse, but for how easy it was set up for school counselors teaching it to carry out the standardized lesson plan.
In short, Child Safety Matters is helping children.
It is putting an end to ongoing abuse.
And it is preventing future abuse.
The program is doing so well — and at no cost to the school districts around this state that use it — that the question isn't whether it works.
The only question is this:
Why are there still 12 counties in Florida that don't think it's worth having Child Safety Matters taught to their schoolchildren?
Spotting signs of child abuse may be confusing for onlooking adults
by Emilit Arroyo
According to the Georgia Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children, 200 cases of child abuse and neglect are reported on average each day in Georgia.
The issue has been in the news recently with an extensive abuse case in Taylor County, about an hour east of Columbus.
Locking their adopted daughter in a chicken coop and depriving her of food and sometimes clothing, are just some of the allegations against Diana Franklin who is on trial this week, and her husband Samuel Franklin set to face a jury next month.
However, people in the Valley are taking to Facebook to voice another group of people some find at fault: witnesses who say they saw signs, but didn't act on them.
"People don't want to falsely accuse somebody of something and so people will sometimes go, 'well I don't think that person would do that thing,' or 'I'm probably just imagining this,'" explained Dr. Angela Sims with the Children's Center at the Pastoral Institute.
However, some find that psychological reasoning irrelevant, posting comments online like " If you see signs of abuse and do not report it you're just as guilty." Others see why there may be hesitation to alert authorities, posting "He really didn't see the whole picture, just a small piece of the puzzle."
"Cursing at a child, yelling at them all the time, always saying negative things," explained Sims as he elaborates on the many red flags people can look for if they suspect a child is being abused.
Behavior from abusive parents can include showing little concern for a child, constantly blaming a child for problems, using harsh physical discipline, limiting a child's contact with others, and demanding an inappropriate level of physical or academic performance.
"We're not required to know if there is abuse, it's if we suspect," said Sims, which is a rule of thumb for teachers, doctors, and psychologists who are mandated by law to report any suspicions that arise.
If you feel something is off, officials remind everyone a report doesn't mean you will tear a family apart. It will simply prompt an investigation that could save a life.
"Child welfare agencies work with the family to try and preserve the family as much as they can, there are circumstances that obviously can not do that," said Sims.
You can report abuse to the Georgia 24/7 hotline by calling 1-855-GACHILD / 1-855-422-4453.
Child abuse image hash list shared with major web firms
19,000 criminal pic hashes given to Facebook, Google
by Alexander J. Martin
The Internet Watch Foundation, Blighty's voluntary body for policing and filtering the 'net for child abuse images, has announced nearly 19,000 hashes of "category A" abuse images have already been stored in its new Hash List and distributed to major web firms.
The abuse images are sorted into categories A, B, and C, with "A" referring to the "worst of the worst".
The 19,000 hashes have been "given to five global internet companies [Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo], who had volunteered to conduct a robust test on the list through their systems during the implementation period."
The hashes, created during the implementation stage, were sourced from images forensically captured on the Home Office Child Abuse Image Database, which in turn was sourced from police investigations.
Crucially, with the use of the hash list project, child sexual abuse images will be prevented from being uploaded in the first place, thus giving internet companies the power to stop people from repeatedly sharing the images on their services, said IWF.
The IWF Hash List has received a phased implementation since June 2015.
The organisation had stated its project will "automatically begin creating two types of hashes to meet the needs of the online industry. It will create PhotoDNA (technology developed by Microsoft) and MD5 hashes."
The organisation said it hopes that in the future, hashes will also be created from images that its analysts have sourced from reports and by "proactively searching for criminal content".
The IWF intends that its Hash List will become operational to all members in 2016. ®
The hidden victims of child abuse
by Barbara Heggen
The first Natasha knew of her husband's crimes was when he arrived home one afternoon flanked by two police officers.
They began upending her home searching for evidence of child abuse material before leaving with all the computers.
It took 18 months and five trials for him to eventually end up in jail. In the interim, Natasha's life was destroyed: she lost her home, she lost her community and she lost eight years of her life to lie.
She also lost faith in her own judgement. 'I've loved a man who has this vile segment of his personality,' she says. 'What does that say about you? It denigrates everything about yourself.
'I thought, "What children have I brought into this household?" I have so many friends with young children that I've brought into this house.'
Natasha's life was in turmoil. She left her job and, when a court registered her husband's address as their home, had to move out.
She was also unable to confide in anyone. During the 18 months before her husband was sent to jail, Natasha was legally restrained from discussing the issue with anyone
'I was the face for anyone who knew or found out. I was the face. He was tucked away, neatly, supported by a sense of having to be unknown,' she says.
The emotional trauma that Natasha experienced is very familiar to Natalie Walker. She's the founder of PartnerSPEAK, a group set up to support family members of those who use child abuse material.
She went through a similar experience a decade ago, and after years of frustration at the lack of services for people like her and Natasha, decided to take action herself.
'The first level of trauma is the actual offence,' she says. 'But the deeper trauma is the response of friends, family, police, professional agencies: places that people went to seek support—that's often where the deeper trauma takes place.'
Of course, it's not just the partners of people using child abuse material who are impacted, it's sometimes entire families. Mothers, daughters, sons and extended family are often shunned.
Even PartnerSPEAK itself has experienced this stigma.
'When we went to have our official launch, a salubrious event with academics, national co-ordinators and the police, we were actually denied venue hire,' Walker says.
For Natasha, ParnterSPEAK has been a lifeline. She believes that if we want to learn more about the people who commit child abuse crimes, we need listen to more women like her.
'Once people like myself are well enough to speak ... I've got a lot of valuable information. The outcome of this is to look after the kids.'
Human trafficking report offers mixed reviews
by Jay Olstad
ST. PAUL, Minn. – A state report is offering mixed reviews of the Safe Harbor initiative in Minnesota a year after its passage, including a lack of funding that has "inhibited full implementation".
The legislature approved the Safe Harbor Law in 2011, but legislators expanded it in 2013 and 2014.
The law categorizes children under 18 years old involved in sex trafficking as victims and should be treated as such. The legislation also introduced a diversion program for victims and provided more money for shelters and training, as well as increasing the penalties for traffickers and buyers of commercial sex.
"In the past, children and youth were treated as criminals instead as the victims of sex trafficking," said Department of Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman in a statement. "The Safe Harbor law has allowed youth that have been sexually exploited and trafficked to be treated as the victims they are, and provides them with the resources that promote safety, stability and hope for a better future."
The report states to date $8 million dollars has been invested in Safe Harbor per biennium. Other improvements include an increased awareness to the problem of human trafficking in the state, according to the report.
"DHS and many other agencies have partnered closely to meet the needs of sex trafficked youth in Minnesota," said Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jessen in a statement. "Our role in developing shelter and supportive housing for these vulnerable youth helps them stabilize and begin to heal."
But according to the report, advocates said there are not enough resources to meet the need, specifically they said there are not enough shelters to house victims. That's something KARE 11 Investigates reported earlier this month.
"There's not enough shelter space or money for ongoing services. This population needs long-term care. This isn't a 3-month or 6-month intervention. You need a minimum of 6 months to a year of services to be effective," said an unidentified person who the authors interviewed.
The report also said about half of "key informants" questioned said there needs to be more trust built between law enforcement and service providers.
There is also a debate about whether or not locked placements are needed for youth when they are initially identified. According to the report, some believe locked placement is necessary because "youth often leave services before they are assessed and receive appropriate treatment." But others believe it would cause more harm to youth.
Other concerns included a lack of awareness about the issue and the resources available in tribal communities.
Among the recommendations: the state should seek full funding in order to adequately implement services, expand the age limit in the Safe Harbor law to 18 and older and create more housing for victims, including beds for males and LGBTQ youth.
Read the full report here.
Why sex traffickers love South Dakota
by Neal Colgass
Federal authorities are cracking down on sex trafficking in a seemingly unlikely place: the friendly, low-crime state of South Dakota.
It's been a relatively nascent effort: KDLT quotes Assistant US Attorney Jeff Clapper as saying, "Before 2010, we didn't have any of these cases. Since then, we've had a steady diet of prosecution of sex trafficking cases." That's partially due to a change in the mindset of local law enforcement, with a Sioux Falls officer telling KELOLAND.com that instead of going after prostitutes, the focus is on finding women who have been trafficked.
By the AP's count, the feds in the last few years have gone after about 50 cases and secured life sentences on three occasions. Prosecutions have involved would-be customers (a Texas air traffic controller got 15 years for responding to an ad for sex with a 12-year-old at the Sturgis motorcycle rally) and the high-profile trafficker Mohammed Sharif Alaboudi.
In 2013, Alaboudi received four life terms for operating what US Attorney Brendan Johnson described as "a house of horrors"—a one-bedroom apartment where homeless or drug-addicted women were forced to have sex with strangers. So what's up in this otherwise sleepy state? "I think traffickers see this as a trusting place and think, 'They're never going to catch me,'" says the manager of a nonprofit that helps trafficked girls. "Well, we seem to be catching an awful lot of them."
Traffickers are also said to like the state's poor areas; the AP notes about half of the feds' cases involved Native American women. Now a coalition including police, federal prosecutors, tribal law enforcement, the Junior League, and church groups is going after the problem. And a recent $750,000 grant has funded a shelter for trafficking victims, KELOLAND.com reports.
Action needed to stop sex trafficking of underage girls
by Dianne Feinstein
Sex trafficking of underage girls — often as young as 12 — is one of the most repulsive crimes imaginable, but it's part of a multibillion-dollar underground industry in our state.
To combat this repugnant crime, we need to take tangible action on the local, state and federal level to punish traffickers and buyers and help the victims.
Carrie, a 21-year-old Los Angeles native, tells us about the type of criminals we're dealing with.
When Carrie was 14, she ran away from home to escape an abusive stepfather. Carrie soon met a trafficker who held her captive for seven years, selling her for sex, beating and torturing her.
When Carrie was 17, she attempted suicide. At one point, Carrie's trafficker held a gun to her head; she jumped from a moving car to escape death.
Carrie has been arrested on prostitution charges in Los Angeles, Sacramento and Orange Counties, and is covered in tattoos meant to show she is someone's property.
Today Carrie's trafficker is serving 30 years in prison and she's getting help, but there are still thousands and thousands of girls being abused across the country.
Sex trafficking is a $99 billion industry, the second-largest criminal enterprise behind drugs. And California is one of the top destination states for trafficking victims, with Los Angeles a central hub.
While trafficking is largely hidden in cheap motel rooms, law enforcement officials confirm that it is widespread in our communities. Underage, vulnerable girls are recruited in their neighborhoods or schools, sometimes even on the Blue Line as it passes through low-income communities.
A number of factors have contributed to the rise of sex trafficking. The first is increased demand. Those who buy these girls for sex are rarely prosecuted, even though many know the girls are underage and being held against their will.
It should shock the conscience that an individual who buys a girl of middle-school age for sex is only given a misdemeanor citation under disorderly conduct charges.
The University of San Diego recently completed a three-year study of human trafficking, one of the most comprehensive analyses of the issue to date. In interviews with 702 first-time offenders and 189 victims, researchers found that “perceived impunity” from law enforcement is a key driver of demand.
The Internet has also fueled demand. Buyers are connected to underage girls in seconds, through websites like Backpage.com. More than 60 percent of victims are sold online at least once.
Second, victims like Carrie have long been charged as prostitutes rather than offered the help a young girl needs to build a new life. This creates a vicious cycle that drives girls back into the clutches of their abusers.
Third, the number of homeless, vulnerable children has skyrocketed.
In California, the number of homeless children has nearly quadrupled since 2003. According to recent data from the Department of Education, there are nearly 120,000 homeless youth in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties alone.
A 2013 Covenant House survey of trafficking victims showed that nearly half had been homeless. The University of San Diego study also confirmed that homeless and runaway children are at much greater risk of being trafficked.
The good news is that real progress is being made in Los Angeles. Sheriff Jim McDonnell and I convened a meeting in August with law enforcement, public officials and advocates to discuss how we can fight trafficking. There was consensus that this problem is growing quickly and meaningful action must be taken to address it.
The Board of Supervisors, with the support of Sheriff McDonnell, passed a resolution recognizing that child trafficking victims like Carrie are victims, not prostitutes.
Sheriff McDonnell has also partnered with the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, District Attorney Jackie Lacey, U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker and regional colleagues to launch a task force to better coordinate investigations and rescue operations, and connect victims to services. Through collaboration, traffickers will end up where they belong — behind bars — and these girls will get help.
Steps have also been taken to emphasize the prosecution of buyers and improve cooperation between law enforcement and federal prosecutors.
This month, U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker secured the first federal conviction of such a buyer in the Los Angeles area. Charles Goswitz, a 59-year-old man from Torrance, was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison after he purchased sex from a 16-year-old trafficking victim.
While these are promising developments, we have a long way to go.
To reduce demand, prosecutions of buyers must be made a priority at all levels of the justice system. The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, signed into law by President Obama in May, removes barriers to federal prosecutions of these individuals. U.S. attorneys in California should use these new tools to bring cases against these criminals.
The bill also included a provision that makes it a federal felony to knowingly “advertise” a minor for commercial sex acts. This new law enables the Department of Justice to crack down on sites that profit from advertising the sexual exploitation of children, which is key to reducing demand. These websites should be shut down for advertising minors for sex, and the question I have posed to the department is “Why haven't they been?”
Coordination between law enforcement and social service providers must be continually improved so victims don't fall through the cracks, and we need to do much more to address youth homelessness, one of the root causes of the trafficking epidemic.
A key step is passing bipartisan legislation Sen. Rob Portman and I introduced, the Homeless Children and Youth Act. The bill would make it easier for young people living in motels and couch surfing to get help from local nonprofits like Covenant House California.
The bottom line is that thousands of children are being sold every day for sex, many right here in Los Angeles. We owe it to these children to open our eyes to this epidemic and take real action to stop it.
How to Build a Culture of Good Health
Physical well-being depends on more than keeping our bodies fit. Emotions and the people who come into our lives matter just as much.
by Gavor Mate
“I never get angry,” says a character in one of Woody Allen's movies. “I grow a tumor instead.” Much more scientific truth is captured in that droll remark than many doctors would recognize. Mainstream medical practice largely ignores the role of emotions in the physiological functioning of the human organism. Yet the scientific evidence abundantly shows that people's lifetime emotional experiences profoundly influence health and illness. And, since emotional patterns are a response to the psychological and social environment, disease in an individual always tells us about the multigenerational family of origin and the broader culture in which that person's life unfolds.
We human beings are biopsychosocial creatures whose health or illness reflects our relationship with the world we inhabit—including all the variables of family, class, gender, race, political status, and the physical ecology of which we are a part. A recent article from the National Institutes of Health called for a new foundational theory for medicine, based on a “biopsychosocial-ecological paradigm.” Given the ideological limitations of mainstream medicine, this forward-looking initiative is not likely to be heeded soon.
As early as the second century, the Roman physician Galen noted the connection between emotional burden and illness, an observation repeated by many other clinicians over the centuries. The pathway from stressful emotions, often unconscious, to physical disease was often driven home to me as a family physician and palliative care practitioner, although nothing in my medical education even remotely hinted at such links. People I saw with chronic disease of all kinds—from malignancies or autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or ulcerative colitis to persistent skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, and neurological disorders like Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS), multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, and even dementia—were characterized by certain unmistakable emotional life patterns. Among these was the chronic repression of so-called negative emotions, especially of healthy anger, as in the Woody Allen character's wry confession; an overriding sense of duty, role, and responsibility; an undue concern for the emotional needs of others while ignoring one's own; and, finally, a core belief—again, often unconscious—that one is responsible for how other people feel and that one must never disappoint others. The expression “the good die young” has—sadly—more validity than we sometimes appreciate.
Exemplifying the characteristic of an overwrought sense of duty, role, and responsibility, New York Times contributor Julia Baird recently reported her diagnosis with ovarian cancer. “I have always been healthy and strong,” she wrote in a recent column. “I regularly do hot yoga and swim a two-kilometer stretch in a bay teeming with fish near my home in Sydney, all while caring for my two little kids, hosting a TV show, writing columns and making the final edits on the book I am writing.” Inadvertently, Baird depicts precisely the “I can do anything, I'll be everything to everybody” multitasking persona I found in everyone I ever met with her particular malignancy. People are unaware, and their physicians rarely know to inform them, that such self-imposed stress is a major risk factor for disease of all kinds.
But is it purely self-imposed? It is not accurate to see it that way. A materialistic culture teaches its members that their value depends on what they produce, achieve, or consume rather than on their human beingness. Many of us believe that we must continually prove and justify our worthiness, that we must keep having and doing to justify our existence.
Lou Gehrig, the baseball great after whom ALS is named, embodied self-abnegation to the nth degree, as do all people with ALS I have ever treated, interviewed, or read about—or have been described in medical papers. His famous record of consecutive games played was not about his indestructibility, but about his unwillingness to surrender his self-identity as invulnerable, with no needs. He suffered injuries like all other athletes: All his fingers had been broken at least once; some more often. He would play even when wincing with pain and sick to the stomach with the agony of it, but his dutifulness would not allow him to rest.
Gehrig's story, as those of many people with chronic illness, leaves us with the question of how such emotional patterns help potentiate physical illness. Why do people develop and maintain such self-harming traits?
Compulsive self-disregard and emotional repression are never deliberate or conscious—nobody can be faulted for them. They begin in early childhood as coping mechanisms. Gehrig, for example, had an alcoholic father and a highly stressed mother. As a child, he assumed the shell of invulnerability because the responsibility thrust upon him was that of being the emotional caregiver to his parents. Such role reversal, said psychiatrist John Bowlby, the pioneer of attachment research and theory, is inevitably a source of pathology for the child later on. Gehrig was compelled in his childhood to develop a persona that, in time, became his ineluctable self-identity. This is how he adapted to his dysfunctional environment; he knew himself no other way.
A recent article in the journal Pediatrics well summarized the notion that early childhood coping dynamics may result in adult illness and dysfunction:
“Short-term physiologic and psychological adjustments that are necessary for immediate survival and adaptation … may come at a significant cost to long-term outcomes in learning, behavior, health, and longevity.”
During our dependent and vulnerable childhoods we develop the psychological, behavioral, and emotional composite that later we mistake for ourselves. This composite, which we call the personality, often masks a real person with real needs and desires. The personality is not a fault—in stressed environments it evolves primarily as a defense, a defense that can turn saboteur.
The separation of mind and body is an erroneous view, incompatible with science. Personality traits—that is, psychological patterns—conduce to disease because the brain circuits and systems that process emotions not only exert a profound influence on our autonomic nerves, as well as our cardiovascular, hormonal, and immune systems: In reality, they are all conjoined. The recent, but no longer new, discipline of psychoneuroimmunology has delineated the many neurological and biochemical mechanisms that unite all these seemingly disparate systems into one super-system.
A somewhat breathless report in Science Daily outlined the latest such finding, from the University of Virgina:
“In a stunning discovery that overturns decades of textbook teaching, researchers have determined that the brain is directly connected to the immune system by vessels previously thought not to exist. The discovery could have profound implications for diseases from autism to Alzheimer's to multiple sclerosis.”
In effect, when we repress emotions—just as when we are completely at their mercy, such as in moments of untrammeled rage—we are playing havoc with our nervous system, hormonal apparatus, immune system, intestines, heart, and other organs. The result can be chronic or acute illness. As repressed anger eventually turns against us, the immune system can as well, as in autoimmune disorders, for example.
Interactions between the brain and body also determine that adverse early childhood circumstances—even in utero experiences—leave us in the long term with more than psychological and emotional effects. The physical impact of early childhood experiences can also directly promote disease. Studies from the United States and New Zealand have shown, for example, that healthy adults who suffered childhood mistreatment were more likely to have elevated inflammatory products in their circulation in response to stressful experiences. Such overactive stress reactions are, in turn, a risk factor for conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and a host of other illnesses.
It is impossible to overstate the impact of childhood trauma on adult mental and physical health. Myriad studies have demonstrated that early-life suffering potentiates many illnesses, from mental diseases such as depression, psychosis, or addiction to autoimmune conditions to cancer. One Canadian study demonstrated that childhood abuse raised the risk of cancer nearly 50 percent, even when controlled for lifestyle habits such as smoking and drinking.
Addictions in particular are responses to early trauma. Whether to drugs, food, gambling, or whatever other form they take, all are attempts to soothe stress and emotional pain. The first question is never why the addiction, but why the pain? We cannot understand the addictions that beset our society without recognizing the suffering and stress they are intended to alleviate, or the childhood trauma at their source. In this light, the obesity epidemic now facing us reflects primarily an epidemic of pain and stress.
Astonishing to say, most medical students never hear the word “trauma” in all their years of training, except in the the sense of physical injury. “The medical profession is traumaphobic,” a well-known colleague in San Francisco once told me. The results for patient care are devastating, whether in the treatment of physical or psychiatric conditions—a distinction that, given the mind/body unity, is in itself misleading.
Individual family dynamics unfold in the context of culture and society. Just as families have their histories in which they transmit trauma across the generations, so do societies. We can see, then, why the poor and the racially oppressed and the historically traumatized are more prone to disease. Need we mention the high rates of alcoholism, violence, obesity, diabetes, and overdose deaths amongst aboriginal populations in North America and, say, Australia, or the relatively unfavorable health outlook and life expectancy of black Americans?
The effects of trauma become multigenerational through repeated psychological dysfunctions. The new science of epigenetics is identifying the mechanisms that even affect gene functioning. The children of Holocaust survivors, for example, have altered genetic mechanisms leading to abnormal stress hormone levels. Animal studies are showing that the physiological effects of trauma can be passed on even to the third generation.
Finally, family stresses, trauma, and social and economic deprivation can also affect human brain development in ways that lead to behavioral problems, learning disabilities, and mental illness. CT scan studies at the University of Wisconsin showed that brain centers responsible for academic performance were up to 10 percent smaller in children who grew up in the poorest homes. Why? Because the human brain itself is a social organ, shaped in its neurophysiological and neurochemical development by the child's relationships. In the words of the above-cited Pediatrics article:
“The interaction of genes and experiences literally shapes the circuitry of the developing brain, and is critically influenced by the mutual responsiveness of adult-child relationships, particularly in the early childhood years.”
Parents stressed by multigenerational trauma, relationship issues, economic insecurity, maternal depression, or social disconnection are simply unable to give their children the “mutually responsive” attuned interactions that optimal childhood development requires. The result is the epidemic of developmental disorders among our children that we are now witnessing. In line with the prevailing ideology, the medical response is mostly pharmaceutical. Rather than considering the environment that, throughout childhood, shapes the brain, we seek to manipulate the child's brain chemistry instead.
What then are people to do when doctors, the gatekeepers to health care and its primary providers, are blind to the basic realities of what generates health and what undermines it? When their training denies them knowledge of the unshakeable unity of mind and body, of emotions and physiology? When they do not recognize that social factors are far more powerful determinants of health than genetic predispositions? When they are unaware of the powerful role of psychological trauma in human life?
On the societal level, we must understand that health is not an individual outcome, but arises from social cohesion, community ties, and mutual support. In this alienated culture, where “friends” may be virtual electronic entities rather than human beings, too many suffer from what University of Chicago psychologist John Cacioppo calls “the lethality of loneliness.” We need a broad attitudinal and practical shift, consciously willed and created, toward a culture based on the fundamental sociality of human beings. We know all too well, from data too persuasive and too somber to be disputed, that emotional isolation kills.
Policymakers and community leaders need to be taught that economic and social disparities, insecurities, and stresses, as well as racial or ethnic inequalities, inevitably result in health problems and vastly increased health costs. In truth, almost all diseases are social diseases.
Health promotion must begin at conception. In the womb the growing human is already affected by maternal stress. Pregnant women need much more than blood tests, physical exams, and ultrasounds. They require emotional support so the hormones of stress do not chronically flow into the fetus via the umbilical cord. Current birthing practices, egregiously over-medicalized, interfere with natural physiologic processes and maternal-infant bonding.
With the role of parental presence and attunement being recognized in brain and personality development, young mothers and fathers must be helped to spend much more time with their children. In advanced European countries even fathers are accorded parental leave.
Adults need to know, even if their physicians often do not, that their health issues are rarely isolated manifestations. Any symptom, any illness is also an opportunity to consider where our lives may be out of balance, where our childhood coping patterns have become maladaptive, exacting costs on our physical well-being.
When we take on too much stress, whether at work or in our personal lives, when we are not able to say no, inevitably our bodies will say it for us. We need to be very honest with ourselves, very compassionate, but very thorough in considering how our childhood programming still runs our lives, to our detriment.
Ultimately, healing flows from within. The word itself originates from “wholeness.” To be whole is much more than to experience the absence of disease. It is the full and optimal functioning of the human organism, according to its nature-gifted possibilities. By such standards, we live in a culture that leaves us far short of health.
The importance of nutrition and a healthy ecology, of an environment free of toxins and pollution, need hardly be stressed. They, too, are social issues more than individual ones.
I'm often asked how people should approach their physicians, who may be very adept at their craft but limited by the narrowness of the medical ideology. “It's the same as going to a bakery,” I reply. “When you enter a bakery, don't ask for salami, just as when you go to the butcher, it is no use to ask for cookies.” Receive, I suggest, what the physician can offer—and often that can be miraculous—but do not seek what the doctor cannot. Find alternative sources for what most physicians cannot provide: a holistic approach that considers not organs and systems but the entire human organism. Take responsibility for how you live, the food you ingest, your emotional balance, your spiritual development, the integrity of your relationships.
Give yourself, as best you can, what your parents would have loved to grant you but probably could not: full-hearted attention, full-minded awareness, and compassion. Make gifting yourself with these qualities your daily practice.
“A culture can be toxic or nourishing,” writes Thom Hartmann. If we wish to take full responsibility for health in our society, we must not only be vigilant guardians of our personal well-being, we must also work to change structures, institutions, and ideologies that keep us mired in a toxic culture.
Mystery Grows Around Deaths of Infants Found in Vacant Philadelphia Lot
by Morgan Zalot and David Chang
The mystery surrounding the deaths of two newborn babies whose bodies were found in a vacant lot in North Philadelphia grew after police on Sunday discovered that autopsies had apparently already been performed on the infants.
On Monday, police continued to investigate the deaths of the infant boy and infant girl. Investigators were searching for a black pickup truck they say was spotted dumping trash in the area where the babies were found, and detectives were canvassing the neighborhood searching for any surveillance video that may reveal how the babies wound up in the lot.
Police say 9-year-old Kasime Crawford and another child found the baby boy and girl lying in a patch of grass next to a used-car lot on Mutter Street near Montgomery Avenue Saturday night. Crawford told NBC10 he thought they were toys at first.
"Both of their faces were blue," Crawford said. "There's a doll baby. That's when it started stinking and that's when we checked and there was a baby. I went home and told my dad."
Residents returned to the lot Sunday morning and found the bodies. They then called police. The babies were pronounced dead at the lot by medics at 10:31 a.m., police said. Investigators said both of the infants had cuts on them while one had a clamp attached to the umbilical cord.
"They were just thrown away like trash," said Stephanie Farrell who lives near where the babies were found.
While processing the scene, the Medical Examiner discovered the bodies had an autopsy performed on them by unidentified medical personnel at an unknown time. Investigators have not yet determined how or when the babies died. They also have not yet determined how long they had been in the lot before they were found.
"You shouldn't throw little kids away," said Ronnie Jackson, Kasime's father. "You could've left them in the hospital, gave them to a charity, gave them to the fire department or knocked on my door and gave them to me."
Police later received information stating that people inside a black pickup truck with an unknown license plate were dumping trash on the highway near where the bodies were found. Officials are searching the area for possible surveillance video.
7-Year-Old's Body Found In Scottsville, Kentucky
by News Channel 5
SCOTTSVILLE, Ky. - Authorities in Allen County, Kentucky said the discovery of a 7-year-old's body was being investigated as a homicide.
Officials with the Kentucky State Police said the body of young Gabriella Doolin was found just after 8 p.m. Saturday night in a creek in a wooded area behind Allen County-Scottsville High School.
Gabriella, known as Gabby to her friends and family, had been attending a football game to watch her older brothers play when she went missing.
According to troopers, Gabby was reported missing by her mother around 7:40 p.m. Her body was found a short time later.
An autopsy was scheduled for Sunday to determine the cause of death. Kentucky State Police troopers said it was being treated as a homicide due to the state in which she was found and other evidence located at the scene.
At this point, authorities said they do not have a description of the suspect.
Friends and family held a prayer vigil in Scottsville at the Allen County Public Library on West Main Street at 6 p.m. Sunday. Hundreds gathered to remember the life of little Gabby.
"We as a community Brian [Gabby's father], stand with you," said Shane Britt, Chaplain of the Allen County Sheriff's Office, at the vigil. "This whole town stands with you tonight. We're praying for you. We're crying with you. We're mourning with you. We stand with you. And we're also praying that soon the people, the individual that did this, will be brought to justice. Amen."
On social media, Gabby's father asked for continued prayers and said, “I would of gladly traded places with my baby girl.. I don't know why anyone would do this to a baby or anyone for that matter!”
The investigation was being handled by those at KSP Post 3. State troopers were being assisted by the Scottsville Police Department, Allen County Sheriff's Office, and Allen County Coroner's Office.
Anyone with information on this child's murder has been urged to contact KSP Post 3 at 270-782-2010.
A gofundme account has been set up to help the family out with funeral expenses. To donate, click here.
Grant for sexual abuse program ending
by Sharon Myers
The opportunity to sign up for a free program offered by two local YMCAs to train people to recognize, react and prevent sexual abuse is coming to an end.
The J. Smith Young YMCA in Lexington and the Tom A. Finch Community YMCA in Thomasville partnered with a nonprofit group, Darkness to Light, to raise awareness about the sexual abuse of children earlier this year. They were able to offer online training, Stewards of Children, at no cost due to a grant Darkness to Light received from the Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation. This grant is coming to an end and will close at the end of this year. Starting Jan. 1, 2016, the training will go back to a standard price of $10 per person.
Orla Kelly-Rajan, a trained program facilitator with the J. Smith Young YMCA, said the program has been very successful, and she urges interested parties to take advantage of the free service while it is available.
“Since the launch of our child sexual abuse prevention initiative in February 2015, we have trained over 1,000 adults in Stewards of Children online and nearly 500 in person,” Kelly-Rajan said. “One hundred percent of YMCA staff has taken the training, and counselors and teachers at Lexington City Schools, Thomasville City Schools and Davidson County Schools have taken or are in the process of taking the training. This is truly amazing and a giant step in the child sexual abuse prevention initiative. Just think of the number of children that are better protected because of this training.”
Training is open to any adult but may be of specific interest to youth sports organizations, coaches, camp counselors, teachers, schools, faith centers and other service organizations. Outcomes include increased awareness of the prevalence and consequences of child sexual abuse, new skills for adults to protect children and commitment to community action.
Julia Dunn, student counselor at South Lexington Elementary School, was one of several employees of the Lexington City school system to attend the Stewards of Children training. She said the program is a very important service that helps anyone who deals with children to recognize the characteristics of someone being sexually abused.
“All of our staff and all of our counselors were offered this opportunity to do this as professional development,” Dunn said. “We were delighted to be given that opportunity. We all know that child sexual abuse exists; it is a very uncomfortable subject for most people. … I think one of the things that really helped me was being able to look and to help those individual students that may be going through it. I have a real concern for all children, but I think sexual abuse among boys goes far less reported. I have tried to use whatever opportunity I have to speak out and to get more open about that issue.”
According to statistics provided by Darkness to Light, one in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Children are nearly 70 percent of victims of all reported sexual assaults. In more than 90 percent of these cases, the abuser is someone the child knows and trusts.
Dunn urges anyone who is in the child care or educational profession to take this course while it is still free. She said it a valuable tool to help stop the sexual abuse of children.
“Anyone who has an interest in the well-being of children needs to take this program,” Dunn said. “We all need to be aware of what to look for. It raises the level of awareness of anyone who is taking care of children in our community to keep this from happening. It is good to educate ourselves even if it is something that is unpleasant and difficult. It empowers us to stop the cycle and to assist people as they are going through this.”
For more information on the Stewards of Children program, contact Billy Freeman at the J. Smith Young YMCA at firstname.lastname@example.org or Jarrod Dunbar at the Tom A. Finch Community YMCA at email@example.com .
How community radio is helping young survivors talk about sexual abuse
Young people who have experienced sexual exploitation are taking to the airwaves to reach out to their peers and share their stories
by Dominic Smith
It's the primetime evening slot on Manchester's Unity Radio, and Professor Green is blasting out over the airwaves. Listeners to this dance and urban music station might not realise there is anything different about this show until its presenters begin to speak.
For two hours on a Thursday evening, the station is taken over by 11 to 16-year-olds for a youth show with a difference. Among the hottest new tracks are serious discussions on child sexual exploitation (CSE) led by young people who have experienced CSE themselves.
“I think it's making young people more aware about where, how and why it's happening. I think it does persuade children to talk to adults – their parents, to social workers or teachers,” says one of the young people involved in the Next Gen Youths (NGY) show.
The NGY show's strapline is “helping young people lead safer and happier lives”; its aim to spread awareness of CSE so the station's young listeners are better able to understand what a healthy relationship is.
The studio is abuzz during the show's live broadcast as the NGY take control. Supported by Unity staff, they record live segments, operate the decks, and tell listeners to get involved on social media. Recent shows have seen discussions on grooming, how fashion is part of CSE and how pop stars influence how young people dress, between reviews of Bryson Tiller's album and video game Far Cry 4.
The show is the outcome of a 2014 report by Ann Coffey, Labour MP for Stockport, and commissioned by the local police and crime commissioner, to examine the progress on tackling CSE in Greater Manchester following the Rochdale abuse scandal. Coffey found CSE was a “social norm” in some areas, with a prevailing view that children were to blame for their own abuse. The report advocated a radical new approach to tackle CSE, spearheaded by young people in an attempt to change public attitudes.
“That new attitude to children was very pervasive across Greater Manchester and was evidenced for example by schoolgirls who talked to me about men coming up to them and touching them on the street even though they were in school uniform. That wasn't an unusual story,” she says.
“Which really led me to believe that basically that this can't be tackled in the way we've always tackled these things in the past simply by sending information and education in schools. We've got to have a change in wider attitude amongst the community, amongst and in young people themselves.”
Coffey says a radio show was suggested by a 13-year-old girl she spoke to during her investigation. “When I talked to young people, one of the things they said again and again is that they would talk to their peers … but they didn't find it that easy to talk to people in suits, police officers and social workers.”
They trust what their peers told them as “they felt that was real, valuable information because they lived in the same world and were experiencing the same pressures”.
The NGY show was established on Unity Radio, a station with a history of outreach work with young people, and supported by the Greater Manchester Consortium Against Child Sexual Exploitation, a group of children's charities and agencies including Barnado's, the Prince's Trust, the NSPCC and the Children's Society. It is part of Project Phoenix, a Greater Manchester-wide programme to tackling CSE, complemented by the It's Not Okay campaign, raising awareness of CSE among young people.
Funding was awarded to Unity to train the young people involved in the show and provide ongoing support. Children are referred to the show from agencies and supporting charities. They meet twice weekly to plan everything from the tracklist to the CSE issue to be discussed. Topics are chosen from agreed themes put together by its supporting organisations, influenced by Barnardo's Real Love Rocks programme.
But those involved stress that the final say is down to the young people themselves. Jon Green, director of Unity Radio, who works closely with the NGY each week to produce the show, says: “It's young people led. It's about them coming up with the theme for the week, and that might have been influenced by something that happened to their friends, something they've seen in the newspaper or on TV.” He cites the recent example of Rita Ora saying she was groomed as a teenager as something that may lead into a discussion.
“But we also have to know when they've had enough of that,” says Green. The young people are encouraged to indulge their love of music as the show offers a unique opportunity to hear new songs first and interview those in the industry. Skills in radio presenting, production and the use of social media are also developed. Some of the NGY have talked about pursuing careers in radio journalism.
“We talk about CSE very seriously, but we put other things in so people can still enjoy the show and not just listen to [talk about] CSE throughout it,” says a young NGY presenter.
According to those who work closely with the NGY, the show has already had a transformational effect on their confidence. Green says: “Some of the young people we've got in the project have come from some really challenging situations and backgrounds. We see them come through it, and as a group we've seen them bond as well.”
Those involved also say it's having a wider impact, with a big response coming via social media to each show. Green says one of the young people involved went missing from home 50 times last year, and since then hasn't been missing once.
One year on from her report, Coffey says there is a much greater understanding of CSE across agencies in Greater Manchester. “But I don't think we are there yet with increasing that understanding among the wider public. There's much more work that has to be done in informing the community about what child sexual exploitation is.”
The NGY show continuing to flourish is key to that aim. Why is it having such a big impact? “I think it's as simple as providing a safe space where young people can question adult decisions ,” says Duncan Craig, chief executive of Survivors Manchester, one of the organisations supporting the show. “It's something that happens to young people … but we talk about it with adults.”
Child advocate, author speaks to Waco professionals
by Cassie L. Smith
John Borgstedt recalls taking the butcher knife out of a drawer, planning to kill his mother.
He knew he'd have to kill his stepdad first because he would put up the biggest fight.
Then, at 9 years old, he'd move on to his mother, who would be in too much shock to stop him.
Borgstedt on Friday, now 37, told a room full of child advocate professionals it was his sister standing in the hallway who saw the knife as he prepared to enter his mother's room that stopped him.
But at the time, all he could think of was how ending his mother's life would end nearly a decade of abuse, torture and trips to different institutions that he'd endured for as long as he could remember.
“I believe miracles happen every day. I think God performed one on me whenever I came out. I really do,” Borgstedt said. “There's no other explanation.
“I mean, I am a very strong-willed person. I really am. But when you go through the things I went through in life and survive, and you're able to give back and use the negative in a positive way in order to give back and re-inspire communities across the country, there's more there. It's not what I have here today. It's what I leave tomorrow that's what's going to make the inspiration after I'm gone.”
Borgstedt, of Houston, was the keynote speaker at the Waco Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children's Child S.A.F.E. Conference. Borgstedt discussed his book,“I Love you Mom Please Don't Break My Heart,” in which he writes about his journey through a childhood of physical, mental, and emotional abuse.
“What kid is not going to be aggressive that has been abused, tortured?” he said. “My own mother dropped me into a bathtub of scalding hot water after she gave me a medication that paralyzed my body.”
Barbara Wright, executive director of the advocacy center, said this is the fifth year they've held the conference that unites cross-sections of professionals that work toward the prevention and treatment of child abuse, neglect and exploitation. Wright said the eradication of child abuse begins by building informed and empowered communities that are ready to stand with courage. About 150 people attended the all-day conference Friday at the McLennan Community College Conference Center.
Forensic interviewer Melissa Yeilding said anyone who works at all with children was invited to attend the conference, from teachers to law enforcement.
Borgstedt's earliest recorded abuse was at 4 years old, though it likely began much earlier.
He said his mother had Munchausen syndrome by proxy, which led her to torment Borgstedt to gain attention for herself. Borgstedt said his mother often took him to the emergency room, with made-up symptoms, to get him locked away.
After a visit to the emergency room at 4 years old, Borgstedt said, the doctors determined based on his mother's descriptions of his symptoms that he should be admitted to a children's psychiatric unit in Austin. He said his mother would make up excuses to have the hospital keep him longer, but eventually, again ready to play the role of mother, she would pick him up.
Then a new boyfriend would come around, or new drugs or more alcohol, Borgstedt said. Suddenly he was encroaching on her life again, and she would take him back to the emergency room with elaborate descriptions of symptoms he'd never experienced.
But one time the lights from the city of Houston faded in the car's rearview mirror and the concrete road turned to gravel.
Borgstedt said his mother pulled him from the car, pulled a plastic bag over his head and tried unsuccessfully to suffocate him.
When professionals work with children, they often only see what's before them and are quick to judge a youth's actions, Borgstedt said. Instead, professionals need to look back at the child's history to find where the problems stem from and how the child got to where they are. Only then can the professional really help the child, Borgstedt said.
“People are not seeing the underline of where the anger is coming from in some of these cases,” he said.
Borgstedt said he experienced such misdiagnoses while he was basically raised in the Texas Youth Commission system.
Borgstedt was arrested in McLennan County and spent five years in prison. Three months into his sentence he was stabbed, which prompted him to write his own obituary while behind bars.
Borgstedt said he decided he wanted to do more to improve both his own life and those of others when he was released from prison.
He said the first step had to be forgiving everyone who had hurt him in the past. Borgstedt said he found his mother, gave her a hug, told her he loved her, and forgave her for everything she'd done.
She turned and walked away and said she'd file trespassing charges if he ever returned, he said.
She died a year later in her sleep.
The Texas House of Representatives has recognized Borgstedt for his work against child abuse six years in a row. His book was chosen by the Texas Youth Commission as an educational tool to motivate at-risk teens and has been used in correctional facilities as part of parenting classes, and his docudrama has taken seven national and international awards.
Borgstedt told the room full of professionals Friday to remember to learn to take the time to process their emotions and feelings after being constantly inundated by difficult-to-process cases. He said it's important they take care of themselves because there are children who feel alone and abandoned — seeking out help in all the wrong places — who need their help.
“Learn how not to take it with you. Learn how not to let it live your life, because you will burn out. You will,” he said. “Your community needs you to be effective.”