Mental health center files civil rights complaint against OKC school district
by Randy Ellis
An Oklahoma City mental health facility that provides daytime psychiatric treatment for children has filed federal civil rights and retaliation complaints against the Oklahoma City School District.
After 10 years of providing education services to children being treated for psychiatric problems at Positive Changes, the district abruptly declined to renew the contract last summer.
Positive Changes officials filed a retaliation complaint with the school district, claiming district officials took the action as retribution for them having reported three incidents of possible child abuse or neglect involving Oklahoma City teachers to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services Office of Client Advocacy.
Positive Changes also filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, accusing the district of discriminating against students with mental illness disabilities.
The district is accused of violating federal law by refusing to provide free appropriate educational services for about 75 children undergoing mental health treatment at its Positive Change's southeast Oklahoma City facility.
Oklahoma City school officials deny the allegations.
The contract "was not renewed because of Positive Changes' failure to honor the contract, and inability to provide a safe teaching and learning environment," district officials said in a prepared statement.
"Students who attend the day treatment facility are not being denied a free and appropriate public education as they have the option to attend classes at any of their home schools," district officials said. "This includes attending schools throughout our district or the student's resident district since some students are not residents of Oklahoma City Public Schools. In addition, Oklahoma law allows Positive Changes to contract with another school district, including a virtual charter school, to provide services to the students it accepts into its therapeutic program."
Dr. Ethan Lindsey, a psychiatrist and chairman of the board of Positive Changes, said sending these children back to normal Oklahoma City classrooms without proper treatment and transitional measures is not a viable solution because these children have severe behavioral problems. Classrooms would become chaotic and the children would be expelled and have to go to residential treatment facilities that would be more detrimental to the children and three or four times more expensive for taxpayers, he said.
Oklahoma City teachers are already in an uproar over classroom discipline issues, Lindsey noted.
State Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, said he and state Sen. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, offered to help negotiate a solution to the impasse, but have found school district officials to be unwilling to cooperate.
"I've just been stunned by the arrogance and indifference to this specific group of kids," Nelson said. "Clearly, they are willfully refusing to follow the law, which is a very serious problem. ... I'm angry about it."
Nelson noted the district is already under investigation by the federal education department's Office of Civil Rights for suspending a disproportionate number of minority students and said he intends to follow the situation closely.
"I'm going to be asking for information from the Department of Education and from the school district, as well as asking for an attorney general's opinion about the district's interpretation of the law and the potential consequences for officials of the district that have been, I think, acting in bad faith."
Dr. Lindsey disputed the district's contention that classrooms at Positive Changes were unsafe for teachers, but said said they were more chaotic than they should have been last school year because the Oklahoma City School District provided poorly qualified teachers.
Only one of the five teachers the district provided was certified in special education, he said.
Lindsey said it is clear to him that the school district was retaliating against Positive Changes for reporting three incidents of alleged child abuse and neglect involving Oklahoma City teachers.
Investigators found that in one May 1 incident, an Oklahoma City teacher put on a movie, turned out the lights and reportedly fell asleep on a desk. While the movie was playing, a 15-year-old male student and 15-year-old female student mutually fondled and masturbated each other and the girl allegedly gave the boy oral sex. Investigators said a Positive Changes staff member was in the back of the classroom, but a third student intentionally blocked his view.
In a second incident, which occurred May 6, a 7-year-old student accused a teacher of choking him in the classroom after the child refused to sit down. The child's parents reportedly filed a complaint with the Oklahoma City Police Department.
The third incident occurred April 29 when a district-employed substitute teacher witnessed a 6-year-old male student with his hand down the pants of another male student. When the offending student was questioned by his therapist, he reported that a district-employed teacher and other adults had inappropriately touched him.
Positive Changes officials reported all three incidents to authorities, as required by law, even though in the latter case they questioned the truthfulness of the student, Lindsey said. Police investigated the third incident, but closed the case without any charges, he said.
Oklahoma City school officials said student "privacy issues" prevent them from discussing the incidents involved in the retaliation complaint.
"The ... district will cooperate fully with any subsequent inquiries by the U.S. Department of Education as a result of claims made to the agency's Office of Civil Rights," said Mark Myers, media relations director for Oklahoma City Public Schools.
Jeffrey Dismukes, spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, said state mental health officials are concerned that many school districts around the state have shown an unwillingness to accommodate the educational needs of children with mental health problems.
"Too many Oklahoma families are struggling to get school districts to provide required educational services for their children who are experiencing brain disorders," Dismukes said. "Some school districts refuse to recognize these illnesses as illness, and provide children the same considerations that would be afforded their peers experiencing some other sort of debilitating disease. This is occurring despite laws that say services must be provided.
"There are school districts that are doing a good job, but many others are not. Numerous research studies over the past several years demonstrate the effectiveness of various behavioral health interventions at improving academic outcomes along with greater resilience and emotional functioning. We cannot afford to leave these children behind. They deserve the opportunity to learn and have productive lives, the same as any other child. This is an important issue that must be addressed."
After the Oklahoma City School District refused to renew the contract, Positive Changes turned to Epic Charter Schools, an accredited virtual charter school, to teach students during the current school year.
Lindsey said all the teachers Epic Charter Schools have provided are special education certified and the students are actually learning and performing much better academically and with far fewer classroom behavioral problems this year than they did with teachers provided by the Oklahoma City district.
The problem is students no longer are receiving transportation services and subsidized school meals through the district, he said. Many of the children are extremely poor and need those services, he said.
Lindsey said Positive Changes has been providing food services and transportation, but it is costing an extra $15,000 a month and the cost is not sustainable.
"Clinically, things are going much better, but financially it's a strain," he said.
Women find baby girl found buried alive in hole along Compton bike path
by Amy Powell
COMPTON, Calif. (KABC) -- Two women walking along a bike path found a newborn baby girl buried alive near a riverbed in Compton Friday afternoon.
Around 4 p.m., Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies at the Compton Station received a phone call from Evangelina McCrary and Angelica Blount about a baby crying in the riverbed near 136th Street and Slater Avenue.
Two deputies arrived at the scene and began searching the area after hearing the baby's muffled cries. The pair soon found the newborn girl buried under pieces of asphalt and rubble inside of a crevice along a bike path.
The deputies rescued the baby from the hole and wrapped her in a blanket because she was cold to the touch. Her vitals were checked and paramedics were called. The baby girl was medically treated at the scene and then transported to a nearby hospital in stable condition.
Authorities believe the baby was born inside a medical facility within the last 24 to 36 hours before she was buried, and said the person responsible for the crime is facing attempted murder and child endangerment charges.
Deputies said the newborn would not be alive if it weren't for the women who heard its cries.
"God bless the two ladies that found this baby," said Angel Flores, a neighbor. "God bless the baby... that strong baby."
Anyone with information on the abandonment and endangerment of the infant is asked to call the LASD Special Victim's Bureau at (877) 710-5273 or call Crime Stoppers to remain anonymous at (800) 222-8477.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department urges anyone who may be in a difficult situation with a child to surrender them at any hospital or fire station in the county, no questions asked. For information call (877) 222-9723 or visit babysafela.org
Father charged with murder may have fed dead son to pigs
by Chris Oberholtz, Emily Rittman and Betsy Webster
KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV) - - A gruesome investigation in KCK includes sickening suspicions that a father fed his 7-year-old son to pigs after beating him to death, a source close to the case says.
Michael A. Jones, 44, is in the Wyandotte County Jail being held on an enormously high bond of $10 million.
The charges are for aggravated assault with a firearm, aggravated battery and child abuse, but the bond is higher than for most murders.
The Piper-area home that Jones and his 29-year-old wife, Heather Jones, lived in is valued at more than $225,000. But the backyard is littered with junk, as well as toys for their children.
Two women who often cared for the kids say the conditions inside were deplorable.
"Their house was horrible," said one woman who asked for anonymity. "Their house was just filthy. The kids lived in filth. Trash everywhere. Dried food all over the house.”
The women say eight children, ranging from ages 1 to 11, lived inside the home in the 5200 block of N. 99th Street.
Police came to the home Wednesday morning on a report of Michael Jones attacking his wife and firing a gun at her. As the investigation progressed, someone told them to check for the decomposed body of a missing 7-year-old boy.
By the next day, they were searching a barn on the property where they discovered human remains.
Michael Jones is now charged with battering and assaulting his wife on Wednesday but also with "torturing or cruelly beating" his 7-year-old son sometime between May 1 and Sept. 28.
The former babysitters say several people contacted the Kansas Department For Children and Families with concerns about the children. They fear the remains found belong to the boy, and they say they're watching closely to make sure justice is served.
The women say the seven other children are safe and in protective custody.
“For all those girls to have to witness what their brother went through and to carry the burden that something happened to their brother is horrible,” an old babysitter said.
It's a timeline that terrifies the child's former babysitters, who say Jones' wife added livestock to the barn this fall.
“She went and got pigs in September,” she said.
A police source says investigators fear the remains are the result of the child being fed to pigs after being beaten to death. Those remains have yet to be identified.
Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerome A. Gorman says the $10 million bond is the highest a judge has ever granted in the 34 years he's been with the district attorney's office.
“Judge Alvey granted bond based upon a number of flight factors and safety factors," Gorman said.
Michael Jones is affiliated with a bail bonding company that operates in Topeka. He is expected to have a first appearance in Wyandotte County District Court on Monday.
KCTV5 News made multiple attempts to reach out to family members for comment but have not heard back.
Anyone with information concerning the case is asked to call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS.
Sex trafficking referrals on rise in Connecticut
by Anna Bisaro
The youngest victim of sex trafficking in the state Department of Children and Families' files is 2 years old.
So far this year, the department has received more than 80 referrals of possible victims of human trafficking in the state, said Tammy Sneed, director of girls' services at DCF. Sneed said she predicts the department will surpass last year's total of 94 referrals by the end of the year.
“There is a direct correlation with an increase in training and an increase in referrals,” Sneed said, referring to the amount of training now available for law enforcement agencies to identify victims of sex trafficking. Referrals to DCF come from schools, families, police departments and hospitals, she said.
Earlier this month, Connecticut U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly announced the creation of the Connecticut Human Trafficking Task Force, agroup made up of officials from multiple service providers, federal agencies, state police, and 14 local police departments across the state.
“Over the last several years it has become increasingly clear that human trafficking, and especially the sex trafficking of minors, this cruel victimization of defenseless young girls and sometimes boys, is a form of modern-day slavery,” Daly said at the press conference announcing creation of the task force early this month. “And despite the best efforts of law enforcement, this criminal activity grows apace with the proliferation of the Internet marketplace, where sex with children is bought and sold.”
In the last decade, the U.S. Attorney's Office for Connecticut has prosecuted 20 child sex-trafficking cases, Daly said. Through the new initiative, the U.S. Attorney's Office is taking a more proactive approach to combating human trafficking in the state, Daly said.
Mike DeVito, a Milford patrol officer, said the task force has created more communication between local and federal authorities and they can share information and resources about cases. Milford police joined the task force because of the city's proximity to the Interstate 95 corridor, which offers many potential hotel stops for sex-trafficking activity.
Confirming sex-trafficking cases is “not always that easy,” DeVito said. Young females are often reluctant to disclose their status as a victim for fear of the potential consequences. In addition, gathering enough evidence to warrant an arrest poses another challenge for law enforcement.
Given challenges law enforcement faces in identifying and confirming human-trafficking cases, the difficulties in gathering evidence and the reluctance to have young victims testify, not all cases make it to the courtroom, said Erin Williamson, survivor care program manager for Love146, a New Haven-based nonprofit dedicated to preventing human trafficking domestically and abroad. It's almost impossible to say just how many human-trafficking cases there are in a given area, said Williamson, who has spent much of her career tracking human trafficking across the country.
Fighting human trafficking forces people to “take a deep look at the underbelly of society,” Williamson said. And it's not always an easy place to look.
Human trafficking in Connecticut
In a recent federal human-trafficking case prosecuted in Connecticut, Edward Thomas was sentenced to 17½ years in federal prison after a federal jury found him guilty of two counts of sex trafficking a minor and one count of conspiring to commit sex trafficking of a minor.
Prior to this case, Thomas had been convicted in New Jersey on similar charges. He served 210 days in prison for that crime.
Because Thomas' most recent conviction came in federal court, he faced a minimum of 10 years in prison. If the minors were younger than 14, he would have had a minimum of a 15-year sentence. If the case were not a federal crime, and he had been tried in a state court in Connecticut, he would have been looking only at a mandatory minimum of nine months.
During his sentencing in early November, Thomas pleaded with the court to educate people about potential consequences of trafficking minors. He said he did not think people knew how severe punishments could be at the federal level.
Federal and state minimums used to look very similar, said Krishna Patel, a former assistant U.S. attorney, but the federal minimums have gone through several amendments since the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 2000. The discrepancy in mandatory minimums often leads to trafficking cases being tried in federal court, Patel said.
For labor trafficking, at any age, the federal penalties are even higher, with the minimum starting at 20 years and increasing to life in prison when the crime includes kidnapping or sexual abuse.
“There's a lot of talk about a second chance society,” Patel added. “I don't know that there's an appetite to increase (state minimums).”
As in Thomas' case, many traffickers are using the Internet to advertise children and their sex services. Patel said use of the Internet gives the federal government jurisdiction to try these traffickers.
Since leaving the U.S. Attorney's Office, Patel has dedicated her efforts to the Grace Farms Foundation, which is working to create and share software and technology that helps law enforcement to better track the sexual exploitation of minors online.
Contrary to what the term suggests, human trafficking does not have to involve the movement of people across national or state lines, Patel said. Human trafficking can occur next door or down the street, Patel said. And, because a minor cannot consent to sex under federal law, the government is not tasked with proving that the minors were compelled to comply with the sex work.
And, unfortunately, it's more common for pimps down the street to victimize girls in Connecticut, Williamson said, based on her experiences working with victims. She said many referrals for potential victims to DCF and Love146 come from larger cities such as Bridgeport and New Haven, but oftentimes it's in rural areas where human trafficking is underreported.
“It's easier to hide in rural communities,” Williamson said. “I've gone out to all four corners of the state.”
Sneed said that most of the referrals DCF gets on trafficking are related to sex trafficking, but that does not mean that labor trafficking is not occurring in the state. She said she believes law enforcement and the public are not as attuned to recognize or notice labor trafficking so it may be severely underreported.
Beating the stigma and finding hope
“I met him at the mall … I met him at the park … He was amazing … He listened to me … He ‘got' me … It's kind of weird because part of me still loves him ...”
These are phrases Williamson said she hears all too often from victims of sex trafficking. Running away from someone who showed an interest in them, who gave them a sense of purpose when no one else would, is not easy to do, she said. Teenagers everywhere want to feel loved, but in some communities — even here in the United States — “there is no safe place for youth to get those needs met.”
Teenagers “are really willing to string on to anyone,” Williamson said. “That's what makes them so vulnerable.”
Trust and relationship-building is essential to making sure the teenager does not resist the exploitation down the road, Williamson said. This also makes victims less likely to report a problem or willing to comply with law enforcement when a pimp is caught.
“Human-trafficking victims don't often behave the way we expect victims to behave,” Williamson said, and are often resistant to trust the systems that have let them down in the past, either because they have also been victims of domestic violence or have suffered through bad situations in foster care.
Sneed said the majority of cases reported to DCF are young girls, but she believes there is a general under-identification of cases involving boys. The ages on file range from 2 to 18, but the majority are older than 11.
The adolescents the organization has identified as most at risk are teenagers who have a history of abuse.
Love146 offers a “Rapid Response” program and a long-term survivor care program for victims of sex trafficking. Williamson is one of two case workers who handle the survivor care program, and right now the organization is getting more referrals than it can handle with limited resources, she said. The Rapid Response program allows them to give immediate care and provide information about other services available for victims.
Sneed said the most important aspect of the DCF program is providing long-term mentors for survivors. She said the organization seeks to provide a “consistent” adult role model.
“Every one of these young people are very different,” Sneed said. “So there isn't a standard way to respond.”
But perhaps the most important part of the fight against human trafficking is prevention. Sneed said DCF has created programs for schools that focus on healthful relationship building and recognizing the signs that someone may be in danger of being a victim of trafficking.
To make a referral about potential sex trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 888-373-7888. Victims can also text HELP to BeFree (23733) for assistance.
Child abuse hotline workers made first mistakes in Janiya Thomas case in Bradenton
by Jessica De Leon
MANATEE -- Child abuse hotline workers with the Florida Department of Children and Families made the first mistakes in the case surrounding the disappearance of Janiya Thomas who was found dead in a freezer last month.
Janiya's name failed to appear in two of the seven reports since 2012 made after calls were received by the hotline about allegations of abuse by her mother, Keishanna Thomas, despite officials knowing she was a member of the family. The Bradenton Herald obtained the reports in response to a public records request.
Janiya was last seen June 9, 2014, during a case-management visit by child protection officials. During the visit, Thomas became uncooperative, leading to a child abuse case being closed rather than further intervention being sought.
The girl was discovered missing from her mother's home Sept. 23 when a Manatee County Sheriff's Office child protection investigator was called to investigate allegations Thomas had beaten her 12-year-old son.
On Oct. 16, after Thomas was arrested for failing to disclose details about Janiya'a whereabouts, she was officially reported missing to the Bradenton Police Department. Two days later, the girl's body was found inside a box in a padlocked freezer her mother had delivered four days earlier to a relative's home under the guise she was being evicted from her apartment.
Thomas remains in custody at the Manatee County jail on bonds totaling $200,000 on charges of abuse, aggravated child abuse and abuse of a dead body. The investigation into Janiya's death remains ongoing.
Janiya's name not being listed on the reports means the girl was never officially part of the investigations of her mother and not listed as missing until Oct. 16, more than a year after the last time child protection officials reported seeing her alive.
At 10:09 p.m. Sept. 23, Florida DCF abuse hotline worker Neosha Brown took the call that would be sent to the sheriff's office to investigate.
Janiya's name was not included in the initial report on the case, even though a search of a state datebase would have revealed she was a member of Thomas' family.
"The Florida Abuse Hotline failed to list all children reported to be living in the household in the September 23, 2015, intake and instead only provided this information in the reporter narrative," stated the Critical Incident Rapid Response Team report released Tuesday by the Florida Department of Children and Families. "The MCSO's child protective investigator failed to add Janiya to the investigation."
On the intake form, Brown only listed Janiya's 12-year-old brother -- failing to list Janiya or her other siblings.
"When the hotline counselor asked the reporter if other children resided in the home, the reporter confirmed there were four other children residing in the home but their demographic information was unknown," the CIRRT report states. "This information was documented in the reporter narrative section of the Intake, but further research should have been conducted by the hotline counselor to identify the other four children."
If the hotline worker does not receive identifying details about the other children, hotline practice requires them to conduct a search in the Florida Safe Families Network using the primary child's name. In this case, with Thomas's extensive history of abuse allegations, the search would have been enough to identify all the children in the home.
"The Florida Abuse Hotline counselor should have added all five children to the intake," the CIRRT report states. "Based on the Hotline's reporter narrative section stating four additional children resided in the home, review of prior reports indicating all five children resided with their mother and the judge's order for the mother to produce the child, the child protective investigator should have added Janiya to the investigation, completed further investigation into her whereabouts and included her in the safety assessment."
This was not the first time a child abuse hotline worker omitted Janiya's name from an intake report.
At 2:03 p.m. May 22, 2014, a hotline worker took a call in reference to Janiya's now-15-year-old sister and concerns about her "profusely smelling" body odor at school, a prior urinary tract infection and Thomas' lack of concern when the girl had fallen and hit her head.
The intake report only lists Janiya's now-15-year-old sister and 12-year-old brother as children in the home. Janiya and her now-10-year-old sister and 2-year-old brother were not listed.
The worker also failed to list her own name in the required field in the first section of the intake report. Later on the form, the counselor is listed as Latina Brewer.
Child deaths go unsolved as autopsies fall behind
Official reports on causes can take years to complete
by Jenifer McKim
Dozens of cases of Massachusetts children who may have died of abuse and neglect remain unresolved for years because investigators have been hamstrung by delays in obtaining death reports and difficulty determining whether deaths were accidental, natural, or the results of a crime, the New England Center for Investigative Reporting has found.
The state medical examiner's office, long under fire for delays in performing adult autopsies, is even slower when children die, taking an average of 242 days to find an official cause of death in child abuse and neglect cases.
Official death reports based on those findings sometimes take more than three years to complete, the New England Center found in its review of 102 cases, including the case of a 1-month-old boy who died in 2012 and whose death determination is still pending.
The unresolved cases include three open homicide investigations, but also many others in which the medical examiner was unable to determine whether the child was deliberately killed. In more than 40 percent of the cases reviewed, the medical examiner's report listed the cause of death as “undetermined.”
As a series of high-profile child abuse deaths in Massachusetts make headlines — including the September arraignment of the alleged killer of 2-year-old Bella Bond, whose body was found in a trash bag on Deer Island — family members of children whose abuse drew far less public notice question if justice will ever be served in their cases.
“We have been trying so hard to find out what happened. This has been going on for two years,'' said Sharon Crawford of the Whitinsville section of Northbridge, who says her daughter called the medical examiner repeatedly, sometimes several times a day, for news about the 2013 case of her 10-year-old son, Isaiah Buckner, whose death had been linked by social workers to abuse and neglect.
But when the medical examiner's report finally came Oct. 21, the cause of death was listed as “undetermined,” leaving criminal prosecutors little to go on.
“I just want justice for my grandson,” said Crawford.
Trying to hire examiners
State officials acknowledge that the medical examiner's office has been plagued by delays, and is currently facing a backlog of 1,922 pending autopsy reports from 2011 to 2014. Daniel Bennett, secretary of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, said the office is trying to hire more examiners and other staff to reduce the backlog.
“There are failures within the system,'' he said. The state, for example, did not have access to a doctor who could examine infant hearts for almost a year, an issue that was resolved in May. “The medical examiner's office has been climbing out of a hole for the last two years,” he said.
Still, even with sufficient resources, the process is necessarily painstaking and slow in some cases, Bennett said. Infant deaths, for instance, sometimes require multiple scientific tests and the review of reports from law enforcement, the state Department of Children and Families, and hospitals.
And not all cases can be resolved. Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said that investigating and prosecuting child maltreatment deaths can be particularly challenging for law enforcement.
When young children die, there are often few clues about the cause.
Unlike adults or older children, they generally leave no trail of evidence such as text messages, nor a wide circle of adults who might have noticed or suspected signs of abuse, and little verbal capacity to tell anyone about their plight before death. Children also are often in the care of more than one person in the period leading up to their deaths, making it harder to identify a suspect.
“It tears your heart out in some of these cases,” Early said. “We can only go where the facts and the evidence take us.”
Beyond the heartbreak for families, the delays and uncertainty in these cases may also be putting other children at risk, say child advocates. Stephen C. Boos, medical director for the Family Advocacy Center at Baystate Children's Hospital in Springfield, said long delays can hurt investigations, potentially allowing killers to escape responsibility.
“It is scary to have potential child murderers running around with other children,” said Boos.
That very thought has haunted Shelly Medeiros for years.
Pressing for answers
After 8-month-old Jay Hudson Bassett was rushed to a Worcester hospital on Thanksgiving, 2012, Medeiros, his maternal grandmother, quickly fixated on the bruise above his left eye. As the once-playful boy lay unconscious, Medeiros began a mantra of grief that hasn't stopped to this day: “Something isn't right.”
Police records show that UMass Memorial Medical Center hospital initially linked Jay's death to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome — but Medeiros hounded authorities to look more closely. Eighteen months later, in May 2014, her worst fear was confirmed: The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled Jay's death a homicide caused by “blunt trauma” to the head and neck, inflicted by others.
Now, three years after Jay's death, no one has been charged, and the investigation remains open. Jay's parents, Hailey Corrente and Marben Santiago, were with the baby when he stopped breathing, police records show.
They cut ties with Medeiros shortly after the child's death and moved out of state. The couple, who have a new baby boy, declined to answer questions about Jay when a reporter visited last spring and left several phone calls and text messages over the last six months.
While there is no evidence that Corrente and Santiago are suspects in the open police investigation, Medeiros believes that, at the very least, Jay's parents know what happened. And she believes the long delay in making a death ruling seriously undermined the investigation.
“In 18 months, everything changed,” said Medeiros, 51, of North Attleboro, who says her obsession with her grandson's death keeps her awake at night. “Evidence wasn't sealed off. My daughter and her boyfriend were allowed to leave town.”
The languishing child death investigations and cold cases are symptomatic of a state government that has often given low priority to abused and neglected youths, many specialists say.
Recent highly publicized child abuse cases have spurred Governor Charlie Baker to propose reforms to help keep at-risk children safe. But much less has been said about what happens after children die. The New England Center analyzed all child maltreatment deaths reported by DCF from 2009 to 2013 for which a death certificate was available and found a discouraging pattern:
¦ The medical examiner's office determined the cause and manner of death in only about one third of child maltreatment deaths within 90 days, a performance dramatically below the minimum standards set by the National Association of Medical Examiners, which expects 90 percent of autopsy reports to be done in that time. A top official at the National District Attorneys Association called the Massachusetts delays “unacceptable.”
¦ Some of the open criminal investigations into children who died of abuse and neglect between 2009 and 2013 are more than five years old, raising concerns among child advocates that they may have fallen through the cracks. In all, law enforcement agencies have open investigations into the deaths of at least 14 children on DCF's list of abuse and neglect victims between 2009 and 2013.
¦ In 45 of the 102 child maltreatment fatalities reviewed by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, medical examiners could not determine the manner of death – meaning they couldn't decide among two or more causes, including whether a child died of an accident, homicide, suicide, or natural events. The majority involve what DCF calls “unsafe sleep” deaths linked to parents who shared a bed or put babies to sleep on their bellies, actions said to put children at higher safety risk. Other deaths involve children who ingested sleeping pills, were drowned, or were injured.
William Fitzpatrick, president of the National District Attorneys Association, based in Alexandria, Va., said there is no national database to examine what happens to children whose homicides go unprosecuted.
However, he is certain that more children are victims of homicide than data suggests. With a sudden infant death, for example, a child could have accidentally suffocated, he said, but there are often not enough clues to confirm that. Even when there's evidence of wrongdoing, he said, prosecutors don't always know who did it — particularly if two parents were present.
“The underreported story is the child victims that go unprosecuted,'' he said. “It's sadly extremely easy to kill a child.”
When Massachusetts' child deaths are ruled homicides, police do a pretty good job of closing cases, records show. According to criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University, Massachusetts police solve 90 percent of homicides involving children under 11 years old, a much higher clearance rate than for murder cases involving older children and adults, according to an analysis of 2000 to 2013 data he carried out for the New England Center.
But there is no data in Massachusetts or nationwide to show how many of those homicide investigations led to charges and convictions, said Ryan Backmann, executive director of the Florida-based nonprofit Project: Cold Case Inc. Languishing death investigations mean long delays in identifying and prosecuting perpetrators, Backmann said.
“In the meantime these people are going to have other children,” Backmann said
Frustrating state delays
The slow pace of the medical examiner's office can be frustrating to families and law enforcement officials alike, potentially stalling the criminal justice process indefinitely.
Even in the notorious case of Fitchburg preschooler Jeremiah Oliver — who vanished while under state social service supervision — no cause of death has yet been announced almost two years after his body was found. Jeremiah's mother and boyfriend, already charged with assault, kidnapping, and child endangerment, could face murder charges if the medical examiner rules the case a homicide.
In some cases, even a finding of homicide does not prompt action. The medical examiner ruled that one-year-old Keanu Ramos of Pittsfield died of "blunt trauma" in February 2010 and the Berkshire County district attorney's office confirmed the investigation is still open almost six years later.
But Keanu's family said they were never even informed that the child allegedly was a victim of homicide. “You have shocked me,” said his great-grandmother, Sandra Mills, when a New England Center reporter informed her earlier this year.
She later told her family what she learned and reported back, that they believe his death was natural: “None of us believe it,” she said about the state report.
There's some indication that state social workers did not know about the medical examiner's ruling either: DCF didn't include Ramos on its list of abuse victims. DCF officials declined to talk about the case, but have said generally that medical examiners have not always alerted the agency when a child's death was linked to abuse and neglect as required by law.
Felix Browne, a spokesman for the state Executive Office of Public Safety, said medical examiners are supposed to notify district attorneys and DCF when a death is ruled a homicide. He would not comment on the Ramos case.
Family members also are waiting for answers in the case of 2-year-old Dean McCullough of Lowell, whose 2010 death was ruled a homicide seven months after his passing, caused by “blunt force trauma of head with injuries to brain,” according to his death certificate.
No charges in five years
McCullough had an open DCF case at the time of his death and the state child protection agency later determined that his death was linked to abuse and neglect, records show.
But five years later, no one has been charged in Dean's death. Jennifer Fontes, McCullough's great aunt, said she is angry and disgusted. “He is literally just forgotten,” she said.
Medeiros feels her grandson was failed in life and in death.
Medeiros said she called DCF multiple times to warn that Jay was at risk after she quarreled with her daughter, Hailey Corrente, and Corrente moved out of her North Attleborough home in September 2012. Corrente, now 28, was showing she couldn't be a responsible parent, Medeiros said.
Two months later, in November 2012, police were called to Richmond Avenue, after a 911 call that a baby wasn't breathing, police records show. Corrente met them at the front door and sent them upstairs, where her boyfriend Santiago was giving Jay cardiopulmonary resuscitation, police reported .
Medeiros said she repeatedly called police to investigate and the medical examiner for a death ruling. She said Corrente and Santiago left town not long after the child's death.
Worcester police declined to comment, except to say an investigation into Jay's death is “active.” Redacted records show officials did obtain several search warrants, which Medeiros said focused on Richardson Avenue.
The young couple may have wanted to move on, but their past followed them as they settled into a second-floor apartment with their new baby on a residential street in Lakewood, Ohio.
In June 2014, the couple was contacted by Cuyahoga County social workers who heard about Jay's death from the Massachusetts child welfare agency, said county spokeswoman Mary Louise Madigan. The Ohio case was closed in October 2014 after workers visited the family home and determined there was no evidence the baby was unsafe, Madigan said.
In December 2014, Lakewood police knocked on their door after Corrente's aunt called to say that her niece told her that Santiago was “beating her up.” When police came to the home, Santiago, dressed in a T-shirt and boxers, refused to let officers in for several hours.
Corrente eventually came downstairs and told police she was OK, inviting them upstairs to check on her infant son. Santiago was later convicted of obstructing official business, police records show, and ordered to pay a $150 fine.
Last spring, a New England Center reporter knocked on the door of the couple's closed apartment and left a letter requesting comment when nobody answered. Corrente came downstairs a few minutes later to read the note after the reporter drove away. Santiago, later reached by phone, declined to comment.
Medeiros, meanwhile, speaks to anybody she can about her grandson. Her home is filled with Jay's pictures, her closet stuffed with his toys and clothes, his death certificate clipped to her refrigerator.
She said the district attorney's office provides no information. A local police officer has told her privately that without more information, the investigation is stalled. She worries incessantly about Jay's little brother, now nearly 2 years old.
“I want justice for Jay,” said Medeiros. “I have to speak for my grandson Jay because nobody else will.”
Harley the dog comforts victims of child abuse at Sullivan County CAC
by Lurah Spell
BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. — She may look like an ordinary dog, but Harley is more than that to the children she comforts.
The 6-year-old basset hound mix is a facilities dog at the Children's Advocacy Center of Sullivan County. She sits with children and their caregivers during emotionally tough interviews about abuse.
Harley also brings comfort to the professionals who conduct the interviews and those who work with the abused children.
She has been at the center since last year.
Children can pet Harley's soft black and white fur, which is covered with small gray splotches and large black spots, without any fuss from the canine. She quietly sits beside them, her big brown eyes shining.
“She's been a blessing to us and the clients because [of] her calming personality,” said Gena Frye, executive director of the CAC. “Her biggest job is just to sit there and be petted. Who loves you more than your animals?”
Clients ask for Harley and miss her on days that she can't be at the CAC, Frye added.
“She's really kind of gotten to be a fixture around here,” she said.
Harley is a HABIT, a Human-Animal Bond in Tennessee, certified by the University of Tennessee. It is given to dogs that have suitable personalities for interaction with people. Harley also won the Animal of the Year award from the Washington County Humane Society in May.
Harley and Frye are also qualified to visit HABIT-approved facilities like the Veterans Affairs hospital. Frye said the CAC plans to go through the process of becoming a HABIT-approved facility in the future.
“The Children's Advocacy Center strives to have a home-like feeling and [to be] a comfortable, safe place for children to come and talk about what happened to them, talk about the abuse,” Frye said.
With Harley there to greet clients at the door, they feel more comfortable coming to the CAC for help, she added.
“It's been just a match made in heaven because she has just fit in so well,” Frye said.
PSU's child abuse settlements now total nearly $93 million
by The Associated Press
HARRISBURG (AP) - Penn State settled with six more victims or accusers of Jerry Sandusky, according to a new audit that puts the school's total payout in the child sex abuse scandal at nearly $93 million.
The university's audited financial statements for the year that ended June 30, dated Oct. 30, show $33.2 million in new payments over claims related to the former longtime assistant football coach.
"Additional claims could be paid in the future but without having knowledge of the number and nature of such claims the university is unable to predict the outcome of these matters," wrote auditors with Deloitte & Touche LLP in Philadelphia.
Sandusky is pursuing an appeal while he serves 30 to 60 years in prison on a 45-count child sexual abuse conviction. He recently won a court decision restoring his Penn State pension, which the state retirement system had canceled the day he was sentenced.
The audit findings, which say the school has now paid or agreed to pay 32 claims, were reported Wednesday by WJAC-TV in Johnstown.
Three former top Penn State administrators who were charged with covering up complaints about Sandusky await an appeals ruling in their effort to get charges dropped against them.
University spokesman Lawrence Lokman declined to comment on the settlements, citing strict confidentiality agreements.
"Obviously, we continue to be saddened by the pain suffered by all victims of child abuse (and) are committed to helping survivors heal and to educate others about these insidious crimes against children," Lokman said Friday.
On Monday, a federal case in eastern Pennsylvania against Sandusky, the university and Sandusky-founded children's charity The Second Mile was dismissed. Howard Janet, a lawyer for the young man known as Victim 6, who testified against Sandusky, told the judge the parties had reached a confidential settlement.
Penn State announced in October 2013 it had agreed to give 26 people $59.7 million related to the Sandusky scandal. In April, the university board voted 18-6 to authorize Penn State officials to settle additional Sandusky-related litigation after dollar limits were discussed in private.
"In retrospect, I should never have voted to approve any of the settlements," trustee Anthony Lubrano said Friday, though he declined to elaborate. Lubrano, like other alumni-elected board members, has been highly critical of the university's handling of the Sandusky scandal.
What Parents Should Know About Protecting Their Kids from Sexual Abuse
by Audra Rogers
We live in one of the busiest times in history where there are so many things vying for our attention. In a hectic family life with so many distractions, it can be easy to lose touch with our kids and miss important things that may be flying under the radar, like sexual abuse.
As a survivor of sexual abuse who suffered in silence for many years, this worries me. I remember growing up and never once thinking of telling an adult what was happening to me; I thought it was just the hand I was dealt and that I didn't have any other options. My mother truly didn't know it was happening.
I was eventually able to recover and lead a healthy, productive life, but now that I have two beautiful children of my own, I am always on high alert to protect them from abuse.
While I don't let it rule our lives — they go to school and get to enjoy birthday parties and kids' events (where I am present) and have occasional babysitters — I am very choosy about who I leave them with. I'm constantly asking them questions and keeping a close eye out for any possible signs. I just have to know they're okay.
I don't believe that we should live in fear as parents; I think there's a healthy balance between letting kids be kids and have fun, and keeping a close watch on any possible signs or behaviors that may be a red flag.
The best prevention is staying in tune with your kids and preparing them. Make sure they know appropriate boundaries with their bodies and touch, what is allowed and what isn't, and from whom. Make sure they know they have a voice, and that you will listen to it.
Based on my experience as an abuse survivor, these are the signs I watch for:
Sudden avoidance, lack of eye contact, or shying away from any physical contact from specific people.
Sudden self-consciousness of the body, poor body image, or unwillingness to undress in front of anyone.
Often withdrawn or very clingy.
Anger, acting out, or being mean to friends and younger siblings for no apparent reason.
Preoccupation with private parts outside of age-appropriate curiosity.
Mimicking sexual behaviors with toys or stuffed animals.
New or unusual fear of certain people or places.
New words for private parts without reasonable cause.
Unwillingness to discuss topic of sexual abuse if brought up.
These signs individually don't always mean that sexual abuse is occurring, however something is at the root causing negative behavior, and we should stay in tune with what is going on, whatever it is.
Here are steps to take if you do suspect something may be happening:
Start a conversation. Don't come from a place that suggests fear or anger, and be very calm.
Reassure them that you care, that you are a safe place, and that they are loved no matter what.
Ask open-ended questions like “Is there anything that is making you uncomfortable?” “Is there something that you're afraid of?” or “Can you talk about why you feel sad/angry?”
Explain that it pains you to see them unhappy and say you want to help.
Expect a little push back, tears, or possible anger.
Be gentle and reassure them that they are loved no matter what (it bears repeating).
I also think that it's important to speak to them in a neutral environment. Any time I pick my kids up from a caregiver, I might ask them if they had fun when I pick them up, but I don't ask additional questions until we are on our own. Even when I see no cause for concern, I just think it's best to ask them about their time away when there are no possible outside pressures that may change how they would normally answer.
To date, thankfully I haven't seen anything that causes me concern in my own children. They are both happy, healthy, and really love having their own playtime away from home when it happens. But I am always on guard. I just have to be.
I truly believe I made it through that grueling time growing up because I had a great mom that said she believed me. She was caught completely off-guard when I told my story to a school counselor, but she believed me and said we would figure it out together. She fought for me. Parental support is a vital part of handling the situation. —Audra Rogers
Different kids react differently to traumas. For additional information on signs of abuse and prevention, please visit the American Academy of Pediatrics site, or call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD to speak with a counselor or connect with resources in your area.
Tell Your Therapist About the Abuse
by Sarah Newman, MA
Imagine you are seeing a therapist and have an abuse history. It's safe to assume that you've already talked to the therapist about the abuse. Right? It would make sense, and yet, again and again I hear other abuse survivors say they've postponed talking to their therapist about the abuse.
The phrase “child abuse” becomes easily stuck in a victim's throat. The abuser may distort the events that occurred so we aren't sure of what happened. Sometimes, we're so young when the abuse occurred we barely understand what was going on. Memory also plays tricks. In an attempt to insulate us from terrifying experiences, memory can become a block of Swiss cheese with holes in it everywhere.
“I'm not sure what really happened,” is a common sentiment. “I just have feelings.” Others blame themselves or fail to trust their own memory, “maybe I was just a strange kid.”
I lived in denial that I was sexually abused until I was 31 years old. At that point I had seen two therapists and had been treated for anxiety and depression. I spoke about the physical abuse, about being beaten by my father and not knowing why. I talked endlessly about the emotional abuse, which at some point led to me to hate therapy and discontinue treatment for a time.
The tricky thing about trauma is that I always viewed the abuse as a grey area and everything else in the world was black and white. It's this kind of arrangement that kept me stuck. I couldn't pin down whether the victimizer was really in the wrong. Without the help of a therapist (when I did finally go back into therapy), I may never have been able to do so.
A therapist isn't expecting us to diagnose ourselves. They expect us to share. What they don't have knowledge of they can't help us with. We come in with evidence, feelings, and facts. Doubt, confusion, and foggy memories are all normal. We honor our feelings by exploring them in treatment.
Perhaps it's disgust that keeps many of us from mentioning the abuse. I squirmed when the thought entered my mind. I was afraid that my therapist would reject my feelings and tell me that I shouldn't have felt the way I did. That's what my abuser was always telling me. If by some off chance my therapist did agree that the behavior was sexually abusive, then I'd have to live with the idea that he or she would think I was disgusting, perverse, or defective. My shame and fear of judgment kept me from opening my mouth. When I finally spoke up, I was shocked. There was no judgment at all.
There is liberation in finally seeing something the way it truly is, whether it's good or bad. Even if we learn that things were quite bad, there is relief in finally labeling it. The goal doesn't have to be assigning blame, reimagining the past, or recovering memories. The goal is to honor ourselves — to honor the child inside. From that point we can move forward with life. As long as past abuse is allowed to remain in a grey area, we can't heal the wound.
I can sympathize with anyone who just can't decipher whether what they experienced was in fact abuse. Maybe it wasn't. But anything that looms large in your memory, anything that still disturbs you after all these years is worth talking about in therapy.
Huge gaps in sex trafficking laws
by The Montgomery Advertiser
The October arrests of dozens of men in the Southeast for sex trafficking again show Alabama is a nexus for the trade.
The regional crackdown involved nine men arrested after indictments in Florida, 38 following Georgia indictments, and spread across eight states and 27 cities. Two were arrested in Montgomery and three others have been indicted out of the middle district of Alabama.
As the Montgomery Advertiser 's Kelsey Davis reported, charges against the men in the highly organized pipeline include transporting persons across state lines to engage in prostitution, controlling a location to prostitute illegal aliens and conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of a minor.
Details of the Montgomery connection to the ring are horrendous.
Jose Juan Ruiz Prudencio, 40, allegedly picked up women from the Greyhound Bus Station downtown and was involved, along with Emerson Corvera, in transporting them for the sex trafficking ring,
Bernabe “El Chaparro” Carbajal, arrested in Georgia, ran brothels in Montgomery, Birmingham and Albertville, according to court records.
The victims were referred to and marketed like meat, advertised by attributes such as age and country of origin and shuffled from one brothel to the next.
The large scope of the sting is unprecedented and a much needed salvo to combat an evil that simmers, mostly invisibly, beneath the surface of civilized life.
Sex trafficking entraps as many as 200,000 victims nationwide at any time. Atlanta's interstate corridors make the Southeast, including Alabama, prime real estate for traffickers.
Alabama's Human Trafficking Task Force was established by the Legislature in 2014 to bring together the numerous federal, state and local agencies on the front lines of the battle.
In a significant step forward, the panel reached an agreement with the University of Alabama's School of Social Work to perform an assessment of how the state handles sex-trafficking cases.
The assessment should help organizations coordinate efforts to catch sex traffickers and aid victims.
Obvious gaps that must be addressed include tougher laws to attack sex-trafficking crimes from the “demand” side – meaning harsher penalties for johns who solicit sex.
For starters, solicitation of a prostitute should be a felony charge, not just a misdemeanor.
Requiring that convicted johns register as sex offenders would also discourage demand.
When it comes to minors, the system is shockingly flawed.
Soliciting sex from a minor is a felony, but felony charges aren't always levied against those who rape young girls or boys who are being trafficked.
That must change.
Meanwhile, Alabama has an urgent need for more shelters and services for trafficking victims.
Police, court system and school employees need training in how to handle sex-trafficking cases, including confidentiality concerns for exploited children.
State Rep. Jack Williams' Safe Harbor bill to prohibit minor sex-trafficking victims from being prosecuted for prostitution also deserves support from Alabama lawmakers.
It should come with funding to provide shelter space and other aid, so young victims can escape the trafficking hellhole and return to a normal life.
Crackdown on pimps fuels a rise in human trafficking charges in L.A. County
by Marisa Gerber
For a long time, law enforcement drew little distinction between prostitutes and pimps.
But that's rapidly changing.
Over the last few years, Los Angeles County prosecutors have been targeting pimps with human trafficking charges that can carry significantly greater punishment than pandering.
In 2014, the district attorney's office filed human trafficking charges against 81 people — up from 25 in 2013 and 18 in 2012, according to a Times analysis of the office's data. The office charged 40 people during the first six months of this year, the data show. Although forced-labor cases are also charged as human trafficking, the office said all but a few of the new cases targeted alleged pimps.
The steady uptick began after voters passed Proposition 35 in 2012, stiffening sentences and making the cases easier to prosecute, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Jane Creighton, coordinator of the office's human trafficking unit, which was created in July 2014.
The shift is part of a larger sea change among law enforcement officials, who increasingly view women and children involved in prostitution as victims, not criminals.
The district attorney's office started a program last year to divert teens arrested on prostitution charges out of the judicial system and into tutoring and therapy.
Last week, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell announced the creation of a task force to provide relief to victims of human trafficking. He's also ordered his deputies to stop arresting children on prostitution charges and this month the district attorney's office and board of supervisors held a summit focused on ending human trafficking statewide.
"The crime is still against the law," Creighton said, "but obviously we do everything we can to treat them as victims."
Human trafficking cases are inherently hard to prosecute, Creighton said, because the victims — whose testimony is crucial for a conviction — are often reluctant witnesses. Some change their accounts when on the witness stand, fearful of retaliation. Others refuse to cooperate from the start after years of being warned against working with authorities by their pimps and because they often still feel allegiance toward them.
Perceptions of prostitutes and pimps have evolved through the years.
In 1887, The Times covered a "crusade against prostitutes" in San Bernardino, during which women arrested for the crime had to pay $500 or spend six months in jail. And in the early 1980s, when LAPD officers did a big prostitution bust in Hollywood, 137 people were arrested — only three of them men accused of pimping. During a news conference in January, Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey said that, for years, popular culture shaped how people viewed the crime.
"In Hollywood, the term 'pimp' has been glamorized," she said. "There are movies about pimps, showing them as benevolent. We have really changed our thinking on that."
The increase in charges filed in Los Angeles County falls in line with a national movement toward cracking down on pimps as the perpetrators of human trafficking, said Amy Farrell, a human trafficking researcher who teaches criminology at Northeastern University.
"This is a decided change we've seen around the country," Farrell said.
Lois Lee, executive director of Van Nuys nonprofit Children of the Night, an organization dedicated to "rescuing America's children from prostitution," said talk of heightened focus on investigating and prosecuting pimps sounds mainly like bravado to her. Despite a shift in rhetoric in referring to girls as victims, not criminals, Lee said many are still housed in juvenile hall.
"There's this whole hoopla," she said. "We got this bill, we got this and that. Where are the children? Where is the child living?"
On a recent afternoon, five teenage girls sat in the school room at Children of the Night. When Lee asked them about their former pimps, one girl scowled and another, an 18-year-old from Colorado, opened her big brown eyes wide. While she was initially hesitant to testify against her pimp, who had been trafficking her since she was 12, she said she eventually realized that she was a pawn in his game and cooperated with prosecutors.
"If he doesn't care about me," she said, "I shouldn't care about him."
Another girl said she would never testify against her former pimp or madam: "I'm terrified," she said, fidgeting with her brown hair.
Farrell, the researcher, said the increase in charges "doesn't mean there's more trafficking" in Los Angeles, saying instead it's a sign of better communication between law enforcement and prosecutors about how to build strong cases against pimps.
"The police then know how to investigate these cases to make them stick," she said.
But it's not always easy.
On a Saturday night this year in South L.A., Los Angeles Police Lt. Andre Dawson patrolled the city's prostitution "tracks." He pulled up in a car outside a liquor store and watched a man in a gray sweatsuit sitting in a parked, pearl-white Cadillac. The man stared at two girls — at least one of whom looked younger than 18 — as they approached another car with a man inside.
Dawson said he was pretty sure the man eyeing the girls from afar was their pimp. He called for backup.
"Where are you?" he said into his cellphone. "I got some minors over here and the pimp is on the corner."
The man in the sweatsuit spotted Dawson and sped off, but another man in a green shirt — the "lookout guy" or "pimp partner," Dawson said — stood outside the liquor store. He snapped pictures of Dawson's sport utility vehicle with his cellphone — a move Dawson, who retired this fall, said was designed to alert others in the area to the police presence.
Dawson looped around the block to avoid detection. When he returned, the young girl was gone.
"Dammit," he said, sighing. "I hate that that little girl got away. Rats."
Law enforcement stings have recently helped identify some pimps.
Last year, an undercover Long Beach Police Department detective knocked on the door of a hotel room, answering an ad he'd found on the classified advertising website Backpage.
A 16-year-old girl answered the door, but there was an older woman in the room too. They discussed prices for various sex acts and the detective put $360 on the dresser.
The teenager picked up the money and tucked it away. The older woman encouraged her: "Smart girl, smart girl."
Before long, other officers rushed into the room and the detective interviewed the teenager, who identified her pimp for him, according to court records.
During a preliminary hearing in a Long Beach courtroom, a detective testified that soon after officers arrested Eric Avery on pimping and trafficking charges he spoke with a teenage girl who said she'd worked for Avery for two months. She told him that she was required to earn "a rack" — $1,000 — every night.
But during Avery's preliminary hearing, the girl was evasive. She said that she didn't really work for him.
"I do me, and he will do him," she said. "That was the arrangement."
When a prosecutor asked her to point to Avery, she said she didn't want to.
"Do you want to be here today?" the prosecutor asked.
"Nope," the girl said.
"Why not?" the prosecutor responded.
The girl shot back: "Because I don't."
Last year, a jury convicted Avery, 26, of pimping and trafficking a minor. He is serving 33 years in prison. His alleged partner, Lebrette Winn, 24, is serving a 47-years-to-life prison sentence for pimping, pandering, rape, kidnapping and other charges.
During Winn's preliminary hearing, a 21-year-old woman took the stand. She had Winn's pimp moniker, prosecutors say, tattooed across her forehead. Winn forced her to get the ink, prosecutors say, as punishment for wanting to escape.
The woman told a judge that she met Winn at a parade in January 2013. Things weren't going well at home and she needed money. He promised her work babysitting his daughter, but instead gave her a pair of high heels and convinced her to work as a prostitute. He always kept the money she made, which she said upset her.
One morning, after his stepmom left, he raped her, she testified. After she attempted to escape, he made her kneel on raw macaroni for two hours as punishment. Another time, she said, he made her bathe in ice.
She managed to escape from his car in a parking lot, prosecutors say, and found a good Samaritan who drove her to a police station.
At Winn's sentencing, a judge told him that he couldn't stop thinking about the tattoo on the woman's forehead.
"People being branded like cattle," the judge said. "Very, very cruel."
Poland won't extradite Roman Polanski to the U.S., ending four-decade legal saga
by Doug Smith, Sarah Parvini and Richard Winton
In January 1978, Roman Polanski bought the last seat on a British Airways flight to London and never came back.
The celebrated director of “Rosemary's Baby” and “Chinatown” was out of jail after a 42-day psychiatric evaluation. He faced a likely 48 more days to complete his sentence after a guilty plea to having sexual intercourse with a minor, though he feared he could face far more time behind bars.
By fleeing instead of facing his time, Polanski began a four-decade legal saga that also served as a sharp cultural divide between Europe, where he was welcomed as an artist, and the United States, where he was a wanted man.
On Friday, however, the “case that never goes away” appeared close to being over.
A Polish appeals court ruled that Polanski would not be extradited to the United States to face sentencing. This came several years after Swiss officials made the same decision.
Former Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, who initiated the first of two cross-Atlantic extradition attempts, conceded that there is now little chance of any government turning over Polanski, who has retained his enormous popularity in Europe.
“I doubt at this stage he will ever be returned here,” Cooley said. “Basically, short of him landing in the U.S., I don't see a government extraditing him at this stage.”
But the end of the case does not mean Polanski, 82, is free to travel.
“His life is pretty much limited to three countries that embrace him: France, Poland and Switzerland,” said former federal prosecutor Laurie Levenson, a Loyola Law School professor who has followed the case.
The prospect of arrest kept Polanski from appearing in person to accept the 2002 best director Oscar for “The Pianist,” his saga of an indomitable Jewish musician living in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II.
He will also have to stay away should his latest film, based on the Dreyfus affair, an infamous 19th century French scandal, be honored.
He is filming it in Poland, a decision that brought Polanski, for the second time, into the snare of an extradition warrant.
Extradition proceedings against Polanski began in 2009 when he left his haven in Paris to accept an award in Switzerland. Swiss authorities connected him to an extradition warrant relating to the then-nearly 30-year-old case.
Polanski, the husband of Manson Family murder victim Sharon Tate, was kept under house arrest in a Swiss chalet until a judge denied the extradition.
Like Cooley, current Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey was pursuing a case that had grown far more egregious in the eyes of American justice than it was in 1977, when a prosecutor accepted a reduced plea to spare the victim trauma, and both a probation officer and the psychiatrist who evaluated Polanski minimized his culpability. Neither Lacey nor her spokesperson could be reached for comment Friday.
The probation report deemed the crime a “spontaneous” act of “poor judgment,” while the psychiatrist judged it “playful mutual eroticism.”
“Under current law, he would have been in prison for decades,” Cooley said.
Hollywood tried to reform Polanski's image, the former D.A. said, but that failed when his office released the grand jury transcripts from the original case in response to a request from Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez in 2009.
The 13-year-old victim's testimony cast the then-43-year-old Polanski as a sexual predator who used deceit, drugs and adult psychology to lure his victim into sex.
Polanski took her to Jack Nicholson's Mulholland Drive house on the pretext of photographing her for a French magazine. Instead, he gave her champagne and half a Quaalude pill, pressured her to disrobe in a hot tub and lured her into a bedroom where he had oral and anal sex with her.
“Polanski plied a 13-year-old with alcohol and drugs and faced statutory rape, not rape like he would if one college student had done the crime to another,” said USC law professor Jody Armour.
The European courts, he said, viewed the extradition as an effort to go back at a case where prosecutors simply got a deal that later generations find unacceptable.
At the same time as the extradition proceedings, Polanski's attorneys, who included prominent civil rights lawyer Alan M. Dershowitz, made two attempts to have his case dismissed based on a contention of judicial misconduct.
The now-deceased judge, Lawrence J. Rittenband, told attorneys in the case that he would set Polanski free on time served after the psychiatric evaluation but later reneged on what they regarded as a promise and was planning to make him serve out a 90-day sentence, or more.
Two judges overseeing the petitions indicated they were leaning toward dismissal but would require Polanski to appear in person before ruling. Polanski refused, fearing he might get more time.
Though the Polish appeals court decision may end the legal case, the tug-of-war of cultural mores remains far from settled.
“Polanski will have one type of legacy in Europe and one type of legacy in the U.S.,” said Levenson, the Loyola professor. “In Europe, he will be portrayed as an unfair victim of the United States criminal justice system, and in the United States he will be portrayed as someone who has committed a terrible crime and never really faced the music.”
His victim, Samantha Geimer, has spoken out publicly in recent years, urging L.A. prosecutors to halt their efforts to bring Polanski back to the United States.
Others think it might be time to end the case.
“In the big picture, we have more important things in the world than extraditing Roman Polanski to the United States,” said attorney Dmitry Gorin, a former Los Angeles County prosecutor.
“Everybody thinks and believes that having sex with a 13-year-old is a serious crime, but that's not what he pleaded guilty to,” Gorin said. “He got a lesser offense, and that specific lesser offense is viewed as not extraditable.”
Cooley defended the effort, even though he thought a judge might have sentenced Polanski to no more than his original remaining term of 48 days.
“Upholding the dignity of the court is a very important principle,” Cooley said. “It was certainly worth pursuing Mr. Polanski for all these years.”
New law in child abuse cases addresses Washington County concerns
A new law lobbied for by the Washington County Attorney's Office and signed last week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo will close a loophole in Family Court laws that was noted in recent years during the prosecution of local child abusers.
The law, which was based on bills co-sponsored in the state Assembly by local Assembly members Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake, and Steve McLaughlin, R-Melrose, toughens penalties in Family Court for those who commit serious child abuse.
State law has long allowed for abusers to only be found to have committed “abuse” against children who were not their biological children, even in cases of homicide or sexual abuse, instead of the higher finding of “severe abuse.”
For example, Dan Martindale, Washington County's deputy county attorney who was among those who lobbied for the law change, said he prosecuted a Family Court case in which a man was found to have committed “abuse” by sexually abusing a stepchild, but was found to have committed “severe abuse” of a biological child who wasn't physically assaulted but may have witnessed some of the abuse.
“The rationale was that ‘severe abuse' was defined in the Social Services Law as a ground for terminating parental rights, and since there were no parental rights to terminate, the child could not be severely abused,” he said.
While the finding may seem trivial when compared to sentences in criminal court for the companion cases, Martindale said the differences can determine what custody rights the accused has. A finding of severe abuse can result in termination of parental rights, while a simple abuse finding cannot.
“It allows prosecutors to charge the facts that fit the crime,” Martindale said. “It's something that prosecutors in my position have been looking for for a long time.”
“The legislation recognizes that some Family Court cases can be very complex,” explained Washington County Family Court Judge Adam Michelini. “In light of these complexities, the changes to the law give the court more tools to help protect children from injury and maltreatment.”
Martindale said he had three cases in Washington County Family Court this year in which the loophole prevented a severe abuse finding. One of them was that of Joshua J. Bennett, the Kingsbury man accused of murder for the death of his girlfriend's daughter. He has several biological children who are the subject of Family Court proceedings.
Martindale said Woerner was “very helpful” in getting the bill passed after efforts to appeal decisions from Family Court led to the law being upheld.
The law takes effect in February and can be applied retroactively if a related criminal case remains pending.
Library asks workers to report child abuse
by Debbie Rogers
Like a teacher or a police officer, a librarian can be witness to some of the uglier things in people's lives.
At last week's meeting, the Wood County District Public Library Board passed a policy that encourages employees to report suspected child abuse or neglect as long as they have an objectively reasonable cause for such suspicions.
“Sometimes we get to know people's lives really well,” said Michael Penrod, library director.
He said he had expected to advise the board to take action on a policy in the near future, but the issue came up last week and he decided to ask for action from the board, which met Nov. 18.
Sandra Carsey, children's services administrator with Wood County Job and Family Services, was scheduled to speak to the staff. Then, the Ohio Library Council sent out a notice and sample policy for boards last week, Penrod said, and he decided to move ahead sooner.
The situation could be tricky because of the library confidentiality clause, which protects clients' privacy when they use library services. Also, library employees are not considered mandatory reporters as defined in the Ohio Revised Code. Employees fall under the discretionary reporting provisions.
It's become more of an issue recently because library staff now travels more, to schools and with bookmobiles, Penrod said.
“We are in people's homes on a daily basis,” he said.
“Poor parenting” or unattended children do not fall in this policy, Penrod said.
Also at the meeting, the board:
• Approved health insurance renewal for employees with Paramount. The total cost per person is $4,915 per year, a 7 percent increase. The employee pays $1,066, or 22 percent, per year.
• Approved naming the meeting room in the Carter House “The Crowley Room” in honor of Patrick and Sheilah Crowley. Patrick Crowley, who died Oct. 8, served on the board from 1962-69. The Crowleys also supported the foundation's library benefit at Schedel Gardens, Elmore, during the recession.
• Heard e-book checkouts in October were the second highest this year. They were 7.5 percent of all checkouts.
• Heard a Citizens of Bowling Green Facebook album, originally organized by Joan Gordon in 1983 for the BG Sesquicentennial, reached 1,744 people. The photo collection was scanned and posted.
Two in a thousand people 'view child sexual abuse images at work'
by Tom Reeve
Nearly three-quarters of police officers who work on child sex abuse cases report that they have had to deal with abuse images on work computers.
Seventy-six percent of officers surveyed said they have worked on cases where child sexual abuse material was found on work computers within the private sector, while the corresponding figure within the public sector was 58 percent.
This is according to NetClean which published its report, “Eleven unbelievable truths” in October. It contains a number of myth-busting facts about child sexual abuse including truth number seven which is that child sexual abuse material is found on computers at work.
Meanwhile, today the children's commissioner published a report which says that reported cases of child sexual abuse in the UK are just the tip of the iceberg, with an estimated seven in eight cases going unreported.
It found that two-thirds of child sexual abuse takes place within the family or trusted family circle, that 75 percent of victims were girls and abuse was most likely to occur at about the age of nine.
A key finding of the report is that despite campaigns to encourage children to speak out, they often don't until years later. It recommends providing more training to teachers and social workers to recognise the signs of sexual abuse even when children don't speak out.
NetClean's founder and CEO Christian Berg said that more effort should go into identifying paedophiles within the workplace because as many as two people in a thousand use work computers to view child sexual abuse material.
“While it may appear strange for people to do this at work, many people actually find their work computer to be the only truly private computer they own,” Berg said. “It is not shared with their spouses or children, it is often a laptop and they are the only person who uses it. Paradoxically, this makes them feel more secure to use it, even if it's for viewing illicit content.”
Last year the company published research which claimed that one in five corporate networks has been used to download child pornography. It interviewed 141 IT professionals at a conference and found that in only 3.5 percent of cases did the discovery lead to a criminal investigation, and in 69 percent of cases nothing was done.
He called on organisations to “help stop the spread of child sexual abuse by monitoring their corporate networks for possible perpetrators and reporting suspicious activities to the authorities and police”.
He said it was not unusual for perpetrators to download the material on non-work computers onto removable media such as a USB stick and then view it on the work computer.
NetClean's report is based on a survey of 368 police officers in 28 countries including the UK, European countries, Australia, New Zealand and the US. Disturbingly, it said that 83 percent of police said that the public and decision-makers were unaware of the extent of the problem of child sexual abuse.
The UK government announced in August that it would share a database of hash signatures of known images involving child sexual abuse. The hashes of the still images, which it shared with the Internet Watch Foundation, would enable internet service providers to filter out abuse images more quickly and without having to view them.
According to IWF's CEO Susie Hargreaves, the IWF hash list has grown to 19,000 category A images which have been tested by five global internet service companies.
What The Hunting Ground Misses About Campus Sexual Violence
by Sarah Beaulieu
When I was a young child, my grandparents molested me. I wasn't their first victim. I pray I was their last. My story is painful, but it's a common one. An estimated one out of four girls and one out of six boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18, the age in which most freshmen enter college. Even though I identify as a survivor of sexual violence, stories like mine are largely omitted in the current campus sexual violence movement.
This past weekend, CNN, aired the film, The Hunting Ground, a documentary exploring campus sexual assault. While this film has helped to raise an important issue that impacts too many college students, it has also contributed to a polarizing discussion about rape rather than a broader exploration of how sexual violence impacts college campuses. There are several ways that a broader conversation on sexual violence can improve outcomes for campus sexual assault awareness and response.
Child sexual abuse survivors can help shape our collective understanding about perpetrators of sexual violence, which is important for campus justice proceedings and trainings for faculty and administrators. The overwhelming majority of child sexual abuse survivors were abused by someone they knew, with over 60 percent of victims abused by someone they or their family trusted . The faces of perpetrators are not just people we know, but people we like or love. My grandparents were upstanding members of the community, extremely charismatic, and popular among their friends. The fact that someone is well-liked, charismatic, or charming doesn't make them innocent.
While campuses absolutely need to step up to keep male and female students safe, the litigious lens of Title IX obscures broader implications of sexual violence and how they play out on campus. By the time I arrived on my college campus as a 17-year-old freshman, I was already a victim.
I was binge dieting, drinking heavily, and cutting myself -- all fairly typical, and frankly, mild responses to the trauma of being abused. I didn't need Title IX or legal support -- I needed intensive therapy. There was little available to me on campus at the time, and unfortunately not much has changed in the last 15 years. I sought services elsewhere, and luckily found a pathway to healing and recovery.
Two-year and four-year colleges and universities concerned about on-time completion and career pathways ought to consider the impact that the prevalent issue of sexual violence has on their students and alumni. Survivors of child sexual abuse face higher risk of both physical and psychological illness, according to the Adverse Childhood Experiences survey. Supporting survivors goes beyond providing access to justice. Campuses are in a unique position to provide healing resources to survivors and helping them navigate the trauma of child sexual abuse. Research institutions can add to our collective -- and incomplete -- understanding of prevalence, evidence, and response both to sexual violence on campus and in other communities.
The current dialogue about campus sexual violence pits groups of people against each other. We cannot change our response to sexual violence if college administrators are fighting with campus activists, fraternities are fighting with feminists, or men fighting with women. Sexual violence impacts all of us. The Hunting Ground is an important first step to shedding light on the impact of sexual violence on college campuses. Addressing the needs of sexual abuse survivors regardless of whether the assault took place before arriving on campus might also spur broader efforts to prevent campus sexual violence. This lens creates opportunities for campus administrators, faculty, and male and female students to move beyond defensiveness and work together to find solutions that create a world where all survivors can reach their full potential.
Views expressed here are my own. Find more resources about ending sexual violence on The Enliven Project.
Traditional Thanksgiving After a Non-Traditional Childhood
by Brian F. Martin
Are you growing up in a home or did you grow up in a home where you faced adversities? Because if you experienced adversities like physical abuse, Childhood Domestic Violence, emotional abuse, neglect, or any others, Thanksgiving and "holiday time" are often confusing and uncomfortable. Which is maddening because aren't they supposed to be cheerful and joyous?
The home you grew up in was not traditional, but the day was expected to be
Know that you are not alone in your feelings. The home you grew up in was not traditional. It was nothing like what you saw in the movies...nothing like what you perceived it should be like at your friend's house.
But somehow, all was expected to be traditional during the holidays. And for many, for that one-day, it actually was better...better than a typical day.
But then soon after, the food was eaten, the relatives went home and it went back to what it always was. The magic was gone. And so was the hope.
If you struggled in your childhood home, you probably still struggle with holidays
Just because you grow up and leave the environment doesn't mean that you automatically grow out of what was learned. With all the stimuli that hits us surrounding the holidays, it's easier to trigger those old emotions.
And let's not forget, everyone is back together...under one roof. And often, it's the same roof under which the adversities took place.
Just because you grow up doesn't mean you automatically unlearn the negative beliefs or the LIES you learned in that house.
But some have found a way to bring the magic back to the holidays
I have spoken with thousands of people who grew up facing adversities in their childhood home, as I researched my book INVINCIBLE, many of them facing adversities you could not imagine. And listening to their stories taught me how to take small steps and small actions that, when combined, create feelings of gratitude and joy within them and within those they have the privilege to touch.
There is a way to get the magic back. Not by trying to recreate scenes from "It's a Wonderful Life" (although I do love that movie), but rather by learning from those who have come before us. Here are some of my favorite, shared by others:
"From Thanksgiving thru New Years, in my mind, I am the child I never got to be. Each day take I five minutes and ask myself: "When I was in grade school, what were some of the things I loved to do during the holidays? What did I look forward to? And then I take an immediate simple step towards doing it." - Sandra
"I buy a case of inexpensive wine, wrap each bottle, and keep them in my car. Then, throughout the season, I give a gift to someone who is not on my holiday list, but someone who I still care about. It's the best $50 dollars I spend all year." - Ron
"My wife and I both experienced Childhood Domestic Violence. On Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah, when we visit our parents as we are walking up to the door, we look at one another and remind one another that for this day, we will have compassion. We learned that both of our parents grew up in violent homes and never unlearned what they learned. For this day, we are the parents and they are the children. It was hard at first, but now they have become the most enjoyable days of the year. We have gotten closer because of it. " - Jennifer
"I personally make sure that when I celebrate a holiday like Thanksgiving, I try to create a setting that minimizes or even eliminates the possibility of bringing back any negative memories of my childhood. For example, when we have Thanksgiving at my home, there can't be any alcohol. When my parents fought during my childhood, either one or both of them had been drinking. I also do my best to be surrounded by people and things that make me happy now. What I personally found is the positives have slowly but surely helped me celebrate holidays more than think about events from my childhood." - Roger
"Food!!! I absolutely love cooking and eating good holiday food. I make it a point to have a good meal with people I care about." - Carlie
Understanding of trauma informs Albany-area effort to build resilience
HEARTS Initiative aims to minimize effects of trauma
by Claire Hughes
Bad stuff happens.
When it's serious and it happens in childhood — and for many Americans, it does, according to federal data — it can hurt the developing brain and increase the chance of illness and social problems throughout life.
Yet some people pull through. They're resilient.
A coalition of more than a dozen agencies in the Capital Region is working to create more of those resilient, seemingly unbreakable types who overcome experiences like neglect, abuse or abandonment.
With a $300,000 grant through a project to support resilient U.S. communities, The HEARTS Initiative is one of 14 groups nationwide that will work to increase "protective factors" that prevent trauma and lead to resilience.
"What's going on now is a movement of trauma-informed care," said Bill Wolff, executive director of Albany's LaSalle School and a HEARTS Initiative partner.
HEARTS stands for Healthy Environments And Relationships That Support. The collaborative, led by Heather Larkin of the University at Albany's School of Social Work, concentrates its efforts on under-served groups known to have a higher prevalence of childhood trauma, including people who are disabled, homeless or minorities.
The collaborative's work is based on a growing understanding that deep, unaddressed pain can be the cause of bad behavior.
Their work is based on a long-running study by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the HMO Kaiser Permanente on Adverse Childhood Experiences. ACEs, as they're called, include physical and sexual abuse, divorce, living with a parent who abuses alcohol or drugs, and feeling unloved.
The more ACEs, the greater the risk of consequences like depression, alcohol or drug abuse, or becoming the victim of domestic violence, according to CDC.
Over the last seven or eight years, the ACE study has changed understanding of childhood trauma, Larkin and Wolff said.
Wolff used this everyday example, from LaSalle School, a residential alternative to youth detention: Staff used to ask teens questions like, "What did you do to get yourself in so much trouble?" Now they say, "Tell us about the things that happened to you."
That distinction changes the response from punishment to creating the "protective factors" of compassion and therapy that allow people to overcome trauma.
When Steven Marcal, senior director of Behavioral Health Services at the Center for Disability Services, learned about the ACE study several years ago, he suspected his clients might have higher scores than others. Turns out he was right. The more vulnerable the population, the greater the likelihood of childhood trauma.
"A person with a disability may not have verbal ability to tell" about abuse, Marcal said. "People who are perpetrators of abuse may feel that they're not going to get caught."
As part of the center's work with the HEARTS Initiative, Marcal has brought in psychologist Dan Tomasulo to train staff in a program specifically for intellectually disabled people who have experienced trauma. The center is also incorporating treatments that help people relax and recover from trauma, such as mindfulness meditation.
Another HEARTS partner, Senior Hope, serves people 50 and older working to overcome addiction. Despite clients' ages, the ACE study has provided the organization with a new tool for therapy, Executive Director Nicole MacFarland said.
Many older adults grew up in an era in which they were unable to speak out about abuse or other traumas, MacFarland said. ACE questionnaires have provided counselors with a way of discussing childhood experiences that led to lifelong behaviors, and often their addictions.
Sherri Finkel, a 60-year-old Albany resident, suffered a litany of childhood abuses that had not been addressed until recent years, during her time at Senior Hope and with the counselor she continues to see now. She attributes her current sobriety in part with wrestling with those issues, which included the death of her mother when she was 3, physical and emotional abuse from her stepmother and sexual abuse by two other family members. She was moved from one home to another.
"Nobody asked, nobody told, nobody said anything; I just kept getting thrown around," Finkel said.
At the Trinity Alliance of the Capital Region, which works to promote healthy families and neighborhoods, Chief Executive Officer Harris Oberlander wants to create the supports to overcome childhood trauma in lower-income areas that are more prevalent in the suburbs — things like Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, or a group of trusted adults whom a child can turn to.
Oberlander is aiming for "community resilience."
Understanding the importance of early interventions, Trinity supports an early childhood language development program that draws on the expertise of former educators and other leaders in the neighborhoods it serves, for example.
As part of the current HEARTS grant, Trinity intends to create a victim's response program for people subjected to violence — not only the victim, but all the people that are affected by the event. One goal is to spread ACE information, so that people who may be inured to trauma can recognize it and seek help.
Community resilience, he said, "is having a series of latticed, cross-walked resources available so people know where to go and what to do when a tragedy arises," Oberlander said.
In South Dakota, feds crack down on sex trafficking
Authorities say the state's remoteness, pockets of poverty and highway system attract the criminals.
by The Associated Press
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- It was an anonymous two-story house with an outdoor side staircase, nothing that looked ominous to Kevin Koliner when he passed by going to and from work. On one evening stroll, the federal prosecutor heard loud noises but figured it was just a party. Later, he'd discover the ugly truth.
In a squalid second-floor apartment, just blocks from the U.S. attorney's office, Mohammed Sharif Alaboudi ran a violent sex trafficking ring, preying on young, troubled women. He plied them with drugs and alcohol, gave them clothes and a place to stay, and forced them to engage in sex acts with strangers. Prosecutors dubbed his place a "house of horrors."
The case of Alaboudi, now serving four life terms, offers a glimpse into how the feds are waging an aggressive campaign to root out the illicit sex trade lurking in this seemingly unlikely locale: a low-crime state dotted with sleepy hamlets.
"We're just a friendly state and I think traffickers see this as a trusting place and think, 'They're never going to catch me. They're not so bright,'" said Jenise Pischel, program coordinator at Our Home Inc., a private nonprofit that has helped trafficked girls, including a 14-year-old in the Alaboudi case. "Well, we seem to be catching an awful lot of them."
In recent years, the feds have pursued about 50 sex trafficking cases, three resulting in life sentences. Bolstered by state and local authorities, they're also getting support from Native American tribes, church groups and the Junior League.
The cases have ranged from predator stings at the last three Sturgis motorcycle rallies to busts of lucrative businesses that have transported girls as young as 14 to cities around the Midwest. Police also have detected a circuit some traffickers travel that includes the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota.
Most traffickers have been transplants with criminal records; two serving life were reputed Chicago gang members. Customers, or those caught in stings, have ranged from a Texas air traffic controller nabbed at Sturgis after answering a bogus online ad offering sex with a 12-year-old (his sentence: 15 years) to a Lamborghini-driving local doctor who prescribed illegal Oxycodone to a trafficker (his punishment: 22 months.)
While trafficking exists around the nation, there's something distinctive about South Dakota: About half the women in the federal cases have been Native American, a particularly vulnerable population.
"You've got poverty, you have high, high rates of sexual abuse, which is often a precursor to prostitution and you have just a sense of desperation on the reservation in terms of day-to-day life," said Sarah Deer, a law professor at William Mitchell College in Minnesota and an expert on domestic violence in Native American communities.
Native American women with drug or alcohol problems are especially susceptible, Deer added. "It's, 'Come to Sioux Falls. Come to Rapid City. I'll make sure that you get the crack that you need. All you have to do is do some favors.'"
A broad coalition is tackling the problem. Federal prosecutors have trained tribal law enforcement at all nine reservations on how to identify trafficking. Police have led workshops for motel workers. The Junior League has spoken about trafficking at schools, PTOs and 4-H clubs, financed billboards and prepared TV public service ads.
Though South Dakota has a pastoral image, police and prosecutors said its remoteness, pockets of poverty and highway system attract traffickers.
Some have migrated here "to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond," said Brendan Johnson, former U.S attorney. "They found less competition than they would have in a larger community."
It was Johnson, now in private practice, who began emphasizing the issue about five years ago, knowing convictions could bring stiff sentences. The federal mandatory minimum generally is 10 to 15 years.
Brandon Thompson, who controlled about 20 young women is serving a life sentence. He pleaded guilty in 2011 to sex trafficking and solicitation to murder a federal witness. He'd attempted to recruit a cellmate to murder two teenage girls who were part of the ring, Koliner said.
Thompson's approach, the prosecutor said, was typical for traffickers: Seek out young women, many from broken homes and with histories of substance abuse. Lavish them with gifts and attention, act as boyfriend or manager, promise them a way to earn a lot of money.
"These guys might be bad at a lot of things in life, but they are excellent at finding that girl in a crowd, spotting the Little Red Riding Hood," Koliner said.
The most notorious case involved Alaboudi. At his trial, four young women told graphic stories of how he prostituted and sexually abused them and threatened and physically assaulted them if they resisted.
All had chaotic childhoods. One, identified as SJ, then 14, was on her own because her mother worked long hours to pay the medical bills of her husband, who sustained brain damage from a bar fight. At sentencing, the girl described her descent.
"Did I want to prostitute my body away to strange men?" she said. "No. I wanted to be loved by someone. I wanted a male in my life to show me care ....This is how I thought I had to do it."
Prosecutions have made a dent, Koliner said, noting recent victims and witnesses have talked about how easy it is to get caught and about stiff sentences.
"We're sending the message to the men who are doing this: 'Don't come to our state. Drive on. If you want to do this, drive on.'"
Traumatized Sex Trafficking Victims Behind ‘Cold Financial Statistics'
by Mairead McArdle
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) says it's time that Congress expose and bring to justice online sex traffickers who have proliferated in the United States aided by the rise of social media.
“As a former sex crimes prosecutor, I know that behind these cold financial statistics are survivors traumatized from abuse and degradation and families suffering through years of terror and uncertainty concerning the fate of their loved ones,” McCaskill said last week during a hearing on “Human Trafficking” held by the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Subcommittee on Permanent Investigations.
The hearing focused on a website called Backpage.com., an advertising website similar to Craigslist.com, that features sex ads.
A lawsuit filed last October by three women who claimed they were sold for sex on Backpage.com while they were minors in Massachusetts was dismissed in May by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Stearns, who ruled that the website was protected from user-generated content under the Communications Decency Act (CDA).
But Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has asked the First Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse Stearns' decision, stating in an amicus brief that: “Backpage knowingly and actively engaged in conduct that materially assisted the men who trafficked Jane Doe Numbers 1, 2 and 3.”
Backpage “has perfected a business model predicated on facilitating pimps and traffickers in illegal sex trafficking,” the brief stated. The website's annual revenue is estimated at $130 million.
In September, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that the CDA does not protect Backpage from lawsuits filed by three young girls who also claimed they were sold for sex on its website.
During the hearing, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said that while Backpage.com is “the most egregious example, but it goes on with other websites around the country.” Reuters reported that Instagram, Facebook, Kik, Tagged and Twitter, WhatsApp, and Snapchat have all been used by sex traffickers.
Carl Ferrer, CEO for Backpage.com, failed to show up to the hearing and refused to cooperate with a subpoena issued by the committee requesting information about its business practices, and in particular how it screens ads. Lawyers for Backpage.com claimed that this information is protected speech under the First Amendment.
But Subcommittee Chairman Rob Portman (R-OH), who said that Congress should step up its investigations of the “online black market” of sex trafficking, disagreed. “It's an interesting argument. It has no support in law or logic,” he said.
The company has also said that it uses an“industry-leading site moderation” process for screening illegal activity.
“We thought (obtaining subpoened information) might be simple enough because Backpage holds itself out as a ‘critical ally' against human trafficking,” Portman continued.
“We don't think Backpage's response to this subpoena has been in good faith,” he added, notig that lawyers for Backpage informed the committee that the company has not even bothered to look for the requested documents.
“Which means Backpage does not even know what all it is refusing to produce, much less why these documents should be protected by the First Amendment,” said Portman.
"Traffickers are using the scale and popularity of online services to essentially hide in plain sight," said Mark Latonero, head of the University of Southern Carolina's Technology and Human Trafficking Initiative.
Town hall focuses on link between foster care, sex trafficking
by Amanda Anderson
LOS ANGELES — The sexual exploitation and abuse of children in the child welfare system and what can be done to prevent it was discussed by elected officials and representatives of the National Foster Youth Institute Nov. 21 at a town hall meeting.
U.S. Reps. Karen Bass and Janice Hahn, county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and state Sen. Isadore Hall III took part in leading the conversation.
“This is really about all underage girls and boys who are involved in sex trafficking and the majority of them happen to be in foster care,” Bass said.
“I think this was a critically important event to hear about what's happening in our community to girls as young as 9 years old who are involved and caught up into sex trafficking,” she added.
“Our basic responsibility is to make sure that every child is safe. However, nearly 60 percent of the children who were arrested on prostitution charges in Los Angeles County spent time in the foster care system. Preventing this link between foster care and sex trafficking is a key part of the conversation.”
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department recently announced that it would no longer use the term “child prostitute,” because young girls forced into prostitution are actually the victims of rape.
“Our children are not for sale,” Ridley-Thomas said. “Children are lured and trapped. Once they are in and are committed to the subculture of exploitation, there are deeper levels. It is a moral crisis with true consequences in the lives of these children.
“I intend to do everything in my power to address this problem and help these young people leave conditions that absolutely no one should endure,” Ridley-Thomas added.
It is estimated that in Los Angeles County, 3,000 children are victims of trafficking. The average age for a person to enter that life is between 12 and 13 years old. Sex trafficking also has become a highly lucrative business run by many street gangs.
The National Foster Youth Institute, which convened the town hall meeting at the Founder's Church of Religious Science in Koreatown, aims to reform and strengthen the child welfare system and improve outcomes for foster youth.
“Real change will happen when we involve the community,” said Michelle Guymon, director of child trafficking in the Los Angeles County Probation Department.
The Nov. 21 meeting came the day after law enforcement officials and prosecutors met downtown to coordinate efforts aimed at reducing child sex trafficking.
“With this summit and the work of our local prosecutors' offices, we want to send a clear message to human traffickers and buyers of child sex that we know they exist and we are after them,” Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said. “I hope we also send a clear message to the victims of human trafficking, who are still in bondage, that we care about them and are looking for ways to help free them.”
Also last week Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell announced the formation of a human trafficking task force aimed at providing relief to the hundreds of men and women ensnared by sex traffickers each year.
The unit will include personnel from the Sheriff's Department, the FBI, the District Attorney's Office and other agencies and focus on bringing stiffer prosecutions against traffickers and johns who interact with minors, McDonnell said.
California is a hot spot for human trafficking. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center's hotline has received more than 2,000 reports of human trafficking cases in California since 2012, the most of any state. The hotline has received 477 reports of trafficking cases in California so far in 2015, more than twice the number reported in Texas, the state from which the hotline received its second highest number of calls.
McDonnell said he hopes the task force will allow law enforcement to provide better access to relief resources for trafficking victims. Roughly 85 people from various law enforcement and social service agencies will be assigned to the task force, officials said.
Bass was happy with the Nov. 21 town hall.
“There are new ways for people to report abuse; there are trainings for people so that they know how to recognize [sex trafficking],” she said. “But the really good news is that we met some leaders in the community and county here who have been making some very significant gains. So now there are programs and places for people to go and there are ways for us to address this.”
Mother who left baby in NYC nativity manger won't be charged
by Al Baker and Kirk Semple
NEW YORK — The mother of a baby who was left this week in an unadorned crèche inside a Roman Catholic church in Queens was found and will not face criminal prosecution, the county district attorney said late Wednesday.
The baby, who was found Monday, remained in stable condition at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, officials said. Officially, the baby is in the custody of the city's Administration for Children's Services, as is routine in such cases. Richard A. Brown, the Queens district attorney, said in a statement that his office had decided not to press charges against the woman, whom he did not identify by name, after she was located and interviewed Wednesday.
“The mother followed the spirit of New York's ‘Safe Haven' Law, which allows a parent to leave a child not older than 30 days with an appropriate person or in a suitable location where the parent promptly notifies an appropriate person of the child's location,” he said. “It appears that the mother, in this case, felt her newborn child would be found safely in the church and chose to place the baby in the manger because it was the warmest place in the church, and further she returned the following morning to make certain that the baby had been found.”
Detectives from the 102nd Precinct had been reviewing surveillance video of the woman, who, the police said, secretly left the boy in the Church of the Holy Child Jesus and disappeared.
One video clip showed the woman, with the infant, entering a dollar store on Jamaica Avenue, in the Richmond Hill neighborhood, around the corner from the church, at 111-11 86th Ave.
Another video captured her leaving the store with the baby and newly purchased towels.
Footage from a camera at the church showed the same woman entering with the infant, the police said. Then it showed her leaving — this time without him.
It is not clear how long the baby was left alone lying atop a towel, his umbilical cord still attached. The videos were not time-stamped, the police said. But around 1 p.m., a parish maintenance worker, José Morán, returned from an hourlong lunch and heard the cries of a baby in the front of the nave.
“I thought somebody was with him,” said Morán, 60, who is from the Dominican Republic. “Then I decided to go look.”
He walked to the front of the nave and found the child lying in the wood-frame crèche, which had been newly assembled but was still empty of all the animals and statues.
The baby was partially swaddled in a towel, a corner of which was covering its face, Morán recalled. “It was moving its legs,” he said of the boy.
Morán notified the parish office, and a staff member ran to the parish school across the street to get a nurse. Fire Department officials soon arrived.
Rocio Fidalgo, a spokeswoman for the Diocese of Brooklyn, said that from time to time, people leave unwanted children at its churches, though she declined to say how often this happened.
“It's not uncommon,” Fidalgo said. “But we feel and we believe that these mothers trust our churches in the middle of their desperation.”
For the parish priest, the Rev. Christopher Ryan Heanue, 28, the infant's appearance carried a message of hope. And he saw in it some divine foresight.
He had not intended for the crèche to be set up so early in the season.
“That was the providential part of this,” he said Wednesday. The baby, he added, “found in this a home.”
“The story went most certainly viral, because it's a beautiful story,” he said. “I pray that it's a story that will make people appreciate the gifts of life.”
Many who heard the story already were. Parish officials said they had received well over a dozen messages in calls and emails from people around the country expressing interest in adopting the baby.
Richmond Hill has a predominantly immigrant population, with large numbers of residents from the Caribbean and South Asia, as well as sizable numbers from Latin America and elsewhere. One of six Sunday Masses at Church of the Holy Jesus Child is said in Spanish, and one Mass a month is said in Tagalog.
Paul Cerni, the parish secretary, said that the shifts in the congregation's demographics have vaguely mirrored those in the broader community, with a growing number of immigrants from predominantly Catholic countries of Latin America replacing those of Western European descent. The parish, established in 1910, has a congregation that now numbers about 1,500 people, he said, with about a quarter foreign-born.
“We should pray the baby gets a proper home,” said Heanue, who arrived at the parish in February and is in charge of its day-to-day administration.
Should the baby eventually be put up for adoption, he said, he had one wish. “I would like to see the child stay in this community,” he said.
Police: Newborn left in Christmas nativity manger at NY church
Investigators say the baby was wrapped in towels and laying in the manger
by The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Authorities are searching for whoever left a newborn baby with the umbilical cord still attached in the Christmas nativity manger at a New York City church.
Police say a custodian at a Queens church found the child after returning from lunch Monday afternoon.
Investigators say the baby was wrapped in towels and laying in the manger at the Holy Child of Jesus Church in Richmond Hill.
Police say the baby is in good health at a local hospital. Police have not released the gender.
State law says a newborn can be dropped off at a church, hospital, police or fire station. But it requires the child to be left with someone or for authorities to be called immediately.
A call to the church went unanswered Tuesday afternoon.
Washington D. C.
Opaque U.S. military justice system hides child sex abuse cases
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 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 U.S. 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 will 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 (FOIA) 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 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 after 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.
U.S. Air Force Col. Chuck Killion, director of the U.S. 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 is 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.
Want to end violence against women? This is how
by Wendy Tuohy
IT'S TIME for the age-old cycle of violence to end. Because two dead women a week is too much. And because we — all of us — are better than that.
It's a terrible statistic and one many children know about thanks to overhearing the news — in 2015, two women a week are reported to have been killed by partners or ex-partners, doubling our already bad annual family violence toll.
As parents, it's difficult enough to explain a story about a tragic death on those occasions when you haven't reached the TV or radio fast enough to try to turn it off to protect little ears. It's even harder to know how and when is the right way to raise the issue of violence against women without potentially traumatising girls or making boys feel bad about their gender.
Neither outcome is helpful or desired, but given one in three Australian women aged over 15 will experience violence; parents are being encouraged to join the wider community campaign to educate girls — and especially boys — about what is and is not OK.
Shifting the focus
As the national discussion about how to reduce violence and sexual violence against women finally starts to shift from questions such as “why didn't she leave” or “what was she doing in that situation” and towards discussing how to change attitudes among men that foster a climate in which violence seems acceptable, parents are being enlisted into the anti-violence struggle.
We're being asked to address the issue in a very meaningful — and age-appropriate — way.
As groups such as the new national anti-violence and advocacy group, Our Watch, have shown through 2015 research, attitudes towards girls and women among men and boys are a key factor in reducing tolerance of abuse and violence — and the younger healthy ones are formed, the better.
Earlier this year, research done for Our Watch's youth arm, The Line, revealed some disturbing views about what young people think is justifiable violence or sexual violence: one in three 12 to 24 year-olds thought “exerting control over someone is not a form of violence”, and one in four young people did not think it was serious if a man who is normally gentle, slaps his girlfriend while he is drunk.
One in six of the young 3000 young respondents thought women should “know their place” and one in four thought it was normal for men to pressure women into sex.
Their findings are shocking
The Line ambassador, former AFL footballer Luke Ablett, said the findings shocked him. “That's borderline rape. So that is a really concerning thing that that's how young boys and young girls are entering into their first sexual experiences, where they think its normal to pressure or force someone into that,” he said.
Our Watch chair Natasha Stott Despoja said the findings showed parents were not talking to their children about relationships and sex. This is despite the fact that whether parents like or want to acknowledge it or not (and who does?), boys were being exposed to porn, some of it hardcore, at far younger ages than in previous generations.
Thankfully, no one is pressuring parents to take young boys aside and lecture them about subjects that will be far beyond the developmental level of many. But we are being strongly urged to instil in our sons a respect for female peers that is lacking in some sectors of older generations (as reflected in The Line research).
We're not being told we have to turn our boys into feminists by force, but we are being advised to teach the kind of values that will give their generation of men the best chance of healthy and strong relationships with women, and hopefully reduce community tolerance for acts of violence against women — large and small.
Placing the blame on the perpetrators, not the victims
Former Victorian Police Chief, Ken Lay is one of many authorities to have emphasised the importance of fostering anti-violence, and pro-respect attitudes towards girls and women among boys and young men. He has stressed the importance of placing the blame for violence against women on perpetrators, and not on victims.
“When it (violence against women) happens we might think, ‘Well, why did she marry him?' just as we might think of a rape victim, ‘Well, why was she wearing a short skirt?'
“When we imagine this sort of complicity for the victim — when we essentially blame them — we are congratulating ourselves for our superior judgment, a judgment that will ensure it never happens to us.
“When we do this, we come up with the wrong answers about why violence happens.”
He wants everyone to help bust the myth that victims of family or sexual violence are complicit in their own abuse, and reminds all of us — including parents — that disparaging attitudes towards girls and women are at one end of the “continuum of violence against women”. While the connection between attitudes kids don't even know they hold and violent behaviours later in life may seem difficult to grasp, it's been found to be real.
In the US, anti-violence educators have suggested having “the domestic violence talk” with boys and girls is up there in importance with “the sex talk”, and the earlier the better.
According to Our Watch CEO, Paul Linossier, teaching children to, “reject the stereotypes that seek to define and pigeonhole men and woman, boys and girls into limiting gender categories, roles and behaviours” is extremely important.
“Boys and men are socialised to believe that being tough, emotionless and aggressive are the hallmarks of masculinity,” he said. “Girls and women are continually sexualised and undervalued … restrictive stereotypes ripen the conditions for men's violence against women to occur and to be tolerated.”
The importance of gender equitable attitudes
Raising boys to have a “gender equitable” (equal) attitude to men and women's value and rights will help produce a generation more likely to prevent violence. Mr Linossier has this year reiterated the importance of the following messages:
* Men's violence against women is the responsibility of men.
* Girls and women have the right to live in safety.
* Victim-blaming underpins the idea that it's women's responsibility, not male perpetrators', to prevent violence against women.
* Challenging gender inequality is “crucial to preventing violence against women”.
In White Ribbon Week, perhaps his most important messages for parents of boys, like me, is to remind us and our men in the making that “we must eradicate aggression from the story of what it means to be a boy/man, NOT teach girls/women to be tougher so they can handle it”.
If we succeed in this, life for our children of both genders will be a richer, more stable, safer place.
Are you a victim of domestic violence?
There are a vast number of Australian organisations, support groups and helplines dedicated to domestic violence victims. White Ribbon have a comprehensive list on their website, as well as a state-by-state guide. Click here to view this list in its entirety.
* 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732): 24 hour, National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line for any Australian (male or female) who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault.
* Lifeline has a national number who can help put you in contact with a crisis service in your State (24 hours) 131 114
* Telephone counselling for children and young people. Freecall: 1800 551 800.
* Australian Childhood Foundation: Counselling for children and young people affected by abuse 1800 176 453 www.childhood.org.au or www.stopchildabuse.com.au
* Relationships Australia — Support groups and counselling on relationships, and for abusive and abused partners. 1300 364 277 www.relationships.com.au
* ASCA (Adults Surviving Child Abuse) A service to adult survivors, their friends and family and the health care professionals who support them. Support line: 1300 657 380 www.asca.org.au
* The Department of Community Services Domestic Violence Line is the primary information service for people experiencing domestic violence in NSW. The DV line is free and staffed 24 hours, 7 days a week. Ph. 1800 65 64 63
Research shows that violence is a learned behaviour. Let's stop it now for the next generation and #teachourboys.
Rapid response to child abuse
When a child dies under suspicious circumstances, it is critical for authorities to respond swiftly.
If the cause of death is abuse or neglect, other children in the same household could be in danger. Waiting for coroners, who are often dealing with homicides, to assess the situation could mean the difference between life and death.
DSS Director Susan Alford wants to ensure that doesn't happen, so she is working with lawmakers to establish rapid-response teams to investigate those cases immediately.
The Legislature, which finally began focusing additional attention on the Department of Social Services' troubles a year ago, should see this as a necessary tool for keeping the state's vulnerable children safe.
And the public should feel encouraged that Ms. Alford, who took the job in February, has added staff and is looking for ways to improve services for children.
The picture was a lot more grim when she took over. Then-director Lillian Koller angered senators by withholding information and refusing to tell them even hard facts like the size of DSS employees' workloads.
Finally, she resigned.
The Senate DSS Oversight Committee stayed on the case, and some child advocacy groups sued DSS on behalf of 11 children they say were variously abused, overmedicated, separated from their siblings, kept in solitary confinement and fed moldy food. The suit also contends DSS had an inadequate number of foster homes and that foster children's basic health care needs were not being tended to.
Child advocates are guardedly optimistic about the direction DSS is now taking. The rapid-response teams, which would include a forensic pediatrician specifically trained to identify the nature of suspicious bruises or bone fractures in children, is an example. Certainly DSS and law enforcement authorities both need that information to do their jobs.
Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, is a member of the Senate subcommittee and she is hopeful that Ms. Alford can make a difference. “I'm not going to question what she's done there until I see the outcome,” she said.
But lawmakers need to do more than wait and see. They need to make sure the agency is adequately funded and staffed. They should have zero tolerance for another child being neglected or abused — or allowed to die — under the supervision of DSS.
First Year of Life Poses Highest Risk for Child Abuse: Study
by Robert Preidt
The risk of serious physical abuse is highest among infants under the age of 1, a new study shows.
Researchers looked at nearly 15,000 children younger than 16 who were treated for severe injuries at hospitals in England and Wales between 2004 and 2013. Of those injuries, 92 percent were accidental, 2.5 percent were the result of fights and 5 percent were caused by abuse.
Among children with abuse-related injuries, 98 percent were younger than 5, and 76 percent were less than a year old. Abuse-related injuries were more severe and more likely to involve the head/brain than accidental injuries.
Abused children were also three times more likely to die of their injuries than other children in the study, 7.6 percent vs. 2.6 percent.
Boys accounted for 59 percent of abuse victims and 89 percent of those treated for injuries caused by fights or accidents, according to the study published online Nov. 23 in the Emergency Medicine Journal .
While young children accounted for the vast majority of abuse victims in this study, it doesn't meant that older children don't suffer abuse, noted the researchers led by Dr. Ffion Davies, an emergency medicine consultant from University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust in England.
"It may simply be that the more robust physique of an older child means that major trauma is more difficult to inflict," the researchers suggested.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers resources on preventing child abuse and neglect.
Detective told child abuse victim she must have been 'asking for it', inquiry hears
Royal commission hearings into Melbourne archdiocese hears police failed to investigate abuse, despite questions about conduct of priest involved
by Melissa Davey
A detective told a teenager who was repeatedly the victim of sexual abuse she must have been wearing a “neon sign” above her head “asking for it”, and that there was not enough evidence to investigate her case.
Julie Stewart, now 40, gave evidence before the royal commission into institutional responses into child sexual abuse on Wednesday that she was sexually abused by a family member between the age of five and eight.
She was then sexually abused by the parish priest at the Holy Family church in Doveton, Victoria, Peter Searson, from when she was in year three, the commission heard.
Stewart told the commission Searson would force her to sit on his lap during confession, rather than on the other side of the confessional barrier, and would ask her to kiss him and tell him that she loved him.
This progressed to him touching her genitals, she said. Her previous abuse at the hands of a family member, for which her father blamed her, made her reluctant to tell anyone what was happening, she said.
“I understood that what he was doing was sexual and it was wrong,” Stewart told the commission. “I would wear tracksuit pants or stockings to make it harder for him to touch me.”
When she went to confession in year four with the rest of her school class, Searson placed her on his lap “so I could feel his erection on my backside”, Stewart said.
“He pushed me hard against him. It hurt. He whispered; ‘You are a good girl. The Lord forgives you'. I snapped. I ran out of the confessional ... sobbing and hyperventilating. I was making a lot of noise.”
But Stewart said she could not recall her teacher asking her if she was OK or what had happened, and she refused to go back to confession. In 1986, when she was in year 5, Stewart began at another school, in Dandenong.
Stewart said in 1990, when she was about 15, she was contacted by a detective from Victoria police who told her he was from the child abuse squad, and that someone had put her name forward as a potential victim of Searson's. She agreed to be interviewed by him in her family home.
“I initially felt comfortable, so I told him I had also been sexually abused by a family member,” Stewart told the commission.
“He said; ‘Oh my God, what, were you wearing a neon sign above your head saying come and get me?'. I felt that he was blaming me, which was hard, because I blamed myself.”
Stewart told the commission that she shut down, and was told by the detective there was not enough evidence for him to do anything.
In 1996, Stewart learned that the then archbishop of Melbourne, George Pell, had appointed Peter O'Callaghan QC to investigate complaints about sexual abuse by Melbourne diocesan clergy.
She told the commission that in 1997 she agreed to attend what O'Callaghan described to her as an informal hearing about Searson's abuse.
It was a process she said retraumatised her. She was made to face Searson in the hearing, she told the commission, and faced lengthy cross-examination from Searson's lawyers. She left the hearing and broke down, she said.
“In 1998 I received a cheque from the archdiocese for $25,000 and a letter of apology from archbishop Pell,” Stewart said. “I had never asked for a letter or for an apology. I felt that the whole process re-traumatised me.”
On Tuesday, the commission heard complaints had been made about Searson from his time as a parish priest at Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in Sunbury in 1977, to the decade when he was a parish priest at Holy Family parish in Doveton. In 1997 he was charged with unlawful assault of an altar boy, and was released on a good behaviour bond without conviction after pleading guilty.
Over the next fortnight, the commission is focusing on the conduct of eight priests, including Searson, and how the archdiocese and police responded to complaints against them.
Stewart said she now suffered from depression, and still mourned for her lost childhood. She attempted suicide when she was a teenager.
“I still cry for the little girl that I once was, the little girl that never got to be a normal little girl doing all the things that little girls should do,” she said through tears.
“Nothing could ever give that back to me. It is a life sentence, and every day I make a choice to keep going. It is important to me to tell my story now, because I want peace for myself.”
Graeme Sleeman, a former principal at a school in the Doveton parish, also gave evidence to the commission on Wednesday and said he was told regularly by staff that Searson was “crazy” and “mad”.
“Every day I turned up at school from the first week, there would be a phone call put through to me and the secretary would say, ‘They want to talk to you about the parish priest',” Sleeman said.
“I was told on regular occurrences that he had strange financial keepings, and I was told that I had to be very, very careful because he was able to misappropriate school funds. Also there was innuendo and comments that he had strange relationships with young boys and girls.
“Way back then, innuendo from a number of places and a number of people said to me, ‘hey, this guy's not squeaky clean'.”
The hearings continue.
The most effective ways to protect your child from sexual abuse
by Ashlesha Bagadia
Every time we hear or read about an incident of sexual assault involving a child, there is an overwhelming urge to rush to our own children, and keep them within our eyesight for every waking minute.
In the past few months, at least three cases of minor girls being allegedly assaulted in Bengaluru schools were reported. These incidences are not a rare in India, which registers one of the highest numbers of child sexual abuse cases in the world every year. From 2001 to 2011, child rape cases jumped an alarming 336%.
And unfortunately, there isn't much action taken.
Out of a total of 6,816 cases registered in 2014, according to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, only 555 made it to court.
A myriad thoughts and emotions cross our minds, ranging from sadness to frustration to anger, when we read this data. Many knee-jerk actions are taken—outpouring of sympathy for the family; angry letters and protests; hyper-vigilance around all children's activities; and crash courses in sexual education. And all of these go on until the dust settles, leaving behind feelings of helplessness and lack of control.
But the best thing to do—and probably the only thing we have control over—is to educate the child. Prepare him or her to minimise the risk and increase the chances of escape. Unless a foundation of healthy conversations and behaviours is laid around sexual development, isolated sessions about “good touch” and “bad touch” are insufficient and ineffective.
Here are six ways in which you, as a parent or a primary caregiver, can create an environment of healthy sexual habits and prepare your child to be safe.
First, starting from infancy, teach your children to name their private parts just as any other part of the body. They don't have to be taboo words or secrets, just a part to be cleaned and cared for as any other. Bodily functions will always bring out a giggle or two and that's how it should be, light-hearted and yet not ignored.
Infants and toddlers will fondle their private parts as a way of self-soothing; it is a part of nature and a healthy part of growing up. Resist the urge to teach them that it's a “bad thing.” The obvious pleasure that they feel, conflicts with your message, and makes them feel guilty for an action they didn't fully understand. They are unlikely to stop the behaviour, only more likely to hide it from you. Instead, teach them that touching, scratching and looking at their private parts is something that is done in the privacy of their room, and not in public. They may not respond with just one reminder; several repetitions in a non-accusing tone is the key. Given the right response, children will grow out of this phase naturally and normally, without any residual feelings of guilt.
Second, young children between four and nine years tend to show general curiosity around private parts and growing bodies of their own and of their peers. Teach them to respect their bodies and that of others and tell them, “You only touch your own bodies.” Teach them to say this to other children, too. Practice talking about it in a matter-of-fact way; separate the behaviour from the child. It's the behaviour that you object to, you still love the child just the same. This will encourage them to open up to you with ideas that may otherwise embarrass them.
Third, allow children of any age to be in control of their own bodies and respond with their own choice when an adult relative or a friend asks to hug or kiss them in your presence. “Only if you'd like to, you can give them a hug, but you don't ever have to do anything you don't want to.”
As adults, practice giving affection as opposed to asking for affection. And encourage close relatives and friends to do the same. And if your child refuses to hug or kiss you, respect their wishes, instead of taking them on a guilt trip. This will teach them that they need not comply every time an adult asks to touch or hug them, and that saying no will not have negative consequences. Teach your child that no adult should ask them to keep secrets about their behaviour, especially if they're seeking “affection” and not respecting the child's boundaries.
Fourth, be aware of your own inhibitions around topics of sex and sexuality. Sadly, most women growing up in India would have faced sexual harassment in some form or other; be it being ogled at, touched or groped in crowded areas, or worse. These incidents, coupled with the taboo around open discussions, prime us to respond with a negative tone and body language, which our kids are quick to pick up on.
For example, if your six-year-old daughter is talking animatedly about her body and wonders, “Mummy, when I will have big breasts like you?” and your mind goes to that creep in the office, who couldn't take his eyes off your chest, then you are more likely to tense your body and try to distract her from the conversation. A few more incidents like these and she will not only learn to not talk to you about it, but be more open and vulnerable to others who are willing to talk and teach her more. Instead, keep a matter-of-fact tone and give the right answer, “When you're grown up like me, dear,” and that's that.
A non-dramatic response will reduce her curiosity and shift her fleeting attention to something else. If you, as a parent or a caregiver, have been a victim of abuse and are struggling with persisting symptoms, seek help through a professional. Only if you're strong mentally, can you teach your children to be the same.
Fifth, monitor media exposure. While we are reluctant to talk openly about sexual development, there seems to be less hesitation in exposing children to explicit content through TV shows or movies. Monitor what your children watch or read, clear your search history from the computer, keep adult content magazines and newspapers out of reach, avoid exposure to seemingly innocent Bollywood movies (it only takes a child watching one “item number” to learn how to do the pelvic thrust.) But you can never completely protect them from the media, so laying a foundation of trust and openness will help you keep track of what they're learning everyday and teach them to be decent.
Sixth, introduce age-appropriate sex education as and when the opportunity arises. Children are more likely to retain information when given in small doses in response to their various queries, as opposed to a half an hour lecture that goes beyond their attention span. Don't suddenly spring a story of birds and bees on your unsuspecting child. Or suddenly start warning them about all the male staff in their school. Casual conversations of their daily routine will give you a lot of information of what goes on in your absence and opportunities to teach them about safe practices in public. Teach them various ways to ask for help and about the safe adults they can seek help from. As your child grows older make the conversations more sophisticated to include puberty and safe sex practices. Teach your adolescents the values of a healthy relationship and to express love and intimacy in healthy ways, and to avoid exploitative or manipulative relationships.
The final message of any interaction with your child should be that no matter what, you will always be available unconditionally, to help them through their doubts, mistakes and adverse experiences.
Police assign extra 25 officers to child abuse teams as cases stream in
by Talia Shadwell
Child abuse complaints are streaming in so fast police are opening new investigations at a rate of one every hour and they "fear" making the wrong call. Talia Shadwell reports as part of the Faces of Innocents series.
Figures released under the Official Information Act show police are opening 32 child protection cases a day - but a top cop says they are coping with the demand.
By August 24 this year 187 cases nationwide had not been assigned to an investigator and 13 detectives currently had 5 or more investigations on their plate.
Lower North Island Detective Superintendent Tim Anderson said investigators were coping with their workload.
"We believe they are. This is something that police take extremely seriously. Anything around child protection and adult sexual assault is at the top of the tree for us in terms of investigation and prevention. We look at these numbers on a weekly basis and we move staff around."
Police Association president Greg O'Connor agreed, but said it was every detective's fear that they could prioritise the wrong case, leading to tragedy for someone else.
Anderson said cases awaiting assignment were not being ignored - usually it meant police were at the stage where they were planning with Child, Youth and Family (CYF) and the victim's relatives on what action to take.
"We can absolutely assure them that they are going to get help," he said.
"That doesn't mean the case is sitting there, gathering dust or nothing happening."
'PEOPLE ARE REPORTING'
Records show police opened 11,616 new child protection cases between 2014-15.
A rising tide of child abuse complaints could be interpreted as New Zealand society becoming more confident cries for help will be answered, experts say.
Anderson said it showed more people felt confident disclosing abuse which he said police were "heralding as a really positive thing."
"I don't know if you'd call it a tsunami. There has certainly been an increase but there has certainly been a sea-change in the way we deal with child abuse in the past 15 years.
"The most important thing is people are reporting it, thankfully, and it mirrors our family violence reporting which has been increased."
Police had boosted the number of dedicated officers working on the country's 12 child protection teams from 235 to 260 since August, and pulled in outsiders if there was a spike in demand, Anderson said.
Investigations of child abuse allegations had undergone massive change since the troubles in the Wairarapa in the mid-2000s, where some detectives had a backlog of more than 100 cases and some files had vanished altogether.
The investigation into the debacle changed policing - they now worked more closely with CYF, and the methods and facilities used to interview child victims had become "more friendly," Anderson said.
It was unknown how many of the 11,616 cases were solved - because crime statistics were not recorded in a way that made it possible to determine child abuse resolution rates specifically, police said.
Some family violence cases were more appropriate to resolve with methods outside of prosecution, Anderson said.
ARE POLICE REALLY COPING?
O'Connor said official inquiries following the historic debacles over lost and backlogged child abuse cases had led to a much more rigorous system, with police auditing their caseloads frequently.
Some provincial areas in recent years had to disband organised crime squads to borrow extra detectives to help with mounting child abuse cases, O'Connor said.
He said police had come a long way in making sure their caseloads were under control - the tricky task was ensuring the most dangerous situations were dealt with first.
"It's a constant fear that they will prioritise the wrong work- that's a real pressure that supervisors and that detectives working on these cases deal with on a daily basis."
Labour's police spokesman Kelvin Davis said whether police were able to handle the increased workload needed to be measured.
"If all anyone can say is that more cases are being reporting meaning more people are talking about it - we actually want to know what is the resolution rate of these cases."
In Parliament last week Davis questioned Police Minister Michael Woodhouse over $15 million in cuts to the police budget since National took office. Woodhouse responded that police employed 600 more officers under the current Government.
Davis said he had concerns that police have been "underfunded severely."
Child Matters advocacy group chief executive Anthea Simcocksaid the increased numbers should be interpreted as positive as child abuse had always been there - but now more people were reporting it.
Changes in attitudes to what was abuse could also explain the increased case numbers.
Children witnessing violence in the home was now considered "emotional abuse" and an early warning sign of violence to come.
So social workers were called in by the police to make an early intervention, Simcock said.
"People would say 'that's just a domestic.' They would never say that now."
With increased reporting came greater demand for help.
"It will always put pressure on resources and of course the best thing is to prevent this in the first place. What we are trying to do right now is prevent the repetition of abuse," Simcox said.
"I don't think we will ever be able to do everything that we want. I don't think any country would put their hands on their heart and say 'there's nothing more we could have done."
REPORT CHILD ABUSE NOW
If you have concerns about the safety of a child, you can call police on 111 or Child, Youth and Family on 0508 FAMILY (0508 326 459) for advice.
If the social worker thinks the child is in immediate danger they will act on it within 24 hours.
Information can be provided anonymously to police via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
If you are a young person worried about what's happening to you or someone you know, call Youthline for advice on free phone 0800 37 66 33, free txt 234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
'Worst case of neglect' prompts $27M claim against DSHS
by Linda Byron
(Video on site - may be disturbing)
On an October morning three years ago, emergency responders were sent to a North Bend home to do a welfare check. What they found, they said, still haunts them—a blind, disabled girl emaciated and writhing in pain.
How the girl came to be in such a terrible condition is what prompted a $27 million claim filed Monday against the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS).
"I remember it like it was yesterday. It was one of the most horrible things I'd ever seen," said one of the responders, King County Detective Belinda Paredes-Garrett.
"I remember the smell, I remember the flies, I remember the dirty diapers and this poor little girl," said firefighter Scott Foster, who has since retired from Eastside Fire & Rescue.
April and Jeff Henderson, the couple who was being paid to care for the girl, tried to stop the first responders from entering.
"April actually stood in front physically of where Heather's bedroom was so that we weren't to enter it," Paredes-Garrett said. "And we said, 'We're going in there, you need to move out of the way and let us do our job.'"
That's when rescuers first laid eyes on Heather Curtis.
"We opened the door and immediately had the smell of feces, and there were diapers on the floor, feces on the floor," Foster said. "There was a bunk bed. She was under a blanket, in the bunk bed."
"I saw a young girl, thought she was a child, so small, skeletal like. And she was in nothing but a very, very soiled diaper," said Paredes-Garrett. "And she was wailing and moaning a sound I've never ever heard and the only thing I could compare it to would be a wounded animal."
"She was very small, very small, like the size of maybe a 7 or 8 year old, I would think, and she was very malnourished," Foster recalled.
But Heather Curtis wasn't 7 or 8; she was 19 years old and weighed just 68 pounds.
"I still get emotional. I wasn't prepared to see that," Paredes-Garrett said.
Heather Curtis was helpless. She's blind, has spastic quadriplegia and cerebral palsy.
In some of the photos collected at the scene, it's hard to even make her out amid all of the garbage and clutter in her bedroom.
"We all thought this was the worst case of neglect we'd seen on a person that was still alive," said Foster.
After Heather was removed from the home, it was discovered that the Hendersons allowed the girl's teeth to decay so badly that she required 19 root canals.
According to court documents, Heather was 10 when her caregiver died and Jeff and April Henderson took her in. The couple was paid by DSHS to ensure that all of Heather's needs were met.
Yet Foster said he was shocked at how April Henderson reacted as they watched Heather moaning and writhing in filth in her bed.
"There was no love, she had no love or compassion for this young little girl, she was only mad because the child had taken the diaper off," Foster said.
State records show that after the Hendersons took over Heather's care in 2003, DSHS began hearing complaints of negligent treatment.
According to state records, in 2004, Heather's teachers complained that she was coming to school without a coat, wasn't being bathed, had bad sores, smelled of urine and feces.
In 2005, educators reported Heather had bed sores and smelled. In 2009, teachers reported more allegations of mistreatment, saying Heather was chronically dirty, crying, missing hair and her bottom was crusted with old feces.
She began missing school, and by June 2010, Heather Curtis was no longer coming to school.
DSHS records indicate that over the next two years social workers paid an occasional visit to the Hendersons' home, but always gave advanced notice and never went into Heather's bedroom.
"A red flag would be when someone is brought out to one room when you're there to check on her. I want to see where this person lives and sleeps," Paredes-Garrett said.
On October 17, 2012, April Henderson took Heather Curtis to Seattle Children's Hospital for a medical appointment. The nurse who saw the teen documented numerous concerns of neglect. She wrote in a complaint to Adult Protective Services, "She (Heather) appears to be very poorly cared for. She has been medically neglected. I do not believe the Hendersons have her best interests in mind."
On October 25, police and firefighters were sent to North Bend and removed Heather from the Hendersons' home.
Attorney David P. Moody was hired by Heather's new guardian to look into suing the state for failing to supervise the Hendersons' care of Heather.
"They (DSHS) don't require or force them (the Hendersons) to go through any training, they don't make sure they're even capable of caring for Heather, they don't go inspect and look at how (the Hendersons) are caring for Heather," Moody said. "They don't do any of it, but they start to write checks."
According to police reports, those checks—more than $4,000 a month--were the only money supporting the Hendersons and their four children; Jeff and April were both unemployed.
"Heather was a meal ticket to the Hendersons; no one should ever treat another human being the way that they treated Heather," said Ian Bauer, another attorney on the case.
Police reports show that when the emaciated Heather was removed from the home, Jeff Henderson weighed 500 pounds. And the family had plenty of nice belongings.
Detective Paredes-Garrett said she was surprised there was a big screen television, laptops, and an expensive reptile collection.
"Heather was living in absolute squalor while the Hendersons were living a good life. DSHS was subsidizing the Henderson's lifestyle, none of the money was going for Heather," said Moody.
After all of that, the Hendersons cut a deal. The couple plead guilty to 2nd degree criminal mistreatment and were sentenced to just 9 months of home detention.
"When Heather was rescued she was on the verge of death," said Moody, explaining the request for $27 million in damages from DSHS.
"DSHS had its chance, they had its chance with her and now we're asking that DSHS pay for private care for Heather for all her needs for the remainder of her life," Moody said.
Her rescuers believe Heather knows she's finally on the path to having the care she deserves.
Scott Foster says he spoke to Heather on that October 2012 day just before he and the other responders wrapped the girl in a sheet and carried her to an ambulance.
Foster remembers he told her: "'Honey, we're here to help you, we're gonna get you out of here.' And she smiled at me. She'd been through a rough time and she knew that she was gonna get out of there."
Paredes-Garrett said she when she visited 9 months after the rescue, Heather had gained 30 pounds and was back in school.
KING 5 made repeated attempts to reach the Hendersons but never received a response.
DSHS told KING 5 that confidentiality rules prohibit the agency from commenting on Heather's case. But the agency insisted that when it learns of abuse, it's "personal."
DSHS says since January 2013 the department has made improvements including increasing investigation staff and implementing an automated abuse system that provides a single database for tracking complaints.
That database was launched two months after Heather was rescued
Seven in eight child sex abuse cases undetected, claims study
Children's commissioner believes hundreds of thousands of victims are missed by authorities
Around 85 per cent of child sex abuse victims remain undetected by the police and local authorities, according to a new report by the children's commissioner.
The study found that two thirds of abuse happens in and around the family and that 75 per cent of victims are girls.
While 50,000 cases of abuse were identified between April 2012 and March 2014, the study suggests the actual number was more likely to be up to 450,000, meaning just one in eight children were identified by authorities.
The report says it gathered the "largest and most comprehensive body of evidence ever on child sexual abuse in and around the family in England".
It looked at data from police forces across England and information held by the Department for Education, and carried out the "largest ever" survey of adult survivors of child sexual abuse in the family, with 756 respondents in total. The report also drew on a recent study that found that 11.3 per cent of young adults aged 18 to 24 had experienced sexual abuse during their childhood.
Children's commissioner Anne Longfield called for urgent action to target the "most common form of child sexual abuse – that which takes place behind the front door within families or their trusted circles".
Longfield told the BBC she wants to see more training to help teachers, social services and other professionals to identify abuse, using signs in children such as withdrawal or overly sexualised behaviour. "A system which waits for children to tell someone cannot be effective," she said.
The report also recommended compulsory lessons about safe relationships for children as young as five and teaching children to talk to an appropriate adult if they are worried about abuse.
The Department for Education said it would "carefully consider" the recommendations, adding that it had set up a cross-government child protection taskforce, invested £100m to support vulnerable children and is providing £7m for services supporting child abuse survivors.
Child abuse victims need community help
by Patricia Miljanich
Right under the noses of professionals, foster parents and family members, a 4-year-old foster child was nearly murdered while in the care of her adult half-sister in the city of Santa Clara last year. Why didn't our child protection system protect this little girl from this unspeakable abuse?
While this situation is not common in foster care, the child welfare system fails too many children. I propose two constructive ways for the community to improve it through direct engagement.
The child welfare system is a safety net. It has many responsibilities but three particularly challenging tasks: removing children from unsafe parents and caregivers; helping reunite these parents and children by providing services; and finding permanent homes for children who can never go home.
Trying to administrate a child's life is nearly impossible, and children need caring human beings, not protocols, to thrive.
Child abuse and neglect is as prevalent as ever. According to a child welfare report maintained by UC Berkeley, the number and rate of community reports of child abuse and neglect over the past 15-20 years has risen in California and in the Bay Area.
However, the rate at which child welfare agencies substantiate these referrals has declined significantly. One reason is a growing recognition among child welfare stakeholders that sometimes the treatment (the child welfare system) is more harmful than the disease (the reported abuse or neglect). It's an implicit acknowledgment that for many children and families, the system does more harm than good.
A bureaucracy cannot raise children effectively; that is what parents are for. But our community can support children whose home lives have become so unsafe the government needs to intervene.
The first way is to persuade responsible people to become foster parents.
When a judge decides children are unsafe with their parents, some go to relatives and many end up in foster homes. The need for quality, safe homes will rise in the years ahead, as the state attempts to provide more "family home" settings instead of relying on costly and often ineffective group homes. By offering a reliable and safe home, residents can provide a family setting for a child in need and make our system work better.
The second way we can help abused children is by getting involved with the programs that help children directly -- in this case, a local Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program. The Santa Clara County child did not have a CASA volunteer who may have prevented this 4-year-old from so much harm. The program in this county, like other local CASA programs, needs many more community volunteers to work one-on-one with all foster children who need them.
A CASA volunteer has weekly contact with the child and access to everyone in the child's life including parents, foster parents, teachers, and the child's social worker and attorney. Volunteers conduct independent investigations, following up on personal observations and the concerns of others, as well as advocating for safe, permanent homes. As officers of the court, they report directly to the judge.
Quality foster parents and CASA volunteers provide critical community support to the child protection system.
With poverty, mental illness and substance abuse so common in our own Bay Area communities, we leave children especially vulnerable to being victimized in ways that develop scars across generations.
More of us need to step up to the challenge of supporting our local children by doing more than paying taxes. We need to become foster or adoptive parents, and we need to become CASA volunteers to help traumatized children and improve the safety net designed to protect them.
Patricia Miljanich is executive director of CASA of San Mateo County.
“Silent” Forms of Child Abuse Strongly Tied to Depression
by Justin Karter
Psychological abuse and childhood neglect are strongly associated with depression in adulthood, according to a meta-analysis of childhood trauma and depression published in this month's issue of the Journal of Affective Disorders . “The findings clearly highlight the potential impact of the more ‘silent' types of childhood maltreatment (other than physical and sexual abuse) on the development of depression,” the researchers conclude.
While a great deal of research has established the connection between childhood physical and sexual abuse and the development of depression, fewer studies have examined the effects of emotional abuse. Experts have hypothesized, however, that particular types of abusive childhood experiences may increase an individual's vulnerability to specific depression symptoms.
The authors of the latest meta-analysis, led by Dr. Maria Rita Infurna of the University of Heidelberg in Germany, propose that different types of abuse may influence the development of distinct forms of depression that could benefit from individually tailored therapies.
They investigated several distinct forms of neglect, including: antipathy, hostility and rejection toward the child; neglect, failure to provide child with basic needs; physical abuse, hitting and violence directed toward the child; sexual abuse, inappropriate sexual contact by older peer or adult; and, psychological abuse, controlling and domineering parenting characterized by humiliation and terrorization.
The researchers found that some types of abuse had a particularly strong association with the development of depression. For instance, psychological abuse, such as “verbal and nonverbal acts by a close other in a position of power,” was more strongly associated with depression than any of the other forms of maltreatment. Childhood neglect, where a caretaker fails to provide for the child's basic emotional and material needs, was also strongly related to depression.
“We should highlight here that neglect and psychological abuse likely represent the two extreme polarities of maltreatment in a child. On the one hand, neglect is the most relevant form of maltreatment “by omission”, in which the child is deprived of basic responses to his or her needs of protection, care, and love from caregivers; on the other, psychological abuse is a perfect representative of maltreatment 'by commission,' in which caretakers voluntarily degrade, humiliate, and terrorize their young in order to have power and control over them.”
In both instances, they add, these experiences create feelings of shame and powerlessness in the child and may result in reduced self-esteem, leading to depression in later life.
“Overall, the results of this meta-analysis point to the importance of considering several types of maltreatment experiences as risk factors for an outcome of depression with a particular focus on the more 'silent' forms of maltreatment such as psychological abuse and neglect.”
Another study published this month in JAMA Psychiatry found that emotional and verbal abuse was just as harmful as physical and sexual abuse and were connected with a broad range of mental health problems. To see MIA's coverage of this study click here.
Child sexual abuse: How big is the 'iceberg'?
by Alison Holt
The sexual abuse of a child has to be one of the most distressing issues any society has to confront.
That is particularly true when the abuse is happening within the family - the place where a child should be safe.
We've known for a long time that only a relatively small number of abuse cases come to the attention of the authorities, but this report by the Children's Commissioner for England is a comprehensive attempt to measure and understand abuse that is hidden from view.
Its conclusion that only one child in every eight facing sexual abuse comes to the attention of the authorities is a staggering figure, but it does not surprise many working in the field.
Experts will often describe the abuse that is reported as the tip of the iceberg. This research attempts to measure the whole iceberg.
Calculating the scale of the problem is valuable, but perhaps more important is what it tells us about how we as a society respond to abuse.
There are huge taboos - particularly when abuse happens within a family - and this report underlines just how difficult it is for children to find the right words and the right person to tell.
The researchers collected data from all the police forces and local authorities in England. They reviewed existing research and more than 750 survivors of abuse took part in a survey - probably the largest of its kind.
'Rely on children'
The report says most abuse victims didn't tell anyone about what was happening to them until they were 12 or older.
It also found the abuse usually began when they were much younger.
Responses from the survivor survey suggested that around nine was the most common age for abuse to start.
"At the moment we rely on children being able to tell adults," says Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England.
"Most children tell us they don't know how to tell or they are afraid to tell, so most won't come to the attention of the statutory services and we need to change that."
But one of the most disturbing findings of the research is that when children did pluck up the courage to tell someone, the abuse often continued.
Most chose to tell their mother, a friend or a teacher, but even if they told the police, in many instances they still weren't protected.
'Difficult to think'
Prof Jenny Pearce, of the University of Bedfordshire, carried out research for the report and was part of the inquiry team.
She thinks abuse, particularly within families, is really challenging for society.
"Child sexual abuse flies in the face of everything that we expect of the family," she says.
"It's difficult for us to think about it happening in our own homes, it's much easier to think that child sexual exploitation is happening in institutions or somewhere out there."
The children's commissioner wants a complete rethink of the way in which the authorities tackle child abuse.
Her report calls for better training for all professionals involved with children so they can spot signs of abuse.
It also says children as young as five should have what it calls "lessons in life".
In these they would learn about healthy, safe relationships to encourage them to talk to an adult if they are worried.
Are paedophiles' brains wired differently?
There has been immense concern in recent years over the scale of child sexual abuse. But even after years of study and investigation there's still disagreement over what causes paedophiles to be the way they are, writes Richard Sanders.
"People, they think 'why should we help the paedophile? We should be prosecuting them, throwing them in jail, having them castrated'. But if we offer help to paedophiles we might save children who might have been abused."
These were the remarkable words of Paul Jones, father of April Jones who was abducted and murdered by a paedophile in October 2012. There was evidence that Mark Bridger had been looking at child pornography online in the hours leading to her abduction.
Now Paul and his wife Coral are campaigning for better understanding of child sex abuse - including offering help to paedophiles to prevent them from offending. For them this is key to protecting children from harm.
Dr James Cantor, of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada, spends much of his time exploring the brains of paedophiles using MRI scans. He has reached a startling and controversial conclusion.
"Paedophilia is a sexual orientation," he says. "Paedophilia is something that we are essentially born with, does not appear to change over time and it's as core to our being as any other sexual orientation is."
Cantor found that the brains of the paedophiles he studied were wired differently to non-paedophiles - something he describes as effectively a "cross-wiring" of the brain. "It's as if, in these people, when they perceive a child, it's triggering the sexual instincts instead of triggering the nurturing instincts," he says.
He also says that convicted paedophiles are three times more likely to be left-handed or ambidextrous than the rest of the population - and that they are significantly shorter than other convicted criminals. It must be stressed that doesn't mean short and left-handed people are significantly more likely to be paedophiles, but these are characteristics that are generally determined during the first trimester of pregnancy - suggesting paedophilia could be determined at the same time, Cantor says. A possible cause may be maternal stress or malnourishment.
"The more we can zero in on exactly what's going on and when it's happening, the greater chance of being able to prevent it from developing in the first place," says Cantor.
But his theory diverges markedly from the other explanations of why paedophilia exists. A nature/nurture debate is raging fiercely among experts in the field of child sexual abuse.
For a long time the dominant thesis was what Duncan Craig of Survivors Manchester - a charity for male survivors of abuse - calls the Vampire Syndrome. Craig defines this as "the idea [that] if you'd been bitten by a vampire you'll go on to become a vampire. If you've been abused you will go on to become an abuser."
The Truth About Child Sex Abuse, presented by Tanya Byron and Tazeen Ahmad, is broadcast on Tuesday 24 November on BBC Two at 22:00 GMT - watch on BBC iPlayer. The programme covers a range of subjects including the personal stories of victims, how police are tackling the offenders and what government and charities are doing to help.
Many people who work with survivors of abuse are fiercely hostile to this idea, believing it stigmatises those who have experienced the horror of child sexual abuse.
"I do find this really sad. It stops men from being fathers," says Craig. "The amount of times I've sat with a client who has broken down into tears and talked about not being able to change a baby's nappy. Not because he thinks he's going to do something but because the myth is out there."
Cantor's work provides an alternative explanation of how paedophilia develops. However, it carries with it the stark implication that, if you are born a paedophile, you are condemned to stay a paedophile.
This is strongly disputed by many, including Dr Paul Fedoroff, director of the Sexual Behaviours Clinic at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre.
Fedoroff maintains he is able to "cure" paedophiles, making use of anti-androgen drugs to temporarily remove their sex drive.
"We take sex off the table," Fedoroff says. "We give them a chance then to develop healthy lifestyles." Those being treated are able to get a job and hopefully build up a consensual relationship with an adult "that's not primarily based on sex".
"Once they're in that situation… then we stop the anti-androgens and their sex drive comes back. And it turns out that if it develops into a normal healthy relationship, they start to have sexual activities with their partner which they both enjoy. Their preference changes to adult."
The debate is complicated by the fact that not all child abusers are regarded as paedophiles in the traditional psychiatric use of the term.
Many are what are termed "hebephiles". Where paedophiles are defined by a persistent attraction to pre-pubescent children, hebephiles have a very specific attraction to pubescent children, aged roughly 11-14. The character Humbert Humbert in Vladimir Nabokov's novel Lolita is perhaps the most famous example of this type of child abuser. Cantor says the brains of such people differ from the rest of the population in the same way as paedophiles - but to a lesser degree.
It's believed that many more people have desires that they don't act on. "There are some concerning studies... that would suggest that maybe 10, [or] 12% of the adult population of the UK have occasional if not frequent sexual thoughts involving teenage children," says Donald Findlater of the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, one of Britain's leading experts on child sex abusers.
"But they manage those thoughts, they don't act on them, and they put them where they belong. But for the sex offender they persuade themselves that this behaviour is OK or they're in a situation where they don't care."
Abusers frequently have adult relationships alongside abusive relationships with children. Those with a sexual interest in teenagers more often abuse girls whereas paedophiles, clinically defined, tend to have a higher proportion of boys among their victims, says Findlay.
Scale of abuse
The Children's Commissioner analysed 50,000 cases that came to the attention of police, social services and voluntary organisations in England between April 2012 and March 2014:
It's estimated that around 425,000 children and young people under 18 were sexually abused
Only about one in eight children who are abused report it
In addition, 750 adult survivors of abuse in or around the family were surveyed:
About two-thirds who suffered abuse were abused either by someone in the family or someone they know through the family
Asked what happened when they reported abuse, 21% said abuse stopped, 18% said it got worse
To add to the complexity, about a third of those who offend against children are other children or young people under the age of 18. Kevin Gallagher runs an intervention centre for such offenders in Wales and stresses that they must be viewed very differently from adult offenders. With this group, he insists, nurture rather than nature is the key factor.
"Our young people will have been through very difficult and traumatic early childhood experiences," says Gallagher. "We're talking about neglect, trauma, attachment difficulties, poor parenting experiences that sometimes will have included sexual abuse in their own histories.
"The vast majority of young people of whichever age who engage in maladaptive sexual behaviour with other children will grow out of that or, with the right sort of support and intervention, are able to understand where that's come from, deal with victim work and move on from these incidents."
Abuse in and around the family
Breakdown of abusers (In England between April 2012 and March 2014)
Responses to the survivor survey demonstrate:
Male family friends were the most frequent abuser
Father was the next most frequent response, followed by "uncle", "brother" and "stepfather"
Mother formed a small group of identified perpetrators
Of the 45 boys who have been through Gallagher's intervention centre, not one has re-offended. With adult offenders, on the other hand, core sexual desires appear to be harder to alter.
When we interviewed one of Fedoroff's patients, a man who had previously served time in prison for abusing his daughters, he confessed he still had sexual thoughts about his victims.
"For the paedophile," says Findlater, "what hope they have of shifting that arousal [is] relatively small."
He runs a helpline called Stop It Now! It attempts to reach out to men wrestling with sexual thoughts about children.
Findlay's focus is on helping men control their sexual desires, rather than curing them. "Our strategy is about self-management," he says. "We need to help them manage that arousal… to make sure it's kept under control." The men are given strategies as to how they achieve that in the absence of an intimate relationship with anybody else.
There are a number of adult men who acknowledge they are paedophiles but insist they do not abuse children, or view indecent images.
Help for those affected by child abuse
NSPCC specialises in child protection
National Association for People Abused in Childhood offers support, advice and guidance to adult survivors of any form of childhood abuse
Survivor Scotland offers help to improve the lives of survivors of childhood abuse in Scotland
Childline is a private and confidential service for children and young people up to the age of 19
The Children's Society works to support vulnerable children in England and Wales
Chris - not his real name - is one such man. He has undergone intensive therapy. "For me, it was learning the difference between want and need," he says. "We all experience urges to do things, but it is just an urge, it doesn't mean that you have to do something. And just as you can make the choice to act on that feeling, you can just as easily make the choice not to."
Chris provides his own fascinating insight on the nature/nurture debate. "I think that my sexuality is who I am, it's what I was born with and that's my nature. The way I act and my moral feeling that to act on that sexual impulse is wrong and to harm a child is wrong is down to the fact that I was brought up with a very clear moral compass, a very clear idea of what is right and wrong."
Findlater fiercely defends the use of public funds to help men like Chris not be a danger to children. "My primary concern," he says, "is in protecting children and if we start from that premise - what's the best to protect children - then we have to extend services that would help sex offenders not be dangerous to children tomorrow."
Please note this article is from July 2014
How many men are paedophiles?
by Wesley Stephenson
The Pope was recently reported to have said that about 2% of Catholic clergy are paedophiles. But how does this compare with society as a whole - is it more or less than average?
As soon as you give this question a moment's thought, you realise that it's not going to be an easy one to answer. Paedophiles are not easy to identify.
"Because paedophilia is so secretive and so few people are willing to admit it, there is no meaningful way to get a reliable estimate," says Dr James Cantor, a psychologist and sexual behaviour scientist at the University of Toronto.
"There's no meaningfully ethical way of taking 200 men, hooking them up to detectors, showing them pictures of adults and children and seeing how many respond most to children."
One person who has attempted an estimate is Dr Michael Seto, a clinical and forensic psychologist at the Royal Ottawa Healthcare group.
2008 he wrote a book in which he put the prevalence of paedophilia in the general population at 5%.
The figure was based on surveys conducted in Germany, Norway and Finland in which men were asked whether they had ever had sexual thoughts or fantasies about children or engaged in sexual activity with children.
But Seto stresses that 5% was an upper estimate, and that the studies were limited in what they revealed.
"What those surveys don't include are questions on the intensity of those thoughts and fantasies, whether they were repeated or not. Someone might say 'Yes' because they once had a fantasy but our understanding of paedophilia would be that that person recurringly had sexual thoughts and fantasies about children."
Now, with more data and better methodology, he has revised his figure down to about 1% of the population, though he makes clear this is still only an educated guess.
One problem is that the term "paedophile" means different things to different people.
"It's very common for regular men to be attracted to 18-year-olds or 20-year-olds. It's not unusual for a typical 16-year-old to be attractive to many men and the younger we go the fewer and fewer men are attracted to that age group," says Cantor.
He thinks that if we say that a paedophile is someone attracted to children aged 14 or less, then he estimates that you could reach the 2% figure.
"If we use a very strict definition and say paedophilia refers only to the attraction to pre-pubescent children [then it] is probably much lower than 1%," he says.
The term is often applied to a person who sexually abuses someone below the age of 16, but given that in some countries - and even some US states - you can marry below the age of 16 this definition would clearly not be universally accepted.
There is consensus on the clinical definition. Michael Seto and his colleagues agree that a paedophile is someone who has a sexual interest in pre-pubescent children, so typically those under the ages of 11 or 12.
But whether the prevalence using this definition is 0.5%, as James Cantor says or 1%, as Michael Seto says, you can be assured than in any large group of people - whether they be politicians, entertainers, or Catholic clergy - you are likely to find some paedophiles.
Paedophilia is not restricted to men - some women also sexually abuse children, although research suggests this is much less common.
But back to the Pope. How would he define "paedophile"? We don't know, but there is a clue.
There is one well-known study of child abuse among Catholic clergy, carried out by John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. Its researchers went to each diocese in the US and found all the plausible accounts of abuse involving clergy who served between 1950 and 2002 - and they found that 4.2% of had been plausibly accused of abuse.
That included allegations of abuse of adolescents as well as pre-pubescent children.
But if you consider just pre-pubescent children, the figure drops to between 1-2% according to Prof Philip Jenkins from the Institute of Studies of Religion at Baylor University in Texas. This corresponds, more or less, with the figure attributed to the Pope.
"If he was using a different word like 'abusive clergy' then I think he would be going for a higher figure," says Jenkins.
The John Jay College study is not perfect, though. For some reason, 40% of the allegations referred to abuse said to have been carried out in a six-year period between 1975-1980.
It seems unlikely that cases of child abuse in the clergy would have been so heavily concentrated in one period. Furthermore, even if there was a peak in the 1970s, a lot of the perpetrators are probably no longer active in the church.
All we can confidently say is that the figures are imperfect - both for the number of active paedophiles among the Catholic clergy and the number of paedophiles in the general population and they are very difficult to compare.
Loretta Lynch's false claim on sex trafficking arrests
by Glenn Kessler
" The FBI conducted its ninth annual ‘Operation: Cross Country' initiative against those who traffic in children for sexual exploitation, resulting in the arrest of hundreds of sex traffickers.”
—Attorney General Loretta Lynch, remarks at the 84th Interpol General Assembly in Kigali, Rwanda, Nov. 3, 2015
This is a story about how the language regarding the crime of sex trafficking has become so fuzzy that even the nation's top law enforcement officer can speak before an international audience and utter wildly inflated statistics.
Throughout 2015, The Fact Checker has dug into dubious statistics concerning sex trafficking, so this recent speech by Attorney General Lynch caught our eye. Lynch has taken a keen interest in sex trafficking, recently announcing more than $44 million in grant funding to combat human trafficking in the United States, including supporting law-enforcement task forces and victims services organizations. She devoted a significant part of her speech to Interpol to discussing sex trafficking.
But laudable efforts to help victimized children can be undermined when advocates resort to hyperbole to tout their success. Let's explore how that happened here.
“Operation Cross Country” is an annual event that in which sting operations are conducted in more than 100 cities — in hotels, casinos, truck stops and the like — in an effort to find children ensnared in the sex trade. The three-day effort, first begun in 2008, generates a lot of media publicity, but the sweeps result in far more adult prostitutes being arrested than children being located.
Calvin Shivers, chief of the FBI's section on violent crimes against children, said that Operation Cross Country is “an opportunity to focus in” on the problem and “creates a lot of media attention.”
The FBI's news release in October noted that the nationwide sting operation resulted in “the recovery of 149 sexually exploited children and the arrests of more than 150 pimps and other individuals.” The news release said the “enforcement action” took place in 135 cities; so slightly more than one child per city was found.
First, note that Lynch spoke of “hundreds of sex traffickers” and the FBI release only mentioned “more than 150 pimps.” How does that math work?
Peter Carr, a DOJ spokesman, blamed an editing error when Lynch's speech was written. The speech initially referred to the collective Cross Country operations, he said, but it was then changed to only focus on this year's effort — and officials failed to correct the figures. He said the sentence was originally supposed to say: “Collectively, thousands of law enforcement officers from hundreds of agencies have participated in the Cross Country operations, resulting in the arrest of hundreds of sex traffickers.”
But this revised sentence is also problematic. Neither DOJ nor the FBI can provide evidence that “hundreds of sex traffickers” have been arrested through Operation Cross Country — unless one plays fast and loose with legal language.
The FBI, for several years, used to reveal exactly how many people were rounded up through Cross Country, essentially exposing the fact that the effort to find exploited children also led to the arrests of hundreds of adult prostitutes and their customers. (By recovered, the FBI says it is referring to “the removal of the child from the victimization and work with social service entities to place the child victim in a safe environment.” The FBI insists no one under the age of 18 is arrested for prostitution.)
Here are the numbers:
June 2008 : 389 people arrested (21 children recovered)
October 2008 : 642 people, including 518 prostitutes, arrested (49 children recovered)
February 2009 : 571 people arrested (49 children recovered)
October 2009 : “nearly 700” (52 children recovered)
Nov. 2010 : “Nearly 885 others” arrested (69 children recovered)
Then, after 2010, the “others” arrested was dropped from the news releases. Instead, officials only listed the number of juveniles recovered and “pimps” arrested, though there is little indication that many of the pimps were related to the children recovered.
The next FBI news release, issued in June of 2012, said 79 children were recovered and 104 pimps were arrested, a suspiciously high pimp-to-child ratio.
In all, nearly 3,200 people, almost all adult sex workers, were arrested between 2008 and 2010 by local authorities as part of the effort to find 240 children involved in the commercial sex trade.
FBI officials say they no longer report these numbers because this is a matter for local jurisdiction.
" We conduct these operations with a large number of state and local law enforcement counterparts,” said FBI spokesman Christopher Allen. “Many of those other law enforcement agencies make arrests pursuant to non-federal charges. The FBI no longer attempts to collect such numbers for non-federal arrests. We did once; we do not now.”
Sex worker activist Emi Koyami checked local news releases and found that 944 adult sex workers were arrested in 23 of the 76 cities that released data in the 2013 operation (105 children recovered) and 985 sex workers were arrested in 28 of the 106 participating cities in 2014 (168 children recovered).
Elizabeth Nolan Brown of Reason magazine found at least 300 sex workers were arrested as part of the 2015 operation, by doing a spot check of various news releases by local municipalities, but it's an incomplete list. We also have no data for the 2012 operation. But overall, the numbers suggest that at least 6,000 adult sex workers–and probably far more–have been rounded up as part of an effort that found about 738 children engaged in the sex trade. That's an 8:1 ratio.
In some cities, the ratio is startling. During the 2015 operation, for instance, the Sacramento FBI field office announced that it had located five underage children, seven pimps and also arrested 90 adults “for various offenses including probation violations and prostitution-related charges.” In Iowa, 10 adults were arrested (five for prostitution and five for soliciting sex), but no minors or pimps were found. In Mississippi, two minors were found, 24 adults were arrested on prostitution and other charges — and no pimps were arrested.
Moreover, the FBI numbers are based on initial reports but apparently are not updated for actual charges. After Operation Cross Country in 2014, the FBI announced three pimps had been arrested in Anchorage, but Tara Burns, a sex worker activist, filed a public records request and found no charges were ever filed. In Virginia Beach this year, the FBI initially announced 10 pimps had been arrested, but the Virginian-Pilot later reported that two people had been released after determining they were not involved in prostitution — and two more of the alleged pimps were juveniles themselves. (Juveniles are not charged under federal sex trafficking laws.)
The Justice Department cannot provide evidence that hundreds of sex traffickers were arrested through Operation Cross Country, but argues it is justified to make the claim. “We believe it's well within reason to state that among the thousands of adults arrested in conjunction with these 738 children rescued, ‘hundreds' of these adults were engaged in the prostitution of children,” Carr said.
Officially, the data show that at least 920 pimps have been arrested. Allen of the FBI said that the FBI considers every pimp to be a sex trafficker.
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) includes language that allows politicians and law enforcement officials to offer such slippery reasoning. In the law, there is a broad definition of sex trafficking as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.” But the operational part of the act for federal crimes — what is used for prosecutions — says that sex trafficking occurs when a “commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.”
Janie Chaung, an American University law professor who has closely studied the law, said that when it was drafted there was a “huge fight” over whether to include the force/fraud/coercion requirement. “The compromise was to include ‘sex trafficking' (not requiring FFC) as a defined term in the legislation, but to reserve most of the operational provisions of the TVPA (e.g., criminalization, victim protection) to ‘severe forms of trafficking in persons' (requiring FFC),” she said. “So we could use the rhetoric of sex trafficking more broadly, but government interventions would focus on the severe forms.”
In other words, law enforcement officials rhetorically claim they have caught sex traffickers, even though under the law they could not bring such charges unless they could prove the pimp was arranging for the sale of children or using force, fraud or coercion to promote prostitution.
“Those arrested in conjunction with this operation who are engaged in the prostitution of children fall within the definitions provided by the TVPA, regardless of whether or not the individual arrested is ultimately charged under federal sex trafficking laws,” Carr said.
As we have shown from examining numerous local news accounts of the arrests, there is little evidence that many of the pimps arrested were trafficking in underage women. Moreover, two major studies of children in the sex trade in New York City and Atlantic City, funded by the Justice Department, found that 90 percent reported that they had no pimp. That would suggest that even with 738 children recovered, the number of associated pimps (“sex traffickers”) was under 100.
Operation Cross Country — the cost which the FBI declined to reveal — is just one part of the government's effort to recover children in the sex trade. A yearlong effort known as Innocence Lost, begun in 2003, has recovered 5,132 children over 12 years, including 968 alone in the 2015 fiscal year, the FBI said.
While Operation Cross Country is supposed to focus on juveniles, in recent years it ended up yielding at least five times as many adult sex workers as children. Perhaps that is a factor that encourages local law enforcement agencies to participate, as it helps boost their vice arrests. Since 2008, more adult sex workers have been arrested through Operation Cross Country than all of the juveniles who have been recovered through Innocent Lost.
The Pinocchio Test
As always, the burden of proof rests with the speaker. Lynch's speech, as delivered, was clearly false, and a prominent correction should appear on DOJ's Web site. But even the revised language is misleading and unproven, given there have been no records kept of the number of pimps who were arrested specifically for trafficking in underage children.
Instead, government officials appear to believe they can boost their success rate by slapping the word “sex trafficker” on adults who have been arrested even though such charges have not — and could not— be brought in a court of law. The goal of rescuing children from the sex trade is laudable, but the effort is undermined when the statistics are cooked.
Sex trafficking - San Diego's 2nd largest underground economy
by Kristen Cusato
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) - Underage sex trafficking is San Diego's second largest underground economy behind the drug trade.
And some of the things that make San Diego unique, make San Diego a place where buyers and sellers can operate without too many consequences.
San Diego has big conventions, it's a huge military town and there are several professional sports teams.
And unfortunately, that means girls are being bought and sold here.
The average age of someone being sex trafficked in San Diego is 15.
Twenty-three year old Steevie is doing something she hasn't been able to do in years, enjoy the beauty in life.
Her life has been anything, but beautiful. At the age of 15, Steevie became a victim of sex trafficking.
"I ran away from home to try to be grown and I got involved with some older people," Steevie said.
Her parents were drug addicts and she was in the foster care system here in California.
She was vulnerable. Her new friends made her feel welcomed. She liked getting high and not going to school, but then she was told she needed to contribute.
The manipulation and control was swift. She quickly became just one of the pimp's girls.
"At first it's a shock and then after the shock it's like a numbing you don't ever feel it anymore. You don't pay attention to it. It's just something you have to do to survive," she said.
Sex trafficking is San Diego's second largest underground economy, pulling in an average of $810 million in annual revenue.
A recent study showed there are roughly ten thousand people, mostly teenagers, victimized in this way every year.
Who's in charge? Street gangs, more than 100 of them.
"This activity is evenly split between African American, Hispanic and white gang members, in the last ten years Somali gangs and Iraqi Chaldeans have also been indicted," said Dr. Ami Capenter of USD.
Summer Stephan is the Chief Deputy District Attorney, overseeing human trafficking in San Diego County.
She said San Diego is part of the Mexico, LA Vegas corridor.
Most of the transactions, happen in hotels and motels.
"We have a lot of tourism, a lot of hotels, Comic-Con, baseball teams, football teams, lots of games, wherever there is a large number of males," Stephan said.
Trafficking is extremely profitable for these gang members, Stephan said and there is very little risk of getting caught, why?
"The victims don't speak, so afraid they're held in chains of fear or shame or all of the above," Stephan added.
The recent study on sex trafficking in San Diego found recruiting happens in high schools, even middle schools.
The pimp poses as a boyfriend and gives a girl attention and gifts in the beginning.
"He'll claim that he cares for her and that in order for her not to prostitute herself if she could just bring in other girls the two of them can live happily ever after," Stephan said.
But the girls are disposable. Steevie learned that.
"I could throw you away and it's not gonna matter to me because you gave me what I wanted," Steevie said.
And after eight years of being under the control of others, she made a decision on her own to get out.
"Is she prettier than you? Better than you? Make more money than you? I was just tired of being tired," she said.
In part two of this special report, Steevie will tell her story about how she got out and got to safety.
It will also highlight a problem in San Diego, that there are very few safe places for these girls to do.
Plus, how the DA's office after the bad guys, the pimps and the buyers.
Hero Nuns Go Undercover as Sex Workers to Help Stop Sex Trafficking
"They work in brothels. No one knows they are there."
by Laura Beck
The Huffington Post reports ?on a group of religious sisters who go undercover as prostitutes to rescue victims of human trafficking. The network is part of Talitha Kum, The International Network of Consecrated Life Against Trafficking in Persons, and it consists of 1,100 sisters operating in 80 countries, but there are plans for expansion into 60 more countries.
This word comes of the group's growing status comes from John Studzinski, an investment banker and philanthropist who chairs Talitha Kum. The group estimates that about 73 million people are trafficked in some form, and that 70-percent are women and half are under 16 years old.
To fight this, the religious sisters often dress as prostitutes and integrate themselves into brothels.
"These sisters do not trust anyone. They do not trust governments, they do not trust corporations, and they don't trust the local police. In some cases they cannot trust male clergy," Studzinski said.
"They work in brothels. No one knows they are there."
Talitha Kum also raises money to buy children sold into slavery by their parents and then set them up in a network of homes around the world.
"I'm not trying to be sensational but I'm trying to underscore the fact this is a world that has lost innocence ... where dark forces are active," said Studzinski.
Texas Ranks Among Six Top States In Fighting Child Sex Trafficking
The latest report by Shared Hope International highlights the progress the state has made in terms of legislation to protect the victims.
by Al Ortiz
Shared Hope International, a non-partisan organization based in Vancouver (WA) that researches child sex trafficking has recently ranked Texas as one of the most effective states in fighting it.
The organization Shared Hope gave Texas an A grade in the fifth edition of its annual report on state laws to fight sex trafficking of children, which is titled “Protected Innocence Challenge.”
One of the laws the Texas Legislature passed in its 84 th session, and for which the state has received the recognition allows victims of sex trafficking, including minors, to be compensated from the personal assets of the business owners who helped exploit them.
“Texas has some high penalties for traffickers and buyers and facilitators. The biggest area of improvement left for Texas is within victim protection, and so we did see a bit of improvement within victim protection,” explained Rachel Harper, one of the authors of Shared Hope's report.
Harper added that another measure approved by Texas allows children who are victims of sex trafficking to also seek compensation even if they voluntarily participated.
Robert Sanborn, President and CEO of Children at Risk, a Houston-based group that has extensively researched human trafficking, thinks Texas deserves the high grade given by Shared Hope.
Sanborn points to bipartisanship in the Legislature as one of the crucial factors.
“Both sides of the aisle have worked together to end trafficking and I think we've also seen a lot of leadership from our past Attorney General, the current Governor Greg Abbott,” noted Sanborn.
Sexual assault – don't keep it a secret
Many people do not expect or will never believe that heinous crimes, such as rape or molestation, can be committed in their own home or by those they trust.
by Susan Cooke
MANY adults who find out that a rape or sexual assault has happened do not know how to deal with it, cannot accept that a loved one or someone they know well has committed this crime or may not trust what the victim has said.
Henning Jacobs, trauma support co-ordinator at ER24, said victims who chose to keep quiet or who were never taken seriously while they were young must seek justice by reporting the perpetrator.
“Some victims keep quiet for many years and live with the pain and trauma. A huge injustice has been done to these people. Perpetrators must be brought to book. Finding justice will help victims work through their emotional problems,” he says.
Children should be taught as early as possible that no one is allowed to touch them inappropriately.“Crimes such as rape or molestation committed by someone else close is shockingly common,” said Mr Jacobs.
“Girls and boys should be informed from the age of about three years old what behaviour is ok and what is not. They should be taught that they do not have to do anything they do not want to do when it comes to physical touch. Make them aware of their bodies. Parents should ensure they have a great relationship with their children so that they, children, are comfortable telling them anything,” he said.
“Some perpetrators tell victims that what they are doing is the way they express love. Others tell children they are playing a game and that it is their secret game. They also compensate these children with presents and sweets. Children are blackmailed and often keep quiet due to fear. Some victims are ashamed and feel that what has happened is their fault,” he added.
“People who know that someone was or is being sexually assaulted should not keep quiet,” said Mr Jacobs. He said adults must understand that by keeping quiet, they are indirectly telling the child that they are lying and are not trusted.
As a result, the child will grow up and struggle to trust other people. The effect of the adult who knows keeping quiet is devastating on the child.
“Added to this, if the perpetrators get away with it, they may do it to more children. It is also illegal to keep quiet. Whenever a law is broken and someone is told about it, that person is according to law, obliged to take further steps,” he said.
”A case should be opened and charges should be laid against the perpetrator. The court will decide what is best for the child and what happens to the perpetrator.” An educational psychologist also needs to be involved so that the child can receive help. “Extensive counselling is needed to help ensure that the child works through the emotional and physical trauma they have experienced. The parents also need psychological help to know how to help the child through the process.
“Trauma counselling will help these people deal with the aftermath of the abuse. The road to recovery is a long and hard journey, but counselling helps them to heal emotionally,” he said.
Childhood Sexual Abuse Linked To Marijuana Use, But Dependency May Be In Victims' Genes
by Samantha Olsen
Does child abuse have the potential to change a victim's genetic makeup and smoking habits? Researchers from Washington University set out to discover how child abuse affects a person's genes and how it influences their relationship with marijuana. Their findings are published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.
"We have long known that childhood adversity, and in particular sexual abuse, is associated with the development of cannabis dependence," said the study's senior author Ryan Bogdan, assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences, in a press release. "However, we understand very little about the individual difference factors that leave individuals vulnerable or resilient to these effects."
Marijuana's main psychoactive ingredient THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) has the power to affect different mental and physical functions throughout the body, because it closely mimics chemicals in the endocannibinoid system. This system is located in the brain and is responsible for controlling the signals that cue fear, stress, and hunger; it's also carefully controlled by a set of instructions written in genetic code. In order to understand how child abuse could affect the likelihood of a person's marijuana use, researchers needed to look at the genes of victims.
For the study, Bogdan and his colleagues studied 1,558 Australian marijuana users' who were also the victims of sexual abuse as children. Researchers narrowed in on SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms) in their endocannibinoid system, which is the most common form of genetic variations, also known as alleles. Each variation could happen among the A, T, C, or G nucleotide in the genome.
Each allele has information inherited from the biological mother and one from the biological father. Alleles with two matching pieces of genetic information are called homozygotes while mixed pairs are called heterozygotes. Researchers found a pattern emerge from the child abuse victims' SNPs and their level of marijuana dependence: Those who had a homozygote gene variation in the G allele were more likely to have marijuana dependence. None of the child abuse victims had heterozygote gene variations or homozygote gene variations in the A allele.
"As we expected, childhood sexual abuse was overall associated with individuals reporting a greater number of cannabis dependence symptoms," said the study's lead author Caitlin E. Carey, a PhD student, in a press release. "But what was particularly intriguing is that this association was only seen among people with two copies of the more common G allele. People with at least one copy of the less common A allele did not show this pattern, so these data suggest that the A allele may provide some form of resiliency to the development of dependence."
In the next stage, researchers searched for similar gene variations in 859 American participants and found similarities among abuse victims. The A allele variation may be able to protect certain victims from marijuana dependence depending on how their brains' react to threats. Researchers suspect that when a child is repetitively threatened overtime, the A allele becomes less prone to the effects of marijuana in an attempt to achieve the same mood-altering result.
In order to test that theory, researchers then studied 312 college students and found those who reported early life stress were carriers of the A allele variation, but not the homozygote G allele. This led researchers to believe those who experienced childhood traumas and had a variation in their A allele,were less likely to rely on marijuana to cope with future stress. These are preliminary findings, but researchers believe they are the first steps toward understanding the link between how genes impact marijuana use.
Carey concluded: "We won't see a genetic test for cannabis dependence anytime soon, if ever, but it's a start."
“Don't Treat Me Like A Child:” Emotional Abuse, a Normal Youth Experience
by Joy Jackson
Are you in a relationship where someone tries to control you? Do they disregard your opinions, feelings, or suggestions? Do they try to make you feel like they're always right and you're always wrong? If so, you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship or you may be a child.
It's something we often don't think about as adults until it happens to us. And in full disclosure, recently, it happened to me. And what's more I had a few people telling me that that I should accept it willingly. And let me tell you that that rationale sounded just as preposterous as an adult as it did when I was a child.
In that moment, I thought about how frustrated I felt because I could not affect change. This person refused to hear me or attempt to understand my feelings less well work with me to come up with a solution or modify their behavior. They emphatically believed they were right and that their correctness (and logic) was more important than my feelings. The only option that they gave me was to comply.
This is how many young people feel every day because many adults “pull rank” on them and act as if their “adultness” qualifies them to treat those them with less respect, empathy and humanity. As adults, it's not just our ability to think critically that makes us human, but also our ability to communicate, feel, and empathize with others.
But somehow in our culture we view having emotions as weak and therefore childlike. As a society we view children as more emotional, less logical, and more prone to make mistakes than adults. Their lack of logic and correctness has linked to the view that they have less value which has also meant that we treat them with less respect. What we don't think about is that when adults feel the frustration that comes with being in an emotionally abusive relationship, we can respond by leaving. Children, on the other hand, have to put up with it.
So, while adults have one set of options afforded to them by the power they hold, children select from a different set. To name a few, young people: act out, become noncompliant, self-harm, become violent, or commit suicide. All of these alternatives are combined with the negativity that young people inevitably internalize as a result of power play that they lost. And the crazy thing is, it is usually after they choose one of these detrimental options that we want to respond (and often still not listen) and punish. The idea that they have less value and so we treat them with less respect often becomes a perpetuating idea in the mind of the child and the adult for the rest of their lives.
In fact, we say, “don't treat me like a child,” for precisely this reason because adults are worthy of respect…children, not so much. And because many view children as holding little value, there is little value in listening to them. So, listening to them becomes an option because apparently nothing will be lost by not hearing them. But something is lost. For starters, a person's self-worth is lost along with the gift of their perspective that they offer us.
Well, here's a newsflash, children and adults are a lot alike. And if we only stick to the obvious, that both children and adults are human, that will be a substantive start. That said, listening to people, including young people, is not optional. It is a requirement. Regardless of what we may view as their lack of years, or logic, or status they need to be heard just like everyone else and they have a lot to offer adults, if we will only listen. Likewise, speaking and being heard, really listened, are the basic building blocks for personal power. It is intimately linked to individuals' view of themselves and their self-worth. When you don't feel heard, you don't feel worthy. To deny people of that right is abusive, regardless of age.
So, let's start listening now. Whether it is to your own child or someone else's, young people the respect, empathy, and support to which they are entitled. This entitlement is based not on accomplishments, status, knowledge or skills but on the basis our humanity. Let's make it so that no one, especially a child, will think, “Don't treat me like a child.”
"Central Wisconsin should not be a place where it is as easy to order a prostitute online as it is a pizza."
MARSHFIELD - A drug-infused life of prostitution wasn't Lisa Rios' life dream. She never planned or wanted to be a prostitute. It just happened, she said.
Lisa Rios is turning around her life at Shirley's House of Hope in Marshfield. She sought help there, turning her back on a life of drugs and prostitution. Dan Young/News-Herald Media
Addicted to cocaine, Rios, 46, fed her habit through sex and escort services with men on the south side of Milwaukee. While telling her story to a Gannett Wisconsin Media reporter at a shelter for women in Marshfield, Shirley's House of Hope, Rios maintained her composure until she admitted to leaving her toddlers home alone during the night for sex and drugs.
"Can you imagine that?" Rios said as her eyes welled with tears. "Who would leave their little children home alone? I did that. My mind wasn't right."
Rios' life follows a path familiar to many prostitutes. Childhood sexual trauma led to drug abuse as a teenager while searching for love, she said. Rios became caught in the clutches of men who said they loved her and would care for her as long as she made money through the sex trade.
“People just don't think this is happening in our communities.”
Jane Graham Jennings, Director of The Women's Community
"Women don't decide one day to be prostitutes; they were trafficked and introduced to it, often, through drugs," said Jane Graham Jennings, the director of The Women's Community, a Wausau shelter for victims of abuse. The shelter recently hired a full-time advocate to help victims and promote awareness about human trafficking.
"People just don't think this is happening in our communities," Graham Jennings said.
Human trafficking, in which victims are forced or coerced into behavior including prostitution, isn't limited to big cities — it has been reported in every county in Wisconsin and is tied to drugs and violent crime, said Jill Karofsky, director of victim services at the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
The practice is a form of modern-day slavery in which men, women and children are moved around in the sex trade or other forced labor, Karofsky said
Human trafficking has become so prevalent across Wisconsin that the state Attorney General's Office and the Department of Children and Families created a task force to combat the crime. The new task force will work with local and regional agencies to coordinate efforts to end human trafficking and to provide services for victims, Karofsky said.
“If you are a 15-year-old girl and this person, your pimp, is your lover or your friend and is putting a roof over your head and says he loves you, it's a very confusing place to be.”
Jill Karofsky, director of victim services at the Wisconsin Department...
Victims of human trafficking rarely come forward to seek help because they fear the traffickers and police, she said.
Traffickers use force, fraud or coercion to lure their victims and look for people who are susceptible for a variety of reasons, including psychological or emotional vulnerability, economic hardship, or lack of a social safety net, Karofsky said.
"If you are a 15-year-old girl and this person, your pimp, is your lover or your friend and is putting a roof over your head and says he loves you, it's a very confusing place to be."
Dispelling misconceptions about human trafficking is the way to identify victims and provide them help, she said.
"The problem with human trafficking is that people don't always recognize it," Karofsky said. "If you are a 15-year-old girl and this person, your pimp, is your lover or your friend and is putting a roof over your head and says he loves you, it's a very confusing place to be and the victim is very unlikely to reach out for help."
Rios can attest to that.
“I was doing so much coke. I'd bop until I dropped.”
A stream of men served as Rios' pimps or johns, feeding her cocaine when she brought them money from her tricks. Often a few hours of work would net $800, Rios said.
"I was doing so much coke. I'd bop until I dropped," she said.
Rios never considered the men pimps. In her mind, they loved her and took care of her.
"Ever since I was a little child, I've been looking for someone to love me, to accept me," she said
"It wasn't until I got here, to Shirley's, that I've been able to look at all of this, understand what happened, and I don't want to be that person. It's not me," Rios said. After an arrest for prostitution in September 2014, she completed her eighth drug treatment program in April 2015.
Escape from Milwaukee
Wanting a new life, Rios knew she needed to escape Milwaukee to remain clean, heal and make a fresh start. After release from the drug program, she went to a Milwaukee women's crisis shelter where she met Lisa Sennholz of Antigo, an advocate for victims of human trafficking. Sennholz, who runs a Christian-based nonprofit, Damascus Road, brought her to Shirley's House of Hope, which is a faith-based shelter for women who are victims of abuse.
At Shirley's House of Hope, Rios has been able to heal, get a job and, since September, she has been attending technical college classes.
"I can plan for a future. I'm not sure what that will be, but I know, now, I can do it," she said.
Faith, hard work and support from a strong religious community have helped her to understand she is a good person with potential, Rios said. She breaks down crying when she tells her story of being sexually abused as a child, addicted to drugs by the time she was 12, followed by a life centered on prostitution and cocaine.
"When I found marijuana, I found my first friend," she said. Rios began smoking marijuana when she was 12 because it numbed her sadness, she said. Eventually, she was experimenting with cocaine. When Rios was 16, she said, she began a relationship with a man who became violent and abusive. "He would beat me and apologize and say he loved me and pamper me," she said.
Rios escaped one abusive relationship for another, this time with a cocaine dealer who sealed her addiction, she said.
"I was high on the hog in every way, shape and form. I had a Fleetwood Cadillac with a trunk full of cocaine," Rios said.
When she was 22 years old, the dealer was arrested and jailed, leaving her desperate for her next fix of cocaine. After high school, Rios had started working for a process-serving company and opened her own business. One of her process servers also was a drug dealer.
"But he told me, he only had it hard, not soft and I didn't know what that meant. Well, it meant he had crack cocaine," Rios said. She smoked the crack cocaine and found it better than snorting coke, which gave her headaches.
“Cocaine would take Lisa away. It made me new — where I felt nothing and it was a whole different world.”
"But cocaine took over and the higher you get the less productive you are," she said. "There was nothing more important than getting high."
Lure of cocaine
The lure of cocaine became so powerful that she lost her business and started turning tricks to pay for the drug. Rios so desperately wanted the cocaine that sex with a strange man wasn't such a bad idea, she said.
"Cocaine would take Lisa away. It made me new — where I felt nothing and it was a whole different world," Rios said. "My addiction took control and (prostitution) wasn't hard to do. I just stood on a corner of (south) Lincoln Avenue (Milwaukee) and men would drive up."
During her drug-laden years she had four children; two were adopted by her sister and the other two live with their father.
"I've been raped, beaten, held captive, had broken bones, thrown in jail, and just kept on going," Rios said.
Rios' story is all too common, victim advocates said.
"Many women think this man, who is really their pimp, is loving them, taking care of them," Sennholz said. "These women are abused emotionally, physically and think there isn't a way out."
Through Damascus Road, she travels the nation and the globe to raise awareness about human trafficking. Sennholz also helps prostitution victims to find a safe haven where they can begin to heal from sexual exploitation. When Sennholz and her husband adopted a daughter in the Philippines, they traveled to the country for the adoption and learned that young girls no one adopted often ended up in the sex trade.
Human trafficking is 'everywhere'
"This was the first time I'd heard of human trafficking and it was horrible to realize that many of these beautiful little girls were going to become prostitutes," Sennholz said.
When the Sennholz family returned home, she began researching human trafficking and was appalled to find that it exists in Wisconsin. Damascus Road was born, and Sennholz began traveling to speak at churches and women's shelters to raise awareness about the practice.
“It is everywhere. It's modern-day slavery and it's a big business.”
Lisa Sennholz, advocate for victims of human trafficking
Sennholz said she often meets women who are prostitutes willing to share their stories with her because she offers hope and help. Sennholz often assists victims to connect with shelters, but her main goal is to educate people around the world that human trafficking isn't just a big-city or poor-country problem.
"It is everywhere. It's modern-day slavery and it's a big business," she said.
Worldwide, human trafficking is believed to be a $32 billion-a-year enterprise, according to the United Nations. Nationally, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said human trafficking "generates billions of dollars of profit per year, second only to drug trafficking as the most profitable form of transnational crime."
The human trafficking advocate at The Women's Community will help victims understand there are alternatives, Graham Jennings said. "Often human trafficking victims don't trust police. The advocate will work with women who have been arrested and dig into their histories and help them makes choices to get out of this life," she said.
Victims often don't understand that a federal law offers some protection for victims of human trafficking, but only those who admit to participating and who cooperate in the prosecution of the trafficker, Graham Jennings said.
The advocate, Tiffany Kent, will work with central Wisconsin police to help women who are arrested understand their options, Graham Jennings said.
Police target online sex trade
The illegal sex trade is one of the targets of the Wausau Police Department, said Capt. Matt Barnes. The department also works with police throughout central Wisconsin to combat human trafficking.
One of the tools police use involves the illegal online sex trade advertised on the Internet classified ad site Backpage.com, where officers pretend to be prostitutes or johns trying to hook up.
"When we put up an ad on Backpage, our phone begins ringing within minutes and it doesn't stop," Barnes said.
In the past 16 months the department has conducted several undercover operations using phony ads and arrested about 20 people.
"Central Wisconsin should not be a place where it is as easy to order a prostitute online as it is a pizza," he said.
The online stings also resulted in the arrests of about 10 prostitutes. The hiring of a human trafficking advocate at The Women's Community is a welcome addition to ensure sexual exploitation victims are getting the help they need, Barnes said.
Barnes said that he often hears from people who don't think prostitution should be illegal and who tell Police Department administrators that they "should go after real crime."
"There is a dramatic misunderstanding that prostitution is not a victimless crime. It's not just sex. People need to understand that these people are being held against their will and forced to do this," Barnes said. He said that in his experience, most prostitutes officers arrest are performing against their will; a very small number voluntarily work in the sex trade.
The hundreds of men, women and children identified as victims of human trafficking are some of society's most vulnerable, Karofsky said.
"Identifying and finding victims, and many are children, is the way to get them the help, the services they need," she said.
“Sometimes a victim may not identify with being a crime victim.”
Jill Karofsky, director of victim services at the Wisconsin Department...
Included in the strategy to find victims is monitoring and using sites like Backpage.com, Karofsky said.
"There's a lot of debate about shutting down these websites," she said, but doing so could force the illegal sex trade back into the shadows. It's wiser for police to monitor and use the sites to investigate sexual exploitation crimes, Karofsky said.
"Human trafficking victims are often isolated and their pimps will use all kinds of techniques so that they believe this pimp will do anything to protect them," she said.
"Sometimes a victim may not identify with being a crime victim," Karofsky said. "They don't always know they are a victim of human trafficking."
Faces of Innocents: We need action, not anger
by Deborah Morris-Travers
Children have the right to live free from violence but we need to do more to uphold this right.
It's hard to know exactly how many children suffer violence in the home, or how often, because most family violence is hidden. But we do know that Child Youth and Family (CYFs) receive around 150,000 notifications every year, concerning the safety of 60,000 children.
We also know that the children most vulnerable to abuse are those under five years of age and that Maori children living in deprivation are ten times more likely to be hospitalised than others.
Over the years, public awareness about the safety of children has increased - and this is reflected in the notifications to CYFs. Polls show a steady increase in the numbers of parents who believe hitting children is unacceptable; there is growing public awareness of the vulnerability of children in homes where violence is commonplace; and people want to do more to protect our babies and small children.
To improve the safety and wellbeing of children we have to build a culture of care for them and support for parents. We should start by enshrining a whole-of-Government commitment to children in law, along with a national action plan for our children that is
rigorously evaluated for impact and underpinned by children's rights.
This should include transparent budget processes that invest in children to achieve a broad set of health and wellbeing targets, integrated services and careful monitoring of each child's health and development. Universal provision of antenatal and well child services, GPs, and primary health care is essential, with additional targeted support for those who need it.
When a baby is killed by a parent or caregiver - an average of nine per year - there is a collective outpouring of grief and anger we realise that for many children, Aotearoa is not a great place to be a child. But once our anger subsides, what have the headlines and social media posts really done to change things? Not much. Children continue to be hurt and killed.
Throughout the fraught public debates of 2005-2009 when Parliament debated amendments to Section 59 of the Crimes Act to finally grant children legal protection from physical punishment and assault we caught a glimpse of some of the attitudes that allow people to perpetrate acts of violence against children.
The belief that, as adults, we have a right to inflict pain on a child because we find their behaviour difficult and think violence will solve the problem erodes respect and acceptance of children. It can lead to a lack of empathy and care for a child so that serious acts of violence become possible.
Add in factors such as anger, addiction, mental illness, poverty, and parents or caregivers struggling in isolation ... and the unspeakable can happen: a baby dies at the hands of the very people who ought to be protecting, nurturing and loving them.
The fact is, that over many years now work has been done to find out what is needed to turn this situation around. Amending the law in 2007, was an important step - and New Zealand led the English-speaking world when we legislated to remove the legal defence for parents charged with assault. But without wide public education about child development and how to manage children's behaviour in a positive way, governments have missed an opportunity.
There is a wealth of evidence underpinning the Government's award-winning campaign on family violence, It's Not OK, but where is that campaign now? Numerous other streams of work within the Ministries of Justice and Social Development - such as the Drivers of Crime and the Vulnerable Children's Action Plan - have explored all of the international evidence and reports have been published identifying the mix of government and community actions needed to build safe homes and communities for children. But without strong political leadership and adequate investment in the solutions, we get nowhere.
And so it is that, twenty-two years on from New Zealand ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, there are still many children who can't access their right to live free from violence, whether physical, sexual or emotional violence.
Now, the Government is working to build community capability in support of the Vulnerable Children's Action Plan, family violence law and policy is under review, CYFs is under review, and there is a whole raft of other activity in government and communities that is important. But until such time as our nation values every child, children will continue having their rights breached and suffer unnecessary violence.
Change is possible and with our Government - and all of the UN - now signed up to a new set of Sustainable Development Goals, hopefully there will be renewed impetus to end abuse, exploitation, and all forms of violence against and torture of children.
3 Things to Do Right Now if Your Child Is Being Bullied
by Brock Hanson
All children experience bullying.
If they're not the target of a bully or engaging in bullying behavior themselves, they will witness bullying and be affected by it. As a witness, the child will either identify with the target and feel shame, fear, and vulnerability, or be tempted to seek the status associated with the dominant bully.
Bullying has been defined as one or more individuals inflicting physical, verbal, or emotional abuse on another. The roots of bullying are in our universal desire for social status and our tendency to compete for status by trying to achieve dominance over our peers by verbal competition but also by emotional and physical intimidation.
If we were tiger cubs wrestling with one another, we would think this behavior was cute. But, far too often the struggle for status crosses the line into abuse, causing lasting harm to the recipient, and also establishing a dysfunctional behavior pattern for the bully which can lead to problems later in life.
What exactly can parents do? You can certainly lobby for anti-bullying efforts in your children's schools. But it may prove even more effective to begin at home with some education about emotions and behaviors your kids will experience when you are not around to protect them.
Here are three ways you, as a parent, can fight bullying at home.
1. Understand, acknowledge, and stand up to bullying behavior in the family.
Understanding the emotional dynamics of teasing and bullying, how it makes us feel, and why it is almost unavoidable plays an important part of emotional intelligence training for children that begins as soon as they are talking. They will need words to describe the “bad” feeling of shame that happens when they're teased or bullied past the point of their own confidence.
Since this is likely to happen at home in the struggle between siblings, but also in the interaction between adults and children, there are opportunities to recognize and label this feeling. Recognizing and labeling the feeling and the behavior causing the feeling is the first step in figuring out an effective way to respond, rather than just reacting to your feelings, which often leads to the urge to retaliate.
2. Teach your children resilience skills.
Understanding the feelings and developing choices about how to respond to feelings gives us all more flexibility. Without choices, we find our behavior and internal life dictated by the primal emotions evoked by teasing or bullying.
Shame makes us hide, surrender, and want revenge. We can be creative and resourceful in developing other responses when we understand what is happening. Children can be enormously resilient. The more they are encouraged and supported in developing creative responses to life's challenges, the more resilient they can be.
3. Encourage your children to stand up to bullying when they witness it.
It is not necessary to overpower a bully in order to stand up to bullying. You don't have to be superman to be a hero. Choosing not to be a passive observer is one way of taking a stand.
Befriending the target of bullying is a way of standing with the targeted one rather than standing with the bully. Reporting or helping to report bullying is another way of standing up. And the various acts of standing up against bullying helps build a feeling of compassionate strength that helps the child feel stronger in their own self image.
Children may ask, “What if standing up to bullying makes you a target?”
The fact is that fearing the bully already makes you a target, and there is no guarantee that hiding will protect you. Figuring out the safest ways to stand up to bullying is the best way to avoid becoming a victim.
UN deems female genital mutilation violence against women
by Dr. Lalit Kishore
The United Nations Secretary-General's Campaign 'UNiTE' is an on-going activity to end violence against women that proclaimed the 25th of each month as 'Orange Day' - a day to raise awareness and take action against violence against women and girls including the female genital mutilation.
However, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (IDEVW), is going to be observed on November 25 across the world to create awareness about the consequence of discrimination against women, in law and also in practice, and of persisting inequalities between men and women'
According to the UN, violence against women impacts on, and impedes, progress in many areas, including poverty eradication, combating HIV/AIDS, and peace and security.
The UN has shown concern at the fact that an estimated among the living women, 133 million girls and women had experienced some form of female genital mutilation or cutting in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where the harmful practice is most common.
It is being felt by the UN that the violence against women and girls was not inevitable and prevention was possible and essential. The costs and consequence of violence against women last for generations, therefore, violence against women should be allowed to become a global pandemic.
Female Genital Mutilation Now Stark Reality in America
by Lorie Johnson
Most immigration talk is dominated by the issue of illegal immigrants, but some legal immigrants can also bring problems into our country. A practice called female genital mutilation (FGM), predominantly seen in Muslim-controled countries, is now an issue in the United States.
Worldwide, an estimated 6,000 girls are subjected to the practice each day. For centuries, women performed FGM on family members or neighbors, anywhere from infancy to puberty. The practice is most common in parts of Africa and the Middle East.
Many girls do not survive the ordeal due to bleeding and infections and those who do are scarred both physically and emotionally for life.
Female genital mutilation is the cutting off or, in fewer cases, the mutilation of the external female genitalia. This procedure is often done without anesthesia using dull and dirty razor blades or scissors.
Female genital mutilation is unspeakably painful for its young victims.
To make matters worse, often the vagina is sewn closed until marriage. And sometimes, a girl's legs are bound together for a period of time during which scar tissue grows over the vaginal opening.
In either case, only tiny holes remain for urination and menstruation, causing a number of health problems, such as constant pain, urinary tract and bladder infections, kidney problems including kidney failure, irregular periods, cysts and infertility.
In addition, childbirth can be life-threatening to both the mother and baby, and sexual intercourse is often excruciating.
Three Methods of Genital Mutilation
Female Genital Mutilation is usually performed in one of three ways:
Clitoridectomy: removing part or all of the clitoris.
Excision: removing part or all of the clitoris and the inner labia (the lips that surround the vagina), with or without removal of the labia majora (the larger outer lips).
Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening by creating a seal, formed by cutting and repositioning the labia.
Female genital mutilation is commonly referred to as "female circumcision," but a more accurate term is "female castration" because victims typically lose the ability to become sexually aroused. As a result, they're not tempted to engage in premarital or extra-marital intercourse.
Female genital mutilation was performed before Islam came into existence and it's not dictated by the Quran, Islam's holy book. However, FGM is largely practiced by Muslims, although not exclusively.
There appears to be some disagreement within the Muslim community about whether the practice is tied to their faith.
Sheik Yousef Al Badri, of Al Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, addressed the issue in a film called "Honor Diaries," a documentary about abuses against women such as FGM, forced marriage and honor killings.
"Circumcision is the reason why Muslim women are virtuous, unlike Western women who run after their sexual appetite in any place with any man," he says in the film.
Elsewhere in the documentary, Dr. Qanta Ahmed, a physician and the author of In The Land of Invisible Women , says, "Female genital mutilation is not advocated in Islam in any way, shape or form. It doesn't appear in the Koran, but has very much been adopted by some Muslim societies."
A Matter of Honor?
Paula Kweskin is the film's producer and a human rights attorney.
"I do believe it's an element of the honor system," she said. "And I think if we can break down the honor system, we will break away issues like FGM and child marriage and forced marriage and honor killings because these things are all linked together."
She says the purpose of her documentary is to educate the public about a topic unfamiliar to many people.
"We really believe in education and getting the message out. A lot of times when communities learn about just how harmful the practice is, they stop," she said. "We've seen that in Africa and we've seen that in other parts of the world. A lot of times it's just a lack of education and a lack of understanding, and it is a tradition that's passed along, so it's very hard to break tradition and break that cycle."
Appearing on "The 700 Club," Ayaan Hirsi Ali, author of the book, Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now, recalled her experience in Somalia at the age of five.
"Not all of them are Muslim, but the majority of the women who have been subjected to this mutilation are Muslim," Ali said.
"Not a day goes by where people who are Muslim, use their faith, using the guidance of the (Muslim) Prophet Mohammed and what they read in the Koran, to engage in violence and in oppression, and to justify that in the name of religion," she continued.
FGM Invades the West
Currently there are an estimated 140 million victims worldwide, including in some places that are not predominanly Muslim or Arabic, such as Canada, Western Europe and America.
An astounding half a million girls and women in the United States have either undergone female genital mutilation or are at risk of having it done to them.
Many live in New York City, New Jersey and other places with immigrant populations from countries where "cutting," as it's called, is commonly practiced.
Recently, FGM survivors marched at the U.S. Capitol to raise awareness, including Frances Cole, who described her experience.
"I was 11 years old at the time, and I was told that we, my sister and I — she was 13 at the time — we were told that we were going somewhere to be made into women," she recalled.
FGM survivor Mariam Bojang, who also marched on Washington, found it difficult to describe the torturous event.
"The experience of FGM is, oh my, I don't even think there is a word on earth I can describe it with. It's cruel, gruesome, no one on earth, I wouldn't even wish it on my enemy, that's how gruesome it is."
Congress passed legislation making it illegal to perform female genital mutilation in the United States and making it a crime to take girls out of the country to do it, a practice known as "vacation cutting." Twenty-four states have enacted similar legislation.
Shelby Quast is the director of the America's Office of Equality Now, an organization working for the protection and promotion of the human rights of women and girls around the world that is dedicated to ending female genital mutilation in a generation.
She says people who suspect FGM or have evidence of it need to take action.
"Counselors, teachers, the medical community, police, whoever really are front-line professionals that might engage with girls who are at risk – they have a responsibility to report this as a form of violence against children," she said.
She says there are a number of reasons FGM is performed.
"Many of those are based in patriarchy, based in controlling their sexuality," Quast explained. "A lot of it's for myths, mythical reasons, myths that her body parts might grow to represent a man's if they're not cut off."
Other reasons include the belief that female genitalia are dirty and ugly and a prerequisite for marriage.
Breaking Their Silence
Discussing female genital mutilation is generally taboo, although courageous victims speaking out, like Frances Cole, could become powerful agents of change.
"So I just hope that other women who've gone through female genital mutilation speak up," she said. "Nothing's going to happen to you. Even though I've been told I'll be stoned to death, I'm still not afraid to talk."
Bojang says that victims speaking openly about their ordeal promotes healing.
"I had scary nightmares, like of people chasing me and then kidnapping me to do something to me," she recalled. "But once I started talking about it, you know... I was one of these people who would crawl up in their own little corner and not talk to anyone, but look at me today. I'm brave enough to stand here and talk to the whole world."
Victims of female genital mutilation should know there are treatments to repair some of the damage to their bodies. Gynecological surgeon Dr. Marci Bowers is one of the few physicians performing them.
"Surgical treatment, defibulation, or removal of the scar tissue is important, especially when it comes to pain and where it comes to blocking outflow and allowing childbirth," she explained.
"But also the newly minted surgical procedures that are proven to work are to restore sexual function," she added.
While these treatments will improve a woman's quality of life, the hope is that one day soon they won't be necessary — in the United States or any place else in the world.
The whistleblowers: Employees claim retaliation in campus rape cases
by Emanuella Grinberg, CNN
Jennifer Morlok landed her dream job on the very campus where she earned two degrees. She was both a proud alumnae of the University of Oregon and a senior staff therapist and case manager at the university counseling center.
But when the school became embroiled in a scandal involving sexual assault allegations against three basketball players, Morlok found herself caught between a student client and the university she loved and served.
It was not easy, but her choice was clear.
She stood up for Jane Doe.
Morlok was known for her sensitivity in handling high-risk clients and trauma cases. It was a team effort, she says, attributing her ability to provide a high level of care to the support of colleagues at the University Counseling & Testing Center. So when she disagreed with the university's handling of counseling records of one client -- the Jane Doe at the center of the rape allegations -- she brought her concerns to her director, certain she would "do the right thing."
Instead, she says, her director threatened her job.
"That was when I learned the university was not what I thought it was," she says.
That day in November 2014 marked the moment when Morlok's faith in UO began to unravel in a whistleblower case that would expose obscure loopholes in medical privacy law on college campuses.
'The Hunting Ground'
CNN Films will air "The Hunting Ground," a groundbreaking film about sexual assault on American college campuses, on Sunday, November 22, at 8 p.m. ET.
She was not alone in her criticism of UO. At least one professor on the campus became a whistleblower in the school's handling of the case.
Psychology professor Jennifer Freyd filed a complaint against the school when she learned the incident reported by Jane Doe was never logged with campus police, an apparent violation of federal law.
An imperfect process: How campuses deal with sexual assault
What happened next on the OU campus is a scenario that advocates say is playing out in schools nationwide, threatening free academic speech and deterring university employees from joining the fight against campus sexual violence.
"If you call out your institution, you face retaliation," says Caroline Heldman, co-founder of the advocacy group Faculty Against Rape" and a professor at Occidental College in Los Angeles.
Nearly one in five college women sexually assaulted their freshman year
"For many, it's just not worth it. Because the job market is so bad for tenured and untenured staff, one little thing could sabotage your career or make it hard to move to another school."
UO declined to address specific claims from the women. In a statement to CNN, President Michael Schill, the third president to lead the school since the allegations, said he was working "energetically" to leave the incident in the past and move forward with policy changes and open dialogue with the school community.
"I also want to make it very clear that retaliation against those who hold different or critical views is contrary to the values of the University of Oregon, which is dedicated to free speech and academic freedom," he said.
There is a renewed focus on campus rape and how schools handle reports of sexual violence. As of November 4, 146 postsecondary schools were under investigation by the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, which handles reports of violations of Title IX, the federal law that requires schools to provide an education free of sexual harassment.
What has received less attention is the precarious position some university employees find themselves in when their obligations to students and the institution are at odds.
Portrayed as 'troublemakers'
Retaliation against faculty who engage in advocacy is not a new phenomenon; professors have been reprimanded and lost tenure because of statements on controversial issues, from the September 11 attacks to Palestinian rights. In the case of campus sexual violence, advocates say they have observed patterns of retaliation and cover-up by universities and colleges.
Some employees who have stood by students at news conferences or spoken out against schools say they have been removed from committees, lost classes, gotten their funding pulled or lost their jobs. They say even tenured faculty, who ostensibly have job security and academic freedom, experience retaliation in subtle forms, from marginalization in their departments to alienation from colleagues.
"If college administrators had a hard time respecting scholars' academic freedom when it came to problems outside of campus, they are likely to respond more aggressively to faculty playing an active role in advocating for survivors of campus sexual assault and challenging the administrations that mishandled complaints," says SUNY Plattsburgh professor Simona Sharoni, co-founder of Faculty Against Rape.
Sharoni says the blowback faced by faculty who advocate for survivors and call for accountability on college campuses can be similar to what human rights activists encounter in undemocratic countries. They are portrayed as "agitators," "troublemakers" and "polarizing" figures, thrusting attention on them and away from the issue.
Ending rape on campus: Activism takes several forms
"It is time that college administrators understand that the best way to protect a brand," Sharoni says, "is not through cover-ups and retaliation but rather by protecting students and faculty."
The University of Oregon found itself under fire on how it handled campus sexual assault cases.
Dozens of people on campuses across the country declined to speak to CNN on the record about their experiences, citing fear of retribution.
Morlok and Freyd have been public about their experiences and say they have nothing more to lose.
"It's the duty of faculty members to speak openly and honestly based on the extent to which they have expertise or information on a topic," says Freyd.
"Our primary responsibility is to produce knowledge and to teach knowledge and that's why academic freedom is so important. If my job is to reveal the underlying truth of things and to teach that truth, if I see something that looks problematic, I speak honestly about it."
For schools, the criticism can result in a struggle to balance academic freedom with public relations nightmares. What constitutes protected speech for public employees is a question that's playing out in courts across the country with no clear consensus.
In situations where facts are disputed, student privacy laws limit what schools can say in their defense, which can leave them looking guilty by omission, says lawyer Brett Sokolow, president and CEO of the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management, a consulting group that advises schools on Title IX policy and sexual misconduct cases.
Ghosts of rape past: Can a survivor find solace in return to the crime scene?
Otherwise, generally speaking, "there's nothing illegal" about schools reprimanding employees if the administration believes they are acting inappropriately or spreading misleading information, Sokolow said. Where the truth lies tends to be in dispute.
One thing is clear, he says: It's no longer an option for schools to say "no comment" or to impugn complainants.
"Schools have to say something before they lose control of the story."
Whatever they say or do, they better be ready to defend themselves in court and in the court of public opinion.
The case of Jane Doe
The news broke in May 2014: A student, Jane Doe, told Eugene Police in March that three basketball players gang-raped her in two apartments off-campus. Through a university conduct hearing, the basketball players were found responsible of sexual misconduct while the Lane County District Attorney's Office declined to press charges, citing insufficient evidence to prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt.
Damyean Dotson, Brandon Austin and Dominic Artis, who denied any wrongdoing, were dismissed from the team in May and banned from campus for "at least four years." The decision came two months after Jane Doe first reported it and two months after the team had finished playing in the men's NCAA Basketball Tournament.
The fallout has continued for more than a year, generating national headlines, protests and policy changes and ensnaring members of the campus community along the way.
No one was sadder to see the UO reputation tarnished than Morlok.
She'd become a die-hard Ducks fan when she was young, watching UO football games with her father. Even though attending college was not a given in her family, Morlok considered her choice of schools obvious. So, too, was her field of study.
Growing up, her family moved around Washington and Oregon, and she attended more schools than she can count, but one of them stood out.
On her first day at a new high school, the guidance counselor left a "welcome" card on her desk inviting her to his office.
"I realized that's what I want to do. I want to make people feel like they matter; I want to give them time and I want to build them up."
She had no one to help her navigate the college application process; just one of her nine siblings had attended college. She went to a friend's home to borrow a computer and wrote her college essay on what she'd learned about responsibility and hard work from growing up on food stamps and hand-me-downs.
"I wanted to break out of poverty, and I knew that education was a ticket out," she said.
She completed her undergraduate degree in psychology in 2005 and got her masters in education in marriage and family therapy in 2007.
She returned to the Eugene campus in 2012 as a part-time relief counselor. After one year, the center brought her on full time as a case manager and senior staff therapist.
She hoped to finish her career there until a dispute over access to Doe's counseling records shook her loyalty.
Counselors go to great lengths to protect a client's privacy. Under HIPAA, which requires physicians to release the minimum amount of information possible about a patient for purposes other than treatment, the typical process is to send a summary letter.
So, in November 2014, when Morlok learned Doe's lawyers had requested her files, she decided to write a summary letter] She did not object to Doe's lawyers having the information, but she wanted to follow protocol. According to documents, Morlok's boss, director Shelly Kerr, told her not to write a summary. Morlok did it anyway, leading to the tense encounter in which Kerr allegedly threatened to fire Morlok.
Jennifer Morlok and Karen Stokes had once recieved recognition for their work at the Univeristy of Oregon. Now they find themselves suing the school.
Morlok knew something was up, something bigger than her. Her suspicions were confirmed when Kerr's assistant, Karen Stokes, told her that Kerr directed Stokes to print Jane Doe's entire file for university counsel, which was preparing to defend itself against litigation in the Doe case.
Morlok sought advice from the Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners and said she was informed of her duty to report "prohibited or unprofessional conduct." She filed complaints in January 2015 with the Oregon State Bar against interim general counsel Douglas Park and general counsel Samantha Hill. She also filed complaints with the Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners against Kerr, Vice President for Student Life Robin Holmes and a psychologist and colleague at the counseling center.
In a joint letter explaining the complaints, Morlok and Stokes said they were concerned that their colleagues engaged in potentially "illegal and unethical behavior" by accessing the student's medical records without her consent.
Morlok says she tried to continue doing her job but found it increasingly difficult as her colleagues "outcasted" her from their work. Requests for clients went unanswered for days and sometimes never at all, and the social interactions that made work fun ceased. A university spokesman declined to comment to confirm or her deny this.
She held onto hope that things would change -- especially with the arrival of a new president last July who vowed to put victims first.
"For every day that I showed up, even if I was treated badly, it was one more day I could say 'you're not going to get away with intimidating someone who spoke up,' " she says. "The other thing is I have clients, I have connections with human beings I work with, and if I feel like I can handle this on a daily basis, there's no reason to disrupt client care."
Psychology professor Jennifer Freyd knew students did not feel safe from sexual violence on campus long before the basketball case. She had the research to back it up.
An expert on sexual violence and betrayal trauma theory, Freyd published a study in 2013 based on a survey of UO students examining whether an institution's failure to prevent sexual assault or respond supportively could exacerbate a survivor's trauma. The study found that when women experienced a phenomenon Freyd calls "institutional betrayal," they reported increased levels of anxiety, suggesting "institutions have the power to cause additional harm to survivors."
The study drew widespread attention at a moment when several highly publicized cases were turning campus sexual violence into a national conversation. The White House Task Force to Prevent Students from Sexual Assault invited Freyd to Washington in 2014 to share her findings. On campus, the publicity turned Freyd and her colleagues into unofficial confidantes for students and faculty who came to them with accounts of sexual harassment and grievances over the administrative response, which they said ranged from indifference to incompetence.
"We were hearing the same patterns despite different cases in different departments," said Carol Stabile, head of the Department of Women's and Gender Studies, who worked on a committee with Freyd to clarify policies and procedures for reporting sexual misconduct.
"It was a very, very chaotic kind of moment."
Stabile, Freyd and fellow psychology professor Cheyney Ryan say they pushed the administration to clarify policies around sexual misconduct, with varying degrees of success. After her visit to the White House in March, Freyd says she recommended to then-President John Gottfredson and Vice President of Student Life Robin Holmes that the university conduct a campus climate survey, with guidance from the administration task force. She says she offered to provide one in progress in her lab, and that Gottfredson indicated he was interested in using it.
A few weeks later, the Jane Doe case came to light, turning the campus community upside down. After learning the details of the case, Freyd was unwavering in her disappointment with the university when asked for comment from the media,
Most shocking to her was the revelation that coach Dana Altman recruited Brandon Austin from Providence College after his suspension there on sexual assault allegations. Altman has denied knowing the specific reason for Austin's suspension and said an investigation of his background left no cause for concern.
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Freyd also was troubled by the university's failure to note Jane Doe's report in the campus crime log. According to email exchanges between Freyd and the campus police, the incident was not logged because it occurred outside the agency's jurisdiction and because Eugene Police "did not request that we take a courtesy report."
That response did not sit well with Freyd. She says she filed a complaint accusing the school of violating federal law for failing to log the incident or to issue an email alert regarding the report in violation of the Clery Act, a federal law requiring all colleges and universities that receive federal funding to share information about crimes reported on campus. A Department of Education spokesman would not confirm the status of the complaint, saying that it only comments on cases that have been resolved.
Two weeks later, Freyd brought her completed survey to Gottfredson and Holmes and was shocked when they rejected her proposal.
In statements to the Register-Guard, Holmes said she worried the survey would produce "confirmation bias in the results" based on what Freyd thought of the university's sexual violence policies.
The statements struck at the core of Freyd's academic integrity.
"I was flabbergasted," she says. "I could not believe it after being here for 30 years and only having good things said about me. They've given me awards, issued press releases about my work and held me up as an expert in this very issue. And then this?"
It was about more than her, she says. "My biggest concern is it's chilling. If someone at my level can get treated that way, how can a junior-level teacher dare to come forward?"
To others, it seemed to send another message: Don't mess with the athletic program.
Like so many schools that depend on donors, Oregon is a hard place to be critical of athletics, Stabile says. People are invested in the team; university employees sign their emails "Go Ducks."
Stabile gets it. With state funding for education shrinking, the administration faces pressure to raise private funds.
"When you treat campus sexual assault as a public relations problem, then you have to shut people up because it gets in the way of your message and it threatens the brand," Stabile says.
"What I think is so tragic about this is there are so many people who are not going to say anything because they're afraid for their jobs."
Freyd acknowledges that her situation has improved since UO's new president, Michael Schill, took office in July. The university ultimately agreed to use her campus climate survey. It also invited her to join an advisory committee that she'd been alienated from months earlier.
What she wants, though, is an apology and a retraction of the statement about confirmation bias.
Whether she'll get it is hard to say.
University of Oregon President Michael Schill says the school has improved its protocol for handling sexual assault allegations.
"I have forcefully articulated the view that, under my leadership, we will not tolerate sexual violence at the University of Oregon. We have put in place ambitious programs aimed at educating students and staff about how to prevent sexual assaults from happening," Schill said in an email to CNN.
"Although these issues predate my joining the university, there is no doubt that this incident was a tragedy and marked a very difficult time at UO. We have worked hard to build bridges, and I am pleased to say that I enjoy an open dialog with Professor Freyd."
He points to strengthened confidentiality policies to protect student privacy for survivors who report, improved education programs for staff and students and new "self-analysis mechanisms" to review the effectiveness of policies to make the school "a leader in the fight against sexual violence."
"Much has changed here in a short period of time, and I'm working energetically to put this incident behind us so that our students, faculty and staff can focus on our core mission of academic excellence, scientific exploration and preparing the next generation of citizens and leaders."
Freyd says it reminds her of a "bad marriage": Instead of dealing with a problem, flowers are exchanged.
"The healthiest thing to do is to be accountable, to apologize when appropriate, to make it right when needed and then move on," she says.
"I'm a trauma psychologist so I know if you try to bury things without having fully dealt with them, they tend to pop up."
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A loss of faith
Morlok says her decision to call out her bosses for sharing Jane Doe's counseling records with the administration came from a place of concern; now, she believes she was simply naive.
If Morlok had any hope that her situation would improve, they were shattered when Schill issued a statement about the university's settlement with Jane Doe for $800,000 and a full waiver of tuition, housing and student fees for four years.
Jane Doe's lawsuit alleged that the school violated her rights under Title IX to an education free of sexual harassment on multiple fronts. For one, it allowed Brandon Austin to transfer to the school even though he had been banned from playing at Providence College based on sexual assault allegations. (In that case, a grand jury declined to indict him.)
The lawsuit also claimed the school accessed her counseling records without her authorization and "intruded upon her private personal affairs."
The university countersued and quickly withdrew its claim amid widespread criticism from the campus community and beyond.
While expressing sympathy for Doe in an August 3 statement announcing the settlement, Schill also stressed he did not believe "any of our coaches, administrators or other university personnel acted wrongfully."
"The underlying incident that gave rise to the litigation is an affront to each and every one of us. As president, I will not tolerate the victimization of any member of our community."
It was the latest blow in Morlok's quest for accountability. Previously, the Oregon State Bar notified Morlok that it found no evidence of professional misconduct by university counsel in accessing Doe's records. In a June 18 letter, Oregon State Bar representative Troy Wood said university counsel raised plausible arguments for why it was legal for them to take custody of the records. Among those arguments was that the counseling records became education records -- that is, property of the university -- when Doe obtained them for her lawyers for use in litigation.
Morlok was more hopeful when, in September, the Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners found that Kerr engaged in unethical behavior by providing a client's confidential counseling files to university lawyers. The board proposed a $5,000 fine and ethical training. The others, including Holmes, the vice president of student life, were not reprimanded.
Morlok thought the ruling against Kerr was a sign that someone would finally be held accountable, that the university might acknowledge her client's suffering.
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Instead, President Schill issued a statement saying the school was "surprised and disappointed" by the board's finding and would support Kerr if she decided to appeal.
Finally, Morlok lost faith.
She says the response prompted her to submit a letter of resignation on November 2. One week later, she filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging whistleblower violations and a First Amendment violation.
"I knew I couldn't go back because I couldn't trust it was going to be an ethical situation. For my health, my psychological well-being, I could not go back."
Would she encourage UO students to visit the counseling center?
"Absolutely," she says -- with a caveat.
"If you think in any format, in any way possible at all, that your situation is going to have any type of legal implication with the university, you need to go off campus."