National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse

child abuse trauma prevention, intervention & recovery


NAASCA Weekly Highlights

EDITOR'S NOTE: Every day we bring you articles from local newspapers, web sites and other sources that constitute but a small percentage of the information available to those who are interested in the issues of child abuse and recovery from it.

We present articles such as this simply as a convenience to our readership ...
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Here are a few recent stories related to the kinds of issues we cover on the web site. They'll represent a small percentage of the information available to us, the public, as we fight to provide meaningful recovery services and help for those who've suffered child abuse. We'll add to and update this page regularly.

We'll also present stories about the criminals and criminal acts that impact our communities all across the nation. The few we place on this page are the tip of the iceberg, and we ask you to check your local newspapers and law enforcement sites. Stay aware. Every extra set of "eyes and ears" makes a big difference.
Recent News - News from other times

December, 2015 - Week 1
MJ Goyings
Many, many thanks to our very own "MJ" for
providing us the majority of the daily research
that appears on the LACP and NAASCA web sites.
Ms. Goyings is a retired Registered Nurse from Ohio.


Suspect accused of holding teen girl captive and sexually assaulting victim at Nevada home for one month: authorities

by Nicole Hensley

An Arizona teen claims a 26-year-old man locked her up at a Nevada home and sexually assaulted her repeatedly for a month, authorities said.

The girl, 14, escaped her alleged captor at a North Las Vegas home and called police 5:45 p.m. Thursday from a nearby convenience store claiming the suspect abducted her.

The suspect, Johnny Carter Kim, 26, was arrested shortly after the girl's plea for help on one count of kidnapping a minor and 20 counts of sexual assault, North Las Vegas police officials said.

Authorities believe the girl is not the only victim based on evidence found inside Kim's home.

The suspect's father, Dennis, dismissed his son's accusations as false while showing reporters three bedrooms occupied by his son at a home they share.

He believes the girl was Kim's latest girlfriend and a runaway — not an abductee, he said.

“They come here voluntarily,” he told KTNV-TV.

The door to one bedroom used by Kim had a lock on the outside.



Facebook led police to Ohio teen held captive in Mo.

The 15-year-old girl was in serious danger while she was held captive

by The Associated Press

CLEVELAND — Investigators discovered Facebook messages they used to track down a Cleveland-area teenager who police say ran away with a Missouri man only to be raped and held against her will for weeks, police said Friday.

The 15-year-old girl was in serious danger while she was held captive even though she may have left willingly, they said.

One of the messages, prosecutors said, read: "I haven't hurt her, I don't plan on it, but she keeps crying."

Christopher Schroeder of Marthasville, Missouri, was charged with transporting a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity and statutory rape after he and the girl were found Tuesday at his home about 40 miles west of St. Louis.

She returned home to the Cleveland suburb of Brooklyn on Thursday night and was reunited with her family.

Court records show Schroeder told authorities he thought the girl was 18, but investigators said she told him she was 15 more than once. His court-appointed attorney declined to comment on Friday. Schroeder, who is being held in jail in Missouri, is due in court Monday.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty called Schroeder a dangerous predator, comparing him to Ariel Castro, who kidnapped three young women and held them in a Cleveland home for a decade until they were freed by police in May 2013.

One of those women, Michelle Knight, along with the family of fellow captive Gina DeJesus, joined hundreds at a rally last month to draw attention to the missing girl.

She disappeared on Nov. 8 after she went outside to tie up her family's dog.

Schroeder had been talking with her online for at least two weeks, taking advantage of a fragile girl who recently had suffered personal problems and persuading her to leave with him, Brooklyn police detective Joe Tenhunfeld said.

Investigators said he picked up the girl and removed the memory card from her phone before taking her to Missouri. "He knew what he was doing," Tenhunfeld said.

Once at his house, Schroeder had sex with the girl multiple times, smashed her phone and would not allow her to use the telephone or Internet without asking, according a criminal complaint. He also told her to cut or color her hair and lose weight, the court documents said.

The teen said she told Schroeder that she wanted to go home, but she was afraid to leave because he had several guns in the house, according to the complaint.

The girl's mother alerted investigators late last week to postings on a Facebook page that allowed them to find more messages and eventually locate the girl, Tenhunfeld said.



Detroit filmmaker tackles child abuse in new drama

by Kahn Santori Davison

Whether you're a heavyweight Hollywood producer or an ambitious independent filmmaker, choosing to tell a story on the big screen laden with hard to watch crimes against children and valuable hidden messages is tricky. The movie has to be entertaining (not too preachy) and a certain level of authenticity has to be there so the shock value of the crimes won't make people walk out the theater.

Enter Bianca – Who Did This To You? The movie held a screening Thursday at the Charles H. Wright Museum and was met with high praise and stirred emotions. The movie tells the story of Bianca, a young woman who went through horrific sexual abuse as a child from people she looked up to as authority figures in her life. The mental and emotional scars from the abuse follow her in marriage and life.

Local director and writer Randy Holloway decided to make the film after reading the eponymous book. “I read the Bianca book in an hour and a half; it would have been faster had I not had to sit the book down after the first seven pages, which apparently happens with everyone who reads the book," he says. "The subject matter was so powerful, and the reach that I knew the film would have would be greater than any other generic mainstream film I could do. It ultimately became not about me but about the people who could use this film as a voice to help them stop the types of abuse represented in this story."

The first 40 minutes of the move contain three scenes that can be considered hard to watch because of the subject matter and because it involves children young as 5 years old. “The general consensus was that the film was beautifully crafted to take you to the line, but it never crosses it, which was exactly what I was aiming for with the production,” Holloway says.

The main takeaways from the movie are that sex crimes and violence do happen against children more than we think. They happen from family members, they happen at churches, and they happen in schools. Bianca forces the viewer to swallow this bitter pill for the reality that it is. And in the end, more conversations, legislation, counseling, arrest, and mental health treatment will happen.



State agency sued in child abuse case

by Ed Bierschenk

HAMMOND | A man has sued the state Department of Child Services and several of its employees in connection with a Porter County child abuse case that resulted in his ex-wife and another woman being sentenced to prison time last year.

Joseph Lozano Jr. filed suit on behalf of himself and three children against the state, the department of child services, and nine employees of the department. The suit that was originally filed this October in Porter County Superior Circuit Court and was transferred Monday to U.S. District Court in Hammond.

The suit claims state workers both failed to properly protect his children and also deprived him of his rights to parent the children. Lozano's attorney, Lynda LeBlanc, said the three children are back with Joseph Lozano now as well as another child that his ex-wife was pregnant with at the time of her sentencing. LeBlanc declined to comment on how much is being sought in the lawsuit.

Bryan Corbin, a spokesman for the Indiana attorney general's office, said the state's lawyers will file a response to the allegations by the appropriate deadlines.

"Allegations in a civil lawsuit are the opinion of the plaintiff's lawyer filing them and may be refuted in court," he wrote.

Lozano's ex-wife, Valparaiso resident Elizabeth Lozano, was sentenced last December to 18 years in a child abuse case in which her 4-year-old boy was severely beaten. Four years were suspended and those are to be served on formal probation. Her neighbor, Angela Terrell, was sentenced earlier in 2014 to six years in prison for her role in the incident.

Elizabeth Lozano said she turned her child over for care and disciplining to Terrell after having trouble managing the boy. Terrell hit the boy with wooden spoons, belts and other objects and was with the boy when he suffered a traumatic head injury, according to Elizabeth Lozano's defense attorney.

Porter County Deputy Prosecutor Cheryl Polarek, however, said at that time that there was evidence Elizabeth Lozano also physically abused the boy, including text messages where she and Terrell joked about the harm.

LeBlanc said Wednesday that "there was abuse going on in the whole household, but unfortunately it appears that (the 4-year-old boy) got the brunt of it."

According to Joseph Lozano's lawsuit, he was separated from his wife at the time and she refused him access to the children. The suit claims the department of child services was "repeatedly informed of ongoing abuse and neglect of the Lozano children" both through the Abuse Hotline and through the Porter County field office, yet "failed to take proper action to investigate and protect the children."

•  On Oct. 7, 2013, Joseph Lozano allegedly met with a DCS employee at the Porter County DCS office at the department's request.

•  At the time he was told by the employee "that he needed to tell his family and friends to quit making reports to DCS about the Lozano children," according to the lawsuit.

•  On Oct. 23, 2013, Elizabeth Lozano took the 4-year-old boy to a hearing in Lake County and while in the courthouse a court-appointed special advocate noticed he had a black eye and extensive bruising with redness around his right ear, the lawsuit said.

The suit said the boy was taken to Methodist Hospitals Southlake Campus in Merrillville that same day suffering from bruising, blistering, and multiple contusions on his buttocks, face, back, legs and arms and reportedly later had brain surgery. LeBlanc on Wednesday indicated that the boy is doing OK physically at the present time, although there is ongoing concern when someone undergoes brain surgery.

The three children were reportedly made wards of the department that day and placed with a foster family and the suit claims Lozano was frustrated in attempts to get information and see the children for a period of time. According to the lawsuit, the department allegedly kept Lozano from having any contact with the children from Oct. 23, 2013, until Nov. 5, 2013, when they allowed him only limited visitation.



Why an MP wants India to talk about child sex abuse

by The BBC

is home to the largest number of sexually abused children in the world, and on Friday, a top female news presenter revealed how she was sexually abused as a child. But there is general reluctance to talk about the topic. Now, an MP, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, is trying to change that, writes the BBC's Geeta Pandey in Delhi.

At an "open house" in Delhi on "Why we need to start talking about child sexual abuse and protect our children" earlier this week, Mr Chandrasekhar described the problem as an "epidemic".

"Child sexual abuse has taken epidemic proportions in India. It is a problem that has been veiled by a culture of secrecy and denial and fostered by government apathy," he said.

"Most people think that child sexual abuse is not as pervasive as I say, but the data proves otherwise."

He is right - according to a 2007 study conducted by India's ministry of women and child development, 53% of children surveyed said they had been subjected to some form of sexual abuse.

The study revealed that contrary to the general belief that only girls were abused, boys are equally at risk.

It also pointed out that a substantial number of abusers were "persons in trust and care-givers" which included parents, relatives and school teachers.

An MP from the southern city of Bangalore, Mr Chandrasekhar began talking about child sexual abuse in January 2014 when he was approached by the mother of a three-year-old who had been raped in her school.

"She asked me for help because the police were not registering her complaint. I was horrified. When I called a state government minister, he said: 'It's not our fault, it's the parents' fault. Who asked them to pick that school?'," he says.

Since then there have been several high-profile cases of children being sexually assaulted in Bangalore, Delhi and across India - not surprising considering a child is sexually abused every three hours in the country.

To break the silence over the issue, Mr Chandrasekhar started a petition on in September, asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to "make the safety of our children a priority and to commit to a roadmap to protect our children from sexual abuse".

On Tuesday, he met the Women and Child Welfare Minister Maneka Gandhi to hand over the petition which has been signed by more than 182,000 people.

Despite the staggering statistics, Mr Chandrasekhar's attempts to talk about child sexual abuse have not gone down well with many and he has been trolled on Twitter for months for being "part of a Western conspiracy to defame India".

That, campaigners say, is the biggest hurdle in fighting incest and child sex abuse.

Anuja Gupta, who heads RAHI (Recovering and Healing from Incest) Foundation - India's first incest and child sexual abuse response organisation - says parents are generally reluctant to admit child abuse, and sexual abuse of children by family members is rarely reported.

This "conspiracy of silence", Ms Gupta says, has serious consequences for the victims, their families and society as a whole.

"The sheer helplessness and the trauma of the victim is debilitating. It's very difficult for a child to come forward and say that he or she was abused, and the fact that nobody did anything about it is very damaging for them."

In 2012, India introduced the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) to deal with cases of child sexual abuse, but it took the authorities two years to record the first cases under the law.

In 2014, 8,904 cases were registered under the new law, but in addition, for the same year, the National Crime Records Bureau recorded 13,766 cases of child rape; 11,335 cases of "assault on girl child with intent to outrage her modesty; 4,593 cases of sexual harassment; 711 cases of "assault or use of criminal force on girl child with intent to disrobe"; 88 cases of voyeurism and 1,091 cases of stalking.

The statistics show that POCSO was not even invoked in most cases of child sexual assault.

Child rights activists say it is a well-framed law but there are huge gaps in its implementation and the conviction rate under the act is a paltry 2.4%.

Legal expert Swagata Raha says that happens because very often the victims are pressurised by the accused - invariably known to the child or related to them - to retract, so the case falls apart.

Says Mr Chandrasekhar: "Our institutions are far from child-friendly. The police do not have the sensitivity to deal with children, there are no dedicated prosecutors, and the judiciary is over-burdened. And this creates an ecosystem that is hostile and intimidating for the child.

"We owe it to our children to ensure a safe childhood for them. This must stop."



Jared Fogle Accomplice Claims Psychological Abuse

New details emerge on Russell Taylor's relationship with 'Daddy'

by Michael Harthorne

Documents filed Friday by the former head of Jared Fogle's foundation include a whole host of new details about the "psychologically abusive" relationship between the two that ended with Fogle sentenced to 15 years in prison for child pornography and Russell Taylor facing even more time on similar charges, the Indianapolis Star reports. "Mr. Fogle would refer to himself as Mr. Taylor's 'daddy' and there would be discussions of how much Taylor loved 'daddy' and reminding him that 'daddy' was paying for his things," the court filings state. The filings also claim Fogle was "cruel" to Taylor and would make him eat pizza and donuts even though Taylor was gluten intolerant, according to WRTV. Psychologists found Taylor has a "pervasive psychological dependence on other people."

Taylor's lawyers say Fogle's emotional abuse was a continuation of abuse he received as a child, the Star reports. The filings state Taylor's mother would strike him with everything from shoes to switches and that he was sexually abused during his childhood. According to the filings, Taylor wasn't allowed to go to college because his parents believed the rapture was imminent. And WRTV notes a passage that claims Taylor's father's friends would give him KISS trading cards to leave his sister's bedroom blinds open at night. The Star reports Taylor pleaded guilty to producing child pornography to give to Fogle. "Mr. Fogle maintained control over Mr. Taylor's job, owned the home Mr. Taylor was living in, and provided a lavish number of experiences," the filings state. "Mr. Fogle had the perfect person to carry out his sexually deviant pursuits." Taylor is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday.



In a Sandusky-era reversal, state now allows expert testimony on sex abuse

by Riley Yates

EASTON — A former Slate Belt man charged with repeatedly raping two children was slated to go on trial last week before prosecutors uncorked a surprise.

Not only would Joseph R. Gerhart face the emotional testimony of the boy and girl who accuse him of sexually abusing them for years, authorities notified his defense. He'd also face an expert in child sex abuse, who would be able to outline for the jury the reasons accusers often delay reporting their allegations, why such crimes can occur for years seemingly without resistance, and why children suffering from sexual abuse may react differently to it than expected.

Such testimony had long been barred by the Pennsylvania courts, under fears that the experts, in speaking in generalities about sexual assault, would improperly sway jurors toward convictions.

But amid the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, lawmakers in Harrisburg thought differently, enacting a law that offers a powerful tool for prosecutors to explain the context under which sexual violence occurs, in cases that often hinge on whether an accuser's fragmented memory can be believed.

The statute was signed by then-Gov. Tom Corbett one week after Sandusky was convicted in 2012. But it was only last month that the state Supreme Court gave the law its imprimatur, upholding it amid a constitutional challenge that argued the Legislature had overstepped its authority.

Two days after the court handed down its Nov. 18 decision, Northampton County Assistant District Attorney Anthony Casola notified Gerhart's defense lawyer of his intention to call such an expert to help prove his case. Given that development, Judge Paula Roscioli on Monday granted a two-month delay in a trial otherwise set to begin that day.

Gerhart, 49, now of Allentown, is charged with sexually assaulting a boy and a girl several times a month in Upper Mount Bethel Township when they were between the approximate ages of 5 and 10 years old. In all, the alleged abuse stretched roughly eight years, ending in 2011, but came to the attention of state police only last year, court records say.

Casola identified his expert as Alicia Rathosky, a counselor at the Sexual Assault Counseling and Resource Center in Schuylkill County. He said her testimony is needed to contradict what he called the "rape myth" — a perception that victims of sexual assault should have physically resisted their abusers and immediately reported what happened to police.

"It's important for the experts to testify to the dynamics of how these crimes occur and the relationship dynamics of how this develops," Casola said.

Gerhart's lawyer, Philip Lauer, predicted that such testimony will become common in sex assault cases involving children. But he said there isn't consensus in the science of sexual abuse, and he is considering whether to call his own expert to combat Rathosky.

"It's not like there is only one school of thought out there," Lauer said. "I know there are some experts out there that say some different things and I'm sure that will become an area of inquiry in these cases."

Lauer added: "Fortunately or unfortunately, the Supreme Court recently decided that this type of testimony is in."

Before the Legislature acted, the question of expert testimony in sex cases was answered in Pennsylvania by a 1992 court ruling that involved Neil Dunkle, a Lycoming County man found guilty of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl. The decision threw out his conviction, finding prosecutors shouldn't have been allowed to present testimony at his trial on the typical behaviors exhibited by sexually abused children.

In so ruling, the state Supreme Court concluded the testimony wasn't scientifically reliable and didn't help juries determine whether individual defendants committed the crimes to which they were charged.

The court also prohibited testimony on why children might delay reporting abuse or initially mislead authorities about its extent. Juries can understand the potential reasons behind that — whether fear, embarrassment or coercion by an abuser — without the need of an expert opinion, the decision said.

"We are all aware that child abuse is a plague in our society and one of the saddest aspects of growing up in today's America," then-Justice Ralph Cappy wrote. "Nevertheless, we do not think it befits this court to simply disregard long-standing principles concerning the presumption of innocence and the proper admission of evidence in order to gain a greater number of convictions."

In the lead-up to the 2012 law, its advocates labeled Pennsylvania the only state in the nation to prohibit such testimony. Pennsylvania's prior approach is at very least rare, though Kentucky and Tennessee also frown on such experts, and seven other states have yet to weigh in on their admissibility, according to a 2014 review by the National District Attorneys Association.

"We need to acknowledge and understand the unique dynamics of this sort of crime," Corbett, a former prosecutor, said July 3, 2012, when he held a ceremony touting the new law. "This is a complex area with many shades of gray that require someone to explain to jurors why things unfolded the way they did."

Diane Moyer, legal director of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, said it is unreasonable to expect the average juror to understand the grooming and intense "mind games" that children who are sexually abused are often subjected to.

Giving prosecutors a tool to explain that makes sense, she said, especially considering that experts are already granted the ability to opine in courtrooms on any number of legal disputes.

"People just don't talk about these things. They don't sit around the Thanksgiving table and discuss what is the reaction of the sex assault victim," Moyer said. "It's just beyond the layperson's knowledge."

To the Supreme Court, Moyer authored a brief in support of the new law. Speaking against it during oral arguments in May was Leonard Sosnov, a professor at Widener University's Delaware Law School.

Sosnov said the court got it right in 1992. Juries should be deciding whether a witness can be believed and they don't need an expert to, in effect, vouch for that person, Sosnov said.

"The expert testimony gives the illusion of credibility in a situation where the expert testimony can't say anything that is really valid," Sosnov said.

Both he and Moyer noted, however, that the law is a double-edged sword. Defense attorneys also now have the ability to call their own experts, and those experts will almost certainly offer explanations that run counter to the prosecution's.

That was the warning raised by one justice who dissented in last month's decision, while nodding to prosecutors' fears that juries may lack the background to grasp how sexual violence affects victims.

"While I understand these concerns, the commonwealth should be careful what it wishes for — what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and if expert opinions are admissible and helpful to the prosecution here, there will be experts with admissible opinions to the contrary, in rebuttal and in each ensuing case," Justice J. Michael Eakin wrote.

In finding differently, the four-justice majority concluded that the Legislature had the power to change the rules to allow the testimony to be introduced, and wasn't improperly straying into the independent realm of the courts. That, the majority said, was the lone issue before them.

The law "is a proper exercise of legislative authority," Justice Max Baer wrote.

The ruling came out of the Berks County prosecution of 46-year-old Jose L. Olivo of Reading, who is charged with sexually abusing a girl beginning when she was 4 and ending when she was 7. The trial judge had prohibited prosecutors from introducing expert testimony despite the new statute, citing the 1992 Dunkle decision.

That the new law has been upheld has been noticed by prosecutors beyond Northampton County. In Lehigh County, Chief Deputy District Attorney Matthew Falk said he will be looking to use experts in appropriate cases going forward.

Falk, a veteran sex crimes prosecutor, called the statute a "very valuable tool" to explain why victims may have acted the way they did.

"All the studies and literature show that victims behave in ways that are counterintuitive," Falk said. "Real life isn't like TV. There are no simple behaviors. … It's something that juries need to know."



Sexual assaults not stranger crimes in Licking County

by Bethany Bruner

NEWARK - When most people hear the terms rape and sexual assault, they picture a stranger jumping out of the woods and grabbing someone.

But statistics show, more often than not, victims of sexual assault in Licking County know the person violating them.

Between 2012 and 2014, an average of 60 percent of felony sexual assault cases prosecuted in Licking County involved suspects who were related or were "in loco parentis" (a legal term for trusted authority figure such as a stepfather, family friend or teacher).

The Advocate analyzed 90 cases filed from 2012 to 2014 where the suspect was charged with rape, sexual battery, gross sexual imposition or unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, the four most common charges related to sex crimes.

In only two of those 90 cases was the victim a complete stranger to the person who was ultimately charged with the crime.

Investigation to charges

Detectives who are tasked with investigating sexual assault claims, especially those involving children, are often working a difficult case from the beginning, Newark Detective Steve Vanoy said.

Vanoy said disclosing the abuse is difficult for a child, even more so when the person doing the abusing is living in their home.

It's also difficult for detectives to get a suspect to talk with them.

"It's very challenging to get someone to acknowledge they've victimized a child, let alone a biological child or someone that you're very close to," Vanoy said.

But even without a partial or full confession, prosecutors in Licking County may still take the case.

Prosecutor Ken Oswalt said the Licking County Prosecutor's Office has taken an aggressive stance on pursuing charges in sexual assault cases since well before he took over the top job.

"If a victim, even a child, is able to verbalize enough in a courtroom setting to get us to a jury and there is no apparent, obvious or clear motive for them to manufacture it or have words being put in their mouth, we will generally go forward with charges," he said.

Oswalt said law enforcement officials who have dealt with other counties have been impressed with Licking County's willingness to take cases where there isn't forensic evidence or a confession.

To think plea or not to think plea

After charges are filed, the case will proceed to either a trial or a resolution through a plea deal.

Between 2012 and 2014, 89 percent of cases were resolved with some sort of resolution that avoided a trial.

Oswalt said sometimes plea deals are the best way for a case to be resolved for the victim's sake.

"Everybody, in a perfect world, would have liked the person to have gotten more (prison time)," he said. "But there are a lot of hurdles to go through and sometimes children aren't up to doing those hurdles. We're not doing them a service by forcing them to jump."

Assistant Licking County Prosecutor Paula Sawyers said one thing prosecutors have to consider when deciding whether to offer or accept a plea agreement is the impact of testifying at trial on the victim. That task can be exceptionally difficult when the victim is still a child.

"You're asking them to talk about something that we as adults don't want to talk about, but to do it in a room full of strangers," Sawyers said.

Going through a trial may re-traumatize the victim and impact the family unit in an unhealthy way.

"(The victim is) implicitly, if not explicitly, being accused of being a liar by a defense attorney who's trying to defend their client," Oswalt said. "The defendant may be glaring at them."

Oswalt said his office weighs what sentence would be likely after a trial and legal issues with separate charges combining for sentencing and then talks with the victim's family.

"On paper, there may be a possible 60-year sentence, but you're never going to get that with merger issues," Oswalt said. "We have to think, 'What kind of sentence am I likely to get after trial and how close can I get to it without putting this kid through it?'"

Prosecutors also have to consider how a jury would perceive witnesses and how a judge may rule on issues with evidence prior to a trial.

All of those things can factor into whether a plea deal is made.

Oswalt said victims and their families are presented with all the options and allowed to make a choice as to what they want to do.

"There's never been a case (in my career) where a parent or family member of a young child has said go to trial," he said. "All of them say 'we'd like them to get more, but if you can get that sentence and my child doesn't have to go to court …' they take it."

With a plea deal, there are also certain guarantees, like limited grounds for appeal and definite closure of the case.

Oswalt said the public should know "to a certainty" that prosecutors want more prison time for defendants in cases involving sexual assault.

"There are so many dynamics that can never be put in the paper, and even if they could, they don't have enough room and it would be hard to understand," he said. "Just because we enter into a plea agreement doesn't mean that we think it's the perfect sentence. It's an acceptable sentence."

Judge and jury

If a case goes to trial, which happened seven times between 2012 and 2014, a judge or jury will decide the innocence or guilt of a suspect.

Sawyers said one of the hurdles that prosecutors have to overcome is the "Law and Order effect" where jurors expect DNA evidence and certain testimony from victims.

"People hear the word rape and they expect some type of physical damage or some type of emotional reaction from the child," she said. "Some (children) respond by laughing because they're uncomfortable. Some shut down totally, some smile inappropriately, that's normal for them."

Unless an allegation is disclosed soon after the abuse occurred, Sawyers said, there won't be an opportunity for DNA evidence, and many cases involving children result in the child having no physical damage that can be assessed by medical professionals.

Sawyers said juries also expect to see a "normal" child on the witness stand, but child victims may not match a juror's definition of normal.

"A lot of girls look older now, it's part of the society and environment," Sawyers said. "They see this child as more of an adult or late teenager because of the way they dress or the information or knowledge they have."

Sawyers said victims who have been "groomed" by a suspect often have knowledge about sexual activity that a child the same age who has not been victimized may not have, which can confuse jurors.

"They've been shown porn, they know sexualized terms, they've seen movies with sex in them," she said. "They don't present as a normal child would. (A jury) may be more likely to believe the perpetrator if they say (the child) got if off TV."

Other county prosecutors say similar things about what can cause a case to go to trial.

Kyle Rohrer, First Assistant Prosecutor in Delaware County, said the strength of evidence is key, but if a victim is unwilling to testify, it can sway a plea deal in a case that otherwise may have gone to trial. He said because the majority of sexual assault cases his office prosecutes involve relatives or people known to the victim, testimony is key.

Greene County Prosecutor Stephen Haller said considering what is best for the victim plays a large role in whether his office take a case through to trial.

"Is it in (the victim's) best interest to testify with everything that goes with that?" Haller said. "Once we're done with the case, we walk away and work on the next one, but the victim has to live with the process."

The toll they take

For many of the officials who deal with these cases, watching victims go through trauma repeatedly becomes a struggle.

"Working these cases are some of the hardest cases I have to work with," Granville-based psychologist Mackenzie Peterson said. "It's hard not to take that home with you."

Peterson said handling cases involving child victims became even more difficult after having children of her own.

Oswalt said prosecutors will often feel the "whole gamut" of emotions while dealing with a case.

"You have frustration when you have family members that can't see the obvious and don't want to see the defendant is guilty," he said. "You have sadness when you see young kids abused."

He said there is often relief and satisfaction when a resolution is reached that allows a victim to "hold their head high."

Sawyers, who started her career handling Children Services cases, said she views prosecuting sexual assault cases as her way of making a difference for children who have not been given the opportunities her own children have.

"My first supervisor told me you get the experience and you get out because you can't handle the material or you make it your mission."



The long journey: Hamilton woman finds healing by speaking out

by Perry Backus

In this country, 26 states have enacted laws requiring schools to teach students how to avoid being sexually abused.

Another 18 states have either introduced or plan to introduce those laws in the upcoming year.

Only seven states in the nation have not done a thing. Montana is one of them.

Tara Walker Lyons wants that to change.

If someone had told the 27-year-old Hamilton woman last July that she would be traveling thousands of miles across the state to speak out in an effort to put a face on childhood sexual abuse, Lyons probably would have just shaken her head and said no.

After she released a video of her story on social media and created a Facebook page called “Defending Innocence,” Lyons' journey toward healing from her own abuse has taken on a life of its own.

Lyons was 6 years old when she was first molested. The abuse lasted for six years and only stopped when she and another girl gathered the courage needed to run to the sheriff's house in Augusta.

For years afterward she lived with the emotional pain, which led to addiction, depression and anxiety.

“It's an injury that keeps on bleeding,” she said. “It doesn't go away.”

This week, Lyons stood before a legislative committee and told lawmakers the state needs to give young children the tools to escape that same fate.

“I know that if sexual abuse prevention education had existed when I was a child, I could have stopped the abuse much sooner,” Lyons told the state's Law and Justice Interim Committee. “I know that my life would have been tremendously different. I know it wouldn't have taken six years for the abuse to stop.”

Since July, Lyons has been spreading her story and that message to inmates, parole officers, legislators and whoever else will listen in hopes of making a difference for victims, many yet to be born.

“I am using my story to put a face on what is considered by some to be our nation's largest public health concern,” Lyons said. “One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. To me, that is enough to be considered an epidemic.”

Along the way, Lyons has been encouraged by the doors that continue to open and the people who have stepped forward to offer their support and encouragement.

That support sometimes has come from the most unexpected places.

In November, when mixed martial arts fighter, “Sugar” Sean O'Malley returned to Helena for a homecoming fight, he wore shorts that displayed the national hotline phone number for child abuse. His promoters allowed Lyons to pass out her “Defending Innocence” handouts to everyone in the crowd.

O'Malley's father was one of investigators assigned to her case.

That night, she met a little girl who was the victim of incest.

“It was one of those times that I thought, ‘What if I had met a Tara at her age?” she said. “I think it's the kids who give me the most strength. I feel like they'll remember me. It makes me feel like I'm doing some good.”

She talked with the girl's mother, who offered her encouragement and told her about a camp in Oregon that works with children who have been sexually abused.

Another door opened.

This week, Lyons will travel to Portland to become a Big Buddy for a child at the Sparks of Hope Healing Camp at the base of Mount Hood.

The camp's founder and fellow childhood sexual abuse survivor, Lee Ann Mead, is certain it will be a life-changing event for Lyons.

The camp pairs survivors of sexual abuse with children.

“The adults serve as a guide for the children, for the healing journey the camp provides,” Mead said. “They pour love and hope into these kids, who are often bankrupt of love. The children learn to use their voice in a safe environment.”

In return, the children are given the strength to use their voices to shed light on a subject that society appears afraid to address.

Mead's husband works as a detective.

“He said that only one in 10 victims report their abuse,” she said. “He sees the revolving door. It's staggering. People are so afraid to deal with the issue.”

•  “We tell our volunteers that the more they use their voices, the more people will listen,” Mead said. “There was a time in this country when people would whisper about cancer. Back then, no one would have ever imagined putting a child on television with a bald head.”

•  “Now it's common,” she said. “It's everywhere and it's made a difference. Why aren't we doing that with child abuse?”

•  Mead is excited for Lyons and the journey that she's undertaken to bring a face to child abuse in Montana.

“My kids at camp want to use their voice,” she said. “With their courage, they want to shed a light on this. They know what it's like to be in the darkness. Victims feel shame and so they don't talk about it. The more they talk about it, the more the shame goes away.”

“To see a little child empowered and standing up for themselves makes you a better advocate,” Mead said. “It's been a long journey for me, but it's been awesome. I think Tara is on that same journey. She's going to be hell on wheels.”

Chelsea Duenow of the Passage's pre-release center for women in Billings has seen firsthand the power of Lyons' message after Lyons participated in a victim's impact panel in October.

“The women here saw a lot of hope in her story,” Duenow said.

“Many of our offenders are victims themselves. It's empowering for them to see someone who has also been traumatized being successful.”

It's time to do away with the stigma that comes with childhood sexual abuse, Lyons said. It's time for people to step forward and address the issue head on.

“I have had so many people come up to me after I talk and tell me that this has happened to them or someone in their family,” she said. “I want other survivors to step forward and join me. I want people to know that we survivors are all here and we're not going away.”

Society's aversion to the topic needs to change.

“When I say the words ‘childhood sexual molestation' to some people, it almost feels like they feel like I'm verbally assaulting them. That's not right. People shouldn't feel like they are being verbally assaulted when they hear those words,” she said. “For change to occur, we need to be talk about this openly.”

After speaking to the legislative committee, she came home both excited and exhausted. She anxiously shared all of what had occurred with her husband.

“But the most powerful part of the whole day happened after all that,” Lyons wrote. “It was when my husband told me that watching me talk about this stuff was a complete 180 from watching me talk about it before. He said, ‘You know what I don't see you do? I don't see you get mad anymore. I used to watch you sit in that recliner and cry and cry about your mom. I haven't seen you cry in anger since this started in July.'”

“I'm done with anger,” she wrote. “I am on to bigger things. I am healing. I am winning this fight. I know every single moment in my life has led up to this moment. And I wouldn't trade a moment in my life for the world.”



Caught on Camera: video of child abuse, mother arrested

by Ana Rivera

(Video on site)

CLARKSVILLE, Ind. (WHAS11) -- It is disturbing for anyone to witness child abuse, but it is especially disturbing for a parent.

“I don't know any other kid that would get hit on like that and not just lay there and cry. But these kids acted like it was a normal everyday thing. And that's very upsetting. I can't believe a mother would put their children through that,” said Steven Corthorn who is the father of the children in the video.

Corthorn said he started noticing bruises on his kids when he would come home from work. That is why he set up several security cameras around the house.

“So I asked their mother and she said, 'I don't know. They're getting hurt playing in their room; they're getting hurt playing in the living room.' And I said, 'Well, what are they getting hurt on?' And she said, 'I don't know.' And I said, 'Well, I'll find out,” Corthorn said.

Last week, he came home and the children and their mother were gone. He checked the cameras trying to find any clue of what had happened. That is when he came across a clip of his children being abused by their mother.

“It is awful. I have cried many nights because I just felt like I couldn't do anything for my children,” Corthorn said.

Corthorn asked for an emergency hearing last week to get full custody of his children. The judge ordered joint custody. On Friday it was Corthorn's turn to have the kids.

“When I got home to change them into their pajamas I noticed new bruises on them," Corthorn said.

That's when he went to the Indiana State Police. The mother of the kids, Kendra Beswick was arrested.

“Hopefully they won't remember this when they get older. I hope they won't remember this abuse and it doesn't affect them long term,” Corthorn said.

ISP said Beswick has been charged with two counts of battery of a child under 14-years-old. She is currently being held in Washington County Jail on a $10,000 full cash bond.



Short Lives, Long Waits For Justice: The Huge Backlog of Child Abuse Deaths

Many allegations of child abuse leading to death languish for months

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 abuse and neglect cases. Official reports based on those findings sometimes take more than three years to complete, the New England Center for Investigative Reporting found in its review of 102 cases, including the case of a one-month-old boy who died in 2012 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.

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.

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 to make a death ruling seriously undermined the investigation.

“In 18 months, everything changed,” said Medeiros, 51, of North Attleborough, 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 Charles 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 for Investigative Reporting 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 the DCF's list of abuse and neglect victims between 2009 and 2013.

In 45 of the 102 child maltreatment fatalities reviewed by NECIR, medical examiners could not determine the manner of death — meaning they couldn't decide between 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 that 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, state 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 NECIR.

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.

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 her 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 for Investigative Reporting 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 of 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 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 about 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. 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 concerned 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 taking drugs and stripping, Medeiros said, showing she couldn't be a responsible parent.

Two months later, in November, 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 for Investigative Reporting reporter knocked on the couple's shuttered 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 two years old.

“I want justice for Jay,” said Medeiros. “I have to speak for my grandson Jay because nobody else will.”


New Jersey

Girl Scout Troop 6410, Jefferson, takes stand against child abuse

by Aim Jefferson

In recognition of empowered girls, Girl Scouts Troop 6410 at White Rock School, Oak Ridge, N.J., hosted a seminar on Nov. 19, 2015 at 6:30 p.m. to help children, in particular Girl Scouts, protect themselves from potential predators. Speaker Rose Morrisroe is a first grade teacher with her Masters in the Art of Teaching, author, and a child abuse survivor herself. She is experienced at teaching children about protecting their personal space via "No Secrets Between Us Body Safety Seminar." She is so passionate about defending children—she founded an advocacy organization called Soldiers Against Child Abuse in 2006.

Kudos to Girl Scouts Troop 6410 for choosing to confront the epidemic of child abuse. In 2012, a nationally estimated 1,640 children died of abuse and neglect according to the Department of Health and Human Services. And because the American Psychological Association (APA) says that child sexual abuse is "not uncommon" and "a serious problem in the U.S.," it's a problem educators cannot ignore.

Morrisroe's seminar educated children in fourth grade, and that will greatly benefit Girl Scouts Troop 6410 members because the younger the child is, the more vulnerable he or she is. Child sexual abuse occurs in children of all ages ethnicities, cultures, and economic backgrounds in rural, urban, and suburban areas, (according to the APA). Empowering children so that they feel in control of their own bodies is so important because research has shown that predators choose their victims among other children on the basis of how easily they can manipulate them.

As part of the seminar, Morrisroe read her book, "No Secrets Between Us." Already being purchased by parents nationwide, the book is a teaching tool on the topic of child sexual abuse awareness. It takes a gentle, non-scary, and practical approach to teaching. Endorsed by Michael Reagan (President Ronald Reagan's son), the book helps kids recognize when they are in an abusive situation.

"Many take their kids to karate classes so they can defend their bodies," says Morrisroe. "My book and my seminars teach kids self defense for the mind."

For interest in schools, a year-long educational curriculum is available for elementary students of all ages. Contact: Rose Morrisroe, nosecretsbetweenus@gmail .com.

A parent who attended the "No Secrets Between Us Seminar" had these words to say to Rose Morrisroe: "Thank you, my daughter is in this troop. You provided an invaluable lesson that will empower these girls and help keep them safe," – Leslie Heller.

The majority of published studies on prevention education have supported child-empowerment programs aimed at preventing sexual abuse. A majority of reviews have found that children at all ages do acquire the key concepts being taught in child sexual abuse awareness education programs. In fact, younger children show more learning than older children.

On the basis of a survey of 825 college students, researchers Gibson and Leitenberg concluded "adult women who had not participated in a school prevention program during childhood were about twice as likely to have experienced child sexual abuse as those who had participated in a program."

Sexual abuse prevention programs work. How can we not try to protect the most innocent citizens of our society so they can hang on to that innocence a little longer? Well done, Girl Scouts Troop 6410.



State is failing to protect children properly but we don't seem to care

by David Quinn

The extent to which this country really cares about child protection remains very much open to question. In 2012, a report was produced that reviewed the deaths of children who were either in the care of the State, or who were known to the State's care services, and why they died.

The 'Report of the Independent Child Death Review Group' was published by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and was written by family law expert Geoffrey Shannon and Norah Gibbons of Barnardos.

What prompted it was the revelation that some 200 children in the care of the State had died in the previous 10 years, many from natural causes, some by violence.

The admission that so many minors known to the State's care services were dead had to be dragged from the relevant authorities. When the 'Sunday Business Post' first began to report on the matter, the initial response by the HSE was opaque. In this, it seemed very much like the Catholic Church.

Bit by bit, the true picture emerged until we finally found out that on average, 20 children per year die while in the care of the State, or while known to State services.

The Shannon/Gibbons report looked into the various deaths and found that some of them were preventable. It was strongly critical of the State's performance in this regard.

It also found: The majority of children covered by the report did not receive an adequate child protection service; delays taking children into care; poor and incomplete records; failure to record critical incidents, including the deaths of almost 30 children; no care for young people after they turn 18; and lack of support and supervision for social workers.

The report made a whole series of recommendations. But things seem to have gotten even worse in the meantime.

Last week Tusla, also known as the Child and Family Agency, produced its annual report for 2014. Tusla is responsible for the State's child protection services.

It found that 26 children in the care of the State or who were known to the State's care services died last year. That is a record.

We can't simply blame Tusla for this increase. Maybe things are getting worse on the ground. Maybe the number of children in crisis situations is increasing and that accounts for the terrible new record.

That is not my immediate point, however. My immediate point is the lack of any real outcry. These latest figures were barely reported. What was mostly absorbing the attention of the media was the big payout to Pat Smith made by the IFA.

There was also a lack of any genuine outcry when the Shannon/Gibbons report was published. For the most part, it was inside page news, and not front page news.

It was not discussed for days on end on all the big current affairs shows. No-one had to resign. No-one was held genuinely accountable.

We must contrast this with the massive coverage of all of the reports into clerical sex abuse when they were published.

Why there is such a contrast I will leave to your judgment. However, serious child protection failures by the State surely deserve more coverage than they get and surely there should be some accountability when a child protection failure is particularly egregious?

In Britain, social workers have sometimes had to resign over serious child protection failures. That has never happened here. Here, they are always able to hide behind the 'lack of resources' excuse, which is a genuine excuse but which can't be allowed to cover all sins.

Another report, this one issued on Tuesday, pulled back the curtain some more on why children end up in care in the first place. This report also received little coverage.

It is the final report of the 'Child Law Reporting Project' headed by Dr Carol Coulter. It examines over 1,000 cases of children who have come before the courts because of a failure of care on the part of their parents.

The biggest reason for a care order of some description being issued by the courts was a parental disability (176 out of the 1,074 cases examined).

Next came 'neglect', accounting for 164 cases. Parental drug abuse accounted for 136 cases, while drug abuse accounted for 115.

A total of 162 were removed from their parents for 'multiple' reasons.

Surprisingly (to me anyway), 'only' 36 children, or 3.6 pc of the total, were removed because of sexual abuse, and another 75 were removed because of physical and/or emotional abuse.

The report also looks at the family background of the children. It found that children from single-parent families, Traveller families and migrant families were over-represented in the cases that came before the courts compared with their numbers in the population.

One in four child protection cases involved families where at least one parent is an immigrant even though migrants make up 12 pc of the overall population.

Seventy four percent of cases involved a parent who was parenting alone. Twenty-one percent of children overall are being raised by lone parents.

As the report puts it: "Parenting alone is difficult for anyone, even those of full ability and with strong social networks."

Another very important detail that caught the eye was the attitude of the Child and Family Agency (CFA) towards fathers.

When a child is removed from a mother, there is always the option of placing the child with its father, but this does not seem to happen as often as it should.

The report says: "…in a substantial minority of cases a father is involved in the [court] proceedings…However, the attitude of the CFA towards these fathers can sometimes be dismissive".

It then gives some examples of this.

Frankly, this is stunning. It shows a prejudice against fathers on the part of at least some State employees of the sort John Waters has been highlighting for years.

This prejudice, or dismissiveness, appears to run so deep in some cases that despite no evidence against the father who wishes to care for his child when the mother can't, the child is placed with strangers instead.

This is appalling, and we ought to be appalled by it. Given the fact, however, that child protection failures by the State still don't receive anything like the attention they deserve, we are unlikely to give the treatment of fathers by our courts the attention it deserves either. That is an injustice.


9 things you didn't know about sex trafficking

by Mo Barnes

Sex trafficking is an issue that is becoming more prevalent as the economy worsens and opportunities decrease. From girls walking the streets to hustling on social media platforms, it shows no sign of decreasing. Here are nine things you didn't know about sex trafficking.

Atlanta is the top city for sex trafficking for minors.
While looking at factors that might account for Atlanta's high rank regarding sex trafficking, it is important to understand that Atlanta is home to the world's busiest airport and is geographically located within numerous major interstates. Atlanta also has a robust convention industry that attracts many business travelers throughout the year. In addition, it is important to understand that Atlanta's law enforcement community and its non-governmental partners have, collectively, recognized this as a problem and have implemented one of the largest child exploitation task forces in the country with dedicated agents and detectives who aggressively seek to recover children and prosecute their exploiters. Those aggressive law enforcement efforts put the spotlight squarely on this issue and could have the effect of giving the impression that this activity is more prevalent in Atlanta over another city that might not be addressing the issue. Every city has prostitution in some frequency. The key is to attack the problem with as many resources as are available.

Girls get into the sex trade in different ways.

•  Friends or family influence

•  Boredom (they see this as something exciting and new)

•  To afford a drug habit

•  “Boyfriend” tricks them into believing they will do it for the boyfriend if they love them

•  Gang initiation

Sex trafficking generates millions depending on the city.
In a 2014 report, the Urban Institute estimated that the underground sex economy ranged from $39.9 million in Denver, Colorado, to $290 million in Atlanta, Georgia.

Childhood sexual abuse is the leading indicator for possibly being trafficked in the sex trade.
Many children enter the sex trade between the ages of 11-14 but their sexual experience can start much earlier. According to Tina Frundt, the founder of anti-trafficking non-profit group Courtney's house, “Sexually exploitive situations began usually between the ages of 6-10 as child abuse.” Between 70-90 percent of trafficked children have a history of childhood sexual abuse and family dysfunction.

Women are buyers and traffickers, as well
According to a study done by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice on “Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, “ women are a big factor in the sex trade as customers. It was estimated that 40 percent of boys and 11 percent of the girls surveyed said that they had served a female client, with 13 percent of the boys exclusively serving female clients. Reports have indicated that women make up 35-40 percent of sex traffickers.

Websites such as Craigslist and Backpage are the Cyber Street Corner for sex traffickers.
These websites make it easy for sex traffickers to market their victims to prospective customers. At any time of the day, a person can refine their search to their part of town and choose from a large selection of women. The ad often includes a graphic image and age; and rates are called donations or roses. The police often try to run stings on customers and those selling sex online. During the 2013 Final Four basketball tournament in Atlanta, the FBI “recovered seven juveniles, arrested five pimps and disrupted their criminal prostitution enterprise.”

Blacks make up the highest percentage of those trafficked.
According to the FBI, 40.4 percent of sex trafficking victims were Black. This is almost four times higher than the percentage of Blacks living in the US. The FBI also states that Black children under the age of 18 make up 55 percent of prostitution arrests in the country.

There have been an estimated 85 murders tied to online sex ads on Craigslist.
Advertising sex on Craigslist is dangerous for those responding and selling. According to the media outlet Law Street Media, “Law Street identified 58 murderers and 45 murder victims connected to Craigslist postings through last June. Twenty-two murder cases are still pending. The oldest pending case dates to 2012, and eight are from 2014, indications that the killings continue. Craigslist did not reply to multiple inquiries.”

The internet has increased child sex trafficking and exploitation.

•  5.4M reports related to child sexual exploitation have been made to The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's CyberTipline since its inception.

•  NCMEC reviewed 22 million images and videos of suspected child sexual abuse imagery in its victim identification program in 2013 — more than a 5000% increase from 2007.

•  42% of “sextortion” victims met their perpetrators online.


The town where boys are 'groomed to become pimps'

by Bradley Myles

(Videos on site)

Rosa was only 17 years old when she was approached in her small hometown in Mexico by a man claiming to sell clothing. Instead, he began courting her and she quickly fell in love with him.

Showered with affection, Rosa went with the man to another town in Mexico called Tenancingo, where he introduced her to his family. Showing her the stunning homes around the town, he promised she could one day have her own if she traveled to the United States with him to work. She agreed, and when Rosa turned 18, they left for New York City.

When Rosa (whose name has been changed to protect her identity), arrived in the United States, however, her situation rapidly changed. She learned that the job she was promised never existed. Instead, her "boyfriend" forced her into prostitution.

Rosa was just 18, but she was now selling sex against her will in brothels throughout New York and New Jersey, unable to leave the room she was in for weeks at a time.

'Powerful networks of traffickers'

I wish I could say Rosa's story was unique -- an aberration in America that likely won't happen again. But I can't. Rosa's story is one I hear about all too often.

We've operated the national human trafficking hotline for the U.S. since 2007, and in that time we have learned about more than 21,000 cases of sex and labor trafficking. It's safe to say that the sex trafficking cases we've handled involving survivors exploited through Tenancingo are some of the most heartbreaking and shocking cases we've learned about.

Tenancingo is a town with a foundation built on exploitation. Powerful networks of traffickers operate out of the region, where boys are groomed to become pimps from a young age. Women and girls are forced to sell sex on the streets, in residential brothels, online, and in cantinas across the United States and Mexico. They and their families are threatened through violence, deception, and intimidation. These women and girls are trapped in modern slavery, enslaved by criminal networks that have perfected human trafficking and exploitation into a sophisticated science over decades.

The depth and breadth of the modern slavery that is intricately woven throughout our global society is both shocking and daunting. In fact, the International Labor Organization estimates that 4.5 million people are victims of sex trafficking around the world in an industry that generates tens of billions of dollars in criminal profits each year.

But this is a fight we can win. Instead of becoming discouraged by the number of sex and labor trafficking cases, we are more hopeful than ever.

Dismantling the trafficking networks

As the number of cases on the national hotline increases, so does the number of survivors who are connected to the help and services they need. We are witnessing more attention being paid to human trafficking by the public than ever before. This level of momentum from concerned citizens can truly have an impact in dismantling the human trafficking networks that are present in our communities.

In that vein, Polaris and Consejo Ciudadano partnered to strengthen the Mexico-U.S. cross-border safety net for survivors of human trafficking. Based on Polaris's experience operating the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) hotline for the United States, we helped Consejo Ciudadano launch the Línea Binacional Contra la Trata de Personas for Mexico.

For the first time ever, human trafficking hotline coverage now expands across two-thirds of the North American continent. Victims can call from both the U.S. (1 888 373 7888) and Mexico (01800 5533 000) to learn about their options, get connected to help, and begin the process of recovery.

Citizens in the United States and Mexico can help prevent further victimization of vulnerable women and girls from the Tenancingo region by understanding what human trafficking looks like, raising awareness that it is happening, and demanding more action from their leaders in government, law enforcement, and civil society.

Communities must be equipped to recognize and respond to human trafficking while addressing the vulnerabilities that lead people to becoming victims. Combating violence against women, promoting gender equity alongside safe migration, and access to economic opportunity are all important elements of fighting the root causes of human trafficking in Mexico.

Not only that, but we must increase services for victims, which means governments must take a more active role in funding these services. And if we want to shut down this network once and for all, we must address the core source of revenue by convincing men to stop purchasing commercial sex from trafficking victims.

Rosa, can inspire us all. Thankfully, she was able to leave her trafficking situation and was connected to the Sanar Wellness Institute in Newark, New Jersey, where she began receiving services to begin the long-term process of rebuilding her life. Having experienced problems disconnecting and dissociating so that she couldn't even remember what had just occurred, she worked with Sanar to learn restorative yoga and was eventually able to land a part-time job. Excelling in her position, she was soon offered a full-time position and is now living on her own, having recently been granted a T visa. Rosa has found a new hope for her future.

The shocking stories of sex trafficking coming out of Tenancingo should greatly impact us, but it's important to remember that we all can play a role in keeping this from happening to more people.

Bradley Myles is the CEO of Polaris, an anti-human trafficking organization based in Washington, D.C. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.



Missing Ohio Teen Found After Being Held in Missouri

by John Seewer

A Cleveland-area teen missing for nearly a month was found at a house in eastern Missouri where she was held captive by a 41-year-old man she met online, authorities said Wednesday.

Federal prosecutors said the man had sex with the 15-year-old girl several times, destroyed her cellphone and told her to change her appearance and use a different name.

Christopher Schroeder of Marthasville, Missouri, was charged with transporting a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity. Val Joyner, a spokeswoman for the St. Charles County Police, said state charges were being sought as well.

He made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Missouri on Wednesday. There were no court records indicating whether he has an attorney.

Police said they found Schroeder and the girl on Tuesday at his house in Marthasville, about 40 miles west of St. Louis. She was last seen on Nov. 8, when she went outside to tie up her family's dog in the Cleveland suburb of Brooklyn.

Prosecutors said in a criminal complaint that Schroeder met the girl in an online chat during the fall. She said she was unhappy at home and he offered to help despite knowing her age, an FBI agent said in the complaint.

Police in Ohio said earlier that the girl had told friends that she had been planning to run away.

Schroeder drove to Ohio in early November, picked up the girl and took her back to Missouri, telling her along the way that he planned to have sex with her, the complaint said.

Once at his house, Schroeder had sex with the girl multiple times, smashed her phone and would not allow her to use the telephone or Internet without asking, the complaint said. He also told her to cut or color her hair and lose weight, the court documents said.

The teen said she told Schroeder that she wanted to go home, but she was afraid to leave because he had several guns in the house, according to the complaint.

Schroeder told authorities after he was taken into custody that he thought the girl was 18 and that someone else had brought her to Missouri, court records said.

About 300 people gathered at rally for the girl last month in Cleveland, including kidnap victim Michelle Knight and the family of fellow captive Gina DeJesus.

Knight, along with DeJesus and Amanda Berry, were held in a Cleveland home for a decade until being freed by police in May 2013.



Forum: Act to prevent deadly child neglect

by Madeline McClure

Texans read the headlines — yet again — about a child suffering a horrible death. But the toddler's death wasn't due to foreign terrorists, nor from a domestic lone wolf who too easily obtained a gun. Nineteen-month-old J'Zyra Thompson's assassin was from her own family: She was placed in an oven and burned to death by her 3-year-old siblings while her parents left her 5-year-old sister in charge of three babies. Mom's boyfriend, who was "supervising," reportedly left the children for a pizza run.

Understandably, we feel horror and sadness when hearing about children dying from abusive head trauma or other intentional acts directly inflicted by an adult. But as the allegations in J'Zyra's death show, neglect can be just as deadly as any form of child abuse. Neglectful supervision continues to be the leading type of abuse in Texas, accounting for 77 percent of the confirmed victims in Texas in 2014. In 2013, 88 kids (56.4 percent) of the 156 child abuse and neglect fatalities involved neglectful supervision.

But child abuse fatalities are not inevitable. Horrible episodes such as those alleged in the circumstances of J'Zyra's death are entirely preventable through education. Educating mom about appropriate caregivers, on child's development stages and the age at which one can leave a child to supervise younger children is critical. Moreover, providing mom with a "respite care" or day care resource could have prevented this ghastly tragedy.

Family support home visiting programs — where trained professionals, such as nurses and social workers provide parenting education in the home at the parent's invitation — have shown in multiple clinical trials to consistently reduce child neglect, physical abuse and fatalities. This support is especially needed by first-time parents, who may lack the financial, familial and social supports that other new parents might take for granted.

In 2013, the Texas Legislature created the Protect Our Kids (POK) Commission, composed of a variety of Child Protection experts and advocates. The POK mission is to identify promising practices and evidence-based strategies to reduce abuse and neglect fatalities, develop recommendations and identify resources necessary for implementation, and develop guidelines for the types of information to be tracked to improve interventions.

On Dec. 2, the commission released its final report to the Legislature, and I am hopeful and confident that the recommendations will be turned into impactful legislation in the 2017 session — including further development of family support programs and other child abuse fatality prevention initiatives.

The solutions are within our reach and we can't afford not to pursue them. In addition to saving lives, evidence-based home visiting programs show monetary returns as well. Estimates from the federal Centers for Disease Control show that, over its victims' lifetimes, a year's worth of child abuse and neglect costs the state a staggering $14.1 billion.

These costs are borne by our medical, special education, legal, and welfare systems, and by society generally in the lost productivity of both survivors and fatal victims. Family support home visiting returns $3-$6 for every $1 invested, especially in saved Medicaid costs.

The organization that I founded — TexProtects, the Texas Association for the Protection of Children — and I have been advocating for funding and expansion of such practices and strategies for over 12 years now. Thanks to our friends in the Legislature, we have been successful in doing so, but as J'Zyra's death shows, there are many more families that we still must reach.

J'Zyra's death is, sadly, something that can never be undone. The potential that J'Zyra might have reached as a human being will never be realized.

We can and we must reduce these preventable deaths from child abuse and neglect. With your help in reaching out to your legislators, we will — by making every child's homeland security start in the home.

Madeline McClure is the Founding CEO of TexProtects, the Texas Association for the Protection of Children. Contact her at



Panel: Texas should spend more – and shrewdly – to prevent child abuse

by Robert T. Garrett

AUSTIN — Texas should boost spending on child-abuse prevention programs, and apply a more scientific approach to averting the harm and neglect that kills 220 of its children a year, a blue ribbon state panel recommended Wednesday.

The Protect Our Kids Commission urged lawmakers to use a combination of mass-marketing-type public awareness efforts and intensive interventions to reduce fatalities from maltreatment.

To reduce some parents' risky behaviors — sleeping with infants, leaving children in hot cars, letting them swim unsupervised – the state should join private foundations, the federal government and local governments to pay for educational efforts, the commission said. The “lighter touch” could include advertising campaigns that entice adult caregivers to attend special-topic seminars, commission members said.

But for families with long histories of substance abuse, domestic violence and child mistreatment, the state should shift dollars to “evidence-based” strategies, such as home visiting programs, said the 14-member panel, which lawmakers created in 2013.

It recommended that the chief of the Department of Family and Protective Services name a permanent advisory board to help amass the data and press the case with lawmakers for better funding of successful prevention programs. The department should look at areas of highest need – such as, in Dallas County, South Dallas, panel members said.

“Child deaths are preventable,” said state District Judge Robin Sage of Longview, the commission's chairwoman. “But it's going to take a sustained effort by our state and our leadership.”

Over the past decade, an average of 220 children a year have died from abuse and neglect. In 2013, 81 percent of such fatalities involved children three or younger.

Prevention spending is “a very nominal amount of the state budget,” Sage said. “We'll be asking for more funding.”

Madeline McClure of Dallas, head of the commission's work group on prevention, noted that Child Protective Services handles “the aftermath of abuse,” costing about $1.4 billion a year, including federal funds.

The state spends less than $60 million a year to prevent child abuse, said McClure, chief executive of TexProtects, the Texas Association for the Protection of Children. The most intensive services reach only about 21,000 families, she said.

McClure's group strongly supports sending nurses and other trained personnel to the homes of at-risk families. It has urged lawmakers to increase funding of such programs by at least 15 percent a year, with a goal of serving 112,500 families by 2025.

While there are about 509,000 Texas families who need such services, about half would refuse them. Reaching barely one-quarter of at-risk households would be “really changing the culture,” McClure said. She said the mothers helped would share what they learn with their own mothers, siblings and neighbors.
John Specia, who heads the department, said in an interview he will ask for more money for prevention next session. He did not say how much.

In 2013, lawmakers nearly doubled his prevention budget, Specia said. However, it still accounts for just 5 percent of the agency's overall spending, he said.

You can read the commission's report here.



Is state's child-abuse reporting system working? Audit seeks to find out

by Jan Murphy

The world of child protection in Pennsylvania has turned upside over the past year or so with two dozen new laws put in place to bolster child safety along with new systems installed for reporting child abuse and neglect.

Given all those changes spurred at least in part by the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale wants to take a look at how well the ones affecting ChildLine are working.

DePasquale announced on Wednesday his auditors last month began the first-ever state audit of this program overseen by Department of Human Services that runs the state's child abuse hotline and processes applications for child abuse clearances.

"We've seen too many times in Pennsylvania and nationally where laws protecting children have not done enough," DePasquale said. "Improper execution has led to children being harmed so we're going to do our part to make sure that at least this piece of state government is doing everything it can do to protect children."

Child welfare advocates welcome this independent look after hearing assurances from department officials over the years that the system is working and yet they still get reports of dropped calls to the hotline or calls going unanswered and long wait times to speak to a ChildLine employee.

Additionally, complaints were heard earlier this year about the delays in processing applications for child abuse clearances since a law took effect on Dec. 31, 2014, making the clearances mandatory for a wider universe of employees and volunteers who work around children.

The Department of Human Services has implemented some technological changes in the past few years and added employees to address complaints. DePasquale said he wanted to wait to initiate the audit until those corrective actions were in place to measure their effectiveness. The audit will focus on the time period beginning January 2014 and ending when auditors complete their field work, he said.

Department spokeswoman Kait Gillis said the department is cooperating with the auditor general and admits the audit will cover "a period of time where performance was unacceptable." But Gillis went on to say the auditors also will see "a dramatic improvement" in ChildLine's performance that have been made by Gov. Tom Wolf's administration.

An example she cited is the turnaround time for processing a child abuse clearance has decreased from 26 days in January to four days. State law says it should take no more than 14 days.

The audit's initial objectives will look at the effectiveness of the intake process for the child abuse reporting hotline and determine whether the processing of calls is in compliance with laws, regulations and policies. But DePasquale said auditors reserve the right to explore other issues that crop up as they go about their work.

Child advocacy groups applauded the auditor general for taking what they consider a long overdue look at this aspect of the child welfare system.

Angela Liddle, president and CEO of the Harrisburg-area Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance , called it wise and prudent.

"Routine checks and balances are a good thing. There's always room for improvement," she said.

Cathleen Palm, principal of the Berks County-based Center for Children's Justice, said she is hoping the auditor general will explore what, if any, difference a web-based portal for making child abuse reports that became operational this year has had compared to the hotline for reporting child abuse. She also hopes they dig into some of the hiccups she had heard that online reporting system has had.

She also would like to see auditors weigh into the quality of the screenings being done by ChildLine employees given the volume of calls they receive and how promptly law enforcement is receiving information that comes into the hotline about an abuse case that requires their involvement.

Palm said she wishes the audit would have been done before the state's Task Force on Child Protection completed its work in 2012 to help inform its review of the state's child protection system and recommendations for improving it. "But we should all be excited by the fact that now it's happening," she said.

"The beauty of this is it is the first time that I can think of that there will actually be that kind of scrubbing of information and data that is told by an independent source," she said. "A new set of eyes may suggest new ways to do something."

DePasquale reminded that his auditors can share their findings and recommendations with the Legislature and governor but whether any change results is up to them. No timeline for the audit's completion was announced.




Child abuse coverage very troubling to some readers

I heard from a number of readers who were highly critical of The Star's decision to run on Page 1A of today's paper a story about charges of child abuse, aggravated assault and aggravated battery against Michael A. Jones.

Several particularly disapproved that the headline read, “Boy's body allegedly was fed to pigs.”

“That is so horrible,” emailed one. “I saw a pic of this darling little boy on TV. There surely is a better way to mark his tragic, cruel passing than this headline.”

“How bout one paragraph, back page?” wrote another.

Others didn't necessarily criticize that The Star ran the story, but wished the detail about the pigs — which has been widely reported elsewhere — hadn't been included, or had been downplayed.

I'm sure there would have been a negative reaction from a different cohort had The Star chosen not to run the story on the cover, or at all, and that would too be understandable.

Regardless of how it was played, this is a bit of news that nobody is comfortable knowing about.



Rival pediatric hospitals unite to aid sexual abuse victims

by John George

An unprecedented partnership between Philadelphia's two pediatric hospitals aims to ease the painful process sexually-abused children go through as investigators work to gather information about the crime.

In conjunction with the Philadelphia Department of Human Services and Philadelphia Children's Alliance [PCA], the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and St. Christopher's Hospital for Children will staff a state-of-the-art medical suite for victims of sexual abuse at PCA's Juniata Park offices.

The suite was created to help PCA expand its continuum of services to victims of child sexual abuse in the city, and save families an extra trip to the hospital for an examination.

PCA is a nonprofit organization that helps child abuse victims and brings abusers to justice by bringing together police, social workers, prosecutors, medical professionals and victim advocates.

An official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new medical facility, located at 300 East Hunting Park Avenue, will be held Dec. 4.

Officials from all four organizations, along with representatives from the Philadelphia Police Department and the city's District Attorney's office, will be in attendance.

The nonprofit Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was founded in 1885 as the country's first hospital dedicated to the health care of children. St. Christopher's Hospital is owned at operated by Tenet Healthcare Corp. (NYSE: THC) of Dallas, Texas.



Baby J'zyra's burning death was preventable

Organizations exist to help teach new mothers about child care, but they need support from the Legislature

by Madeline McClure

Texans read the headlines - yet again - about a child suffering a horrible death. But the toddler's death wasn't due to foreign terrorists, nor from a domestic lone wolf who too easily obtained a gun. Nineteen-month-old J'zyra Thompson's assassin was from her own family: She was placed in an oven and burned to death by her 3-year-old siblings while her mother and mom's boyfriend reportedly left her 5-year-old sister in charge of three babies.

Understandably, we feel horror and sadness when hearing about children dying from abusive head trauma or other intentional acts directly inflicted by an adult. But as the allegations in J'zyra's death show, neglect can be just as deadly as any form of child abuse.

Neglectful supervision continues to be the leading type of abuse in Texas, accounting for 77 percent of the confirmed victims in Texas in 2014. In 2013, 88 kids (56.4 percent) of the 156 child abuse and neglect fatalities involved neglectful supervision.

But child abuse fatalities are not inevitable. Horrible episodes such as those alleged in the circumstances of J'zyra's death are entirely preventable through education. Educating mom about appropriate caregivers, child development stages and the age at which one can leave a child to supervise younger children is critical. Moreover, providing mom with a "respite care" or day care resource could have prevented this ghastly tragedy.

Family support home visiting programs - where trained professionals, such as nurses and social workers, provide parenting education in the home at the parent's invitation - have shown in multiple clinical trials to consistently reduce child neglect, physical abuse and fatalities.

This support is especially needed by first-time parents, who may lack the financial, familial and social supports that other new parents might take for granted.

In 2013, the Texas Legislature created the Protect Our Kids (POK) Commission, composed of a variety of Child Protection experts and advocates. The POK mission is to identify promising practices and evidence-based strategies to reduce abuse and neglect fatalities, develop recommendations and identify resources necessary for implementation, and develop guidelines for the types of information to be tracked to improve interventions.

Today, the commission is scheduled to release its final report to the Legislature, and I am hopeful and confident that the recommendations will be turned into impactful legislation in the 2017 session - including further development of family support programs and other child abuse fatality prevention initiatives.

The solutions are within our reach, and we can't afford not to pursue them. In addition to saving lives, evidence-based home visiting programs show monetary returns as well. Estimates from the federal Centers for Disease Control show that, over its victims' lifetimes, a year's worth of child abuse and neglect costs the state a staggering $14.1 billion.

These costs are borne by our medical, special education, legal and welfare systems, and by society generally in the lost productivity of both survivors and fatal victims. Family support home visiting returns $3-$6 for every $1 invested, especially in saved Medicaid costs.

Nudged along by our organization, Texas Association for the Protection of Children, and others, the Legislature incrementally has added resources, allowing for the expansion of such practices and strategies in the state. But as J'zyra's death shows, there are many more families that we still must reach.

J'zyra's death is, sadly, something that can never be undone. The potential that J'zyra might have reached as a human being will never be realized.

We can and we must reduce these preventable deaths from child abuse and neglect. With your help in reaching out to your legislators, we will - by making every child's homeland security start in the home.

McClure is the founding CEO of TexProtects, the Texas Association for the Protection of Children, a Dallas-based nonprofit organization.



Elected officials take on child abuse, neglect issues

by Ryan Moore

MARION COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - - Child abuse and neglect cases are tied up in the court systems and are a growing problem across the state.

In the 15 th Circuit District, child abuse and neglect cases make up roughly 6 percent of District Attorney Hal Kittrell's case load.

“The number of cases that we handle are about consistent per county," Kittrell said. "I wish it were a problem that we didn't have in this district, I wish it was a problem we didn't have in this world, but unfortunately the abuse, neglect just happens."

Chancery Judge Dawn Beam is working with elected officials and community leaders to reduce the number of children that are victimized, specifically in Marion County.

With that, she has put together a public forum as an avenue for people in the community to get involved, which was held at the Marion County Courthouse Tuesday night.

According to a press release involving Judge Beam's issue, “three Marion County children have died in the past year and a half as a result of suspected abuse and neglect.”

“Any effort that we can give to saving those children, giving them a normal childhood is just what we have to do,” Kittrell said. “To have a child that is suffering through some neglect or some abuse, I can't even phantom exactly what that does to the psyche of a child.”

“We are now to the point in Marion County where we desperately need community support in providing assistance with job placement for parents, tutoring for children, drug and alcohol awareness and prevention for young people, along with adequate housing, and the list goes on,” Beam said.

According to Kittrell, the number of cases in Marion County is in the upper 30s, and across the district, there is between 65 and 80 active cases that are listed on the court dockets.

“I have got one assistant district attorney in my office who does nothing but prosecute crimes against children, that's what she does, that's all that she does,” said Kittrell. “We get involved with law enforcement on that end and even past that to handle the case, but certainly anything that can be done to better the life of children, how can you go wrong with that?”

Kittrell said district wide there is between 65 and 80 active cases on the court docket.

The press release regarding Beam's matter listed that changes were made in the Department of Human Services (DHS) after the first child's death, and the number of children taken into DHS custody increased dramatically.

The release said at the time the first child was critically injured, about 30 Marion County children were in DHS custody as a result of abuse and neglect investigations.

By mid-November, 165 children were in DHS custody.

Beam said that over the past 17 months, her court has worked with DHS to increase the number of court dates, increase the size of staff and many other improvements.

Kittrell and his team are continuing to investigate every case that is handed over to their department to the fullest extent.

“These cases are no easy task, they take time, they are a labor of love, but I can assure to you, any case that comes to my office and my staff, will be investigated to the fullest extent,” Kittrell said. “It takes a lot to make a felony case out of some of them, but we absolutely peruse every case that is given to us and we strive for a conviction to the fullest extent.”

Kittrell said that one of the worst things he sees in his job as district attorney is the crimes involving abuse and neglect against children and that it is sickening.

“You don't harm a child, you don't take their innocence, and that's what happening and a person that does that doesn't deserve to walk among us, he needs to be in prison, and that's the efforts we are going to take,” Kittrell said.



Child abuse case interviewer will now be fixed presence

by Kevin Jenkins

The “art” of interviewing children who have allegedly been victimized by any type of abuse requires a special set of skills if the interview is going to be used as evidence in a court case.

Not only does the interviewer have to be able to relate to a hurt child on a level that won't further frighten the child, but the adult also has to be able to obtain information while simultaneously avoiding questions that could lead the child to answer in a way that “taints” any potential court testimony.

On Tuesday, social service worker Brook Triplett accepted a part-time job as the Washington County Children's Justice Center's first contracted forensic interviewer, providing what law enforcement, social agencies and the center hope will be some permanency and heightened skill in dealing with the challenges.

“We have felt, over the years, there's been enough turnover in law enforcement and (the Division of Child and Family Services) that we haven't been getting enough consistency in interviewers,” said Deputy County Attorney Ryan Shaum, the prosecutor on most local sexual abuse cases and part of the CJC's selection committee.

For nearly two decades, police detectives and social workers have interviewed the youngest abuse victims at Washington County's Children's Justice Center in downtown St. George. The CJC aims to provide a home-like, non-threatening atmosphere where children can talk about experiences no one young or old really likes to discuss.

“For the sake of having consistency and quality in the (child victim) interviews, we wanted to have that position be a specialized (job),” Shaum said. “The obvious goal is … that the interviews are forensically sound and we can defend them in court.”

The selection committee weeded a few dozen candidates down to 14 people who were brought in for interviews.

Triplett, who has a degree in sociology from Southern Utah University and a minor in criminal justice, used to work for DCFS as a case worker and has most recently been employed at the Southwest Behavioral Health Center, Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap said.

She was notified last week that she was the top choice for the job based on her education, experience and “innate ability to communicate with children at all levels,” Shaum and Belnap, said.

“Hopefully it will be a good thing for the children of our county,” Belnap said. “We had lots of good candidates.”

Coinciding with Triplett's formal acceptance of the job offer Tuesday, the Washington County Commission approved a resolution funding a share of Triplett's training in a pilot program that will mostly be funded by the state.

The contract provides $26,013 for the position, of which the county will be responsible for $6,503. The state will pay an additional $3,490 for two training events while the county will fund most other work expenses.

“It's so unfortunate we have to have this, but it's good to have it,” Commissioner Zachary Renstrom said.

Belnap said the decision was not driven by a dramatic increase in child victim cases, although the county has seen caseloads trend in conjunction with the changes in population.

The county also has not found itself in the position of having to dismiss child abuse cases for “botched” evidence during recent months, he said. But the move to a stable, employed forensic interviewer reflects actions being taken by communities all across the country, he said.



Nova Scotia's child protection law to proceed as is

by CBC News

Nova Scotia's child protection law will proceed through the legislature despite the objections of some front-line care workers, Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard said Tuesday.

Bernard said she realizes the protection of children is an emotional issue and that opponents are speaking out of concern. However, she said the bill which was first tabled last spring, would continue through the legislative process beginning Wednesday.

Bernard said the Children and Family Services Act hasn't been changed since it was written in 1990 and the government needs an update to address the current needs of families.

"We are never going to land on a place where everyone is happy with this bill," she said.

Groups such as legal aid lawyers and social workers have said there hasn't been enough consultation on a bill they say is complex. They also contend the changes could result in more children being removed from their homes and placed in temporary foster care because of a lack of government financial support.

Bernard said that's simply not the case.

"I categorically deny that," she said. "It's about good, compassionate social work."

A significant change would extend protection for abused and neglected youth up to the age of 19 if they request it, while another would broaden the definition of abuse and neglect to include emotional abuse.

The department has said extending protection to youth up to 19 years of age could see an additional 100 cases added to the child protection system.

Community Services statistics for 2014-15 show that 1,200 children came under supervision orders while 460 were taken into temporary care and 114 required permanent care.



Parliament: New laws tabled to increase punishments for child abusers

by Akil Yunus and Martin Carvalho

KUALA LUMPUR: New laws have been tabled in the Parliament to abolish the caning of child offenders and to increase punishment for those who “abuse, neglect, and oppress” children.

Under amendments to the Child Act 2001, which were tabled by Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim (pic) on Wednesday, several new forms of protection have been included for children.

These include protection against trafficking for immoral purposes, physical or emotional injury, exploitative acts such as begging and street-hawking, and improper supervision of a child.

The new laws also contain further restrictions on media reporting on children suspected of committing offences.

The 65-page bill is expected to be passed in the current Dewan Rakyat sitting, which ends on Thursday.

Proposals in the bill include setting up a National Council for Children to better deal with issues relating to the care, protection, rehabilitation, development, and participation of children.

The bill also seeks to impose harsher penalties for offences under Section 31 of the Act, which includes abusing, neglecting and oppressing a child.

“We are proposing that the fine for such offences be increased to RM50,000 and jail sentence increased to a maximum of 20 years.

“This is to serve as deterrent to the abuse and neglect of children by parents or guardians,” Rohani told reporters.

Currently, the fine for offences under Section 31 is RM20,000 with a jail sentence of no more than 10 years.

Rohani said another highlight of the amended Act would be the placement of children in family-based care, adding that an order of placement under the Welfare Department should only be used as a last resort.

“For example, if a child is abused by his parents, they will be placed under the custody of uncles or aunties who are safe for the child,” she said.

The amendment also allows the court to impose community service order (CSO) for children who commit criminal offences and parents who are guilty of abusing or neglecting their child.



How to spot sex-trafficked girls in plain sight

by Emily Nelson

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) -- EleSondra DeRomano's life has been anything but easy. After years of enduring physical and sexual abuse at home, EleSondra, known to friends as El, was forced into captivity where she was prostituted before she was even a teenager.

“I was taken from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and I was trafficked in Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta," DeRomano said. "I was found at 12 1/2."

While heartbreaking, DeRomano's story isn't particularly unique. Nearly five thousand girls have been rescued from sex trafficking since 2003 and the FBI estimates thousands of others are still out there. The average age of these girls is just 13 years old.

"They kept me for a year and a half until a trick saved me," DeRomano said.

One of the John's DeRomano was forced to have sex with tipped off police, and she was rescued after 18 grueling months holed up in a hotel, held against her will.

“I couldn't walk out the door because I was trafficked out of a hotel. It wasn't an option for me. I very seldom saw out the door," DeRomano said.

Many trafficking victims like DeRomano can't physically leave to get help, or their captors threaten to harm their families. That's why many times girls are rescued through tips from the community.

Celia Williamson is a professor of social work at the University of Toledo. She's worked tirelessly to bring awareness to human trafficking victims in Northwest Ohio and nationally.

"We need people to be the eyes and the ears," Williamson said. "Yes, we have law enforcement; yes, we have criminal justice responses. But they can't be everywhere all the time."

She's helping companies and community leaders develop training programs to help their workers become those eyes and ears.

"If we don't intervene, 77 percent of those young kids will go into adult prostitution where they will experience drug abuse, high HIV risk, violence—those types of things," Williamson said.

Truck drivers, hairdressers and nurses are among just a few professions getting specialized training on how to spot young girls in trouble.

Kris Napier, a sexual assault nurse at ProMedica, is one of those professionals training others to spot the signs.

"I know that they're coming in, but we may just not be identifying them," Napier said.

She says nurses are now being schooled on how to identify trafficking victims coming into the emergency room.

"We call it red flags, red flags, we're looking for the flags, and then it's 'what can we do to help?'" Napier said.

Those red flags include a man being with a young girl seeking treatment, often speaking on her behalf. Or when a girl's story about her injuries doesn't seem to add up.

Shaun Temple is a barber on Toledo's east side. He's been trained to spot young girls lurking around his shop for clients.

"It's just sad to see any young girl out here doing that," Temple said.

He calls outside agencies for help at least once a month to get these girls off the streets.

"You never know which ones are underage or what cause they all look so older now," he said.

So what should you look out for if these trafficked girls are hiding in plain sight?

•  Experts say notice her body language, does she seem confused?

•  If you ask her questions, do her answers seem rehearsed?

•  Is she with an older man?

•  Does it seem like she's being controlled?

•  Does she look too young for the clothing she's are wearing?

"The first thing I would look for is the girl's eyes—are they downcasted?” DeRomano said. “When they're under pimp control, you're not supposed to look anybody in the eyes."

EleSondra knows all too well what these trafficked girls are going through. She says if you see something, don't be afraid to speak up.

"No matter what. If I felt like something was going on, I'd act on it. Cuz if I'm wrong, woo hoo, I'm wrong. But if I'm right, I could be saving that girl's life," she said.

For more information on human trafficking check out the Trafficking Resource Center or S.T.A.R.S. Toledo.



Human-trafficking signs required at adult entertainment businesses

Ordinance effective in February

by Michelle Meredith

ORLANDO, Fla. —Human trafficking is considered to be modern-day slavery. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, Florida ranks number three for the volume of calls the organization receives.

The Orange County Commission passed an ordinance on Tuesday afternoon that requires two types of businesses, massage parlors and strip clubs, to post what it calls "awareness signs" about human trafficking.

The vote by the Orange County Commission was unanimous and welcomed news for organizations that are desperate to end human trafficking in Central Florida.

"It is any time a person is commercially exploited. It could be for sex or labor," said Tomas Lares, director of Florida Abolitionist.

The ordinance requires all massage parlors and spas that are not owned by health care professionals, as well as strip clubs and adult entertainment establishments, to post a small sign that says: "If you or someone you know is being forced to engage in an activity and cannot leave, whether it is prostitution, house work, farm work, factory work, retail work, restaurant work or any other activity, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline."

"It's places of vulnerability. Traffickers and pimps are always looking for the vulnerable," Lares said.

In September, law enforcement officials raided seven homes in Orange County and eight victims were rescued as a result, but it was too late for Casey King. King was shot to death in front of a target house two days before the raid.

"She was a commercial sex worker and also believed to be a victim of human sex trafficking," said Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings.

The ordinance goes into effect in February.

The state recently passed a law requiring similar signs to be posted in a number of public places including airports, welcome centers and emergency rooms. That law goes into effect in January.



Police must pass along child-abuse reports, state court rules

by Bob Egelko

Police who get a report from the public about suspected child abuse have a duty to notify a child welfare agency immediately, the state Supreme Court ruled Monday.

The court revived a lawsuit against a sheriff's office that decided a complaint about bruises on a 2-year-old boy wasn't serious enough to pass along. A month later, the boy was found unconscious at his father's home and underwent brain surgery.

California law requires law enforcement and child welfare agencies to “immediately communicate” reports of child abuse to each other, Justice Ming Chin wrote in a unanimous ruling reinstating a lawsuit against San Bernardino County.

The ruling is important for “countless kids who haven't been getting properly referred by the police to child protective services,” said Christopher Keane, a lawyer for the boy in the San Bernardino County case and his mother. He noted that organizations representing county and city governments had sided with San Bernardino County in arguing that police had no obligation to contact child welfare agencies about abuse reports.

Lawyers for San Bernardino County could not be reached for comment.

State law requires those whose work brings them in regular contact with children — for example, teachers, child care and social workers and clergy — to report suspected abuse to child welfare agencies or police. Monday's ruling clarified a law enforcement agency's duty to relay reports it receives of suspected abuse.

The boy lived in the town of Yucaipa with his mother but stayed with his father on weekends. The parents argued over custody arrangements, and each accused the other of injuring the child.

In September 2008, the court said, the woman who owned the home where the mother and boy lived called the Sheriff's Department to report her suspicions of child abuse.

A deputy came out that night, looked at the boy and checked the parents' records. Three days later, the deputy wrote a report noting that the child had a cut and a bruise above one eye and older bruises elsewhere on his body, but concluded there was no evidence of abuse.

During his next visit with his father, the court said, the boy was found on the floor, unconscious and suffering from seizures. He underwent surgery and suffered severe brain damage that prevents him from using one side of his body and has affected his mental development, Keane said.

The father was tried on criminal charges but was acquitted, Keane said.

Keane said other witnesses, including a supervising officer in the Sheriff's Department, had testified that welfare workers would have put the child into protective custody if they had seen photos his mother had taken of his previous bruises.

But a Superior Court judge and a state appeals court ruled that the Sheriff's Department had no duty to pass along the woman's report of suspected abuse after the deputy had concluded it was groundless.

The state's high court, however, said the law “imposes an obligatory duty, and not merely a discretionary or permissive authorization,” on a law enforcement agency to contact a child welfare department about any report of suspected abuse or neglect attributed to the child's caretaker.

The ruling means the family can try to prove that the inaction of the Sheriff's Department was a cause of the child's injuries.

The case is B.H. vs. San Bernardino County, S213066.


More vigilance on child abuse needed at holidays

by Pam Darnall

The holidays are a time to spend time with friends and family and to give thanks for and celebrate the many gifts we enjoy – families, material, health and spiritual. However, often accompanying these feelings of joy and gladness are increases in stress that may put children at risk.

Sadly, holidays often are among the busiest times for agencies working with children and families hurt by abuse. Intentions are the best, but stress from travel, family and personal relationships, deadlines, school, shopping and its associated expenses mounts and even the most caring and concerned adults can respond with anger or abuse.

Last year, more than 3,000 children were abused or neglected in Jefferson County. In Indiana, 320 children in Clark County and 155 in Floyd County were abused or neglected. Statewide, 10 children in Kentucky and more than 40 children in Indiana died from injuries due to abuse and neglect.

But we know the numbers are much higher. Researchers estimate that as few as one in 10 instances of abuse are actually confirmed by authorities, making it impossible to understand the real scope of the issue. This year, starting with increased awareness and intentional behavioral efforts surrounding the holidays, maybe we can begin to chip away at the numbers.

For starters, parents can try to pay attention to their stress and take a break when emotion overwhelms reason. Renew conversations only after calm and composure have returned, and help children communicate. Ask what is bothering them and react with reason rather than yelling or hitting, and ask all adults in the family circle to do the same.

Children model or mirror behaviors, so if you react with shouts and/or abuse, the child likely will reflect these behaviors in the future. React with calm and the child likely will act and react from a similar place.

Other tips from our Face It Movement partners include:

•  While listening to a child cry can become frustrating, shaking or harming a child is never the answer.

•  When upset with your child, give yourself some space. Walk away and count to 10 to calm down.

•  It is OK to leave the child in a crib or other safe place while you regroup.

•  Keep calm. Your anger only ignites the situation and changes the focus from the behavior of the child to your anger.

Also, if you witness abuse, document the situation and report it to authorities, and, if you are close with the caregiver, calmly try to intervene and de-escalate a potentially harmful situation in a kind and non-judgmental manner by offering to help.

By doing these things, we all contribute to ensuring the happiest and healthiest holidays possible for children, for all of us.

Pam Darnall is president and CEO of Family & Children's Place.



Raising awareness about child sexual abuse prevention

From a well-known television spokesperson to the trusted teacher or coach, child sexual abuse prevention is a serious issue that we all need to start discussing.

Research shows: Nine out of 10 child sexual abuse victims are abused by someone they know and trust. That's why a new public education and awareness campaign is hitting the social media world of children and parents in Indiana, The online video series will begin to be featured on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and Web sites popular with children and adults throughout Indiana.

The Web site is an effort developed through the collaboration of Prevent Child Abuse Indiana – A Division of The Villages, Indiana Youth Services Association and The Health Foundation of Greater Indianapolis. The public information Web site and educational resources are focused on raising awareness about those people who have the potential to sexually abuse children, and to help teach parents and children how to protect themselves through education. focuses on increasing public awareness about who can be a predator, which can be anyone. “When parents and children are educated about situations that may put a child at risk, they are empowered, and the risk for the child to become victimized is decreased,” says Sandy Runkle, Prevent Child Abuse Indiana Programs director.

The public education campaign's informational videos are available through a download link and will be focused on social media networks and online advertising, on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The Facebook address is, the Twitter link is and the YouTube Video channel is “Child Sex Abuse Prevention,” with a direct link to a video,

Experts say one in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday, and 90 percent of child sexual abuse victims will be sexually abused by someone they know and trust or by someone their parents know and trust. Over 40 percent of those who sexually abuse are older youth, such as an older relative, sibling or neighborhood youth.

It is a parent's responsibility to educate their child about sexual abuse. The more parents know about child sexual abuse, the easier it will become to discuss the subject with their child. The more children know and are educated about sex abuse, the more empowered they are. Experts say only about 10-30 percent of child abuse victims ever report their abuse because many don't recognize their victimization as abuse, or they are afraid. That is why the information, educational resources and awareness efforts of targeting parents and children is so important.

One in five child sexual abuse victims is solicited sexually on the Internet – which is why this effort is focusing its public education and prevention initiative on the Internet and on social media networks.



Child Advocates San Antonio needs more volunteers

Advocates provide normalcy to children removed from their homes

by William Pack

A child removed from home to avoid abuse or neglect faces a distressful future, often with multiple foster homes, different schools and numerous caseworkers and specialists.

Enter Child Advocates San Antonio, a not-for-profit, volunteer-oriented organization that seeks to provide a sense of normalcy and hope for those uprooted children through the involvement of one, dependable adult who the youngsters can count on as they make the transition to a safe home.

“They get one constant person who is advocating for them,” said Elisabeth Reise, vice president of development for Child Advocates, or CASA. “They provide a support system — someone to celebrate birthdays with and to talk to at a time when these children really don't have anybody else. You see a huge, huge impact.”

In addition to the emotional support given to the children who are the focus of the custodial cases, the CASA-trained advocates also provide information, insights and recommendations to family courts so they can make better decisions about how to serve and where to place the children.

Reise said the advocates' recommendations are so accurate that they are accepted by the judges overseeing the child's case 95 percent of the time.

As a result of the CASA volunteer's involvement, children who are placed with a home after an initial removal are half as likely as children without CASA advocates to reenter the court system again because of problems with that placement, she said. In addition, CASA volunteer advocates help speed up the process of finding a safe and permanent home for a displaced youngster by about eight months.

It's largely a matter of time and focus. Reise said CASA volunteers typically work with only one family, though two or more children might be under the advocate's care. That's a small fraction of the caseload for a typical Texas Child Protective Services caseworker, so CASA officials can spend more time talking to teachers and other officials who have contact with their charges and getting the information they need to complete their court reports.

“Our advocates provide a voice and hope for these children,” Reise said.

CASA advocates are volunteers from all walks of life: single parents, retirees and working people. Reise said the position requires about 15 hours of work a month, but much of it is by phone and the hours are so flexible that more than half of the CASA volunteers work full-time.

“Our advocates are amazing people, but everyone can do this,” the vice president said. “All it takes is someone who wants to make a difference in the life of a child.”

The volunteers, who must be at least 21, have a high school diploma or better and must pass a background check, are trained by CASA over three weeks on issues such as communication techniques, CPS processes and court procedures. Each advocate is paired with a staff member to help with the reports that the courts require of the volunteers and to provide other assistance.

Mike Mathews is one of the 571 volunteers working as child advocates in Bexar County currently. The 54-year-old telecommunications specialist said he started with CASA about a year and a half ago because it seemed like a good way for him to give back to the community.

While he did not consider himself a natural fit for the post as more of a left-brain, mathematically oriented thinker, Mathews said the training he received was good preparation, the children he's working with were excited to get his help and the judges welcome the input he has made.

“I do feel I've made an important impact,” said Mathews. “I think the program pays off for kids.”

CASA is striving aggressively to find more volunteers like Mathews this year. Reise said it hopes to add 240 volunteer advocates to its ranks so the organization can move toward its goal of having enough advocates by 2020 to pair with all the children that the courts refer to the organization for assistance.

In the last fiscal year, just short of 1,900 children had CASA advocates assigned to their cases by courts. Reise said while referral counts fluctuate from year to year, CASA is able to handle about half of the cases Bexar County judges would like to have covered.

In addition to new staffers, CASA also continues to need more financial support. Each volunteer advocate on staff requires about $1,000 to train and support, Reise said. So CASA's $2.6 million budget will need to attract more donors, grants and other financial resources to underwrite the planned growth.

Reise said the San Antonio community has helped the organization grow since it was established locally in 1984. She's confident that it will continue on a strong growth track as long as more people find out about the work it does.

“The biggest roadblock is letting people know the program exists,” Reise said. “The community of San Antonio steps up once they know.”

More Information

At a glance

Children served (FY 2015): 1,896

Volunteer advocates: 571

2016 budget: $2.6 million

Address: 406 San Pedro Ave.

Phone: 210 225-7070


How to help

CASA hopes to add 240 volunteers this year.

Volunteers must be at least 21, have a high school diploma or better, a driver's license and must pass a background check.

Volunteers cost $1,000 apiece to underwrite, so donations are needed.

To donate: Go to; call the office; mail to 406 San Pedro Ave. in San Antonio, 78212; give through United Way


You Have Permission to Cut Off Your Abuser

by Sarah Newman, MA

I know that other abuse survivors go searching for confirmation that it's righteous and acceptable to cut their abuser out of their life forever. But when you've been abused by your parent, sibling, or other family members, it's rare that anyone will tell you, “It's unresolvable” or “Walk away from the relationship completely.”

Recovery from child abuse was always bringing up conflicting attitudes for me. These questions contributed to my cognitive dissonance over the years:

•  How can you leave the trauma in the past and live in the present moment, if the abuser is still part of your life and continues to be abusive?

•  How do you live your truth with an abuser in your life who has failed to take responsibility for what they've done?

•  How do you care for yourself and create the safe space you didn't have as a child, if the abuser has access to it?

Cutting someone out of your life can sound extreme or over-reactive. Maybe other people don't have all the facts, and they don't want to tell you to do something rash.

The truth is you're the only expert on your personal experience. You don't need anyone to validate your feelings. If your gut is telling you that you need to end a potentially toxic relationship, whether with family or not, you should probably listen.

Psychology Today blogger Peg Streep wrote about cutting off her relationship with her narcissistic mother after she had her first child. Streep says it's rarely recommended by mental health professionals. This is an excerpt from Streep's book Mean Mothers:

“Therapists, it should be said, generally also adhere to seeing maternal cut-off as the choice of last resort. Many therapists believe that resolution or healthy attachment needs to be accomplished within the mother-daughter relationship, not outside of it. While some therapists will advise their patients to go on a temporary break, few will ever initiate the recommendation that a patient break with her mother. Even self-help books tend to advocate that daughters be “fair” in their assessment of their mothers; as one writer puts it, “The danger lies in tipping too far, either toward blaming the mother or toward dismissing the daughter's suffering. An important task of a wounded daughter is to see the mother-child relationship from both sides.”

Think of it this way, if your abuser was your spouse, everyone would readily tell you to cut them off. Blood isn't thicker than water when abuse enters the picture. You have a right to have your personal boundaries and needs respected. Anyone who shows a pattern of disrespecting those needs and boundaries should lose the privilege of associating with you.

In the end, I couldn't wait for my therapist to tell me to do it. I just did it. One day I walked into session and said, “I've stopped speaking to my father and I don't intend to speak to him ever again.”

If it's permission you want more than anything, I can give it to you. You have permission to kick your abuser to the curb. It's not “running away from a problem.” It's recognizing that you can't change other people; you can only change yourself. If a toxic person is standing between you and healing, then it's time to remove them from the equation.

As an adult, people always told me, “Let it go, leave the past in the past” or “Forgive and forget.” And listening to them got me where I am now with 10 extra years of emotional abuse, a decade of bad memories, and suppressed disgust.

Can you forgive your abuser? I know many survivors who have forgiven their abusers. But it's not essential to healing.

Will your abuser take responsibility for what they did? There's a chance. But that's essential to their redemption — it's not not essential to your healing.

What is essential to healing is creating a safe place to validate your feelings and grow. Sources of blame, shame, degradation, anger, denial, and resentment keep us from healing. Sometimes the best way to respect and shelter yourself is to weed out negative influences in your life.

Some people may not agree with your decision. Look to others for support. You have to protect yourself from revictimization and your children, if you have children, from becoming victims themselves.


Rhode Island

Sex-abuse survivor, former R.I. man depicted in 'Spotlight' movie, tells his story

by Karen Lee Ziner

PROVIDENCE — You won't hear Jim Scanlan's name in the film "Spotlight." But you will see him portrayed as "Kevin from Providence," who suffered sexual abuse by a Boston College High School priest in the late 1970s.

The film is a fact-based drama about the Boston Globe Spotlight Team's Pulitzer Prize-winning 2002 investigation of the Catholic Church's cover-up of clergy sexual abuse.

The former Rhode Island resident wants to help other survivors. For the first time, he agreed to identify himself and speak publicly about the events that changed the course of his life nearly four decades ago.

"The reason I'm using my name is to make sure people understand it's nothing to be ashamed of — that the bad guys are the ones, they're the criminals ... they should be shamed by it all."

Recognizing that sexual abuse destroys many of its victims, Scanlan wants to "give some hope to people who have been through it, that you can come out of it and be OK. You can have a really, really good life, a good family. I happen to be on that fortunate side."

He also hopes telling his story will give other abuse victims the courage to step forward.

The scene involving "Kevin From Providence" is based on Scanlan and the abuse inflicted by former Jesuit priest James F. Talbot. Scanlan was instrumental in sending Talbot to prison for seven years. Talbot eventually admitted that his victims numbered as many as 89, Scanlan says.

The film's references to Talbot are based on Scanlan's experiences as told to then-Spotlight Team editor Walter V. "Robby" Robinson. The reporters uncovered the church's shifting of pedophile priests from parish to parish for years, and secret church settlements with victims of dozens of priests. The investigation revealed that a succession of cardinals and bishops, including then-Cardinal Bernard F. Law, archbishop of Boston, repeatedly failed to remove abusive priests from the ministry.

Raised in Quincy, Scanlan moved to Rhode Island in 1998. "My kids were raised here, my roots are here, certainly they [his children] would say they're Rhode Islanders," says Scanlan, 54, a financial planner. Though he recently moved to Boston, he works here one day a week and maintains Rhode Island ties.

Scanlan and his family were parishioners of St. Bernard Church in North Kingstown. But after the Spotlight Team published its first story on the cover-up, on Jan. 6, 2002, "Church Allowed Abuse by Priest for Years," about former priest John J. Geoghan, Scanlan turned away from the Catholic Church.

"I couldn't be a hypocrite and defend what the institution did," he says. "I walked away." He voices disdain for Law, who resigned as archbishop of Boston in the midst of the scandal in December 2002. Law moved to Rome; in 2004, Pope John Paul II appointed him head of a Papal Major Basilica. He is now retired, in Rome.

"Law should be in jail," Scanlan says.

Scanlan and two other clergy-abuse survivors portrayed in "Spotlight" attended a private screening in October, before the film opened. (A fourth victim portrayed in the film killed himself in 2004.) "Kevin from Providence" appears in one scene, portrayed by Anthony Paolucci, a Providence dentist and actor.

The clergy sexual-abuse scandal in the Diocese of Providence is also noted at the end of the film.

After the movie opened in Rhode Island last week, Scanlan discussed his encounters with Talbot at Boston College High School. Scanlan was 16.

"He was a hockey and a soccer coach, a teacher and a priest." He encouraged boys to "toughen up" at after-school and weekend wrestling sessions he conducted. Talbot often instructed the athletes to strip down to their jockstraps and wrestled one-on-one with them, Scanlan says.

"It was, 'Let's have a few beers. Let's do this.' And then it was always with a group of people — until one Saturday, it wasn't," says Scanlan. "That's when he attacked me." There were two incidents: that rape and a separate sexual assault, Scanlan says.

"I certainly had threats from him — that nobody would believe me. He put me in a position [where] I neither wanted to nor felt I could go tell someone." To survive emotionally, Scanlan compartmentalized. He graduated in 1979.

In 1980, Talbot was transferred to Cheverus High School, in Maine, another Jesuit college-preparatory school, where he and another teacher were later accused of sexually molesting students. Talbot was removed from active ministry in 1998. In 2001, he settled a lawsuit against him by a Cheverus graduate, according to the Globe.

In 2005, Talbot agreed to plead guilty to rape, assault with intent to rape and indecent assault and battery in the case of Scanlan and another BC High student. He was released in 2011 and is registered as a sex offender in Missouri at the address of the "faith-based" Vianney Renewal Center.

Scanlan says being able to discuss the experience with his three adult children had a positive outcome. "My son asked me why I didn't quit the hockey team. The answer was, I wasn't going to let this bastard take away anything else ... I wasn't going to let him break me. So no, I didn't leave the school, and no, I didn't quit the hockey team. I stayed silent."

The timeline and some details in Scanlan's case are altered in "Spotlight."

In the film, Scanlan sits down with Robinson, the Spotlight editor, before the Globe published the first story on the scandal. Though he'd never intended to tell anyone, it was that first story — published in 2002 — that prompted Scanlan to pick up the phone.

"What made me come forward was seeing how truly systemic it was, how complicit the church hierarchy was. It simply sickened me. And at that time, it brought back a lot of feelings and emotions."

As it turned out, Robinson — played by actor Michael Keaton — had graduated from Boston College High School more than a decade before Scanlan.

"He was the first person in the world I ever told that story to," Scanlan says. "I never even told my wife," he says. The movie includes that line.

In a phone interview, Robinson, now the Globe's editor-at-large, described that first meeting with Scanlan.

In the movie, it takes place at a Providence coffee shop. (It actually took place at Scanlan's office, then on Federal Hill.)

"So Jim called and I went down to Providence to meet with him in his office, with the door closed.

"He had never told his wife what had happened to him so many years earlier. ... I think he just had an enormous amount of courage to come forward."

"Because of the subject matter and the sensitivity, given what had happened to him years and years earlier, it was a very emotional interview, I think it's fair to say, for both of us."

"He told me what had happened," and about "the psychological difficulties it had caused him all his life."

Robinson adds, "It's fair to say we both cried." He then says, "it's almost impossible for a reporter in a situation like this to be dispassionate."

"He was the grand jury witness whose testimony led to Talbot's indictment on the charge of rape. And Talbot pled guilty. And the next time I actually saw Jim was the day of Talbot's guilty plea. Jim was standing at the back of the court."

Scanlan had preferred to remain anonymous in the Globe stories; the paper does not identify sexual-assault victims unless they so choose.

After the private screening of "Spotlight," Robinson says, "I think at that point he decided it was time to go public."

"And I think, for him, this decision was made in the hope that it will give other people who are still in the shadows — and most victims are still in the shadows — it will give them the courage to come forward to seek help. So he's a gutsy guy."

Talbot was repeatedly denied parole. At one parole hearing, Scanlan heard an astonishing admission.

"As part of his treatment, Talbot had to admit how many victims" there were. "It was 88 or 89, and not just at BC High," says Scanlan. That reaffirmed for him that he did the right thing by stepping forward. "So it was a good feeling" to see Talbot sent to jail, he says.

Because of his experience, Scanlan channels his energies into "ResilientKids," a nonprofit organization on Manton Avenue in Providence that partners with schools. He is on the board.

"It's social and emotional learning," Scanlan says. "We're helping kids who are in high-risk areas ... giving them tools to handle tough situations," whether that's sexual abuse, drugs, violence in or outside the home, or other issues.

Moving beyond shame involves "a progression," Scanlan says. For him, that includes the uncomfortable telling of a painful story. He hopes it helps.



Take action, report child abuse!

by Ruddy Mathison

OLD HARBOUR, St Catherine: -- In an effort to increase the level of awareness among parents and guardians about the mechanisms in place to ensure the safety and protection of children, the South East Region of the Child Development Agency (CDA) held its first in a series of town hall meetings last Thursday at the Seventh-day Adventist church in Old Harbour.

The town hall meeting, according to the CDA officer for the South East region, Robert Williams, was convened against the background of the increase in violence against children.

"You know there are parents who don't want their children around, saying the Government must care for them, so these children end up in children's homes," he stated.

"Our responsibility is to love, cherish and provide for our children, not just to say I love you, but demonstrate the love in practical ways," he said, adding that parents cannot allow their children to go in search of love outside of the home.

"Children must know that their parents love them, tell them you love them when nobody else does, I do," the child development officer implored.

In his presentation, Greig Smith, registrar of the Office of the Children's Registry (OCR), informed parents that they do not have to wait for 24 hours to report a missing child.

"If the child goes to Old Harbour high, by 4 o'clock if there is special function at school and that child is not seen, take a recent photograph of the child and make the report right away," he instructed.

He pointed out that in the case of an abused child, the law makes provisions for action to be taken to protect that child.


"You don't have to wait to see the abuses, the law says if you have reasonable suspicion that the child is being abused, action can be taken," Smith informed the gathering of mainly mothers.

He said anyone can call the OCR if they think that something is not right with a child in the community.

"Just take up that phone and call the OCR and relate what your suspicions are," he stated.

A panel which comprised different agencies, including the police community relations officer for Old Harbour, Sergeant Princess Bayliss, answered various questions from the audience.

The overwhelming concerns included the safety of children and the response of law enforcement to missing children.



A Child Sexual Abuse Survivor's Tale of Horror and Harassment

by The Quint

Child Sexual Abuse, a severe form of violence that damages the psyche of a child, is taking epidemic proportions in India. Studies show that India is home to the highest number of sexually abused children in the world and 90 per cent of the perpetrators are known to the child.

A Bangalore-based, former wife of a French Diplomat wrote a poignant letter to the UN Commission of Women spelling the horror that she underwent when she discovered that her husband was sexually abusing their four-year-old daughter.

In the month of June, 2012 I took my three year old daughter to a gynaecologist, who also happens to be a member of Enfold Proactive Health Trust (an organization which has a lot of experience in the field of child sexual abuse) following my daughter's complaints of pain in her genital areas.The doctor, after speaking to my daughter for over an hour in my presence, informed me that my daughter was being sexually abused by my husband and her father.

The Police's response to her complaint against her husband was “shocking”, she says.

The response of the Police Authorities however was surprisingly lackadaisical. At first they did not even want to register my complaint.

Despite producing medical evidence of sexual assault and rape, the local Police insisted that the four-year-old survivor took the tests again at a government hospital. She was also subjected to the controversial “two-finger” test.

My daughter who was barely 3 years 9 months screamed during the ordeal.

The police's apathy was beyond comprehension for her.

The police took a highly confrontational stand with me, accusing me of trying to frame my husband. I was questioned like an accused for over 4 hours with video camera and over 7 police officers in the room. At the end of this interrogation, false statements were prepared in my name and signed by the Investigative Officer

She spoke to The Quint about the trauma that she and her daughter had to go through while dealing with the authorities.

The mother then goes on to describe the insensitivity of the investigating office:

The Investigative Officer then proceeded to touch my daughter on different parts of her body and ask her, “Did your father touch you here? Did your father touch you here? “The whole interview lasted only about twenty-five minutes. He then made a statement that the “child loves her father and misses him” and included this in the chargesheet.

Statistics prove that India is draconian for its children. Almost 53% of our children are subjected to some sort of sexual abuse.

Every two hours, a child under 16 years is raped in India. A child under 10 years is raped every 13th hour. Abuse is not gender specific — boys are as susceptible to abuse as girls. However, there are fewer cases of male child sexual abuse that get reported.

Children are precious. It is not enough to demand new laws in the protection of women and children if the implementation process is so blatantly corrupt, prejudiced and insensitive.

The survivor's mother adds

Let us all take a pledge to #ProtectOurChildren.


New York

Domestic Violence, the people who fight this day after day

by Skyler Srivastave

UTICA, NY - Survivor Malissa Liddy shared her story with NEWSChannel 2 in the first part of our in depth look into domestic violence. In part two, we hear from those who are on the front lines of domestic violence, the police, the YWCA, and the shelters, and also those who helped Liddy rebuild her life and how she pays it forward.

Three in 10 relationships are effected by domestic violence, according to New York State statistics, and 80 percent of the victims are women.

Domestic violence is defined as ongoing behavior aimed at intimidating and controlling a partner, and often the children as well.

Yorkville Police Chief Gregg DeLuca said, "The kids will pick up very quickly and model the behavior of the parents because if they grew up in abusive homes, they think it's normal."

Executive Director of the YWCA of the Mohawk Valley Dianne Stancato said, "If they live in a violent home, a controlling home, something that's not healthy, they don't know any different, so often it's a repeating cycle of violence."

The National Center for Children and Families reports DV poses a serious threat to children's emotional, psychological, and physical well-being, particularly if the violence is chronic.

Malissa Liddy is a survivor of domestic violence, and had two young children, at the time of her abuse.

"Your kids, they grow so fast. And the things that my daughter went through I can never take back. The things that my son went through I can't take those back. And it's very hard for me as a mother to think that I let them go through that. I can rationalize it and understand it, but still deep down in my heart it's hard to forgive myself," said Liddy.

And it's still a major problem in our area say experts, and often it can lead to homelessness.

Patricia Witt is the Director of the Emmaus House in Utica and says she's seen the problem over and over again in her 25 years long career.

"I see so many women that are PTSD in this shelter from being beaten down, year after year. And it's something that's insidious, that steals into your bones, that becomes difficult to get free from," said Witt.

"Learn to understand the signs of domestic violence. It's happening around you, and it's prevalent in every circle, culture, class," said Stancato.

"I think the problem is worse than the numbers indicate, and many of these cases are not even reported," said Chief DeLuca.

Each time police get a call, even if charges are not filed, a domestic incident report (DIR) is filed with the New York State.

"You build a track record. It gives the police an idea of who frequently is involved in these type of incidents.

On her path to rebuilding, Malissa Liddy found respite with a woman she met through her job as a stylist, a woman she now works for, Maria Tucci.

For more than 50 years Tucci has helped many victims at her salon in South Utica, sometimes providing a service free of charge, and giving these women a kind word, a hug, and some guidance.

"My clients, many of them, have been abused. I've seen abuse. There's been abuse in my life, and I've seen it as a child. So I recognize it when somebody's hurting. And the real fact is, it doesn't have to happen. There's no excuse for it, and there is a way out. You have to want it though," said Tucci.

"She takes care of everybody. She's a nurturer," said Liddy of Tucci.

And on any given day, you can catch the two of them in the basement between clients, cooking comfort food. This is for their clients, for themselves, and for anybody who drops in.

Tucci said the food is representative of love and warmth.

"Even though I grew up poor, we always had food. And it brought people together," said Tucci.

Stancato said, if you are a domestic violence victim or you know somebody who is, you are encouraged to come forward and get the help from the YWCA.

The organization provides navigation through the courts, explanations of orders of protection, housing, clothing, food, and counseling... and it's all free of charge.

"There is a better way to live. It's not easy, but there are lots of people who can help. We can't come and get you. You are going to have to go to a phone, pick it up, and make a call," said Witt.

Domestic violence is defined as ongoing behavior aimed at intimidating and controlling a partner, and often the children as well.

Yorkville Police Chief Gregg DeLuca said, "The kids will pick up very quickly and model the behavior of the parents because if they grew up in abusive homes, they think it's normal."

Executive Director of the YWCA of the Mohawk Valley Dianne Stancato said, "If they live in a violent home, a controlling home, something that's not healthy, they don't know any different, so often it's a repeating cycle of violence."

The National Center for Children and Families reports DV poses a serious threat to children's emotional, psychological, and physical well-being, particularly if the violence is chronic.

Malissa Liddy is a survivor of domestic violence, and had two young children, at the time of her abuse.

"Your kids, they grow so fast. And the things that my daughter went through I can never take back. The things that my son went through I can't take those back. And it's very hard for me as a mother to think that I let them go through that. I can rationalize it and understand it, but still deep down in my heart it's hard to forgive myself," said Liddy.

And it's still a major problem in our area say experts, and often it can lead to homelessness.

Patricia Witt is the Director of the Emmaus House in Utica and says she's seen the problem over and over again in her 25 years long career.

"I see so many women that are PTSD in this shelter from being beaten down, year after year. And it's something that's insidious, that steals into your bones, that becomes difficult to get free from," said Witt.

"Learn to understand the signs of domestic violence. It's happening around you, and it's prevalent in every circle, culture, class," said Stancato.

"I think the problem is worse than the numbers indicate, and many of these cases are not even reported," said Chief DeLuca.

Each time police get a call, even if charges are not filed, a domestic incident report (DIR) is filed with the New York State.

"You build a track record. It gives the police an idea of who frequently is involved in these type of incidents.

On her path to rebuilding, Malissa Liddy found respite with a woman she met through her job as a stylist, a woman she now works for, Maria Tucci.

For more than 50 years Tucci has helped many victims at her salon in South Utica, sometimes providing a service free of charge, and giving these women a kind word, a hug, and some guidance.

"My clients, many of them, have been abused. I've seen abuse. There's been abuse in my life, and I've seen it as a child. So I recognize it when somebody's hurting. And the real fact is, it doesn't have to happen. There's no excuse for it, and there is a way out. You have to want it though," said Tucci.

"She takes care of everybody. She's a nurturer," said Liddy of Tucci.

And on any given day, you can catch the two of them in the basement between clients, cooking comfort food. This is for their clients, for themselves, and for anybody who drops in.

Tucci said the food is representative of love and warmth.

"Even though I grew up poor, we always had food. And it brought people together," said Tucci.

Stancato said, if you are a domestic violence victim or you know somebody who is, you are encouraged to come forward and get the help from the YWCA. The organization provides navigation through the courts, explanations of orders of protection, housing, clothing, food, and counseling... and it's all free of charge.

"There is a better way to live. It's not easy, but there are lots of people who can help. We can't come and get you. You are going to have to go to a phone, pick it up, and make a call," said Witt.

For help:


Oneida County - (315) 797-7740

Herkimer County - (315) 866-0458

Utica - (315) 732-8760



Child molestation: Let's talk about it

by Mehreen Ovais

When you empower your children by teaching them how to resist suspicious compliments and touches, you take critical steps towards protecting them from sexual abuse.

Sexual abuse of children is perhaps the least acknowledged category of molestation, especially in Pakistan. This is despite recent events of this nature which warrant immediate attention. According to Sahil, an organisation striving to report and remove child molestation across the country, nearly 3,002 related cases were registered in 2013 alone. By the end of 2014, the number has escalated to 3,508 — exclusive of the cases that were probably not reported or identified.

As parents we can no longer brush the issue aside and naively assume it will never happen to our children. We must assure that not only are they safe from it but also equipped to recognise and tackle sexual abuse, should the need ever arise. Rozan, another NGO working to raise awareness regarding molestation in Pakistan defines it as “Any activity in which an adult or older child uses a child in a sexual way.” According to Rozan, the ‘activities' can include:

• Inappropriate touching — especially around the private areas

• Peeping into bathrooms (or bedrooms) while the child is using it

• Making indecent comments and jokes in front of the child

• Exposing the child to sexual activity of any kind, be it pornographic pictures or videos or one's own sexual organs

Forcing the child to enact sexual ‘scenes' like undressing — especially before a recording camera

• Raping or attempting rape on the child

But before we begin teaching our youngsters about this pressing issue, we must ensure that we comprehend it fully ourselves. There are many misconceptions people hold regarding child molestation which must be broken. For instance, we must realise that:

• It is not only girls that are victimised by molesters. Young boys are vulnerable to abuse as well.

• The offender does not necessarily have to be a stranger to the child or mentally unstable or queer in appearance. It can be anyone and anywhere.

• There have been cases of children as young as two being raped or harmed in other ways. Therefore, it must be known that there are no age restrictions when it comes to child sexual abuse.

• Sexual abuse is not always accompanied by force or violence and therefore, becomes harder to spot in cases where the child sustains no obvious physical injury.

• The topic is such that it should be dealt with in secret. However, you must not assume that your child will automatically come and tell you about their experience. Granted children often make up stories but if you notice anything strange about their behaviour, it is best to approach them patiently and try to understand what they have to say without frightening them.

When it comes to sexual abuse, Rozan believes not being able to speak about it openly becomes the victim's greatest vulnerability. “Often, this is accompanied by our discomfort as parents, teachers and adults to talk about such a sensitive issue,” states the Rozan Helpline blog. “Understanding the importance of proactively seeking the required knowledge and skills to communicate with children is one way of playing our roles effectively.” The blog goes on to say that educating children and addressing the issue on time is a must if we are to protect them. Our objective should be to employ age-specific methods to alert them. Dr Mary L Pulido, executive director at the New York Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NYSPCC) recommends, “Parents [should] frame the discussion around safety, rather than abuse, as it is less scary for the child.” Interestingly, children as young as two years of age have depicted the ability to grasp the concept of safety. Therefore, it is never too early for us to begin educating them. Following are some guidelines to follow when breaching the topic:

• One must begin by informing their child about different body parts and the purpose of each. Learning the correct names will make it easier for them to iterate what they went through. It is crucial to make them understand which of the parts are private (i.e. those that remain covered with underpants). This will also help alleviate any discomfort, embarrassment or hesitation they may harbour in their mind.

• Once your child has learnt about the human body, move onto distinguishing between good and bad touch. For instance, good touches may include hugs and kisses they receive from relatives and friends as long as they don't make you feel uncomfortable. Unsafe touches, on the other hand, are those that hurt the child physically or emotionally and hence, should be reported.

• It is important that children develop the ability to resist things which make them uncomfortable, even though this can make them less disciplined in the long run. For this, do not force your child to kiss or hug others they do not want to. This will establish boundaries in the child's mind and make them realise how to respect those boundaries. In her book Bitter Chocolate , journalist and author Pinki Virani alerts parents that child abuse may also be perpetrated by those who reside within our homes or are close to us, such as members of one's domestic staff. Even though an offender may not necessarily be a stranger, children must learn to identify and protect themselves.

• Any measure undertaken towards educating the child is futile if you fail to create a comfortable and fun environment to talk in. Your child should know that they are cared for and not the culprit but the victim.

• Most importantly, it is the parent's responsibility to remain vigilant of child abuse in every aspect of life. Internet abuse, for instance, is of particular importance seeing as how youngsters use the World Wide Web so regularly. There are options to place age-specific controls, monitor your child's internet activity and ensure they never give out personal details over to anyone online.

One baby step at a time

Organisations such as Rozan and Sahil run full-fledged programmes focused on child sexual abuse. Aangan — Rozan's oldest program — works on the emotional health of children and youngsters, especially those who have been subjected to molestation. For this, they have developed the cartoon Tinkoo Tina, a great video source to make children and their parents aware of the issue.


Challenges abound for US kids who've had a parent in prison

by The Associated Press

Three years ago, the little girl would hide under a table when confronted with reminders that both her parents were in prison.

Now almost 10, she's a confident, popular student, and ace recruiter for the program that helped her, says Daniel Howell, a case manager for New Hope Oklahoma. It offers after-school programs, weekend retreats and summer camps for about 500 Oklahoma children annually who have parents behind bars.

Nationwide, there are few comparable programs, despite a vast pool of children who might benefit.

Child Trends, a research organization, released a report Tuesday estimating that 5 million U.S. children have had at least one parent imprisoned — about one in every 14 children under 18. For black children, the rate was one in nine, the report said.

The report was based on data from the 2011-12 National Survey of Children's Health — a phone survey sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that collected input from parents and other caregivers.

Experts who study these children, or work with them, say parental incarceration is distinguished from other childhood woes by a mix of shame, stigma and trauma. Research indicates that many of the children face increased risk of problems with behavior, academics, self-esteem and substance abuse — in some cases resulting in criminality passed from one generation to the next.

Echoing recommendations by other groups, Child Trends said prison systems, schools and communities could do more to support these children. Suggestions include improving communications between parent and child, making prison visits less stressful, and educating school teachers on how they can help affected children overcome stigma.

“Progress has been slow,” said Child Trends researcher David Murphey, the report's lead author. “This is a vulnerable group of kids that is often hidden from public view. We need to pay more attention.”

In some places, that's happening. Washington state has won plaudits for establishing child-friendly visiting areas in all its prisons; so has a program in southeast Michigan that facilitates playful, 2-hour visits between imprisoned parents and their kids.

As for New Hope Oklahoma, it has grown steadily over two decades while relying entirely on private donations, and there's now a waiting list for its programs. Oklahoma has one of the nation's highest incarceration rates; a task force calculated that on any given day, 26,000 Oklahoma children have a parent in prison.

“These children face ostracism among their peers because of it — despite the fact that the child is totally not at fault,” said New Hope's executive director, Clayton Smith. “They don't speak about it. They don't want anyone to know.”

The program seeks to foster a camaraderie among the children that encourages them to share experiences and emotions.

Daniel Howell, the case manager who works with after-school programs in Tulsa, recalled his encounters with some of the children, whom he could not identify due to privacy policies.

“I really want to live with my mom,” one boy told him sadly, “and I can't right now.”

Then there was the girl who entered the program as a 7-year-old and would hide when discomfited.

“We'd have to go sit under the table with her to talk to her,” Howell said.

“Now, she's able to identify her feelings, talk about it really openly with other students,” he added. “She's been a top recruiter, telling friends about New Hope and what we do.”

While New Hope works with children at a distance from prison facilities, Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency's program in Michigan unites children with their incarcerated fathers in jails in Oakland and Wayne counties, plus three state prisons. Visiting areas are decorated and stocked with playthings, and music is provided for twice-monthly play-oriented visits for perhaps a half-dozen families at a time.

Linda VanderWaal, the agency's associate director for family re-entry, noted that some jails in Michigan don't allow contact visits, while other facilities insist that child visitors remain seated.

“We move the chairs back so there's room to throw a ball,” VanderWaal said. “It's fine if a dad wants to toss his kid in the air or wrestle on the floor. It's a true play date.”

When the program started 12 years ago, some corrections officials were hesitant, she said, but the wariness dissipated as they saw how participating parents adjusted more positively after they were released.

According to federal statistics, only about 42 percent of incarcerated parents with children under 18 get visits from those children. Long distances are a deterrent: A new report by the Prison Policy Initiative calculates that 63 percent of state prison inmates are confined more than 100 miles from their families, often requiring a full day just to make a brief visit.

The issue of children's visits is complicated. Some children are frightened by the prison setting and rigorous security procedures, yet there's also a wealth of evidence that many are reassured when they can see and hug an incarcerated parent.

Groups advocating for these children urge corrections officials to ensure that visiting protocols, including processing and searches, are child-friendly.

In Maryland, a veteran advocate says it's a challenge bracing children for the visitation policy at the Frederick County Adult Detention Center. They talk to their jailed parent by phone from behind a glass partition.

“For a number of children, there's anxiety waiting to go into the jail — some are scared,” said Shari Ostrow Scher, president of the Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership. “The lack of physical contact with your parents is hard.”

After 14 years of advocacy work, Ostrow Scher remains struck by the plight of the children she serves.

“If your parent is a soldier overseas, everyone says, ‘Oh, you're brave,'” she said. “When your parent is in prison, it's the same issue of loss and separation, and in neither case did the kid sign up for this. But you're not viewed in the same heroic way.”

Among the states, Washington has been at the forefront of efforts to enhance bonds between incarcerated parents and their children.

Jody Becker-Green, a deputy secretary of Washington's corrections department, says one goal is to break the intergenerational cycle by minimizing the emotional damage to children whose parents are imprisoned.

“These kids are overlooked and invisible in our society,” Becker-Green said. “They feel shame, they feel guilt in having a parent incarcerated.”

Unlike most states, Washington has a child-friendly visiting area in each of its 12 state prisons — supplied with books and games, cartoon characters painted on the walls.

In another innovation, the corrections department inaugurated a three-day summer camp in June for children of inmates, with department personnel serving as counselors.

Applications for spots at the camp were submitted by the imprisoned parents themselves, and Becker-Green said there were plenty of tears at the camp's closing ceremony when children read portions of those applications in which the mothers and fathers expressed devotion to their kids.

One of the camp staffers, Bea Giron, recounted how a camper said she wouldn't want people to know she had a parent in prison. The girl was asked why.

“Because they'd think I'm a killer,” she replied.



Agencies battle Internet crimes, sex trafficking of children

by Ellen Eldridge

Vice crimes, such as human trafficking for sex, are on the rise locally, law enforcement officials say.

“You may not realize it, but we do have a serious problem with human trafficking, particularly with underage girls,” Dunwoody Police Chief Billy Grogan said Nov. 17 while introducing Georgia Bureau of Investigations Special Agent Renea Green during a Dunwoody Perimeter Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

“We had an operation not too long ago, where we recovered a minor that was being sex trafficked,” Grogan said.

A 26-year-old woman and a 16-year-old girl were rescued June 25 from sexual servitude and prostitution, when Dunwoody Police worked with the FBI Metro Atlanta Child Exploitation Task Force and the Gwinnett Police Department Vice Unit.

Dunwoody police investigated four sex trafficking organizations in 2014 and Grogan said the police department has seen an increase in vice-type complaints. Officer Tim Fecht, a spokesman for the department, said police charged seven people with prostitution, three people for pimping and one person for escorting without a permit Sept. 3.

“Our goal of the operation was to rescue any victims of human trafficking and reduce crime as it relates to prostitution,” Fecht said.

Green said the GBI is a “request only” agency that doesn't usually help police agencies or enter local jurisdictions without being called. Unless the case involves bombs, commercial gambling, child exploitation or human trafficking, Green said.

When Gov. Nathan Deal took office, Green said he created an Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force to stop human trafficking and child exploitation in Atlanta. Green said when she first heard the term “human trafficking,” she thought about the movie “Taken,” where the main character's daughter was abducted in a foreign country and sold into sexual slavery. She said she wondered if that happened here in the Perimeter area and quickly learned that because of Atlanta's centralized location, near a major airport and interstate highways, trafficking is a big problem.

She added that blame also falls on some rap artists, such as 50 Cent writing “Candy Shop,” a popular song that Green said idolizes prostitution. The GBI focuses only on commercial exploitation of children, which is easier to describing as “juvenile prostitution,” Green said.

But people have misconceptions when they hear about minors involved with “prostitution,” Green said. “‘Oh well, she's doing this because she wants to do it' or ‘she's feeding a drug habit,'” Green said people think. “I, for one, had all of those stigmas and misconceptions.”

An important part of the job she does as a special agent is helping train law enforcement officers and the public about what is going on.

“I have yet to meet one girl who woke up one day and decided, ‘I'm going to be a prostitute,'” Green said. “It just doesn't happen.”

Sadly, Green said many young girls who run away from abusive situations at home end up trapped.

“The way most of these kids get involved is they are runaways or throwaways,” Green said.

“Most of these girls—and the majority are girls, though boys are affected, too—are already experiencing sexual abuse at home.”

Many people are too quick to judge, Green said, when it comes to cases about juvenile runaways who mistakenly fall in love with pimps and believe someone is finally taking proper care of them.

“These are the hardest cases to work because they don't identify as victims,” Green said.



State grade on sex trafficking of children improves to 'B'

Statute on wiretapping increases state's score

by Katie Moore

Kansas' grade for child sex trafficking has improved from a “C” to a “B.”

Each state is graded annually by an organization called Shared Hope International, which examines legislation on domestic child sex trafficking.

The initial grade Shared Hope gave Kansas earlier this month was a “C.” Upon further inspection, the organization raised it a letter grade.

The improved score — from 78 to 80.5 — was because of a change in wiretapping laws. Previously wiretapping wasn't allowed in human trafficking investigations.

Rachel Harper, policy counsel with Shared Hope, said Kansas statute 22-2515 now allows wiretapping to be used in cases of human trafficking, aggravated human trafficking, sexual exploitation of a child and commercial sexual exploitation of a child.

“Recorded phone conversations or text messages between a victim and a buyer or trafficker are important incriminating pieces of evidence,” an issue brief published by the organization said.

Allowing wiretapping to be utilized as an investigative tool will aid in prosecution, the brief said. It also will decrease reliance on testimony from child victims.

“We appreciate Shared Hope's recognition of the good progress Kansas is making to combat human trafficking and look forward to working closely with the organization to continue making a positive difference for victims,” said Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt.