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

January, 2016 - 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.

From ICE

ICE arrests more than 1,400 human traffickers in 2015, identifies nearly 400 victims across the US

WASHINGTON — In Fiscal Year 2015, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arrested 1,437 individuals for human trafficking – the illegal trade and exploitation of people for commercial gain, most commonly in the form of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. From those cases, nearly 400 trafficking victims were identified and offered critical services.

This year marks the sixth anniversary of President Barack Obama's proclamation of January as National Slavery and Trafficking Prevention month. ICE participates in a variety of human trafficking awareness events in January and throughout the year.

“Our special agents work tirelessly to disrupt criminal trafficking networks and help their victims, but there is still so much to be done,” said ICE Director Sarah R. Saldaña. “While the efforts of law enforcement are crucial to the cause, educating the public to recognize signs of trafficking and supporting the organizations who work to make victims whole are also important parts of our overall strategy.”

While human trafficking can occur in a variety of scenarios and industries, indicators of trafficking activities often look the same across cases. Educating the public to recognize the signs is crucial to identifying victims and bringing traffickers to justice.

Examples of HSI human trafficking cases in 2015 include:

Multistate Sex Trafficking – In October 2015, HSI arrested 29 people in eight states for sex trafficking more than 13 Hispanic women and girls from Mexico and Central America through a system of brothels across the southeastern United States. Now with 41 indictments, this case has the highest number of indictments of any HSI human trafficking investigation. The 15-month investigation was a success because of the combined support from DHS Joint Task Force – Investigations, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Federal Emergency Management Administration and multiple state/local law enforcement agencies.

Domestic servitude – A military official from Qatar and his wife brought two domestic servants with them to San Antonio, Texas. The couple allegedly housed the workers in primitive conditions, threatened them with arrest and jail, withheld their wages, and deprived them of cell phones, passports, visas and food. HSI made the arrest on forced labor charges on May 30, 2015.

Human Trafficking Top 10 Fugitive Captured – Paulino Ramirez-Granados was arrested March 31, 2015, in Tenancingo, Mexico through a joint investigation by HSI Mexico City, HSI New York and the Mexican Federal Police. The Granados family and its associates would romance young women before coercing them into prostitution in Mexico, smuggling them into the United States, and then continuing the control, physical and sexual abuse, and threats in New York City. HSI identified 26 victims and 19 other traffickers and smugglers.

Since 2010, HSI has arrested over 7,000 individuals for human trafficking offenses.

ICE is one of the primary federal agencies responsible for combating human trafficking. ICE works with its law enforcement partners to dismantle the global criminal infrastructure engaged in human trafficking. ICE accomplishes this mission by making full use of its authorities and expertise, stripping away assets and profit incentive, collaborating with U.S. and foreign partners to attack networks worldwide and working in partnership with nongovernmental organizations to identify and provide assistance to trafficking victims.

If you notice suspicious activity, please contact ICE through its tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or For more information about the Department of Homeland Security's overall efforts against human trafficking, please visit:



Community Connections: Northwest Rocky Mountain CASA — advocating for child victims

by Suzanne Fegelein

Northwest Rocky Mountain CASA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that recruits, trains and supports volunteers to advocate for children in abuse and neglect court cases. Our mission is to inspire, educate and empower community volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused, neglected and at-risk children to help ensure safety and permanency in their lives.

NWRM CASA began in 2008 through the request of Chief Judge Michael A. O'Hara, III, who recognized the need for the program. We are one of 16 independent CASA programs in Colorado, and we hold a Certificate of National CASA Membership and Standards Compliance. We serve abused and neglected children in Colorado's 14th Judicial District, which includes Routt, Grand and Moffat counties.

Unfortunately, child abuse and neglect occur in our community. According to the Colorado Office of Children, Youth and Families, 2014 saw 114 new victims of abuse or neglect in our district, with 23 children being removed from their homes due to safety issues. NWRM CASA served 16 cases and 31 children in our 2013-14 fiscal year and 22 cases and 39 children in our 2014-15 fiscal year. If you suspect, or are the victim of child abuse or neglect, call the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-844-CO-4-KIDS.

Dependency and neglect cases are filed when the Department of Human Services determines a child was abused or neglected and court proceedings are warranted. The children involved are frequently removed from their homes and placed into temporary care. The judge may appoint a CASA volunteer (simply called a “CASA”) as an advocate for the child in dependency and neglect cases, free of charge.

We currently have 29 CASAs: 13 from Routt County, 8 from Moffat County and 8 from Grand County. CASAs spend 32 hours in pre-service training and 12 hours of annual in-service training.

A CASA's duties, outlined in Colorado's Revised Statutes, include interviewing the child and other appropriate individuals, reviewing relevant records and reports, determining whether an appropriate treatment plan has been created and whether appropriate services are being provided to the child and family and assuring the child's essential needs are bring met and best interests are being advocated throughout the case. CASAs provide written reports throughout the case, which include recommendations consistent with the best interests of the child.

CASAs work closely with the child's attorney, DHS and the attorneys for the parents in each case. Our volunteers only serve the children of one family at a time. CASAs strive to be a constant, supportive adult face for these children, to be the eyes and ears for the judge and to give these children, whose lives have been turned upside down, a voice in court.

NWRM CASA is funded mainly through grants, special event fundraisers and donations. Our Fifth annual Dancing with the Stars fundraiser is Jan. 29 at Strings Music Pavilion. Please join us for this truly fun event. Tickets are on sale at All That. A great time is sure to be had by all.

We are always looking for CASA volunteers. If you have a passion for helping child victims of abuse or neglect, we would love to hear from you. Learn more at



Monday Hearing To Address MT's Overwhelming Child Abuse Caseload

by Corin Cates Carney

Officials say the number of child abuse and neglect cases in Montana is overwhelming state agencies in charge of handling them. A legislative committee that oversees the Division of Child and Family Services is meeting in Helena on Monday.

“The Child and Family Services Division has been underfunded and overburdened for, really decades,” said Ali Bovingdon, Gov. Steve Bullock's deputy chief of staff. She's also on the Protect Kids Commission that Bullock created in September.

Over 15,000 reports of alleged child abuse or neglect were filed during fiscal year 2014. About half of those reports required investigation.

According to the audit summary of child abuse and neglect cases in the state, over 70 percent of investigations reviewed were not completed on time.

A state audit of those investigations found that, “The Department of Public Health and Human Services needs to address inconsistent documentation, limited supervisory oversight, and a lack of management information related to child abuse and neglect reports.”

“That is part of what this commission will be looking in terms of resources necessary to really allow the department to meet those statutory timelines," Bovingdon said. "And like I said, number one priority is making sure we have the resources to make sure that we are keeping kids safe.”

Bovingdon will give an update on the commission's work Monday to the legislature's Children, Families, Health and Human Services Interim Committee. She said the state has seen a 75 percent increase of kids in foster care over the past 8 years. And over that same time supportive funding has declined.

The audit report of child abuse and neglect found that the number of children in care has fluctuated but remained fairly static the past 10 years.

The audit also found that while the number of reported cases has increased the past 5 years, the number of reports investigated has generally decreased over the same time period.


Protect Children in Private Schools from Child Sexual Abuse

by Mary L. Pulido, Ph.D.

Executive Director, The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

Making headlines as national news in The New York Times is another scandal whereby 40 former students assert sexual abuse at a private prep school in Rhode Island. Another tragedy unfolding that could have been halted or prevented if the perpetrators were reported to law enforcement when the abuse occurred.

Also of interest in that article was the "pass the trash" bill being considered by the state of Massachusetts. It refers to "schools passing on problematic teachers to new schools without reporting problems, including those that might put others in jeopardy." The bill would make it a crime to fail to report a complaint of sexual misconduct in public and private schools.

The continuous media coverage about the sexual abuse of children should be a rallying cry for everyone. Offenders are often cited as being members of the school community, such as teachers, coaches, teacher aides, or administrative staff. Often, laws are enacted, policies changed, prevention programs brought in, to try to halt these assaults on children.

Each state has discretion to enact legislation that it feels will protect children and hold perpetrators accountable. As an advocate for child protection in New York State, I was appalled to learn that hundreds of thousands of children who attend private schools in New York State aren't included in protections under the currentEducation Law 23-B entitled "Child Abuse in an Educational Setting." This law applies only to children in New York State public and charter schools. There is a double standard that leaves thousands of children at risk for child sexual abuse. It simply doesn't make sense.

Most parents who send their children to private schools in New York State probably do not realize that this is the case. Basically, the private school administrators can decide if they want to report the abuse to the local authorities -- or not. And, we can probably assume that many private schools want to "keep it quiet" so as to not tarnish their reputation. There are deals made that the parents and law enforcement never know about. It's outrageous.

Child sexual abuse does happen in the private schools. Over the past few years, I have worked with private schools after child abuse cases to help them put better measures in place to protect children. They willingly did so. The template that was constructed for their new reporting procedures was based on the mandated reporting for public schools. Article 23-B requires, among other things, that public school principals forward reports of child abuse committed by school employees or volunteers to "appropriate law enforcement authorities." It also forbids public school authorities from agreeing to withhold from law enforcement the fact that an allegation of child abuse has been made against a school employee or volunteer in exchange for the accused person's resignation or voluntary suspension.

It's alarming that private schools can essentially decide how to handle these issues internally. We have lived through the tragic results of actions by private schools where internal investigations protected perpetrators and resulted in countless additional children being subjected to child sexual abuse. It's time to fix the law.

Last year, I raised all of these issues in an op-ed that I wrote for the Albany Times Union, highlighting the need for action. According to Private School Review, there are approximately 2,161 private schools in New York State. They are attended by over 492,000 children. They deserve the same protections as children in the public school system. They are just as vulnerable. The absence of private schools from the requirements of Article 23-B is a serious gap in the legislative scheme of protection for children. Pennsylvania, for example, requires law enforcement reports when abuse occurs in a public or private school by school personnel.

The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NYSPCC) and The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children - New York (APSAC-NY) has advocated for change in the past, and will continue to push elected officials in Albany to take this up during the 2016 legislative session. The tweaking needed to the current legislation is minimal. A simple insertion of the phrase "private school" or "private school administrator" in a few places could make a tremendous difference.

As of now, we don't have any champions in either the NYS Senate or the Assembly to move this forward, but urge someone to step up soon. We need the legislature in every state to enact a "pass the trash" bill.

Let's level the playing field and protect all children in our schools from child sexual abuse. It's an easy fix.

For more information on keeping your children safe visit:


Lawyer: 231 children abused in German Catholic choir

by David Gibson

Allegations that more than 200 boys in a Catholic-run choir and two connected schools in Germany were abused over the span of several decades, some of them sexually, have brought the church's abuse scandal uncomfortably close to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, whose older brother directed the famous Bavarian choir during that time.

The allegations were reported by an attorney, Ulrich Weber, who had been hired by the Diocese of Regensburg last year to investigate claims of abuse at the Regensburger Domspatzen choir and two feeder schools between 1953 and 1992.

Weber told a news conference in Berlin on Friday that at least 50 of the 231 alleged victims made “plausible” claims of sexual abuse.

Benedict's brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, conducted the historic choir from 1964 to 1994. Asked if Ratzinger, now 92 and still living in Regensburg, had known of the abuse, Weber said: “After my research, I must assume so.”

“The events were known internally and criticized, but they had almost no consequences,” Weber said. The cases are too old to be prosecuted, he said.

Ratzinger has in the past said he knew that boys suffered physical mistreatment and he himself used corporal punishment at times, but he said he was unaware of any sexual abuse.

Most of the new allegations concern beatings and other mistreatment, such as food deprivation.

They were attributed mainly to Johann Meier, who headed one of two primary schools associated with the choir from 1953 until his retirement in 1992. Meier, who had been retained after a private investigation of reported abuses in 1987, died that same year.

But dozens of the new allegations also concern sexual abuse, ranging from fondling to rape. “The reported cases of sexual abuse in Regensburg were mostly concentrated in the period of the mid to end 1970s,” Weber said, according to Agence France-Presse. He added that “50 victims spoke of 10 perpetrators.”

Weber said that over the course of eight months he interviewed 140 people, including 70 alleged victims. He said since the report was made public, several other alleged victims contacted him.

When reports of sexual abuse in the 1,000-year-old choir first surfaced publicly in 2010, Georg Ratzinger insisted that he was unaware of them.

“These things were never discussed,” Ratzinger told a German newspaper, Passauer Neue Presse. “The problem of sexual abuse that has now come to light was never spoken of.”

But Ratzinger did concede that boys told him about physical abuse they suffered at the hands of Meier, head of one of the lower schools.

“But I did not have the feeling at the time that I should do something about it,” Ratzinger said. “Had I known with what exaggerated fierceness he was acting, I would have said something.”

“Of course, today one condemns such actions,” he said. “I do as well. At the same time, I ask the victims for pardon.”

Ratzinger himself had a reputation as a taskmaster, which was not unusual for the culture of the time, in Germany and in the Catholic Church.

“He was a very strict director and people were scared of him,” Hans Zillner, a local official who sang in the choir as a boy, told The New York Times in 2005 when Georg Ratzinger's brother, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was elected Pope Benedict XVI.

In the 2010 interview, Georg Ratzinger said that he, too, would use corporal punishment on the boys.

“At the beginning I also repeatedly administered a slap in the face, but always had a bad conscience about it,” he told the German newspaper. Corporal punishment was made illegal in 1980.

Ratzinger said a slap in the face was the easiest reaction to a failure to perform or a poor performance, and the force of the slap varied widely.

Whether the latest reports will lead to any further information on what George Ratzinger knew, and when, is uncertain.

The Regensburg diocese published the new report on its website Friday, along with a year-old homily by Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer in which he expressed regret for the abuse the children allegedly suffered.

The diocese has previously offered to pay 2,500 euros (about $2,730) in damages to each of the victims.

Pope Emeritus Benedict, who retired in February 2013 (Pope Francis was elected at a conclave the next month), is 88 and lives in seclusion in a monastery inside the Vatican walls in Rome.

As Cardinal Ratzinger, the longtime guardian of orthodoxy at the Vatican, he had publicly downplayed the extent of the abuse or the notion of a cover-up, saying reports of abuse by clergy and in church settings were exaggerated by the media.

But following his election as pope, and as investigations continue to reveal the breadth and depth of the scandal, Benedict began to institute firmer discipline and more effective prevention policies than had his predecessor, Saint John Paul II.



Wanted: More foster parents in Orange County

by Theresa Walker

Local advocates for children are scrambling to find more foster parents in Orange County, a result of a new state law aimed at placing abused kids into permanent homes faster.

The law also figures to alter operations at the county's best-known children's home, Orangewood Children and Family Center.

The broader goal of AB403, which took effect Jan. 1, is to get traumatized youth into stable and supportive living situations, preferably in a familylike setting, as soon and as permanently as possible. It sets a limit of 10 days on the time a child can spend in a temporary emergency shelter such as Orangewood.

The law also calls for major changes at group homes so that children don't spend years in what is referred to as “congregate” or “residential” care until they age out of the child welfare system at 18. Group homes typically have six or more children housed together under the supervision of paid staff.

Advocates support the general goal of the new law.

But in Orange County, they say the new rules also present a challenge to find enough people – either relatives, other significant adults in a child's life or foster parents – who can serve as what is being called “resource families” for children whose biological parents are deemed unfit to raise them.

“(The new law) increases our need for good foster homes exponentially,” said Elizabeth DenBleyker, public information officer for Orange County's Social Services Agency. DenBleyker pegged the need at 100 to 120 more such homes.

The county has about 400 licensed resource family homes, but only about one-third are prepared and ready to take in children, DenBleyker said.

Currently, 2,304 children are in county dependency, with most of them placed with relatives or other adults in their lives in family-based settings.

During fiscal 2014-2015, Orangewood – located in the justice center complex across from The Outlets at Orange mall – had an average daily population of 58 children, and the average length of stay was 31 days.

The number of children at Orangewood can change hourly as they are brought into custody, returned to parents, released to relatives, or placed in out-of-home care. Last year, about 700 children spent time at Orangewood.

DenBleyker said there's a particular need for foster parents willing to take in children in three tough-to-place categories: sibling sets, adolescents and children of all ages who have medical needs.

It's even more difficult to find homes for children dealing with serious behavioral and mental health issues, she and other advocates said.

“You're really talking about more of a professionalized parent” when it comes to caring for children with behavior or medical problems, said Gene Howard, who served as director of children's services for Orange County in the 1980s and '90s and later led the nonprofit Orangewood Foundation for foster and youth services.

“You're not talking about the typical foster parent who has a great heart but doesn't have the professional skills to be able to do that,” Howard said.


Much has changed at Orangewood and other local care sites over the past 15 years or so – partly a reflection of statewide efforts to reform the much criticized child welfare system.

In the era during Howard's tenure with the Social Services Agency, Orangewood often housed as many as 300 children, who sometimes stayed for long periods.

In the mid-1990s, Ashley Rello, now 28, was one of those children.

At age 7, Rello, along with a brother and a sister, was permanently removed from the care of her parents, who were accused of habitual drug use.

Rello had tested positive for cocaine at birth and was briefly kept at Orangewood at that time. She'd also been back to Orangewood a few more times for short periods before she was permanently removed from her parents.

Rello split the next two years between Orangewood and group homes run by the now-defunct Canyon Acres in Anaheim Hills. At age 9, she was, in her terms, “extremely lucky” to be adopted by a loving family who raised her to adulthood.

Rello, who lives in Garden Grove and is a social worker with the privately run California Mentor Network – and is a part-time mentor at Orangewood Foundation – said her memories of Orangewood are positive: going to school, swimming in the outdoor pool, attending dances in the gym and playing video games in the arcade.

She said she also benefited from the expert care she got at Canyon Acres.

“The group home kind of, in a way, really saved my life,” Rello said.

Rello has mixed feelings about AB403.

“It really has to be in the best interests of the child,” said Rello, who said she'd someday like to adopt as many children as she can.

“Just because somebody looks good on paper, or is doing all the right things on paper, doesn't mean the home is going to be a positive place for that child to grow up.”


The number of children at Orangewood, and in local group homes in general, has fallen dramatically over the past 15 years.

DenBleyker attributed that to a concerted effort to emphasize family-based care by locating relatives to take in some children, and by providing services that enable children and birth parents to reunite.

These days, children who remain at Orangewood for lengthier periods – in some cases six months to a year – tend to be teens struggling with emotional and behavioral issues. They might be chronic runaways or are dealing with substance abuse, making it difficult to place them with families and keep them in group homes, DenBleyker said.

Advocates for the type of changes AB403 is expected to bring say the new law is a key component in what is known as the state's Continuum of Care Reform that already put a freeze on sending younger children to group homes.

In 2015, less than 10 percent of the 66,000 children in California's child welfare system lived in group homes, according to state figures.

“We're excited about the prospect of truly making the system work how it's supposed to work,” said Kyle Sporleder, policy director for California Youth Connection, an Oakland-based advocacy organization begun by former foster youth in the late 1980s.

“What we're hoping to see is what we always wanted for youth – if you have to go to these (group) settings at all, you're going in temporarily and with high-quality intervention so you can go back into a home setting.”

Sporleder, 25, didn't spend time in group care or foster care but said he was abused and neglected in his childhood and left homeless as a teen when he was kicked out of his house. At 19, he became the foster care provider for his two siblings.

He said there is misconception about children in foster care, “that they did something wrong; that these are bad children.”

“Really, what they need is nothing surprising or special,” Sporleder said. “Just people to love them, a place to live and direction for their lives.”


Under the new law, long-term placement in group homes won't be an option.

Group homes are expected to transform into what the state is calling “short-term residential treatment centers” that will provide intensive child-specific services for youth with emotional, behavioral or mental health issues that make it difficult for them to live in family-based care.

If a child must stay at a group home and continue receiving specialized care for more than six months, based on a re-examination of their needs, someone at a high level in a county's child welfare system will have to give signed authorization.

Right now, about 75 Orange County children are living in group homes, according to the Social Services Agency. The county has 27 group homes.

Howard believes the shortened turnaround at Orangewood “will be a significant challenge” for the Social Services Agency.

“I know they are working really hard to ramp up for that,” said Howard, who now serves as executive director of Orange County Alliance for Children and Families, a collaboration of 16 public and private agencies.

The county last year requested additional money from the state to pay for anticipated new services and programs related to AB403. The state had earmarked $17 million specifically for the increased effort to recruit, retain and support families and individuals willing to give a family home to children in temporary shelters and residential care.

Out of a request for $6 million, the state awarded Orange County $700,000, county social services spokeswoman DenBleyker said.

“We want to get the message out that these are not the government's children or the system's children. These are our children,” she said.

“These are our children's schoolmates. ... They need to be with families.”

Under AB403, counties have a one-year transition period, with some flexibility, to beef up recruitment of resource families, devise plans to retain them and roll out better-targeted support services based on the children's needs.

“We think the bill allows for a thoughtful transition,” said Greg Rose, deputy director for Children and Family Services in California, noting that there are multiple deadlines over the next couple of years and state officials are willing to make adjustments as needed.

“It doesn't just say as of Jan. 1, 2017, ‘tough luck.'”

Rose said it's incorrect to think that the state is trying to get rid of group homes.

“We want people to look at it as therapeutic intervention that has a beginning, a middle and an end, rather than a place where young people grow up.”


Because of the Adversity I Faced in Childhood, There's Nothing I Can't Do

How to overcome adverse childhood experiences as an adult

by Brian F. Martin and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, Ph.D.

A 16-year-old who grew up experiencing adversity in childhood said the above to Brian Martin several years ago, and he included her story in his book, Invincible: The 10 Lies You Learn Growing Up With Domestic Violence and the Truths to Set You Free.

Thinking about this statement raises an interesting question: Why do so few who experience adversity in childhood believe the same thing that this young woman believes? It is a question that intrigues us both and has brought us to this conclusion: The primary barrier is that most don't connect the adversity they grew up with to the challenges they face today.

For the past 15 years, Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, Ph.D., has been studying the effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on adult health as she described in her book, Treating the Lifetime Health Effects of Childhood Victimization, 2nd Ed. ACEs describe a wide range of adversities faced in childhood including: childhood physical, sexual and emotional abuse; neglect, both physical, such as growing up without basic physical needs like clean clothes or enough food, and emotional neglect, such as a lack of love or emotional support; parental mental illness; growing up around alcohol and drug abuse; incarceration of a parent, divorce; and childhood domestic violence. Have you experienced any of these?

In Drs. Vincent Felitti and Robert Anda's Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, which included more than 17,000 HMO patients in San Diego, more than half had experienced at least one type of ACE. And of those who experienced one, 90 of them experienced at least two types. The more individuals try to find one cause or reason why their life isn't where they want it to be, the more they must look at the overarching question: Did you experience adversity in childhood?

The Effects Can Continue Into Adulthood

As the ACE study demonstrated, the effects of childhood adversity can continue well into adulthood. From hundreds of recent studies, we know that adverse experiences can affect men and women in five key domains of functioning. They can:

1. Negatively impact your beliefs about yourself or others

2. Cause health problems

3. Lead to harmful behaviors

4. Create relationship challenges

5. Manifest through emotional difficulties

Of these negative effects, there is one that drives the other four.

Childhood Adversity Encodes Negative Beliefs

First and foremost, experiencing adversity in childhood wires a developing brain and encodes negative beliefs, such as shame and self-blame. Self-efficacy is another belief that can be influenced by ACEs and it refers to the belief that you are competent and can do things to improve your life.

Unfortunately, ACEs tend to undermine both self-esteem and self-efficacy. This can often lead to challenges with respect to accomplishing the things in life that you believe are important, such as finishing school, getting the job you want, or achieving financial security.

ACEs can also affect your beliefs about other people. It's common for those who experience ACEs to be hostile and mistrusting towards others. You may expect that others will reject you and will be always on the lookout for signs of rejection, even when something neutral occurs (e.g., someone doesn't greet you when they are across a crowded room. They may not have seen you. But you may think they are ignoring you).

As we mentioned above, these negative beliefs can influence the four other domains of functioning which can lead to: health problems, harmful behaviors, relationship challenges and emotional difficulties.

Health Problems

One of the reasons why the ACE Study was so important was because it was the first major study that showed a connection between adversity in childhood and serious adult health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. ACEs can interfere with the quality of your sleep, alter your immune system and even make you more susceptible to memory and attention problems. Adults who experienced ACEs tend to go to the doctor more often, have surgery more often and have more chronic conditions than people who didn't.

Chronic pain is another commonly reported symptom among those who experienced ACEs. Traumatic events can also lower the pain threshold, making normal sensations seem painful. ACE survivors are more likely to have irritable bowel syndrome, chronic pelvic pain, frequent headaches and fibromyalgia. They are also more likely to be disabled as adults.

Women with a history of physical or sexual abuse have high rates of type 2 diabetes. In childhood, they often have higher BMIs (body mass index) than their non-abused peers, and they gain weight more easily as adults.

Harmful Behaviors

Those who experienced ACEs are also more likely to engage in harmful behaviors ranging from smoking to eating disorders, substance abuse and suicide attempts. In addition, high-risk sexual practices, including unprotected sex, more sexual partners, and having consensual sex at an earlier age, are also more common. ACE survivors might believe that they aren't worth protecting, or they may engage in harmful behaviors, such as abusing substances, as a way to cope with their negative feelings about themselves.

Relationship Challenges

Adult survivors of childhood adversity may also experience difficulties in relationshipswith others. As children, they may be more aggressive and have fewer positive social skills. People who experience ACEs may be socially isolated and feel less satisfied with their current relationships than adults who did not. They often find that, try as they may, they struggle to be good parents, often second-guessing themselves even when their judgment is sound.

On the more extreme end, those who experiences ACEs are at higher risk for partnering with abusive adults. In fact, some of the beliefs about self (e.g., shame and self-blame) are related to increased risk because ACE survivors may feel like they don't deserve any better.

Emotional Difficulties

Depression, anxiety disorders and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are common in ACE survivors. They often believe many lies that Martin discusses in his book Invincible—they believe they are guilty, resentful, sad, alone, angry, hopeless, worthless, fearful, self-conscious and unloved. All these conditions can color the way ACE survivors see the world, lead to dysfunctional behaviors as a way to cope and increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

After reading this, you may recognize your own pattern of harmful behaviors, health problems and emotional and relationship difficulties, and the pattern of negative beliefs that underlie all of them. These negative beliefs may be holding you back from being the person you were meant to be, from reaching your full potential.

Change Cannot Occur Until You 1) Are Aware 2) Understand and 3) Share

You've already taken the first step. You're aware of how the adversity you faced in childhood may be impacting your life now, and the lives of those you love. Awareness must come before any change. It's the catalyst. Now that you are aware, the next step is to understand.

As you seek to understand more fully, consider this truth: Adversity faced in childhood is very different than adversity faced as an adult. Imagine, as an adult, having to experience physical, sexual or emotional abuse, extreme poverty, emotional neglect, mental illness, alcohol and drug addiction, incarceration, divorce or domestic violence. These are extraordinary challenges to deal with as an adult.

Now imagine that same person having to deal with them in childhood, without the benefit of an adult brain, without a brain that has been fully formed. Having no physical size or strength. No rights or freedoms. No money or capital. Very few life experiences to draw from. Only a partial education. A child who was raised without having their basic needs met: to feel secure, important and loved.

What Obstacle Can Compare Now That You Are an Adult?

But yet, even with all these obstacles, you faced them and you are here today. It begs the question, "If you faced adversity in childhood and are here today, what obstacles compare now that you are an adult?"

Getting the job you want? Learning to be in control of your thoughts, feelings, and actions? Having the relationship you deserve? Living a healthy lifestyle? These challenges simply don't compare.

And, more precisely, you can now take this action. When you are faced with a challenge today in adulthood, you can remind yourself of the truth, "Because of the adversity you faced in childhood, there is no obstacle you can't overcome."

Why? Because you have already overcome FAR greater obstacles in childhood—a time when you were without the powerful resources that you have now as an adult.

Share with Yourself, Share with Another

If this makes sense to you, there is a next step which is most key—you must share. You must share for a number of reasons, not the least of which is this: conversation with another helps change the meaning because others can often see the truth that you cannot see.

If you don't want to share with another, share with yourself as a first step. Write a note to yourself answering these questions: What negative beliefs hold me back in life? Is that really me, or is it just something I learned long ago?

Take one of these first steps, in doing so momentum will be created and this one step will lead to another.



Learn signs of child sex abuse

by Jess Kaehny

After being charged with multiple sexual assaults of a teen girl, David Knoble, 48, a church music director in Reedsburg, shot himself Dec. 30. Partly due to the public nature of the case and his suicide, it will continue to affect the family and church members involved as well as the community for some time to come.

Unfortunately, child sexual abuse in our country and our community is all too common, despite often being hidden and unknown. According to Darkness to Light (, a national organization working to end child sexual abuse, about 1 in 10 girls and boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday, and more than 90 percent are abused by someone they know.

Perpetrators often groom their victims and the victims' families into believing they are someone they can trust. According to court documents in the case, the teen girl believed she was his girlfriend and he manipulated her into keeping his behavior secret.

The Reedsburg Times-Press reported they had a “sexual relationship,” but a 16- or 17-year-old girl cannot give consent. Sexual intercourse, even sexual contact, without consent isn't sex or a “sexual relationship” – it's sexual assault. According to the charges in the case, he took advantage of her just like he did the 13-year-old girl back in 2004, a crime for which he only needed to pay a $335 fine. These are the two girls we are aware of, but did he sexually abuse more teens?

As adults, it's up to us to pay attention. It's our responsibility to stop and prevent child sexual abuse. Just like the teen's mom who followed up on a gut instinct that something was wrong from a text message, we need to ask questions and follow up when people cross boundaries with children.

Most child sexual assaults happen when a child is alone with an adult, frequently at a residence, so when we know our child will be in that type of situation, we have to be extra vigilant. Dropping by unexpectedly and talking to the child about what happened are good places to start.

Institutions need to do background checks, professional references and interviews. Policies need to be in place, and staff needs to be trained on them. Parents and those who work with children need to be trained on child sexual abuse and warning signs. We need to talk to children about what sexual abuse is and what to do if someone is crossing their boundaries.

It is never a child's fault for being sexually abused, and it's extremely rare for a child to lie about sexual abuse. Let's start by believing, providing support and connecting child victims and their families to people that can help.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted and would like free help or if you would like a child sexual abuse prevention training for your school, church, civic club, or workplace, call Hope House at 608-356-9123 or visit:


Child sexual abuse: On forgiveness and healing

by Padme Lin

There are three things to remember as you reach this stage of your journey. First, is forgiving your abuser a necessary part of healing? The answer is no. Forgiving your abuser and/or those who did not protect you as a child is not a requisite part of your healing journey. Whether or not you forgive them is really up to you.

It is your choice, and your choice alone.

Second, to make peace with your past, you must first of all - above else - forgive yourself. You must recognise that you had done all you could in order to survive. You were not at fault. You are not to be blamed that you could not protect yourself; you were a mere child.

You are not to be blamed that you needed love and attention. All children do. You are not to be blamed that you had felt pleasure and/or enjoyed the attention.

You are not to be blamed that you were beautiful, precocious, gentle, vulnerable or possess any special quality that your abuser used to justify his/her actions.

There are no excuses for child sexual abuse. While many abusers were themselves abused as children, this is no justification for abusing others.

Third, forgiving a crime such as child sexual abuse is not the same as forgiving your friend or family member over a trivial squabble. You should forgive in your own time, if you want to forgive at all.

Your friends and family may urge you to "forgive and forget", thinking that this is the best for you, not realising that you need to pace your own healing.

Trying to force forgiveness may backfire on you if you are not ready or willing: you may instead turn your anger inward and could, in the worst case scenario, succumb to negative thoughts or depression.

There are many ways to find resolution, to make peace with what has happened to you. For some survivors, this may include forgiving the abuser. For others, it does not.

You have the right to your own feelings and to decide for yourself. It had happened to you. No one else has the right to decide for you.

Forgive yourself first. The rest will come.


Emotional And Verbal Abuse Can Affect A Child Psychologically; How Much Damage Can It Do?

by Jerico Ngo

Parents play arguably the largest part in the development of children, so whatever they do definitely has a big effect on their children's life. However, if the treatment of a parent toward their children is deemed inappropriate, they can easily damage their child psychologically.

Teaching the child proper manners and the correct way to do certain things can be tiring. And teaching them the difference between right and wrong can be even more daunting. Parents can get stressed out and sometimes blurt out things that no child should ever hear.

On the popular question and answer site Quora, one user asked, "What is the most psychologically damaging thing you can say to a child?" There was obviously not a single majority answer to the question. Other users on Quora drew on their own personal experiences with their parents to help the person who asked the question.

One user compared her mother to a volcano when she got mad. She said her mother spewed verbal attacks towards her and berated her until she cried. Another user said that the most damaging thing you can say to a child is to say nothing at all. It would be difficult for a child if they barely talked to their parents.

The Independent asks an important question in "can an unkind comment said in a rage, a joke that your child misinterprets, or a formal silence unravel otherwise good parenting?" Dr. Matt Woolgar explains that this all boils down to what a person means by damage.

"You can certainly say things that hurt a child and contribute to their development of self-concept. But you're not going to say one thing that is going to scar them neurobiologically," he says. Dr. Woolgar stresses the importance of parents understanding that all children are different and have to cope with different scenarios in their life. This could affect their sensitivity. And even though their siblings would be okay with jokes and somewhat underhanded comments a certain child could take it as a really big blow to their self-esteem.


'John School,' Homeland-Security Training for Strippers, and Other State Sex-Trafficking Laws Coming This Month

New laws (ostensibly) related to human trafficking take effect in Florida, Illinois, New York, and North Dakota this month.

by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

For 2016, several states have resolved to get tougher on forced prostitution. To this end, they're embarking on costly "awareness" campaigns, enacting new regulations on adult businesses, and launching re-education programs for people who solicit sex. In other words, they're enacting the kind of measures that don't do squat for potential victims but do impose new burdens on business owners, new threats for commercial-sex seekers, and new financial obligations on taxpayers. Happy New Year! Here are four states with sex-trafficking measures that take effect this January:

North Dakota

North Dakota's new law forces people caught soliciting prostitution to enroll in "John School," where they'll be educated about how they are complicit in human trafficking. Anyone arrested for solicitation more than once in a 10-year period faces up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine.

Curriculum for the new "sex offender education program"—as Florida's Public News Service describes it— was designed by the state's Force to End Human Sexual Exploitation (FUSE). Unsurprisingly, FUSE believes all prostitution must be eradicated. "There isn't a way to participate in this kind of behavior that doesn't promote really horrible things happening to other people," the group's leader, Christina Sambor, said.


?Florida now requires massage parlors, airports, and adult-oriented businesses such as strip clubs and sex-toy shops to prominently display a human-trafficking hotline number or face a civil penalty. The requirement comes following a coordinated push from the Polaris Project, a nongovernmental organization that gets federal funding to run said hotline. The more states Polaris can convince to make posting the phone number mandatory, the more money it can collect from the federal government for its operation. (Data on the effectiveness of this publicly-funded hotline are not publicly available.)

"Taping up a sign is not a burden," one Tampa strip club owner told ABC Tampa Bay—he put one up in the dressing room months ago. But that's not all the law requires. Employees of these businesses must also receive training from the Department of Homeland Security on how to spot potential sex traffickers or victims of sex trafficking.

New York

In New York state, labor trafficking, sex trafficking, prostitution, patronizing a person for prostitution, and having sex with a minor are all well-established crimes. The state's latest human-trafficking measure simply creates new "aggravated" categories of these crimes, which allows law enforcement to tack on extra charges and jail time under certain conditions, such as when the act takes place on or adjacent to a school or athletic grounds.

The new law also expands the definition of felony "advancing, compelling, or profiting from prostitution" to include any situation involving the prostitution of a 16- or 17-year-old, regardless of whether the teen is forced or coerced (previously, force or coercion must have been involved if the victim was above the age of 15). Additionally, it establishes that being a victim of sex trafficking is an affirmative defense to prostitution charges.


Like Florida, Illinois now requires certain types of establishments to post a notice featuring the national human-trafficking hotline number. State laws requiring such postings are one of the key goals of the Polaris Project, which also receives ample federal funding to run the hotline.

In Illinois, airports, bars, strip clubs, adult stores, bus stops, train stations, urgent care centers, truck stops, hospital emergency rooms, job-recruitment centers, and farm labor contractors must start posting the hotline number in "a conspicuous place." Failure to properly post the notice will result in a fine of $500 or, after a first offense, a fine of $1,000.

Another new Illinois law ramps up the criminal penalties for patronizing or promoting juvenile prostitution if the minor is in the state foster-care system or otherwise a ward of the state.



Infant seriously injured after felony child abuse, police say

by DaVonte McKenith and Nicole Goodrich

RALSTON, Neb. —A woman was arrested Wednesday on child abuse charges, according to Ralston police.

Brittany Burgess, 22, is facing a class-two felony.

According to police, the investigation revealed that Burgess' actions caused serious injury to her 2-month-old son. The infant suffered a broken leg.

Medical officials say the fracture was caused by "pushing down and twisting." Further investigation revealed that the leg was fractured earlier and then re-fractured.

"In talking with the medical professionals, they determined that this type of injury for a two-month-old wasn't possible without some type of pushing or pulling," Chief Ron Murtaugh said.

KETV NewsWatch 7 obtained court documents that outlined the alleged abuse:

Reports say that on Dec. 21st, 2015 two officers were called to Children's Hospital regarding possible child abuse near 82nd and Morton streets. Burgess told officers that she, the son's biological father, and the infant lived in the home with a family friend and her two daughters. Also in the home were two dogs and approximately 10 ball python snakes.

According to court documents, Burgess told officers that earlier that morning, the infant was crying and "fussy." Burgess was unable to soothe the boy or get him to stop crying, and took him to the Children's Hospital & Medical Center ER. He was treated for constipation and released.

Later at home, reports say the boy woke up from a nap and Burgess changed his diaper. While she was changing him, the baby "kept his left leg curled up close to his buttocks and torso. When Burgess touched his left leg, he screamed. Burgess described the scream as a "different scream."

Burgess called her pediatrician for help. Burgess later took the boy to the ER where doctors determined that there was a fracture to his left tibia, officials say.

In the meantime, Burgess and the boy's biological father described the child's sleeping patterns and medical history. According to police, their stories and timelines matched.

According to documents, officers spoke to the pediatrician, who reported that "preliminary findings of the radiology reports was a spiral fracture to the boy's left tibia. The fracture appeared to be a recent injury." The pediatrician could not provide a time frame.

Reports say that while Burgess was holding the baby, an officer noticed a 2-inch bruise on the boy's left shoulder. The doctor examined the yellow and green marking, and said it appeared to be in the early stages of healing. Burgess and the son's father were unable to explain the bruise, according to police.

On Dec. 22, a doctor from Children's Hospital & Medical Center reported to officers that the boy's tibia was fractured more than once and an oblique fracture was "caused by pushing down and twisting."

The document says: "Even though (the infant) is 2 months old, a great deal of force would have to be applied to cause a fracture to (his) tibia. The second fracture would not have taken as much force."

Burgess and the son's father denied harming the infant, reports say.

"We're not sure how that happened, because we were awake with him that night," Angel Desantiago, the child's father, said. "We were taking care of him, making sure he was OK."

According to court documents, Burgess later told officers that her mother threatened to take the boy away from her because "(Burgess) is an unfit mother because she is bipolar and not taking her medication." The report goes further to state that Burgess alluded to, but did not directly accuse her mother of injuring the boy.

Burgess told officers that she knows how the state works and that she would be going to jail for child abuse. Burgess said the injury would have occurred while she was taking care of the boy.

Burgess denied becoming frustrated while changing the boy's diaper, but according to reports, Burgess said "the injury could have occurred while she was partially awake."

Burgess admitted to police that she touched the top of the child's legs and the top of his lower leg, according to reports. The report adds: "Burgess did not know how much pressure she put on the boy's leg, but he cried for two hours before he fell asleep."

Burgess would not look at the officer and cried throughout the interview, reports say.

After the interview, doctors did not feel comfortable with the parents in the hospital room with the baby. Upon leaving, Burgess said "The state is going to take the baby away because of one mistake."

Desantiago said he believes something else caused the initial fracture.

"We did have an accident where our dog did accidentally step on him," he said. "And it's a pretty big dog, and that's what we're thinking fractured it."

Ralston Police Chief Ronald Murtaugh commented on the case:

"One of the hardest things in our profession is investigating child abuse," said Murtaugh. "Unfortunately, our officers were faced with this recently."

Murtaugh said his officers started investigating after Burgess brought her son to the hospital for the second time on Dec. 21.

The county attorney's office will continue its investigation.

KETV NewsWatch 7 spoke with the child's father Thursday off camera. He said he loves his daughter and believes she made a mistake, but said he's hopeful she gets help so she can care for her son instead of going to jail.



Second Family Alleges Child Abuse at Special Needs School in California


ANTIOCH, CA (KTRK) -- A second family has come forward with allegations of child abuse after a California school employee was caught on camera allegedly beating a special needs student.

Nagina Azizi says she was speechless when she saw the bruises on her brother's back in 2013, bruises she says he sustained while attending Tobinworld School for Special Education in Antioch.

Lina Azizi, the child's mother, says the school denies he was injured there.

"Yes, they said it didn't happen at school," Lina Azizi says.

However, the recent arrest of a Tobinworld school employee on child abuse charges has the family calling for immediate changes at the special education school.

"Bring good people, people who are trust worthy," says Nagina Azizi. "Maybe they should look in their background and make it better because I don't want schools shut down for autism because it is really hard out there."

Lina Azizi says she hopes this latest incident will give other parents at Tobinworld the courage to come forward

"And i want other parents to speak up too on behalf of autistic kids," she says.

In the statement from the school that was released Thursday, the executive director says "We are horrified by the recent event at our Tobinworld II campus and will not tolerate the mistreatment or abuse of any child. The care, integrity and specialized education of Tobinworld students are our highest priorities and responsibilities."



Woman charged with enabling, failure to report child abuse

by Cass Rains

A 29-year-old Enid woman was charged this week with felony counts of enabling child abuse and failure to report prolonged child abuse.

Mary Beth Makela, also known as Mary Beth Williams and May Beth Koehn, was charged Tuesday in Garfield County District Court. She is set for arraignment on the charges next week.

She faces up to life in prison or a year in county jail and/or a fine of $50 to $5,000 on the enabling child abuse charge and up to two years in prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000 on the failure to report charge.

Her husband, 25-year-old Joseph Peter Makela, was charged in September 2015 with first-degree rape and three counts of lewd molestation. The charges accuse him of raping and molesting a 12-year-old girl.

Online court records show Mary filed for divorce from Joseph Sept. 25, 2015.

According to an affidavit filed in Mary's case, Garfield County Sheriff's Office Deputy Laura Roberts met with Mary Makela Aug. 25.

Mary said the 12-year-old girl told her Joseph had touched her three or four different times, according to the affidavit. Mary said the first time she was told the girl was 8 or 9 years old.

Mary said the second time the child told her was in 2013, according to the affidavit. She said the girl told her Joseph touched her "down there."

Mary told Roberts it was just gentle touching and caressing, according to the affidavit. She said she got Joseph and the girl in the same room and asked what was going on and the girl said, "Oh nothing."

Said said the third time the child told her was in August 2015. She said the girl told her "You know he touched me," according to the affidavit. Mary said she asked the girl if she was going to say that again if she called law enforcement to make a report and the girl said no, she was just doing it for attention, according to the affidavit.

Mary told Roberts that Joseph said the only time he remembers was two months before. She said Joseph said he was drunk, but the girl said he was not, according to the affidavit. Mary told Roberts, "I don't think Joe would do that." Mary later said she thought he would if he were drunk.

By the end of the interview, Mary told Roberts she could see Joseph doing it twice, according to the affidavit. In forensic interviews, the girl said she told Mary multiple times about the abuse.



Florida Parents Arrested for Child Abuse After Restraining Daughter in Playhouse

by Ken Meyer

In case you weren't aware by now, Florida seems to have an inexplicable knack for weird people who take center stage in the news cycle with strange or inappropriate behavior. In this case, a radiologist and his wife were arrested for child abuse after authorities found that they would routinely restrain their 12-year-old daughter with zipties in her playhouse.

On December 27, the Sarasota County Sheriff's office responded to a potential kidnapping call when the daughter of Eugenio and Victoria Erquiaga appeared at a neighbor's house with her arms and ankles bound together. 12 News reported that the girl told police that the ties were placed on her by her parents, and that they would regularly lock her in a playhouse, which also served as her bedroom.

Authorities found that playhouse was 5 by 7 feet wide and 7 feet tall, and that the door was kept shut with a piece of wood while all but one window was screwed shut. The playhouse reportedly reeked of urine, and the girl said she often soiled herself because she was trapped inside the playhouse for hours while home alone.

After being arrested, the Erquiagas defended their actions by saying they were punishing the girl's bad behavior and that she was prone to violent outbursts. They are being held without bail, and all eight of their children were taken into protective custody by the Department of Children and Families.


North Carolina

Learn to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse

HICKORY — The Children's Advocacy and Protection Center of Catawba County will host a free program from 6-8 p.m. Jan. 12 on how to prevent child sexual abuse.

This training will be held at the SALT Block auditorium, located in the Catawba County Arts and Science Center at 243 Third Ave., NE, Hickory. Darkness to Light: Stewards of Children is a program that educates adults in how to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to incidents of child sexual abuse. The program is designed for parents, as well as for individuals who serve children and youth.

In 2011, the Children's Advocacy & Protection Center launched a campaign to provide Darkness to Light training to 6,000 adults, or 5 percent of Catawba County's adult population. Research has shown that when 5 percent of a population learns a new skill, the community reaches a “tipping point,” resulting in social change. To meet this goal, the CAPC needs to train 1,000 more adults.

“There are more than 400 seats in the SALT Block auditorium,” said Adrienne Opdyke, director of the CAPC. “On behalf of the children in our community, please help us fill all those seats on Jan. 12 by attending the Darkness to Light training and encouraging your friends and relatives to attend as well.”

This training is for adults only. Child care is not provided. Adults are asked to pre-register for this event so that enough informational materials will be available. This program is provided free of charge to the public thanks to a grant from the Catawba County United Way. To pre-register, contact Kate Landry at the Children's Advocacy and Protection Center at

The CAPC is a nonprofit organization that works to prevent and respond to child sexual and physical abuse. It coordinates the efforts of Catawba County Social Services, law enforcement, the District Attorney's Office, mental health providers, and medical professionals.

More information about the CAPC is available on its website at You may call the center at 828-465-9296.


How to prevent child sex abuse – tips for parents

Child sex abuse is more prevalent than your might think. It's wrong, and a lot of times the perpetrators aren't given justice. Our expert, Dr Gayatri Ayyer gives her view on preventing it.

by Dr. Gayatri Ayyer

In the last article we talked about how child sex abuse is not as uncommon as we think it is. We also talked about what constitutes child sex abuse and how to spot it. Below are some important guidelines parents, guardian and caretakers should follow to protect their children from CSA:

The typical advice ‘Don't talk to strangers' doesn't apply in this case. Most sexual abusers are known to their victims.

Do not instruct children to give hugs and kisses to relatives and friends. Let them express affection on their own terms.

Observe if the child is reluctant or fearful of approaching any family member or relative or known person. There could be a reason for such behaviour.

Teach your children that their bodies are their own. That it is OK to say they do not want a hug or that certain kinds of contact make them uncomfortable.

Teach your children basic sexual education. Teach them that no one should touch the ‘private' parts of their body. A health professional can also help to communicate sex education to children if parents are uncomfortable doing so.

The concept of ‘good touch, bad touch' should be taught to children at home and school. There are various books and other multi-media materials available for the same.*

Develop strong communication skills with your children. Encourage them to ask questions and talk about their experiences. For example, make it a habit to share your daily activities with child, encouraging the child to do the same. This makes it easier for the child to talk to the parent about any inappropriate touch or behaviour.

Explain the importance of reporting abuse to you or another trusted adult.

Teach your children that sexual advances from older children and adults are wrong and against the law. Give them the confidence to assert themselves against any adult who attempts to abuse them. If that doesn't work, then the child should remove himself or herself from the situation if possible or bring it to the notice of others in their surroundings.

Make an effort to know children's friends and their families. Also know people in the child's surrounding like bus drivers, school staff, care-givers, day care staff, servants, maids, etc.

When hiring maids, servants, drivers for your family, ensure that they have valid ID proof and are registered at your nearest Police Station.

It is critical to provide adequate supervision for your children and only leave them in the care of individuals whom you deem safe.

Carefully monitor child safety in situations where older youth or adolescents supervise younger children.

Ensure that at least two adults supervise children at all times – it lessens the chance for an abuse situation developing.

Instruct your child to never get into a car with anyone or accept food or gifts from anyone without your permission and supervision.

It is important to remember that physical force is often not necessary to engage a child in sexual activity. Children are trusting and dependent and will often do what is asked of them to gain approval and love or for getting gifts.

Spread awareness about child sexual abuse by arranging for knowledgeable guest speakers to present to your organizations or groups. Encourage your local school and PTAs to establish programs to educate both teachers and students about the problem.


What to do when your child has been sexually abused?

Gayatri Aiyyar tells you what to do when the worst has happened.

by Gayatri Aiyyar

As part of the child sex abuse series, I've talked about child sex abuse and tips to prevent it. This article will discuss what to do when the worst has happened. Parents and guardians, when they discover that their child has been abused go through emotional upheaval themselves. A lot of questions and doubts bombard them – How can this have happened to my child? I took so many precautions! Can I believe my child? It's not possible that XYZ could have done this…he/she is so loving and affectionate! What do I do now? Should we report or keep quiet? Who will believe us? What about our status/reputation in our family/community? What about the reputation of the child?

In reaction to answering these questions or doubts, we forget the trauma the child faces and the psychological and emotional impact on the child in the years to come. Remember CSA has long-lasting effects that follow the child into adulthood and all their relationships.

Let's see step by step, as parents what you can do to help your child or other children you know who are being or have been abused.

Proving child sex abuse

In most cases of non-penetrative CSA or when the child has been exposed to pornographic material, it is difficult to prove CSA as children may be afraid or hesitant to talk about their experiences. Sexual abuse is usually discovered in one of two ways:

Direct disclosure (the victim, victim's family member or parent seeking help makes a statement)

Indirect methods (words of the witness; if the victim's friend talks about the abuse; the child contracts a sexually transmitted disease or she becomes pregnant)

Proving that a child has been sexually abused does become a problem sometimes if the child shows no physical evidence of abuse. Behavioural or emotional changes in the child are exhibited at a later stage, by which time the perpetrator has escaped or the abuse has become an on-going issue. Since the child is the only witness to the abuse, the child's statement becomes the only evidence. This brings up the issue whether the child can be trusted.

When there has been a history of the child resorting to lying or manipulative behaviours, the child is not believed and his/her statement is rejected. Still it's imperative to believe the child. Once the child feels that at least one adult (parent/guardian/relative/sibling) believes his/her story, the child experiences relief at that time when the child is emotionally vulnerable. This will help the child cope better with the trauma and effects of CSA could be reduced.

Also as children's communication patterns are not as developed as adults, the adults may misinterpret what the child is trying to convey. In case of doubt, its best for parents and teachers should seek help from trained psychologists and trained medical professionals, to determine if abuse has occurred or on-going.

What should parents or near and dear ones do if a child has been sexually abused?

First and foremost, try to understand what the child is saying and believe that the child is telling you the truth, even if there have been instances of the child lying or making stories in the past. I will reiterate that in case of doubt, seeking help from a psychologist or medical professional, trained in identifying cases of sexual abuse is of utmost importance.

Give your child a safe environment

Give the child a safe environment in which to talk to you or another trusted adult. Encourage the child to talk about what he or she has experienced. Be careful not to suggest events to him or her that may not have happened. Many parents tend to panic and encourage the child to suppress or forget the abuse happened. The child can be influenced by the parents' reaction to the disclosure. This could prove extremely harmful, leading to a lot of psychological problems. It's imperative that parents stay calm and focused and try to get as many details as possible from the child, without pressurising the child.

Tell the child it's not his/her fault

Children tend to feel guilty due to the abuse. Reassure the child that he or she did nothing wrong and that they are not responsible for what had happened to them. Seek counselling for the child from a trained psychologist, who has the experience of dealing with CSA issues. They can help the child cope with the feelings of guilt, fear and the trauma of the abuse to reduce possibilities of long term effects of abuse.

Get a medical exam done

Arrange for a medical examination for the child from an expert who has dealt with CSA before. It's best if the parent and medical professional explains to the child about the medical procedure beforehand. Explaining the difference between medical procedure and the abuse can reduce trauma for the child. Untrained medical professionals are usually rough and use unnecessary intrusive methods which could be further traumatic for the children.


Life after child sex abuse

There are two main goals in sexual abuse treatment - dealing with the effects of sexual abuse, and decreasing risk for future sexual abuse.

by Dr. Gayatri Ayyer

In this post, we are going to discuss the treatment options for children who've suffered from child sex abuse.

What sort of therapy is needed for a child who suffers from this? Can a child who suffers it go back to having a normal life?

There are two main goals in sexual abuse treatment – dealing with the effects of sexual abuse, and decreasing risk for future sexual abuse. The treatment plan should explain to the child and the family about what is sexual abuse and its possible causes. It largely caters to reducing the effects of CSA for the child and the family.

Methods that psychologists usually use are individual counselling, group therapy, and family therapy. The child need not undergo all forms of therapy. They are modified according to the needs of the child.

According to researchers, the factors that seem to affect the amount of harm done to the victim include:

the age of the child;

the duration of the abuse,

frequency, and intrusiveness of the abuse;

the degree of force used;

and the relationship of the abuser to the child.

A child's understanding of the abuse, and timing of disclosure affects the short- and long-term effects. When a child has a trusted adult he/she can confide in and the child's account of abuse is believed, the child experiences less trauma. Also immediacy of the disclosure lessens the trauma for the child. Family support, additional support from non-family members, peers, counselling, child's self-esteem and spirituality have also shown to be beneficial for the victims in their recovery from abuse.

Dealing with the emotional effect of sexual abuse is an important component of the treatment. As stated earlier, children tend to have feelings of guilt due to the abuse and resolution of these feelings; are detrimental to help the child learn to live a normal life. Victims have reported that reading about child sexual abuse, attending workshops on sexual abuse and undergoing counselling have helped them cope with the abuse.

We should not forget the family of the abused child; they also need help to deal with the after effects of the abuse. They require counselling and other support services to have a strong sense of functioning which in turn helps the child's recovery from abuse.

What are the ramifications – physical, psychological or otherwise?

The child can suffer from psychological and behavioural problems from mild to intense; short-term effects to harmful long-term effects or, those that carry into adulthood. These problems broadly include depression, anxiety, guilt, fear, sexual dysfunction, withdrawal, acting out behaviours, identity confusion, loss of self-esteem and other serious emotional problems. It can also lead to disharmony in relationships in future.

Depending on the circumstance and the child's developmental stage at which the abuse occurs, effects include reverting to earlier developmental behaviour (thumb-sucking, bedwetting), sleep disturbances, eating disorders, behaviour and/or performance problems at school, and disinterest in school and social activities. Some children even report little or no psychological distress from the abuse, which could be due to fear/anxiety or guilt about the abuse or using denial of their emotions and feelings as a coping mechanism.

Severe effects have been reported in cases where perpetrators have been family members or abuse has been extensive and brutal. Depending on the severity of the incident, victims of sexual abuse may also develop fear and anxiety regarding the opposite sex or sexual issues and may display inappropriate sexual behaviour.

Research shows that severe and long term effects of CSA could result in psychiatric disorders like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Sexual Dysfunction disorders. Personality disorders, eating disorders, depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse disorders and behaviours, and anti-social or criminal behaviours also tend to be major effects of CSA.

Children exposed to exhibitionism, pornographic material or sexual intercourse tend to get addicted to substance abuse, pornography and sexually deviant behaviour. Research has shown that many child sexual abuse victims in adulthood tend to become sexual offenders or perpetrators themselves or become victims of rape or involved in abusive relationships. Female child victims in adulthood tend to get into relationships where their partner is abusive. In adulthood, CSA victims have shown problems in establishing and maintaining boundaries in relationships and issues of trust in their relationships.

Let's join hands to eradicate this inhumane phenomenon called Sexual Abuse from our world. Let children experience the joys of childhood and grow to be humane beings.


Bill Cosby won't be charged in alleged Playboy Mansion sexual assault

by Jeff Truesdell

After failing to find sufficient evidence to back a model's claim that she was drugged and sexually assaulted by Bill Cosby at a Playboy Mansion party in 2008, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office announced Wednesday that it would not file any criminal charges against the comedian.

Additionally, the prosecutor declined to bring charges in a second woman's claims that she was drugged and raped in 1965 by Cosby when she was 17, saying the statute of limitations had expired.

“We are satisfied that the Los Angeles DA's Office fully and fairly evaluated all the facts and evidence, and came to the right conclusion,” says a statement from Cosby's attorney obtained by PEOPLE.

At the same time, Cosby's legal team also welcomed a California appeals court ruling that Janice Dickinson, who has filed a defamation suit against Cosby for denying that he sexually assaulted her, has no right to force Cosby to give a deposition in her case.

“We are pleased that the legal issues we brought to the Court of Appeal were fairly heard and ruled upon in our favor,” Cosby's attorneys said.

In the alleged Playboy Mansion incident, Chloe Goins, 25, is still pursuing a federal civil lawsuit. Goins alleges that as an 18-year-old attending a party at the mansion, she was given a drink by Cosby and then immediately felt dizzy and sick to her stomach, after which Cosby escorted her to a room. Her suit claims she awoke with her clothes off to find Cosby biting on one of her toes, and with her breasts “wet and sticky, as if someone had been licking them.”

However, investigators who reviewed exterior video footage of the Aug. 9, 2008 party at the mansion could find no images of either Goins or Cosby, and further found evidence that Cosby was in New York on the weekend of the event, according to the prosecutor's office.

“They also reviewed guest lists of 56 documented events at the Playboy Mansion in 2008. [Cosby] did not appear on any guests lists for events held that summer. His name only showed up on a guest list for one event in February,” the prosecutor's office states.

While looking further for signs of potential felony sex offenses committed by Cosby against Goins that still would fall within the statute of limitations, they again came up empty.

“Consequently,” the prosecutor's office concluded, “after evaluating all potential charges, there is insufficient evidence to prove these crimes beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The decision still leaves Cosby to face a criminal charge of aggravated indecent assault brought Dec. 30, 2015, in Pennsylvania, involving allegations raised by Andrea Constand that he drugged and sexually assaulted her at his Elkins Park, Pennsylvania home in January 2004.

Cosby and his representatives have denied all allegations against him.



Baby dies of apparent heroin overdose in Utah

by CBS

Police in Provo are investigating the death of a 1-year-old girl after tests showed she had an overdose of heroin in her body.

The Deseret News reports that the documents unsealed Tuesday show that the girl's mother told police the child didn't respond when she checked on her after putting her to sleep on Dec. 2.

That child, Penny Cormani, died from an apparent overdose of heroin, according to newly unsealed search warrants, reports CBS affiliate KUTV.

The baby was pronounced dead at a hospital. The warrants say an autopsy found codeine in her system as well as a lethal amount of heroin.

Authorities say they found drug paraphernalia at the house where the girl's parents were staying, and that both the parents and the homeowners have histories of drug use.

Provo police officer Nick Dupaix says investigators are awaiting final toxicology results and trying to determine whose paraphernalia it was.

KUTV spoke with David Belgard, the homeowner, who let Penny's family stay with him.

"It was tragic, it was horrible," Belgard said.

But he claims he had nothing to do with it. He told KUTV the drug paraphernalia found throughout his home wasn't his. He also denied using drugs.

Belgard also said the contraband items belonged to Penny's parents, which they denied to investigators. They blamed Belgard.

"They're crazy," he said in response.

No one has been arrested.



Video of boy's abuse prompts arrest of Antioch teacher's aide

by Kimberly Veklerov

(Video on site)

State officials launched an investigation into an Antioch school for special-needs students Wednesday after a shocking series of videos circulated on social media showing a teacher's aide striking a 9-year-old boy in the face, fighting with him and tackling him to the ground.

After viewing the footage, Antioch police officers arrested 26-year-old Kamaljot Kaur of Antioch on suspicion of felony child abuse. Police said the student in the video, who lives in Oakland, was beaten Tuesday but had no visible injuries a day later.

The videos were shot at Tobinworld II, whose operators were stripped of their ability to enroll students for several weeks last year and face a lawsuit filed by a parent claiming her son was abused on campus. The footage was initially posted to Snapchat — apparently by the person who filmed it — then was captured and uploaded to Facebook late Tuesday.

On Wednesday, an administrator at the nonprofit school, which serves special-needs students under a contract with the Antioch Unified School District, said the woman who struck the student and another teacher's aide who was in the room at the time had been fired.

The classroom is back to “running as normal as it should be,” said the administrator, Annetta Giambruno. School officials said in a statement that they were alerted to the video Tuesday afternoon by an anonymous phone call and launched a full investigation. They said the victim was back in class Wednesday.

“Tobinworld takes this event extremely seriously and will take all necessary actions once we have the full facts in this matter,” the statement said.

Antioch police are investigating as well, along with the California Department of Education, which will determine whether the school meets certification requirements.

In the video, a female adult hits a boy who is being held in the air by two young males, with one restraining his arms and the other restraining his legs. In another scene, the woman rushes toward the boy, grabs his face and pins him to the ground. Throughout the clips, other people in the classroom are seen laughing and joking.

Another clip shows the boy sitting at a desk and the woman throwing a handful of objects at him before he throws books to the ground. The woman then slams a red plastic cup on top of the boy's head and forces him to the ground again.

In one scene, the boy appears to cower behind a yellow chair before a young man takes it away from him. The video closes with one of the observers laughing on the ground. It had been viewed more than 30,000 times and shared by more than 1,000 people as of Wednesday afternoon.

Tobinworld operates five schools in Antioch and one in Glendale (Los Angeles County), serving students ages 5 to 22 with autism or severe emotional or developmental disabilities, according to its website. The schools are not public but receive funding from public districts. About 110 students attend the Tobinworld II campus.

Previous issues

The school, along with its sister campus Tobinworld III in Antioch, had its certification suspended in August and was not allowed to enroll students, said Department of Education spokesman Peter Tira. He said the school had employed staffers without proper certification and background checks.

After Tobinworld took “several corrective actions,” Tira said, the state authorized the schools to enroll students in October and restored their certifications in late December.

The Antioch Unified School District said Wednesday that it had sent staffers to Tobinworld II to “provide support to our students and parents. ... We take all instances of student safety seriously and will ensure that appropriate and decisive steps are taken as determined by the outcome of the investigation.”

Tobinworld has been accused in the past of mistreating or abusing special-needs children.

In a 2014 lawsuit now pending in Contra Costa County Superior Court, one parent said her 9-year-old son was told he could not eat snacks or use the restroom at Tobinworld II. She alleged that in 2013 the school's vice president, a teacher and three aides restrained the child, then kicked his feet out from under him, causing him to fall and sustain a bloody nose. When the boy cried and screamed, the suit alleged, the aides wrapped plastic around his face, forcing him to choke on blood.



Report gives children's services in California more low grades than high ones

by Fermin Leal

California earned poor marks for several services it provides for the well-being of children, including those dealing with trauma, abuse and other mental and behavioral challenges, according to a report issued Wednesday by the advocacy organization Children Now.

The 2016 “California Children's Report Card” also gave low marks to state services for infant and toddler care, teacher training and evaluation, obesity prevention and nutrition, and foster youth education. The state got highest marks for providing health coverage to children under the Affordable Care Act, as well as relatively high ones in other areas such as linking the high school curriculum to career pathways, introducing Common Core academic standards and Next Generation Science Standards, after-school and summer learning, and targeting state funds at children with the highest needs.

The report card, released annually for more than two decades, issued letter grades (A through F) for how the state is doing in 31 key education, health and child welfare areas that are aimed at the neediest student populations. The goal is to encourage state lawmakers and educators to increase investments in these areas.

The grades are not based on any standardized assessments, but reflect the views of the organization based on its interpretation of data and reports from a wide range of sources.

“California is a wealthy state, with more assets than most to devote to its children's well-being,” the report said. “It's time to put more of our resources to work for kids, by investing in quality programs to help lift them out of poverty and set them on the road to success.”

Nearly half of the state's 9 million children come from poor or low-income families. Yet many don't have comprehensive access to services that can lead to an improved quality of life, the report charged.

Children Now President Ted Lempert said the one of the report card's most troubling findings shows the state continues to do little to promote healing for the more than 1 million children experiencing trauma, a category that earned a D- grade. Research has shown that children suffering from abuse, neglect and those witnessing violence at home can experience serious long-term consequences, including health problems like diabetes and mental health challenges like depression, he said.

“Trauma can impede emotional well-being, impact school performance and set kids up for a lifetime of health problems,” Lempert said. “California must do more to assess children for trauma and find them the help they need to heal.”

The highest grade Children Now awarded was an A minus for health insurance coverage of children, largely as a result of the state's positive response to the federal Affordable Care Act, which has caused the rate of insured children to climb to 95 percent statewide.

Here is a sampling of the grades it awarded in eight of the 31 areas the report examined:

Infant and toddler care, grade D: Children Now noted that “California is taking small but important steps toward improving access and ensuring affordable, quality care for the families that need it most,” but families of infants and toddlers are least likely to receive help to pay for childcare, and the quality of care can vary widely. The report says the majority of the over 300,000 infants and children who meet eligibility requirements still don't have access to subsidized care.

Preschool, grade B-: After years of budget cuts to preschool services, the report praises the state making “significant new investments in preschool access, affordability and quality. But it notes that California still does not provide universal preschool, and access and cost sets up barriers to preschool for many children.

K-12 funding, grade C-: California has increased public school spending in recent years ( by $3,000 per child since just four years ago, according to one EdSource report). But it continues to lag behind in national comparisons of per pupil spending, with the state spending an average of $10,120 annually compared to the $17,777 average spent annually by the top ten spending states.

Academic standards, grade B-: The state gets high marks for moving aggressively the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards. But the report says it should be doing more to fully implement these standards, and also update standards for other subject areas.

Teacher training and evaluation, grade D: Taking on one of the most controversial issues in the state, the Children Now report asserts that “most districts fail to provide teachers with the feedback they need to improve” and that “many districts don't include measures of student achievement in evaluations of teachers.”

Oral health, grade D+: While 55 percent of California children are enrolled in Medi-Cal, the report says fewer than half have received any dental services during the previous year. Each year, there are more than 25,000 children's dental-related emergency room visits.

Obesity prevention and nutrition, grade C-: Each year, about 3.4 million school children are eligible for free and reduced-priced meals, but 1.1 million do not receive those meals. The report says that “California has taken steps to help give children access to drinking water and healthier food at school. But much more must be done, including reducing the consumption of sugary beverages and increasing access to nutritious meals and snacks during the summer and in after school programs.”

Foster youth education, grade D+: Under the Local Control Funding Formula, schools now receive extra funds to serve foster youth, and a recent state law requires that they receive additional educational assistance and supports. But about one in three foster youths miss at least a month of school every year, and the report concludes that too few of them “are getting the education they need to succeed in life.”

The report noted that several groups and agencies statewide have launched initiatives to target many of these issues. Also, the improved economy has allowed the state to target additional dollars to fill in some of the gaps in services noted in the report. Still, the state's policy makers need to do much more to ensure more children students from high need backgrounds succeed, Lempert said. “State investment in these critical areas will save money in the long term,” he said.

The report also includes a “scorecard” for each of the state's 58 counties on more than two dozen indicators of a child's health and well-being.


Rumor of neglect ups risk of later maltreatment for kids

by Reuters

When child protective services receives a report of neglect of a child with a disability, even when the report is unsubstantiated, that child is more likely than others to experience maltreatment later, according to a new study.

Children with disabilities are more likely to be referred to child protective services (CPS) than children without disabilities, the researchers say.

"What we found was that the high-risk cohort of children with disabilities experienced future maltreatment sooner and more often than other children," said lead author Dr. Caroline J. Kistin of the pediatrics department at Boston Medical Center.

"This is a high risk population that we can identify in a fairly straightforward way so we can provide additional support," she added.

The researchers analyzed data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System on more than 489,000 children from 33 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia who had first-time unsubstantiated referrals for neglect in 2008.

While the vast majority did not have disabilities, nearly 12,600 of the children did have conditions included in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, like autism, deafness or blindness.

By 2012, 45 percent of children with disabilities had been referred again to CPS, compared to 36 percent of those without disabilities. Sixteen percent of those with disabilities had experienced substantiated maltreatment and seven percent had been placed in foster care.

Maltreatment and foster care were both more common for kids with disabilities, the authors reported in JAMA.

There might have been more reports of maltreatment among kids with disabilities because these kids interact more with healthcare providers and specialists who are mandated reporters, but in any case this seems to be a vulnerable population, the authors wrote.

"One issue is that kids with disabilities are at increased risk for being abused or neglected and at increased risk of being identified as abused or neglected," said Howard Dubowitz, head of the Division of Child Protection and director of the Center for Families at The University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

"We need to be really mindful that these often are particularly vulnerable kids that need extra care," Dubowitz, who was not part of the new research, told Reuters Health by phone.

Some states now approach CPS investigations focusing on what families need, rather than finding someone at fault, which is a better conceptual approach, he said.

"There clearly are many parents with kids who have disabilities who do a fabulous job," Dubowitz said.

Children commonly had multiple disabilities, including physical, behavioral and learning issues, that made it hard to tell which types of disabilities were the biggest risk factors, Kistin told Reuters Health by phone.

"Given limited funds this might be a high yield population," she said.

Most reports to CPS are of neglect and are unsubstantiated, meaning there's not enough legal evidence to prove maltreatment, she said.

"Instead of expecting CPS to expand services, I think we need to really look at other ways that other institutions can partner with CPS," which would include notifying pediatricians and schools of an unsubstantiated report of neglect, Kistin said.

"As a pediatrician if there's a report from the school system, I might not know," she said. "If we could recognize the fact that (just because it's unsubstantiated) doesn't mean that there's no risk going forward, we would see this not as the end of the referral but as opportunity for more help."


United Kingdom

Parents neglected their child so badly they smelled of rotting meat, Southampton Crown Court heard

by Sian Davies

PARENTS subjected their child to what was described as the worst case of neglect a doctor had seen in their 30-year career, a court was told.

The seven year old girl was found to have infected sores on her scalp, her hair “moving” with the infestation of head lice, and smelling so bad the odour was described as “rotting meat”, jurors at Southampton Crown Court heard.

The girl's sister, who was two, was allegedly found in a neglected condition, although not as severe, said prosecutor Robert Bryan, but her teeth were so badly decayed six of them had to be removed under general anaesthetic.

The court heard how the alarm was first raised in December 2013 when the elder girl moved to a new school in Southampton and teachers immediately noticed her dishevelled appearance.

Her class teacher described noticing the smell of the child first which she said was like “rotting meat” and smelt as though “something had died”.

She said that the girl appeared grey and her eyes sunken and also appeared to have black patches in her hair.

Giving evidence to the court she said on first sight she thought the child was a boy, but it was the smell that she noticed immediately. “That smell was the one thing that has stayed with me. It was the worst smell I have ever smelt in my life, it smelt like gone off rotting meat,” she said.

She was so concerned that she raised it with the member of staff in charge of safeguarding and other senior leadership staff who also observed the girl in class scratching at her head.

The teacher described large head lice moving in her hair, dropping on to her shoulders and arms and onto the book she was reading while dried clumps of blood also falling on to her clothes from where she was scratching.

After observing her, one teacher said: “Her hair was moving because of the number of lice that were in her hair.”

When staff confronted the girl's mother she claimed to have taken the child to see a doctor a few days before to address the sores in her head which she believed to be eczema.

She said she was applying treatment to her hair but it was difficult to bath her because the child said her head hurt.

The mother met with staff the following day when teachers also noticed the girl's sister appeared to be in dirty clothes and was not wearing a coat despite it being a freezing cold day, explained Mr Bryan.

When one staff member helped her to put a coat on which was tucked into the bottom of her pram, they noticed her front teeth appeared to be discoloured, he added.

As a result of the state of the girls, staff had already notified social services which resulted in council child welfare staff attending the school with police officers. The girls were subsequently admitted to hospital for treatment and monitoring.

Reading from the findings of the medical examination that followed Mr Bryan said in her 30-year career it was the worst case of neglect, the examiner, had seen.

Along with the infestation of lice, the seven year old had infected sores on her scalp, was iron deficient, had signs of tooth decay and had scratch marks around her neck and arms while her unkempt, matted hair had dried blood in it from her weeping sores and dead lice were found in her socks and shoes.

Mr Bryan said that when the girl was bathed the water turned brown.

“It was dark brown from the old blood and bright red from the fresh blood.”

The youngster sister was also borderline iron deficient, had a head lice infestation and had a number of decayed teeth, which was put down to drinking sweetened drinks from her bottle, known as ‘bottle decay'.

She also suffered from a speech and language delay.

Mr Bryan said that while the girls were being treated in hospital their mother brought a toy in for them which was described as “bloodstained and had head lice squashed into the fur.”

The parents, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, were subsequently arrested and eventually charged with two counts of child neglect.

In interview with the police Mr Bryan said the pair denied neglecting the children and said they were trying to sort out the issue with the older girl's head.

The mother, from Southampton, said she had been to the doctors several days before she started the new school and had been prescribed medication which she had been trying to apply.

The father claimed the girls ate a healthy diet and enjoyed fruit and vegetables at home.

The pair said they had been told there was a problem with the girls' teeth, and when asked what they had done about it the mother said she had tried not to drink fizzy drinks around them and out her glass “out of the way” to stop them drinking out of it.

Mr Bryan said police officers asked the mother where she thought she had fallen down as a parent to which she replied “I haven't”.

Mr Bryan said: “If advice was being given it was not being followed or it was being ignored and it resulted in the children suffering.”

The woman, a 43-year-old from Southampton, who at times wiped tears from her eyes whilst listening to the opening of the case, denies two counts of child neglect.

The father, a 47-year-old also from Southampton, denied the same charges.

The trial, presided over by Judge Peter Henry, is expected to last three weeks.



To Catch a Rapist

A special-victims unit fights the hidden epidemic of sexual assault that is disturbingly difficult to investigate.


A dull, frigid winter morning. Overhead, the sky was locked in gray, only occasionally releasing an ashen, icy flake or two, more like iron shavings than snow. On the third floor of the New Haven police station, Detective Kris Cuddy had just finished interviewing the mother of a young rape victim. After escorting the woman downstairs, she was returning to her office in the Special Victims Unit. Her square-heeled boots made a quick, hard sound as she left the elevators, a tock-tock-tock that could be heard above the ringing phones and cubicle chatter. The detective had an Irish face — blue-eyed, pale-skinned, puckish, her coppery brown hair shorn close at the sides into a fauxhawk. She was one of only four investigators in the S.V.U., and she had 32 cases open at the moment. But during interviews with victims or their family members, she never displayed any sign of the pressure she was under. Her manner was steady and reassuring. So we're here to discuss an incident that happened recently, she would begin, making only a vague allusion to the matter at hand before stepping back to allow people to tell the story in their own way. She would offer water, offer a tissue. Let them talk, circling back later to gather more details. At the end of interviews with victims, she almost always told them they were brave.

That morning, in a voice edged with distress, the mother had described a girl who seemed broken by the assault. The mother, too, was overwhelmed. When she broke down sobbing, covering her face, Cuddy placed her hand on the woman's forearm, saying quietly, ‘‘We're almost done. We're almost done,'' as if she were coaxing her to swim a little longer (they were almost at the shore!), coaxing her even though in all likelihood that shore no longer existed for her.

Cuddy shared an office with her partner, Detective Joe Landisio, their two desks facing each other and pushed together, edge to edge. The room was crowded with two printers, a table, another small desk and a huge file cabinet filled with old homicide cases that no one had bothered to move when the units switched offices. The bathroom was next door, so you could hear toilets flushing all day. When she walked into the office, she felt like going straight to sleep. The mother had been so distraught, and Cuddy couldn't make a dent in that. ‘‘You know what this office needs?'' she asked as she sat down at her desk, letting out a huge sigh. ‘‘A bar.''

Landisio swiveled in his chair, scanning the room. ‘‘It could go right against that wall there,'' he said, pointing to a spot beneath a cartoon drawing of a man joyfully kicking a pregnant woman — a ‘‘gift'' from Officer Steve Formica, from Firearms, in recognition of the no-taboos humor char­ac­teristic of the S.V.U. squad. Its four detectives — Cuddy and Landisio, along with Nikki Natale and Jesse Agosto — worked roughly 400 cases a year, investigating mainly sexual assaults but also the abuse and neglect of children and seniors, domestic violence and child deaths, including homicides.

That afternoon, as Cuddy and Landisio ate lunch in front of their computers, Landisio read the files for two new cases that had landed on the already-toppling pile on his desk, muttering in singsong, ‘‘Punch me in the face, punch me in the face,'' while Cuddy made out an arrest-warrant application for the suspect in the child's rape. The girl had already been interviewed at the Yale Child Abuse Clinic, a five-minute drive from headquarters. The S.V.U. detectives never questioned children or young teenagers, leaving that job to the trained social workers with the clinic. But they observed these forensic interviews on a television screen in an adjoining room, along with a social worker and medical personnel from the clinic and a case worker from the state's Department of Children and Families. The room was always crowded and often overheated. It was hard for Cuddy to be just an observer — she would have liked to interview the children herself. Sometimes she talked to them afterward, not to question them but to offer her support, to compliment them on their courage, to try to cheer them up. Landisio never wanted to talk to the victims. He wouldn't know what to say. The whole thing just made him too sad.

All the forensic interviews took place in a small, comfortable room with two armchairs facing each other and an easel set up in between, and they followed a set format. After some friendly chitchat, the social worker would hang two anatomical drawings on the easel, one male, one female, and ask the child to name various body parts, starting with the innocuous ones — hair, eyes, arms — which were then written on the drawings. The social worker wanted to make sure to use the child's own terminology — ‘‘pee-pee'' or ‘‘privacy'' for penis, for instance, or ‘‘coo-coo'' or ‘‘toti'' for vagina — so that the victim's testimony would be clear.

Because interviewers always avoided leading questions, they often started the serious part simply by asking the child, ‘‘So, why are you here today?'' Then the social worker would draw out the details of the assault, one by one. The questions were always excruciatingly specific but asked in a kindly, matter-of-fact way: What did it feel like when he touched your coo-coo? Did he touch you on the outside of your toti or on the inside? Did he say anything when he put his privacy in your tush? As the children were questioned, they squirmed or stared bleakly at the floor. With the utmost concentration, a pony-tailed girl picked at a loose thread on her sweater. Another girl yawned hugely. A boy gripped and rubbed his elbow as if he had just injured it, grimacing theatrically as he bent over his arm, his face hidden from the social worker. A girl who was raped while watching a cartoon sat silently, tears streaming down her cheeks; another schoolgirl pulled her sweater over her head and answered the questions from there. Honey, I can't hear you, the social worker said.

Late that afternoon, Cuddy handed her application for an arrest warrant to the supervisor of their unit, Sgt. Betsy Segui, for review. From there it would be submitted to the court, where an inspector for the state's attorney's office would review it again before the court decided whether to issue a warrant. ‘‘Then we can get this [expletive],'' Cuddy said. It was her way, the only one she had, of fixing things. But winter turned to spring, spring to summer and then summer to fall, and still Cuddy waited for her arrest warrant.

Most American rapes go unpunished. Rape statistics vary depending on the methodology used: The National Crime Victimization Survey, conducted annually by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, states that only about 34 percent of rape or sexual-assault cases were reported in 2014. Based on a rigorous review of the academic research, End Violence Against Women International, a renowned research and training organization for law-enforcement officers and other professionals involved in sexual-assault investigations, estimates that only 5 to 20 percent of sexual assaults are reported, depending on the population studied. And according to a 2011 report by the University of Kentucky Center for Research on Violence Against Women, only 14 to 18 percent of all sexual assaults reported to the police are prosecuted.

Ideas about what constitutes a ‘‘real rape'' still hinder rape investigations and prosecutions. In the minds of many police officers, prosecutors, juries, even victims themselves, a ‘‘real rape'' is committed by a male stranger who uses a weapon to threaten the victim and inflicts serious injury. And yet about three-quarters of all sexual assaults reported to the police are committed by someone known to the victim, only 11 percent involve weapons and most don't result in severe injuries. In a tragic twist, the most likely sexual-assault situations are often the ones most doubted or discounted by law enforcement — assaults involving drugs or alcohol, or those whose victims know their assailant or delay reporting the crime. Prostitutes are extremely vulnerable to rape, yet they are often treated dismissively by the police. The seriously mentally ill also suffer high rates of sexual assault, yet they are seen as unreliable. Many police officers continue to read vulnerability as complicity. It's as if a victim of robbery were disbelieved because she lived in a poor, crime-ridden neighborhood.

There is another unacknowledged side to the investigation of sexual assault: the huge numbers of victims who are children or teenagers. In New Haven, the detectives estimate that more than 80 percent of their cases involve minors — a number above but not that far afield from national statistics. In a 2014 study published by the National Center for Juvenile Justice, which analyzed data from the F.B.I.'s National Incident-Based Reporting System for the years 2009 and 2010, 61 percent of the female victims and 84 percent of the male victims of sexual assaults reported to law enforcement were younger than 18. For females, the age with the most sexual-assault victimizations was 14, and for males it was 4.

These cases are rarely reported immediately because children often feel confused, afraid or to blame, and because the perpetrators are often family members or family friends. Even many adult victims don't report a sexual assault before the 72-to-120-hour cutoff after which hospitals will no longer conduct a forensic medical exam. Delayed reporting is the norm in sexual-assault cases, not the exception. In New Haven, the vast majority of the detectives' cases are reported days, weeks, months, even years after the fact. Not only is there bias against a victim who waits to report an assault, but the delay also means that there is rarely any physical evidence — neither forensic evidence taken from the bodies of the victims or suspects nor crime scenes to investigate.

These prejudices about ‘‘real rape'' happen to dovetail with those rapes that are easier to investigate and prosecute. In a 2002 review of charging decisions made by prosecutors in three major cities, Cassia Spohn, now director of the School of Criminol­ogy and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University, found that prosecutors were substantially more likely to file charges ‘‘if the victim was injured, if the suspect used a gun or knife and if there was physical evidence,'' and ‘‘if the victim reported the crime promptly'' or ‘‘if there were no questions about the victim's moral character or behavior at the time of the incident.''

In spite of the difficulties of these investigations, it's far too common for special-victims units to be understaffed and low on resources, according to Joanne Archambault, a retired sergeant with the San Diego Police Department and executive director of End Violence Against Women International. Police chiefs and sheriffs are often pressured by the community and the media to focus on more visible problems. ‘‘They are focusing their energy on gangs and narcotics because that's what the community is talking about,'' Archambault says. Rarely is there an outcry over police response to sexual assaults. ‘‘It's the hidden epidemic, right? Nobody really wants to know about it.''

These are also the first units to be plundered if more officers are needed elsewhere. At one time New Haven's S.V.U. had 15 detectives, two supervising sergeants and a lieutenant, but in August 2011, a year that saw the city plagued by 130 shootings and 34 homicides (more than four times the per-capita murder rate in New York City that year), it was disbanded, and all the detectives were assigned to Major Crimes. A year and a half later, under the new chief of police, Dean Esserman, the unit was resurrected — this time with four detectives and one sergeant, though for one memorable month that year, Cuddy was the only detective working on the squad. ‘‘I don't know how you did this all by yourself,'' Landisio commented one day. Cuddy replied, ‘‘A lot of booze, a lot of booze.''

Most detectives in New Haven dreaded being assigned to the Special Victims Unit. But Cuddy and Landisio wanted to be there. For Cuddy, it was simple: ‘‘It feels like the only unit where what you do really matters.'' For Landisio, whom colleagues called Lando, it was also simple: He wanted to work with Cuddy. With 13 years on the job, four of them in the S.V.U., she was the detective with the most experience in the unit, but she also had a sense of humor that ran from ridiculously whimsical to jaw-droppingly filthy. In their office, it was not an unusual to see a strapping, dark-suited homicide detective walking away from some raunchy comment she made, shaking his head and murmuring, ‘‘Cuddy, Cuddy, Cuddy.'' She could be a charismatic flirt (waitresses; female bartenders; their supervisor, Sergeant Segui) and was deeply in love with her wife, whose name was tattooed on the inside of her left wrist. Landisio had eight years on the job and just under a year in the S.V.U. He was short and dark-eyed with a silver barbell piercing his tongue. He had passions for electronic music, firearms, pit bulls and T. rexes. His appearance and personality might have been put together by an eclectic collector. The two detectives kept up a running commentary throughout the day that consisted of lines from ‘‘S.N.L.'' sketches and YouTube videos, as well as bizarre quotations they'd heard working the job. ‘‘You two are like an old married couple,'' one detective observed when she happened into the office one day as Landisio was running a lint roller down Cuddy's back.

Last January, the unit lost two experienced detectives when they were transferred to Major Crimes, even though both wanted to stay with the S.V.U. They were replaced by Natale and Agosto, who shared an adjoining office. Natale, who was plucked from Homicide, didn't want to be there. A tall, straight-talking blond woman, she told me: ‘‘I'm usually not this miserable. I don't want to do this [expletive]. I have no interest. None.'' Meanwhile, a group of rookies who were making the rounds at the station had visited every unit but theirs. Cuddy didn't seem to care, but Landisio did. When I asked why they didn't visit, Cuddy said: ‘‘Because what we do isn't important. I'm not kidding. You can't make this [expletive] up.''

When a patrol cop ducked in to get Landisio's and Cuddy's advice on whether she should take the sergeant's exam, she asked them, ‘‘Why does everyone hate this unit?'' Neither Cuddy nor Landisio seemed insulted by the question. Because you work your butt off, they told her. You will do more interviewing here — of victims, suspects, witnesses — than you will ever come close to in any other unit. ‘‘It will make you a better cop,'' Cuddy said.

But it wasn't just the workload; it was the nature of the crimes themselves. Too disturbing for your average cop. Then there was the amorphous character of the investigations: the lack of physical evidence, the time factor when so many of the reports came in long after the incident. A week into her assignment, Detective Natale said: ‘‘It seems like 95 percent of these cases are [expletive],'' sounding completely frustrated and baffled by the work of investigating a crime without a scene to examine, weapons to trace, eyewitnesses to interview.

When the rookies were finally ushered into their office, after a lieutenant laughingly warned Cuddy to go easy on them, they stood just inside the doorway, shoulder to shoulder, looking blank-faced and ill at ease. Landisio swirled around in his chair, kicked off with a description of their caseloads, then looked to Cuddy to chime in. ‘‘I'm just going to sit here and eat my cold sore,'' she said pleasantly. The rookies stared at her.

Landisio tried again, going into a history of his law-enforcement career. ‘‘I started walking in '09. …''

‘‘On Milford beach,'' Cuddy interjected brightly. ‘‘Collecting seashells.'' The rookies shifted uneasily side to side. One guy finally asked Cuddy whether she had chosen to be in this unit. No, she said, she was assigned, but she had worked in almost every other unit, and none was as satisfying as this one. Not a lot of people want to be here, she said, because ‘‘90 percent of our cases are kids being drilled in the ass by their grandfathers. But when you lock up their grandfather, that kid will never forget you for being their voice.'' When the rookies left, five uncomfortable minutes later, I got the feeling that they were all fervently hoping they would never be assigned there, but Cuddy merely rolled her eyes.

The first step to a successful sexual-assault investigation is investigating, which would seem to be a given. All too often, though, that's not what happens. A recent review of the New Orleans Police Department by the city's inspector general, for example, found that from 2011 to 2013, five detectives from the sex-crimes unit filed investigative reports in only 14 percent of the sexual-assault and child-abuse cases assigned to them. Most initial reports of assaults were misclassified as ‘‘miscellaneous'' and simply closed without any investigation at all. In a particularly galling example, detectives closed the case of a 2-year-old who was taken to an emergency room after a suspected sexual assault, and who tested positive for a sexually transmitted disease. The primary detective wrote in his report that the toddler did not disclose any information that would warrant a criminal investigation. The inspector general found that the sex-crimes detectives worked without supervision and closed cases without any review.

In New Haven, unless a victim chooses not to file charges, every case that is assigned to an S.V.U. detective is investigated. According to Segui, the detectives refer about 90 percent of their cases to the state's attorney's office for an arrest warrant — though that doesn't mean they'll get one. Every recommendation by a detective either to proceed with an application for an arrest warrant or to close a case is first reviewed by Segui, then by the court. The detectives have considerable influence on Segui. ‘‘I trust them,'' she told me. If the detectives feel they should close a case, she looks it over herself and then occasionally has the prosecutor ‘‘in essence, quote-unquote, check our work.''

During my months with the unit, the detectives closed six cases out of dozens without applying for an arrest warrant. There was a young woman who told an emergency-room nurse that a friend raped her. Her lip was swollen as if she'd been punched in the mouth. She didn't want to file a complaint, but Cuddy persuaded her to take the sexual-assault exam, so that they would have the evidence if she changed her mind. A mother reported that her 3-year-old son said her ex-partner bit and pulled his penis, but the boy never disclosed this or any other abuse during his forensic interview. If there's no medical evidence (there wasn't), and if a child doesn't mention abuse during the forensic interview, the case doesn't move forward. Cuddy also noticed that when the mother was asked to repeat exactly what her son said, she used the word ‘‘penis''; in his interview, the boy always used the word ‘‘pee-pee.''

Some cases were so tangled and muddy that the truth remained unknowable, and they eventually withered because of a lack of probable cause. One of these was a case that came back to the unit: an injured woman whom the detectives interviewed in the hospital two months earlier, after hospital personnel called in a case of possible domestic abuse. The victim told the detectives she didn't know how her face became bruised and bloodied. She had been sleeping at her ex-boyfriend's house the night before, so she could drive him to work the next morning, and she woke to the taste of blood in her mouth. She said her ex-boyfriend told her she had fallen. She thought maybe he had elbowed her in her sleep. With no claim of domestic abuse, Landisio referred the case back to patrol, and an officer interviewed the ex. That report concluded: ‘‘Due to [complainant's] conflicting report and no evidence of domestic violence, there was no arrest made. No further actions were taken.''

But shortly afterward, the victim claimed her ex-boyfriend had beaten and sexually assaulted her, and the case was reassigned to Landisio. ‘‘She definitely got [expletive] up,'' Landisio said. He was sitting at his desk across from Cuddy, examining a photograph of the woman's face — the right side was puffy and purpled, the eye sealed shut, as if she'd been lying half-submerged in water. ‘‘Yeah, but how?'' Cuddy asked. ‘‘That's the question.''

Landisio and Cuddy interviewed the victim again, and this time she described her ex asking for sex that night and hitting her after she refused. The last thing she heard before passing out was her clothes being ripped, she said. When Landisio asked her why she didn't mention the assault before, the woman said it took a few days for the memories to come back to her.

Landisio filled out a request for the victim's medical records, while Cuddy found the suspect's profile on Facebook. He had posted a handful of photos from fishing trips of himself proudly displaying his catch, the fish gripped in his right hand. All of the woman's injuries were to the right side of her face, which meant that if she was punched, it was likely to have been by a left-handed person. Landisio and Cuddy started searching on Google for images of facial injuries from falls to see if there was any resemblance between those and the particular bruising and swelling on the woman's face. The assault story was looking weaker to them, but they both thought the woman's injuries seemed too severe for just tumbling out of bed.

Three weeks later, Landisio interviewed the ex-boyfriend. He didn't like interviewing suspects. When you asked a victim a hard question, you were doing it for her benefit. But suspects? He worried about the innocent ones tripping themselves up. ‘‘I think of how the implications of what they're saying could lead to a lifetime in prison,'' Landisio said. The suspect was voluble and animated to the point of cartoonishness. In his version of events, his ex-girlfriend was drinking and taking prescription medicine that night and didn't fall off the bed — he heard a crash while he was in another room and found her lying in the middle of the bedroom. To him, it seemed she had keeled over from a standing position, like a felled tree. When he tried to move her, she told him to leave her alone.

Afterward, Landisio felt his account was credible. He never deflected a question or repeated it to buy himself time. He leapt at every query, often interrupting Landisio, eager to explain. And the suspect was all of one piece: amiable, entertaining, self-absorbed and contemptible — but consistently so. When he heard her fall? He was aggravated by the noise because a family member was sleeping upstairs. When the victim refused to be moved? He went about his night, fixing his dinner, checking in occasionally to see if she was still breathing. When he woke in the morning to find her gone? He called her son, even driving to their house on his suspended license hoping she was there. He still wanted her to drive him around. And the suspect signed his statement with his right hand.

The victim's son later confirmed to Landisio that the suspect had called several times and come to their house looking for his mother. Landisio submitted copies of the interviews, the medical records, the original police report and his own report to Segui. He told her he didn't think they had probable cause for an arrest warrant. Segui and then the state's attorney's office agreed. No arrest warrant was issued, and the case was closed.

One of the least-examined myths surrounding rape investigations is that these cases come down to he said, she said: When the victim and the suspect give their versions of the event, one party is lying and one is telling the truth, and somehow the detectives have to examine the quality of each person's testimony, discern their individual characters and decide which is which. But the most current thinking on sexual-assault investigations is that there is always corroborating evidence. Detectives just have to be willing to search for it. It might be found in cellphone records or on social media; there might be witnesses before or after the act. Finding this other evidence requires commitment and creativity on the part of the investigators. These are complicated, time-consuming investigations.

In early February, Cuddy was assigned a case involving a teenage girl who claimed she was raped by an older male relative while she was in elementary school. A delay of more than seven years in reporting? Not even worth commenting on. Often the victims decided to talk because something happened, there was some final pressure and they broke. For this teenager, it was her mother lecturing her once again about boys and sex. The girl lost it. She didn't even like boys, she told her mother. She didn't even want them touching her. That got her mother's attention in a whole different way.

According to the Department of Children and Families report Cuddy was reading, the girl claimed she was raped while in the care of her mother's friend when her mother was incarcerated. The male relative showed up at the house and told the friend she could leave — he would watch the child. Then he raped her.

The girl had a forensic interview scheduled at the Yale clinic later in the month, but the mother was coming to the station that day. Before she arrived, Cuddy ran her name through various law-enforcement databases. She was looking for dates when the mother was locked up. Yellow highlighter suspended, Cuddy frowned at the printout in front of her. She saw several jail sentences, all suspended. Six months, suspended; one year, suspended. There was no jail time that matched the year the girl would have been raped.

In the interview room, Cuddy sat no more than an arm's length from the mother, taking notes on a legal pad. The mother kept her elbows on the table and her hands clasped. Her face was tense and grave, and at first there was a slight tremor in her voice. Cuddy opened the interview with: ‘‘And this is in regard to your daughter?''

Yes, the mother nodded.

‘‘O.K., why don't you tell me everything that happened from the beginning?''

The mother described the argument that led to her daughter's divulging the rape. When her daughter named her rapist, the mother's voice went hard and flat. ‘‘Walk me through it,'' she said to her daughter tersely. The girl told her what the man did, and when she repeated the words he said while he raped her, the mother knew her daughter wasn't lying: He said the same thing before raping her when she was a girl.

The interview solved one mystery: The mother told Cuddy that she believed the rape took place while she was detained after being picked up on a misdemeanor charge. She was locked up for only six or seven hours while she waited to be arraigned. Still, the situation felt slightly improbable. How did the relative happen to walk through that narrow window of opportunity?

Cuddy went back to the records, no longer looking for a jail sentence during the time period the girl was assaulted but an arrest — an arrest at a location the mother named that led to approximately six hours of lockup. She would find that first and figure out the suspect's omniscience later.

And then there it was: the right year, the right misdemeanor charge. An arrest and then hours later, the booking. Scanning the police report, Cuddy suddenly said very quietly: ‘‘He was with her. That's how he knew. He was with her.''

The police arrested the mother in front of him and took her away, and there he was — with the certain knowledge that she would be gone for hours. ‘‘I got it,'' Cuddy said. ‘‘Phew!'' Then she let out a relieved laugh.

During the teenager's forensic interview, which Cuddy watched craned close to the monitor so she could catch every word, her voice was barely audible. She never once made eye contact with the social worker. If she could gesture ‘‘yes'' or ‘‘no'' rather than speak, she did. After it was over, Cuddy asked the mother if she could speak to her daughter. In a room set aside for children, they sat over a game of Jenga, and Cuddy told the girl she was proud of her. ‘‘You're a survivor now, not a victim,'' she said. ‘‘You're free from this point on. You've talked about it, and you don't need to talk about it again.''

As she headed back to headquarters, Cuddy said, ‘‘I finally got her to smile.'' When she told the girl she was going to arrest the relative, Cuddy asked for a high-five. The girl slapped her hand, a smile slipping shyly into view. ‘‘Which makes me feel great, you know?'' Cuddy said. ‘‘Win-win.''

The office smelled of industrial floor cleaner and burned coffee. Officer Steve Formica lingered in the doorway, coffee cup in hand. ‘‘Go back to your office with your Hello-Kitty-ass mug,'' Landisio told him, looking up from a case file. Not blinking, his lips barely moving, Formica said, ‘‘I came out for coffee.''

‘‘I came out for [expletive],'' Cuddy chimed in. Formica's eyes gleamed briefly, like the pulse from a lighthouse, but his face remained immobile. It was snowing outside. A toilet flushed next door. Landisio continued to read. He had just been assigned a case of a 15-year-old who said a classmate assaulted her in the school auditorium. He had gone to the school to look at the layout and collect any footage from the school's surveillance cameras. An hour before the girl's forensic interview, he scanned the police report, reading sections out loud. The teenager told the patrol officer that she and the boy were backstage in the auditorium, making out, and ‘‘the next thing she knows, he was inside of her,'' Landisio read.

‘‘There you go, those are the key words,'' Cuddy said. ‘‘?‘The next thing I knew.' She's leaving something out.'' That was one of the verbal cues they paid attention to, those time gaps in a subject's story. ‘‘And before I knew it. ... '' ‘‘The next thing I remember. ... '' During interviews, they would first let the subject proceed with her unprompted narration, and then they would return to those gaps — slowing the narration down, backfilling the account with details. Those specific questions could make the case stronger. Or they could reveal that the subject was evasive on purpose. Understanding why was essential. Many victims will try to present themselves as ‘‘better victims,'' embarrassed or afraid to admit they were drunk at the time, for instance, or that they were close to their attacker. The detectives almost never interviewed a victim more than once, because even the smallest contradiction between their statements was a gift for a defense attorney. So they had to get it right the first time. If they didn't, they might not be able to pursue a case. The heart of every investigation was that victim interview — if done right, it provided exploratory avenues for the detectives. It became the road map for the investigation.

As Landisio continued to prepare for his interview with the 15-year-old, Cuddy took a call from the Connecticut state laboratory: There was a DNA match linking a suspect to two stranger rapes that occurred in 2012 and 2013. The first victim, who worked as a prostitute, was attacked late at night; the second, a mother in her 40s who was assaulted as she was walking to work before dawn. Each woman was yanked off the street at knife point, pulled into an empty lot, forced to her knees and then onto her back and then upright again as she was orally, vaginally and anally raped.

Rapes by strangers are more likely to be reported, and reported immediately, but they have their own investigative challenge: identifying the perpetrator. Images from a surveillance camera at one of the crime scenes were too fuzzy to be of use, even after Cuddy sent them to the F.B.I. lab for enhancement. The victims' descriptions of the rapist narrowed it down to a light-skinned man with a Spanish accent, no facial hair, possibly in his 30s — it was hardly much to work on. Victims' identifications are usually too fragmentary to be helpful, Cuddy told me. ‘‘Sometimes they can't tell you anything, but they can tell you he had a black thumbnail because they just focused on that to get out of the moment. When you think of what's happening, they have to focus on something, and it's not gonna be his face.''

DNA evidence from a sexual-assault exam can be the key to solving stranger rapes — but only if the rapist's DNA is in the F.B.I.'s national database, known as the Combined DNA Index System (Codis). In 2011, the Connecticut state lab lost its accreditation after federal audits found a backlog of thousands of DNA cases. A year later, the lab regained its accreditation and underwent a major expansion with a new director. This fall, Connecticut passed new legislation mandating that the police submit rape-kit evidence to the lab within 10 days of a crime and that the lab test the evidence within 60 days. But in some parts of the country, many kits are still never tested at all. Tens of thousands sit untested in police storage units and public lab facilities. And those are the ones that have been counted. Many police agencies do not even inventory the rape kits in their evidence lockers. Underfunded and poorly staffed forensic labs have been partly responsible for the backlog, because processing a single rape kit typically costs between $1,000 and $1,500. Last year, the Manhattan district attorney's office, along with the Department of Justice, awarded a total of nearly $80 million in grants to local jurisdictions across the country to eliminate rape-kit backlogs. (To provide the grants, the Manhattan district attorney used asset-forfeiture funds from settlements with international banks that had violated United States sanctions.)

Another cause is police discretion: In most jurisdictions, investigators decide whether to forward a rape kit to the lab for processing. Officers may shelve the evidence because they think the case is unlikely to be taken up by the prosecutor. Many also mistakenly believe that DNA testing is useful only in identifying an unknown rapist. And yet acquaintance-rape cases with DNA evidence do better in court — not only are these cases more likely to be pursued by prosecutors, but they're also more likely to end in a successful conviction. Having that DNA in the database also often helps solve other cases, because many rapists are repeat offenders. (In a 2006 study, interviews with 41 serial rapists found that their first victims were younger siblings, neighborhood children, girlfriends, spouses; in other words, they started as acquaintance rapists.)

lack of leads led Cuddy to close both stranger-rape cases almost a year earlier, though they were subject to being reopened if any new evidence came in. And so it did — nearly three years after the first assault. The DNA had been matched to a man who was in prison for another, nonsexual offense.

‘‘Yes!'' Cuddy declared when she got off the phone with the state lab, after hearing about the Codis match.

‘‘That's awesome!'' Landisio said.

‘‘That's some ‘Law & Order' [expletive] right there,” Formica added. When Segui came into the office, Cuddy told her the news. ‘‘That deserves a drink,'' the sergeant said.

‘‘I think that deserves breast milk from the supervisor,'' Cuddy replied. Segui tilted her head, smiling and looking at Cuddy the way you might at a particularly precocious and captivating child, then headed off to a meeting.

‘‘So good, so good,'' Cuddy said emphatically, talking to herself, as she looked up the suspect's criminal record. ‘‘Stranger rapes never get solved.'' She stared at his mug shot for a minute: a slight, rabbity-looking man in his early 20s with an almost concave face. ‘‘That's the little [expletive].'' Immediately, she made out the arrest warrant for each attack, handing them to Segui for review. Segui submitted them to court a week later. The suspect was due to be released from prison in November, so it seemed as if nothing could possibly go wrong. The man would be served with the warrant while he was still locked up; no other woman would be forced through that terrible ordeal.

Victim No. 1 had dropped out of sight, but Cuddy phoned victim No. 2, the mother in her 40s. ‘‘I'm calling to let you know I received a Codis match, and I will be doing an arrest warrant for your attacker. As soon as I serve it, I will let you know.'' There was a pause. ‘‘You're welcome. Goodbye.'' Cuddy said the victim started crying at the news. She turned to me, her face lit from the inside, and said, ‘‘And that, my dear, is why I do this job.''

Across the country, in this city and that jurisdiction, improvements in sexual-assault investigation are slowly being made. Human Rights Watch recently released a report on four cities that had re-examined their approach to sex crimes and significantly improved their investigative practices — Austin, Tex.; Philadelphia; Grand Rapids, Mich.; and Kansas City, Mo. The highly regarded sex-crimes unit in San Diego (which Joanne Archambault supervised for 10 years) was used as a benchmark. In these cities, detectives are trained extensively in interviewing trauma victims, making suspects the focus of their investigations and dismantling their assumptions about ‘‘real rape'' and how a ‘‘real victim'' is supposed to respond. After being assigned to the Kansas City Special Victims Unit, detectives work with a senior member for three months under close supervision. In San Diego, new members of the sex-crimes unit not only receive 32 hours of training in topics related to sexual-assault investigation, but also have a two-week training pe­riod with two detectives, and their first victim interviews are observed. These city police departments recognize that experience investigating homicides and other major crimes are not adequate preparation for rape cases.

In most of these model cities, victims aren't interviewed in the bare-bones rooms used for suspects but in more comfortable ones, with couches, artwork and lamps. They're given handouts describing how the criminal-justice process works, how to apply for victims' compensation and information on victims' support groups. Austin and Grand Rapids have a blind reporting option that allows the victim to be anonymous but still give useful information to the detectives.

All these police agencies have extensive reviews in place, so detectives aren't allowed to shelve a case without oversight. Philadelphia significantly revamped its sex-crimes unit after a 1999 Philadelphia Inquirer investigation revealed that the unit was misclassifying — basically burying — about a third of all complaints it received. Since then, an external oversight committee made up of experts in women's legal rights, children's advocates and staff members from rape-crisis centers has examined 300 to 400 cases annually, including all ‘‘unfounded'' rape reports.

In these units, detectives and victims stay in contact. The No. 1 complaint of sexual-assault survivors, according to Archambault, is that law enforcement doesn't keep them up to date on the status of their investigations; often detectives don't even return victims' phone calls. Yet keeping in touch with the victims is espe­cially important in the case of sexual assault, she says, ‘‘because there are so few good outcomes.'' Denied justice, victims especially need to feel respected by law enforcement. But the reason that it's crucial to stay in contact with the victims is the same reason that detectives often don't — they hate being the bearers of bad news. As noted in the policy and training guidelines published in 2015 by the International Association of Chiefs of Police: ‘‘Virtually all sexual-assault victims want validation from the authorities that the crime occurred, and this may be a more critical element of a successful response and investigation than a criminal prosecution or conviction. Regardless of the investigative results, responding officers and investigators have the power to help a person heal from sexual assault.''

Many educators and leaders in this field say that arrest rates are not the best indicators of success. Instead, the thoroughness of the investigation and whether the victim stays in the process are more useful. Crime numbers are also not a good indicator of successful policing, unless you're willing to use what feels like reverse logic: Better, more responsive policing means more victims come forward. And more honest record-keeping means more of those assaults are counted.

New Haven's sexual-assault unit adheres to only some of these best practices. Cases involving minors are reviewed twice a month by a multi­disciplinary team that includes representatives from local police departments, the Department of Children and Families, the Yale Child Abuse Clinic and the Clifford Beers Clinic, a mental-health facility that serves children and their families in the greater New Haven area. But cases involving adult victims are reviewed ‘‘in house'' by Segui. The unit has been short-staffed, though according to an assistant chief, Archie Generoso, the department plans to add three detectives to the S.V.U. by early March. What makes the New Haven S.V.U. effective is the mentality and the dedication of the detectives who want to be there. You can teach technique and locate resources, but attitudes are harder to change. Cuddy and Landisio each had friends who were abused as children or raped as young adults. They didn't start from a place of suspicion and denial, as so many law-enforcement officers do.

In the spring, Cuddy and Landisio stored their portable heaters back under their desks. They started doing push-ups and squats every hour on the hour in the small space, so Cuddy could get in shape for a coming vacation with her wife in Mexico. They went on a Paleo diet. They were both at their desks after one of their mini workout sessions, typing up reports, when Cuddy received a call about her Codis cases.

The assistant state's attorney had decided that the office was going to, in his words, ‘‘wait'' on the warrant regarding the prostitute's rape, because there was semen from multiple men on the vaginal swab. Cuddy was furious. ‘‘The guy is a serial rapist,'' she said. ‘‘And obviously, there's a mix — she's a prostitute.'' And although there was a mix of DNA on the vaginal swab, only the suspect's DNA was found on the swab taken from the woman's mouth.

The state's attorney's office had also requested an additional piece of information for the other warrant. Now that it had a suspect, the court wanted Cuddy to ask the second victim whether she knew the man or ever had a sexual relationship with him. Cuddy had no choice but to make that call, and later that day she typed two additional sentences into the warrant application saying the victim did not know the suspect and never had sex with him before the rape. She looked angry and tired, and Landisio kept casting worried glances her way.

There were dark moments at the S.V.U., and this was one of them; they moved in fast and sucked the light out of the room. And then you saw how much sense it would make to chuck everything — the sobbing mothers, the kids and the women muscling their way through their statements, every word like a nail in their mouths.

That afternoon, a fresh-faced intern, a criminal-justice major from the University of New Haven, popped into the office. ‘‘The copy machine's not working again,'' she said. ‘‘It says it needs resources. It has paper, it has toner, what resources does it want?''

‘‘It wants your soul,'' Cuddy told her. ‘‘Just slip it in the slot. We all have.'' There was a beat of silence, then Landisio, the intern, Natale and Formica (who had ducked into the office to see why it was so weirdly quiet) broke into laughter. Cuddy lowered her sharp little chin and, glancing coyly at them all, flashed a grin.

This is what they lived on, what drove them forward — a sense of justice, of course, but that justice was so infrequent, so arbitrary, that their fuel had to be camaraderie and humor. They carried one another, quite literally in one case — Landisio hauling Cuddy into her apartment on his back after a night of drinking on the anniversary of her father's death. Once, when I asked them what the toughest part of their job was, they didn't say mucking through the ugliness of these cases every day; they didn't mention their huge workload. They said it was waiting for the court to approve their arrest warrants. The average delay, Cuddy said, was three months. One case that I watched them pursue took 10. Victims gave up. ‘‘I just had a victim drop out of a case last week,'' Landisio told me at one point. ‘‘She said to me, ‘I didn't think it would take so long.' She said she was over it now and just wanted to move on.'' Months crawled by, and suspects disappeared.

By spring, Natale got her wish and was transferred to Major Crimes. Detective Shayna Kendall, from their old crew, got her wish and returned. She moved her desk into Cuddy and Landisio's office, and you could feel the unit picking up cohesion, efficiency, speed. (By the fall, Detective Lenny Soto would also be returned to the unit, and he, too, would move his desk inside that tiny office, so the four detectives were almost joined at the hip.) A week after Kendall's return, she had 17 cases, some carried over from when she was still in the squad, cases waiting at court for arrest warrants, as well as new ones assigned by Segui. Cuddy had 22. Landisio, working 21 cases, including a sex-trafficking case he was investigating with the F.B.I., said he felt as if he were ‘‘juggling cannon balls.'' Segui apologized, saying she tried to hold back those that weren't as urgent, but Cuddy said, ‘‘Just [expletive] assign them. We'll prioritize and do what we have to do.''

When Cuddy finally received her arrest warrant for the Codis case, it was six months after her first request, and three months after she was asked to add the follow-up sentences. The inspector at the state's attorney's office called her with the news, and she reminded him that the suspect was in prison, so the court would serve the warrant. Shortly afterward, the inspector emailed her. When she read the email, she was livid. The suspect was released early — a month prior, in fact. ‘‘They sat on a Codis case for what? Six months?'' she said, spitting out the words. ‘‘He's gonna be in a homeless shelter. I'm never gonna find this guy — if he's not already in Mexico.'' He had been released without parole, so there was no parole officer to contact and no forwarding address.

She, Kendall and Landisio began searching databases, trying to find some whiff of him, while Cuddy muttered to herself: ‘‘Don't get frustrated. Just do all this [expletive]. Do it for nothing.'' Then Kendall hit on something — their suspect was stopped by the police three days earlier, and when they asked where he lived, he gave them his sister's address. Within minutes, the three detectives, Sergeant Segui and Officer Formica were piled into two cars, heading to the address. The suspect's two sisters were in the second-floor apartment of a multifamily house. Once the detectives were let in to search the premises, Cuddy found a bedroom that was locked. After shouting ‘‘Police!'' to no response, she kicked the door in while the sisters screamed at her in Spanish. But no one was inside. The sisters said they hadn't seen their brother since he was locked up over a year ago.

On the ride back to the stationhouse, as the detectives recounted the raid, the adrenaline seeped from the car like boiling water from a pot going dry. Cuddy didn't believe the sisters; in a way, she didn't want to. But the next day, she found out that her suspect was, indeed, gone for good. He had been deported back to Mexico. ‘‘And these guys never stop,'' Cuddy said.

Over the next 24 hours, her anger died away, morphing into a kind of grim fatalism. She had done everything right, the victims had soldiered through the investigation, submitting to the forensic exam, recounting the attack for the record. They had actually nailed the guy, and now he was gone. Cuddy stared bleakly at the pile of case files on her desk, making no move to open them. Finally she let out a sigh. She had to inform her victim now. The woman had cried with relief when she learned they had identified her rapist. Cuddy decided she had to do it in person. ‘‘I'll come with you when you do it,'' Landisio said. Cuddy looked at him and nodded. Then she turned to her newest case file.


United Kingdom

Grandfather identifies ‘Jihadi Junior' as boy in Islamic State video

Young British boy wears army fatigues and calls for slaughter in Allah's name, London's mayor says he's a victim of child abuse.

by Justin Wm. Moyer

LONDON — He would be cute — curly hair, bandana, British accent — if, at age 6 or 7, he wasn't wearing army fatigues and calling for slaughter in Allah's name.

But that is what a young boy is doing in a recently surfaced Islamic State video that features a militant some are calling the “new Jihadi John” executing five men. “We are going to go kill the kafir (non-believers) over there,” the boy says at the conclusion of the video, not yet independently verified.

Now, a man in London — the father of a woman known to have left England to fight for the Islamic State — has said the boy is his grandson.

“He's my grandson,” Sunday Dare told Channel 4. “I can't disown him. He's my grandson. I know him very well.”

The boy's identity was not confirmed by authorities. But, as always, the British press offered a memorable nickname: “Jihadi Junior.”

As the Guardian reported, Dare said the Islamic State is “just using a small boy.”

“He doesn't know anything,” Dare said. “He's a small boy. They are just using him as a shield.” Of his grandson's opinion of the Islamic State, Dare, who has spoken to him on the phone, said: “Well, he doesn't like it over there.”

London's mayor says the boy should be taken from his parents if the family ever returns to Britain.

“This child is a victim of child abuse and he is, as I understand it, a British national,” Boris Johnson said. “I think we have a duty of care.”

The video, posted Sunday, features a masked man who speaks with a British accent before he and four masked colleagues use pistols to kill five purported spies at close range. The masked man appears to have stepped into the role formerly played by British citizen Mohammed Emwazi, who was killed by a drone strike in November after taking part in a series of beheading videos that earned him the nickname “Jihadi John.”

British news media have said the man might be a British citizen who was born a Hindu and converted to Islam. That man was arrested in Britain last year for suspected links to banned extremist groups, but fled to Syria after he was freed on bail. People who know him, including his sister, could not say for sure whether he is the man in the video.

British Prime Minister David Cameron was quick to condemn the video on Monday. “Well, it's desperate stuff from an organization that really does do the most utterly despicable and ghastly acts,” he told the BBC. “ ... This is an organization that is losing territory. It's losing ground.”

Dare is all-too-familiar with the toll the Islamic State takes on some families living in the United Kingdom. A Christian migrant from Nigeria, he saw his daughter, Grace “Khadijah” Dare, 24, radicalized while at university in London. Her son was born in 2010. She joined the Islamic State in 2012, and was soon praising the beheading of American journalist James Foley, saying she wanted to be the first woman to behead a hostage, and posting photos of her young child holding an AK-47.

In a BBC documentary, Khadijah's mother mourned her daughter's conversion.

“She loved church,” Victoria Dare said last year. “She had a Bible, she read the Bible. She would sit there and pray and pray and pray.”

Talking to Britain's Channel 4, Sunday Dare had harsh words for his daughter.

“She's going to come back and face the music because she has let herself down,” he said.

For children in a war zone, the Islamic State has an allure. The men in black are, at least, somewhat organized.

“When (the Islamic State) came to my town ... I liked what they are wearing, they were like one herd,” a child told the advocacy group Human Rights Watch in 2014. “They had a lot of weapons. So I spoke to them, and decided to go to their training camp.”

Human Rights Watch, which reported on interviews with 25 children fighting in Syria, said that children growing up in militant groups grow up fast.

“One doctor described treating a boy between 10 and 12 years old whose job it was to whip prisoners held in an ISIS detention facility, according to the adult fighter who brought him,” it wrote, using an acronym for the Islamic State.

Meanwhile, the “new” Jihadi John — identified by the BBC, who talked to an unnamed “official source,” as British man Siddhartha Dhar — has posted at least one photo of himself holding a gun in one hand and his newborn son in the other. Born in Britain, Dhar, also known as Abu Rumaysah, was known for his radical views before he was arrested for allegedly encouraging terrorism. He fled to Syria in 2014 while on bail.

“As a Muslim I would like to see the U.K. governed by the Sharia,” he told the BBC in 2014. “It is far superior to democracy. I don't really identify myself with British values. I am Muslim first, second and last.”



Officials seek man in Petaluma child abuse, pornography case

by Jenna Lyons

Petaluma police and the FBI are asking for the public's help identifying a man believed to be involved in a child abuse and child pornography investigation.

On Tuesday, authorities circulated a photo of the man who police are calling a person of interest in a November case where a 42-year-old Petaluma woman allegedly sexually abused a developmentally disabled victim.

On Nov. 17, officers arrested Tawnya Lynn Hopper on suspicion of acting in concert with another to commit oral copulation against a disabled victim who is incapable of giving consent, officials said. She was also arrested for possessing drug paraphernalia.

Later, additional charges involving child pornography were filed, police said.

Officers and FBI agents served a search warrant at a home where they found Hopper in the 300 Block of Wilson Street the morning of the arrest, said Petaluma police Sgt. Ed Crosby.

Agents tipped off police of a possible connection with a child abuse and pornography case they were working on and a similar case Petaluma detectives were investigating, he said.

Officers did not release the age or sex of the victim.

Hopper was booked into Sonoma County Jail, where she was being held on $600,000 bail.


Red Flag Injuries for Child Abuse

Sentinel Injuries of Abuse

by William T. Basco

It can be difficult, on the basis of history or interactions with patients and families, to determine which children should have a comprehensive evaluation for abusive injury. This study sought to determine whether specific injury types were more or less likely to be associated with abusive injury, in the hopes of identifying "red flag" injuries for providers to focus on.

The data in this study were obtained from 18 children's hospitals that participate in the Pediatric Health Information System (PHIS). Using data from 2004 to 2011, 30,355 children aged < 24 months with a putative sentinel injury (one that might indicate abuse) were identified. More than 89% of the children had only one putative sentinel injury, 7.6% had two such injuries, and the remainder had three or more. The candidate injuries evaluated for this study were bruising; burns; oropharyngeal injury; intracranial hemorrhage; abdominal trauma; genital injury; subconjunctival hemorrhage; isolated skull fracture; and fractures of the humerus, ribs, radius, ulna, or fibula.

The frequency of diagnosis of abuse in children with a sentinel injury varied with the age of the child, ranging from a low of 3.5% for burns in infants aged < 6 months to a high of 56.1% for rib fractures in children aged < 24 months. Sentinel injuries that were associated with abuse < 10% of the time in the entire cohort included burns (3.5%), isolated skull fracture (4.3%), and subconjunctival hemorrhage (8.6%). Sentinel injuries associated with abuse in 11%-20% of the cohort included oropharyngeal injuries, fractures of the long bones of the arms and legs, and genital injuries. Injuries associated with abuse in more than 20% of cases were intracranial hemorrhages (26.3%) and abdominal trauma (24.5%). Only 46% of the visits by a child with at least one of the putative sentinel injuries resulted in a skeletal survey.

The study concluded that several injury types (rib fractures, intracranial hemorrhage, and abdominal trauma) are associated with abusive injury > 20% of the time. They suggest that further work is needed to systematize the evaluation of patients with putative sentinel injuries.


These data serve to remind practitioners of some of the putative sentinel injuries for abuse of children. I'm struck that so many injuries were associated with abuse more than 10% of the time, although only three injury types were associated with abuse more than 20% of the time.

The more difficult question, which the study authors allude to, is whether the risk associated with any particular injury is low enough to warrant forgoing a more comprehensive workup. For example, if the chance that a burn is associated with abuse in only 1% of children, is that low enough, without other historical or physical features, to justify avoiding additional workup?

Variability in practice points out a bigger dilemma. Given that several of these findings are associated with evidence of abuse at high enough frequencies to warrant further inquiry, variability in the decision to obtain a skeletal survey may not be acceptable. From a quality standpoint, I agree that we would do well to focus on completing a comprehensive workup when one of the high-concern injuries is present rather than to trying to decide whether any injuries have a low enough association with abuse to avoid additional workup.


UN probes alleged CAR child abuse by peacekeepers

New instances of sexual abuse of minors by UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic were reported by the UN in the latest series of child rape cases to hit the mission in the country.

The UN peacekeeping mission to the Central African Republic (CAR) known as MINUSCA, said it was "investigating fresh allegations” of sexual exploitation and abuse by both UN peacekeepers and international forces.

The mission says four alleged child victims sought the help of the UN Children's Fund based in Bangui. UNICEF is currently working to help the new victims receive medical and psychological care.

“The mission continues to investigate each and every allegation of misconduct. A fact finding mission is currently underway in this regard,” MINUSCA said in a statement, adding that those guilty will be “held accountable to the highest standards of behavior and conduct.”

The UN announced it has contacted the troop contributing countries' authorities urging them to conduct their own national investigations into the new abuse cases. The countries or the nature of sexual abuse were not mentioned in a statement. AFP sources said the soldiers were from Gabon, Egypt and Morocco.

The statement added that the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Representative, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, is in contact with the UN human rights office trying to find solutions to combat sexual abuse.



Former Indy racer gets 25 years for child sex abuse

by The Associated Press

A former Indy race car driver has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for child sexual abuse.

The Naples Daily News reports that 45-year-old Jon Herb pleaded no contest in court Monday to lewd and lascivious molestation and 13 counts of child pornography possession.

Court records show that Herb was arrested in October 2013 after his estranged wife found 243 pictures and three videos on Herb's laptop of Herb engaged in a sexual act with a 4-year-old girl.

Herb made 16 starts in the Indy Racing League from 2000 to 2007. The racing website reports that Herb raced twice in the Indianapolis 500, finishing 27th in 2001 and 32nd in 2007.


Rhode Island

At least 40 former students allege sexual abuse at prestigious R.I. prep school

by Sarah Kaplan

Harry Groome was just 14, a newcomer from a small Pennsylvania town, eager to fit in at his tony New England boarding school. His tormentors were seniors, one was even a prefect. They had superior social standing, not to mention numbers and size. So when they told him to keep quiet, he did.

Not that his silence stopped the whole school from knowing what happened to him: The teenage Groome was forced to stand atop a trash can, he told the Boston Globe, pull down his pants and underwear, and bend over while an assailant raped him with a broomstick.

Attacks like the one on Groome were something of an open secret at St. George's School, the alma mater of Astors and Vanderbilts, the poet Ogden Nash and former senator Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island and where dozens of alumni say they were sexually abused. According to the Globe, a 1979 yearbook includes a photo of Groome in a trash can, a hockey stick beside him. The caption reads, “It's better than a broomstick!”

The perpetrators were never punished, and Groome carried the trauma of his abuse through three years of high school and the next two decades. When, in the early 2000s, he finally reached out to school officials, telling them what had happened, he says he was not taken seriously.

Groome, now 52, is one of several victims who gave wrenching accounts of abuse at a news conference Tuesday, where lawyers announced that they had received credible reports from at least 40 former students that they'd been abused and, in some cases, raped by students and staff at the Rhode Island school between 1974 and 2004.

Four of the seven accused former staff members are still alive, according to the New York Times, and at least two appear to still be working with teenagers or children. None has ever been charged with a crime.

“The magnitude and scope of this is already approaching the largest private school sexual abuse case that we've seen, which was at Horace Mann, where 62 victims came forward,” Eric MacLeish, a lawyer who is representing some of the victims, along with fellow attorney Carmen Durso, told the Times. In 2012, it emerged that dozens of students were abused by teachers at Horace Mann, a New York prep school, and that the abuse had been largely overlooked by administrators.

“Sexual abuse in education is the clergy-abuse crisis of this decade, if not this century,” Durso said, “and you're going to see more and more of it.”

The allegations about the abuse on St. George's campus — an expanse of green fields and stately brick and stone buildings overlooking the Atlantic Ocean — come two weeks after the school released its own report. An internal investigation found that at least 26 students had been sexually abused by at least six former employees during the 1970s and '80s. The perpetrators were fired or otherwise left the school, but St. George's did not report them to child-protection services at the time, as is required by law.

“It is evident that the school failed on several occasions to fulfill its legal reporting requirements to the authorities,” the report said. “The school could have done more to keep its students safe.”

On Tuesday, former students and lawyers called for an independent investigation of the abuse and demanded a more comprehensive response from St. George's, which they said has been covering up systemic abuse and offered only a “sanitized” account of the problem in its report.

Though there are no allegations that students are still being abused at the school, some victims, including Groome, said that current headmaster Eric Peterson has been unresponsive to their complaints.

“In the end, it is the behavior of Mr. Peterson and the school in 2015 which is scandalous,” read a rebuttal to the school's report released on Tuesday, according to the Providence Journal.

In prepared statements released Tuesday, St. George's officials indicated that Peterson would not resign. The school also apologized “for the harm done to alumni by former employees and former students of the school,” according to the Associated Press.

“We also apologize that the way in which the school addressed these incidents has served to compound this harm,” the statement read.

Rhode Island State Police Capt. Matthew Moynihan told the New York Times that authorities are investigating the allegations forwarded by the school and the lawyers. MacLeish and Durso also said that Massachusetts is considering a “pass the trash” bill, which would make it illegal for public and private schools not to report complaints of wrongdoing— thereby hopefully preventing schools from passing along abusive teachers to new schools where they might commit more crimes.

St. George's report last month named one staff member it believed had committed sexual abuse — former athletic trainer Al Gibbs, who died in 1996. Gibbs was fired in 1980 after a male student found Gibbs photographing a nude female student in the athletic training room, according to the report.

Anne Scott and Katie Wales Lovkay, who both attended St. George's in the late '70s, described on Tuesday how Gibbs allegedly led them into the training room and instructed them to remove their clothes. Scott said she was repeatedly raped by the man, who was more than 50 years her senior. Lovkay tearfully recalled how he allegedly abused her and shared nude photographs of her with male students.

“It was absolutely horrible,” she said, “I became known as the slut of the school.”

When Lovkay reported the incidents to the school's headmaster, he did nothing, she said.

“I was made to believe that I was nuts,” she said.

Both women said that they suffered years of mental health problems as a result of their alleged abuse — alcoholism, eating disorders, post traumatic stress. St. George's has said it will reimburse counseling for victims, according to the Associated Press.

On Tuesday, MacLeish and Durso named two other alleged perpetrators: former assistant chaplain Rev. Howard White, who left in 1974 after reports of sexual contact with three boys, and Franklin Coleman, a former choir director fired in 1988 after he was accused of molesting male students.

Reached by the New York Times on Tuesday, White said: “I don't have any response. It's news to me.” When asked whether he had left because of accusations of sexual abuse, he replied, “That isn't really true.” To the Boston Globe he said, “I have no response whatsoever.”

Coleman went on to work at Tampa Preparatory School, in Florida, from 1997 to 2008, according to the Boston Globe. Hawk Cramer, a 1985 graduate who said he had been molested by Coleman, contacted Peterson and administrators at Tampa Prep with his story. But it did not appear that Coleman was fired from Tampa Prep or otherwise investigated for abuse.

“How many other kids suffered?” Cramer asked the Globe.

Coleman declined to comment when reached by the New York Times.

Groome, now a marketing professional with a wife and two kids, said that he broke his silence about what happened to him at St. George's when he had children. He wrote first to former headmaster Charles Hamblet, then to Peterson. But it didn't appear that his letters had any effect until 2011 — when, according to the St. George's report, an alumna also approached the school about alleged abuse by Al Gibbs. Her request for assistance paying for counseling is what launched the school's internal investigation.

“I have friends who have kids at the school,” Groome told the Providence Journal on Tuesday. “I want this to be a place they can all be proud of. … This is a place that taught me to be honest, to right wrongs. They have done none of that.”



Children in the clutches

by Marcia Mason

“My name is Holly; at age 14 I ran away from home with a man. Convincing me to runaway with him was not an overnight accomplishment. He took his time. He got to know me. He analyzed my troubles, and he asked me my dreams. I wanted to be a songwriter. In reality, I ran right in the inexorable clutches of a sex trafficking ring. Within hours of running away with what turned out to be a manipulative and menacing pimp, I was coerced into working Atlantic City until dawn the next day.”

Human trafficking is the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting or obtaining a person — child or adult — for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud and/or coercion. It is the second largest industry, after drug trafficking. A bag of cocaine can only be sold once; a body can be sold repeatedly. Most think trafficking happens only in developing countries and urban areas, but it can be found throughout Wisconsin as well.

“Operation Cross Country” was conducted this past fall, targeting criminals involved in child trafficking. Wisconsin was one of the selected states; nine underage victims and 57adult victims were rescued, 11 traffickers were arrested.

Eighty percent of trafficking involves sexual servitude. The average age of a child caught up in sex trafficking is 13. Traffickers recruit children because they are unsuspecting, plus there is a high demand for young children and teen-agers for sex.

Promises broken

Though recruitment can be by force, such as kidnapping the child, generally it is based on grooming and promises. Traffickers recruit girls and boys at malls, parks, ski slopes – wherever children are. They also have established a sophisticated online presence, effectively using social media as a recruitment tool.

Predators are adept at reading people, recognizing their target's vulnerabilities. Making promises aimed at addressing the needs of the individual child, they manipulate their victims, creating dependency. The promise of a shower, food, place to stay, protection, clothing, money, road trips, and jobs – whatever the child desires is being offered.

Creating a sense of belonging, it is a very seductive process. By the time the victim becomes aware of what has occurred, they are unable to escape. Moreover, many are brainwashed by their trafficker to believe that this is the only “job” they are cut out to do. Traffickers utilize a variety of control tactics, including physical and emotional abuse, threats to harm loved ones, confiscation of identification and money, isolation, branding and renaming victims.

Victim profile

Police rescued a 13-year-old girl in the Bakken oil fields after responding to a suspicious ad on the internet. She was a runaway from Eden Prairie. When a girl is missing from the Twin Cities, detectives know to check North Dakota's “Backpage” ads.

Runaways are especially vulnerable and account for approximately 60 percent of victims. Children in foster care and the juvenile justice system are also at high risk to be targeted. Many of these children have already experienced sexual abuse.

Typically traffickers will post an online ad and schedule appointments in a specific locale, transporting the children from place to place before law enforcement becomes aware. The transaction can take place anywhere, from a metro hotel to a small rural bar during hunting and fishing seasons.

Few realize the nefarious connection between the commercial sex trade and the trafficking of children (and adults). I encourage readers to broaden their perception and promote discussion among friends and family.

The Bridge to Hope serves victims of human trafficking. Feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns at 715-235-9074.

Marcia Mason is a Sexual Trauma Advocate at The Bridge to Hope in Menomonie.


The Quiet Wound

by Paul Dunion, Ed.D., LPC

Unlike wounds resulting from physical or sexual abuse, where the invasive energy is blatant, the wounding energy of emotional incest is stealthy and very difficult to track. The intrusive psychic energy of the perpetrator is packaged in care and attention. It can be quite challenging to break into this care package and reveal the expectations and needs of affiliation, control, love and understanding on behalf of the perpetrator. Being robbed of one's childhood hardly goes noticed as the child feels so good about being chosen in a special way by an adult. The child is invited to act as if they are capable of being in an adult relationship.

Emotional incest often takes place with either a single parent or a parent whose spouse is not emotionally available. It can also happen with any trusted authority figure, e.g., clergy, coach, teacher, club leader or relative. There are a number of ways that emotional incest impacts development.

• An attachment to feeling special. The child typically feels special because of the attention received and the unusual level of involvement offered by the adult. However, the price for feeling special is high:

1) If emotional incest occurs with a parent, then the child often is the target of the other parent's resentment for having taken his or her place.

2) Similar resentment and jealousy can be experienced by siblings or friends who have some awareness of what's happening.

3) The victim can live with fear of being rejected by those impacted by the incestuous relationship.

4) The victim can exercise an inordinate amount of time and energy striving to be special, which leads to an attachment to perfectionism.

• Feelings of guilt and inadequacy. Children often feel guilty and inadequate as they are unable to meet the emotional needs of an adult. The child's relational limitations may result in the parent expressing dissatisfaction. "Children who grow up with an invasive parent can have an unnaturally low estimation of their abilities, especially if the parent was critical or abusive." (The Emotional Incest Syndrome by Patricia Love) These feelings easily flow into adulthood, with a gnawing sense of not getting life right.

• Perfectionism. Perfectionism is a compensation for not feeling good enough, which is a set up for not being able to settle into a comfortable feeling being okay.

• Confusion about limits. Rather than be honest about not being able to rightfully participate in an adult relationship, children will typically pretend they can handle it rather than risk losing the attention of the adult. As adults, victims are not clear about what they can do and what they cannot do. Emotionally incested children also run the risk of continuing to pretend they possess certain abilities, which they actually don't.

• Sacrificial Lamb. One outcome of not knowing how to identify and accept limits is feeling both intolerant and shameful about feeling helpless. In lieu of feeling powerless in their relationships, victims run the risk of taking action that places them in legal, physical or emotional jeopardy.

• Weak Boundaries. The appropriate boundaries in an adult-child relationship are about the adult providing and the child receiving. The role of strong boundaries is to support the child's capacity for self-care. An emotionally incestuous relationship has the child holding too much responsibility for the adult. Boundary confusion easily follows the child into adulthood with uncertainty about who is a peer, who is not and what kind of behavior distinguishes the two different relationships.

• Attracted to Enmeshment. Because of the weak boundaries, adults who were victims of emotional incest tend to generate enmeshed relationships rather than emotionally intimate ones. In the latter relationships, each person's autonomy is valued. Where as in an enmeshed relationship, one person's autonomy is compromised, favoring the needs and values of the other. A man who is addressing early enmeshment with his mother reports: "I would have done anything for my Mom when I saw how much she suffered after my Dad left. I was seven at the time and ever since then, I feel a deep sense of guilt if I attempt to prioritize my needs when I'm in a relationship with a woman. It is a struggle I'm determined to overcome."

• Confusion About Power. Typically, the adult and child are not peers in an Emotionally Incestuous relationship with the adult possessing more knowledge and experience. This leads children to be confused about mutuality, holding the belief that someone in a relationship should be holding power and dominate. Typically, the survivor of emotional incest runs the likelihood of either dominating or being dominated.

Healing the Quiet Wound

Because so much was given and so much was taken, it takes patience and receiving viable support in order to navigate our way around the terrain of this wound. Let's look at some ways to focus the healing:

• Wound Talk. The starting place is to begin talking about what happened, especially the implications of being asked to leave childhood prematurely. During what years was I in an emotionally incestuous relationship? Who was the adult in this relationship? How did it feel to be in such a relationship? What was given to me? What was taken from me? How do I feel now about my early experience? How do I feel toward the perpetrator?

• No Bad People. Those who were victims of emotional incest typically perpetrate emotional incest. Perpetrators act out of ignorance of what was done to them and what they are passing on to others. Perpetrators have no intent to harm children. If you were a victim presently passing on the wounding, you are not a bad person. However, you are responsible to acquire your own healing and interrupt any emotional violation you may presently be enacting.

• Learning to let go of an attachment to being special. When we're attached to being special it leaves us feverishly striving to achieve it or condemned to not feeling good enough. A key is to replace feeling special by honoring our uniqueness. Our uniqueness is expressed by how we love, learn, and grieve, as well as the nature of our strengths and how we refine them.

• Getting conscious about power. Because the perpetrator abused power, healing power calls for raising consciousness about how we exercise power. Am I employing power in a way that allows me to meet my own needs as well as supporting the needs of others? Am I able to champion the uniqueness of others without recruiting them to be like me? Am I easily seduced into sacrificing myself in order to support the fulfillment of others?

• Healing Trust. Perpetrators gained certain leverage over children because children trusted them. This calls for the healing of the early violation of trust. The first step is to acknowledge that trust must be earned and not given indiscriminately. Earned trust happens and is sustained by a vigilance regarding what happens to us as we relate with someone. Some questions that are helpful include: Am I the object of sarcasm or ridicule? Am I remembered? Do I feel seen and understood? Is my relationship to this person a place to take refuge in the face of life's challenges? Healing self-trust is even more essential. We can ask: Do I allow myself to feel and respond to instinctual cues that I am in potential or actual danger? (I recommend Somatic Experience as a therapeutic model for reconnecting to instinctual cues.) Do I treat myself kindly, knowing and responding appropriately when I am tired, hungry, lost or feeling vulnerable?

• Employing Effective Boundaries. Good boundaries support our safety, what we desire and hold important. Effective boundaries happen as we say "Yes" and "No" authentically and act in accordance with each declaration. It is advantageous to be able to distinguish mutual relationships from non-mutual ones. Mutual ones can be characterized as peer ship, such as friends and lovers. Non-mutual relationships usually involve authority figures who are offering a service or some level of support, e.g., parents, adult relatives, teachers, clergy, physicians, psychotherapists, coaches, etc. The boundaries in non-mutual relationships are meant to define the relationship mostly about the service or support offered.

We have been exploring an extremely mercurial kind of wounding, so much is given and so much is taken. How ironic to speak of a wound as "feeling so good." It may be that children often can't wait to become adults, making the perpetrator's invitation to leave childhood so attractive, leaving the injury veiled. However, there is a heavy price to pay for children to psychologically be somewhere they don't belong. I strongly encourage survivors of emotional incest not to simply see their wounding as unfortunate; but rather, as it is with all wounding, an opportunity to open to deeper regions of the soul. (For further reading see Temptation In The House Of The Lord, by Paul Dunion)



Oregon Rancher ‘Heroes' Accused of Child Abuse

Steven and Dwight Hammond, the inspiration for the ‘militia' occupying an Oregon federal building, allegedly took sandpaper to their nephew's chest.

A photo of a teenage boy with two bizarre wounds on his chest suggests that child abuser might be a better description than hero for the two ranchers in whose name so-called militia members have taken over a federal building in Oregon.

“Raising kids is like raising cows or dogs,” one of the ranchers is quoted as saying in a police report to which the photo is attached.

The photo is of Dusty Hammond, nephew of rancher Steve Hammond and grandson of rancher Dwight Hammond.

Dusty was 16 on that March morning in 2004, when Deputy Sheriff Brian Needham of the Harney County Sheriff's Office responded with a human services representative to Crane High School in the Oregon town of the same name. Needham spoke to Dusty about “a possible assault involving a student.”

“Dusty told me that about four to five weeks ago he had scratched some initials into his shoulder/chest area with a paper clip,” Needham's subsequent report reads.

The boy's grandfather, Dwight Hammond, and grandmother, Susan Hammond, had learned about the scratching.

“His grandparents did not know how to handle the situation with Dusty, so they called Dusty's uncle, Steve Hammond,” the report says. “Dusty told me that Steve is the one that disciplines him on any matters that his grandparents do not know how to handle.”

The report goes on, “Dusty told me that in the past several months the discipline has gotten worse and worse. Dusty told me that two to three months ago he and Steve had gotten into an argument about how Dusty was doing his chores. Dusty stated that Steve became very upset and charged him. Dusty stated that Steve hit him in the chest with a closed fist, knocking him to the ground. Dusty stated that Steve then took Dusty's face and rubbed it into the gravel. Dusty stated that this action hurt and made him fearful of Steve.”

The report describes Steve as 35 years old, 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds. The report says that when Dusty was caught with alcohol, Steve had driven him at least 10 miles from the ranch “and made Dusty walk back.”

The report further states that when Dusty was caught with tobacco, “Steve made him eat two cans of Skoal Smokeless tobacco, then again drove him 10 miles from the ranch and made him walk back.”

On Feb. 29, 2004, there came the incident involving the initials that Dusty had scratched into his chest.

“Dusty stated that Steve was very upset with him,” the report says. “Dusty told me his grandparents were present during the time.”

The report continues, “Dusty stated that Steve told him that he was not going to let Dusty deface the family by carving on himself. Dusty stated that Steve then took him and began to sand the initials off his chest… Steve sanded on each side of his chest for at least five minutes… Steve used a very coarse sandpaper to sand off the initials.”

The report goes on, “Dusty told me that the process was very painful, but that he did not cry because he knew that Steve would continue the process for a longer period of time.”

The report says that by Dusty's account, the grandmother was in the room the whole time, but the grandfather got up and left halfway through. Steve kept sanding.

“Dusty told me that Steve told him that if the sanding did not remove the initials, that he would fillet the initials off Dusty's chest,” the report says.

The sandpaper did the job.

“Dusty told me that after Steve was finished with the sanding process, that the areas were bleeding,” the report states. “Dusty told me that his grandmother told Dusty to clean the area up and not to have a pity party.”

The report further recounts, “His grandmother told him to shower if he wanted to, but to make sure that he cleaned the wounds with alcohol and put Neosporin on them. Dusty told me that he did as his grandmother instructed and then went to bed.”

The wounds were still raw when they came to the attention of the school 10 days later, on March 9. The human services official, Sandy Gardner, photographed the boy's injuries in Needham's presence.

A week later, on March 16, Needham interviewed the Hammonds at their ranch. Needham asked to record the interview, but the Hammonds told him they preferred that he not. He read them their Miranda rights.

“I asked everyone if they could tell me what had happened on or about February 29, 2004, when the sanding incident with Dusty Hammond occurred,” the subsequent report on this interview says. “Steven Hammond began by telling me some background information concerning Dusty Hammond.”

The grandparents joined in, telling Needham that they had had custody of Dusty for about four years, since 2000. They had begun having trouble with him in September 2003, they said. They had sought help at the county behavioral health center, and the boy had been put on “a medication similar to Prozac for about the last three or four months.”

“This conversation went on for about fifteen to 20 minutes before I finally got them redirected,” the report says.

The deputy asked the Hammonds about the time Dusty had been caught with alcohol and Steve allegedly forced him to walk 10 miles back to the ranch.

“The Hammonds changed the subject and would not answer the question,” the report says.

Needham then inquired about the time Dusty had been caught with tobacco.

“Dwight told me he tried to show Dusty that chewing tobacco was harmful on his body,” the report says. “Dwight continued by saying that he had Dusty eat a full can of chewing tobacco over a several day period.”

Needham asked about that 10-mile trek back to the ranch.

“The Hammonds changed the subject and would not answer my question,” the report says. “I moved to the sanding incident.”

Then came the line that would stay with anybody who read it.

“Steve Hammond began by telling me that raising kids is like raising cows or dogs,” the report says.

As recounted in the report, Steve proceeded to suggest that Dusty would have suffered a lot worse if they had gotten their hands on him after he told the authorities how he got his twin wounds.

“Steve then told me that Dusty was lucky that he was not at the ranch when he told on Dwight, Susie, and himself, or there would have been hell to pay and Dusty would have wished he wasn't alive,” the report says. “I explained to the Hammonds that it was not Dusty that was pursuing this investigation, that it was the State of Oregon. Steve Hammond told me that he did not agree with the government getting involved in family matters.”

Needham returned the discussion to “the sanding incident.”

“Dwight Hammond told me that Dusty had accidentally showed him the carvings of the initials on his chest, that a family meeting was called to discuss the incident,” the report says. “Dwight told me that Dusty was given an opportunity to come up with an alternative punishment. Dwight told me that after a while, when Dusty was not able to come up with a punishment, that it was decided that the initials would be sanded off.”

The Hammonds told Needham that “it was decided mutually and agreed upon by everyone including Dusty that this was a good plan.”

“Steve Hammond told me that they have been trying to teach Dusty to respect his body,” the report says. “During the interview, I asked approximately 10 times who actually did the sanding on Dusty's chest. But no one would ever tell me. The Hammonds continued to change the subject when asked.”

As recounted in the report, the Hammonds then suggested that Dusty himself was responsible for the severity of the wounds.

“The Hammonds told me that after the sanding was completed, Dusty made the comment that he did not think the areas were sanded deep enough and thought that he should use steel wool to sand the areas some more.”


The report continues, “The Hammonds told me that they do not know if he actually sanded the areas any more…The Hammonds told me that none of them saw the injuries after that time. The Hammonds did not have anything else to add.”

Even though someone who treats a dog, not to mention a kid, this way could have been arrested, the Hammonds do not seem to have been charged. Dusty returned to living with his mother, then his father, then his mother again.

According to court papers, Dusty told the government investigators who interviewed him five years later that he had been in mortal dread of his uncle.

“When interviewed by federal agents, the 21-year-old Dusty Hammond said he feared that when Steven Hammond learned he had talked to police that Steven would come to his front door and kill him,” the papers said.

The federal agents had come to ask Dusty about fires they believed his uncle and grandfather had set on government-owned land adjacent to the ranch. Dusty told them a story from when he was 13 and going on his first deer hunt. He repeated this account before a federal grand jury and again from the witness stand when his uncle and grandfather were tried for arson.

Dusty said he had heard a number of gunshots after the others in the hunting party proceeded over the top of a hill but that he had neither fired his rifle nor seen any deer. He did see what his uncle distributed at the end of the hunt.

“Steven started handing out boxes of Strike Anywhere matches and said, ‘We're going to light up the whole country on fire,'” Dusty told the jury.

He said Steve had pointed to a spot on the skyline and told him to head there.

“Just said, ‘Start lighting them and walk in that direction until you run out,'” Dusty testified.

Dusty did as bid, dropping lighted matches into the grass as he went while his uncle and grandfather and others in the party did the same in different directions. He ran out of matches and was turning to rejoin the others when he realized he was surrounded by flames.

“Fire was like knee high to start with, and then it—I was looking, trying to figure out where everybody else went, and I kind of got, like, trapped by it,” he testified. “It came up behind me faster than I expected it to… It was, like, over my head, eight, 10 feet probably… I thought I was going to get burned up.”

He dashed down the hill to a rocky stream, he said.

“There was Mud Creek, just a little bit of water, not much, but everything was green around it, so I went down there in the rocks and waited for most of [the fire] to go by,” he testified.

Dusty eventually reached his grandfather's pickup truck, he said, and rode back to the ranch. They all sat down to a lunch of egg salad sandwiches.

“Dwight told me to keep my mouth shut, that nobody needed to know about the fire,” Dusty testified.

The prosecutor asked why he had remained silent even long after he was away from the ranch living with his mother.

“I was afraid of Steven and Susie,” he testified. “And I don't like to talk about it. Just never said anything about it. Nobody ever asked.”

“Someone eventually did ask, did they not?” the prosecutor inquired.

“Yeah,” Dusty replied

“In March of 2011?”

“Yes… There were two of them that come up.”

He was speaking of the federal agents.

“Did you tell [the agents] what you've been telling the jury today?”



“Because [they] asked. And I'm not afraid of [Steve] anymore.”

Dusty further testified that his uncle and grandfather had gone up in a private plane later in the day.

“Said they were going to go fly over and see what the fire did, and see if they got rid of the juniper trees and something else,” Duty testified.

The Hammonds would later admit to setting a number of fires, saying they had only been doing so as a precaution against a much larger wildfire sweeping through. The government would contend that the “something else” they hoped had been burned was any evidence that they had been poaching deer on federal land. They are said to have become concerned when a group of other hunters happened to see them.

The jury convicted the uncle and grandfather of arson on federal property. A counterterrorism statute mandates a five year minimum term for the crime, but federal Judge Michael Hogan declared that in these circumstances “it would be a sentence which would shock the conscience.”

The judge sentenced Steve to a year and a day, Dwight to three months. The government appealed and won in 2014.

“Even a fire in a remote area has the potential to spread to more populated areas, threaten local property and residents, or endanger the firefighters called to battle the blaze,” the appeals court held. “Given the seriousness of arson, a five-year sentence is not grossly disproportionate to the offense.”

As re-sentencing neared, the Hammonds submitted a Sept. 30, 2015, letter to the court in which they described themselves as “dedicated men who are highly regarded in their community.”

The government noted in a sentencing memorandum that the Hammonds “omit any mention of their alleged assault and abuse of their sixteen-year-old grandson/nephew Dusty Hammond.” The photo of the twin wounds was entered into evidence along with Deputy Sheriff Neeham's reports.

The Hammonds were sentenced to the mandatory minimum of five years but given until after the holidays to surrender. The designated date was Jan. 4, the first Monday of the New Year.

As the time neared, armed members of a so-called militia took over a federal building in supposed solidarity with the Hammonds. Steve and Dwight had the sense to say the deluded attention seekers did not speak for them.

On Monday, the Hammonds did indeed surrender. They could not be reached for comment. Nor could Dusty.

The militia members continue their occupation, insisting they do so in the name of two ranchers they call heroes but might be better described as child abusers.


Washington D.C.

Military releases child abuse data

But restrictions make scale of problem unclear

by The Associated Press

Cpl. Aaron C. Masa befriended a fellow Marine during field training in North Carolina. But behind his buddy's back, Masa sexually abused his 3-year-old stepdaughter and took sexually explicit photos of her and the Marine's baby girl.

A military judge convicted Masa last year of sexual abuse of a child and production of child pornography, according to court records and other documents detailing the case. Under the terms of a pretrial agreement, Masa pleaded guilty and received 30 years in prison.

The sexual assault of military dependents occurs hundreds of times each year, according to data the Defense Department provided exclusively to The Associated Press. There were at least 1,584 substantiated cases between fiscal years 2010 and 2014, according to the data, which is the most current available. The abuse is committed most often by male enlisted troops followed by family members.

The figures offer greater insight into the sexual abuse of children committed by service members, a problem of uncertain scale due to a lack of transparency into the military's legal proceedings. With more than 1 million military dependents, the number of cases appears statistically small. But for a profession that prides itself on honor and discipline, any episodes of abuse cast a pall.

Those numbers fall well-short of offering a full picture.

The ages of the offenders and victims, the locations of the incidents and the branch of service that received the report of sexual abuse were omitted. The Defense Department said in a statement that "information that could unintentionally uniquely identify victims was withheld from release to eliminate possible 're-victimization' of the innocent."

It's also unclear how many of the incidents resulted in legal action.



Area district opposes bill requiring school volunteers to report child abuse

by Jessica Bringe

CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) -- A proposed bill aimed at making sure all school volunteers are held accountable for reporting suspected child abuse is raising questions.

The bill authored by Rep. Janel Brandtjen, R-Menomonee Falls, would legally require any adult who volunteers for at least 40 hours in a school year to report any signs of child abuse and neglect.

However, not all school districts feel the act is necessary.

The Chippewa Falls School District says current law already requires school employees to report signs of abuse and by placing that responsibility on volunteers who may not know the whole story could create problems for the district and its families.

“I think there would be a much greater case for unfairly reporting abuse or neglect based on one snippet of information and I think it puts families and the school district in a difficult spot,” said Michelle Golden, director of Human Resources with the district.

On the surface Golden says it sounds good but with a system addressing child abuse already in place there are concerns it could complicate the process.

“This bill puts our volunteers in a difficult spot because they may feel forced to make a judgment call because there would be consequence of them not reporting them,” said Golden.

“The bill would impose criminal charges if they didn't report, which is scary,” explained Golden.

Kayla Midthrun with the Chippewa Area Mentor program says it may also deter casual volunteers because of those criminal charges.

“That's a big responsibility as a volunteer to be in charge of reporting something with those types of penalties in place for not doing it so that might scare someone.

In addition schools would be required to train volunteers on what must be reported which would force the district to begin tracking volunteer hours.

Golden said, “We wouldn't know which volunteers have 40 hours or more within a year so we would probably have to train everyone which would make it very difficult and another hoop to just through for our volunteers.”

Issues Midthrun says can be better addressed in other ways.

“I think you can do it in a way where you're still training people to do that but this required component of this may be a challenge and I can see it being a challenge,” said Midthrun.

The bill would take into consideration families in poverty.

It would still identify children who aren't having their needs met but put parents in touch with social services instead of in jail.

WEAU reached out to Brandtjen for comment on the bill and have yet to hear back.



Crook, Jefferson counties at child abuse prevention 'tipping point'


BEND, Ore. - KIDS Center said Monday it has reached a tipping point in creating new standards of child safety by training 5 percent of the adult population in our families, schools, and youth-serving organizations with Darkness to Light's “Stewards of Children®” child sexual abuse prevention program.

They said this lays the foundation for a proactive, community-wide approach to prevention and builds momentum toward educating and empowering all adults to protect children from abuse.

Tipping points occur when issues gain momentum and ignite, and a relatively small amount of people can effect change on a societal level. Building upon Malcolm Gladwell's tipping point research, Darkness to Light encourages every community to educate five percent of its population to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse, providing a foundation for widespread social change.

“Five percent is a small, attainable goal that has dramatic effect on community prevention efforts,” said Darkness to Light Director of Programs Cindy McElhinney. “This is the point when we see training initiatives take a life of their own, and we applaud KIDS Center and Crook County for their efforts to create a community where children can grow and thrive.”

Statistics for child sexual abuse are startling. In the United States alone, one in 10 children will be sexually abused before the age of 18, making this likely the most prevalent health problem children face, with the most serious array of consequences. In over 90% of incidents, children are abused by a trusted family member or friend.

In Crook County 1136 adults and in Jefferson County 1027 adults are trained to create environments that reduce the risk for abuse and allow children to live, learn, play, and worship in safety. In order to reach our tipping point in Deschutes County, we and need to train approximately 500 more adults.

KIDS Center has been training communities in Darkness to Light's “Stewards of Children®” child sexual abuse prevention program since 2005.

“We are very proud of the over 8,500 adults in Central Oregon who have learned how to protect children from child sexual abuse through the Stewards of Children training. However, our work is not done. We have not reached the tipping point in Deschutes County, and even when we have reached that milestone, there is another 95% of adults in our community that can learn how to create a safer place for children.” said Kim Bohme, KIDS Center's Prevention and Education Coordinator.

Join the prevention movement today: you could be the next adult in our community trained to prevent child sexual abuse. Make a commitment today to protect the children in your life. Contact Kim Bohme at or at 541-306-6062 for education, training, and volunteer opportunities in your area.

About KIDS Center:

Built by the community and for the community, KIDS Center is dedicated to the prevention, evaluation and treatment of all forms of child abuse. In a child-friendly environment, KIDS Center provides comprehensive medical evaluations to children who may have been abused, seeking to find out what has happened and to provide a path to healing through family support and therapeutic services. KIDS Center is a Darkness to Light affiliate, authorized to facilitate Stewards of Children training. KIDS Center has been providing the Darkness to Light: Stewards of Children training for 10 years in Central Oregon and has trained over 8,500 adults in Central Oregon.

About Darkness to Light:

Darkness to Light (D2L) is a nonprofit organization founded in 2000 with the mission to empower adults to prevent child sexual abuse. Through education and awareness, the organization seeks to create a safer world for children to grow and thrive.

Darkness to Light's flagship program, “Stewards of Children®,” is an award-winning training that teaches adults to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. To date, over one million educators, youth serving professionals, organization volunteers, and community members have been trained. “Stewards of Children” is the largest training program of its kind, with the largest network of child protection advocates in the world. For more information visit




The difference between abuse and neglect

by Jeff Spitzer-Resnick

As the FBI and state Department of Justice continue to investigate what appears to be rampant child abuse at the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls juvenile correctional facilities in Irma, I have noted repeated excuses raised by union leaders and some staff for the abuse of these incarcerated juveniles.

These excuses range from blaming Wisconsin's now infamous Act 10 for breaking children's wrists, arms and causing serious foot injuries to suggesting that the introduction of methods of highly regarded trauma informed care is to blame.

Sadly, thus far, the media, union leaders and politicians generally seem more interested in the blame game, rather than examining the real consequences on these troubled youths when they suffer abuse and neglect at the hands of those who have the responsibility to keep them safe.

It is certainly appropriate to determine who is responsible and exact the appropriate punishment on those who deserve it, which is exactly why the FBI and DOJ are continuing their investigation. It is certainly my hope and expectation that when their investigation is concluded, the appropriate people will be prosecuted and punished.

However, my experience as an attorney who has litigated abuse and neglect cases against a wide variety of care providers for more than 30 years, I know that it is important to pay attention to the difference between abuse and neglect.

Put simply: Abuse is intentional and never can be excused by understaffing or other poor working conditions. While I fully support appropriate staffing levels and well-trained and -supported staff, the lack of these things can never justify breaking the bones of incarcerated youths.

Neglect, on the other hand, can occur easily when there are staffing shortages or poorly trained staff. If there is not enough staff to check on the physical and emotional health of incarcerated youths, then their health can deteriorate and they may harm each other due to insufficient supervision. Similarly, if staff members are poorly trained, they may not have the knowledge of how to de-escalate dangerous situations, which may in turn result in injuries.

In general, neglect is ultimately the responsibility of those who determine staffing levels and training, i.e., supervisors. On the other hand, as stated previously, responsibility for abuse lies with the abuser.

Once the FBI and DOJ have concluded their investigation, prosecutions should take place with the understanding of the difference between abuse and neglect to make sure that those responsible for each category of harm are held accountable.

In addition, what must never be forgotten is that children allegedly have been abused and neglected under state supervision. These children must be compensated for the harm that was done to them.

Jeff Spitzer-Resnick is a civil rights attorney based in Madison.



Men Find Healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse

Twice a month in Springfield, a group of men gather to talk.

These men talk about their childhood sexual abuse.

“If you've been through any kind of adverse experience, any kind of traumatic experience — and any kind of childhood sexual abuse is a traumatic experience — it shakes your core and changes your whole outlook on life as a safe place,” said Chris Davies, our staff lead for the men's group (there are also domestic abuse and women's sexual violence survivor groups that meet).

Finding Words to Heal

This group, which has welcomed dozens of men for nearly five years, stands as a beacon of healing for many victims.

“Being able to see they are not alone is an important factor in their recovery,” said Davies.

What do the men talk about? Davies said the issues are varied, but they generally come back to some common themes.

“A lot of the discussion in the group centers around men defining themselves and deciding what to make of their lives,” he said. “That includes their relationships, includes how they manage their emotions, and truly how they see themselves.”

Davies said in his view, there's one significant benefit of the group that men realize over time. “They have that moment when they realize it's not their fault. There's nothing wrong with them.”

In response to a recent survey of the group, the men were asked if they were better off for attending the meetings. Three of the men responded:

“I'd say better off. Just knowing I'm not the only one with all these emotional issues.”

“I feel better able to share my feelings and thoughts. I also feel less alone.”

“It's a self check-in that I feel better if I attend regularly and I feel worse if I don't. It's a release of emotion I can count on having.”

Building a Support Network

That release of emotion is critical.

Davies notes that men can't always count on people in their social system to support conversations about childhood sexual abuse.

“Some of the men who've tried to bring up their abuse to family members don't always get a supportive response or maybe they've never brought it up because they were worried they wouldn't get a supportive response,” Davies said. “They feel like they can talk about it in the group because that's what the group is there for. It's moderated to keep the conversation supportive. People there can expect each other to understand their experiences.”

Meeting Details

The group meets on the first and third Tuesdays of the month from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at Richard Byrd Library in Springfield.

It's a free and confidential drop-in group. No pre-registration is required. If you would like more information or to talk with Chris Davies about the group, call 703-704-6727, TTY 703-324-5706.


Washington D.C.

Pentagon: Hundreds of Military Kids Sexually Abused Annually


Cpl. Aaron C. Masa became fast friends with a fellow Marine during field training in North Carolina. But behind his buddy's back, Masa was sexually abusing his friend's 3-year-old stepdaughter. He also took sexually explicit photos of the girl and the Marine's infant daughter.

A military judge convicted Masa last year of sexual abuse of a child and production of child pornography, according to court records and other documents detailing the case. Under the terms of a pretrial agreement, he pleaded guilty and received 30 years in prison.

In total, incidents involving sexual assault in which the children of service members are victims occur hundreds of times each year, data the Defense Department provided exclusively to The Associated Press show. The abuse is committed most often by male enlisted troops, according to the data, followed by family members.

The figures offer greater insight into the sexual abuse of children committed by service members, a problem of uncertain scale due to a lack of transparency into the military's legal proceedings. With more than 1 million military dependents, the number of cases appears statistically small. But for a profession that prides itself on honor and discipline, any episodes of abuse cast a pall.

Those numbers fall well-short of offering a full picture.

The ages of the offenders and victims, the locations of the incidents and the branch of service that received the report of sexual abuse were omitted. The Defense Department said in a statement that "information that could unintentionally uniquely identify victims was withheld from release to eliminate possible 're-victimization' of the innocent."

It's also unclear how many of the incidents resulted in legal action. The cases represent substantiated occurrences of child sexual abuse reported to the Defense Department's Family Advocacy Program, which does not track judicial proceedings, the department said.

An AP investigation published in November found more inmates are in military prisons for child sex crimes than for any other offense. But the military's opaque justice system keeps the public from knowing the full extent of their crimes or how much time they spend behind bars.

Responding to AP's findings, three Democratic senators have urged Defense Secretary Ash Carter to lift what they called the military justice system's "cloak of secrecy" and make records from sex-crimes trials readily accessible.

The senators also raised another concern. Child sex-assault cases are not included in the Defense Department's annual report to Congress on sexual assaults, which focuses primarily on adult-on-adult incidents, they said. The senators — Barbara Boxer of California, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii — told Carter in a Dec. 8 letter they are concerned the department may be underestimating how many sexual assaults are occurring in the military.

There were at least 1,584 substantiated cases of military dependents being sexually abused between fiscal years 2010 and 2014, according to the data. Enlisted service members sexually abused children in 840 cases. Family members of the victims accounted for the second largest category with 332 cases.

Most of the enlisted offenders were males whose ranks ranged between E-4 and E-6. In the Marine Corps and Army, for example, those troops are corporals, sergeants and staff sergeants. Officers were involved in 49 of the cases. The victims were overwhelmingly female.

Kathy Robertson, manager of the Family Advocacy Program, said in an emailed response to questions that the incident rates reflect the U.S. military's demographics. Most of the cases involve the E-4 and E-6 ranks because they are the largest number of active-duty personnel and the largest number of parents in the military, she said.

Duplications in the data indicate that as many as 160 additional cases of sexual abuse could have occurred during the 2010 to 2014 period, involving a child who was victimized multiple times or a repeat abuser. The figures also account only for cases involving military dependents, which are the only child victims the department tracks.

In Masa's case, military authorities first became aware of the alleged abuse in June 2014 after the 3-year-old told a neighbor that she did not like Masa because he touched her in certain places and "made it hurt," according to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service's investigation obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

NCIS blacked out all the names in the report, including Masa's. The AP identified him by the dates and events in the document that matched records from Masa's court-martial.

Masa, 24, admitted during questioning to at least five instances of sexually assaulting her, the NCIS report said. Investigators found nude photos of both girls on his cellphone and later discovered a pair of girl's underwear during a search of his mother's home in Ohio.

The report depicted Masa as a loner with a troubled past. People interviewed by the Navy investigators described him as "oddball" who was picked on in high school in Marietta, Ohio. He graduated near the bottom of his class with a cumulative 1.782 GPA, according to his official transcript.

Masa watched a lot of sexually explicit Japanese animation known as hentai, the NCIS report said, and he had an intense interest in "furry porn," a genre of pornography in which animal characters with human arms and legs engage in sex.

In 2008, Masa was arrested after threatening to bring a gun to school and shoot three other students, according to the NCIS report, which included details of the incident. Police didn't find a gun on him, but he had a knife. He pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge.

He enlisted in the Marine Corps in June 2010, a month after graduating from high school. The arrest wasn't serious enough to bar Masa from enlisting. A Marine Corps spokesman said he was found qualified after a thorough screening process that involved physical, mental and moral evaluations.

Stationed at Camp Lejeune, a sprawling installation on the North Carolina coast, Masa started a friendship with the Marine sergeant and his family in 2013, according to the 286-page NCIS report. They fished together and chopped wood for the sergeant's fire pit. Masa loaned the sergeant money to help the family through a financially difficult period and spent more and more time at their home, the report said. He babysat the girls and volunteered to give the older daughter a bath, the documents said.

Amid the good will, suspicions surfaced. The girls' mother suspected as early as March 2014 that the 3-year-old daughter was being molested because she complained of pain "down there," according to portions of medical records from a hospital near Camp Lejeune that are included in the NCIS report. The girl was sleeping by the door and having nightmares, the mother said.

Yet at the hospital, the girl was in high spirits, smiling, laughing and jumping on the bed, according to the report. She was diagnosed as having a urinary tract infection and antibiotics were prescribed. "Mom advised to follow up with law enforcement if she has concern about possible molestation," the report said, quoting the medical records.

But an investigation wouldn't be launched until a few months later, after the girl talked to the neighbor. While being questioned by investigators, Masa drew a diagram of the floor plan of the sergeant's home, using X's and O's to show where the abuse occurred.

Masa is serving his sentence at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.


Final Attempt To Keep Cosby's Wife Off Stand Fails

by CBS News

A federal judge has denied a motion by Bill Cosby's wife to throw out a subpoena requiring her to give a deposition in a lawsuit brought by seven women who accuse the comedian of sexually assaulting them decades ago.

The ruling issued Thursday by U.S. Judge Magistrate David Hennessey in Springfield, Massachusetts, means Camille Cosby is scheduled to be deposed by lawyers for the women on Wednesday.

In his 12-page decision, Hennessey said Camille Cosby failed to prove that she and her husband were protected by the state's marital disqualification law. He also rejected claims that the value of the testimony would be outweighed by the "undue burden" it would cause.

In a separate case, Cosby was charged last week with drugging and sexually assaulting a woman at his home in Pennsylvania 12 years ago.

The criminal charges stem from a 2004 encounter with a former Temple University employee who claims he drugged and sexually assaulted her at his suburban Philadelphia home. The charges were filed just days before the statute of limitations was set to expire.

The seven accusers in the Massachusetts case filed their civil lawsuit in November, claiming Cosby sexually abused them and later defamed them by calling their accounts lies. They were unable to file lawsuits directly tied to their allegations because of the statute of limitations.

Cosby countersued in December for defamation, tortious interference and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

His lawyer, Monique Pressley, released a statement on Twitter after the countersuit was filed calling the women's accusations "malicious, opportunistic, and false and defamatory." It also states that the women "knowingly published false statements and accusations."



Saving "Throwaway Kids." How One L.A. detective is helping teens escape the streets and a life of prostitution

by Lane Anderson

Just a few blocks east of the gleaming glass office buildings and new lofts of downtown Los Angeles, the streets make an abrupt change from vegan bakeries and Starbucks to sidewalks lined with trash, shopping carts stuffed with belongings and people sleeping in tents. This is Skid Row, where 2,000 homeless take up a 54-block radius, forming what is the largest homeless encampment in the United States.

It's a warm summer evening in July, and Lt. Andre Dawson of the Los Angeles Police Department is steering his blacked-out SUV across South Los Angeles Street. Skid Row is an emblem of L.A.'s notorious designation as the nation's unsheltered homeless capital: the city has 82,000 homeless on any given night, and most people don't realize that up to one in eight of the homeless are unaccompanied minors, according to the Institute for the Study of Homelessness and Poverty at the Weingart Center.

Dawson, 56, is stylish and well-spoken. He's wearing a pink button-down shirt with dark jeans, reflective sunglasses and a mustache that he is in the habit of smoothing with one hand. Dawson has been a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department for 32 years, and since 2010, he's run the LAPD team dedicated to stopping child sex exploitation.

While headlines tout stories of women and children trafficked from overseas, Dawson says you need look no further than the streets of Los Angeles to find America's sexually exploited kids. Over 70 percent of children under 18 rescued by his team are “domestic cases,” he says, meaning they are kids born and raised in America. And they have not been kidnapped and stuffed into the back of a van, which is Hollywood's version of sex trafficking.

“It's not what everybody thinks; it's not what the movies tell you it is,” says Dawson. “What we see are — what's the term to refer to girls that nobody cares about? Throwaway kids.”

It's a term used to describe the thousands of children in America who are abandoned, abused, neglected and often in and out of foster care. Although “orphan” isn't a term we use anymore in the United States, Dawson sees sexually exploited kids who are essentially without families, or without reliable, safe homes, day in and day out.

There are between 4,800 and 10,000 homeless minors in Los Angeles on any given night, most of them concentrated around downtown L.A. and Hollywood, and many find themselves in a Dickensian scramble to survive. Some come from out of state, in search of warm weather and a better life, but most are local kids from Southern California's poor neighborhoods. Many will fall into, or be pressed into, sex work.

One in three teens will be recruited into sex work the first 48 hours on the street according to stats from the National Runaway Switchboard, and most kids, boys and girls, are introduced to sex work at age 13.

The federal definition for what constitutes trafficking is broader than most people realize. While “trafficked” implies transportation of victims across borders, anyone compelled to perform commercial sex acts by force, fraud or coercion is legally defined as a trafficking victim. Therefore, anyone under age 18 performing commercial sex acts is considered a trafficking victim because they aren't old enough to give consent—whether or not there is evidence of force or coercion.

Rather than treated as victims that need help, most sexually exploited children have been arrested on prostitution charges and put behind bars while their adult johns usually get off scot-free. Dawson's CSEC (Commercially Sexually Exploited Children) unit is one of the first in the country to adopt a “first responders” protocol that searches out child victims and treats them like victims of abuse instead of criminals. Officers are trained to recognize exploited minors and how to talk to them, and bring them into the station to put them in touch with social services instead of juvenile court.

Dawson knows there's no silver bullet solution to stopping sex trafficking. But it's a start, and a model for cities across the country.

The tracks

It's just after 5 p.m., and the sun is still high in Southern California's hazy sky. Dawson heads toward "the tracks" in Compton, or what locals call “the Blade,” stretches of city streets where sex is sold. This is the time of day when women will hit the sidewalks looking to pick up guys who are just getting off work, Dawson says. They will walk up and down streets like Figueroa Avenue, which is lined with strip malls, liquor stores and cheap hotels, while working cellphones, talking to their pimps and looking out for regulars and new customers.

The sidewalks in South Central are thick with foot traffic, from kids who are out of school to shift workers waiting for buses. As we crawl up Figueroa Avenue in rush-hour traffic, Dawson calls out the action on the street.

“She's working,” he nods toward a woman strolling casually in spandex leggings and a not-especially revealing striped top. “Those two are working.” He points out two young women, one black and one Latina, walking past a McDonald's, who appear to be in their late teens or early twenties. They're wearing stretchy jeans and crop tops and talking on their cellphones through their earbuds.

When Dawson's team does recon on the street, they're scanning young women and looking for underage girls. It takes a trained eye to tell the difference between a sixteen-year old and an eighteen-year old, but sometimes it's painfully obvious that a child is on the street—the youngest girl Dawson has rescued from the street was ten years old. Dawson's team will also pose as johns on social media to bust pimps that are trafficking children online, gather intelligence from informants, and try to persuade victims to testify against their traffickers.

When Dawson suspects someone on the street is underage, he approaches her and introduces himself as an officer from the trafficking unit, and notes that her behavior has been consistent with commercial sex activity in the neighborhood. Then, instead of arresting her, he takes her into custody to put her in touch with social services.

Until recently, “child prostitutes,” a term that Dawson, and anti-trafficking advocates recoil at, were seen as willful criminals instead of victims.

It's estimated that one in four homeless minors have been involved in sex work, but advocates say the numbers may be higher, because a teenager coming to a shelter or nonprofit in crisis won't usually say they need help because they're being trafficked.

“They say, ‘I need food, or I need a place to sleep.' They may report sexual exploitation later, or they may not report it at all,” says Johannah Westmacott of Safe Horizon, an anti-trafficking and homeless outreach center.

Dawson's perspective has changed over the years; he has brought in girls, sometimes as young as 12 and 13, who were abused and exploited by pimps but faced worse trauma in foster care, or homes plagued by abuse, drugs and poverty.

And many of the young women and girls “in the life,” the insider term for sex work, have a history of abuse at home or in the foster care system before they ever end up on the tracks. Forty-six percent of runaway and homeless youths report having being physically abused, and 17 percent report being forced into unwanted sexual activity by a family or household member, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

This is part of what advocates call the “foster care to prostitution pipeline” that sets kids up from a childhood of abuse into a future in sex work.

Most of the legal-age women on the tracks come from a similarly traumatic background; Dawson estimates that most adult sex workers started when they were children themselves: “There's a conversation to be had that a lot of these adult women were just kids that never got rescued,” he says. “Now it's all they know.”

First responders

When Dawson's unit picks up a minor, after contacting DCFS, they call someone from Amber Davies' team. Davies works for Saving Innocence, a Los Angeles advocacy and outreach nonprofit founded in 2009 by Kim Biddle, who is herself a survivor of sex trafficking. Within 90 minutes, one of the nine caseworkers— all women — will be on the scene to meet with the child.

The last time Davies was called in, it was a 14-year-old girl, African-American, who had been in foster care since age 9 and had a history of sexual abuse. But girls like this aren't usually rejoicing to be “rescued.” In fact, they are usually afraid of the cops and attached to their pimp, who often plays simultaneous roles of exploiter and boyfriend/father figure.

“What we hear from youths is that they've had bad experiences with cops before, and it's hard to talk about what they've been through,” says Davies. And sometimes cops themselves are “tricks,” or trade sexual favors in exchange for not arresting a prostitute. “Cops know that, too. So if they bring us in and we say these cops are the good guys, it helps immensely.”

Davies tries to create a safe relationship with teenagers using “their language.” “I'll say, ‘I'm just a square, but I want to understand what you've been through.'”

Davies is part of an innovative initiative called First Responders Protocol for CSEC. Initiated by the Long Beach Police Department, it's the first of its kind. Just a few years ago, Long Beach, home of the notorious Long Beach Boulevard track, had the highest number of minors in the sex trade in Los Angeles. Last year, it had zero.

Now, underage prostitutes detained by police are connected to services like Davies' instead of put behind bars. While Long Beach has been praised for this progressive protocol, all 50 states, including California, have sentencing laws that criminalize minors for “juvenile prostitution” rather than treating them as child-abuse victims.

Malika Saada Saar is executive director of advocacy group Rights4Girls, which launched the No Such Thing campaign earlier this year to end arrests for so-called “child prostitution.”

“In California and almost every other state, trafficked kids — the majority of them black and brown — are contemplated and treated as criminals,” Saada Saar said in a press conference, “when in fact they have been subjected to repeated commercial rape.”

“There is no such thing as a child prostitute, there are only victims and survivors of child rape.”

A clean, well-lighted place

The teen girl who gets kidnapped and sold into sex trafficking does exist—but it's a very small percentage of cases. What advocates call the “kidnapped innocent girl narrative” makes up about 10 percent of cases according to Alexandra Lutnick, a researcher at RTI San Francisco who specializes in young people and the sex trade. The rest of sex trafficking cases are “more complicated.”

“To only focus on the one narrative pulls heartstrings, but it does a disservice to other youth who can benefit from resources and support,” says Lutnick.

Lutnick says that most of these kids aren't like Elizabeth Smart—the Salt Lake City girl whose 2002 kidnapping from her home set off a national search. They can't simply be “rescued” and returned to loving families. Most of them don't have safe homes to go to, or they wouldn't be in this situation in the first place.

The 14-year-old that Davies mentioned, for example, came from a family where she was already being sexually abused. “A child is already being molested or raped by a stepfather or abused in foster care, and then an older guy comes along and pays to get their nails done, hair done, takes them to McDonald's. Nobody has treated them that well,” says Davies.

A minor in that situation is choosing between what she sees as the better of two bad options. She may not see her relationship with their pimp, or “Daddy,” or “boyfriend” as abusive, or she may not realize it until he threatens her, or threatens to hurt her family.

“We want them to understand that help is out there — their pimp has told them time and again that nobody cares for you or understands you, you're just going to end up in jail,” says Davies. “We don't want that to be true. We want to make sure that their pimps are liars.”

Unfortunately, it's harder for Davies to help victims than it should be. After she meets with a girl, she will try to find a place for her to stay. There aren't many. Shelters have long waiting lists, and few allow unaccompanied minors. “The Youth Welcome Center [the Los Angeles County youth shelter] is the county equivalent of a flophouse,” says Davies. “It's a bunch of mattresses thrown on the floor.”

The need for foster homes outstrips demand by 30 percent nationally. An L.A. Times report earlier this year found that shelter social workers made up to 100 phone calls to place a single child in foster care, and staff were concerned that traffickers were recruiting from the youth shelter itself.

As a result, a lot of kids in shelters run back to the street. A 14-year-old is a child, after all, and between sleeping on the floor alone with strangers, and going back to the life she knows — she will often choose the second. Most kids “in the life” will run anywhere from three to seven times before they leave the streets, says Davies. That might improve if they had a decent place to stay.

Nowhere to call home

Covenant House Los Angeles is in Hollywood, just a few miles from Mann's Chinese Theater and the Walk of Stars, where tourists pose for sidewalk photos next to the name of Taylor Swift or Angelina Jolie.

Covenant House is an outreach and transitional housing center for homeless youth, with 94 beds. The vacancy rate is zero, and last month the waiting list had 120 names on it.

Bill Bedrossian is the executive director at Covenant House in Hollywood, and if you ask him what would abate sex exploitation of young people, one answer is simple: beds.

Covenant House is on a short list of places that LAPD calls when it is trying to place young people living on the street. “They have a scared kid from Idaho who they found in front of a store, or at the train station, or on Skid Row; that's not a safe place for a young person to be,” he says.

About 65 to 70 percent of the youths Covenant House serves are locals from L.A. County, about 30 percent are from other states. Nearly all are coming from foster care, or are running from abuse, he says.

Bedrossian says he has trouble placing the youth that walk in his door or are sent to him by police. On average, it will take about six weeks for a bed to open up at Covenant House, or to find a bed in another handful of youth centers like this.

In the meantime, young people are on the street. “I had an 18-year old come in the other day that I had to waitlist, and he said he preferred the stairwell to adult homeless shelters that are not safe, and people are getting raped there."

Almost half of kids on the street will be approached about sex work within the first 48 hours, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This is what advocates call “survival sex,” which refers to youths trading sex for a place to sleep, or money for basics like food.

At the Los Angeles LGBT Center in Hollywood, sexual health classes for homeless youths openly address survival sex and “harm reduction.” In Hollywood, many homeless youths include boys and transgender youths who trade sex for money, or for a place to stay.

A 2008 study from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York found that young people who engaged in survival sex used the money to buy food first. Covenant House did a study with Fordham University in 2013 that interviewed 200 homeless youth, and found that almost half—48 percent—of those that traded sex did so because they didn't have a place to stay.

What this says is that even those who aren't pimped depend on sex to survive, says Johannah Westmacott of Safe Horizon. “We're talking about the basics — food, shelter.”

Money. Food. A place to sleep.

As the sun starts to set over South Central, the sky turns a brilliant pink, and the action on the street picks up as Dawson and I cruise Long Beach Boulevard. He spots two women standing on a corner — one black, wearing a miniskirt, and one white wearing tall boots.

Dawson pulls into a parking lot where we can watch them discreetly with binoculars. A green late-model Lexus pulls up and the black woman walks up to the car. “That's her pimp,” Dawson announces. How does he know? “She's not negotiating with him, she's just getting right into his car.”

Dawson flips around and stomps on the gas to give chase, then, once we catch up, he eases off to act natural. When we pull up to the light we can see that the driver is a woman, which Dawson identifies as the pimp's "bottom," or right-hand help. “Or, that's the pimp,” he says. “Don't assume a pimp is always a man. Some of the meanest pimps I've ever met have been women.”

The woman in the passenger seat looks young, but not under 18. If she did, Dawson could pull them over, citing the burned out left tail light, and ID them both. But this hit-or-miss approach can make for tough work busting pimps and identifying underage victims.

Dawson tells me, not for the first time, a story about a 10-year-old girl he rescued several years ago that really affected him. She was so young, and “a sweet girl,” he says. He rescued a 15-year-old earlier this year — and it was the same girl. She was back in the life. “That one really got to me,” he says.

Even Dawson is aware of the limited role of law enforcement in helping sexually exploited kids. When I asked Westmacott from Safe Horizon what the young people she works with ask for most, a smile almost plays on her lips. “Money. A place to sleep. Food. Better economic opportunities.”

Dawson's philosophy on long-term solutions to child trafficking is about the same. “Kids need a safe place to be and someone who cares about them. Now why should that be so hard?”



Report: Child Abuse Cases Expose Shortage Of Tennessee Mental Health Treatment

by Tony Gonzalez

In Tennessee, victims of repeat child abuse are given special attention. Now, the latest report from a group of experts finds “missed opportunities” for protecting those children, while giving some praise to efforts by the Department of Children's Services, which investigates abuse and oversees foster care.

Officials have determined that about 600 children suffer a second or subsequent incident of severe abuse each year in Tennessee. Most often, it's sex abuse or exposure to a drug-using parent.

Sometimes, it's fatal.

So it's the sobering task of the Second Look Commission to examine what kept these children in harm's way, and how local and state child protection agencies can do better.

Broadly, the group found in the past year that the state still lacks adequate mental health and drug addiction treatments. Children died at the hands of caregivers who were supposed to be getting help or who couldn't afford medications.

In one case, a mother nearly died from a prescription drug overdose. Local police didn't warn state abuse investigators. One month later, the woman took her own life and killed her child.

Miscommunication like that, between agencies, has been a perpetual concern for the commission, which wrote this year that it could “see missed opportunities that might have prevented repeat abuse.”

Repeat Severe Child Abuse Cases (Fiscal Year 2014)

Cheatham: 4

Davidson: 62

Dickson: 8

Montgomery: 31

Robertson: 15

Rutherford: 12

Sumner: 15

Williamson: 1

Wilson: 7

State total: 644

Source: Second Look Commission

A few years ago, commission members calculated that, on average, abuse allegations were reported to the state six times before a family was investigated.

After findings like that, the commission has been harsh on DCS, police, and juvenile courts.

More: Second Look findings 2012

More: Second Look findings 2013

In its latest year of analysis, the Second Look Commission did praise DCS for improved leadership, staff training, and for looking more closely at its mistakes.

The state agency also moved to provide more information to families about safe sleep habits for infants, a subject that still worries health officials. As evidence of continued problems, the Second Look report describes a child that died of asphyxia “due to being ‘folded' in a beanbag chair.”

“State agencies must continue to collaborate … to educate parents and other caregivers regarding safe sleeping environments,” the report states.

The panel also wants to see better enforcement of court orders in cases in which children are removed from dangerous homes and allowed to stay with relatives. These “kinship placements” were often found to fail at keeping potentially dangerous parents from having contact with their children while working toward reunification.



Children among the victims in the 2015 homicide surge

by Christine Byers

St. Louis police officer Don Re says he still thinks of Marcus Johnson. And probably always will.

How can he not? He has a son who is the same age as the 6-year-old boy, shot to death during a family outing to O'Fallon Park in March.

Re was on duty that night and helped block traffic while a fellow St. Louis police officer raced Marcus to Barnes-Jewish Hospital with a gunshot wound to his chest. Despite efforts to save his life, Marcus was pronounced dead at the hospital. Re later wrote a heartfelt blog post about the experience that was shared widely.

He is just one of the children tucked among the number of last year's surge in homicides. Their lives were cut short at the hands of those entrusted with their care, or claimed as collateral damage during violent encounters between others.

“Marcus being in that car at 6 years old can't say, ‘Let's not shoot, this is not right,' like a 22-year-old can,” Re said. “Children need us to make those decisions for them.

“When a kid gets killed, it's like, ‘How much lower can we get as a society?' I don't want to say it's like we failed, but somebody failed for sure.”

Below are some of the victims counted in 2015's murder totals. Not included are some cases in which details are still too murky, or the Missouri castle doctrine permitting deadly force in the face of “reasonable fear” may apply, making the cases unlikely to fit definitions used by police in tallying criminal homicides.

Shooting victims

• Marcus' family took him to O'Fallon Park to enjoy the weather March 11 after having undergone heart surgery the week before. His parents, four siblings and a 69-year-old friend piled in the minivan.

His family believes trouble started when the boy's father, Marcus Johnson Sr., spotted an acquaintance in a passing car, who stopped to talk. Another man approached, upset that traffic was blocked. He left, but the family had a bad feeling about the man and they decided to leave.

A vehicle followed them, and bullets started striking the van before they got out of the park. Marcus' mother, Quiana Johnson, handed her husband her gun and he fired back, afraid they would all be killed if they didn't defend themselves. They got away and called police, who rushed Marcus to a hospital, but it was too late. Police are still searching for his killer.

• Jamyla Bolden, 9, was doing her homework on her mother's bed when police say De'Eris Brown, 21, of O'Fallon, Mo., fired shots into the girl's home in Ferguson on Aug. 18, fatally wounding her.

Her mother was also hit, suffering a gunshot wound to the leg. She was treated and released.

The death prompted vigils and a manhunt for the suspect.

Ultimately, investigators with the Major Case Squad working on a case in another municipality got a tip about Brown.

Sources say Brown believed someone else was in the home at the time he opened fire, and he cried during his statements to police over the death of Jamyla.

• Alexis Church's grandmother picked her up early from school Sept. 28 to stay at a hotel as they had done several times before, calling it a girl's night out.

But sometime late that night or the next morning, Colleen Church, 50, fatally shot her granddaughter, 6, before killing herself in a first-floor room at the Holiday Inn near Six Flags.

Hotel staff found their bodies at 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 29. An autopsy determined they each died of a single shot to the head.

Eureka police did not find a suicide note but learned from relatives that pressure had been mounting in Church's life, and she had untreated depression. One of her two sons had died of a drug overdose. Her husband had also died. Church had custody of Alexis, who had some emotional issues and needed special attention. And Church's mother, 81, who had Alzheimer's, was about to move back in with her, her son and Alexis at their home in west St. Louis County, with Church as caretaker.

A day before she checked into the hotel, Church posted on her Facebook page a photo that said, in part: “You never truly know the daily struggle of others.”

• Tahnaizja Smith, 15, was found shot to death along with her sister, Antquonette Hale, 20, on May 2 in a vacant lot in the 3000 block of North Vandeventer Avenue in St. Louis. Both had been shot, Hale in the back and Smith in the face, arm and chest.

Witnesses told police they heard gunshots and found the victims in the vacant lot, but police had no information on suspects.

The girls' grandmother, Lorina Spraggins, 64, of the 3900 block of Oregon, said police initially had the wrong name for Smith because she was carrying an older sister's identification. The discrepancy was sorted out only when family went to identify the bodies.

Spraggins said the girls had recently moved to a home in north St. Louis County and had been inseparable.

“They were typical teenagers hanging out with the wrong crowd,” Spraggins told the Post-Dispatch at the time. “They were not trouble-makers. I love them.”

Abuse victims

• Ryder Vercoglio, 3, of Gillespie, died Jan. 5, two days after police say his mother's boyfriend, William R. Bolin, 24, of Livingston, beat him to death. Bolin has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and aggravated battery.

• Aiden Bunch, 3 months, of Festus, died Jan. 10 of a traumatic brain injury four days after police say his father, Cody Bunch, 22, of Festus, fatally beat him. Cody Bunch has been charged with child abuse.

• Mya Miller, 5 months, of Pevely, died Feb. 27, four days after Pevely police say her father assaulted her, causing a fatal brain injury. The girl's father blamed the injuries on her toddler brother, police said. Doctors said the baby's injuries were not consistent with the father's explanation. Police submitted their investigation to the Jefferson County Prosecutor's Office to determine whether charges should be filed.

• Layla Fast, 19 months, of Festus, died April 19 after police say she was abused. Her mother, Taylor Lynn Fast, then 21, has been charged with felony child endangerment. Her boyfriend, Dewayne Boyer, has been charged with abusing her son, 3, who suffered a broken leg.

• Sawyer Schnell, 3 months, died Oct. 8, after Lincoln County sheriff's deputies say his father, Steven Schnell, 25, shook him and caused severe brain injuries. Steven Schnell was charged with child abuse and released from jail Dec. 21 after posting a reduced bail ordered by Judge David Beck.

• Carmya Wright, 2, of Florissant, died Oct. 15, after police say her father, Lebroam Wright, 33, shook her to death. He has been charged with second-degree murder and abuse or neglect of a child resulting in death.

• Daylen Brown, 3, of St. Louis, died Dec. 8 in the care of foster parents. The St. Louis Medical Examiner ruled his death a homicide, saying he suffered internal injuries. No one has been charged with his death.


New Mexico

CYFD wants a more welcoming facility for traumatized kids

by Oliver Uyttebrouck

Children removed from their homes as a result of abuse or neglect too often spend their first hours away from home waiting in offices, eating fast food, or sleeping on makeshift beds while state officials search for an available foster home.

Children traumatized by abuse at home often find themselves in a “spooky” office building that lacks showers, proper bedding and other comforts, said Sarah Palmer, a foster-parent coordinator for the Children, Youth and Families Department in Bernalillo County.

“The kids are afraid,” Palmer said at the CYFD intake office in Albuquerque. “You've just lost everything – your parents, your toys, your dog, your next-door neighbors. The building isn't that friendly. It's spooky, and you've got a stranger saying, ‘It's going to be OK, honey.' ”

To remedy that, CYFD leaders propose buying or leasing facilities in Bernalillo County to house a Child Wellness Center that would provide a homelike space for traumatized children during their first 48 hours in state custody.

The center would also allow CYFD to consolidate office sites now scattered around the county and provide space for other agencies and nonprofits that provide services for children, such as PB&J Family Services and University of New Mexico Hospital, CYFD Secretary Monique Jacobson said.

If the child comes into custody late at night and a foster home can't be found quickly, “there are instances where that child would end up sleeping in our office that night,” Jacobson said. “We all agree that should never happen. But the fact of the matter is, it does happen.”

CYFD's plan to pay $10 million for the SunPort Corporate Center in Southeast Albuquerque to house a Child Wellness Center stalled recently after the Journal reported that the property sold last spring to the current owners for only $1.5 million.

The administration of Gov. Susana Martinez told lawmakers recently that it had stepped back from plans to buy the largely vacant office complex from its California owner, Orton Development.

The administration said it was unaware of the previous $1.5 million sales price.

Jacobson said CYFD still needs space for a Child Wellness Center somewhere in Bernalillo County, whether the state elects to buy or lease a building.

CYFD is working with the state General Services Department to seek proposals from property owners interested in leasing space for the center, but it has not ruled out the possibility of buying a building, Jacobson said.

The agency would need authority from legislators to purchase property, she said. CYFD plans to ask lawmakers for a $5 million appropriation next year to relocate staff to the Child Wellness Center.

A space for families and children in crisis

The need for the center is greatest in Bernalillo County, where CYFD has responsibility for 900 of the estimated 2,000 children statewide in CYFD custody.

The Albuquerque office, where many of those children now enter CYFD custody, contains a maze of narrow hallways, cramped offices and a conference room poorly suited to serve hundreds of families and children in crisis.

The emotional temperature rises just inside the front door in a U-shaped waiting room, just 24-by-16 feet, where nervous parents wait for brief, supervised visits with their children. At least 100 people a day enter here, including some with mental illness and substance abuse problems.

Most parents with children in CYFD custody are working on reunification plans that include supervised visitation with their children.

Inside a small, noisy conference room on a recent morning, a dozen families carved out small areas to reunite with their kids for an hour or two as CYFD personnel looked on.

The congestion sometimes causes conflict between families, said Michelle Garcia, a client service agent who supervises the meetings.

“People get angry because someone is in their space or it's too loud,” Garcia said.

Parents who bring food must use a microwave in another room, and mothers with infants have no place to change diapers, she said.

Throughout the building, offices are jammed with items intended to make life a bit more comfortable for children, such as toys, blankets and inflatable beds and sleeping bags. The office frequently serves children with lice, scabies and filthy hygiene.

“We de-louse the kids in the bathroom sinks,” said Palmer, who produced a box labeled “louse kit #1” containing special shampoo, razors, aprons and other items she uses to treat children infested with the parasitic insects. Children sit on a hard plastic chair during the procedure.

“We play beauty salon with the kids,” she said.

The facility has two concrete-lined play areas that appear cluttered and uninviting. Because the office lacks showers, “older children kind of do a quick sponge bath” in a sink, Palmer said.

“I have soaps and body wash. I try to bring old towels from home so we have something here,” she said.

A place to recover

Children are typically removed from their homes by police officers, who then hand them over to CYFD officials, often at night. The children typically want to return to their parents, even if they have been severely abused, Jacobson said.

“We have an incredible responsibility to the kids that are in our custody right now,” she said.

Any site chosen for the Child Wellness Center should include beds, showers and a medical triage facility to help children heal and “decompress” after a traumatic experience, Jacobson said. It should also offer comfortable places where children and their parents can meet in a quiet, confidential setting.

“How do we create space that is warm and is loving?” she said. “How can we feel like we are wrapping them in a warm hug during this horribly traumatic time, rather than having them in an office building?”

Child Wellness Center

CYFD has proposed a Child Wellness Center to care for Bernalillo County children who are victims of abuse or neglect. The center is intended to offer a home-like environment for children while CYFD personnel seek foster placement. It is also intended to provide space for parent-child visitations to help families fulfill reunification plans and provide emergency space for children in surrounding counties who need immediate shelter.

The proposed center would provide:

Showers, washer and dryer, and a kitchen.

Cribs and beds.

A medical-triage room.

A separate, secure entrance for staff and children.

Family visitation rooms with separate entrances for parents and children, and age appropriate waiting areas.

Indoor and outdoor space for seven to 10 families at a time, including play and picnic areas.

A kitchen to allow families to cook for their children.